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NC Wild: Fall Experiences Build on Summer’s Past

November 4th, 2011 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

With the start of a new school year, autumn is often a time of new beginnings. For North Cascades Wild participants, the season is a chance to reconnect and continue building on experiences from the past summer.

From June through August, 50 high school students from Whatcom, Skagit and King counties spent 12 days canoeing, backpacking and completing stewardship work. In addition to outdoor skills and stewardship, participants acquired skills in leadership, community building and natural history. Trips were held in North Cascades National Park and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

During the 12-day trips many challenges were overcome, accomplishments made and lasting friendships created. In order to prepare students for their experiences over the summer, spring day trips were held to introduce participants to the NC Wild program. Throughout this fall season, several weekend day trips occurred that provided NC Wilders opportunities to continue strengthening these recent experiences and re-engage with the NC Wild community and North Cascades landscape.

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Summer Youth Recon 2011

June 27th, 2011 | Posted by in Field Excursions

After a week of food and gear packing, the Summer Youth team ventured to Ross Lake for the annual recon trip. The purpose of the trip was to transport food and gear to Ross Lake Resort for the summer, familiarize ourselves with the lakeside campgrounds, learn program curriculum and test out the camping gear and food menu. This year the recon was a bit different as leaders from both Cascades Climate Challenge and North Cascades Wild joined forces on the lake, allowing us all to better get to know each other and the program content we’ll each will be involved with.

The crew began the trip by loading the canoes with bucketfuls of food and personal gear at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, where we eventually departed. The group paddled through the gorge in Diablo Lake toward Ross Dam. At the first destination we pulled canoes from the water and carried gear and buckets to meet our shuttle who would portage our gear to Ross Lake Resort. Once at the resort we stored our food for the summer, met with resort staff and prepared for an afternoon of paddling to McMillan Camp, our first destination of the trip.

Kate and Ian fill canoes with bucketfuls of food that will be stored at Ross Lake Resort.

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Building Community Through Stewardship

May 31st, 2011 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

Stewardship and friendship were at the heart of the efforts during the third North Cascades Wild spring day trip in May. More than a dozen participants from Whatcom and Skagit counties came together at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center as a final chance to meet with their peers before we set out together in the wilderness this summer.

Some program participants met earlier this spring to volunteer a day of service at North Cascades National Park’s native plant nursery and also attended the Migratory Shorebird Festival at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. This day’s trip was set aside for NC Wild participants and staff to volunteer during North Cascades Institute’s annual Stewardship Weekend, an event bringing volunteers of all ages together to assist in plant restoration efforts on Learning Center grounds. It was also a chance for NC Wild youth to familiarize themselves with both canoe and paddle, as it will serve as a mode of transportation for the program.

This summer these students, as well as others from Northwest Washington, will embark on 12-day backpacking and canoe wilderness expeditions in North Cascades National Park and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. During these trips participants will focus on leadership development, community building, sense of place and stewardship. Spring and fall day trips, such as this one, provide a chance for students to build community through service work.

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Birding Tools of the 21st Century

May 17th, 2011 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

As students in the Masters of Environmental Education program, naturalizing is at the forefront of our studies. Our curriculum encourages, and requires, us to get outside and document our experiences in nature. We keep journals marked with sketches, notes and questions that record our findings and observations as we explore the North Cascades landscape.

As the spring months of April and May have greeted us, so have the birds. Our winged residents have returned to the North Cascades and many of us have been eagerly watching. A major perk of living in North Cascades National Park for a year is the opportunity to live deep in the mountain landscape under Colonial and Pyramid peaks, and keep close watch of the changing seasons throughout our year-long residency in this place.

With my home at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center in close proximity to the forest, I have found myself in the midst of an ironic naturalist’s moment with birds. For several months, I have closely observed web cams zoomed in on an eagle’s nest located in Iowa, and another located on Hornby Island near Vancouver Island. While immersed in close observations of the intimate lives of eagle parents feeding and caring for their chicks, I noticed a red-breasted sapsucker prospecting a lodgepole pine right out my back door.

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Awaiting Spring

April 22nd, 2011 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

Spring is near. I can feel it.

