NC Wild pulls weeds & plants seeds of excitement

As spring slowly transitions to summer in North Cascades National Park, reminders of the adventures that await North Cascades Wild (NC Wild) participants are everywhere in the landscape. But before embarking on the 12-day backcountry journeys, these students must be  prepared.
Thanks to the third and final day trip of the 2010 spring season, eleven of the 54 high school youth that will be participating in this year’s NC Wild trips are now better prepared in both canoeing and service work.
On Saturday, May 22nd, participants from Skagit and Whatcom counties traveled to the North Cascades Institute’s Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake to spend a day with NC Wild instructors Amy Brown, Kelsi Franzen, Mike Parelskin and Corey White, and North Cascades National Park Volunteer Coordinator, Mike Brondi.
After a grand tour of the Learning Center and experiencing on-site forest succession with Mike Brondi, the students worked alongside volunteers of the Institute’s annual Stewardship Weekend in pulling weeds along walkways, as well as identifying native plants using local fieldguides. My group in particular, consisting of Gabriela, Karla and Jailyn, became fascinated with the extensive roots of the weedy Quack Grass (Elytrigia repens) and noticed the rust-colored nodes of the mycorrhizal fungi attached to the roots of the Red Alder (Alnus rubra), which aid in nitrogen fixation in disturbed soils.

(Title) Gabriela is all smiles during trail weed pulling at the Learning Center   (Above) Mike Brondi shows the presence of Red Alder in a disturbed environment
Karla shows the extensive roots of the quack grass
Using Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast fieldguide to identify Common Tansy

A delicious lunch was provided by Institute chefs in the Dining Hall. Following the meal students took part in a fun, communication-style activity called “Tanks and Commanders” in which a group of 3 people all must communicate in different ways, but work together as a team, in order to beat or “attack” the other groups.

Amy & Griselda participate in “Tanks and Commanders” after lunch

In the afternoon, having completed the service component of the day trip, the students were oriented to the different equipment, positions and paddle strokes of tandem canoeing. As is typical in the afternoons on Diablo Lake, a strong easterly wind had picked up. This was the first time canoeing for almost all of the students and they maneuvered the canoes like pros, even in the adverse mountain weather!

Jaelisa steers the canoe on Diablo Lake for the first time
Colonial & Pyramid Peak peek out through the clouds as NC Wild students canoe
Amy steers as Griselda maneuvers the bow

The trip concluded with a group sharing circle of the day’s highlights, and each student shared an aspiration that they had before embarking on the upcoming summer trips.
I reflect now upon how much my relationship with these students has deepened since I first met them several months ago. Even in this small time frame, we have grown in our friendships, in stewardship to the land and in leadership within ourselves and among each other. I am so eager and excited for June 28th to come, so that I may continue this unforgettable journey with this group of inspiring young leaders.

The NC Wild crew on May 22nd’s spring day trip.
Photos courtesy of Cindy Bjorklund and Kelsi Franzen.


  1. Leslie Franzen

    Looks like a great group of students and a great instructor-should be a really fun summer!

  2. Aneka

    What a great introduction to the upcoming summer of fun!!! Great job NC Wild staff, these students are going to be ready for Ross Lake.

  3. vida morkunas

    what a great smile in the cover pic for this entry! And what great work you continue to do with youth – all the best to the entire team in their summer adventures !!

  4. Bruce Parelskin

    Mike, we love reading about your program. You all are doing great things not just for the environment, but for the kids too! Keep up the great work!

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