Take a Step Back in Time At Offut Lake Resort & Lady of the Lake
By Natasha Ashenhurst, this story was originally printed in the May 2017 VOICE Magazine, published by the Thurston County Chamber.
We’ve all done it…traveled to a beautiful place and considered moving there permanently.
Rebecca Pogue did what we’ve all dreamed about.
It was April,1998. Rebecca and her husband Bob were living in Puyallup. They had two college-aged children, Rob and Tom. Tom had just graduated from Washington State University, and Rob was graduating from The Evergreen State College. Rebecca was fishing by herself at Lake Offut in Tenino. It was the family’s favorite fishing and camping destination—they’d been going there since the boys were little.
“I asked the owner if she would consider selling and she said, ‘It is for sale’,” said Rebecca. Rebecca went back to Puyallup and told the family, including her mom and dad that she was buying Offut Lake Resort and that they could join her there. They all jumped at the chance to move to their favorite place in the world.
When the Pogue family took over Offut Lake Resort it was simply a campground with docks for fishing. There was an old restaurant on the property, but it was in ruins.The family remembers it as it was then—a fun place with a lot of blackberries and a lot of dust.
Left: The Lade of the Lake Restaurant/Public House at Offut Lake. Center: The resort rents boats. Right: Cabins available for rent.
From the beginning, they had a vision that guided every decision they would make as they improved the grounds.
Rebecca explained, “No neon. Keep it small, quaint and nothing showy.”
Today, it is a retreat, a destination, a haven and even a fish farm. When guests enter the resort they’ll first see a small general store and several shingled cabins with metal roofs—just like those “tiny houses” we read about in the news. Each cabin has a living room, bedroom and small kitchen. Sizes vary and are priced accordingly.
Inside the store is a wall of fishing tackle, small-sized grocery essentials and candy for the children.The grounds include RV parking spots, a park, gardens and space for tent camping. Guests heading down the hill toward the lake will discover the large fire pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs, the large dock and the Lady of the Lake Restaurant and Public House.
The lake is zoned for electric boats only and has a 5 mph speed limit. Guests at the Resort can rent small boats or larger pontoons by the hour. The Resort raises rainbow trout to stock the lake for fishing. Rob Pogue and his dad, Bob Pogue, manage the grounds and are careful to plant native and edible plants and herbs. The staff uses environmentally safe cleaning products and abstains from the use of chemicals for weed control and maintenance.
Rob and the staff monitor the water quality carefully and many of the environmentally conscious decisions the resort makes concern creating clean water for fish and recreation.
“I want my great-grandchildren to be able to swim here,” said Rebecca.
Pontoons are available to rent for day cruising on the electric-only lake with a 5 mph speed limit. Lady of the Lake at Offut Lake Resort was selected as the Thurston Green Small Business of the Year.
Tom Pogue manages the Lady of the Lake Restaurant and Public House.
After an extensive renovation, the restaurant reopened in 2014. The family was careful to honor the history of the building and even brought back the original bar from what once was a nearby brothel.
When guests step inside Lady of the Lake they’ll see a large eating area overlooking the lake, including a covered patio—perfect to sip a glass of wine while watching children play on the beach. Off to the right there is the original bar, as well as a large stone fireplace and seating area with overstuffed chairs.
The menu is a great combination of pub food; including fish-n-chips, burgers and pasta, but dig a little deeper and guests will discover ingredients that are truly unique to the region. During our visit, Tom was preparing the menu for the upcoming fishing derby and was planning to serve a Bloody Mary featuring Sandstone Distillery’s Bacon-Infused whiskey. They also serve Top Rung beer, baked goods from 8 Arms Bakery and Donedei Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon crafted right down the road at Tenino’s own Gibbons Lane Winery.
“My mom is really good about trying to maintain our roots from when we just offered fishing and barbecue. Now we have 35 different bourbons and Wi-Fi. We constantly try and balance giving guests what they want while still maintaining our quaint and rustic charm,” said Tom.
Most guests travel from Joint Base Lewis McChord, King and Snohomish counties and Portland. They come for the fishing, the restaurant or to just unplug and unwind for the weekend. More notorious guests arrived last year from MTV’s Real World, which was quite a contrast from the typical guest looking for some peace and quiet.
“When Boomers visit they tell us it reminds them of where they camped in the 1950s and that is exactly how we want it to feel. We want folks to step back in time, to fish, swim, play tag and roast marshmallows. To get outside and read a book and drink a glass of wine,” said Rebecca.
And for the Pogue family, after almost 20 years of resort ownership, life is good for them, too. Their families have grown and Rebecca has grandchildren who live nearby.
“Most of us walk or bicycle to work. We all live out here, including most of the staff. Each of us manages our own area, but we get together and talk and organize at least once every day,” said Rebecca.
Tom agrees. He said, “We feel blessed. We’ve been given the opportunity to nurture this resort and bring this restaurant back to life and offer it to the community, and I am so grateful.” ●