Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Snowy Getaway at the Lost Trail Lodge

lost trail lodge

Out here in California, most of us don't get to enjoy a classic white Christmas. Fortunately, snow is never that far away. One just needs to gain a little altitude. In searching for a spot to spend the holidays, I discovered the Lost Trail Lodge, which seemed like a perfect fit.

The Lost Trail Lodge is set in the backcountry between Truckee and Donner Lake. It's accessible via a 4 mile dirt road, which does not get plowed in winter, so winter visitors must make their own way in with the use of skis of snowshoes. This particular year had seen some light snowfall in the early winter, but we were hoping more would come down before our trip. I think we must have wished a little to hard, because we got more snow than we ever expected. This turned the lodge into a true winter wonderland, but getting there and back proved to be exceedingly difficult.

Given that the mountains got a ton of snow right before the holidays, you can probably guess the first obstacle we had to overcome. Everybody, it seemed, was heading for the mountains. Not long after reaching the Sierra foothills, we came to a dead stop behind a seemingly endless stream of bumper-to-bumper traffic, then proceeded to crawl up the mountain for the next eight hours. We had planned to stay the first night with some friends in Tahoe, and they were expecting us for dinner. Needless to say, we had a very late dinner that night, which in turn, caused a late start the next morning. No worries. By that time, the storm had cleared, and it's just a four mile trek, right?

We found the road to the lodge at around 12 noon. The guest parking area was about a quarter mile up the dirt road, which was covered in snow, but other vehicles had driven through it recently, so it appeared passable for our all-wheel drive Subaru Outback which was equipped with chains for good measure. We made it to the parking area without much trouble and began to unload. At the same time, another couple arrived right behind us with their two dogs in tow. Jim and Jen were also headed for the lodge, and they had been there before, so they were familiar with the route. It looked like we were golden. So, we strapped on our snowshoes and began trekking.

lost trail

For the first couple of miles, tramping along the partially groomed path was quite pleasant. We took our time and enjoyed the scenery. Then the groomed path came to an abrupt end. It quickly became clear that we were going to have to cut our own path through four feet of powder in order to complete the second half of the hike. Suddenly, our pleasant trek became a bit of a challenge.

Normally, four people would have a much easier time with such an undertaking, since each person can take turns cutting the trail. But the other couple were older and ran out of steam rather quickly, as did my own companion. The task had fallen upon me to complete the rest of the path solo. Needless to say, it was slow going. As the day wore on and the sun began to sink behind the mountains, it became apparent that we would have to complete the hike in the dark. So, we strapped on our headlamps and pushed on. Of course, this also meant the temperature was dropping fast. This was the one thing that was not a problem for me. I was working so hard that I was generating plenty of body heat to keep myself warm. This was not the case for the others in the group, and they were getting cold. Fortunately, we came across some train tracks which were mostly clear of snow, so we were finally able to hike on solid ground again. This sped up the pace considerably. After leaving the tracks to follow the final road to the lodge, we came upon one last obstacle, a creek that must be crossed via a small footbridge. Normally, we would have taken a winter detour which circumvents this crossing, but it was so dark and the snow was so deep, we could not find it. So, we had to get four people and two dogs across this little bridge. It was time consuming, to say the least.

lost trail lodge

Shortly after the crossing, we spotted the lights from the lodge at last. We dragged ourselves into the lobby, and the manager directed us to our rooms. I sat in the in-room jacuzzi for a bit to relax my sore muscles, then it was all I could do to crawl into bed. I fell asleep within seconds of my head hitting the pillow.

Fortunately, we had booked two nights at the lodge, so the next day became a day of rest. As it turned out, spending the day inside the warm, cozy lodge was perfect since it had started to snow again. It seemed like a Hollywood set designer had been tasked with creating a storybook Christmas scene, and we were dropped right in the middle of it, except it was all real. The lodge was classic and woodsy, and falling snow could be seen through every window.

The layout of the lodge consists of a communal area with a main room, a kitchen, and a dining area. The individual bedrooms were connected to the main area by a hallway. So, guests could go out to the main room and socialize, or retreat to their bedroom for a little privacy.

lost trail lodge

lost trail lodge

It had snowed pretty much non-stop during our stay at the lodge, and it was still snowing as we prepared our return trip. The trail we had cut had been buried by then, so I mentally prepared myself for another grueling day in the snow. Once again, it was slow going, but this time we started early enough that we had all day to complete the hike. After breaking a trail for a couple of hours, I came upon a very welcome sight. The next lodge guests were on their way in, so we had the benefit of following their trail back out. As a result, the hike out was much quicker and easier than the hike in. Then we got back to our car...

lost trail lodge

Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to pack a snow shovel, and the lodge also keeps some digging tools in a locker by the parking area, so we began to dig out. The snow on the road was also deeper, so making it back to the pavement was going to be potentially challenging. The other couple's vehicle had all-wheel drive and snow tires, but we figured our car with all-wheel drive plus chains on all four wheels would have a better shot at making it through. So, we agreed that I would lead. Jim backed their car out and immediately got stuck in a snowbank right behind our car, essentially blocking us in. After some digging and some back an forth maneuvering, we finally got their car free, I can only assume Jim did not want to lose momentum and possibly get stuck again, so he took just took off down the road. Sure enough, they got stuck about halfway out, which meant we were also stuck since their car was blocking the road. All I could do was grab my shovel and help dig them out. After an hour or so, we finally freed their car, and this time they were able to make it out the rest of the way. We followed and exited the road without much trouble.

In the end, this was a trip of extreme highlights and lowlights. Getting to the lodge and back proved to be far more difficult than we had anticipated, but the payoff was huge. We finally got the white Christmas we had been looking for.

1 comment:

  1. It looks like a pretty nice place for ice adventure and ice skating activities for kids.

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