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Girls on Ice 2013 Applications Now Available

January 20th, 2013 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

Girls on Ice 2013 applications are available! 
Information and the application can be found at:
Deadline: February 1, 2013.


Girls on Ice, (, is a unique, FREE, wilderness science education program for high school girls. Each year a team of 9 teenage girls and 3 instructors spend 11 days exploring and learning about mountain glaciers and alpine landscapes through scientific field studies with professional glaciologists and mountaineers. The program is TUITION FREE to the girls through small grants, gifts from individuals, and generous support from the National Science Foundation, the Alaska Climate Science Center, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This year we are offering 2 expeditions!

  • Girls on Ice NORTH CASCADES: Program dates: July 21-August 1, 2013. Open to all girls ages 15-18, international applicants too!
  • Girls on Ice ALASKA: Program dates: June 21 – July 2, 2013. Open to Alaskan and Pacific Northwest girls, ages 15-18, only.




Both photos taken during the Girls on Ice Alaska expedition, summer 2012.

North Cascades Wild’s service in Seattle

October 23rd, 2010 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

September 25th marked a special day for North Cascades Wild.

It was a day of reconnection—seeing the friends that were made over the past summer’s 12-day trips in North Cascades National Park and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. It was a day of remembering—recalling the beauty of the locations visited, the dedication of the people met, the laughing at silly photos. It was a day of reestablishment of a sense of place—reminding each other of the value of remaining stewards of our public lands and giving back, whether it be a Wilderness or a public park.

The 2010 North Cascades Wild Reunion was held at Seward Park in Seattle on a beautiful fall weekend day. Students from Skagit and Whatcom counties, Shoreline, Seattle, and Tukwila all gathered together at the Seward Park Audubon Center with the intention of connecting, yet again, but in a new time and setting.

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Coming full circle in the North Cascades

October 7th, 2010 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

This is a time of transition.

The warm summer season is changing as rapidly into a drenching autumn as is my progression from the residency with North Cascades Institute to the academia of Western Washington University. As the leaves of vine maples alter their hues from green to orange, I find myself pulled from the slow-paced grandeur of North Cascades National Park to the fast-paced flurry of the city of Bellingham.

It seems as if during these transitions there is no definitive line that is crossed from one season to the other, no time to look back, only to move forward into the next, into another.

But even as the final two quarters of my graduate residency are about to commence and, in only a matter of six months, conclude themselves as well, I find myself already looking back, gazing out onto the memory-scape of this landscape, of this past year’s journey when I called the North Cascades my home. Here, I came full circle.

(Title) Waving goodbye to my North Cascades home (Above) Welcoming Bellingham

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NC Wild begins fall exploration

September 27th, 2010 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

To explore your own backyards and expand your sense of place—this was the central goal of the 2010 North Cascades Wild’s (NC Wild) first fall day trip, held on Saturday, September 18th.

Sense of place. What is that? Ask any of this year’s students of NC Wild and they would be quick to tell you an answer. As one of the four core themes we emphasize in NC Wild, sense of place is embodied by a student’s increased awareness of and appreciation for the history—both through nature and culture—of a landscape. And the landscape of choice for September 18th’s day trip was that of Blue Lake and Dock Butte, in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Easily bypassed for the more popular Mt. Baker National Recreation Area at Schreiber’s Meadows, tucked away among Pacific silver firs and Mountain hemlocks, Blue Lake and Dock Butte afford amazing access to subalpine flora and fauna, geology and hydrology, and astounding views of the North Cascades with only minimal effort.

(Title) Mt. Baker as viewed from the road ascending to the Blue Lake and Dock Butte trailhead (Above) Which way to chose? You can access both Blue Lake and Dock Butte from the same trailhead

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Young, WILD and free

July 23rd, 2010 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

Oh, to be young and wild and free. That common saying, which most of us recognize, is wholly applicable to the wilderness of the North Cascades and of the youth adventures carried out by the first two trips of this summer’s North Cascades Wild program.

After spending 12 days exploring North Cascades National Park (NOCA) by boat and boot, through canoeing and backpacking, 17 students and six instructors, each divided into two trips, had quite the journey to recount.

(Title) Canoeing is a core component of the youth program North Cascades Wild (Above) Trip 1 dressed to impress at Ross Lake Resort
Trip 2 goes wild for NC Wild at Ross Lake Resort

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NC Wild pulls weeds & plants seeds of excitement

June 2nd, 2010 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

As spring slowly transitions to summer in North Cascades National Park, reminders of the adventures that await North Cascades Wild (NC Wild) participants are everywhere in the landscape. But before embarking on the 12-day backcountry journeys, these students must be  prepared.

Thanks to the third and final day trip of the 2010 spring season, eleven of the 54 high school youth that will be participating in this year’s NC Wild trips are now better prepared in both canoeing and service work.

