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Stehekin: Stepping Back in Time

One of my top ten Washington getaways is to Stehekin at the North corner of Lake Chelan. Accessible both by boat and by foot, this gem is truly a step back into simpler times.

This past weekend, Jessica and I parked at the Cascade Pass Trailhead outside of Marblemount, WA. It is about 2 1/2 hours from Seattle. After a night of "restful" car sleeping, we hit the trail bright and early at 5AM with ample time to watch the golden glow of sunrise kiss the high peaks. The run/hike to Stehekin is about 21 miles from the trailhead.

We arrived at High Bridge just in time for Cliff Courtney to pick us up on his Stehekin Ranch Bus and we headed to the Ranch for burgers (with veggie options) and free coffee by the fire. The Stehekin Valley Ranch is an oasis of hammocks, adorable cabins, horseback riding, and wholesome family fun running almost entirely on solar power. For adventurers and accessibility, the Ranch rents bikes and e-bikes for travelers looking to explore the town.

Pacific Crest Trail Hikers come through Stehekin daily, simply refered to as "through hikers" or "PCTers". The town offers an exchange box for hikers to stock up on fuel or clothing and the Stehekin Pastery Company is a must see for them, and for all. With sweet, savory and stick to your rib fare- we stopped in three times during our stay; one stop was simply to feed two 20-something German boys we adopted on the trail who looked like they had not eaten in about a year.

The folks in Stehekin are their own breed. Tough enough to weather the snowy and desolate winters... but friendly and open to warmly welcome the abundance of warm-weather travelers and adventure seekers that come spring through early fall. Folks may come to Stehekin to fill the seasonal Postmaster position, to run the boats to and from the South Shore, or to work in the restaurants/lodge.

There are 80 residents who live on the land year-round, with 10 being school-aged children attending the Stehekin K-8 school.

We stayed one night at the North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin, having made a reservation several months in advance and had a great evening at the Orchard Hoe Down with live music by Agnus on Fire. Fast friends happen in small places and by the end of the evening we were trading hugs with trail friends- Nancy & ranger Don, getting Norweigen Fjord travel tips from Tobias (5 months in to his PCT travel) and looking out for Karl- the barefoot Kansas native in his 80's running the Organic Garden/Bee hives/Goast Milk operation in town.

After one night at the lodge we caught the bus back to High Bridge and began the 21 mile run back to the car noting that every brisk night seemed to bring about visible changes in fall foliage.

Jess and I both plan to return by boat with our families. And, of course,

by foot as well...


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