North Cascades Wild has the power to transform lives.
As a trip leader, North Cascades Wild is equally transformative for me as it is for the students that we reach. Never before have I witnessed a group build such a close family bond in such a short amount of time. The faces and behavior of the students I met on the first day were not the same as the students I hugged good-bye. We all became more confident, more alive and much more aware of ourselves as humans. Together we faced challenges and fears, ventured through unknown lands in search of knowing more about those places, supported each other, and learned from each other. Each sequential adventure we had brought us closer together.
The transformations are only getting started. North Cascades Wild started its busy season with two trips June 24th – July 1st. Sixteen high school students from Washington embarked on eight-day backpacking and canoeing trips in North Cascades National Park Complex, one group on Diablo Lake and the other on Ross Lake. Aimed at providing first-time transformational experiences in the North Cascades, North Cascade Institute, in partnership with North Cascades National Park and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, provides opportunities for high school students to explore the wilderness, gain awareness in natural and cultural history practice leadership, communication, and outdoor skills, support the natural world through environmental stewardship projects, and garner a greater appreciation for their natural surroundings and themselves.
North Cascades Wild Trip 2 on Diablo Lake enjoy a day of paddling together! Photo by Sarah Bernstein.
Each season of North Cascades Wild is special, but this year is particularly special because North Cascades Institute is piloting two new features. Four 8-day trips will now run on Ross Lake and Diablo Lake in an effort to increase the number of students reached. Additionally, many of the trips will be accompanied by a North Cascades Wild Trip Leader Apprentice. The Trip Leader Apprentice program is designed to support young leaders in the Institute’s Pathway for Youth by providing a stepping stone from a prior youth program experience to the deeper responsibilities of being part of a trip’s leadership team.
I was one of the four trip leaders on Ross Lake for this first session, and the eight students on my trip, along with my other three co-leaders, had a whirlwind of a week! After a quick visit to North Cascades National Park’s Wilderness Information Center and Newhalem Visitor Center, students spent a day at North Cascade Institute’s Environmental Learning Center. Then it was on! After learning how to canoe at Ross Lake Resort, students paddled their way to McMillan Campground on Ross Lake. For most students, this was their first time canoeing – first time on a boat, first time in the water and, for some, a chance to face their fears. Along our way, we saw the only pair of loons left on Ross Lake, providing for us a balletic display of courtship. The was the first of countless nature moments that continued to unveil themselves on Ross Lake. At McMillan, students learned how to set up tents, cook food in the backcountry and, in a nutshell, live outside. Living outside allowed us to see a hummingbird visit our campsite, watch deer crossing our paths, hear the creaking of the trees, and immerse ourselves in the smells of the natural world.
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