Part 1. Going to Holden
Getting there was half the fun. During the summer of 1980 we drove to Lake Chelan in central Washington State (USA), parked our truck and trailer at an RV park, and boarded the Lady of the Lake passenger ferry. About 125 other excited folks boarded too, most of them en route to Holden Village, a forty mile ride up the lake. An amazing body of water, Lake Chelan fills a narrow slot in the earth between two mountain ranges. Not over a mile wide in any one spot, the depths are lower than Death Valley. Needless to say, this discouraged early mining entrepreneurs who had hoped to build a bridge across the narrow end.
The summer day, a lake breeze, and good company made for an enjoyable ride. A couple of times along the way the boat nosed up to the bank to let off hikers at trailheads. Once, returning backpackers boarded. At the Lucerne dock we were met by Holden’s yellow school buses, revved up and ready to roll. The ten mile drive up Railroad Creek Canyon switch-backed through deep forest, crossed rushing creeks, and gave glimpses of snow-capped peaks. At last the road leveled off, and we arrived at the Village. Greeted by staff, we were then invited into the Dining Hall for lunch. Perfect timing, the boat ride and mountain air had stirred up an appetite.
Holden Village is an ELCA Lutheran Conference and Retreat Center (www.HoldenVillage.org) situated next to the Grizzly Peak Wilderness in the North Cascade Mountains. Holden has year-round staff and offers a full program in summer months and short-term retreats in winter. Formerly an old copper mining village (in operation 1937-57), the buildings were renovated by mostly volunteer labor to provide a dining hall, meeting rooms, arts/crafts studio, pottery shop, and a couple of dormitories. Separate chalets now occupied by staff were originally homes for mine executives and their families. A huge wooden gymnasium, a schoolhouse, and other out-buildings complete the village. The gymnasium is the central meeting place for evening Vespers and other events. In the basement we found the bowling alley and pool room, and at the end of the building an ice cream parlor.
In the summer the Village is full with up to 450 guests and staff. The setting is spectacular, but Holden is not just a destination, it is an experience. Worship and program are at the center of Village life. People coming to the Village are called, gathered, refreshed, enlightened, and sent out. Right along with rest, rehab, and the lure of hiking, fishing, and backpacking, daily seminars and discussion groups emphasize intellectual and spiritual curiosity for all. Programs are offered for every age level which makes it a great place for families. Bring the children!
The first year that we were invited to Holden, Don was on staff for three weeks as Village Naturalist. The four of us were assigned to Chalet No. 3 in the circle of chalets that ranged up the hill. Each sported a flag from a different country. Meals were in the Dining Hall. At breakfast every morning, a staffer offered a matins devotional and announced the activities of the day. Everyone in camp was asked to attend Vespers, held every evening in the gym. Special guests were invited to contribute to the service; we heard Christian leaders, layfolk speakers, and musicians from across the country, an inspiring difference every night. The rich kaleidoscope of worship culminated on Sunday evenings with Eucharist, where communion was served in small pottery cups crafted by Holden potters.
Don and I attended daily seminars and workshops led by leaders of the faith. I haunted the arts/crafts building. The library and the book store introduced me to the works of spiritual giants. I signed up for weaving and enjoyed 24 hours of time on a big floor loom. Every day I found time to grab my art pack and go sketching, either down the trail toward 10 Mile Creek, or up the road to the ball park, which bordered the wilderness area. (Once I saw a bear up there, which shortened my sketching time.) By the third morning our two teenagers had made it to the gathering “bell”, and from then on they were busy with teen activities. When Don was free from his naturalist walks or slide talks, he photographed the landscape. We all had a wonderful time. Read more about life at Holden in my next Blog.
Have you ever been to Holden? If so, you know what a special place it is. If not, take a look at their website. A week of rest and re-creation in the North Cascades just might be the best thing you ever do!