Aborted Trip to Stehekin (August 2015)

We, together with Allison, Steve, Jennifer, and John, planned a trip to Stehekin for August 24-28 - kayaking, horseback riding and backpacking. Stehekin is located at a remote area, accessible only by boat or seaplane, at the northern end of Lake Chelan (see figure below). Our plan is to fly from Chelan to Stehekin - fare for seaplane is similar to a hotel stay in Chelan plus and the boat ride, and take the boat back. Because it is at the height of the tourist season there, we had to book reservations way ahead.

We had one of the driest spring and summer. Then the wildfires started.

As the trip gets near, we watched the wildfires anxiously. The Wolverine fire near Stehekin was one of the earliest fires and it is contained. A week before our trip, fire started at/near Chelan. Houses were destroyed and part of the town was evacuated (mandatory). While the area smoke in Chelan is terrible, it appeared that the air in Stehekin was fine. We were also assured by the lodge, seaplane and boat companies that we will get our full refund if there is a level 3 (mandatory) evacuation.

So we started our trip at 5:30 on Sunday morning – it takes 3 hours to get the Chelan for the 10 o’clock flight. When we got there, the air was smoky but not too bad.


Chelan Downtown


(L) View across the Lake       (R) Fire fighting helicopter


(L) Lone kayaker on the Lake       (R) Shop window with signs thanking firefighters for saving the town

Then we found out that the seaplane could not leave Stehekin because it was too smoky. Apparently the Wolverine fire jumped the fire break line, and/or the wind switched. (We techno geeks searched the internet for bits of information on this. We are spoiled by Google to reckon that information updates are frequent. But, unlike traffic, this kind of up-to-date information is hard to come back.) We waited, have a picnic lunch in a nearby park and watched the smoky condition getting worse.

The seaplane company threw in the towel at 1 pm and told us we cannot go that day. So we decided to bail out. Somewhat to our surprise, we get our full refund without any hassle (at least the full refund is in the “mail”). So we drove back to Bellevue disappointed. We don’t get to go to Stehekin, ride a seaplane and watched the wildfire from the air. But we vow to come back.

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