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Weekly Photo Roundup: February 12, 2017

February 12th, 2017 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

Every Sunday I will be posting photos collected from various NCI graduate students and staff. Please enjoy this glimpse into our everyday lives here in the North Cascades.

Snow falling on the Skagit River in Marblemount, behind the Blue House residence. Photo by Angela Burlile

The week started off with continuing heavy snowfall in the upper Skagit. The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center accumulated several feet of new snow in a period of just four or five days!

Top photo: Blue skies at the Environmental Learning Center. Bottom: A snow covered Diablo Dam. Photos by Angela Burlile

On Tuesday, the snow let up and we had a brief period of sunny skies. A break in the weather gave us all a chance to dig out our vehicles and clear some walkways around the Environmental Learning Center.

» Continue reading Weekly Photo Roundup: February 12, 2017

Weekly Photo Roundup: February 5 2017

February 5th, 2017 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

Every Sunday I will be posting photos collected from various NCI graduate students and staff. Please enjoy this glimpse into our everyday lives here in the North Cascades.

Photo by Annah Young
Photo by Emily Baronich

Photos from SnowSchool, our winter field science program offered in partnership with the Mt. Baker Ski Area and Northwest Avalanche Center. Students study the influence of snowpack in their everyday lives over the course of two sessions – one in the classroom and one at Mt. Baker Ski Area.

» Continue reading Weekly Photo Roundup: February 5 2017

Seasons In the Skagit: Winter

January 12th, 2017 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

Hello and welcome to 2017 everyone! I am very pleased to greet you in the new year and share with you some of the changes we have recently seen in the Skagit. As we start winter and a new cycle around the sun I invite you to embrace the beginning of our calendar year and perhaps start phenological practices of your own. Welcome to winter!

Highway 20 is very quiet in the upper Skagit. Massive icicles are hanging from the rocks in the Gorge. Most of the trees are bare and almost no birds are heard singing in the branches. Winter has settled into the Skagit Valley. As fall ended and winter began we saw some notable phenological events in our watershed:

  • Nov. 19: Four Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) feeding on fish carcasses across the river from Cascadian Farms. Eagle sightings are increasing.
  • Nov. 21: Washington Pass on SR 20 closed for the winter.
  • Nov. 25: Mt. Baker Ski Area opens for the season.
  • Dec. 3:Daniel Dubie (C16 M.Ed. graduate student) saw approximately 20 Bald Eagles at the Samish Flats!
  • Dec. 4: The first snow fell at North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center.
  • Dec. 8: Nine Bald Eagles spotted on the drive between the Blue House and the ELC, two of which were juveniles.

Although it may seem quiet in the valley and upriver there are still many things changing around us, whether we notice them or not.

» Continue reading Seasons In the Skagit: Winter

Weekly Photo Roundup: January 8, 2017

January 8th, 2017 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center


Every Sunday I will be posting photos collected from various NCI graduate students and staff. Please enjoy this glimpse into our everyday lives here in the North Cascades.

Photo by Jihan Grettenberger

On Monday, graduate M.Ed student Ash Dina Kunz, got creative in her transport methods from the parking lot to graduate housing at the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center.

Photo by Hanna Davis

With winter in full swing, we’ve sectioned off portions of the Institute ELC due to ‘roofalanche’ risk. The sign reads “Roofalanche Zone-Trail Closed”, just in case you weren’t sure!

Photo by Melissa Biggs

Graduate student, Melissa Biggs, had to dig her car out from the Institute ELC parking lot after leaving it for several weeks while she travelled to Maryland for winter break.

» Continue reading Weekly Photo Roundup: January 8, 2017

A Wintery Return to the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center

January 3rd, 2017 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

While there were hints of winter prior to our holiday break, there is no question now that winter has arrived at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center. Graduate M.Ed. students who live on campus returned today to find drifts of snow reaching the heights of their roof, carefully avoiding the ‘roofalanche’ zones that we were warned of in our winter safety training. Thick down jackets, gloves, hats, scarves, boots and yaktraks are the uniform on campus now. The high today was 15 degrees with expected sunshine for the rest of the week. Sun somehow makes these freezing temperatures a bit more bearable as it is such a rarity these days. Taking its time to rise over the mountains that surround Diablo Lake, it isn’t seen until sometime after 10am and then disappears behind Pyramid Peak only a few hours later.

