START: Stevens Pass
FINISH: Bridge Creek Camp (Five miles past Stehekin)
DISTANCE: 101 miles (162.5 km)* (See below for details)
DAILY AVERAGE: 22.4 miles (36 km) – includes rest/rejuvenation day in Stehekin.
TOTAL DISTANCE: 2585 miles (4159 km)
The Path Less Taken: In reference to thru hikes, my take on alternate routes is quite simple – if the alternate is more spectacular than the official path, take the alternate (eg. Eagle Creek, Ramona Falls).
I had first heard about the Jonathan Ley (same guy that does the maps for the CDT) Glacier Peak alternate route from Eric D in 2007. Since then a couple of climber/hiking buddies from Washington had also extolled the virtues of the route over High Pass, unanimously declaring it to be more scenic than the official PCT path. So, that’s the way I decided to go.
The verdict? Yes, the Ley route is more spectacular than the official PCT. The catch? Some of the worst bush whacking I have ever done along the White River “trail”, which constitutes the first eleven miles of the alternate. This section hasn’t been maintained in years and includes a four mile slide alder-choked stretch which took approximate six hours to fight through.
My advice to thru hikers interested in trying an alternative path through Glacier Peak is as follows; take the old PCT detour down Indian Creek and over Boulder Pass, then follow Ley’s route over High Pass and back to the PCT around Miner’s Creek.
Stehekin: Quite simply my favourite trail town in the US. Why? An amazing bakery, a fjord-like setting and some of the friendliest folk you are ever likely to meet. These factors combined with my lingering knee issues, meant that taking a day off was pretty much a foregone conclusion. A big hello and many thanks to Dutch, Lori and Jonathan. A few interesting facts about Stehekin:
- Population somewhere between 80 and 100.
- It is set on the magnificent Lake Chelan, which looks like something out of a Norwegian postcard. Chelan is approximately 55 miles long and is the third deepest lake in the States (after Crater lake and Lake Tahoe).
- The sport of choice amongst the local populous appears to be disc golf.