Who cares about the outdoors and why? Our friends at the North Cascades Institute (NCI) know that one way to build this bond is to get youth outside for some hands-on adventure.
Amy Brown helped NCI launch the North Cascades Wild program in 2006 and has been coordinating it ever since. The program seeks to connect students to public lands through service work, leadership development, and community building. The goal: inspire participants to become citizen stewards of the environment and their home communities.
Since 2005 REI has awarded North Cascades Institute $30,000 through our market-based grants program to support both North Cascades Wild and Mountain School.
Amy shares the following experiences with the REI Blog:
At the heart of our program is a 12-day canoe camping and backpacking expedition into northwest Washington’s amazing public lands, including North Cascades National Park or Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This past July, on our third North Cascades Wild trip of the summer, 20 underserved youth from Western Washington and 2 NCI leaders ventured out for 12 days into the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest for an adventure of a lifetime. Here are some of our favorite moments:
The unforgettable views of Mount Baker towering above the magical green waters of Baker Lake. AmAAAzing!
Watching the sunset casting misty blue shadows over the mountain while gathering on the dock for evening meetings at Maple Grove camp.
Watching students master canoeing on the glacier-kissed turquoise waters of Baker Lake.
Seeing each student develop their leadership skills as Leader of the Day.
The laughter and learning that took place when North Cascades Wild students lead a service project for local youth.
Our backpacking adventures were complete with slippery snow hiking, snowball fights, chilly nights, climbs to Park Butte lookout and adventures up Railroad Grade.
Watching a group of teenagers who started out as strangers come together to form an amazingly tight family by day 12.
We laughed harder than we have in a long time, got sweatier and dirtier than we ever thought possible, enjoyed incredible “eye candy” views for twelve days and gained memories that will stay with us forever.
At the end of the trip one youth said, “At first I didn’t care as much. But now seeing how beautiful it is out here and seeing how some people treat it, makes me want to help protect it.” Another participant summed up the whole experience saying, “I learned that I am a stewardship person.”
We would like to extend our warmest gratitude to REI, the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and North Cascades National Park for their support in helping make this program successful. Thank you – we can’t wait to do it all again next summer!