LAKE CHELAN, A HIGH DESERT GEM in Washington State.

Traveling with G.I, and Jo Wilson

How would you like to board a comfortable, two-decker ferry–in a sun drenched, arid, valley–surrounded by manicured orchards, and 55 miles later have lunch in a historic little village surrounded by towering snow-capped mountains?  This happens every day on Washington State’s Lake Chelan.

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Lady Express

This is not your run-of-the-mill ferry ride. This is a journey, an adventure.
Our journey begins in the small town of Chelan, surrounded by rolling hills, laced with orchards and vineyards. Higher mountains may still be capped with snow in late may. As we move uplake the terrain becomes more rugged. Beautiful homes seem to be carved into hillsides.

A Working Boat

We are joined by workers carrying hard hats, heavy duty work clothes, boots and gear. They are headed deep into the mountains to clean up years of pollution from a copper mine closed in 1950.
We make our first stop at a state park some 25 miles uplake. More workers board. Seasoned backpackers-with heavy loads-come aboard, headed for the rugged Forest Service trails out of Stehekin. We are talking serious hikers. We visit with one guy. He has hiked most of the trails, some of them multiple times.

When asked if he sees any critters, “That one right there,” pointing to a steep canyon. “Bears, ticks, and rattlesnakes, guaranteed,” he adds with a grin.

Rugged Peaks

Rugged Peaks.

We cruise into a vast road-less area. Some of the most rugged peaks in the world.

Water Falls

Peaks help create waterfalls.

 

Peaks, over 8,000 feet, seem to loom over you. Glaciers, tucked back into protected chasms, send melted ice cascading down to keep the lake clear and cold.

 

 

Deepest in North America

At one point the captain points out that we are cruising over ice, blue water 1,500 feet deep–only a quarter-of-a-mile wide–and looking up at peaks towering over 8,000 feet in elevation. A formula figures this to be the deepest canyon in North America.

We arrive at Lucerne Landing. Our workers depart. We are amazed at the hustle and bustle. Eighteen wheelers, dump trucks and heavy equipment have all been brought into this road-less area by barge.

Getting off at the dock

Unloading Gear

End of the Line

Next stop, Stehekin and the North Cascades National Park. Stehekin and the ferry trip have a rich history and have been written about in National Geographic, Sunset, New York Times and others.

We have 90 minutes in Stehekin. Some board a bus to visit the 325-foot Rainbow Falls. Some go for lunch at the restaurant and walk to the Visitors Center. Ninety minutes is just enough time to whet your appetite for a return trip to the Stehekin Valley. It offers world class outdoor recreation.

Tips For the Trip

There are two ferries; The 100-foot Lady of The Lake II, and the 65-foot Lady Express. The trip up takes four hours with two stops for passengers and cargo. There is the 90-minute stay at Stehekin.

Suggestion: When both boats are running, if you take the faster Lady Express up and the slower Lady of the Lake back, you will have longer to stay in Stehekin.

Much More

There is more to Lake Chelan Valley than a historic ferry ride. This is fruit and wine country. It takes a while to get there from anywhere in Washington or surrounding states. Make it a destination. There are things to see and do. Chelan, and near-by Manson, offer all the amenities you would need.

Water Sports

With 55 miles of lake, and 300 days of sunshine, paddle boarding to jet skis and sailing is readily available.

Wine Tasting

Visit over 25 wineries and tasting rooms, with intriguing names like: Siren Song, Vin Du Lac and Hard Row To Hoe. (Interesting history behind the name.) Weather and soil conditions are ideal for fine wineries. Beautiful tasting rooms offer views of the valley and mountains.

Wine tasting Columbia River

Jo Wilson tasting wine along the Columbia River

You can even take a float plane to a winery, land on the Columbia River and walk into a beautiful tasting room with spectacular views of the mountains and river. Talk about the ultimate designated driver.

Food

Chelan, and near-by Manson, offer a full array of restaurants, from fine dining, to drive-ins and take out. One thing you won’t find is chain fast foods. No McDonald’s or Burger Kings here.

One dining experience stands out. Blueberry Hills Farm, a u-pick berry farm and restaurant. This is a Must See and Do experience.

Blueberry Hills Farm

Blueberry Hills Farm

The building is something of a “Grampa’s shed and barn” museum. This is a fifth generation farm. They have taken items from those buildings, built dining room tables, filled little cubicles with hundreds of small items, “Grampa couldn’t bear to throw anything away,” add a glass table top, and you can see nuts, bolts, screws, a compass, and a vast collection of “must save treasures” collected over five generations.

More Than a Restaurant

Grampa loved to fish. He hated to stop and change lures. So, he always had multiple rods and reels in the boat. All those are mounted on the ceiling, next to all the sun glasses Grampa and Gramma wore.

Tabletops

Tabletops hold collections of various items Grampa collected.

If it can be made from local fruit and vegetables, it’s on the shelf at Blueberry Hill. Ever heard of Blueberry leaf tea? The menu will cause you to drool, and make plans to return.

The Seattle Times gives the breakfast menu a four-star rating. People from Seattle-coming to Lake Chelan-wait for breakfast until they make it to Blueberry Farm.

 

 

 

Blueberry Blintz

 

 

The blueberry blintz is to die for.

Owner, Kari Sorensen, sat and visited with us. She answered our questions about the history of the farm and family. She wowed us with numbers, like, one hundred pies a day on weekends during the summer?

 

Fishing

It has been said that more wedding rings have been lost in Lake Chelan than any other lake in Washington. Could be. The Wedding Ring, signature lure of Macks Lure, was developed 35 miles down the road in Wenatchee. The petite little spinner has probably accounted for more trout and kokanee than any other single lure.

Few lakes have as many species as Lake Chelan. Anglers come from all over to go for: kokanee, rainbow trout, burbot (fresh water lingcod), bass, triploid chinook salmon and lake trout. The state record lake trout, 35.63 pounds was caught in Lake Chelan in 2013. Lake trout average 5-7 pounds, with fish in the 15-20 pound class fairly common.

Fishing Guides and Services:

Allan’s Fishing Guide Service, 509-687-3084

Darrell & Dad’s Guide Service, 509-687-0709

Lake Chelan Adventures 509-393-9665.

Accommodations

Lake Chelan Valley can meet your needs from deluxe resorts, family hotels to Luxurious homes, or secluded private cabins.

Lake Chelan Valley is much more than a “drive by fruiting.” It takes time, funds, and effort, to get there. Make it a vacation destination. Visit with the folks at the Chamber of Commerce/Visitors Center and watch eyes light up as they tell you about ways to enjoy the area.

For more information contact:

Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce, 509- 682-3503,

www.lakechelan.com.

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