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Trapper Cabin History

One of the most common questions we get at the Ranch is “What’s the story on that cute little cabin behind the Cookhouse?”

The short answer is that it was built by Cliff’s father, Ray Courtney. However, that answer does not even begin to scratch the surface of the rich and enchanting history of the “Trapper Cabin.” Read on for the rest of the story….

Ray Courtney grew up as the youngest of 4 children. While the older kids enjoyed smoking and listening to the radio with their father Hugh, Ray didn’t smoke, and preferred peace and quiet in the evenings to work on projects or write.

The Courtneys grew up in a self-sustaining atmosphere – if they couldn’t make it themselves, they generally did without. So Ray learned at an early age to build things and live off the land.

At age 15, he decided to build his own cabin. He set about falling trees and clearing land in the woods out behind their barn. He then started building a 12×20 foot log cabin with a cedar shake roof and a large porch where he could keep a supply of firewood.

Ray’s cabin served him well – giving him a place to retreat to when he needed space. He sculpted Cedar slats to fill all of the voids instead of using chinking, and built in a pine desk for his writing. Complete with a wood stove for warmth and a kerosene lamp for light, it had everything he needed.

In later years, the cabin started travelling – eventually ending up at its current location at Stehekin Valley Ranch.

Originally, the cabin was on the Courtney Family homestead – on the opposite side of the River from the Ranch.  Unfortunately, Curt Courtney, one of Ray’s older brothers, sold that piece of property where the cabin was located to the National Park Service. At that time the cabin was moved down lower on the homestead to a piece that Ray owned himself.  When Cliff started the Ranch, he decided to move that piece of family history as well – ensuring that it would be remembered and maintained for folks to enjoy. The cabin was taken apart log by log and re-assembled where it stands today.

History of the Ranch: 1983-Now

The early years at Stehekin Valley Ranch.

Stehekin Valley Ranch was established in 1983 by owners Cliff and Kerry Courtney. It is on the property that the Courtney family has owned since the early 1950’s.  The Courtney family history goes way before that, but that is another story for another time and a great question to ask when you come stay at the Ranch!

Esther and Ray Courtney bought this 20 acre piece, raised their family on it, and ran their mountain trip business (Cascade Corrals) – which is still family owned. (Visit the Stehekin Outfitters website for more on the current mountain trip business).

When Ray passed in 1982, Cliff  began to think of his future and how he would be able to stay in the Stehekin Valley which he loved. Wanting to continue the tradition of sharing this valley with others, Cliff came up with the idea of providing a full-service base-camp from which people could get out and enjoy the epic surroundings of the North Cascades. And so, Stehekin Valley Ranch was born.

Genuine “camping” feel from the outdoor dinning hall.

At the beginning, the Ranch was mostly a “rustic” campground consisting of Tent Cabins, outhouses,  and the Dining room was all outdoors. As the word spread about the good food and unique lodging, the demand to stay at Stehekin Valley Ranch grew, so then did the Ranch. The Ranch added the Ranch Cabins and enclosed the Cookhouse making the Ranch more of a “luxury” campground. Don’t worry, we made sure the keep the “rustic” too.

As Stehekin Valley ranch has evolved, it has kept many important things the same as when it started. Most important among these – the food. The Ranch maintains a very high standard for food served in the Cookhouse. The many wonderful meals we taste now are all thanks to the family cooks who started it all.

Cliff Courtney pouring a hot cup of Cowboy Coffee for his wife Kerry.

Stehekin Valley Ranch has also maintained its easy going, welcoming, and “part of the family” atmosphere. When staying at the Ranch and learning about it’s history, you can’t help but feel like you are “part of the family” as you sit down family style in the Cookhouse and enjoy your meals together.

We have been blessed to share the Ranch and the beautiful valley that surrounds it with so many. It is too good to keep it to ourselves! We hope you can visit and experience it yourself.