I left camp in the morning after breakfast and took the short trip along a lake filled path towards Elk Lake Resort. I passed through a handful of beautiful meadows along the way. The trail head off of the PCT to Elk Lake lead me down through a burn zone to a road. There were no signs on the road, so I figured I would head down hill assuming that the lake would be in the lower section. I soon came to a cross road and saw the entrance to Elk Lake Campground across the street.
I arrived in the late morning around 10:00 and was greeted by very loud trucks, lots of activity and the smells of a kitchen. The resort office was down by the water connected to the restaurant. I’d love to say that I was greeted with warmth and friendliness, but truthfully speaking it was almost as if I were a bother being there. No one said hello when I walked in, and the staff that was there were apparently having an important conversation because they also couldn’t be bothered to break away to greet a guest. A few minutes later, a younger man walked in and asked me if I were being helped by the two women sitting behind the desk. When I said No, he looked at them and said, this guy could probably use some help.
Along with the $5.00 handling fee for holding my PCT Box, I got to pay another $5.00 to take a shower (though you do get a fuzzy white towel and a bar of soap), and another $10.90 for one of the PCT Hiker camp spots. I was given Hiker spot A, and was told it was “in the woods behind the Luxury cabins and in front of the small single cabins.” Good, I can do “in the woods” quite well. I collected my box, was given the key to the shower and headed off to my $10.90 camping spot.
Apparently, their version of “in the woods” and my version are two completely separate experiences. The very small swath of land they didn’t chop down to build cabins that was between the two rows of cabins was what they considered the PCT Hiker camping spots “in the woods”. Good lord, where am I? The spot I got was a few trees back from a road behind a luxury cabin, so I got to see the back end of the super sized SUV’s that were parked there. The small single cabin behind me had three cars completely full of “camping stuff”, coolers, chairs and more, with four adults that apparently didn’t know how to talk to each other but instead yelled so they could be heard over each others yelling, and two extremely small infants who liked to cry a lot.
Okay, maybe I just need to take my shower and get some real food in my belly and it will all be different. Up went my camp and off to the showers I went with my extra clothing. I washed all of my clothes and then scrubbed myself down. I put on my pseudo-wet, dry fit clothing and went back to my camp to hang the remaining items to dry. It definitely felt good to be clean. The small cabin full of people and stuff were still talking quite loudly and making an exceptional amount of noise, so I figured I needed some food. I took my maps and my journal and the remainder of the $50.00 I had mailed myself in the package and went down to the restaurant. I sat outside on their deck and ordered a grilled caprese panini, french fries and a two beers. $38.00 I have to say, the food was excellent. While I was sitting there, I realized that I was probably the youngest guest there by about 25 years. Then I saw all of the sail boats. Ah – it’s a country club for the sail boat crowd. That’s why everything costs something and the folk who aren’t paying a lot don’t get a lot, even though it costs a lot.
After my lunch, I was walking back out and met two southbound PCT hikers. They were having the same reaction to all of the things at this place that I was. I went down to the lake and sat on a picnic table to write in my journal. While I was rocking out to Journey’s Greatest Hits which was playing over the loud speaker (at least the music was great), I was talking to the squirrel on the bench next to me, and I realized that out of everyone here, the squirrel by far made the best company.
I ended up bumping into the other two PCT hikers – Alan and Shelly – and I’m so grateful I had. They were totally awesome. I ended up eating dinner with them that night and we had amazing conversations about all of our adventures. Shelly was finishing up segment hiking the PCT, and they have both done a bunch of adventuring in other aspects as well. They were fun, vibrant, full of energy and were great to converse with.
We all ended up moving our camping spots towards the end of the resort where it was a bit more quiet. In the morning I packed up my pack and headed down to the restaurant to have a great breakfast. Alan and Shelly joined me and then I was off again to get to the PCT.
Shelly and Alan had mentioned needing a special permit for the Obsidian Limited Entry Area which I would be passing through on my way up the PCT in the Three Sister’s Wilderness. They said they bumped into someone who was turned away by the Rangers. As they didn’t have permits either, they “snuck” by the Ranger’s camp early in the morning before they were awake. I didn’t ever recall reading about needing a special permit anywhere on the PCT unless you were hiking more than 500 miles at one time. I began to get nervous because I couldn’t see a way around this area without backtracking a whole heck of a lot then going around the entire Three Sisters Wilderness to get back onto the PCT. I asked Trail Angel Tim to do some investigating and he said that there was no permit needed in that area, that PCT hikers could just stay on the PCT and hike through. With that information I felt more at ease, but I do remember not sleeping a lot and spending the next two days over-thinking how I would weasel my way through that area should I come upon a Ranger who says, “YOUU SHALL NOT PASSSSSSSSSSSS”.
One thing that Elk Lake Resort could do, is take one small section of their large property, that is away from the hustle and bustle of their every day guest who they cater to, build a fire pit and create 8-10 pct hiker tent pitching spots for campers that are separate from the rest of their space. PCT Hikers are a different breed. I imagine the majority of us are not interested in flashy, big and loud. We prefer quiet, rural and rustic.
I am grateful Elk Lake offers PCT Hiker Services. I am grateful for the shower, for the food & beer, music, and for the rare gems you find.