Frequently Asked Questions
Where and when do courses begin?
All our courses begin at pickup locations in and around the I-5 corridor on the morning your course starts. We will send you information on your pickup location and time in your welcome packet following acceptance. After meeting at pickup locations, we will travel up the Skagit River to the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, in the heart of North Cascades National Park, where you will meet your group, get your gear packed up, and stay the night before hitting the trail the following morning.
What does a typical day look like?
|Sample Daily Schedule when on course:|
|6:15am||Pack up, Breakfast/lunch prep|
|8:30am||Start hike, canoe, stewardship or work project|
|All Day||Lessons (ecology, public speaking, leadership, team games, reflection and naturalizing)|
|4:30pm||Start dinner/free time|
|9pm||Get ready for bed|
|9:30pm||In our tents/quiet|
Who are the course instructors?
Our instructors are experienced outdoor educators and Western Washington University graduate students with extensive experience working with youth in the outdoors. All instructors are Wilderness First Responder First-Aid Certified and have passed background checks.
Where will I sleep?
The first night you will stay in our lodges at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake, in the heart of North Cascades National Park. Once out in the field, you will sleep in waterproof tents in warm sleeping bags on foam pads. Instructors will sleep in tents close by. There are typically 2–4 students in each tent.
What will I eat?
We love good food! Eating well is really important to all of us; you can expect lots of lessons on cooking and the opportunity to show your skill in the kitchen on all of our courses. The menu is creative and we try to include as many organic, local ingredients as possible. This includes lots of rice, pasta, cheese, beans, veggies, fruit and nuts.
A typical menu might look like:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with brown sugar and fruit, and a hot drink
Lunch: Cheese and crackers, pita bread, peanut butter and jelly, bagels and cream cheese, dried or fresh fruit
Dinner: Rice and beans, salsa, tortillas, cheese, pasta and sauce, macaroni and cheese
Snacks: Trail mix, pretzels, granola bars, fruit, jerky
Can you accommodate my food allergy or special diet?
Yes. We can easily accommodate vegetarians and vegans as well as students with certain food allergies. If you have any special dietary restrictions (nut allergies, lactose intolerance, wheat allergy, etc.), please list them on your health form. We request a minimum of one month’s notice. Please contact us if you have questions or last-minute changes.
What happens with my prescription medications while on course?
All prescription medications must be noted on your medical form prior to the course. Instructors oversee use of all medications. Please bring your prescription medications and non-prescription medications in separate, labeled, non-breakable, waterproof containers (Ziploc bags are great!). Students with prescription inhalers and epinephrine injections must bring two sets of medication. An instructor will carry one, and the participant will carry one in case of emergency.
Should I bring contacts or glasses on course?
Either glasses or contact lenses are acceptable on course. Regardless of what you wear, we recommend you bring extra contacts or an extra pair of glasses just in case.
What gear do I need?
We can supply you with all necessary equipment. You only need to bring personal clothing and footwear. To find out what you need to bring on your course, please refer to the Packing List, which will be mailed in your Welcome Packet after acceptance. If you already own some equipment on the packing list and would prefer to use it for your course please bring it along. Your instructors will inspect all personal equipment at the beginning of your course.
If you have a specific question about what gear is appropriate for your course, please contact Aneka Singlaub, Youth Leadership Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 854-2595.
Can I bring a camera?
Please do! Photography is an important aspect of all our programs. Smaller, lightweight cameras are easier to carry. Bring a good case because our expeditions are rigorous and you run the risk of losing or damaging your camera. Consider purchasing a waterproof bag or box for your camera, film, batteries and memory cards. A Ziploc bag works well, in a pinch. If you are worried, play it safe and bring a disposable waterproof camera. Instructors will also be taking photos during your course and sharing them on Flickr and at the fall reunion, so don’t worry if you don’t have a camera.
What should I NOT bring?
Please leave all valuables such as jewelry, iPods and iPads, MP3 players, cell phones, E-readers, hand-held video games, GPS devices and CD players. Due to the potentially wet and outdoor nature of the places we travel, only watches, small flashlights, headlamps and cameras are allowed. Other items not allowed are weapons, including camping knives and hatchets, fireworks, tobacco products, illegal drugs and alcohol. Instructors will be inspecting your personal items before each trip; extra items will be stored at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center.
