Cascades Climate Challenge update, week 2

Guest post by Lilly Nash
The first session of the Cascades Climate Challenge (CCC) is in full swing right now, with over 20 students from communities throughout Washington and Oregon learning about climate change and many interconnected over an intensive month of field studies in the North Cascades. Here’s an update on some of what they’ve been studying.
The CCC students learned early on about bear behavior, first in an amazing exploration of forest ecology, fire, habitat, mutualism and even interstellar dust with Mike Brondi at the Environmental Learning Center, and then again from Anne Braaten, a wildlife biologist for North Cascades National Park.  She drew gigantic bear prints in the dirt on a hike up Thunder Knob, as you can see here:

The next day, the students climbed like mountain goats up Sauk Mountain, reaching snowfields and stopping at a ridgeline.  We were fortunate to be joined by Don Mann, an incredible naturalist who helped us identify many flowering plants, including some wild edibles like glacier lilies. From our birds-eye view, students discussed the confluence of the Skagit and the Sauk rivers and what they could tell about the rivers from their riparian zones:

That evening we did an exercise on the sandy shore of Baker Lake, where students emulated glaciers, shuffling their feet back and forth across sand to embody the movements of lateral moraines:

The next day, our group divided up, with one half focusing on an amphibian lesson at Baker River (flat terrain, humid, replete with caves, snakes, Pacific Giant Salamanders and a toad):

and the other on a glacier lesson at Mount Baker with National Park Service geologist John Riedel tracking glacial melting rate in the North Cascades (steeper terrain, powerful water crossing experience, snowfields, visible moraines)

The next day, the two groups swapped locations.  Many people went beyond their own expectations for the more difficult hike and confidence was gained. Both days were palpably fun.

After our return from Baker Lake, the group did laundry, took showers, made telephone calls and packed for future adventures. We also prepared to teach Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Project kids next week by sharing games techniques and ideas.  Next up: one group is setting out for canoeing at Ross Lake and the other group will be hiking Boston Basin.
It is beautiful where we are to some extent, a reflection of these CCC students’ very fine hearts.

Top photo by Rick Allen; all other photos by Lilly  Nash.


  1. Aneka

    Great photo summary of the first stages!! We all had a blast and more blogs to come.

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