Hannah marvels at what fell from the “biggest leaf maple” at the Blue House.

Fall 2021 Photo Round-Up!

A lot can happen in 3 months—like an entire season of Mountain School, an epic flooding event, and sightings of wolves, cougars and dragons! On the eve of Winter Solstice, let’s look back on the highlights of this Fall, as told through photos by Institute staff. Warm beverage recommended!

Fall colors & textures

There’s no better way to start this season-celebrating collection than with a wallop of autumnal colors and textures. Every season has its delights, and turned-up-to-11 shades of red, orange, and yellow are this season’s specialty.

Alexa’s view of Pyramid Peak framed by golden cottonwoods.
Finding beauty in the details, Jodi appreciates the variety of maple leaves turning in Big Rock Park.
Gorgeous hues at Hart’s Pass—one stop along Christian’s Fall road trip.
Kayla and Baby Sterling enjoy the colors in their neighborhood park.
Stephanie’s fall Base Camp getaway on Diablo Lake.
Darcie captured these frosty textures on a hike.
Kari and Tre found the first larches turning gold at Eagle Pass.

Our Mountain School crew

Fall at the Institute means Mountain School! If not visibly, the entire Institute staff was jumping up and down on the inside to see this program’s return. While our camera lens is usually trained on the students’ experiences, here we see the wonderful humans who made the magic happen.

First day of Mountain School—what an achievement! Left to right: MK Kirkpatrick-Waite, Sammy Porter, Talia Schmitt, Kari Paustian, Hannah Black, and Mia Munoz—plus Alexa Brandt (not pictured).
Sammy—Mountain School Manager and mastermind of our “Choose Your Adventure” adaptation of this program—greets our first group of students to visit campus since March 2020.
Mountain School Coordinator MK, literally at the center of the excitement, orients students for their day of discovery.
Finally!—back in the woods with students and Senior Instructor Kari’s enthusiasm magnetizes her group’s attention.
Senior Instructor Alexa helps students find joy in connecting with nature, and these smiles prove it—goal accomplished!
No stranger to inspiring students on the trail, Instructor Hannah also guided backcountry trips this summer in Youth Leadership Adventures.
Instructor Talia—who has worked as an environmental science educator in several national parks—shows students a giant cauliflower mushroom.
Seen here in Whatcom Falls Park, Instructor Mia made a graceful leap to the Mountain School team after assisting Youth Leadership Adventures earlier this year.

Trails and the treasures there found

Nature-lovers for all seasons, Institute staffers know that despite Fall’s drizzly days and descending temps, the North Cascades region is a great place for exploring and discovering with friends.

A forest friend that Kim happened upon, adorned with mushroom and lichen beard.
MK and Hannah found a bounty of edible Hedgehog—or sweet tooth—mushrooms at Stetattle Creek.
Flitting from branch to branch, a curious Canada Jay accompanied Stephanie along the trail.
Bec and a friend of the Institute spent the day looking for mushrooms and other wonders at Deception Pass.
Behind the Blue House, Hannah spots signs of a Mountain Lion visitor along the Skagit River.
Kim gets out on the trail with her beloved pups, Tater Tot and Luna.
Alexa finds a bright red coral fungus.
Hannah napping above Cutthroat Pass with her 4-footed nephew, Bernie. 
Possible wolf prints spotted by MK—”We heard them howl a few minutes after we found these tracks!” 
Juniper looking quite natural in the woods, on a hike with MK in Marblemount.
Further afield at Sitka National Historical Park, Catherine appreciated some historic totem poles like the Mosquito Legend Pole, a blend of the Haida carving style with three Tlingit stories.

So. Much. Rain.

The epic rainfall this November put many in Whatcom and Skagit counties under water, and the added punch of high winds knocked out power all around the region. We’re grateful to watch the water recede and to live in a community of folks who help one another during hard times like this.

Gorge Dam spilling. Photo by Alexa Brandt
Debris washed onto the Diablo Dam Road bridge at Sourdough Creek. Photo by Kate Little
The rush of water and debris from Sourdough Creek forged a different path into Diablo Lake. Photo by Kate Little
Debris from Sourdough Creek accumulated along the shoreline of Diablo Lake. Photo by Alexa Brandt.
View of Diobsud Creek from North Cascades Highway 20 bridge. Photo by Hannah Black
The region-wide flooding event as told in Skagit Valley Herald headlines. Photo by Hannah Black
Sinking ankle-deep into the mud near the Blue House. Photo by Hannah Black
North Cascades Highway 20, closed at milepost 98. Photo by Jeff Giesen
Downed trees took out power lines on Darcie’s flooded street.

Our Wild Views

We can never get enough of the big eyescapes, magnificent mountains and moody skies of our North Cascades and beyond. There’s always a new angle, a new light, a new feeling about these views.

Jodi drove up Mount Baker Highway to take in the views at Artist Point—so beautiful she went back the next weekend too!
Kim peers out at the Olympic Mountains across the Salish Sea from a bunker at Fort Ebey.
Kari captures a moody view of Sourdough Ridge at dusk.
Stephanie’s coffee and morning view at Neve Camp along Thunder Creek.
At the exact right moment, Jodi captured a rainbow touching down in Skagit Valley.
Another favorite stop along Christian’s road trip this fall—Metolius River in Central Oregon.
MK’s snowy view atop Lookout Mountain in Twisp.
Larch season gives way to snow season on Stephanie’s hike to Blue Lake.
Check out the incredible palette of colors and textures in this skyscape over Sedro Woolley, captured by Jodi!

And just for FUN!

Take a peek at how staffers—and in many cases, friends-who-happen-to-work-together—have fun when they’re off the clock.

The success of Mountain School’s Fall 2021 season was appropriately celebrated with bowling and sequins!
Hello, tiny dragon! Mama Kayla and 7-week old Sterling.
Patia, Alexa, and Kari—photobombed by one of the season’s last golden larches.
Catherine with her nephews and niece at Sitka National Historical Park.
Grins mark the discovery that Kari and Hannah share a mutual friend—Kari grew up with Hannah’s college friend! 
Hannah, Dan, Alexa and Kate spent a service day planting native plants at Pressentin Park with the Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group. 
Halloween food-sharing, creative costumery, and general goofing around at the Blue House.
Staff gathered to celebrate former Development Coordinator, Paula and wish her well as she leaves for new adventures.


Thanks for coming along on this photo round-up! As always, we invite you to share your own adventures with us—please reach out to us at photos@ncascades.org and your pics just might appear in our next round up!


  1. Jodi Broughton

    This makes me appreciate even more that I get to work for such a dynamic organization with fun and creative people in a stunning location! Thanks for this awesome curation of photos, Stephanie!

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