Jacob Leistra / "Game Boy" / PCT 2019

Day 116: Stehekin and Lake Chelan

Mile 2549.6 -> Mile 2572.4 -> Shuttle in and out of Stehekin -> Mile 2577.5

It was a big day of mostly downhill hiking into Highbridge, a ranger “station” that also serves as a shuttle stop into Stehekin. I needed to arrive for the 3 PM shuttle in order to get to the post office before they closed, so I was pushing hard all day.

My left hip started bothering me early on and it grew into a not-so-dull ache. Even though I was going downhill, every step hurt and I was grouchy. But I had to get my resupply and I had to swing by the famous Stehekin bakery. So I hurried, and it hurt. Oh, the things we do for love (and cinnamon rolls).

I ended up getting to Highbridge at 2 PM and chatted with some tourists visiting Stehekin as they started or ended bike rides. One couple for Bellingham were super friendly and asked me a ton of questions. They were some of the nicer locals I talked to, and that’s saying a lot. Washington has been lovely.

Stehekin was actually a cute dockside “town’ where just about all buildings are old cabins and lodges. For example, Golden West Visitors Center was a former lodge of some sort. It had a nice historical charm. Stehekin is on my list of places to come back and experience not in a rush to get back to the trail.

The bakery was as amazing as I heard it would be. I had a sticky bun (massive), cinnamon roll (heavenly), and a chicken pocket sandwich (tasty but overpriced). In addition to the bakery, the general store sold beer for reasonable prices. I had a pint of Rainier for $1.50. I think that’s the cheapest beer on trail! All in all, Stehekin was a surprisingly great place to get town calories.

The most surprising of all was Lake Chelan. I had no expectations but wow, Lake Chelan was astoundingly gorgeous. As I stood on the edge of the lake and glanced at the flanking mountains, rain clouds rolled in and dropped slow, fat drops of rain. The lake was quiet, as was the lakeside. It sounds silly but I had a really special moment just staring out across the lake. Definitely coming back here.

I got back on trail after taking the last shuttle of the day. I walked the 4.9 miles to the Bridge Creek Campground, a designated campground with quotas and reservations. I knew this heading in, so I made a free reservation at the visitors center in town. Nevertheless, no one else was there but Trademark, I hiker I met in Stehekin, and I didn’t see a ranger.

Tomorrow begins the last push. On my third morning from now I will be walking into Canada.

Main Photo: The docks running into Lake Chelan at Stehekin Landing on September 3.