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John McMillan’s Cabin: Traveling the paths of ghosts

April 14th, 2016 | Posted by in Adventures

By Hannah Newell, a M.Ed. Graduate student of the Institute’s 15th Cohort

Where would one place their grave in these woods? And how could one bury themselves? These two questions came to me as I was half delirious with exhaustion, wandering around on the west bank of Big Beaver Creek along Ross Lake. My cohort member and work study compliment, Joe Loviska, and I were on a two day excursion into the Ross Lake Recreation Area to document wildlife and for him, phenological stages as our season turns to spring. I was on a personal quest as well. The previous months leading up to this trip, I had been in contact with a number of resources to lend a hand in my discovery of the history of trapping in this area of the North Cascades.

The trappers and homesteaders were few and far between in this vast landscape of pinnacle mountains and dense forests. One could get lost among the giant cedars and accidentally wander into a forest of Devil’s Club without notice until their fate was sealed with this prickled plant. This is not a forgiving land to those foreign or unprepared for their travels.

I had heard John McMillan’s name in my first round of research into the topic of fur trapping and soon started to hear stories of his cabin. All that was shared with me about the location of this cabin was that it is somewhere on the west side of Big Beaver Creek, before the marsh and after the stream.Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
Joe and I had the advantage of hearing about first hand accounts of finding the homestead through the use of roughly drawn maps and a faint trail that was previously used by McMillan and the Forest Service before Big Beaver Trail was established.

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Trail map around Diablo Lake. Photo courtesy of the United States Forest Service.

We found this faint line of a trail that lead directly into a fresh patch of fluorescent green moss and downed trees. We had immediately lost the trail, but continued on to meandering through the woods experiencing the true wonder of wandering among the old growth.

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Cascade-bottomlands-Sm

Kristin Musgnug: Artist in Residence

December 4th, 2015 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

By Kristin Musgnug

I am a landscape painter whose goal is to make paintings of the kind of places that don’t usually show up in landscape paintings – places that are not conventionally beautiful. While I thoroughly enjoyed the extraordinary beauty of the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center’s surroundings, it was a particular challenge to find places that evoked other responses.

My project while at theEnvironmental Learning Center involved close up painting of the forest floor, particularly in the lush undergrowth of old, wild forests. This project’s emphasis on intact, mostly un-interfered-with location represents a bit of a departure for me. For years my work has investigated the relations between humans and the natural world by painting in places where the results of this interaction were visible. Much of my work has been generated by considering such questions as: how our attitudes towards nature affect our actions towards it, how and why we shape the environment, and how we in turn are shaped by it. To do this I have often focused on landscapes shaped by a particular type of land use, such as campgrounds, parks, gardens, logged forests, parking lots and miniature golf courses.

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Sahara on pony

Reflections from the back of my horse

April 25th, 2013 | Posted by in Odds & Ends

I am on my horse at the Pilchuck Tree Farm in Arlington with my mom. The air is cool and moist; the sun reflects off the glinting dew drops on the foliage repossessing the battered stumps and scars on the landscape. We travel on this trail silently, allowing our horses to navigate this place we have all visited so many times before.

The Tree Farm, once actively logged, is now home to a local recreation association, mostly horsemen and women, who come to this place to seek solitude from motorized vehicles and hunters amongst the recovering forests. My horse’s ears flick forward suddenly as he registers some sound known only to him, but a dismissive swivel back towards me indicates that whatever he heard has not been perceived as a threat.

The world is a different place from the back of a horse.

view from ponyView from the back of Sheena

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Trailside participants

Rocking the old growth

January 15th, 2010 | Posted by in Field Excursions

Sometimes we think in order to see new things that we need to travel to the furthest reaches of our earth.

I was reminded of how wrong this train of thought is last Saturday as I traveled 40 minutes downriver to Rockport State Park. Rockport is a small place, blink while driving across Highway 20 East to the Cascades and you might well miss it. However, being small and little known should not suggest that this State Park has nothing to offer. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a more easily accessible example of old growth forest anywhere in the Cascades.

Old GrowthThat which we do not speak of makes its presence known

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