Wilderness Ranger Corps – Hitch Five


Hitch Five took us to the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest. We camped out near the town of Chelan before taking a three-hour ferry ride up the lake to Stehekin, a tiny town that lacks cell phone and internet reception, but makes up for it with a delightful bakery. We were picked up by two park rangers, Doug and Andy who took us to the bakery before dropping us at our respective trailheads.

Thomas, Devon, and Alex took off for a five-day hike on the PCT from Stehekin to Cloudy Pass to Lyman Lake to Hart Lake to Holden. They encountered many thru hikers and inventoried over 50 sites at Lyman Lake. Sterling, Sarah, and Julie’s trip went quite differently. After saying goodbye to the safety of the bakery they started on the unmaintained Company Creek Trail. Not long after, they found themselves in the rain, bushwhacking uphill through thorny, stinging pants that ripped their legs to shreds (until they decided to put pants on). With heavy packs and relentless terrain they only hiked a few miles before stopping for the day. They were able to start a fire, roast s’mores and eat burritos before going to bed.

On the second day the three of them headed for Hilgard Pass, which connects the Company Creek Trail to the Devore Creek Trail. Challenged with an early morning stream crossing, Sterling and Sarah managed to keep their shoes dry by walking barefoot while Julie opted for wet boots. However, Sarah’s efforts were in vain, when soon after she fell into a smaller stream just down the trail. They spent the rest of the day meandering through meadows, bushwhacking up and around mountains, dodging cougar scat and listening to screeching marmots. They spent the night between Hilgard and Ten-Mile Pass, where they got their first taste of Northwest thunderstorms during the night.

The next day they finished up the Devore Creek Trail, which entailed more bushwhacking, more screeching marmots and Sterling getting stung by a bee on the butt, sprinting away from a swarm of hungry mosquitos, ripping his shirt off and finally diving into Lake Chelan. After returning to Stehekin, Sterling, Sarah and Julie went straight to the bakery to recover from the hardships of the past few days. That night they camped out in the town where they experienced the biggest thunderstorm any of them had ever been in. When they woke up, they realized they were camped just feet from an enormous landslide that had occurred in the middle of the night. So in efforts to get warm and dry they went straight to the bakery for breakfast.

After a few hours there they boarded the ferry for Lucerne to complete their second assignment. This involved a two-day bushwhack to Emerald Park and Mirror Lake, all in the pouring rain. They didn’t quite make it all the way to Mirror Lake because the trail became impossible to follow. On the second day, when they were almost back to Lucerne, Sarah and Julie witnessed a dead tree fall down and all three of them saw two black bears. They spent a night in Lucerne and then took the ferry back to Chelan to end the hitch. They survived their first taste of adverse weather but came through with flying colors. It was great to see another aspect of the Northwest on the East side of the mountains where the geology and vegetation are quite different. Riding on the Lady of the Lake was a fun commute to their projects and provided relaxing bookends to their hikes. While they and their gear were thoroughly soaked there spirits remained undampened and they look forward to the final hitch of the season.