On Saturday, May 22nd, participants from Skagit and Whatcom counties traveled to the North Cascades Institute’s Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake to spend a day with NC Wild instructors Amy Brown, Kelsi Franzen, Mike Parelskin and Corey White, and North Cascades National Park Volunteer Coordinator, Mike Brondi.

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Painting a Washington spring portrait

May 14th, 2010 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

All over Washington, the earth is reawakening. Can you see it?

In a period of only a few weeks, spring has come – a monumental paintbrush caressing the landscape, stirring it back to consciousness. Dabs of bright white, pink and yellow compliment deeper streaks of lavender, red and orange, all placed upon a backdrop of fresh green. Buds change to blooms on wildflowers and the hardier of the tree species sport new-growth fuzz.

I always feel so fortunate to stand witness to this spectacle, this miracle of life. From the western Washington’s Salish Sea shores to the contouring curves of eastern Washington’s Palouse Hills, I have made an attempt to capture the most current evidence of spring in our state’s many ecosystems.

Below is a detailed photographic guide to the spring blossoms of three distinct Washington ecosystems – western Washington’s Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve on Whidbey Island, eastern Washington’s Kamiak Butte in the Palouse Hills and the North Cascade Institute‘s Environmental Learning Center in North Cascades National Park. If you do not have enough time to read it all through, just glance through the photos and see if you can’t spot these beautiful spring colors in your own home ecosystems!

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NC Wild plants the seeds of spring

April 26th, 2010 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

With the season of fresh beginnings overtaking the physical landscape of the Skagit Valley and North Cascades, the mindsets of those apart of this year’s North Cascades Wild program from North Cascades Institute, North Cascades National Park and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest are brimming with excitement for a season of new life, new experiences.

North Cascades Wild‘s first of three spring day trips, held on several Saturdays throughout April and May for Skagit and Whatcom county-selected participants, commenced on April 17th at the North Cascades National Park Ranger Station off Highway 20 in Marblemount. Eleven students, representing towns within Whatcom and Skagit counties, joined North Cascades National Park’s Volunteer and Youth Programs Coordinator, Mike Brondi, native Nursery Manager, Cheryl Cunningham, and Institute instructors Amy Brown, Kelsi Franzen, Martine Mariott and Rebecca Ryan, for a day of connecting to their place and each other through learning and service.

(Title) The North Cascades Wild crew goes “wild” for wetland grasses at the nursery (Above) Karla, a NC Wild participant, examines plants in the greenhouse

» Continue reading NC Wild plants the seeds of spring

Welcoming the new canoe

April 17th, 2010 | Posted by in Institute News

Spring’s presence is not the only thing that North Cascades Institute is welcoming at the Environmental Learning Center this season.

As the season continues to reveal itself more each day, whether it be through the scent of black cottonwood blossoms dancing on a wind from Diablo Lake or the more frequent blue skies serving as a backdrop for the steep, snow-coated hillsides of Pyramid and Colonial Peaks, an even newer welcoming has taken place in the North Cascades.

On March 16th, for the spring staff retreat, a plethora of Institute staff from both up river and down valley gathered on the shores of Diablo Lake to welcome the Institute’s newest family member—the big, BIG canoe. This 36-foot canoe—made by Clipper Canoe in Abbotsford, British Columbia—holds up to 18 paddlers on any given excursion. Its black exterior, red interior and wolf-like decorative bow are indicative of the traditional design and coloration of canoes in the Coast Salish culture.

(Title) The graduate students travel in the new big canoe, Photo by Saul Weisberg (Above) The new canoe tests the waters of Diablo Lake, Photo by Christian Martin

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An Institute ode to spring

April 7th, 2010 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

Harbinger—a presage, a foreshadow, to announce. Something that precedes and indicates the approach of something.

We all experience the wildness of the North Cascades differently. Each of us, in our own way, notices subtle details of the seasons changing in this ecosystem that others may miss completely. In order to tell a more beautiful story, paint a more vivid portrait, we must combine our individual details to articulate the true forms that nature takes in the beginning of spring.

Perhaps it is the calls and presence of varied thrushes in the neighboring forests. Maybe it is the emerging blossoms on cherry trees amidst farmland. Or perhaps it is a detailing so slight, understated, almost unnoticeable, that its mystery is its draw.

The staff and graduate students of North Cascades Institute‘s harbingers below announce the presence of spring in the North Cascades and Skagit Valley in a way that draws upon the communal knowledge of having lived in this place for decades to only several months. Each perspective is important to paint that vivid portrait, articulate that poetic story of spring.

(Title) A rainbow across Ross Dam signals the coming of spring in the mountains (Above) Red alder leaves reach out from beneath bud casings at the Learning Center

» Continue reading An Institute ode to spring