Think of it like a summer camp for everyone.
The North Cascades Institute, an environmental learning center, brings people closer to the natural world through a wide range of classes and trips.
So adults, you don’t have to feel jealous when you’re sending your kids off to camp. Instead, sign up for a class yourself and learn something new.
The institute offers courses on several topics. Many are at the environmental learning center at Diablo Lake, while other are field excursions around the area.
You can spend your trip sketching at Padilla Bay, learning about carnivores or backpacking to Thunder Creek.
The institute is gearing up now for its summer programs, which run from May through September.
If you register by April 15, you can get $20 off the cost of registration for most classes over $125. To register for a class, call 360-854-2599.
In addition to the classes and field trips, the institute also offers a variety of other programs, including tours in the upper Skagit Valley, lodging at the learning center when classes aren’t in session, family getaways and youth programs.
Find more information at ncascades.org.
Here are a few highlights of this summer’s lineup, selected by Christian Martin of the institute:
Field Sketching at Padilla Bay, June 8 and 9
Drawing is an invaluable skill for the curious naturalist. Libby Mills — an artist, naturalist and long-time institute instructor — will demonstrate sketching techniques to depict light and shadow on the landscape, the edges that separate petals and leaves, the organic forms of birds and bugs while exploring a special place on the Salish Sea.
Stewardship Weekend at the Learning Center, June 21 to 23
Come to the Learning Center for a specially priced weekend of stewardship and help tend to the native flora of the wilderness campus at Diablo Lake.
Work will be rewarded with delicious meals prepared with local and organic ingredients, local storytellers’ campfire presentations and comfortable lodging each night.
Thunder Creek Backpack, July 11 to 14
Join institute naturalists on a backpacking trip to the Meadow Cabins in the Thunder Creek backcountry and learn about the plants and wildlife of the valley, and the stories of past adventurers, miners and trappers.
Carnivores of the North Cascades, July 26 to 28
Wildlife biologists Scott Fitkin and John Rohrer will draw on their 20-plus years of fieldwork with rare Cascadian carnivores to share the fascinating ecology of the elusive gray wolf, wolverine, lynx and grizzly bear.
Attendees will visit wilderness habitats and learn about research projects, including a visit to an active camera station, a DNA hair snag site and a wolverine research trap.
Digital Wildflower Photography, Aug. 9 to 11
Join photographer Mark Turner to learn and practice techniques for photographing wildflowers in their natural environment while gaining knowledge about how to get the most out of your pocket digital camera.
Field sessions offer chances to photograph artful natural landscapes, plant portraits and animal species in their habitats.
Pikas and Marmots Alpine Exploration, Aug. 23 to 25
The North Cascades’ beautiful alpine areas are home to some of the most charismatic, yet vulnerable, animals: pikas and marmots.
Hike with wildlife biologists Jeff Anderson and Roger Christopherson into the mountains to learn about the ecology of these denizens of the high country and the alpine ecosystems they inhabit.
North Cascades Institute calendar
- May 4 and 5: Exploring Yellow and Jones Islands by Boat and Boot with Jeff Anderson &the Orion
- May 17 to 19: Printmaking with Ink and Watercolor with Molly Hashimoto
- June 8 and 9: Field Sketching at Padilla Bay with Libby Mills
- June 21 to 23: Hands to Work: Stewardship Weekend
- June 28 to 30: Landscape Watercolor in the North Cascades with Molly Hashimoto
- June 28 to 30: The Artful Map: A One-Page Nature Journal with Jocelyn Curry
- June 28 to 30: In the Company of Corvids with John Marzloff
- July 5 to 7: Early July Family Getaway
- July 11 to 4: Thunder Creek Natural &Cultural History Backpack with Institute staff
- July 19 to 21: Mid July Family Getaway
- July 26 to 28: Carnivores of the North Cascades with Scott Fitkin and John Rohrer
- July 26 to 28: An Exploration of Alpine Ecology with Saul &Shelley Weisberg
- Aug. 2 to 4: Dragonflies and Damselflies of the North Cascades with Dennis Paulson
- Aug. 9 to 11: Geology of the North Cascades with Dave Tucker
- Aug. 9 to 11: Digital Wildflower Photography with a Pocket Camera with Mark Turner
- Aug. 9 to11: What is Eating our Forests? Wood borers and Defoliators with Susan Prichard
- Aug. 15 to 18: Lookout Poets and Backcountry Tales on Ross Lake with Gerry Cook &Saul Weisberg
- Aug. 16 to18: Mid August Family Getaway
- Aug. 23 and 24: People and Places of the Upper Skagit with Bob Mierendorf &Gerry Cook
- Aug. 23 to 25: Pikas and Marmots Alpine Exploration &Roger Christophersen
- Aug. 30 to Sept. 1: Labor Day Family Getaway
- Sept. 14: Snake Count with Jon Rohrer and Jeff Anderson
- Sept. 20 to 22: Late September Family Getaway
- Sept. 21 and 22: Hawkwatching over Lake Chelan with Kent Woodruff, John Rohrer &Jeff Anderson
- Sept. 28: Mount Baker: The Story of Volcanoes I with Dave Tucker
- Sept. 28: Street Smart Naturalist in Seattle with David Williams
- Sept. 29: Mount Baker: The Story of Volcanoes II with Dave Tucker
- Oct. 5: Birds of Bellingham Bay with Joe Meche &the Snow Goose
- Oct. 26: Northwest Mushrooms with Lee Whitford
- Dec. 14: Salmon and Eagles with Libby Mills