A paddle down the Skagit

C9 after skagit paddle
As a year of residential learning for one graduate cohort ends, another begins. For Cohort 8, it is hard to believe that it was a year ago that we started this journey. So much has happened and so much has been experienced, learned and mastered. For the new cohort, I’m sure it feels like a whirlwind of a start with classes, books, conversations and adventures like camping, hiking and canoeing.
On July 1st, Nora and I joined the 11 members of the new class on a paddle down the Skagit River. It was a beautiful day, sunny but not too hot, with just a bit of a wind to add excitement to the adventure. We put our eight canoes in the water at Steelhead Park in Rockport. As we made our way down the river, we stopped to look at bugs, talk about rocks and share questions and advice on what it’s like to live and go to school in the North Cascades National Park. Our paddle took all day as we fought with head winds to make it to Rasar State Park, but the long day was worthwhile and so much fun. For some it was just another day on the river, but for a few I’m sure it was the first time paddling on a river.
canoes on skagit
paddling skagit rapids

Cohort 9 navigates though a few rapids

As Saul steered our boat down the river, I took in the views and enjoyed the time to reflect on everything I have done in my first year of graduate school that I never would have done had I not come to this program. Before grad school, I had never paddled before — now I have not only paddled on a river three times but also taught others how to paddle. I have experienced living in a wild place where I am able to watch mother sapsuckers feed their young and have seen the change in animal behaviors from fall to summer.

break from canoeingTaking a quick break from paddling as we raft up… the wind was blowing so hard we were barely floating down river.

I love that graduate school is more than reading and reports and that we have instructors and mentors that facilitate our learning through all the different realms. If nothing else this program has taught me to stop and smell the roses while you stop to look it up in your field guide.

Photos courtesy of John Miles and Meghann Willard


  1. Katie Trujillo

    I don’t want to leave this place(!). Thank you to everyone I ever interacted with while here at the Learning Center. It is without doubt that I have, for the first time, found my Sense of Place… my own backyard all along.

  2. Katie Trujillo

    Great river photos, too, by the way! Awesome!

  3. Jenny

    This makes me want to go to grad school!

  4. Debra Trujillo

    Meghann, thank you for sharing your reflection on this past year. I’ve been blessed to experience nature’s magnificant beauty in the North Cascades through Katie’s eyes as well as my own backpacking trip with Gerry and Bob.
    Always remember to stop, breathe, and reflect.

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