A Year in Review: Most-read Chattermarks Posts of 2017


2017 was a big year for the North Cascades Institute, and we’d like to thank YOU for taking the time to read all about it on our Chattermarks blog. We try to make sure that everything posted here is in support of our mission: to inspire and empower environmental stewardship for all through transformative experiences in nature.

What were your favorite posts of 2017? Below is a list of our five, most-read Chattermarks posts of the year. Scroll down to find out what is number one, and to relive some of the memories from the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.


Photo Roundup: April 16 2017

This post features a rockslide over highway 20, pictures of a black bear at Diablo, the graduation ceremony of the 15th Cohort of graduate students, and adventure!

Then editor, Angela Burlile wrote:

On Wednesday, we woke to news that a rockslide occurred on Highway 20, between Newhalem and Diablo. Unlike the avalanche that extended the stay of Henry M. Jackson high school, students participating in Mountain School were able to leave that day. The road remained closed to traffic into the weekend while WSDOT crews worked to move and break up the large pieces of rock that had fallen onto the highway.

This male, lovingly named “Barry,” was often spotted at Diablo

The Passing of the Paddle ceremony with C15 and C16. Photo by Aly Gourd

During this week of capstone presentations, a little known ceremony – Passing the Paddle – occurs between cohorts. This tradition is a time for the graduating cohort to pass down a paddle to the newest cohort, symbolizing that they are now in control of the direction and movement of the program. Along with the paddle, the graduating cohort offers the newest cohort their final words of advice and wisdom and the expectation that this ceremony will continue on for future cohorts to come.


An Unforgettable Mountain School Adventure

In March, an avalanche covered Highway 20 in the Skagit gorge, trapping Staff, graduate students, and high schoolers at the Environmental Learning Center.

Again, Angela informed readers on what happened:

Unpredictable and extreme weather conditions are an accepted and regular part of life here in the North Cascades. With established procedures and risk management training for situations such as this, instructors and staff were able to quickly shift gears and prepare for our guests extended stay. Knowing that WSDOT would not be able to inspect the avalanche for at least three days when conditions were safer, a weekend agenda was created to keep students [Mill Creek’s Henry M. Jackson High School] active and engaged.

To stave off boredom, activities such as art, Planet Earth movie nights, yoga, meditation, scavenger hunts, microscope labs and mini-olympic tournaments were facilitated by naturalists and M.Ed. graduate students. One of the activities most enjoyed by students was the taxidermy workshop, led by graduate student and natural history assistant, Nick Engelfried.

“It was great to see the students get so engaged in this opportunity. I think they learned a lot about bird anatomy and how to preserve specimens for scientific study. Some of the students were so committed to finishing their projects, they came back three days in a row to work on them.” – Nick Engelfried

Although the situation was not one that anyone would like to find themselves in, the students from Henry M. Jackson maintained high spirits throughout. While we hope it is one they never find themselves in again, it will surely be an experience that neither they or we here at NCI will ever forget.

“NCI was a 100% positive experience. I learned a lot from all of the naturalists and grad students about the North Cascades. Before the avalanche it was already a very memorable trip but the staff went above and beyond once we were stuck. The activities that they planned for us were both educational and really fun. I really enjoyed being able to spend time in such a beautiful place with such great people. I hope I’m able to come back soon!” – Taylor Gerould, Henry Jackson student


Welcome New Graduate Students!

In order to get to know them better, the 17th graduate cohort wrote introductions of themselves to share with the world. The goal of this 3-part series was to welcome the Class of 2019, and learn more about why they chose the Master of Education degree program through the North Cascades Institute.

Within the posts, students included reasons why they’re here, and what they want to take away from a year-long residency. They also included some of their most memorable experiences so far.

“What’s been one of my most memorable experiences so far? Without a doubt, standing in Skagit Bay after paddling 80 miles downstream from Marblemount was a defining experience in the program this summer. The direct personal experience of the connection along the Watershed from mountain to sea is difficult to quantify in mere words. Everyone should try it!” – Eric Buher

An excerpt, thanks to Kira Taylor-Hoar:

“It snowed lightly as we reached the beginning of the [Cascade] Pass, making the world look like an evergreen, winter-wonderland in September. We kept walking and came upon ripe huckleberries in the snow. We then proceeded to eat them bear-style with just our mouths (aka no hands). This must have sent out a calling card to the universe because not 100 yards up the trail we came across a big black bear…”

“Although I’ve had opportunities to backpack in the Cascades throughout my life, having the time to not only backpack ten days, but do it through a course, was incredible. My hiking group spent 3 nights at Hidden Meadows near McCalister Pass and our time there was spectacularly peaceful and intellectually fruitful. I felt like I came to know the North Cascades better after our time walking through them.” – Brendan McGarry


What is a Leadership Track?


In this post, Angela did a wonderful job explaining what a Leadership Track is and why graduate students wrap up their residency with this professional experience:

These summer internships generally fall in a content area that students are interested in pursuing beyond the graduate program. Content areas currently include curriculum and/or program design and implementation, administrative duties, outdoor and environmental education, food sustainability, stewardship projects, and youth mentorship. A $2,500 leadership fellowship is awarded upon completion of the final quarter of the residency portion of the program.

Last year, the 15th graduate cohort filled Leadership Track positions all over the Cascade region. While most of our graduate work throughout the year focuses on programming here at NCI, our Leadership Track position offers us the opportunity to work with different agencies and organizations in the local area. They also allow graduate students to engage with diverse participant audiences or groups that they may wish to pursue working with in the future.

Be sure to check-out the original link to see past examples of the work graduate students were involved with during their Leadership Track.

Hannah Young working with Methow Valley youth on local food production. Photo by Lindsey MacDonald


The North Cascade Institute 2017 Naturalist Team

And the most popular post of the year is Angela’s introduction of the 2017 Naturalist Team!

She wrote a warm welcome for the team, and provided space for everyone to introduce themselves. To learn more about the talented individuals who worked alongside the Institute’s graduate students and other staff, take a moment to read through their bios!

The fall naturalist team of Will, Mari, Geneva, Allysa, Natascha, Emma, Kristen, Cassie, Matthew, Amy, Evan, Martha, Natasha, Lydia, and Misha. Thanks, Dream Team!

This year they taught students across the state participating in our Mountain School program. And in the summer months, naturalists also led summer expeditions with Youth Leadership Adventures and various educational activities offered in many of our Learning Center programs.

“What a wonderful crew of creative professionals! It’s an honor to have you working, playing, learning and leading at the North Cascades Institute.” – Saul Weisberg

Added Bonus:

and drumroll for our most popular Chattermarks post of all time…

Squirrels eat mushrooms? 

To this day, a small post about squirrels from 2008 receives the most traffic on our site. It is highly ranked on Google, and pops up when people search something like do squirrels eat mushrooms. But I mean, who doesn’t love learning about cute animals?

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
(Top photo) Graduate students in the 16th Cohort and Staff have fun on the last day of the spring Mountain School session. 

Leave a Comment