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Lyle's Lookout

Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort

Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort Links:

February 7th, 1999

8.9 miles
600 vertical feet
Total Time: 3:30

Rating: 6/10

Directions: Royal Gorge is located near Donner Summit off I-80 in California.   View Driving Map

Kane, Lan and I snowshoed in Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort.

I'd already snowshoed in the snow and in the rain. To top off my snowshoe experience, I had to snowshoe while being pelted by hail.

Yes, it was hailing, and hailing continuously. All of the trails outside the Summit Station track system were closed for the day. I put my balaclava, hat, hood, and goggles on to try to limit my exposure to the hail, which was quite painful when directed at my face.

Having been stuck in traffic on I-80, we didn't get started until after noon. We sped off down the James Joys trail, then started down Killy's Cruise. We then took the trail out to Lyle's Lookout. The most lasting impression I have of Lyle's Lookout is the hail stinging my face as I tried to admire the view. It was better than the previous day -- the gray mist had lifted some -- but it was still nothing compared to its full potential.

While we were at Lyle's Lookout we heard from Jennie, who was cross-country skiing that day. She met up with us at the intersection with Killy's Cruise, and played tag with us the rest of the day. Being on skis, she could easily beat us on the flats and downhills. The steeper uphills were a problem, though.

The view from Lyle's Lookout

Most of our equipment performed well, but Lan had problems with her hiking boots slipping out of the snowshoes. I had problems losing my trekking pole cups. They kept sticking in the deep powder and not coming back up. I'm going to have to find some cups with a better connection to the poles.

We continued down Killy's Cruise and Palisade to the Wilderness Cafe. My feet were soaked, even worse than the previous day. When we got to the Wilderness Cafe I wrung my socks out into a garbage can. They were still soaked, but at least I wouldn't be sloshing in my hiking boots anymore.

Unlike the previous day, the Wilderness Cafe was almost empty. There was one employee and one or two other patrons. Kane and Lan tried the soup (not as good as the previous day), and I warmed myself up with a cup of hot chocolate. I also had two peanut butter banana sandwiches which Jean had made. Yummy!

After our brief 20-minute stop, we continued on up the Mirkwood trail. It starts off with rolling hills through a beautiful mirkwood forest. There are fleeting glances of a view. As we neared the Mirkwood outlook, the trail took a decidedly vertical turn. The climb is steep and relatively long. It was so steep that Jennie had trouble keeping her balance on her skis.

Lan (foreground), Jennie, and Kane heading up into the forest

When we got to the top, Lan and Jennie turned right, back to the Summit Station and the warmth of the lodge. Kane and I turned left, to the Mirkwood outlook. It's a short climb, and with a clear day the views would have been great. Even with the persistent gray we could see a fair distance. Of course we were very exposed to the wind again, and I mostly hid behind a rock to shelter myself while taking some pictures. I had to make sure I pushed my trekking poles deep enough into the snow so that they wouldn't be blown away -- down the mountain.

A big rock sucks in the snow near the Mirkwood outlook.

After the pictures we headed back the way we came, and hiked the remaining 10-15 minutes to the Summit Station, where a warm fire, hot chocolate, and dry socks awaited us.

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