As tough as it was to leave the Palouse, the anticipation of going to a new shooting location tempered my attitude considerably. To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect as we drove toward Lake Chelan and the North Cascades. Obviously, the area would be mountainous, but to this point my view of the area was still a map-based two-dimensional one. I knew all the locations we wanted to visit but had little idea of how the terrain would look.
If I knew something about the topography of the North Cascades, I knew nothing about what the landscape would look like between the Palouse and there. As it turned out, the landscape was unremarkable but still attractive. In other words, it was pretty to drive through, but I’m glad that we didn’t allocate a full day of shooting in central Washington. Ironically, I think I could live in Spokane given its easy access to the Palouse, southern Canada, western Montana, and the Pacific Northwest coast.
Once ironic moment did occur on our drive. Given the vastness of Washington state, there were quite a few moments where we were out of cell service. Near Moses Lake I had full coverage and decided to call home to check in on Pamela. As we were talking UPS made a delivery to our house. Unbeknown to me, the D800 that I had put on order had shipped and arrived while we were talking on the phone! Now, other people are obsessed with different purchases. It may be clothing, fishing gear, golf equipment, antiques, or some other category. For me, opening a box with a new camera, lens, or accessory is like Christmas morning. I had waited on the D800 for months and it was just killing me not to be able to open that box and start shooting with it! I especially wanted it to capture what I was experiencing with even more resolution and flexibility. As you can tell, though, the D700 did a fantastic job during the entire trip.
We arrived in Chelan by mid-day and headed over to the docks where the ferry and float planes departed. Our plan was to fly up to Stehekin on the float plane and return on the ferry. Have I mentioned that I get motion sick from time to time? Well, I do. So, the thought of boarding a float plane was less than appealing. Fortunately, the flight would be short and it was a clear day. On a positive note, flying a thousand feet above the lake seeing the incredible scenery was very appealing.
So, we boarded the plane and took off. It really was an incredible experience to feel the powerful engines propelling us across the water, feeling the floats skim across the ripples and waves, and finally fell the calm as the plane pulled free of the lake and became airborne. I adjusted the air-conditioning – a circular vent in the window that directed air toward me – and got my camera ready to shoot.
Lake Chelan is a very interesting geologic feature. It is the third deepest natural lake in the country with a depth of nearly 1,500 feet. The lake is 55 miles long and doesn’t appear to be more than two or three miles wide at any point. It’s a long, narrow lake that is usually surrounded by mountains on both sides.
The landing proved to be no more testy than the take-off to my great relief. Our destination was Stehekin, a remote village that can only be accessed by boat, plane, or on foot. It is so remote that there are only 60 to 100 year around residents. Yet, the community has its own hydroelectric plant, water treatment facility, and school. The population swells in the summer when the few inns and one hotel receive guests for a few days. Day visitors also arrive by float plane or ferry to visit Rainbow Falls. But crowded means something completely different to the year-round residents than it does to you and me. Crowded means that you might run into someone else on a trail. Whereas in the off-season, all you will run into is a deer or a bear.
Stehekin is the most remote community I know of in the lower 48 states. The closest community that I could see on a map was Mazama. It is 25 miles or so away as the crow flies. The trouble is that those 25 miles are all on foot and several thousand feet of elevation gain away through a snowpack! To get to Mazama via ferry and auto is about a five hour trip. Chelan is the closest town with a full grocery store, hardware supply, and hospital. It’s 55 miles away and virtually inaccessible in winter. Needless to say, the year-round residents of Stehekin are hardy souls who treasure their independence.
We stayed at the Silver Bay Inn, the last lodging directly on the north end of the lake. It was cool to trek back and forth the mile and a half to Stehekin proper on the bikes they provided. About halfway there sits this beautiful cabin. To my eye, it is the prettiest place in Stehekin and has the best view. Apparently, the owner had the cabin fully constructed in Chelan, then deconstructed and shipped to this location, and then reconstructed in place. All I know is that I would love to spend a week or two in the cabin one summer. What a view!
There’s more to come from Stehekin. Enjoy!