Day 11: Today was our last day sea kayaking. We woke up on Turn Island to a beautiful clear morning and calm water. We were able to get to the beach where our van was parked pretty quickly so we had plenty of time to clean the kayaks and unpack. Then we said our goodbyes to Erin and caught the 10:55am ferry in Friday Harbor to Anacortes. We ate lunch on the ferry and once we arrived in Anacortes we disembarked and went to a nearby campground for some well-deserved showers. It felt good to get clean! Then we did laundry and meal planning, and finally our grocery shopping at Safeway. Everyone was focused and organized so we were able to get our errands done efficiently. Once we got to our campsite, Bayview, we set up camp. Cook crew made burritos while the rest of the group relaxed on the beach. After dinner, we had evening circle and then played several games of mafia. Peter played “god” in mafia and told many interesting stories, one of which involved a peanut utter- loving “horse/gorilla/zombie thing.” Needless to say, we were very entertained. After we brushed our teeth, we were off to bed!
Day 12: Today was mainly a prep day for our canoe trip that starts tomorrow. We had to pick up a permit from the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount by 10am so we got an early start in the morning. At the info center one of the rangers gave us a great talk on Leave No Trace principles and told us a little bit more about the North Cascades National Park. Nathan was great at giving examples of important LNT principles to the group. After we finished there, we headed to the North Cascades Visitor Center where we got another talk about the area from a ranger and also watched a video about the park. We ate lunch on the picnic tables there and then drove to our campsite for the night, called Steelhead. We were able to get our backcountry prep done very quickly, so we spent the rest of the day reading, journaling, playing cards, and relaxing. Since it was the Fourth of July, we celebrated by making a fire, roasting hotdogs, and making s’mores. Then we had evening circle around the campfire and played a few more games of mafia. Since it was a nice night, everyone decided to sleep outside of their tents under the stars.
Day 13: After an early evening last night, we woke up bright and early to begin our 4 day-3 night canoe trip on Ross Lake. Everyone was eager to get there so we packed up camp quickly. Our leader of the day, Brad, was there to encourage everyone and delegate responsibilities. We left Steelhead and headed to Ross Lake. As we drove in, students were in awe of the beauty of the huge snow-capped mountains, crystal blue rivers, and lush vegetation. Since we spent yesterday doing most of our backcountry prep, we quickly organized our packs at the trailhead and then hiked down a short trail to Ross Lake. Once at the bottom, we called a boat to shuttle us to Ross Lake Resort, where we were picking up our canoes. We even enjoyed the companionship of a small lug dog named Lucy who rode in the boat with the captain. She was a favorite of the day. We packed our canoes and the set off on our adventure! Nathan and Danielle were off to a quick start and led the pack north to our first campsite. Despite the wind, we were able to canoe 4 miles in less than 2 hours! Everyone was proud of themselves for a job well- done. We arrived at our campsite in the early afternoon. The group spent the rest of the day swimming in the lake, eating lunch, admiring the natural beauty, and making bracelets. Hannah brought string with her to make fancy friendship bracelets. She taught us how to braid a simple bracelet and even some more intricate weaving patterns for the more daring among us. By the end of the day, everyone was making their own. Dinner was prepped by Phil, Danielle, and Peter- a dumpling stew with carrots, potatoes, and onions. Our evening circle was spent on the dock watching the sunset with a cups of cocoa in hand. We listened to Phoebe read a chapter from Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, much of which takes place by Ross Lake. After a relaxing, fun-filled day, it was time for bed.
