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Rain eases wildfire threat, SR20 reopens, evacuation lifted

August 31st, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center received 2.5 inches of rain over the last 48 hours, and more is expected through Friday! All of the wildfires in the Upper Skagit Complex are diminished and the Goodell Fire is no longer considered a significant threat to the Environmental Learning Center or Diablo. The Washington State Department of Transportation opened State Route 20 at noon on Sunday, August 30, and our evacuation order was lifted. North Cascades Institute is currently working to reopen the Environmental Learning Center and assume normal operations, including the start of Mountain School as scheduled on September 14.

As Learning Center Director Kristofer Gilje remarked, “This all ended as fast as it started.”

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We still have concerns about travel in the Newhalem Gorge. Even during non-fire years, this much rain brings debris down onto the roadway. The DOT is keeping the road clear, but take special care when traveling through the Gorge. You may encounter rocks and trees on the roadway, and be prepared to turn back or to be delayed in your return. Temporary, intermittent closures may be required for helicopter and heavy equipment work on power lines and towers. For the latest updates, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/northcascades or contact the North Cascades Highway Hotline at (360) 707-5055.

North Cascades National Park reopened the Newhalem Visitor Center and many campgrounds and trails. For current park conditions visit, www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/current-park-conditions.htm.

North Cascades Institute thanks each and every one of you for the continued outpouring of support. You’ve helped us evacuate the Learning Center safely, opened your homes to our displaced staff, voiced your concerns and sent us countless messages of hope. We continue to be grateful for you, for our partners in the National Park Service, Seattle City Light and US Forest Service and for the firefighters, first responders, National Guard, U.S. Army servicemen and women and others working on the wildfires across Washington State.

Your financial support is another way to help us in this tumultuous time of program cancellations and restructuring, lost revenue and displaced staff. Thank you for making a gift today at www.ncascades.org/support.

We also encourage you to support families in need on the eastside of the state. The Community Foundation of North Central Washington has compiled a list of resources at www.cfncw.org/fire.

 

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Firecrews arrive at the Learning Center

August 28th, 2015 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

The Goodell Fire in North Cascades National Park has expanded and totalled 6,716 acres on Aug 27, burning on both sides of State Highway 20 and the Skagit River near the town of Newhalem, the North Cascades National Park Visitor Center and Newhalem campground. The fire also continues to creep eastward up Newhalem Gorge along both sides of Gorge Lake in the direction of Diablo and the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.

We were much relieved when firefighting crews arrived on campus on Aug 26 to begin resource protection activities. The Learning Center is a hive of activity with fire crews on site, including three engines from Darrington, Index and Concrete. Crews have begun installing water pumps in Diablo Lake and hoses and sprinklers throughout campus and surveying the campus  for vegetation removal to create defensible space.

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We are truly grateful for the outpouring of compassion and support from so many across the country over the past week. We are especially thankful for all the hard work by the firefighters, first responders, National Guard, U.S. Army servicemen and women and others working on the wildfires across Washington State, and from our partners at Seattle City Light and North Cascades National Park.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of life of three firefighters in Twisp last week and send our condolences to all of the family and friends of those impacted by these traumatic wildfires. This fire season will leave impacts that will be felt far and wide throughout the Northwest for years to come.

You can help support North Cascades Institute during these tumultuous time of program cancellations and restructuring, lost revenue and displaced staff by making a gift today at ncascades.org/support. We also encourage you to support families in need on the eastside of the state. The Community Foundation of North Central Washington has compiled a list of resources at cfncw.org/fire.

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Find the latest detailed information on the fire and its impacts on the Learning Center and the Institute on our website at www.ncascades.org/wildfire and facebook.com/ncascades. We are posting photos from the fires at http://ncascades.tumblr.com. You can reach us M-F 8:30-4:30 at (360) 854-2599 or nci@ncascades.org. Thank you.

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North Cascades Wildfire updates

August 25th, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

Yes, Washington State is on fire; and we’re still here. We are posting updates on the Upper Skagit Complex wildfires and their impacts on the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center and North Cascades Institute on our website at www.ncascades.org/wildfires and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ncascades. Additionally, we are uploading photos and maps on our Tumblr at www.ncascades.tumblr.com.

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State Route 20, the Learning Center, Newhalem, Diablo and most North Cascades National Park facilities remain closed to the public. Wildfire conditions are changing rapidly, and the Institute is working with our partners around-the-clock to keep on top of things. It is becoming clear that the range of impacts to the Institute and our operations will have both near-term and far-terms impacts.

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We are grateful for all of the support we’ve received from Institute supporters, partners and friends over the past week. Thank you.

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Photographs from the Goodell Creek Fire in North Cascades National Park Complex on 8/19/15 by RyanLF. He writes, “I was one of the last cars to make it though the North Cascades Highway yesterday. The smoke was so thick it blocked out the sun. Lots of debris on the road and ash in the air…Hopefully they can get it under control soon.”

 

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View from Diablo Dam

August 22nd, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

A view looking west from Diablo Dam down the Skagit River Gorge towards Newhalem and the Goodell Creek Fire from Wednesday 8/19, 3:15 pm. By Institute graduate student Joe Loviska. We’re posting more photos from the wildfire at ncascades.tumblr.com. North Cascades Institute updates are at www.ncascades.org/wildfire and on our Facebook page at facebook.com/ncascades.

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Anniversary Celebration Picnic cancelled, wildfire update

August 20th, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

We regretfully have decided to cancel our Anniversary Celebration Picnic and all related activities at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center on Saturday and Sunday, August 22-23.

