There I was up at Elk Lake this past weekend, eagerly awaiting the moment for my good river pals to walk down the isle. It was an exiting weekend, one loaded with adventure, conversation and whole lot of drinkin’.
To begin, it started out down on the Deschutes River with a floatilla of rafts and kayaks having fun. I decided to hop in a kayak after not having been in one all summer. The once romanticized notion turned difficult when I realized that I may have left the once so-called textbook roll at home. Boy did I get my ass handed to me. And in all honesty there was no good reason for such a whoopin! Regardless, I turned upside down, be it intentionally (to practice a roll) or unintentionally (at which point I’d forcefully roll the play-boat back up) on at least thirty occasions. Why? Let’s not talk about it. Let’s just say that I’m very out of shape with kayaking in addition to voluntarily placing myself into an unfamiliar boat designed to catch waves, not punch through them like the craft I’m conditioned to.
River aside, we all headed back to Bend and then took our separate vehicles up to Elk Lake Resort, which happens to rest one mile west of the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s a popular hiker stop in addition to a popular place to host one’s wedding. I packed up an arsenal of cold/wet weather gear and beer, hopped into my 85′ Nissan Pickup and headed up the mountain. When I arrived it was dark. I pulled into the campground, set up my tent, pulled on a warm jacket and headed blindly towards my friend’s cabin.
I hadn’t a clue as to where cabin #19 was. I stood in the middle of the resort’s dimly lit street wondering where I might find such a cabin. As I took a sip of PBR, I starred up into the sky. A moment later, a golf cart drove up from behind sporting two men, one of which worked at the facility and another who had a different look.
“Need a ride?” the employee asked.
“Actually I do,” I said while climbing in the back of the cart. “Any idea as to where cabin #19 is?”
“Sure do,” he said while accelerating into the dark, a light wind blowing into my direction. At that point my attention was turned to the passenger. My nasal cavity filled with the aroma of musk and an accumulation of days of sweat and dirt.
“Are you a thru-hiker?” I asked as we turned off the dimly lit road and onto the gravel road headed toward the cabin.
“Yeah. How’d ya know?”
“I can smell you.” That said, some might be thinking that this must have been an atrocious scent, a pungent odor that would make you running for the bushes. Not this little lady. Instead I was engulfed by the scent, one reminiscent of the trail and one that unfailingly and intoxicatingly attracts me to that so-called woodsman.
The next morning I woke up in my tent backwards. I know what you’re thinking and no I was not with the thru-hiker I’d sniffed out the night before. Instead I was engulfed in my new sleeping quilt, wrapped up in it’s warmth all the while trying to recollect the previous night’s festivities….In short, cabin, fire, PBR, shots of bourbon, dance-party followed by a walk in the woods with one of my girlfriends at which point we sat on the tailgate of my truck until the stories ran out at which point I super-manned it into my tent for a good night’s sleep.
The next day I rallied together a small group of folks (most of the others were nursing serious hangovers) to hike the perimeter of Elk Lake. It was a pleasant walk, one with welcoming beaches and entertaining conversations. Afterwards I headed back to my camp (at this point I had relocated to a friend’s cabin) and just so happened to run into Boots. Boots happened to be section hiking Oregon and headed southbound. I had ran into Boots earlier that morning, as once again I had sniffed out the hiker from last night. And indeed, now in daylight, the hiker from the night before was quite handsome, but I’m starting to think I think every man with a beard is handsome. (Pogonophelie? Yes). Anyway, Boots was a hoot and a very fun man to pass the time with. He was a charismatic man, one of vibrant personality and an utmost commitment to photography. I offered him a couple of beers and together we talked trail, discussed gear and then proceeded in what must have been the longest photoshoot of my life. Boots must have taken over 100 shots of me, all the which I walked him through my gear, from tent to sleeping quilt, down jacket to 7.1-oz waterproof jackets.
That said, Boots made my day. But later, I think I made many a folk’s day. As it was, I am known to the bride and groom’s family as “The Hiker.” This is not a name given to any. It’s a special and one of a kind name, one of importance and one that indubitably comes with many stories. As Todd (the groom) introduced me to his family (which is considerably large topping at least 50 or 60 relatives at the wedding alone), each face lit up. “Uncle Bob (sorry, I’m terrible with names), this is Mary,” Todd would say. Their expression would stay relaxed until he furthered my description. “She’s the hiker.” And with that their eyes grew large and there brains clicked into overdrive as they asked a dozen questions that they’d been wondering ever since hearing about me. It was all very enjoyable and I took great pleasure sitting beside the fire feeling as if I was a celebrity.
I’m “The Hiker.” Pretty cool.