Judith O’Keefe takes us on an O’Keefe family horseback adventure in the small town of Stehekin, Washington. This cold weather has us daydreaming about late summer outdoor escapes, just like this one.
The O’Keefe family gathers together every August, not so much for a family vacation, but a family adventure. This year was no exception. My sister-in-law, Jeanette, discovered the tiny town of Stehekin, Washington, while on a horse pack trip with friends. Stehekin is tucked away at the northwest end of Lake Chelan, and accessible solely by plane, ferry or horseback. She was so impressed with the natural beauty, abundant wildlife and interesting topography, that she knew she had bring the family.
At eight am, seven humans and three horses started our 22 mile trek from Bridge Creek Trail off of N. Cascades Hwy. It is noteworthy to mention that we ranged in age from 16, my niece Jacqueline, to age 82, my mother-in-law Ann. Day one was filled with literal ups and downs, on foot and horseback. We picked huckleberries, bear watched, some of us got lost, and then there were those trusty steeds, prancing down the trail and shuffling their way across creeks and over logs. But, I’ll save the details for another time. Suffice it to say, we all arrived safely at stunning Stehekin Valley Ranch, a few hours behind schedule, but before all the pot roast was gone. Jeanette was right, this trip should be on every outdoor enthusiast’s Bucket List.
While some spent their days riding and hiking the trails around the ranch, those of us drawn to water had the pleasure of fishing the Stehekin River with local fishing guide, John Wilsey. The float offers some of the best scenery in the Northwest: crystal, clear water, with some pools, a deep shade of turquoise blue. Wilsey’s pontoon boat was perfect for navigating the river. Using hoppers and stimulator dry flies, we landed several strong, healthy cutthroat and rainbow trout in the 10 to 17” range. The river is known for its fall caddis and green drake hatches and some fish in the 20” plus range.
Sometime in the not too distant future, I’ll make my way back to the Stehekin. The pot roast was great, but it was the river and the fishing that really whet my appetite.