Elk City State Park sits on 857 acres of land on the wesst side of Elk Lake, just west of Independence. It has 150 sites among four small campgrounds, 85 of which have electric and water hookups and 11 of which have sewer as well. About 30% of the sites may be reserved in advance, including all of Prairie Meadow campground and parts of Sunset Point and Comfort Cove campgrounds. All RV sites are paved, although that does not guarantee their levelness. Like at Clinton State Park, the cost to camp is $16.50 a night at the time of this writing for a 2 utility site, plus a straight $3.00 transaction fee whether you stay one night or fourteen. There is also a $4.50 daily fee for entry into the park, unless you have the annual pass. I stayed four nights and paid $94.00, staying at state parks adds up.
I pull into Elk City State Park just before the rain. It’s clear to see that it hadn’t been raining here earlier in the day, but I’ve gotten unlucky and after escaping it at Clinton this morning, it’s back for revenge. An older couple in a Class A pull in just before me and we all make it into the park station at about the same time. The lady at the counter explains how the site choosing process goes (pick a site and set up, come back in to pay after. And don’t choose one with an orange or pink slip on the podium).
Outside the hunt for a site begins. The Class A snags the first available pull-through they can find, a prudent move perhaps with the dark clouds looming overhead starting to sputter down on us. I continue on past the first campground past the ranger station, Sunset Point, into the next one – Comfort Cove. There are actually two other campgrounds as well, but there is no point in perusing them for a site. Timber Road is all tent camping and Prairie Meadow is entirely reservable sites and is all full up.
One pass through Comfort Cove and I’ve found the best available open site, there are less of them here with it being Friday and the opening of the Neewollah festival in Independence. It’s a back-in site that I swear is about three miles long, and located on a corner which makes it harder to get into, but it has a clear view of Elk Lake, what a score!
Despite being paved though, the site is the most unlevel I’ve parked in to date. It takes a stack of my leveling blocks three tall, and even then I’m still slightly tilted toward that side. I scoot Cas all the way to the back corner to make absolutely sure I can hook up to water this time and test my plumbing. It rains on me the whole time I unhitch, which takes longer than usual with Bertha and Cas being so at odds with each other level-wise. Luckily it’s not a downpour kind of rain, just a light but persistent kind.
It’s about 4:30 when I finish unhitching, and the rain is forecast to continue until nightfall. I won’t be taking a walk of the park or getting my water hooked up tonight, instead it sounds like a good evening to drive into town and snag some free WiFi to work on a post, so that’s what I do.
The view from my rear bedroom window at this park is two large and stately cottonwood trees, and a fifth wheel and the pop-up behind it. It’s the view from my ‘office window’, the large window on the left side of Cas over the dinette, that has the fantastic lake-side view. I enjoy breakfast looking at that second view, and then it’s time to explore the campground.
I like the campgrounds at Elk City more than Clinton. I think there are three big factors, the diversity of the four campgrounds, the fact that it’s actually on the lake, and the people. I’m seeing a lot of Halloween decorations and getting a lot of friendly nods as I walk.
Comfort Cove has the 11 3-utility sites, and they’re all full with large fifth wheels and Class A’s. I’m seeing a lot of posts that show reservation ranges of a month which confuses me, as a state park the limit should be 14 days. This campground has a lot of the big cottonwoods among mowed grass, although there is a small loop of back-in sites on one side and tent sites on the other that surround a dense thicket of red cedar trees. Several sites have water views.
Sunset Point has one loop of dirt tent sites in a mixed hard and softwood forest, and the rest of it sits as advertised on a point that juts out into the lake. The sites on the end of the point that have water on three sides but are all empty – they’re paved for RVs but have no utilities. Once I get solar and a propane heater installed I could really enjoy one of these sites, the view is great and they’re open so there’d be ample sun for the panels.
My two favorite utility sites though are numbers 12 and 13, which are small back-ins with 30 amps that while not quite on the point yet still look out right over the lake on the back side and have a few oak trees around them for shade. I’m very tempted to move Cas to 13 tomorrow which is open, but that would cut into the short amount of time I’ll have here and tomorrow is forecast to be the best day for hiking weather-wise. If I was going to be around for a week it’d probably be worth it.
Back on my walk, Prairie Meadow reminds me a lot of Clinton’s campgrounds. It has tall grass full of chirping insects with woods off to the side. Like the 3-utility sites in Comfort Cove every single one of these sites has an occupancy slip for a full month. Most of the sites here are pull-through, and there is good separation between them. As I’m about to leave the campground I meet up with a lady out walking her two corgis. We wave and say hello to each other, and she introduces herself as Susan.
Susan and her husband have been staying at the park in Prairie Meadow since late August. They’re pipeline workers from Oklahoma up here to work, that explains why there are so many long-term campers here. We walk down past the day-use boat landing to the beach area which is mostly grass and completely empty. Susan lets her dogs off leash, and they enjoy a romp while we continue talking about work and life in a RV.
I take my leave of Susan after a while and continue my exploration of the park. Timber Road is the smallest of the four campgrounds, numbering only 13 sites. It’s a long road with a loop on the end that goes through a thick woods of mostly young oaks, all of the sites here are dirt and meant for tent campers. Off of this road is the access point for the park’s two trails, one is a 1 mile nature trail loop, the other is a 2.75 mile one-way hike along the bluff overlooking the west side of Elk Lake. Tomorrow I’ll be tackling the later.
Back at Cas, I hook up to water with some trepidation, and pull everything in storage out from under both sinks, in front of where the city water connection enters into the RV, and away from the back of the water heater where the plumbing lines split to go in. For the next two hours I read a book and take periodic breaks to check the connections at all of these points and also where the water line enters into the back of the toilet for any sign of moisture. In two hours with occasional use, I see no hints of wetness anywhere, and tentatively make the announcement that the blizzard-induced power outage up in South Dakota that kept me from being able to heat Cas and keep the plumbing from freezing has done no damage. I’ll continue to check these areas periodically for a while once I’m hooked up at Amazon just to make sure all is well.
