A Weekend of Warmth and Snow

Written by North Cascades Education Intern, Matt Kraska.
It’s hard to believe it has already been two weeks since Thanksgiving. As many North Cascades Institute staff said their goodbyes and left to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends, others were saying hello as they arrived at the Environmental Learning Center for the Thanksgiving Family Getaway. Families traveled from a variety of places to spend a few days celebrating and feasting together. In contrast to our fall Mountain School programs that fill the dining hall with 5th-8th grade youth, this event was filled with folks of all ages.

The giant snowman built in the middle of the amphitheatre, a tribute to the winter wonderland of the North Cascades.

The forest around Diablo Lake was blanketed with snow from days earlier, and there was more in the forecast for the weekend. All afternoon on Thanksgiving day the drizzle was on the verge of becoming snow, and soon enough flakes of white began to fall from the once gray sky. For many, this was the first snow of the year. Laughter filled the campus as everyone began catching snowflakes on their tongues, throwing snowballs, and building giant snow people. A little winter weather is sometimes all it takes to bring people together.

A father and son enjoying Thanksgiving together dinner in the Dining Hall.

After the excitement over the coming of winter had dissipated a little, it was time for a Thanksgiving feast. The chefs at North Cascades Institute pulled off another great meal, and participant spirits were high and their bellies full. As one man claimed, North Cascades Institute is the best restaurant in the Northwest! The food alone is what brought him, his wife, and family back for another visit, he said. Another participant felt a bit differently when he and his wife suggested an addition to the menu, Squirrel Head Stew, as they plucked the chords of their fiddles around a fire in the Lily Shelter. The weather was a bit nippy each night but spirits were warmed by fire, music, and s’mores.

Participants bundle up to catch sunrays and views of snowcapped peaks from Diablo Lake on board The Salish Dancer.

As folks awoke slowly on Friday morning, the sun too chose to awake from its dark room and spread its light on the Environmental Learning Center. Sunshine poured in over the peaks, spreading rays of warmth over the campus. While many ventured along the trails leading to Sourdough Falls, others strapped on PFDs and basked in the sunlight on Diablo Lake. Our big canoe, The Salish Dancer, was boarded for her last trip of the year. As the sun dipped from view behind Pyramid Peak, the chefs called the kids into the kitchen for an afternoon of baking and a respite from the cold. Later, fresh ginger snaps and hot cocoa were awaiting as hikers returned from their excursions through the the woods.
As quickly as Thanksgiving had snuck up on us, the weekend was over. It was time for everyone to say goodbye to the snow and follow the Skagit River down valley, around the newly fallen boulder on State Route 20, and back to the awaiting comfort of their homes. Our new friends left with spirits warmed, bellies full, and a renewed sense of connection to the North Cascades.
All photos courtesy North Cascades Institute Family Getaway Staff, Matt Kraska, Ryan Weisberg, Susan Brown, Emmanuel Camarillo.

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