Building Community Through Stewardship
Stewardship and friendship were at the heart of the efforts during the third North Cascades Wild spring day trip in May. More than a dozen participants from Whatcom and Skagit counties came together at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center as a final chance to meet with their peers before we set out together in the wilderness this summer.
Some program participants met earlier this spring to volunteer a day of service at North Cascades National Park’s native plant nursery and also attended the Migratory Shorebird Festival at the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. This day’s trip was set aside for NC Wild participants and staff to volunteer during North Cascades Institute’s annual Stewardship Weekend, an event bringing volunteers of all ages together to assist in plant restoration efforts on Learning Center grounds. It was also a chance for NC Wild youth to familiarize themselves with both canoe and paddle, as it will serve as a mode of transportation for the program.
This summer these students, as well as others from Northwest Washington, will embark on 12-day backpacking and canoe wilderness expeditions in North Cascades National Park and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. During these trips participants will focus on leadership development, community building, sense of place and stewardship. Spring and fall day trips, such as this one, provide a chance for students to build community through service work.
An NC Wild participant works diligently to remove invasive plant species at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.
North Cascades Institute staff and NC Wild participants work side-by-side during the Institute’s annual Stewardship Weekend.
Teamwork was at the the forefront of stewardship this weekend as NC Wild participants worked together to remove alder trees.
Following a scenic drive along the North Cascades Highway, staff and participants congregated at the Learning Center where we met with Mike Brondi, North Cascades National Park volunteer coordinator. Mike assisted in leading the efforts for all volunteers that day. He provided direction and knowledge for NC Wild participants by introducing the concept of native vs. non-native plant species of the North Cascades, and that not all weeds are bad, a concept new to many of us.
Instructors and students eventually split into two groups, with one set of volunteers diving right into restoration work while the others situated themselves with life jackets and paddles. Each group had a hand in both activities.
While participating in restoration work, NC Wilders joined in with other Institute staff and volunteers for the stewardship weekend to remove small alder and Douglas fir trees. Some of the trees, although small in size, were quite established with their roots clinging tightly in the soil. Teamwork was at the forefront of this challenge, as several students worked together to remove the tree. Although native, red alder is one of the first trees to colonize a disturbed area. Â Hundreds of them, along with Douglas fir, have quickly established themselves on the Learning Center campus. Volunteers also worked to pull invasive species such as oxeye daisy, dandylions and quackgrass, among others.
Meanwhile, on the shores of Diablo Lake, NC Wilders tried their hands at paddling. For many of them this was their first time in a canoe. Together we practiced our strokes, draws and pries. Teamwork was also at the fore with this exercise as communication is key to successfully paddle a canoe. Laughter echoed along the shore as students worked through the challenges of maneuvering and maintaining a consistent speed in the wind. Each group made great progress in the short time we had to practice. I look forward to seeing students refine their skills this summer as we paddle along Ross and Baker Lakes!
Excited NC Wild participants all geared up for an afternoon in the canoe.
NC Wilders prepare and listen to directions prior to launching their canoes in Diablo Lake.
Students focus on their paddles while getting the hang of their first canoe experience in Diablo Lake.
This day trip at the Learning Center was the final gathering before we embark on our expeditions this summer. It was great to visit with participants I met earlier this spring, and others for the first time. Many participants formed new connections within the NC Wild community that will only grow stronger during our time together. I look forward to getting to know everyone more this summer as we backpack, canoe and continue our work as stewards of the North Cascades.All photos courtesy of the author.