Base Camp in Northwest Cheapsleeps

Northwest Cheapsleeps, the popular blog about “favorite places for budget travelers,” recently visited the Learning Center for our Base Camp program. Here is a report on their family-friendly experiences:

The North Cascades Institute has long been the premiere environmental education outfit in the Pacific Northwest, but I’d never before taken a class with them. Earlier this summer, as I was scanning their beautiful catalog and lusting over courses on landscape watercolor and mountain photography, I stumbled upon a new offering called Base Camp. Billed as flexible, affordable, enriching and fun, this fledgling program appealed to me immediately as an accessible, low-stress way for families to experience the outdoors. We could stay a few nights at the gorgeous NCI Learning Center on Lake Diablo, all meals included, and dabble in guided learning adventures offered three times a day, from hiking to canoeing to arts and crafts.

By the time our two-night stay arrived, I was eager for space from the city and quality time in nature. I also couldn’t wait to take a break from planning and making meals for a family of three! We arrived at the NCI Learning Center with just enough time to stash our stuff in our room before the orientation tour. Katie, a recent college grad and Kentucky transplant to the Northwest, showed us around the center, on the shores of Diablo Lake and surrounded by the North Cascades National Park complex. I was amazed at the comfy-looking library stocked to the ceiling with field guides and nature poetry. Brian was impressed with the comprehensive compost system outside the dining hall. Isaac helpfully pointed out the fire pits and sword ferns. Katie gave us the rundown on meal times, showed us the trailheads to the four or five trails that depart from the center, and invited us to join other base campers around the campfire after dinner for local native storytelling. I suddenly felt like I was at camp, a really nice camp.

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