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Four new busses inspired by the charm of early 20th century vehicles that once roamed the Stehekin Valley are heading to Stehekin. The busses have a vintage look but also contain modern amenities such as large touring windows and a windowed ceiling, comfortable seating, and the ability to "kneel" for easy entry. "These busses make a great addition to the Stehekin experience," explained North Cascades National Park Complex Superintendent Chip Jenkins. "They are just a part of the $2.5 million that the National Park Service has invested to improve the concession facilities in Stehekin."
The busses were purchased by the National Park Service and will be operated by the National Park Service concession, Stehekin Landing Resort (http://www.stehekinlanding.com), to shuttle visitors along the Stehekin Valley to access trailheads, campgrounds, and private businesses. The busses will also be used for the popular tour to 312-foot Rainbow Falls. "This partnership will provide for a fun and memorable ride on these vintage-style busses," said Jenkins. "We hope families will come to Stehekin for a great vacation." The new busses are also accessible and have bicycle racks, storage for backpacks and camping gear, a public address system for narrated tours, and air conditioning.
The new busses were purchased through a grant received by the park in 2006 from the U.S. Department of Transportation Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks Program(http://www.fta.dot.gov/funding/grants/grants_financing_6106.html). The goals of the program are to conserve natural, historical, and cultural resources; reduce congestion and pollution; improve visitor mobility and accessibility; enhance the visitor experience; and ensure access to all, including persons with disabilities. North Cascades National Park applied for this grant to replace the aging fleet of school buses owned and operated by the concessionaire. The grant funded a detailed analysis of the bus characteristics best suited to operate in the unique, remote location of Stehekin. Then, a prospectus was developed based upon this analysis, and through open competition, a contract was awarded and the busses were manufactured by TMC Group Inc. of Elkhart, Indiana.
Ride the Stehekin Shuttle to High Bridge and go for a hike! The shuttle departs the Stehekin Landing four times each day through October 7, and two times per day October 8 through 12 (schedule available at http://www.stehekin.biz/2009_busschedule_page.htm). Numerous day hikes of varying length and difficulty are accessible from High Bridge. Try the short Coon Lake Trail for a 2.6-mile moderately difficult round-trip hike to tranquil Coon Lake – an excellent place to watch birds and to enjoy views of Agnes and McGregor Mountains. Take the kids on the family-friendly Agnes Gorge Trail for an easy, 5.0-mile round-trip hike along Agnes Creek, through numerous different plant communities, and to the stunningly-deep Agnes Gorge. The 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail that connects Mexico with Canada also passes through High Bridge. While this trail cannot be hiked in a day, it does offer two day hiking opportunities from High Bridge. Walk the Agnes Creek Trail (towards Mexico) along the south-side of Agnes Creek and turn around at Five-Mile Camp for an easy 11-mile round-trip, or take the Old Wagon Trail (towards Canada) for an easy 10.4-mile round-trip walk through the forest and explore the effects of the 2005 Shady Fire. Adventurous hikers can take the McGregor Mountain Trail for a strenuous 15.4-mile round-trip hike to the top of McGregor Mountain and sweeping views of the Stehekin and Agnes drainages. But, be advised that reaching the summit requires a steep and rocky scramble. Inquire at the Golden West Visitor Center or visit http://www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/trail-conditions.htmfor current trail conditions.