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In the Era of Fire Lookouts: Fire Suppression in the North Cascades

July 25th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

By Adam Bates, graduate student in the Institute’s 15th cohort.

Fire lookouts have captured the imagination of the American public for over seventy-five years. The notion that one could spend a summer atop a mountain in solitude and seclusion holds a certain romanticism that was perpetuated by numerous authors, poets, artists and backcountry enthusiasts. Therein lies my interest in and affinity for fire lookouts, the romance and challenge of mountaintop hermitage.

Retired National Park Service employee Gerry Cook spent three summers as a lookout, using his earnings to entirely pay his through his undergraduate degree at Washington State University. “You can revel in your time there (on lookout) for the rest of your life,” says Cook. “It’s romanticized in everyone’s imagination. So, once you’re done, you can go right into that fantasy world and live there forever.”

» Continue reading In the Era of Fire Lookouts: Fire Suppression in the North Cascades

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Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata): A story…

July 18th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

By Ginna Malley Campos, graduate student in the Institute’s 15th cohort.

Long, long ago, when ice and snow covered the land as far as the eye could see, we speckled the landscape. Only a few of us grew here and there.  But soon came a time when the ice  and snow began to retreat. And as it did, ever so slowly, so we followed. Growing along the rich wet soils left behind, we became more and more abundant along the Pacific Northwest.  In some places, we made up to half of all the vegetation in the forest. We grew and we continue to grow, but of course never without giving back!

We gift our sapwood to Black Bear when they roam the forest hungry, waiting for Salmon to arrive. Our saplings we gladly offer to Deer and Elk, whom depend on this for survival.  Our foliage has been home to numerous mosses and lichen. Our shade provides habitat for fern, salal, and devil’s club. We give Earth carbon from Sky by befriending special fungi through our roots.  Forest creatures gift us in return in many, sometimes invisible ways. Salmon travels unimaginable distances bringing the gifts of Ocean deep into the forest.  Bear and Eagle bring their decaying bodies to our feet, and with them we grow stronger and we continue the cycling of all.

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Deep Forest by Ray Troll

» Continue reading Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata): A story…

white nose

Watch your nose: Understanding White-Nose Syndrome and the Bats of the North Cascades National Park, part 2

July 14th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

Photo taken by Alan Hicks. Retrieved from batcon.org

This is part two of my series on bats. You can find part one here.

On March 11, hikers found the sick bat about 30 miles east of Seattle near North Bend, and took it to Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) for care. The bat died two days later, and had visible symptoms of a skin infection common in bats with White Nose Syndrome. -U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Now that we know which bats live in the park and their ecological significance, we can dive into white-nose syndrome.

What is white-nose syndrome?

The first case of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in the U.S. occurred in February, 2006 in Albany, New York. Researchers documented a white substance around the muzzles, ears, and wings on both alive and dead bats in the Howes Cave. Upon further investigation it was discovered that the substance was a fungal growth of Pseudogymnoascus destructans (formerly Geomyces destructans). The fungus colonizes best on thinner outer tissue of bats (nose, ears, wings), eroding the skin and thriving off of inner-connective tissue. To date, it is thought that over six million bats have died to the syndrome in North America.

While the exact cause of death is uncertain, scientists hypothesize that the fungal growth disrupts their hibernating habits. Deceased bats with the syndrome have been reported with having significantly lower body weight compared to the population average at that time of year. When bats hibernate in cool, damp places over the winter P. destructans infects the bats. Whether awake or asleep, this added stress causes bats to use fat storage at a faster rate than normal. If a bat wakes up it will most likely not be able to find a food source at that time of year and die of starvation.

» Continue reading Watch your nose: Understanding White-Nose Syndrome and the Bats of the North Cascades National Park, part 2

Brown

Watch your nose: Understanding White-Nose Syndrome and the Bats of the North Cascades National Park, part 1

July 11th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

On March 11, hikers found the sick bat about 30 miles east of Seattle near North Bend, and took it to Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) for care. The bat died two days later, and had visible symptoms of a skin infection common in bats with White Nose Syndrome. -U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

This comes across as incredibly serious and dire news for educators, government works, and bat enthusiasts along the west coast. But if you have never heard of white-nose syndrome (WNS), or even knew we had bats in the North Cascades National Park, you might not know how or why this is dire.

What bats live in the National Park?

