Sunday, September 18, 2016

Day 14 and 15- Stehekin

Day 14 and 15- Stehekin, Washington PCT Section K
2564 (5 Mile camp) to 2569 (High Bridge/ Stehekin

A quick 5 miles along Agnes Creek to High Bridge in North Cascades National Park to catch the bus to Stehekin. 
Agnes Creek
 After this tough section (Section K has some of the hardest terrain on the PCT), I'm ready for rest and looking forward to that most important thing... no, not food or a shower... but the Visitor Center.  I can hardly wait to get pressing natural history questions answered and to browse their field guides, starved as I am for interpretive information.  

Many hikers pack with us onto the bus and there is feeding frenzy on the 10 minute stop at the bakery. We make it to the post office in time to pick up our resupply boxes with the food that will fuel us to Canada.

I make a beeline for the Golden West Visitor Center. It is everything I'd been dreaming of and more! Ranger Mark has recommendations about books about pikas and marmots. There is an excellent Junior Ranger book (for ages 12 and up) so I learn more about the park and earn a very cool patch. And there are even comfy chairs that we can sit in while reading about how marmots cuddle together in groups for hibernation and how pikas get more energy from their food by eating their own "soft pellets" i.e. poop!
Golden West Visitor Center in Stehekin has soft chairs, field guides, and a quiet place to work on earning my Junior Ranger badge
 Just when I think life couldn't get any better the ranger says he will be giving an evening program. We camp right behind the visitor center  at the free campground so its not even far to walk. The ranger does a great job tailoring the program to PCT hikers, who make up 100% of the audience. I'm impressed that a dozen PCT hikers attend and we have some cool discussions and stories about mountain lions and bears.

The next morning, I end up on the visitor center again for a few more hours, realizing that after nearly two years working at visitor centers, they feel like home to me.

Then, we head to the Stehekin Ranch for a relaxing second night. Ten years ago, my parents took me here on vacation. We day-hiked up Anges Gorge and I fell in love with this place. I remember meeting all the backpackers on the bus and wishing I could see the high mountain passes and alpine scenery they described. That visit planted the seed that I would learn to backpack and someday return to Stehekin via my own two feet. Returning to the Stehekin Ranch brought back sweet memories of that wonderful trip with my parents (Thank you Mom and Dad!) and I think my younger self would be proud that I actually made my dream a reality.
A tent cabin at Stehekin Ranch seems like a palace. The main lodge has fireplace, amazing food, and all the hot drinks 
Not many PCT hikers stay at the Ranch, where all meals (including a second lunch to pack out) are included in the $100 per person price. But I'm glad we splurged- sitting next to the fire sipping hot drinks and having the opportunity to visit with so many wonderful people made it worthwhile. We met a couple from Bellingham who shared their fairy tale story of how they met through Habitat for Humanity. We also had great conversations with Christina and Alexandra who are section hiking Washington (but we forgot to get their contact info- if you are out there please email would be great to keep in touch!).

This stop in Stehekin sure was a highlight and allowed me time to reflect and appreciate my experiences out here.

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