Tom and I (with fellow RV adventurers Johnny and Val) explored the North Cascades complex for a few days after we left San Juan Island. The area has jagged, snow-covered peaks and beautiful lakes in the valleys. After we left the Ross Lake area, we continued on Washington State Route 20 until we hit Twisp, then we turned south to Chelan and the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.
Lake Chelan is a glacier-carved lake and is one of the deepest lakes in the United States. Chelan is the fur-trader spelling of the Native American word “Tsillane” which means deep water. The lake is still fed by the run-off of 27 different glaciers so the temperature of the water is around 55 at its warmest.
Chelan is the biggest town on the lake, located at the southern end. It is primarily a resort community with about 4,000 year-round residents. The area around the lake is agricultural with miles of apple orchards heavy with fruit when we drove by.
Although naturally a lake, Lake Chelan was dammed in 1906 to provide hydro-electric power. The dam raised the level of the lake by 21 feet. The people who live in the valley benefit from some of the cheapest electricity in the world.
Lake Chelan is 51 miles long and the National Recreation Area is at the north end of the lake, adjoining the North Cascades National Park. The only town in the National Recreation Area is Stehekin, which can only be reached by boat or by floatplane. No roads lead to Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.
We were hungry and tired when we finally got to Chelan. We checked into our hotel and then headed to the highly recommended Apple Cup Cafe. The parking lot was packed with locals so we figured that was a good sign. The food did not disappoint. Tom had an omelette and I had the special, Beef Stroganoff.
Then we returned to our hotel for an early night before an even earlier morning the next day. We were heading into one of the most remote places in the contiguous United States and we wanted to be prepared for whatever we would face.