Here in the North Cascades, small changes signal the coming season. The surrounding forest echoes with bird song, swarms of robins and dark-eyed juncos flit between branches of deciduous alder, paper birch and vine maple. Within the last month, sounds of varied thrushes, pine siskins, red-breasted sapsuckers and Pacific wrens have again filled the forest. Each day my eyes scout for newcomers, as I learn which birds will return to the North Cascades and when. Although I know most birds were gone all winter, their vocal return reminds me just how silent the forest has been. And I welcome the jubilant sound of their song.

The sun rises much earlier and sets much later. In the forest, spring changes are slowly emerging and apparent in the smaller details of the vegetation. I noticed these changes when I passed by a young red alder that had emerged from its dormancy seemingly overnight. The tree’s maroon bud casings, which have protected the new leaves through winter, have unfurled, revealing new small, bright green leaves. It’s catkins that were so tightly bound over winter have opened. Several feet down the trail I notice small white buds of the vine maple beginning to decorate its long, green branches that stretch through the lower forest canopy.

Along nearby trails, Oregon grape begins to form buds, which will eventually bloom and form sour, purple berries in the summer. Until this winter I had only seen the plant with its berries and am excited to see how the plant will transform from its winter stage, to flowers and finally form its fruit. New blooms of coltsfoot emerge along the Buster Brown trail near Deer Creek. At this early stage, the plants looks like a tightly bound bouquet of small blooms, reminding passersby that spring is near.

Top: Mountain School students and staff awake this spring to a wintry landscape. Above: A new leaf of a red alder begins to grow, showing initial signs of spring.

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NC Wild Springs into Stewardship

April 3rd, 2011 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

Many hands make light work.

An old saying at the forefront of my mind throughout the first North Cascades Wild spring day trip. A dozen NC Wild participants, several North Cascades Institute instructors and national park staff came together for a day of stewardship work at the North Cascades National Park native plant nursery in Marblemount. In addition to providing some service to the nursery, the effort was also a chance get to know each other and begin building community among NC Wild participants and staff.

These students from Whatcom and Skagit counties, as well as others from Northwest Washington, will embark on 12-day backpacking and canoe wilderness expeditions in North Cascades National Park and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. During these trips, participants focus on leadership development, community building, sense of place and stewardship. Spring and fall day trips, such as this one, provide a chance for students to build community through service work.

In the North Cascades, signs of spring are before us, as the dark, cold days of winter slowly transform into longer, warmer days, signaling the time to prepare the Park’s nursery for the busy growing seasons of spring and summer. This meant much work was needed to de-winterize the facility and promote healthy plant growth.

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C9 Graduation: The Mark of New Beginnings

March 22nd, 2011 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

March 17 marked a day of recognition for the hard work and dedication of the graduate students of Cohort 9, and their completion of a Masters in Environmental Education from Western Washington University and a Certificate in Leadership and Non-profit Administration from North Cascades Institute.

Friends and family of the graduating class, Institute staff and graduate students of Cohort 10 filled the intimate dining hall venue in support of the achievement of the members of Cohort 9: Corey White, Brandi Stewart, Paul Wiemerslage, Mike Parelskin, Rebecca Ryan, Martine Mariott, Justin McWethy, Kelsi Franzen, Megan Magee and Erin Fowler.

The group had spent the last two years working, teaching and learning together at both the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center and Western Washington University. In June 2009, the 10 strangers came together in Bellingham where they spent the summer learning about and exploring North Cascades ecosystems in preparation for their year-long residency at the Learning Center in North Cascades National Park. While at the Learning Center, the cohort gained hands-on experience working as educators for Mountain School and various other Institute programs including Base Camp, North Cascades Wild and Cascades Climate Challenge. In the winter, the students delved into curriculum development and learned how to create and manage a non-profit organization.

Following the residency, the grads returned to Bellingham to spend the remaining two quarters at Western’s campus. The students applied their experiences from the Learning Center to educational theory and various research projects.

Top: Members of Cohort 9. Above: Graduate Coordinator Tanya Anderson shares stories of Cohort 9 with the graduates’ friends and family, who filled the Learning Center’s dining hall to celebrate the cohort’s accomplishments.

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