"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Riding the Lady Cat to Stehekin

By on July 25, 2020 in Outdoor Fun with 1 Comment
The lakeside scenery transforms as the boat nears Stehekin.

Photos by Ken Reid

Experiences have become our family’s new preference when it comes to gift-giving. 

When those experiences incorporate multi-generational together time, all the better. 

Last year, for example, for my 70th birthday, we had a day on the water with Deception Pass Boat Tours, which included our grandkids, our son and daughter, and several cousins. It was a natural for us since my cousins, Brett and Terica Ginther, own and operate this award-winning tourist attraction. 

When my birthday came around again it was clear it would not include the same kind of family outing. (We are scattered from the west side of the state, to Wenatchee and South Florida.) 

So, my husband Ken posed the question, “What do you want to do for your birthday?” 

I reflected on our June boat trip in 2019 and immediately responded, “I want to GO somewhere!” 

Just saying that sparked an idea, and I said, “Let’s take the boat from Chelan to Stehekin for the day.” He got on the phone with Lake Chelan Boat Company and made a reservation immediately. 

Ken and Linda with the “Lady Cat” docked in Stehekin.

To our delight the new owners (who bought the company in 2019), Brun Garfoot and Reed Courtney, had bought back the catamaran (that had been sitting idle for years) to add to the Chelan-Stehekin fleet, and it would be running on the day of our trip. 

We had traveled to Stehekin on both the Lady of the Lake and the Lady Express years before and very much enjoyed these trips. However, the idea of covering over 50 miles of up-lake travel in just an hour and a half on the new Lady Cat would give us extra time to explore Stehekin, a full six hours more. 

We had a beautiful day for our adventure, and the Lady Cat provided us with a scenic, comfortably smooth ride. (COVID-19 guidelines were carefully respected.) 

It was a Friday and the passengers on board included two families, a half a dozen backpackers/day hikers, and three other couples. As with the other two boats, two quick stops were made to drop off and pick up passengers at Field’s Landing and at Holden Village. We arrived at the dock in Stehekin exactly one-and-a-half hours after leaving Chelan. 

For anyone reading this who doesn’t already know this, Lake Chelan is one of the three deepest lakes in the U.S., right behind Crater Lake and Lake Tahoe. 

The Stehekin River in its early summer glory.

The scenery on this journey defies description, and even Ken’s expert photos are not adequate. You need to see it in person. 

What I love the most is the transformation from rolling hills, to forested foothills, to rocky outcrops, with the culminating views of the snowy peaks of the rugged North Cascades as you approach Stehekin. The natural landscaping is breathtaking. 

This isolated community is actually located within the boundaries of the North Cascades National Park (I am told that is a whole other story), yet it has maintained its unique character despite becoming a popular tourist destination. This is, as the Lake Chelan Boat Co. brochure says, “an experience and adventure where no roads can take you.” 

On the boat trip up-lake we were able to get acquainted with the director of customer experience and public relations for Lake Chelan Boat Co., Krissa Jester, who is one of about 90 people who are year-round residents of Stehekin. 

Knowing we were planning to do a piece for The Good Life, she was happy to help us learn more about the character of this community and even gave us an informal guided tour so we could get a better sense of place. (We had planned to rent bikes but renting a Polaris Ranger ATV for the three of us was more fun.)

Stehekin is a friendly, welcoming place to visit.

The farthest point you can reach by road is only 13 miles from the boat dock. 

When we arrived at the end of the road, it did not look the same to us as it had 30-plus years ago. We had rented a cabin for a few days that came with an old pick-up truck. We were sure the road had gone farther and higher since we had done some hiking with amazing vistas. 

Krissa told us that indeed the road had extended another 10 miles until a wash-out 17 years ago (springtime flooding from the Stehekin River) closed the road permanently. 

The river races over rocks and boulders and feeds its cold, aquamarine waters to Lake Chelan. The river gains its volume from snow melt in the North Cascades as many creeks and streams converge with it, the most interesting being Rainbow Creek, which has an impressive waterfall that is worth the journey, even by bicycle. 

Before we went off exploring on our own, Krissa advised us to make a stop at the famous Stehekin Pastry Company where we divided a sticky bun (one of their specialties) as a substitute for my birthday cake. 

We loved our day in Stehekin and wished we had decided to spend a night or two there in a cabin, at the National Park Lodge, or at the Stehekin Valley Ranch to experience more time off the grid. 

On our trip down Lake we sat on the same side of the Lady Cat to be sure we would have views of the opposite shoreline. 

Our boat pulled into the Chelan dock at precisely 5 p.m., as scheduled. 

We had a few minutes to talk with Brun Garfoot before heading back to Wenatchee. We asked him what prompted him to buy into this venture. He answered that he and his business partner Reed Courtney (a Stehekin native) have a deep connection to and understanding of the importance of the critical link these boats provide to Chelan and Stehekin. 

He shared that getting the Lady Cat up and flying was a challenge but also very rewarding, since it will become the go-to boat for winter travels up the lake. 

As things begin to open-up, people are ready to take advantage of regional travel experiences and both Brun and Reed are hopeful for the future of their company. 

For me, this adventure was exactly what I was looking for when I said, “I just want to GO somewhere.” It exceeded my birthday expectations.

For more information about            reservations, packages, events or charters go to: 

 Lake Chelan Boat Co. at: www.ladyofthelake.com 

For overnight accommodations contact: StehekinReservations@gmail.com

For basic information about the Chelan/Stehekin areas contact: krissa@discoverlakechelan.com

Ken and Linda live in East Wenatchee and love to explore the limitless      opportunities NCW has to offer.

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  1. Darlene Selland says:

    Great article! I want to go there now!

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