NC Wild: Fall Experiences Build on Summer's Past

With the start of a new school year, autumn is often a time of new beginnings. For North Cascades Wild participants, the season is a chance to reconnect and continue building on experiences from the past summer.
From June through August, 50 high school students from Whatcom, Skagit and King counties spent 12 days canoeing, backpacking and completing stewardship work. In addition to outdoor skills and stewardship, participants acquired skills in leadership, community building and natural history. Trips were held in North Cascades National Park and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
During the 12-day trips many challenges were overcome, accomplishments made and lasting friendships created. In order to prepare students for their experiences over the summer, spring day trips were held to introduce participants to the NC Wild program. Throughout this fall season, several weekend day trips occurred that provided NC Wilders opportunities to continue strengthening these recent experiences and re-engage with the NC Wild community and North Cascades landscape.

Top: With PFDs zipped and paddles in hand, several groups of NC Wild staff and students headed into the backcountry for 12-day trips this past summer. Above: NC Wild program alumni return to the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center to reflect upon their summer experiences and participate in stewardship work. Photo by Rick Allen.

In September, students from Skagit and Whatcom counties returned to the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center to partake in and celebrate North Cascades Institute’s 25th Anniversary picnic. During this time students and staff reminisced with familiar fun games and participated in a stewardship project of trail maintenance on the Environmental Learning Center campus. Students also had the opportunity to return to the forest and reflect upon and discuss their experiences in the North Cascades backcountry.
Most significantly, each brave student shared in front of a crowd of at least 100 people what they enjoyed most and learned about themselves during their NC Wild trip this summer. Dawned in their red NC Wild t-shirts, each student took their turn at the microphone. Unique, special memories and perspectives were told, but the overall message shared by the majority was that their experiences during the 12-day trips taught them that they can accomplish anything they put their mind to.

Young shares his experiences from his 12-day trip on Ross Lake during the 25th annual fall picnic in September at the Learning Center. Photo by Rick Allen.
Janet hones in on her public speaking skills to share her summer experiences with a crowd of more than 100 people. Photo by Rick Allen.

In early October, even more students from Skagit, Whatcom and King counties united to relive their time in the backcountry during the 2011 NC Wild Reunion. Held at Seattle Park and Rec’s Camp Long Lodge, program staff and participants came together, some for the first time since their trips during the summer.
Opportunities for stewardship work were plentiful during the reunion. With the guidance of Camp Long staff, everyone pitched in their energy and enthusiasm. Some pulled massive strands of invasive Himalayan blackberry. Laughter and surprise were heard as a bowling ball, car jack and car tires were removed from the blackberry thickets. This turned the work into a treasure hunt. Time and energy was also spent pulling weeds and laying fresh mulch in the park’s garden beds.

Macaele thinks of a creative way to introduce the mcleod during a tool safety talk. Photo by Steph Bennett.
Son shows off the bowling ball that was retrieved during the NC Wild Reunion while removing invasive Himalayan blackberries at Camp Long. Photo by Steph Bennett.
NC Wilders work alongside Camp Long staff pulling weeds and removing invasive plant species during the NC Wild Reunion. Photo by Steph Bennett.

Once stewardship work was completed and everyone had indulged in a pizza lunch, more fun was had as students and staff relived their times together during a slide show and a game of Jeopardy. Humor and a tinge of competition were at the forefront of this game as staff quizzed participants about the places they visited through questions about outdoor skills, cultural and natural history and other topics addressed while in the field. Prior to returning home, staff presented NC Wilders with certificates acknowledging students’ completion of 30 hours of community service.

NC Wild alumni wait in anticipation for the next question during a competitive bout of Jeopardy. Photo by Tasha Lexin.
Several NC Wild Reunion participants come together after a day of summer reflection, games and stewardship. Photo by Steph Bennett.

For the final day trip near the end of October, NC Wild staff and participants returned to the North Cascades to join forces with volunteers of North Cascades Institute’s North Cascades Stewards volunteers. This was a great way to end the NC Wild season as the first spring day trip in March was spent preparing the same nursery for the spring and summer seasons. Together the group helped prepare North Cascades National Park’s Marblemount Native Plant Nursery for the upcoming winter season. Side by side, volunteers worked to pull weeds, winterize ground beds and wash stacks of plastic pots that will hold native plant species next spring. These plants will be used to restore vegetation areas within the National Park. Many of the seeds used to grow the native species were collected this past summer by NC Wild students while out in the field.

Jaela works with Student Conservation Association and North Cascades Institute volunteers to winterize plant beds at the Marblemount Native Plant Nursery. Photo by Codi Hamblin.
Scrubbing a large pile of pots was quite the accomplishment for NC Wild alum, Isaac, as well as North Cascades Institute volunteers. Photo by Codi Hamblin.
NC Wild Coordinator, Amy Brown, and NC Wild alum, Jaela, take an opportunity for a photo op while winterizing plant beds at the Marblemount Nursery. Photo by Codi Hamblin.

As the 2011 NC Wild season has drawn to a close, the hope is that the experiences these spirited students endured in the spring, summer and fall are only the beginning of life-long connections. For many students, the NC Wild program was a culmination of entirely new experiences, from sleeping in a tent, constructing tent pads and turn pikes, to paddling a canoe for the first time, summiting a mountain and living with a community of strangers in the backcountry. NC Wilders are commended for taking the chance to accept these various challenges and for making this 2011 NC Wild season such a fun and rewarding experience.

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