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2016 Northwest Youth Leadership Summit: Leaders In Action

November 20th, 2016 | Posted by in Institute News

Fun activities. Good food. Hands-on learning. Passionate discussion. A surprise visit from Sally Jewell. The newly-named Northwest Youth Leadership Summit included all of this, and more.

This conference, now in its seventh year, is for young adults in the Pacific Northwest who have participated in at least one outdoor program and want to stay involved. This year brought a new name, length, and location: 200 people – students and adults – gathered at The Mountaineers in Seattle on October 22, 2016 for a day of making connections, learning new skills, and having fun. Students arrived representing over 15 organizations and came from hometowns all over western Washington and northern Oregon.

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Students gathered in Summit Groups to discuss goals for the day. Photo by Jodi Broughton

The change from a smaller, three-day event at the Environmental Learning Center to a larger, one-day event in Seattle was a collaborative effort with The Mountaineers, the National Park Service, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and the North Cascades Institute to make broader connections between students in outdoor organizations across the Northwest. Hosting the summit in a more central location for a shorter time frame enabled many more students to participate.

The day was packed full with activities. After breakfast and a welcome from student emcees Thien and Logan, the students met in small Summit Groups to discuss their goals and plans for the Summit. Two Breakout Sessions – hour-long workshops on various topics– were held before lunch. Students learned basic rock climbing skills, received tips on writing resumes, and delved into complex climate issues. One student wrote, “[The supportive leader session] was the most valuable because I got to explore more formally what it means to be a servant leader. I identified myself as a servant leader, as well as found truth in my new formed opinion that a leader is not a good one unless they are a servant leader.” Another student appreciated some of the skills emphasized in the Breakout Sessions: “The resume session was the most valuable [to me] because I am beginning to think about college, so I will take any tips I can when it comes to applications and interviews.”

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Students learn the basics of rock climbing during a Breakout Session. Photo by Jodi Broughton
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Outside activities during a Breakout Session. Photo by Michael Telstad

» Continue reading 2016 Northwest Youth Leadership Summit: Leaders In Action

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Urban Foraging: A back-country approach to front-country living

August 8th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

By Rob Healy, graduate student in the Institute’s 15th cohort.

Somewhere at the murky crossroads of a lifelong passion for preparedness and survival, the excitement of days spent hunting, fishing and foraging, and the soul crushing reality that is the ratio of time spent in front versus back country, I hatched a plan. Whether famine, natural disaster or simply recreation, it is hard to dismiss the appeal of being able to “live off the land.” This notion conjures images of remote mountain ranges, swaths of wild timber and circumstances that have gone terribly wrong. While entertaining and informative, the age old fantasy of surviving in a backcountry location with nothing save your wits is, realistically, pretty damn unlikely. We concrete denizens are far more likely to be sitting at a desk or slumbering in our beds when the fecal matter hits the fan. My project was to take the same principals of hunting, fishing and gathering then to assess the viability of backcountry survival techniques in a front-country setting. The details of my discovery are available in an essay I wrote afterwards, and you may contact me there if you want to know more. In short, not only was I able to find a wealth of food in the streets of south Seattle, but I found connections and lessons that I had not expected.

» Continue reading Urban Foraging: A back-country approach to front-country living

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Sharing Home: Three days of adventure in Washington

May 3rd, 2016 | Posted by in Field Excursions

Having moved into the North Cascades Eco-region in July for the graduate residency program, these mountains are finally starting to feel like home. Month after month I have been engaged in the cycle of the seasons, the habits of natural neighbors and the rhythms of the Skagit. So when I knew my family was coming for only a three day visit, I panicked. How can I show them all that I have learned about this amazing place in only three days? I couldn’t, and I didn’t, but we crammed as much as we could and went to four main locations for an amazing adventure: around the Environmental Learning Center, the Methow Valley, the Salish Sea and the City of Seattle.

While my family feels at home in the outdoors, Washington is a completely different beast than our wilderness. Coming all the way from Pittsburgh, PA my parents (Kurt and Pam) and older sister (Abby) reminded me of my general first reaction when I arrived: “Washington is just like Pennsylvania, except exaggerated. The mountains are higher, the rivers purer and the trees much, much taller.” My mother even remarked that it was as if I was living in a fairy tale, the scenery taken right out of a book.

Our first stop on this fairy tale adventure was a place I don’t even notice anymore. On my daily commute to work I drive past the Gorge Creek Falls, an amazing 242 ft. cascade. Since I see it every day, it fell into the backdrop of the commute. Only when my family was seeing it with new eyes, did I stop and remember how beautiful of a place I get to study in.

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Dad enjoying the view at Gorge Creek Falls.

» Continue reading Sharing Home: Three days of adventure in Washington

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Where the Powerlines Start

April 21st, 2016 | Posted by in Adventures

Bumper to bumper traffic on I-5 provides the perfect thinking spot. Usually this is the place where my mind starts to wonder things like “Why does traffic happen” and “When will they make flying cars?” The most recent time I was fortunate enough to be stuck, however, my mind drifted over to the powerlines beside the road. More electrons than I could count were wizzing past, heading into homes, phones and even some cars. The hyper-speedways of electricity, we only see powerlines in the transportation or end state. But they have to start somewhere, right?

My quest to see the start of the powerlines had me heading east on Washington State Route 20. If you wish to pursue this adventure yourself be warned: there is not cell phone reception and most importantly no traffic. Heading east along SR 20 will take you past the towns of Sedro-Woolley, Concrete and Rockport. Make sure you fuel up in Marblemount though as it is the last place for gas before heading into the park.

