Cascade Crossing (Trip) - Grades 8+


Cascade Crossing (Trip) - Grades 8+


Sunday, August 6 - Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pre-trip Meeting (Mandatory) Saturday, August 5, 2017

Join with a group of other advanced backpackers to hike over one of the most scenic high-country passes in the North Cascades, and isolated, river-braided Stehekin Valley. Stehekin means "the way through", and as we travel through these mountains we'll explore and discuss our own journey through adolescence in this rite of passage trek. We’ll follow the route Native Americans took for thousands of years, followed centuries later by early European explorers, prospectors, and surveyors. Traveling beside the Stehekin River we will follow it for four days all the way to Cascade Pass. After taking a rest day at Basin Creek to day hike around the beautiful surrounding landscape we will ascend the pass and after enjoying the view, drop back down the west side of the Cascades to arrive at the bus. The afternoon will be spent processing our trip during the long – and sleepy – ride back to Bellingham. For a good overview of the entire route, see here.

Total trip miles: 23 miles with full packs, collaboratively decided additional distance in day hike explorations.


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2017 Itinerary

Pre-Trip Meeting (mandatory): Saturday, August 5, 2017. Time: 12:00-3:00PM. Location: Cascade Montessori Middle School, 2710 McKenzie Ave, Bellingham. Directions. Participants should bring backpack and everything on the gear list they plan to bring on the trip. While this meeting is for participants only, we're happy to fill parents in on everything we discuss! 


Meet at Cascade Montessori Middle School, 2710 MacKenzie Ave, Bellingham at 9:00AM. We'll say our goodbyes, then load up before hitting the road for a long drive over to Lake Chelan. Taking a few pit stops along the way and finding a good spot to eat our packed lunches, we will arrive at Lake Chelan State Park in the afternoon. Upon finding our campsite we will set up camp, cook dinner, and take some time in the evening to possibly have a fire and talk about our upcoming adventure. This is our time to anticipate what to expect over the next week as we travel through the wilderness allowing the natural world to work its magic. We will experience a return to the simple rhythms of life and provide our minds a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life while our using our bodies to travel through a wilderness the way people have for thousands of years.


Waking up at Lake Chelan State Park we will pack up our camp, load the bus, and head out to catch our boat - the Lady of the Lake and begin our cruise all the way up Lake Chelan to Stehekin. Along the way we will pass Holden Village and a rugged landscape of steep cliffs dotted with conifers and scrubby shrubs. With a few hours to kick back and watch the world go by as we cruise north, who knows what games we’ll come up with to pass the time. Upon arriving at Stehekin, we will disembark and hike over to Purple Point campground to set up camp and get settled in. If we have extra time we can explore all that Stehekin has to offer, including an incredible bakery.


After a night of sleeping out in Stehekin, we will wake up nice and early to load up into a shuttle that will take us along the meandering Stehekin Valley Road to the trailhead. Arriving at High Bridge we will unload the shuttle and strap our packs on for the upcoming hike to our next campground - Bridge Creek. With the full weight of our packs on our backs, there is nothing like that first mile to really appreciate what it means to carry everything on your back that you need to live in the backcountry for the next week. Putting the miles behind us, we will arrive in camp for our first backcountry night of the trip. This will be a good time to get back into the routine of camp chores and remembering what it means to be living in the backcountry.


Waking up at Bridge Creek, we will continue to head west following the Stehekin River as our guide toward our gateway to the west - Cascade Pass. But before we can get to the pass we still have plenty of ground to cover. Pushing ourselves further than we did the day before, we will give our bodies a workout and our minds the opportunity to expand our awareness and really take in the beauty of the backcountry. The subtle incline will keep us honest as we pass through Park Creek camp and arrive at the nearby Flat Creek camp for our next night in the wilderness.


