Young, WILD and free

Oh, to be young and wild and free. That common saying, which most of us recognize, is wholly applicable to the wilderness of the North Cascades and of the youth adventures carried out by the first two trips of this summer’s North Cascades Wild program.
After spending 12 days exploring North Cascades National Park (NOCA) by boat and boot, through canoeing and backpacking, 17 students and six instructors, each divided into two trips, had quite the journey to recount.

(Title) Canoeing is a core component of the youth program North Cascades Wild (Above) Trip 1 dressed to impress at Ross Lake Resort
Trip 2 goes wild for NC Wild at Ross Lake Resort

In addition to each trip accomplishing nearly 30 miles of backpacking, 15 miles of canoeing and a successful group summit of 6,102-foot Desolation Peak, they all conducted stewardship for this wild place with four days of service work building everything from turnpike bridges to toilets, trails to picnic tables, to tent pads and fire pits. Students had an opportunity to present and reflect upon their experiences to supporters consisting of donors, Park and Institute staff and friends of the students, aboard the Ross Mule.
In North Cascades Wild, youth entering into their sophomore, junior or senior years in high school from King, Skagit and Whatcom counties—most of which who have never before been to the Park or even know what canoeing is—accomplished the program’s four major themes.
Students discovered and exercise personal leadership through a daily student Leader of the Day which enables them to make key decisions as to the itinerary of the day and the overall health of their peers and instructors. Through the complete immersion in backcountry cooking, camping, backpacking and canoeing everyday of the program, students gained many outdoor skills that are completely new to them. Due to the nature of the program’s set-up with nine students and three instructors, an intimate group setting was established and students learned what it felt like to be apart of building a strong community that lasts beyond the 12 days of the program.
In addition to gaining outdoor skills, exercising personal leadership and being apart of a close-knit community, the students also forged relationships and career connections with staff from NOCA and BC Parks through the stewardship and sense of place component of the program. Gerry Cook, Maintenance Foreman, Captain of the Ross Mule and life-long lover and liver of the Skagit Valley, is an integral part of the student’s experience as he shares his many stories of the mountains and lake waters and captain’s the Ross Mule while the students give their reflective presentations. Students learned about plant and lake ecology from Michael Brondi, Volunteer Coordinator for the Park, through seed collection of native grasses. Lacey Cunningham, of the NOCA Trails Crew, taught the students the skills to successfully build new trails, turnpike bridges and fire pits in the backcountry of Nightmare Camp. In addition, visitation from fish biologists and naturalist rangers from nearby Canada, contributed to students’ overall understanding and appreciation for this wild place.
After nearly two weeks of immersion in the backcountry, it comes as no surprise that being “young and wild and free” achieves its ultimate potential through the adventures of these youth, the future generation and keepers of this place.
In the words of Thao Nguyen of this year’s Trip 1, “If I had a chance to go back I would tell the generation to not be hesitant about your dedication and choices [in this program], because they never lose but always gain something.” And gaining something we all did—new adventures and memories, new friends and family, and a new outlook on ourselves and our place in this wild, wild world.
Below is a photographic journey of Trip 1 and Trip 2’s adventures, June 28th through Uly 9, 2010.
DAY 2 – June 29, 2010

Trip 1 sails from Ross Lake Resort to Big Beaver Camp, above is Masy and Natasha
Rehmatullah and Gerry Cook share a laugh aboard the Mule for Trip 2

DAY 3 – June 30, 2010

Nicky poses for a picture in the Devil’s Creek Canyon for Trip 1
Trip 2 backpacks from Hozomeen Group Site to Nightmare Camp, a total of nearly 9 miles

DAY 4 – July 1, 2010

Trip 1 conducts service work at Lightning Boat Camp alongside Mike Brondi
Bal poses w/pulaski in hand as Trip 2 breaks down the Nightmare puncheon bridge

DAY 5 – July 2, 2010

Trip 1 accomplishes 5 mile long, 6,102-foot summit of Desolation Peak
Karla is all smiles stuck in a toilet hole as service work continues w/Lacey at Nightmare

DAY 6 – July 3, 2010

A brand-new Lightning Boat Camp is successfully completed by Trip 1
A brand new turnpike, toilet & firepit now occupy Nightmare Camp thanks to Trip 2

DAY 7 – July 4, 2010

Trip 1 backpacks from nearly 7 miles from Lightning Stock to Nightmare Camp
Trip 2 backpacks nearly 7 miles from Nightmare to Lightning Stock Camp

DAY 8 – July 5, 2010

Thao of Trip 1 helps make the bridges surrounding Nightmare Camp more secure
Shan Hua of Trip 2 collects sedge seeds with Mike Brondi at Dry Creek

DAY 9 – July 6, 2010

Bishnu shares a journal entry as Trip 1 contemplates & discusses Wilderness
Trip 2 successfully summits the 5 mile, 6,102-foot Desolation Peak

DAY 10 – July 7, 2010

Trip 1 backpacks 6 miles Nightmare Camp to Hozomeen Lake
After presenting to supporters of NC Wild, Trip 2 tests out canoe rescues

DAY 11 – July 8, 2010

Trip 1 says goodbye to Hozomeen Lake & gives presentations to supporters
Trip 2 explores waterfalls, Devil’s Creek Canyon & canoes 8 miles to McMillan Camp

DAY 12 – July 9, 2010

Whether by boat or boot, NC Wild’s Trip 1 and Trip 2 say “See you soon” to this place
Congratulations to TRIP 1 – Masy, Nicky, Bishnu, Karleigh, Thao, Youa, Griselda, Bala, Amy, Mike & Tasha and TRIP 2 – Rehmatullah, Karla, Janae, Jailyn, Mercedes, Bhagi, Bal, Shan Hua, Jesus, Kevin, Rebecca & Kelsi for an amazing beginning to Summer 2010. Ross Lake looks forward to seeing you all soon.
Photos courtesy of Amy Brown, Kelsi Franzen & students of 2010 NC Wild Trips 1 & 2.


  1. Bal Diyali

    Hi. this is really nice blog. Thank a lot’s for creating such a blog…

  2. Leslie Franzen

    Great job Kelsi covering all the aspects and sharing both experiences for the students and instructors involved. The photos are a real treasure and I am sure the students will be thrilled to see these-go NC Wild-what a wonderful experience for everyone.

  3. Saul

    Congratulations to all – NC Wild students, NCI staff, NPS rangers, and all program supporters – who put service ahead of self and help so many understand and experience the beauty, power and magic of special places like the North Cascades.

  4. isabel hernandez

    am so gratefull for this amazing program, my son had the chnace to be part of 2010 experience, it was amazing, his instructor was kelsi, she did an amazing job, rigth now he is participating at climate challenge, i know he is having and amazing time, and gaining a life time experience. he coul never done’t with out nci, tks for the wonderfull job you do, and the time and energy that has been spent at this young kids,

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