Summer Youth Recon 2011

After a week of food and gear packing, the Summer Youth team ventured to Ross Lake for the annual recon trip. The purpose of the trip was to transport food and gear to Ross Lake Resort for the summer, familiarize ourselves with the lakeside campgrounds, learn program curriculum and test out the camping gear and food menu. This year the recon was a bit different as leaders from both Cascades Climate Challenge and North Cascades Wild joined forces on the lake, allowing us all to better get to know each other and the program content we’ll each will be involved with.
The crew began the trip by loading the canoes with bucketfuls of food and personal gear at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, where we eventually departed. The group paddled through the gorge in Diablo Lake toward Ross Dam. At the first destination we pulled canoes from the water and carried gear and buckets to meet our shuttle who would portage our gear to Ross Lake Resort. Once at the resort we stored our food for the summer, met with resort staff and prepared for an afternoon of paddling to McMillan Camp, our first destination of the trip.

Kate and Ian fill canoes with bucketfuls of food that will be stored at Ross Lake Resort.

Steph and Teresa dance in anticipation for our departure.

With the wind at our backs, we began paddling up Ross Lake. We were dwarfed by the large snow-capped mountains bordering the lake. Signs of snowmelt were present with evidence of snow slides and waterfalls along the mountainsides. The lake’s low water level revealed a barren, stump-covered shore. Docks we could normally paddle to lay limp on the dry shore. Reports were made that the water level on Ross was rising at 2 feet per day.
On our way to McMillan we took advantage of the wind power that presented itself by constructing a sail. We united as a large raft, and with tarp, rope and paddles, the team assembled a sail near the bow. With a gust of wind the tarp caught sail and slowly pulled us toward camp. But one wasn’t enough as we constructed another sail near the stern. The process took some experimenting, but we eventually succeeded.

The Summer Youth posse paddles up Diablo Lake Gorge.

We eventually arrived at McMillan Camp, where we unloaded our gear and prepared to model a set up we would experience with our students. Once camp was set we gathered around a picnic table to practice knot tying and proper tarp set-ups. We finished the evening with our first meal together and concluded our day with an evening meeting led by the Leaders of the Day, a model used with students throughout each summer youth trip.

Megan and Teresa organize the food storage at Ross Lake Resort.

We began our early morning at McMillan with breakfast and a morning meeting that provided an overview for the day’s schedule. Prior to departing for camp at Big Beaver, we reviewed a canoe lesson taught to students, many who have never canoed before, and the process for establishing a community agreement among our groups.

Once back on the water, we paddled across the lake to our next destination at Big Beaver Camp. We entered a sandy beach on the left side of camp. Mountains Sourdough, Pierce and McMillan towered above us. We began the procedure of unloading boats and setting up camp, and delved right into reviewing curriculum and emergency protocols. Riddles and knot tricks also filled our time, an aspect of the trip that inspired quick thinking and creativity.

Summer Youth crew taking advantage of wind power on Ross Lake.
Because one sail isn’t enough, Summer Youth crew decides to set yet another sail.

Our third day began with breakfast and a lesson on leadership styles, a major component of both Cascades Climate Challenge and NC Wild. Each day a student serves as Leader of the Day. With guidance from staff members, these young leaders are responsible for leading in the decision making and well-being of the group. The lesson taught this morning focused on how we as staff can help students think about and grow into their leadership styles during the trip. Afterwards, we loaded the canoes and paddled to Green Point Camp.

The wind was fairly strong that morning, forcing us to paddle into the wind as we headed down the lake to the campsite where we would meet our North Cascades National Park partners in the afternoon. Paddling into the wind served as great practice as it tends to be gusty on Ross Lake. We paddled close to shore, making sure to regroup and check in with each other.

We slowly but surely made it safely to camp, where we were greeted by Mike Brondi, Gerry Cook, Rosemary Siefred and Lacey Cunningham. These National Park staff members assist our programs by providing leadership and oversight in our stewardship work and other aspects of both NC Wild and Cascades Climate Challenge programming. After a fulfilling lunch we gathered together for introductions to each other and the stewardship work we will partake in throughout the summer.

Bolin, square, truckers…the team works to perfect their knot-tying skills before dinner.

On the fourth and final day of our recon trip we concluded discussions and modeled a lesson and reflection on stewardship, another component of our curriculum as students participate in a variety of stewardship work on our their trips. Afterward we loaded up canoes and paddled the short distance back to Ross Lake Resort where we stored canoes and other group gear for the summer and headed home.
This recon trip was only a snippet of the fun that will be had on Ross Lake with both staff and students. For many students this opportunity will be their first canoe, backpack, service work or a combination there of. We are excited for the experiences and memories we will form with our students this summer, and the recon trip is just one of many ways we can make these experiences phenomenal!

Photos courtesy of Summer Youth staff.


  1. Kelsi

    Woo hoo! I hope you all had a blast! A great read, Codi, and I hope right at this moment you are all having a life-changing and inspiring time with your students out in the North Cascades! So jealous!

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