~By Bethany Gerhard
I recently had the good fortune to be able to get away for a few days and head for the hills – quite literally! My destination: Cloudy Pass. I’ve been working here in Stehekin for 6 summers, and had yet to get to this spectacular location – my time had finally come!
My luck didn’t stop there though. Not only did I manage to find the time to hike the 18 miles to Cloudy Pass, but I also managed to do it while Stehekin Outfitters had a horse packing trip there. Let me tell you, if ever you have an opportunity to go on a pack trip, you should definitely not hesitate. There is nothing like hiking into camp after many miles on the trail and hearing the sound of wood being chopped, smelling coffee on the fire, and seeing a cook-tent set up with a gourmet meal being prepared for you! I’ve never eaten so well in the woods in my life!
Cragg Courtney and his niece Chelsea were great hosts, and had the camp all set up, which was great considering the weather was looking rather damp. They were leading a trip for the Wenatchee World Newspaper, and had 16 hikers with them. The Wenatchee World has been organizing trips with the Courtney family for decades. These trips have been named “Hike it and Like it” trips, since the horses pack in all the gear while the participants are able to hike with just their day packs. It is really a great combination!
I joined the trip on their 3rd night. They were base-camping just below Cloudy Pass at the head of Agnes Creek. We stayed there for another 3 nights, and were able to do some great day hikes in several directions from there. I chose to go up Cloudy Pass, and on to Upper Lyman Lake for my first day hike. It was a bit overcast as I started out in the morning, but by time I stopped for lunch, it had mostly cleared up, and was unbelievably spectacular. I got back to camp in time for dinner and a grand piece of cheesecake, complete with fresh huckleberries!
The next day I headed over Suiattle Pass and along Miner’s Ridge to Image Lake. It was lightly raining and overcast, but really quite pleasant for hiking. I got quick glimpses of Glacier Peak as I was hiking, but it never did quite come out in it’s glory. I will have to return here on a sunny day, but it is still a very magical spot.
The horse packers – Jake Courtney and Steven Bozard – showed up with the horses in the afternoon, and they packed the camp to Holden Village the next morning. My time was up, so I headed back home via the PCT in time for another tasty meal back at Stehekin Valley Ranch.
There is no doubt that I am truly blessed to be able to live in a wonderful place like Stehekin. It is a beautiful area, and the community is unique in it’s simple yet sufficient and enjoyable lifestyle. However, this trip reminded me that if I stay within the boundaries of the valley floor, and fail to explore the high country around me, I am seriously missing out!
Please enjoy the pictures I took while I was up there, but they really don’t do justice to the beauty up there. I hope that you all get a chance to witness the grandeur to be found out there!