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Lola's Lookout

Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort

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January 10th, 1999

10.0 miles
1000 vertical feet
Total Time: 4:53

Rating: 8/10

Directions:   View Driving Map

Jean, Kane and I snow-shoed in Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort.

The previous day we'd gone to Royal Gorge to cross-country ski. This day, we decided to try something different -- snow-shoeing! I'd never tried it before. Jean had tried it just once before, and Kane had done it 0 or 1 times before. Still, I was looking forward to the prospect of hiking in the snow. I haven't added cross-country skiing sessions to my hiking page, but I think snow-shoeing easily qualifies, since it really is just hiking in the snow.

As luck would have it, they were having a special show-shoe tour at the resort -- a special price for rentals, trail pass, and guided tour. Unfortunately, the tour went to the same place we went skiing the day before, and it didn't look to be very long, so we opted to go off on our own, instead.

Before we could get started, we had to try to get our snow-shoes on. Which took quite an effort, and involved me breaking a nail trying to get the stupid thing adjusted. Different brands have different systems, of course, and you can be sure I won't be buying that brand. In any case, after much effort, and some help from a Royal Gorge employee, we managed to get the snow-shoes on. It was only then that I complained that my feet seemed to be pointed in the wrong direction. The person who was helping us told me I had them on the wrong feet! We had all assumed that there was no right and left, but that was not the case. As chance would have it, Kane had his on the correct feet, but Jean's were reversed, as well.

Finally, we got started up the Summit Connection trail. Show shoes, for the uninitiated, are large platforms in which you attach your normal shoes (preferably, some type of hiking boot). There's a row of metal teeth on the bottom to grip the snow. The large platform helps distribute the weight to prevent you from sinking into the snow. We also used poles to assist us, as trekking poles would be used in regular hiking.

I get the feeling Jean doesn't want her picture taken!

The trail immediate climbs, steeply but briefly. The trail then parallels the parking lot before dropping down to road level. In fact, we had to cross the road. Show shoes don't like asphalt, but we carefully made our way across and back onto the trail on the other side.

The weather was absolutely perfect, as it had been for weeks -- 50's or 60's, clear blue sky, no wind. My attire consisted of long, wicking underwear (top and bottom), snow pants, and a fleece top which was at times too warm and others a bit too cold, but never too uncomfortable. Adding an extra layer certainly would have been too hot, especially on the uphills. I wore ski gloves to give me padding when holding the poles. I probably could have used thinner gloves, but then it wouldn't have been so easy to make snow balls.

We continued onto the Switchback trail, which climbs and descends for 2.1 kilometers. During our hike, we encountered occasional skiers, and just one other snowshoer. We probably encountered the fewest people while on the Switchback trail, just two skiers who glided past us.

Then it was up, up, up the Overload trail. It climbs steeply to a warming hut. We took out the radios at this point and split up, meeting at the hut. Warming hut is an understatement. Sauna would be more like it; there are giant windows which let in the sun, and it's a tiny building with no outlet for the heat except the door (which was closed when we got there). There are benches to sit down on, a gas stove for boiling snow to make water, some tea bags, cups, trail maps, tissues, and garbage can. Unfortunately, there was no drinking water provided, but we had plenty of our own. While we were stopped there for lunch, about a half dozen people came and went.

Overload Warming Hut

After our break, we strapped our shoes back on and made the final climb up to Lola's Lookout on Rowton Peak, elevation 7480 feet. There were great views in all directions. Of what I couldn't tell you, but the views definitely make the trip worthwhile. We snapped a few pictures and continued along the Razorback trail, which follows a ridge, all the while providing nice views to the right.

The view from Lola's Lookout

When we reached the Crow's Nest trail, Kane had spotted a mountain in the distance, and decided he wanted to reach the top. It was 1:30pm, and we had to be back by 5pm (closing time). We probably had plenty of time to make it, but Jean and I decided to continue back and relax, while Kane hiked between the avalanche danger zones off-trail to the peak.

Kane, off the trail near the Crow's Nest trail

Radios alert, we continued on our separate ways. Jean and I made a right onto the Bogus Basin trail, and then down the Pine Marten trail. The trails interconnecting those two trails are quite steep. It would have been difficult hiking down them if it was dirt, but the show-shoes made things much easier, as those row of teeth gripped the snow, minimizing slippage.

For the first time ever, another group of people within range was using the same code/channel as I was. We started to hear sporadic radio spurts from this other group, which sounded like a mother, father, and kid daughter doing some cross-country skiing. Despite the extra chatter, we were able to hear when Kane reached the summit at 7896 feet. Later, we would hear that he was safely back on the trail and heading back toward us.

Meanwhile, we continued down the Timberline trail, and then retraced our steps along the Summit Connection trail across the road and back to the Royal Gorge station, at around 3:20. Kane arrived about 45 minutes later while we were sipping hot chocolate (in my case, anyway) in front of a fireplace in the lodge.

It was a nice hike with great views, some challenging uphills, and pleasant scenery. It's nice to get away from the madness of the downhill ski areas and walk out into the snow where few will tread. And, I must say that I find hiking in the snow fun! Just the simple crunch, crunch of snow shoes is a very soothing sound.

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