This past weekend we were crazy. We loaded the kids up in the already packed truck at 4 am on Friday morning taking them out of school for the day. Drove three hours over Stevens pass to arrive in Chelan, bleary-eyed from early travel, to get on a four-hour ferry to Stehekin, a place we had never been because somebody, me, had an idea.
And the weekend we had chosen happened to show a 90% chance of rain on our only full day. An adventurous family joined us for the crazy journey. 15 hours of travel for 28 hours of awake time in our destination.
You might think, no way. That is just plum crazy. And you would be right, but it was the best kinda crazy with comments from all at what an AMAZING trip this was, best vacation ever, I want to go back, etc.
Why might these comments come from young and old alike? Well, let me tell you a story…
Stehekin is a place you can only get to by boat, plane, horse or on foot. I suppose you could parachute in if you wanted to. There is no grocery store. No ATM. No internet. Everyone waves to you as you walk down the street, because although there is a bus that makes the two-hour circuit from the boat dock to High Bridge twice daily at this time of year, there is no other non-human powered transportation, unless of course one of the 85 permanent residents with a vehicle decides to look favorably on you as you walk home with five children in a down pour!
What we found in Stehekin is what is missing in most of the world: the absence of fear. Maybe not within each individual – because then it would truly be magical, and unearthly – but as a community.
The whole town operates on the honor system. Nobody at the bike rental shop. No problem. Take your bikes, let us know how long you had them and drop your money in the bucket. If you ride the bus back from High Bridge, come in and let us know and then we will charge you.
They are all still moving through their day trying to make a living, get by, make ends meet, yet there is a trust that is offered to more than just the extended family.
You know this trust. We often feel it between friends – you have us over, we have you over. You watch our kids, we watch yours. And many other ways we extend out trust to another, our generosity.
But that generosity usually stops at a certain circle of influence. When it comes to our businesses or the grocery store, the city is so big that no matter how many times per day we go to the PCC – our local food co-op – if we forget payment we still have to go home and get money and come back to get our groceries. In Stehekin, it is different. The generosity is extended to strangers.
This gives the whole place an eerily old timey feel, but with modern conveniences like running water and Gore-Tex rain wear.
This particular weekend was especially interesting as it happened to be their Harvest Festival. Stehekin boasts the oldest operating apple orchard in Washington State. It is called Buckner Orchard and it is now owned by the park service. And it has THE BEST APPLES. No bugs, gigantic and free. Yes, the apples are free – for a four-hour boat ride and three-hour drive…
The harvest festival begins with the whole community of locals and strangers picking apples in the orchard: buckets and wheelbarrows full of apples. Which are then moved to the cutting and pressing area. All activity happens seamlessly as if marionettes are moving things and people, no one told anyone where to go or what to do, it just happened.
We wondered why as we were helping to off load the ferry when we arrived, which they encourage you help with conveyor belt style, there were so many empty water jugs. The community presses apples to fill your jugs. Not sure how many gallons of cider but some people even five-gallon water jugs and those were filled along with my single Nalgene.
Then all are invited to a community potluck. Thankfully, volunteers arrived early to set up tarps because it rained the whole day. The band was under cover, the food was under cover and the people ate under cover.
The river a short walk from the orchard boasts an active Kokane Salmon run, where we could see the salmon giving up their life for their kin. Kinda like the people here in Stehekin, giving up their day so friends and strangers alike could come together in an act of generosity to feed the people.
Though the children did not vocalize these images as what they thought was so great about it, I know they felt it because I felt it too. Through the people and the way the whole town has the ability to envelope you if you let it.
Part of its practice of generosity is that it sits close to the end of the PCT – the Pacific Crest Trail – a trail that journeys from Mexico to Canada through some of the most beautiful terrain the west coast has to offer. People come here from spring on to shower, get a good meal, receive packages sent from home, and gather news of the world that has transpired while they have been in the mountains.
They take in travelers, dirty and tired from the road of life and send them back to the world or trail showered and refreshed, cleansed of the hardship of days gone by.
Why do I share this with you? Certainly not to encourage you to go there if you are brave enough to take on that process of travel! I share this with you to give you hope, that generosity still exists in our time. And if the major media stations or the shows or the news doesn’t remind you that to be human is to care for one another, then this is your reminder. Generosity exists. We only have to open to it and offer it up ourselves and then we can feel it even more.
Want to feel some hope? Lean into being more generous? Invite perspective. We have ways of opening you up to the world that allows you to feel and genuinely be more at peace.