I can’t believe we’re finally in Stehekin. Ever since our very first explorations into maybe-possibly hiking the PCT, Stehekin has loomed large in my mind as the very last town stop on the PCT before you get to Canada. Not only that, but it’s both incredibly inaccessible — the only ways into it are the PCT, a two-hour ferry ride, or by seaplane — and extremely well-loved by through-hikers. Now, I see why…and it’s amazing that we’re finally here!
The Big Red Bus picks you up from the trail to take you into Stehekin. This is a bus, run by North Cascades National Park, that takes you eleven miles along a dirt road to town…and stops at the famous Stehekin Bakery along the way. The Stehekin Bakery is also famous along the PCT, and, after stopping there, I can tell you that it’s incredibly well-deserved. Lots of restaurants in PCT trail towns are popular mostly because, well, they’re the only pizza you’re going to get for a hundred miles in either direction — it’s not as if it’s actually all that great pizza when compared to most pizza joints.
The Stehekin Bakery is another matter. You could drop this bakery into the middle of San Francisco, and it’d be one of the best bakeries in the entire city. It’s amazing! Out in the middle of a beautiful, green field along the road into Stehekin, it makes the most incredible — and huge — pastries, pies, croissants, and other delicious goodness. As you might imagine, when the Big Red Bus stops at the bakery for ten minutes with a dozen hungry hikers on board, the bakery suddenly does a lot of business. I bet you’ve never spent $50 in a bakery just on two people before…but now I have. Kuchen, strawberry-rhubarb pie, carrot cupcakes (that were of a size that they might as well just have been called carrot cakes), brownies, pumpkin-cream-cheese muffins…it was all incredible. Some of it was in my stomach before we even got back on the bus, some of it was for dessert tonight, and some of it is going to make amazing eating tomorrow morning. And then we’ll stop at the bakery on the way out of town tomorrow morning, too!
Stehekin is located at the north end of Lake Chelan, an enormously long, narrow lake tucked into a steep valley in the North Cascades. A look at Wikipedia told me that it’s almost 1,500 feet deep at maximum, which is pretty amazing. (It turns out the three deepest lakes in the US are, in order, Crater Lake, Lake Tahoe, and Lake Chelan…and we’ve visited all three on this trip!) The population can’t be much more than a hundred or so, and everything a visitor could want is right on the main drag. The main drag is right on the lake, facing the large-ish dock that gives you access both to the ferry and to the seaplanes that occasionally take off or land. It’s kind of a ridiculously idyllic place to be; I can imagine far worse ways to spend a weekend, or a week, or even a month, than relaxing on that waterfront with a cup of coffee and a camera.
It is also, of course, filled with hikers this time of year. There’s a public building dedicated to a public shower and laundry machines, which we made ample use of. We got ourselves a room at the Stehekin Lodge, which is wonderful — a communal room has huge picture windows looking out over the lake, and the staff has been wonderfully friendly to us. (About the only thing missing has been Internet access, but there simply isn’t any of that in town at all, except via satellite.) Especially after the rains of the past few days, getting a chance to let everything dry out, wash our clothes (and hopefully eliminate the horrible smells that wet clothes get out here), and take showers has been wonderful.
Being in Stehekin also means that it’s only eighty miles to the end of the PCT, and the border with Canada. I almost can’t believe it. We only have five more days of hiking to go!