There are eight species of bats that reside in the park. The first belong to the genus myotis (meaning mouse-eared) and the second three are larger and belong to other genus’s.

» Continue reading Watch your nose: Understanding White-Nose Syndrome and the Bats of the North Cascades National Park, part 1

Camping at Lightning Creek on Ross Lake

10 favorite things to do in the North Cascades

June 29th, 2016 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

By Saul Weisberg and Christian Martin for The Seattle Times

Canoe the Skagit River
The Skagit is one of the great rivers of the west, supplying nearly 40 percent of the fresh water and wild salmon entering Puget Sound. A multiday trip down the Skagit River is a real gem. Designated a Wild and Scenic River in 1978, the Skagit drains an area of 1.7 million acres, including the most glaciated region in the Lower 48. I like to put my canoe in at Copper Creek in North Cascades National Park and paddle to the mouth where it empties into the Salish Sea. This trip takes three to four days and involves camping on gravel bars and beaches. The river gains momentum after the Cascade, Baker and Sauk rivers add to its flow, and you can finish a great journey by paddling up the Swinomish Channel for dinner in La Conner. Shorter day-trips can be made by paddling from Marblemount to Rockport or Rasar State Park.

 

Copper Ridge by Andy Porter

Backpack from Hannegan Pass to Ross Lake
There are several long backpacking routes in the North Cascades. One of my favorites begins from the Mount Baker Highway, climbing Hannegan Pass and continuing north along Copper Ridge before descending to the Chilliwack River, climbing over Whatcom Pass and finally over Beaver Pass and down Big Beaver Valley to Ross Lake. A fire lookout, incredible views of the Picket Range and one of the best old-growth cedar forests in the range — this trip is hard to beat. Other great long hikes include the Devils Dome circumnavigation of Jack Mountain, or dropping into Stehekin via Bridge Creek from Rainy Pass.

Explore the Methow Valley
There are many different ways to explore this valley flowing off of the east slope of the Cascades. You can look for great birds and butterflies in Pipestone Canyon, cross-country ski in the winter, or mountain-bike on dozens of backcountry roads in the summer. Try Sun Mountain for beginners, Buck Mountain for a challenge.

 

climbing desolation

Paddle Ross Lake and climb Desolation Peak
Perhaps the most famous literary spot in the North Cascades is the fire lookout atop Desolation Peak. This is where writer Jack Kerouac spent the summer of 1956 working for the U.S. Forest Service, an experience he later recounted in “Desolation Angels” and “The Dharma Bums.” The lookout is still there, perched atop the 6,102-foot peak and commanding one of the best views in Washington. The Desolation trailhead on Ross Lake can be reached by canoe, by renting a small powerboat from Ross Lake Resort or by hiking the East Bank Trail from Highway 20. The lookout trail is steep — carry plenty of water — with views around every corner.

Hike to Hidden Lakes Peak
I was a backcountry ranger at Cascade Pass in 1979, and that trail and the view from Sahale Arm are close to my heart. However, to avoid the crowds I like to turn off the Cascade River Road before reaching the Cascade Pass Trail, at the short spur to the trailhead to Hidden Lakes Peak. It’s a beautiful trail to an old fire lookout, which is open to the public, and fabulous views of Cascade Pass and Boston Basin looking east across the valley. Hidden Lakes are surrounded by a veritable rock garden of giant talus boulders. Sibley Pass, accessible by a short scramble from the trail, is an amazing place to watch the fall migration of raptors overhead by the hundreds.

 

Mt. Baker, WA, USA. Mt. Baker Wilderness Area. 10, 778 ft / 3285 m. Coleman and Roosevelt Glaciers. Black Buttes on the right. Lupine and Mountain Bistort Wildflowers on Skyline Divide. 4x5 Transparency ©2000 Brett Baunton

Explore around Mount Baker
There are many ways to explore Komo Kulshan, the northernmost Cascade volcano that looms ever-white over Bellingham and the San Juan Islands. Great trails start from Heather Meadows, but to avoid crowds I suggest you explore the Noisy-Diobsud Wilderness or hike the lowland old-growth forest on the East Bank Trail of Baker Lake. Drive a bit farther to access Railroad Grade, the Scott Paul Trail and Park Butte. From this alpine wonderland, you’ll see the Easton Glacier and the Black Buttes up close and personal.

» Continue reading 10 favorite things to do in the North Cascades

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The Raven

June 27th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

By Hannah Newell, graduate student in the Institute’s 15th cohort.

