Lake Edison
L.A. Water and Power wasn't the only utility to impose its will on the geography of the Sierra Nevada. Southern California Edison dammed the Vermilion Valley in 1954, creating this lake. The finest creative minds in the power business then set about the onerous task of finding a proper name. (We suggested Lake Abbey -- as in Edward Abbey -- but we were a few decades too late, dam it.)

You really have to do Vermilion Valley Resort (Package mailing address, via UPS: c/o Rancheria Garage 62311 Huntington Lake Rd., Lakeshore, CA, 93634, 559 259-4000) You will pay dearly. But you don't have much choice on this stretch of the PCT. So just suck it up, take the nice ferry ride and do it up big. This lakeside encampment (it's a bit of a stretch to really think of the dogpatch collection of buildings as a ''resort'' in any sense of the word) is a legitimate PCT legend. This store/bar/restaurant with four motel rooms and five tent cabins, operating since 1962, is smack dab in the middle of the longest roadless stretch on the trail, maybe the most isolated lodging anywhere along the trail, unless you count Stehekin, which has no road at all.

Regardless of what you've been eating since Kennedy Meadows, by the time you make it here you really want food and drink on a Bunyanesque scale. VVR will cheerfully provide as much as your tummy can handle -- and run you a tab, to boot. The restaurant features one of the better burgers on the PCT. Be glad you walked in under your own power and then rode the utterly charming Edison Queen across Lake Edison. Because nothing you do on the way down the hill into here nor on the way up the hill out of here will be even remotely as dangerous as the drive in on Kaiser Pass Road to the west. We're talking serious hair-raising terror on the blind curves. One lane, 20 miles. Pack station trucks with bad brakes coming the other way at unreal speeds. No guard rails. Pray to your god. If you are planning to hook up with relatives here, you need to warn them what they're in for. It's the slowest, scariest 20 miles they'll drive in this decade, guaranteed. ''Where the pavement ends and the wilderness begins.'' Bahahahaha! Roger that ...

On the question of value, VVR seems to evoke strong feelings in most PCT people, as evidenced by the ample archives of online discussion about the place. The two schools of thought basically cleave along these lines: One school says the operation is unconscionably priced for the actual goods and services delivered. The other school says the prices are fair considering the short season and the cost of getting those goods and services to that most isolated location. As much as others have complained bitterly about the total price of a stay at VVR, we didn't find it much out of line on the relative-value meter from other outposts. Don't bitch about the price. Take a shower, run some laundry, drink up and be grateful you made it this far. Owner Jim Clement probably knows more about the care and feeding of thru-hikers than anyone north of Donna Saufley.

Note that while the ferry makes regular trailhead runs across the lake at 9 and 4 during the season, in past years it's also been possible to schedule special pickups and dropoffs -- again, for a price. Instructions on the mailing of resupply packages are on the resort's Web site.