The end of summer on Ross Lake

The final North Cascades Wild trips of the 2010 summer embarked on their Ross Lake adventures during the middle of August. A total of eighteen students from Skagit, Whatcom, and King Counties and six instructors spent twelve days forming community, practicing leadership and outdoor skills, doing stewardship work, and learning about and exploring their extended backyard. Highlights from the trips include canoeing on Ross Lake, a silent canoe in Devils Creek Canyon, meeting and working with North Cascades National Park employees, backpacking, exploring ideas of wilderness and Wilderness, star gazing, shared laughter, meeting supporters of NC Wild on the Ross Lake Mule, campfires, and hiking Desolation Peak.

Trip 5 on the dock at Ross Lake Resort. Title photo: North Cascades Wild students canoeing on Ross Lake.
Trip 6 at the Ross Dam Trailhead.

For our stewardship projects, these trips worked with North Cascades National Park trail crew to expand Deer Lick camp to accommodate larger groups (such as North Cascades Wild!). Students and instructors swung Pulaskis and sledgehammers, wrestled root wads out of the ground, dug out layers of duff in order to create new tent pads and trails to them, built a new cook site and campfire ring, and rerouted a trail to the toilet. Mike Brondi, North Cascades National Park, led students in collecting seeds to be grown at the NPS nursery in Marblemount, removing invasive species, and replanting an area using plants grown at the nursery from seeds collected by previous NC Wild groups. Mike also taught the students about the importance of fire to some tree species in the North Cascades ecosystem, specifically lodgepole pines to open their serotinous cones, by burning potato chips and showing how the cones opened up as a result of the heat. Students also had the opportunity to assist with research being done in the park. From canoes and snorkeling in Ross Lake, students observed red sided shiners and recorded information about their location and behavior, as well as collected data about the water.

Jason, Jealisa, Cleo, and Marcus with one of the roots they removed at Deer Lick.
Surafel, Kelsi, Matt, and Yuriy making a trail to new tent pads at Deer Lick.
Mike Brondi teaches Iveth, Geramey, and Surafel about native and invasive grasses at Dry Creek.
Matt, Geramey, Surafel, and Yuriy preparing to plant native grasses at Ten Mile Island.
Rebecca, Matt, and Kelsi pull reed canary grass at Ten Mile Island.
Cyprus snorkeling in Ross Lake to study red sided shiners.

Students, many of whom had never been camping previously, became experts at setting up tents, cooking delicious meals for the rest of the group on camp stoves, and packing backpacks.

Gana and Sukh prepare a pancake breakfast the morning after hiking Desolation Peak.
Omar and Alex canoe on Ross Lake.
The students of Trip 6 wading in Hozomeen Lake.
Sukh, Omar, Sabir, Gana, and Alex around the campfire at Hozomeen camp.
An, Gabi, Nawal, Rebecca, and Kevin on their way up Desolation.

Each day a different student took on the role of Leader of the Day. That student ran morning and evening meetings for the group, made decisions about the structure of the day, and served as the representative and spokesperson for the group when we met any visitors.

During the morning meeting, the Leader of the Day, Nawal, uses the map to show the group where they’ll be going that day.

Both trips had the opportunity to ride on the Ross Lake Mule with Captain Gerry Cook. While on the Mule, students shared their personal stories and talked about their experience with North Cascades Wild with visiting supporters of the program. In addition to speaking about their diverse backgrounds, students shared their experiences on their trips, the mental and physical challenges they faced while backpacking and canoeing and how they were overcoming them, perspectives on wilderness, reflections on using their leadership skills, and new skills learned. Overwhelmingly, many students additionally shared about the tight community that developed on each trip, often referring to the others on their trip as a “second family.”

Gabi shares her story with visitors on the Ross Lake Mule.

North Cascades Wild seeks to connect students to public lands through service work, leadership development, community building, and sense of place, thus inspiring participants to become citizen stewards of the environment and their home communities.

Trip 6 at the fire lookout on the summit of Desolation Peak.
Trip 5 at Desolation Camp.
Yuriy and Surafel canoeing silently through the steep-walled Devils Creek Canyon.

These two trips were a great close to the summer portion of North Cascades Wild. Students and staff are now preparing to see each other again at fall day trips, a reunion, and the upcoming Youth Leadership Conference! Many more pictures from Trips 5 & 6 are posted on the North Cascades Institute’s Flickr page. Thank you to everyone who helps make North Cascades Wild great!

Photos courtesy of the instructors of NC Wild Trips 5 & 6.


  1. Amy Brown

    Awesome article, Rebecca! This is a testament to our partners and the amazing students that bravely took a chance to come on this trip. Well done!

  2. Cype The Hype !


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