The Goodell Creek Fire burning near Newhalem unexpectedly grew yesterday, State Route 20 was closed down and the decision was made to evacuate the Learning Center as a precaution. The Learning Center isn’t in imminent danger and all of our staff, graduate students and guests were able to leave the area safely. With this said, there are many uncertainties that we are actively monitoring and conditions in the upper Skagit Valley are uncomfortably smokey.

We also feel it is not appropriate to host a celebration at this time as we are deeply saddened by the loss of life of three firefighters in Twisp yesterday, and by the injuries sustained by four others. We send our condolences to all of the family and friends of those impacted by these traumatic wildfires.

Our focus at North Cascades Institute is making sure that our displaced staff and graduate students are taken care of and to provide any assistance we can to our partners in the National Park Service, Seattle City Light and US Forest Service.

We still hope to celebrate the milestones of the Learning Center’s 10th anniversary and Mountain School’s 25th anniversary and we will keep you posted as plans progress.

~ North Cascades Institute staff and board

Useful Links for North Cascades Wildfire Info

Live wildfire updates from King 5

Wildfire map

Incident Information System

Washington DOT Travel Alerts

North Cascades National Park Current Conditions

Diablo Dam webcam

Nehalem Visitor Center webcam

Chelan & Okanogan Complex Fires Fly Through 8-20-2015 @ 3:30AM

Photo by Jason Ruvelson

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North Cascades Environmental Learning Center evacuated as Goodell Creek Fire grows, State Route 20 closed

August 19th, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

Sedro-Woolley, WA 8/19/15 3:30 pm: We received notice that Highway 20 has been closed by the Washington State Department of Transportation at milepost 118 at Thornton Creek near Newhalem due to complications with a wildfire in the area. There is no passage across the North Cascades Highway at this time. The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center and town of Diablo are being evacuated to the east as a precautionary measure. We have cancelled all programs at the Learning Center for Thursday 8/20 and Friday 8/21 including Skagit Tours and Base Camp. 

We are closely monitoring the situation to decide whether our scheduled Anniversary Picnic Celebration at the Learning Center on Sunday will occur; we’ll announce information on our website at www.ncascades.org/news and on social media as things develop.

Photo by Jason Ruvelson

Henry Klein Partnership - North Cascades Institute

North Cascades Environmental Learning Center “provides the perfect blueprint for Seattle”

August 19th, 2015 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

In celebration of the Learning Center’s 10th Anniversary, we’re sharing one of our favorite media stories on our wilderness campus on Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park. This was written by architectural critic Lawrence Cheek for the Seattle P-Ioriginally published May 29, 2006.

What might Seattle and its mindlessly ballooning ‘burbs learn from the design of a new environmental school campus cradled deep in the North Cascades? Almost everything, actually, but to start with:

Respect. Humility. Surprise. Delight. Texture. A powerful sense of place. And an even stronger ethic of responsibility to the land and to the attitudes of future generations that just may get their thinking twirled around by a weekend out there.

The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, opened last June, occupies a dramatic site at the edge of Diablo Lake, just off state Route 20 in the heart of North Cascades National Park. Seattle City Light paid most of the $10.2 million construction cost as “mitigation” for its 1995 federal hydroelectric license. The North Cascades Institute, a non-profit environmental education outfit, is using the campus to teach everything from wildflower photography to grizzly conservation.

But the most vivid lesson is in how to slip strong, assertive architecture gracefully into the forest.

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The 16 buildings are basically simple boxes and shed forms whose only overtly dramatic gestures are rooflines that thrust into space and joust with each other, like tree canopies jostling for scraps of sky. There’s no prissy decoration and no mock rusticity. “We didn’t want to create something that looked like it was depleting the very forest we’re trying to save,” says David Hall, a partner in HKP Architects of Mount Vernon, the small firm that designed the complex. Neither does it pose as spartan. The buildings announce that civilization has established a firm foothold in the forest, but we’ve come in peace.

Henry Klein Partnership - North Cascades Institute

Henry Klein Partnership - North Cascades Institute

Henry Klien Partnership - North Cascades Institute

Hall’s ethical framework for the campus fell into place before he drew anything — in fact, maybe before he became an architect. He grew up in Everett and began hiking the North Cascades in his teens. He nurtured a love for backpacking and fly fishing, and still thinks the best places are the ones without roads, or even trails. When his firm began talking with the three clients collaborating on the campus — Seattle City Light, the Park Service and the North Cascades Institute — all agreed that the site should be disturbed as little as possible and the buildings should be showcases for energy conservation and sustainability.

The first surprise is that the campus is virtually auto- and pavement-free. Cars and buses may drop off visitors and packages, but rides are then banished to a faraway parking lot. There are no sidewalks, just gravel paths, but the entire site is wheelchair-accessible despite a 125-foot rise in its slope.

Landscaping is all in the North Cascades family. Park Service people collected seeds and cuttings on site before construction started and propagated 20,000 plants for later use. Big trees were spared and the buildings slipped practically underneath them, so the year-old campus is enveloped in shade. There’s no air conditioning needed, even though the site’s elevation is only 1,200 feet. Staff members have learned to close the doors to keep ravens from raiding their snacks.

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The next impression asks for a conceptual leap, but it packs a powerful emotional impact. Stroll thoughtfully through the outdoor corridor framed by the main office, classroom buildings and library, and the architecture becomes a metaphorical forest. The grainy, concrete aggregate columns suggest trunks, galvanized-steel struts peel away like branches, and the cantilevered roofs form a canopy, with slivers of sky — and rain — glancing through the openings.

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