Day 14: We woke up early to a beautiful sunrise overlooking the mountains. We wanted to get an early start in order to avoid the wind. The lake was pristine when we began canoeing-no wind and as smooth as glass. It was perfect for canoeing. We canoed for about 5 miles and along the way, we all took turns playing contact and singing songs. We stopped at Devil’s Creek for a snack break and then were on our way again. After only another 2 miles, we made it to our beautiful campsite, Ponderosa. The rocky shore line contrasted with the thick evergreen forest. After setting up camp, we headed to the water’s edge for some lunch. We were all hot so went for a swim in the cool, clear water. Everyone was lounging around, reading, making bracelets, and swimming. Lucia even demonstrated her flawless breast stroke to the group. Around mid-afternoon, the boys went for a small adventure and found our “day spa.” Brad was the first to discover that small, minnow-like fish likes to nibble your toes…the feeling tickled a lot and also made your skin feel smoother! Everyone enjoyed a few minutes in the backcountry spa. We wrapped up our day with a tasty dinner led by our master chef, Celia. She chopped and sautéed the perfect black bean stew with red peppers, onion, potatoes, and summer sausage. As the sun set, Phil enjoyed some free time to chase a friendly deer and even catch a frog! Everyone was intrigued by the find.
Day 15: We had a very big day ahead of us today, so we had to wake up bright and early. Danielle, our leader of the day, was so eager that she awoke a few minutes early to prepare. Everyone was super psyched to hike up Desolation Peak today. We knew it would be a long and steep hike, so we got out of camp quickly to canoe about 4 miles to the Desolation Peak trailhead. Danielle motivated everyone as we canoed and was at the front of the pack! As we approached the trailhead, determination set in. We all wanted to make it to the fire lookout on the top of the peak in a fast pace. We hiked, and hiked, and hiked some more, until we finally made it to the summit. It was over a mile vertical change over the 5 mile hike from Ross Lake. We met the ranger who was living at the top and enjoyed admin him questions about his job as a firefighter/lookout ranger. As we ate lunch on the summit, everyone took in the the fresh air and breathtaking views that surrounded us. We hiked down the trail and canoed a short distance to our campsite, Little Beaver. A simple dinner was prepared and quickly devoured by all due to the very strenuous day. The day wound down with evening circle on the dock and more swimming. Because of the long day, everyone earned themselves an early bedtime!
Day 16: We all woke up an extra 5 minutes early today to sing Celia happy birthday as a wake up call. We enjoyed our last breakfast in the back country and then were picked up by a man from the Ross Lake Resort. It was a quick boat ride and the views were great. After the boat ride, we hiked back up to the trailhead where we began and unpacked all of our gear. We loaded the van and then drove to our frontcountry campsite, Steelhead. As usual, we set up our tents and then took showers for the first time in 5 days! Once we were all freshened up, we drove to a small grocery store to pick up dinner. Since it was a special occasion (Celia’s birthday!) we went to a 1950s-style diner and got ice cream-what a delicious treat! Once back at camp, our cook crew made a tasty dinner of chocolate chip & banana pancakes with fresh Rainier cherries (a favorite of Celia’s). We even put some birthday candles on Celia’s stack. We ended the day with some kickball and then evening circle overlooking the Skagit River.
Day 17: Today we woke up at Steelhead after an eventful night involving a rather noisy beaver. Everyone had a lot to talk about a breakfast, even though it was early. After breakfast, we drove a short distance to meet our rafting guides for the day, named Rivers and Eli. We drove with them to our put-in on the Sauk River. After we donned our wetsuits, helmets, and life jackets, we got a safety talk and a paddling demo, and then we set off! We had an absolute blast-rapid after rapid got us soaked and tossed us around quite a bit. Everyone was smiling from ear to ear. After every single rapid, Hannah would say, “Ok-that rapid was my favorite!” We stopped on a beach for lunch provided by our guides. After soaking up the sun and filling up our bellies, and then we loaded up the boats for more rafting action! We got to get out of the boats to jump off a sweet log at one point-everyone loved that. After we finished rafting, we said farewell to our guides and then drove to Anacortes to do laundry and go grocery shopping. It’s hard to believe that this was our last grocery run of the trip. We got into camp and enjoyed a dinner of spaghetti, French bread, and salad, followed by evening circle around the picnic table.
Day 18: Today we got to sleep in and then ate a delicious hot breakfast. We wrote letters to self on the beach and now are en route to a campsite right outside Seattle. Today we have to clean all the group gear and then tomorrow we are exploring Seattle!