When you hear the word raven, what first comes to mind? Do the words deceptive, persistent, clever, noisy or disruptive come to mind? Most often, this is how people have culturally thought of the raven.

Through the early works of Edgar Allen Poe, parts of society have learned to fear the death bringing raven who “Quoth, nevermore” to his dead love Eleanor. What people don’t always know is that the story goes deeper into history. Early cultures around the world have encountered the raven through hunting practices or even at their homes. Hunters from Greenland have been recorded using ravens as a beacon for finding herds of caribou as they were associated with flying in circles around the herds. Similarly, the Han of the Yukon in Canada went to the length of mimicking their calls in order to attract bears to hunting areas. This learned behavior of the bear acts as an example of cultural knowledge being passed on through the generations of bears, creating a new learned relationship between the bear, the raven and the hunter. The raven, being the one who finds the carcass, the bear who strives for the same carcass by following the raven call, and the hunter who uses the desire of the bear to hunt it for their own needs. Ravens use the exchange of knowledge from generation to generation to transfer understandings of humans, feeding sites and potential threats to either their own brood or to roosting mates.

The relationship between humans and ravens have not always been one of admiration, but as we step into the next generation with science and field biology as a priority in many cultures around the world, the desire to learn about ravens and their complicated social dynamics has grown. When humans begin to learn about their complexity, the raven becomes more interesting  and desirable to understand, perpetuating the line of knowledge.

» Continue reading The Raven

andy porter baker ice

Integral Ice : A Creative Residency reflection

June 22nd, 2016 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

By Manasseh Franklin

For much of the lower 48 states, it’s easy to consider glaciers as distant, sometimes extraordinarily so. A great deal of my research and writing focuses on closing this distance in order to give access to the beauty, vitality and total importance of ice on the decline throughout North America. To do this, I rely on intimate first hand experiences, scientific counsel and the compelling narrative of the landscapes themselves.

I came to the North Cascades Institute to write about ice. Fittingly, this region is home to the largest concentration of glaciers remaining in the lower 48. What I didn’t realize prior to arrival, however, is just how much that ice is integral to the livelihoods of people in this region, and how accessible that makes it on a day-to-day basis, both on the ice itself, but primarily off.

Being stationed at Diablo Lake provided the perfect starting point: glacial waters flowing through hydro-electric dams that power neighboring cities. Waters that, without glaciers, would not be able to provide the growing capacity of electricity needed in those places.

Through conversations at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, I was able to see the bigger picture not only of water and electricity but also glacial melt and how both its temperature and flow are integral to salmon runs. Glacial melt and its contribution to irrigation for orchards that supply fruit to the entire country. Glacial melt and the incredible milky emerald hue Lake Diablo took on during the final weeks of my stay in early June.

Not only did the landscape provide access to these integrated systems, but my encounters with the Environmental Learning Center did also, both for me and for the many groups of children and adults who were stationed there when I was. I found the mission of the center to resonate with my own mission in writing: using intimate and educated experiences in the outdoors to inspire conservation (and appreciation) of diminishing resources.

Of course, the landscape provided that connectivity as well. Evidence of ice resounds in the countless waterfalls, hanging valleys, and the glaciers themselves—roughly 300 in the park alone—perched in high valleys and cirques. They, like glaciers throughout the world, are diminishing, but still very physically present in the lush landscapes of the North Cascades.

I can’t express enough how much I appreciated my time at the Environmental Learning Center. Not only was I able to be physically proximate to actual ice, but I was also able to integrate in a community of people passionate about sharing the intricacies of this incredibly diverse and inspiring ecosystem with others.

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Top photo of Mount Baker by Skagit photographer Andy Porter, available for purchase on his website at www.andyporterimages.com

Manasseh Franklin was a Creative Resident at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center in the Spring of 2016. She is a writer, mountain guide, educator and adventurer who seeks big, hearty landscapes, and then writes about the experience of them. Franklin graduated from the University of Wyoming with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing and Environment and Natural Resources and seeks to bridge the gap between science and experiential narrative. Her words have appeared in AFAR, Rock and Ice, Trail Runner, Western Confluence, Aspen Sojourner, Yoga International and Suburban Life River Towns magazines, in addition to several newspapers, blogs and websites. Learn more about her work at http://glaciersinmotion.wordpress.com and http://manassehfrass.wordpress.com.