Keep traveling, and you will see the large North Cascades National Park sign just past mile marker 111. Gradually, you will begin to see civilization be replaced with the expansive wilderness that is Western Washington. Even the little town of Diablo (which will be on your left) is dwarfed by the forests, mountains and the mighty Skagit River.

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» Continue reading Where the Powerlines Start

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Wilderness Awareness School and Islandwood: Graduate Exchange Weekend

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

The North Cascades Institute has a Graduate Residency program where Western Washington University students live and learn at the Environmental Learning Center located near Diablo, Washington for a full year. Currently the Institute’s 15th cohort (C15) is doing their residency as part of their Master’s in Outdoor Environmental Education.

This idea of a dedicated year of learning for future Environmental Educators is not unique to North Cascades Institute. Back in January my cohort and I hosted three other residential higher education programs at the Environmental Learning Center. We spent the weekend sharing about what we did with Mountain School and our residency in the mountains of the North Cascades. This month it was our turn to go down valley and visit the similar programs of

 

Wilderness Awareness School (WAS):

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WAS’s Cedar Lodge.

Founded in 1983, the Wilderness Awareness School (located in Duvall, Washington)  the goal of the organization is to “to provide opportunities for children to discover the natural world around them, and for adults to explore, gain confidence in, and reconnect with the environment.” They do this through a variety of programs that involve over 2000 students every year. Their Anake Leadership Program is designed to build on what students have learned over their time at school and develop them as leaders in Outdoor Education.

» Continue reading Wilderness Awareness School and Islandwood: Graduate Exchange Weekend

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Down Valley Conference Adventure: A Grad’s Perspective

February 1st, 2016 | Posted by in Adventures

Living at the Environmental Learning Center near Diablo, WA changes how we approach everyday decisions. Little trips, for instance, turn into a three day down valley adventure! This last weekend the 15th graduate cohort (along with a few from the 14th) traveled to two conferences in three days: Storming the Sound and Curriculum for the Bioregion.

Our first leg of the journey had us hit the road at 6 am from Diablo. After so many wilderness journeys with my cohort it was strange to see what “gear” changed and what didn’t with this adventure into civilization. No tents. No trekking poles. But some still packed in their hiking backpacks! After a few hours travel along SR 20, we arrived in La Conner.

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First leg of our three day trip. Photo courtesy of Google Earth.

Storming the Sound is an “annual conference for environmental educators in the north Pudget Sound region.” Since 2000 in Padilla Bay Reserve, the event has brought environmental organizations, teachers and students together to not only learn from one another but to better connect the environmental education field in the Puget Sound region. There were thirty one sponsor organizations this year which gave us graduate students a great view of how strong the environmental education presence is in this region. This year’s event was held in Maple Hall in La Conner, WA.

» Continue reading Down Valley Conference Adventure: A Grad’s Perspective

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“Too High and Too Steep”: David Williams’ new book on reshaping Seattle

September 14th, 2015 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

Guest post by David B. Williams

Williams’ reads from his new book Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography at Village Books in Bellingham on September 16 at 7 pm as part of our Nature of Writing Fall Speaker Series; free!

More so than most cities, Seattle has shaped itself to suit its needs. The citizens of Seattle have dug up, dug into, dumped upon, and carted away its original topography as few other cities have. They eliminated hills, cut canals, killed rivers, replumbed lakes, and built islands, in the process completely reshaping many parts of the landscape. And they did most of this within 75 years of the settlers’ landing. Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography explores these unprecedented engineering projects by weaving together history, geology, and on the ground exploration.

As Michael Upchurch wrote in a Seattle Times review: “Williams does a marvelous job of evoking the cityscape that used to be. He clues us in to the spirit of civic ambition that drove Seattle’s geographical transformations. He methodically chronicles the stages by which its regrade, canal and landfill projects were accomplished. And he’s meticulous about placing his readers on present-day street corners where they can, with some sleight of mind, glimpse the hills, lake shores and tide flats that vanished. (Maps, illustrations and archival photographs help.)”

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Building Seattle – A few tidbits on interest discussed in Too High and Too Steep.

  • Filling in the tideflats of the Duwamish River created approximately 2,500 acres of new land.
  • No dirt from Denny Hill went into making Harbor Island.
  • The largest single hill regrading took place around Jackson Street when 56 blocks were regraded between 1907 and 1909.
  • Nearby was the Dearborn Street regrade, which created the valley now spanned by the Jose Rizal Bridge on Twelfth Avenue.
  • When Lake Washington was lowered by nine feet with the construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, it led to the loss of 90 percent of the lake’s wetlands.
  • Building the locks and canal resulted in the establishment of one of the final whaling fleets in the United States, which overwintered in Meydenbauer Bay.
  • Total dirt moved during the city’s various engineering projects was at least 75 million cubic yards.
  • The regrades were paid for by people who lived in the regrades, not by the city.
  • One failed project called for a canal through Beacon Hill to connect Elliott Bay with Lake Washington.
  • Seattle’s first big tunnel under the city, which runs for a mile, was cut by hand and completed on time.
  • When the Alaskan Way Viaduct was completed, the Seattle P-I labeled it the “royal necklace across the bosom of the Queen City of the Pacific Northwest.”

» Continue reading “Too High and Too Steep”: David Williams’ new book on reshaping Seattle