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Published: Saturday, April 9, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

North Cascades Institute offers base camp for wilderness explorations

  • Visitors to the North Cascades Institute's learning center can go canoeing on Diablo Lake in the learning center's 36-foot, 18-person canoe.

    North Cascades Institute photos

    Visitors to the North Cascades Institute's learning center can go canoeing on Diablo Lake in the learning center's 36-foot, 18-person canoe.

  • Geologist and botanist Mark Darrach stops with a class on top of Rattlesnake Mountain near Moses Lake in the Arid Lands Ecology Reserve in Eastern Was...

    North Cascades Institute

    Geologist and botanist Mark Darrach stops with a class on top of Rattlesnake Mountain near Moses Lake in the Arid Lands Ecology Reserve in Eastern Washington, which is normally closed to the public, as part of the North Cascades Institute´s field excursion "Bunchgrass Dreams: Exploring Washington's Sagebrush-Steppe." This year the field excursion will be offered May 14 and 15.

  • The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, perched on the north shore of Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park, gives visitors access to ...

    North Cascades Institute

    The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, perched on the north shore of Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park, gives visitors access to the lake for lounging as well as journaling and drawing.

  • Family getaways at the North Cascades Institute's learning center provide myriad opportunities for getting outside, including family canoe trips.

    North Cascades Institute

    Family getaways at the North Cascades Institute's learning center provide myriad opportunities for getting outside, including family canoe trips.

When it comes to getting in touch with the outdoors, it often helps to have a guide.
The North Cascades Institute, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is just that guide.
Not only does the Skagit County-based institute take groups on overnight camping excursions around Washington, but it also operates a learning center with three hostellike lodges on the north shore of Diablo Lake inside North Cascades National Park.
The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, just off of Highway 20 about 75 miles east of Burlington and I-5, has become a beloved backcountry hub, thanks to the institute's programs geared for adults, families and even weary summer hikers looking for a place to unwind with a meal, a hot shower and educational activities.
In short, the learning center is a modern-day summer camp for all ages, including opportunities for hiking, yoga, canoeing, campfire songs and, most of all, learning about the outdoors.
Visitors to the learning center campus will find picturesque trails, a canoe dock, outdoor learning shelters, classrooms, a dining hall, an amphitheater and a library.
Facilities and local trails are accessible for those with disabilities. Pets are not permitted.
Built to environmental standards in 2005, the learning center hosts a variety of spring, summer and fall retreats and also serves as a home base for many of the institute's field excursions, which are open for registration now at www.ncascades.org.
Some of the field excursions are overnight camping trips such as "Bunchgrass Dreams: Exploring Washington's Sagebrush-Steppe" on May 14 and 15 in Eastern Washington ($175), while others are day trips such as "Mount Baker: The Story of Northwest Volcanoes" on Aug. 27 ($95).
Other topics include art (watercolor, digital photography, cedar weaving), biology (dragonflies, rare carnivores, butterflies, mushrooms, birds), history (Skagit dams, Ross Lake, Washington trails), writing (poetry, natural history essays and blogging) and field excursions (Mount Baker, Seattle and Ross and Diablo lakes in the North Cascades).
Wherever your interests lie, now is the time to dream and plan.
Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037, sjackson@heraldnet.com.


Family getaways
What: Families are invited to stay the weekend at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center and choose from a list of activities including big-canoe paddling, hiking, outdoor games and nature crafts. In the evening, gather around the campfire for stories and songs under the stars.
When: May 28 to 30, July 1 to 3, July 22 to 24, Aug. 12 to 14, Sept. 2 to 4 or Nov. 24 to 26.
Cost: $225 for ages 18 and older; $155 ages 3 to 17, free for children age 2 and younger.
Register: Call 360-854-2599. Online registration is not available.
Diablo downtime
What: This tranquil weekend getaway is for adults who want to explore the wild and scenic North Cascades at their own pace while staying at the learning center. Activities, which are optional, include yoga classes, guided hikes and canoe trips.
When: July 8 to 10, Aug. 19 to 21 or Sept. 16 to 18
Cost: $245 (triple occupancy), $325 (double) $485 (single)
Register: See www.ncascades.org or call 360-854-2599.
Base camp
What: Stay overnight at the learning center for as many days and nights as you'd like on a space-available basis.
Drop by after your adventure in the national park and refuel with meals made with local, organic ingredients, a hot shower and outdoor activities led by guides and rangers.
Options may include guided hikes on nearby trails, games, art activities, canoeing, natural history presentations and tutorials on wilderness skills.
When: June 17 until the end of August, and on weekends through October.
Cost: $125 (private room), $95 (single shared room), $160 (double), $195 (triple), $230 (quadruple). This is one of the most flexible and affordable overnight options at the learning center.
Register: Sign up by calling 360-854-2599. For day-of registration sign up, call 206-526-2561.
Take a class
See www.ncascades.org for list of 2011 learning center getaways and field trips, including prices and other details.



Here's a look at some of the North Cascades Institute's other getaways and field trips for 2011. See www.ncascades.org for prices and more detailed information.
Reptiles and Amphibians of the Methow, April 29 to 30
Bunchgrass Dreams: Exploring Washington's Sagebrush-Steppe, May 14 to 15
Naturalists' Delight: Spring Magic in the Methow, May 14 to 15
Hands to Work: Learning Center Stewardship Weekend, May 20 to 22
Migration and Song: Spring Birding Weekend, June 3 to 5
Landscape Watercolor in the North Cascades: Summer Glory, June 10 to 12
The Artful Map: A One-Page Nature Journal, June 10 to 12
In the Company of Corvids, June 17 to 19
Methow Wings: Birds and Bugs of the Eastside, July 8 to 10
Gorge, Diablo and Ross: History of the Skagit Dams, July 20 to 21
Ross Lake by Boat and Boot: People and Places of the Upper Skagit, July 21 to 24
Northwest Naturalists Retreat, July 28 to 31
Digital Wildflower Photography with a Pocket Camera, July 31 to Aug, 2
Artistic Weaving with Western Red Cedar, Aug. 4 to 7
Dragonflies and Damselflies of the North Cascades, Aug. 5 to 7
Writing in the North Cascades: The Art of the Quest Narrative, Aug. 22 to 24
The Beat Goes On: Lookout Poets and Backcountry Tales on Ross Lake, Aug. 25 to 28
Mount Baker: The Story of Northwest Volcanoes, Aug. 27
Thunder Arm Writing Retreat, Sept. 8 to 11
Street-Smart Naturalizing in Seattle, Sept. 24
Writing in the North Cascades: The Art of the Essay, Oct. 7 to 9
Landscape Watercolor in the North Cascades: Autumn Bounty, Oct. 7 to 9
Toadstools, Fairy Rings and Witches Butter: Northwest Mushrooms, Oct. 29


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