Oh, to be young and wild and free. That common saying, which most of us recognize, is wholly applicable to the wilderness of the North Cascades and of the youth adventures carried out by the first two trips of this summerâ€™s North Cascades Wild program.
After spending 12 days exploring North Cascades National Park (NOCA) by boat and boot, through canoeing and backpacking, 17 students and six instructors, each divided into two trips, had quite the journey to recount.
(Title) Canoeing is a core component of the youth program North Cascades Wild (Above) Trip 1 dressed to impress at Ross Lake Resort
In addition to each trip accomplishing nearly 30 miles of backpacking, 15 miles of canoeing and a successful group summit of 6,102-foot Desolation Peak, they all conducted stewardship for this wild place with four days of service work building everything from turnpike bridges to toilets, trails to picnic tables, to tent pads and fire pits. Students had an opportunity to present and reflect upon their experiences to supporters consisting of donors, Park and Institute staff and friends of the students, aboard the Ross Mule.
In North Cascades Wild, youth entering into their sophomore, junior or senior years in high school from King, Skagit and Whatcom countiesâ€”most of which who have never before been to the Park or even know what canoeing isâ€”accomplished the programâ€™s four major themes.
Students discovered and exercise personal leadership through a daily student Leader of the Day which enables them to make key decisions as to the itinerary of the day and the overall health of their peers and instructors. Through the complete immersion in backcountry cooking, camping, backpacking and canoeing everyday of the program, students gained many outdoor skills that are completely new to them. Due to the nature of the programâ€™s set-up with nine students and three instructors, an intimate group setting was established and students learned what it felt like to be apart of building a strong community that lasts beyond the 12 days of the program.
In addition to gaining outdoor skills, exercising personal leadership and being apart of a close-knit community, the students also forged relationships and career connections with staff from NOCA and BC Parks through the stewardship and sense of place component of the program. Gerry Cook, Maintenance Foreman, Captain of the Ross Mule and life-long lover and liver of the Skagit Valley, is an integral part of the studentâ€™s experience as he shares his many stories of the mountains and lake waters and captainâ€™s the Ross Mule while the students give their reflective presentations. Students learned about plant and lake ecology from Michael Brondi, Volunteer Coordinator for the Park, through seed collection of native grasses. Lacey Cunningham, of the NOCA Trails Crew, taught the students the skills to successfully build new trails, turnpike bridges and fire pits in the backcountry of Nightmare Camp. In addition, visitation from fish biologists and naturalist rangers from nearby Canada, contributed to studentsâ€™ overall understanding and appreciation for this wild place.
After nearly two weeks of immersion in the backcountry, it comes as no surprise that being â€œyoung and wild and freeâ€ achieves its ultimate potential through the adventures of these youth, the future generation and keepers of this place.
In the words of Thao Nguyen of this yearâ€™s Trip 1, â€œIf I had a chance to go back I would tell the generation to not be hesitant about your dedication and choices [in this program], because they never lose but always gain something.â€ And gaining something we all didâ€”new adventures and memories, new friends and family, and a new outlook on ourselves and our place in this wild, wild world.
Below is a photographic journey of Trip 1 and Trip 2’s adventures, June 28th through Uly 9, 2010.
DAY 2 – June 29, 2010
DAY 3 – June 30, 2010
DAY 4 – July 1, 2010
DAY 5 – July 2, 2010
DAY 6 – July 3, 2010
DAY 7 – July 4, 2010
DAY 8 – July 5, 2010
DAY 9 – July 6, 2010
DAY 10 – July 7, 2010
DAY 11 – July 8, 2010
DAY 12 – July 9, 2010