STEHEKIN, Wash. — All aboard for a journey to the most isolated town in the Lower 48. Stehekin, Washington. Population 75.
The only ways to get there are by a very long hike, or a 2.5 to 4-hour boat ride. So the "Lady of the Lake" is like a 50-mile-long tether running from one end of Lake Chelan to the other.
"It's what carries our mail, our groceries, our freight," said Lake Chelan Boat Company spokesperson Krissa Jester, a resident of Stehekin. "Everything we need to kind of survive up here comes by boat."
"You just can't drive here," said Nick Davis of Stehekin Reservations.
Along with other tourist-friendly services, Davis rents souped-up "side-by-side-style" vehicles that are perfect for Stehekin's narrow roads and 25-mile-per-hour speed limit.
You could say life runs a little slower here, too.
"It's a place where it's so quiet and peaceful you can literally hear the snow fall," Jester said.
School consists of a half-dozen K through 8 students, all taught by one teacher under one roof.
Up the road, the original school is now a historic landmark. They've left it open for self-guided tours. If you're lucky, you might even run into a former student here, like John Wilsey, who was leading a tour during our visit.
"All the grades were in here together," Wilsey explained. "If you needed help another student would help you,"
The town has plenty of overnight accommodations, from a small hotel to rental cabins. There's one tiny post office, and plenty to write home about: Hiking, boating, and lots to explore.
"If you love the outdoors, Stehekin is a giant playground for you," Davis said.
The 392-foot Rainbow Falls is the valley's most popular natural attraction.
And no trip to Stehekin is complete without a stop at the bakery, which can get pretty busy during peak season, with hikers and bus tours stopping by to stock up.
"We do a lot of pizza that's just grab 'n' go stuff," Stehekin Pastry Company owner Roberta Courtney said.
Courtney's husband, Cragg, is a fifth-generation resident. Their family has been welcoming visitors to their bakery and cafe since 1989. Like every one of her neighbors, Courtney can't imagine calling any other place home.
"My favorite people live here," she said.
"It is very remote but you don't feel alone," Jester agreed.
"Stehekin is a place where you love the people you don't even like," Davis added, echoing a popular saying among the residents.
"The beauty brings you here, but it's the people who live here that make you want to stay."
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