Super Stellar Stehekin
Beginning Elevation = 2,100
Ending Elevation = 1,550
Elevation Range =1,550 – 2,100
Weather:. Cloudy, high 70°F
Last night was one of my worst on trail as far as productive sleep goes. I don’t usually have an issue sleeping with rain or thunder/lightning flashing, and so I’m not sure exactly what the reason was, but I struggled to fall asleep and then once I did, continued to periodically wake up. Even so, it wasn’t as bad as my words are making it sound. The storm didn’t seem too close to me and I’d find out from other hikers later in the day that they had different experiences last night, with booming and echoing thunder in the canyon they’d set up within.
My alarm sounded at 6:15am. I took my time getting started and cooked/ate my breakfast before packing up. As I was filling up a water bottle from the nearby stream, Cheer came hiking by. She and Calzone had stopped about 2 miles back and set up before the rain started. TW was still missing however. He can be very sneaky like that some times.
The morning hike was pretty uneventful. I was wearing my top baselayer since my regular super blue plaid shirt was quite wet still this morning from sweat and the light rain showers the evening before, and consequently was going slow so as not to overheat. Here’s a photo of the foggy, cloudy setting this morning…I only had about 3 miles to go this morning to get to the ranger station we’d set as our goal. As I neared my destination, I crossed a bridge and entered into North Cascades National Park!Not too much further up ahead, I crossed another one and took some more photos of the mighty Stehekin River down below. Pretty neat. Class 7 rapids if I’ve ever seen them. I was quite confident I could shoot the shoots if I’d felt like it.There is a bus in connection with the National Park service that shuttles folks from the ranger station to the small town of Stehekin, Washington. At the ranger station I found my friends as well as a few others…We all wanted to get on the earliest bus to town! Once it arrived, all of us (I counted about 20 hikers) piled in. Our crew of four took the back. Our buddy Big Cheese from France had made the same bus with us too. It was around an 11 mile bus ride and as you might imagine, it smelled pretty gnarly of smelly hikers. I felt bad for the 3 or 4 tourists to the park and fisherman that were in the midst of it all.On our journey into town, there were three other stops, one of which was the famous Stehekin Bakery! The bus stopped for 10 minutes here while we all piled off to investigate the deliciousness inside. I’m pretty sure TW and I were the only ones foolish enough not to purchase something. We had heard there was an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet in town and so were holding out for that. We 100% intended to make a return trip to the bakery regardless anyway, so this wasn’t some boycott of the bakery, simply strategery!
Stehekin is an interesting town in that it’s not accessible by road. The only way for folks to visit is by using the PCT route that we’d come by or by the more commonly used method of ferrying across Lake Chelan. The lake is something like 40-50 miles long and to me has the appearance of what I imagine Norwegian Fjords to be like. At least resemble them maybe…with a long and skinny lake bounded by a steep winding mountain gorge that was carved by a glacier way way back in the day.
When we got off the bus in Stehekin we were greeted by a familiar face…Snickers was still hanging around town! After exchanging good tidings of great joy, I went inside the general store and found out that the lodge was full. No room in the inn. And the breakfast buffet was done already. TW and my’s plan backfired! this put us in a bit of a sour mood, we’d really been looking forward to staying inside tonight seeing as it looked to rain. We got by with some snacks and then discovered thst there was a free group campsite they’d set aside for PCT hikers and so we all went to set up there.
Following the pitching of our tents, we had a parting of the ways. Cheer, Snickers, and Calzone went right back to the bakery via a free shuttle (it’s about a mile and half out of the main “town”) whereas TW and I opted to eat lunch at the restaurant at the North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin. Food got our spirits up again! I got a scrumptious burger and fries as did TW although being vegetarian, his was a veggie burger. We felt a nice amber ale really tied the meal together as well.
After our bellies were full, we started laundry and made to get connected to the outside world via WiFi. My phone did not want to connect however and so I accepted that I’d be off the grid a bit longer. It was actually somewhat freeing and made my time in town more relaxed. I did check in with the parentals via a sattelite phone that is available free of charge!And then, TW and I caught the free bus back to the bakery…Oh Happy day!This place been talked up by southbounders to be the best thing since chocolate milk had been invented and I gotta say that it lived up to the hype! The baked treats were of course mouth wateringly phenomenal, but it was the atmosphere and ambiance of it as well that completed the scene. Cozy, stress-free, blissfully remote. There’s no WiFi, no cell service, just happy smiling people and really good food. Can’t get much better than that.
We vowed to return yet again with the goal of obtaining treats to pack out onto the trail. Rather than wait for the shuttle, we opted to walk the road back into town, which follows about 2 miles along the amazingly beautiful Lake Chelan. It’s Washington’s largest freshwater lake I believe and as mentioned before, truly a spectacle. Check out this cabin that lies at the lakes northwesternmost point…to me, it right away made me think of a view one might see on a scenic puzzle or something…Once back in town, we joined other hikers on the deck of the store for a relaxing sit in their adirondack chairs. Some had WiFi and were perusing, others were chit-chatting. That’s Mountain next to TW and Lion next to him, the team from Switzerland.
I stayed for a while but eventually made my way out to sit on the dock and got caught up on some of my blog writings. The rain had been holding off still!
Due to the limited capacity of the restaurant and the large number of hikers and tourists, they had us make reservations for dinner. Cheer put us down for 6:15pm and the five of us (Snickers, Calzone, Cheer, Trojan Warhorse, and myself) gathered at that time to dine out on the deck. It was a bit of a splurge as far as cost, but delicious. And the setting wonderful. The deck overlooked the ferry dock area and the smaller fishing boat docks as well with Lake Chelan and the mountains as a backdrop. All around a great experience.
(If you’re thinking to yourself, “Stevie, you told us there were no cars in Stehekin…I see cars in that last photo.” Well, they came over on the ferry at some point. I think they’re mainly the locals since it’d be expensive for a tourist to bring over for such a short visit. And there’s really only about one road that we saw anyway).
Our crew stayed out a little longer this evening talking out on the deck, but slowly our numbers declined as people drifted off to find their tents for the night. Such a good “town” visit. It’s so great to have Snickers around again and at least for our start tomorrow, we all plan to head out together!