The inevitable cycles of nature have also shifted the energy around campus. In the fall there is a lively, vibrant spiritedness from families and children participating in programs or Mountain School. Now it has been replaced by the quiet, undisturbed stillness of winter. I feel this every day on my drive from Marblemount. Cascades that gave motion to the mountainsides are now walls of ice; the constant flow of traffic and caravans of motorhomes coming over the pass has ceased and trickled down to seeing just a car or two over the entire 21 mile drive up Highway 20.

Despite the restful nature of winter, there is still life to be found at the ELC! Graduate students continue their studies and a new season of conference and retreats begins shortly. The following photos were taken today as we settle back into our home in the North Cascades.


Title photograph of Sourdough Creek, looking out towards Diablo Lake and Pyramid Peak.
All photos courtesy of Angela Burlile.

Angela Burlile is a graduate student of North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University’s M.Ed. program and the current web resource editor graduate assistant. Growing up in Alaska, Angela feels most at home surrounded by mountains, glaciers, and turquoise rivers, making the North Cascades Institute a perfect fit. In her free time, Angela enjoys exploring the world, meeting its many inhabitants, sharing cups of coffee, climbing mountains and catching the sunrise.

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The Cold

December 7th, 2016 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

Snow finally arrived to Environmental Learning Center (December 4th to be exact) and the days since have been crisp and cold, transforming the landscape around us. The sunny, clear skies this week have revealed snow-capped mountains, whose presence can be forgotten behind the usual rain-laden clouds. Cascades running down the sheer rock cliffs in the gorge have turned to walls of jagged ice; the peaceful flow of water replaced by a new kind of terrifying beauty.

As we welcome this new season, I look to the words of Wendell Berry in a poem entitled, “The Cold”.

How exactly good it is
to know myself
in the solitude of winter,

my body containing its own
warmth, divided from all
by the cold; and to go

separate and sure
among the trees cleanly
divided, thinking of you

perfect too in your solitude,
your life withdrawn into
your own keeping

–to be clear, poised
in perfect self-suspension
toward you, as though frozen.

And having known fully the
goodness of that, it will be
good also to melt.

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ELC Winter 11

ELC Winter 12

ELC Winter 1

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All photos courtesy of Angela Burlile

Angela Burlile is a graduate student of North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University’s M.Ed. program and the current web resource editor graduate assistant. Growing up in Alaska, Angela feels most at home surrounded by mountains, glaciers, and turquoise rivers, making the North Cascades Institute a perfect fit. In her free time, Angela enjoys exploring the world, meeting its many inhabitants, sharing cups of coffee, climbing mountains and catching the sunrise.

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Eating Snow: Climate Change, Snowpack and Agriculture Water-Use Policy in the Methow Valley

August 1st, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

By Annah Young, graduate student in the Institute’s 15th cohort.

I wedged myself between two boulders on the summit of Silver Star Mountain in Okanagan County, Washington and peered out over the North Cascades range. It was May 1, 2016. Mount Baker was crystal clear some 100 miles to the west across the snow cover peaks. The mountains were shimmering, almost blindingly so, in all directions with miles and miles of snowfields. The day was hot, almost 60 degrees in the sun at an elevation of 8,875 feet. Our ski boots were standing on a snowpack of over 8 feet deep I was trying to fathom the amount of frozen water surrounding me. Looking to the east I saw the Methow Valley and Okanagan County expanding into the horizon and tried to imagine the journey that the water molecules beneath my feet will make, providing habitat for migrating steelhead trout, nourishing Cottonwoods, and irrigating crops that become food to nourish the people. I chugged the last bit of water that was in my Nalgene, filled it to the brim with snow, stuffed the bottle in my pack and skied down 5,000 feet of glorious spring corn snow.

Snowpack in the North Cascades has declined between 20% and 40% since 1950 (Stoelinda, Albright, Mass, 2009, p. 1). Snowpack in the mountains is stored water that provides life to all organisms including humans by irrigating and growing the food we eat. Snowpack is declining due to natural climate fluctuations and anthropogenic global warming.

» Continue reading Eating Snow: Climate Change, Snowpack and Agriculture Water-Use Policy in the Methow Valley