Day 166: (9.54 mies)
mile 2570.61 – 2580.15
Having pushed big miles the past week we were left with only 9 1/2 miles to the High Bridge Ranger Station. Here we would catch the 12:15 bus to the town of Stehekin. No real hurry this morning as the trail should be somewhat flat and take only three hours. Cedar Camp was along the Cedar Creek (more like a river, really) and the trail followed the creek.
The creek was full and raged with the thundering sounds of small waterfalls which we could see now and then through the trees. It had some large pools where we looked for fish. The water was extremely clear and if there had been any fish we would have seen them easily. To our surprise there were no fish to be seen. On we strolled as the sun began to come up over the steep rim of the canyon. We talked about our plans, to somehow, meet up with Seeds who hopefully was able to get our resupply package, make it to the bakery, and then end up at the Ranch where we had reserved a cabin for one night. We arrived at High Bridge at 11am which left us with over an hour to spare.
We stopped on the bridge for a picture and couldn’t believe the number of salmon in the water below. We thought the creek looked fishy, but had no idea that these red bodied and black faced fish were here. Later several fisherman dressed in waders drove up to view the fish and became extremely excited. We joined several hikers gathered on the picnic tables at the bus stop. We compared notes about the trail and the topic quickly moved to town food and what we will find in town. No one has ever been to Stehekin before. We, however, have trail notes telling us that the bus is the only way around and the bakery, the Ranch, and town are all five miles apart. The bus runs every three hours for $7 each way. We all have questions about the stops and location of the post office. We will just have to wait and ask the driver. Although the bus wasn’t to arrive for over an hour, we see one coming our way and everyone gets excited. Of course we look at our watches and discuss the time. Maybe being so close to Canada we are in different time zone? Like, Canada is so close we could walk there, right? The bus driver drops off a dozen passengers and tells us this isn’t the right bus. Now, we are all confused. She explains she made a special trip, and the 12:15 bus would be on time. Soon some bewilder hikers make some smart ass remarks about if this bus goes back and forth between here and town, why go back empty? The bus driver gives in and we load up. We check our watches and realize we can make it to the post office before it closes. The road travels through a beautiful countryside and along the creek where fly fisherman wade and cast. We see several small houses/cabins with horses and barns. We arrive at the “Landing”, where the store, a café, ferry landing, a lodge and the post office are located.
The post office was open and we find that our package was picked up by Seeds who met us next door. The small town of Stehekin, located at the end of Chelan Lake, is just that…small. There’s not much to the town, but somehow it’s all you really need. Back the way we came, is an organic farm, its K-12 school, the bakery and finally the Ranch where we will spend the night.
We grabbed lunch at the café before boarding the bus to the Ranch and say goodbye to the Boys. We had been told the Ranch was a good place to stay and the food would be exceptional. The only other place to stay was a hostel and lodge adjacent the post office, or camp in the forest. The Boys said they were headed for the forest. We hope to see them on the bus ride back to the trail head. There are three ways into Stehekin. Walk. Take the ferry from Chelan, or arrive via float plane. There is only one road in Stehekin and we are on it. We arrive at the bakery. In the middle of nowhere. No town, no buildings, just a small house with a sign, “Bakery”.
We are told we have fifteen minutes before the bus leaves so everyone rushes for the door. Inside we find the aroma heavenly and simply intoxicating, which is almost not fair play to do to starving hikers. Glass display cases showcase all the freshly baked cakes, pastries, breads and giant cookies! Behind the display cases, bakers open large ovens to inspect and retrieve baked goods. It’s a hustle and bustle operation with several people servicing the bus crowd. Back on the bus we show off our purchases like gold miners showing large gold nuggets. We show them from a distance, clutching them tight, as if someone would reach out and snatch them away. Then the moaning begins as people bite into cinnamon rolls, carrot cake, and cookies. We all bought more than we could eat, but nothing will go to waste. Several ladies on the bus engage us in conversation, and ask us about our adventures during the bus ride. They are also staying at the Ranch, so we are sure our conversation will continue. When we arrived at the Ranch we were met by a young cowgirl. She showed us to our tent cabin and told us dinner was in the main lodge at 5pm. First is a shower and laundry so as not to “disturb” the other guests with our unique aroma. The Ranch is a beautiful, tranquil place, set in a large meadow. It is reminiscent of Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but with finer amenities. Our tent cabin is probably the largest room we’ve had. There is a queen bed and three other single beds. By the bedside chest of drawers is a kerosene lamp with a box of matches. The window coverings are bright blue canvas squares. We roll them in a near futile attempt to allow some airflow that will hopefully carry away our “campy” stench.
After making ourselves fragrance free, and while waiting for our laundered items to line dry in the fresh air, we park on the deck and sip a beverage before dinner. Here we formally meet the ladies we were talking with on the bus. They are all nurses, or work in the medical field and are on their annual vacation/gathering at the Ranch. They live locally and have all done a two day backpack trip into the Ranch. We talk and laugh, and they fill us in on the workings of the Ranch and the local area. They are excited for us that we are almost done. We tell them that we will make one more stop at Rainy Pass for a nero in Winthrop with Vicky and Larry. Turns out that some of them actually know Vicky and Larry, and tell us we are “lucky”, as they are great people. Once again, the world shrinks a little bit more.
Soon the dinner bell rings, and we all filter into the grand mess hall for tonight’s special, PRIME RIB! The spread that accompanies the prime rib is vast and delightful. We eat till we can’t eat anymore and then do our best to stuff in a piece of pie, fresh from the bakery. It feels like Thanksgiving, and we are uncomfortably full…a first on the trail. Overcome by the onset of a food coma, we retire to the blissful quiet and darkness of our cabin.