Continuing our trek to Cascade Pass, we will begin to push to the northwest as we stay beside the Stehekin River getting ever closer to its headwaters. This will be a big day of hiking up a steadily inclining trail towards the base of Cascade Pass. We will pause for lunch at Cottonwood camp where we can take a quick dip and cool off in the Stehekin River if we are feeling bold. With just one last push along the trail we will arrive in Basin Creek camp which we will call home for the next two nights. Settling in after a long hike with the knowledge we don’t have to break camp the next morning, we will no doubt rest well and take the opportunity to sleep in a little bit giving our bodies a break after all the hard work of the previous days.


Waking up after a restful night of sleep, this day will be up to the group to decide where to go and what to do. With a variety of sights to see and places to explore we could hike up Basin Creek to revel in the glory of Horseshoe Basin or perhaps push ourselves and do a day hike to the Sahale Arm. The options are plentiful, but we will no doubt appreciate a hike with our day packs and plenty of beautiful locations to adventure in. In addition to our adventures to the surrounding landmarks, we will take some time today to have a solo sit spot taking time to reflect on our journey thus far, anticipate the final day of our journey, and begin the process of mentally preparing for reincorporation back into our lives back home. It will be important to have some introspective time away from the group as the end of our trip draws near. After taking time to ourselves, we will rejoin the group for a hearty dinner before heading to bed in our tents one last time.


On our final day, we will get back into the morning routine packing up and shoveling down some oatmeal before hitting the trail. With a big push ahead of us, we will finally take on Cascade Pass. With the road ahead of us looming overhead, we will realize the only way to make it to the top is one step at a time. Facing a series of switchbacks after a week of hiking slowly but surely towards this culminating challenge is only fitting. As the group hikes closer to the summit of the pass they will have to muster the determination and perseverance necessary to dig deep and make it to the top. Finally we will get to appreciate the fruits of our labors as we reach the top and gaze out over the North Cascades and look back down the Stehekin Valley from where we came. With the biggest of our challenges behind us we will cruise back down the western side of the pass to and finally arrive at our bus beginning our process of reincorporation. After some celebration we will load up our gear and climb on the bus for the ride home. Cruising down Cascade River Road and towards home, we may just need to stop for a burger and fries if we have the time. Reuniting with parents upon arriving back in Bellingham, we will continue the timeless tradition of reincorporation as we try and figure out how to take all the we learned and cherished about the wilderness and figure out how it fits back into our busy frontcountry lives. Despite the luxuries of running water, fresh cooked meals, a roof over our heads, and a bed to sleep in, reincorporation can still be a challenge. No doubt, we will have sore muscles, plenty of dirt and grime to wash off, and, most importantly, a bunch of new memories to cherish for years to come.

Pick-up: Cascade Montessori Middle School, 2710 MacKenzie Ave, Bellingham in the early evening (time depends on trail and road travel time + traffic). Expect a text or call from the road for exact ETA (7pm or later).

Learning Outcomes: Lessons learned and concepts covered on this adventure include daily in-depth exploration of the bridge to young adulthood and all its attributes, challenges and changes; living out the Wild Whatcom mottos, healthy and supportive interpersonal communication, Leave No Trace (TM) ethics, collaborative leadership development, common sense camping, analyzing hazards and how to mitigate their risk, living with integrity, exploring how our thinking affects our reality, self care, ecology and botany of subalpine and alpine ecosystems, multiple intelligence theory, wilderness awareness and ethics, glaciers and our connection to them,  survival priorities, navigation, preparedness, human impact on mountain ecosystems, wildlife and their adaptation to humans, working with and through fears, mountain weather systems, accepting and working with emotions and intuition, exploring endings and new beginnings; letting go and holding on to childhood attributes, relationship with self, influences and effects on self esteem and body image, including media influences. Exploring river ecology; cougar and bear behavior; relationships with parents and peers, how to speak and listen from the heart, overcoming adversity, advanced backpacking skills, practicing gratitude, understanding personal potential, human and natural history… and more!

Participant trip questionnaire and tetanus immunization required to participate.

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4+ Day Trips Pack List