Stehekin, Artist in Residence Pt. 1
Taking the ferry, the terrain from Chelan to Stehekin morphs slowly. Our trip was obscured by low clouds and a brief shower. As it cleared, I felt like I’d gone through a hidden passage; the mountains were suddenly steeper; their rocky cliffs plunging into the lake. Awe has been surpassed! Once landed, I find the only horses in the area are blond Norwegian Fjord Ponies. We’re still in Washington, right?
As with any project, I dig deeply. Personally, I believe my music is most authentic when I can make a real connection to the place I’m privileged to write for. As the weather turns soggy, I pour over a plethora of information about this place. A cache of oral histories and scientific essays reveal how geographical realities have shaped the culture of this place. In 1968, when North Cascades National Park and surrounding wilderness areas were established, upper Lake Chelan, Stehekin, and points north and west about 12 miles or so were designated a National Recreation Area. While complicated, the designation allows the community of Stehekin and the river valley to continue to have private ownership and to support the sustenance living that is vital in a location with such limited access.
Rains turned the placid Stehekin River into a frothy torrent. Yet, the salmon, hundreds of them, are spawning in its shallow alcoves. With the weather clearing, I’ve hiked three spectacular trails: one along Chelan’s northern shore, a ridge trail through the forest canopy to a breathtaking gorge, and today, meandering Purple Creek up 3500 vertical feet. Three grouse crossed my trail – the first I’ve ever seen! And the black-backed woodpecker – so elusive in Mount Adams, flitted about to prove he exists!
I presented last night on being a composer in a natural/wilderness area to a few locals and several vistors. One attendee asked, “What does it even mean?” I got a lot of questions – which I love, a few scrunchy expressions, and also beneficial input on what makes this place unique and special. The smallest listener, about five years old, was the only one with an instrument recommendation: Harp. I’ll have to think about that.