As spring slowly transitions to summer in North Cascades National Park, reminders of the adventures that await North Cascades Wild (NC Wild) participants are everywhere in the landscape. But before embarking on the 12-day backcountry journeys, these students must beÂ prepared.
Thanks to the third and final day trip of the 2010 spring season, eleven of the 54 high school youth that will be participating in this yearâ€™s NC Wild trips are now better prepared in both canoeing and service work.
On Saturday, May 22nd, participants from Skagit and Whatcom counties traveled to the North Cascades Instituteâ€™s Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake to spend a day with NC Wild instructors Amy Brown, Kelsi Franzen, Mike Parelskin and Corey White, and North Cascades National Park Volunteer Coordinator, Mike Brondi.
After a grand tour of the Learning Center and experiencing on-site forest succession with Mike Brondi, the students worked alongside volunteers of the Instituteâ€™s annual Stewardship Weekend in pulling weeds along walkways, as well as identifying native plants using local fieldguides. My group in particular, consisting of Gabriela, Karla and Jailyn, became fascinated with the extensive roots of the weedy Quack Grass (Elytrigia repens) and noticed the rust-colored nodes of the mycorrhizal fungi attached to the roots of the Red Alder (Alnus rubra), which aid in nitrogen fixation in disturbed soils.
(Title) Gabriela is all smiles during trail weed pulling at the Learning CenterÂ Â (Above) Mike Brondi shows the presence of Red Alder in a disturbed environment
A delicious lunch was provided by Institute chefs in the Dining Hall. Following the meal students took part in a fun, communication-style activity called â€œTanks and Commandersâ€ in which a group of 3 people all must communicate in different ways, but work together as a team, in order to beat or “attack” the other groups.
In the afternoon, having completed the service component of the day trip, the students were oriented to the different equipment, positions and paddle strokes of tandem canoeing. As is typical in the afternoons on Diablo Lake, a strong easterly wind had picked up. This was the first time canoeing for almost all of the students and they maneuvered the canoes like pros, even in the adverse mountain weather!
The trip concluded with a group sharing circle of the dayâ€™s highlights, and each student shared an aspiration that they had before embarking on the upcoming summer trips.
I reflect now upon how much my relationship with these students has deepened since I first met them several months ago. Even in this small time frame, we have grown in our friendships, in stewardship to the land and in leadership within ourselves and among each other. I am so eager and excited for June 28th to come, so that I may continue this unforgettable journey with this group of inspiring young leaders.