John F. Stevens, for whom Stevens Pass is named, was the chief locating engineer to plot the route of the Great Northern Railway through the Cascades. He would go on to later fame as the builder of the Panama Canal.

The official Web site for Skykomish bills the town as "A Great Northern Town." The Great Northern Railroad is so intertwined with the town's identity that the Great Northern goat mascot is the city logo. The settlement affectionately known as "Sky" was a company town for 100 years. Today, Burlington Northern Santa Fe is the carrier. The railroad made Sky. Then it damn near killed it. And then it essentially rebuilt it.

From the early 20th century through 1974, Skykomish was a rail maintenance and fueling depot. Vast untold amounts of diesel fuel and oil seeped into the soil under the town. From 2006 to 2011, cleanup crews removed and replaced 21 buildings, 1,200 feet of river levee, the main road embankment into town and two wetlands. By the time it was completed in 2015 the cost to the railroad was north of $100 million. That works out to a half-million dollars for every resident of Sky.

If you're like me and are simply foaming-at-the-mouth thrilled to watch six BNSF SD40s highballing to the pass, you're going to love Skykomish. On the other hand, if the sound of trains in the middle of the night bothers you ... maybe not so much. About 20 trains roll through Sky each day. The Empire Builder, the line's last named passenger train, comes through twice a day, en route between Seattle and Chicago. The goat abides.

The most important resource in Skykomish isn't actually in Skykomish. H****r H****n is further west on the highway in Baring. Just as it is with the Andersons and the Braatens I am not publishing their contact information out of respect for their privacy.

In December of 2017 Andrea passed, leaving a gigantic hole in the fabric of the PCT support community. May her memory be a blessing for every hiker coming through Stevens Pass.

Before you roll into Stevens Pass, make sure to have read their house rules on the Web site carefully. Resupply boxes need to be picked up at the post office in Skykomish. Do not mail them directly to the D***mores. The standard operating procedure is to pick up a resupply at the Skykomish P.O. and then call the D***mores for a ride. There is no stealth camping anywhere around the town of Skykomish.

If you do elect to stay in town, your only option is a really good one: The historic Cascadia Inn (210 Railroad Ave. E., 360 677-2030), which is approaching its 100th birthday. The inn has 14 rooms that are very nice by PCT hotel standards. They are also a significant bargain. The Cascadia Cafe on the ground floor has been dishing out hearty fare to railroad workers, skiers and travelers since 1922. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. The Caboose Room lounge is adjacent. Owner/manager Henry Sladek is an outstanding host who understands the PCT community. I was mildly shocked that he would even handle hiker laundry without donning a hazmat suit.

The Whistling Post Tavern (116 W. Railroad Ave., 360 677-2111) is next door to the Cascadia and just as historically significant. This is the latest incarnation of a saloon that was started by Patrick McEvoy, the engineer on the first scheduled train to go through Skykomish in 1893. This is an uncommonly friendly bar, essentially the town's community living room. Food, though, is somewhat of an afterthought. Eat at the Cascadia and drink at the Whistling Post. Today, looking at the ghost town that is downtown Sky at 8 p.m., it's hard to picture the wide-open, brawling, broad-shouldered railroad town where the bars and the card rooms operated 24 hours a day to serve the train crews.

Near the bridge into town, you will note the Sky Deli (148 N. 5th St., 360 677-2211) offering a basic menu of burgers, sandwiches and ice cream that has been very enthusiastically reviewed online. It also stocks liquor. There is no store to resupply out of in Skykomish. You could not resupply out of the gas station mini-mart. A box is mandatory.

As for the services at the Stevens Pass ski area, don't count on any food operation in the summer. The Stevens Lodge is a new hostel and conference center operated by the Mountaineers, the venerable Pacific Northwest outdoors non-profit. There are inexpensive beds in two large dorm rooms plus showers and full kitchen facilities. It's unclear at this point if they will offer PCT services such as resupply box service. Don't just roll in. Give them a call first to reserve a bed and ascertain exactly what support is available. (206) 521-6001.

Regardless of the year, there always seems to be some trail closure or reroute between Stevens Pass and the monument, be it fire, flood, bridge collapse, slide or snow. The Skykomish Ranger District office (74920 Highway 2, 360 677-2414) might give you some picture of what to expect through to Stehekin. It is inconveniently located one mile east of Skykomish.

Skykomish map

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