In the evening I head back into Independence to respond to blog comments on the latest post and check e-mail. I am so thankful for McDonald’s free and reliable WiFi on days like today.
Today is a great day to be alive. The high is 70, the skies are clear, and it’s a beautiful time of year to be outdoors hiking. I walk back to Timber Road and get on the trail heading north.
Part of my reasoning for doing so much walking the past week I’ve been on vacation is to get use to all the walking I’ll be doing at Amazon. I’ve got on the shoes I’ll be using at work, to get my feet use to it again.
The miles fly by. The trail is less rocky than the ones at Clinton, but still has obstacles like exposed tree roots where heavy rain has washed the dirt out. There are also several points along the trail where trees are down across it and need to be climbed over or walked around. I pass a giant rock on the side of the trail that looks right out over the bluff to the water a long, long ways below. It’s a great photo opportunity.
Most of the trail is pretty heavily wooded and while you’re walking along the lake shore, the trail is far enough away that glimpses of the water are rare. At one point along the trail though, the bluff has been eroded right back to it, it almost feels like there should be a railing to keep from tumbling over the side. Of course it would be at this point where I meet a group of people hiking the other direction. I scoot off the trail uphill away from the erosion to let them pass.
Along the trail there are three spots where you have to go downhill then climb back uphill, these are washes where when it rains water runs down the bluff to the lake below. In one, the tree with the blue blaze marking the way up has been toppled over, and I spend a minute hunting along the rock strewn basin of the wash for the way up.
Before I know it, the trail spills me out onto a road, I guess I’ve reached the end. I walk a ways down the road though, because I can catch glimpses of the dike through the trees and I want a closer peek. I walk all the way to where the road crosses on the dike and take some pictures, I guess I’ll consider this the end, time to turn around and walk back.
Just before the trail ended at the road, a little side trail split off towards the water, and this time I take it. It goes pretty steeply downhill, and gives you access to the beach at the base of the bluffs. It’s gorgeous, and I take several photos. The sand on the beach actually isn’t sand at all, but thin shavings of rock that must have broken off from the bluffs, in the process of being ground down to sand but not quite there yet. If I’d come here with someone, this would be a perfect spot to have a picnic and laze away a couple hours. But the sun is descending now, and I want to be back before nightfall.
The hike back to the campground is uneventful. I can hear several kinds of birds in the trees as I go, chickadees I recognize, but some I don’t. There’s also a loud pulsing insect noise that I can’t place. It’s not a cicada, that sound I’d recognize, but something almost as loud.
I make it back to Cas well before sundown and watch some tv series episodes that I have saved on my computer as the sun sets over the lake outside my window. I’d say I walked a good six miles this afternoon, and other than slight soreness in my feet, I’m none the worse for wear.
Through comments on IO I’ve learned that Big Chief, the RV park I’m going to be staying at starting tomorrow while I’m working at Amazon, is already full past capacity and the new owners are doubling people up on sites to try to fit everyone in. Besides the usual Amazon workers, there are also 70 or so RVs there for people working on the same pipeline that Susan and her husband are working on.
Worried about having to share and not getting water and sewer to myself (they’re arranging things so one RV uses the 30 amp plug, one uses the 50 amp), I drive the surprisingly short 45 minutes over there. I didn’t realize Elk City was so close. I’d gotten the names of two other RV parks in town not too far from Amazon, but one is already full, and the other doesn’t have a shower house – I’ve never showered in Cas, I don’t trust my hot water heater. I stop at a copy place in town to get a copy of my driver’s license made, it’s something I need for my next gig after Amazon, then pull into Big Chief.
It’s changed since last year, but I’ll have a couple months to get more into that. I speak to the man at the desk in the new park office and get the low down. Yes, they’re all but out of room, but being small and on 30 amp power unlike most full-timer’s rigs, they’ll have room for me tomorrow. I’ll be sharing a site with someone undoubtedly, but they’ve found a way to split the sewer and water connections, so at least I’ll still have full hookups. I’m less worried about not having as much space, I come to Amazon to work after all and Big Chief isn’t a scenic park to begin with, I spent next to no time outside during my stay last year. I’ll be keeping the reflectix up in my windows to hold the freezing nights out so it’s not like my view will be ruined. I just hope my site neighbor doesn’t have a yappy dog or play loud music.
That settled, I drive back to Elk City for a lazy afternoon. I get out for another short walk around the campground area and sit at a table along the lake shore and take in the day. It started out drizzly and overcast but is clearing up now and unlike yesterday there is very little wind. Large flocks of birds are flying in a spiral out over the lake, I think they must be catching insects.
I return to Cas and spend a couple hours typing this up. When I notice the sun going down outside I take a break and walk out onto the fishing pier for a picturesque sunset, completely free of clouds. I try to etch every detail into my memory, aided with a couple pictures. This is the last day of my vacation, and the next two months are going to be full of work with very little time or energy for anything else. This sunset will help carry me through the dark (literally, as I’ll be working the night shift again) weeks ahead.
It’s going to be an early night. While the drive tomorrow with Cas will take at the most one hour, getting hitched and unhitched will take about a total of four hours and require cranking Cas’ nose up and back down four times, which I can tell you from experience is tiring.
Still, I’m glad to find myself a bit excited by the days ahead. The past summer at beautiful Badlands National Park and now this leisurely drive down to Kansas has ‘filled up’ my soul so to speak, and I feel ready to tackle two months of hard physical labor to work on filling up my wallet. Vacation’s over, back to work!
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