Public Lands Stewards: Better Safe Than Sorry

by | Land Stewards


I am stationed on the Entiat Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest as a backcountry ranger. Due to training and the terrain of my district, I have been loaned to the Chelan Ranger District for my first two tours. Lake Chelan, the main feature of the Chelan Ranger District, is a 50.5-mile long, Fjord-like ribbon of water with dramatic hills and mountains rising straight from its shores. The majestic and mysterious lake is among the deepest in the US, and possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been. The trails and wilderness in the Chelan Ranger District are boat access only, unless you were to hike at least 20 miles of unforgiving terrain. The ferry ride from Chelan can be between 2 and 4 hours, depending on where you are going. The Forest Service boat moves a bit faster.


My first mission up lake started in Holden Village, a mining settlement turned Lutheran Retreat nestled 12 miles and 3,000 feet above the lake. The two days in Holden consisted of cross cut training, and the nights consisted of card games, ice cream, and open mic. Holden Village and the community that lives there are very special and unique. To understand it, you would have to see it yourself.


The next three days were spent on the Fish Creek Trail. There we hiked in and logged out 4 miles (3,000ft gain) and camped in the wilderness. Most of the trail area is burnt, but the dangerous charred trees have a certain appeal to me, and they offer viewing windows to the surrounding snow capped peaks. We took our test on the last day and passed, got back on the ferry and were greeted by car alarms and blown up phones at parking lot.

After a quick three days in civilization, we got back on the ferry and rode all the way to Stehekin. As “uplake” as one can go, Stehekin is a boat access only town in North Cascades National Park. My partner and I disembarked, filled water bottles, and got on the lakeshore trail. After four miles we were back in the National Forest and started brushing, clearing drain dips, and talking with the public. We camped at Moore Point and got to talk with some friendly and experienced backpackers. The next day we got to Meadow Creek after walking through unrelenting rain, had the same good luck with the campers as the previous night. The final day, we backtracked to complete work we skipped in the rain, but did not account for the rugged trail ahead of us. Two miles out from the ferry pick up spot at Prince Creek, we realized we were behind schedule. At a point with a view up lake, we saw the ferry approaching, and began to sprint, as missing the ferry would have greatly inconvenienced our partners already on the boat. The running proved to be excessive, because we had time to make a pot of coffee and jump in the lake before the ferry arrived. Better safe than sorry.


I had begun to think working in beautiful Chelan was a tease, because I hadn’t seen any of my assigned district yet. But three days after returning from my second tour in Chelan, I got to plant trees at the end of the Entiat River Road (40 miles from the Entiat Ranger Station. The peaks at the end of the Entiat Valley are just as dramatic, or even more so, than the ones on Lake Chelan. I cannot wait to explore the quiet Glacier Peak Wilderness in the Entiat District.