Will I be able to take a shower?
You can shower at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center (ELC) on the first or second day before heading into the backcountry. Once in the field, you can bathe using water from a refreshing stream or lake. Your instructors will demonstrate bathing options when appropriate and explain more about hygiene in the outdoors. On the 15-day course, you will return to the ELC on day 11, and will have the opportunity to shower before taking off again to explore for a few more days. On the 31-day Leadership Corps course, you will have the opportunity to shower when you return to the ELC mid-trip and at the end of the course.
How do I go to the bathroom?
In the backcountry, nearly every campground will have a pit toilet with toilet paper. When not near a campground, students will learn how to properly dispose of waste in the backcountry following Leave No Trace principles.
What if I start my period/menstruation while on course?
You will use the same products and methods you would use at home. We follow Leave-No-Trace principles for disposal of these products in the outdoors. Even if you do not expect to get your period during the course, we recommend you bring a small amount of supplies just in case. Instructors will also have extra supplies.
Will my family be able to get a hold of me?
Parents can reach you in case of emergency by contacting North Cascades Institute at 360-854-2599. Messages will be relayed to us via radio when we check in and out daily with North Cascades National Park or Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
How physically challenging are the trips?
Our 8 and 15-day courses can be challenging at times, but your instructors will ensure that everything is within the abilities of the group. You do not need to have any outdoor experience to participate. They are designed for students who have never been on this type of adventure before.
Our courses for students ages 14-18 (8 and 15-day courses) may include some or all of the following activities:
- Daylong hikes of 4-8 miles carrying a 35-50 lb. pack (depending on your size and ability)
- Paddling a canoe 4-8 miles in a day
- Hiking up and down steep terrain carrying tools and supplies
- Performing service projects involving shoveling, swinging tools, bending, squatting, and walking on uneven ground
- Living in the outdoors, possibly in cold, hot, humid, rainy or higher altitude conditions
Our more challenging 31-day Leadership Corps course is designed for alumni of our Youth Leadership programs who have already experienced the activities listed above and are ages 18-22. Students in Leadership Corps must have excellent physical and mental stamina, have experienced the above activities, and have the following qualifications:
- Demonstrated capacity to thrive in a rugged outdoor environment
- Excellent physical and mental stamina: Ability to lift up to 75 lbs. occasionally and carry a 40-60 lb. backpack with tools up to 10 miles per day and hike over uneven terrain
- Minimum of 3 days of verifiable backpacking experience requires; minimum of 7 days verifiable backcountry travel experience, including canoe camping and/or backpacking preferred
- Enthusiastic and willing to work outdoors in the elements for full days and evenings, including multiple two-week backcountry trips
- Robust interest in working hard, living in the backcountry and learning about the natural world and natural resource management issues
- Ability to work as a member of a close-knit team, work responsibly with other team members and take direction from crew leaders
How should I prepare for my trip?
For the 8 and 15-day courses, we recommend being physically active (running, basketball, biking, fast walking, etc) before you arrive; it will help but is not required. Come prepared to meet new people, try new things, have fun and challenge yourself!
For the 31-day Leadership Corps course, you will need to be physical fit enough to carry a 40-60 lb. backpack and tools up to 10 miles per day. This course is physically and mentally rigorous. Please contact Amy Brown, Youth Leadership Manager, if you have questions: 360-854-2582 or email@example.com.
Do I need to know how to swim?
No. You do not need to know how to swim to participate in any of our courses. All students are required to wear personal flotation devices while canoeing.
Do I have to carry all of my stuff with me?
While backpacking, you will carry all of your personal belongings as well as some group gear, food and tools in your backpack. For this reason, we encourage you to pack only what is listed on the Packing List in order to keep your pack as light as possible. While canoeing, you and your group will paddle all of your gear and food from one camp to another. During service, recreation or work days, you will carry just your daypack containing extra layers, rain gear, water and food for the day, unless you are moving between camps while backpacking.
Do all applicants get accepted? What if I am placed on the waitlist?
Due to the competitive nature of the program, not all applicants can be accepted. Students placed on our wait-list still have an excellent chance of attending and are encouraged to turn in their paperwork. We call students on our wait-list as space comes available. For this reason, if you are accepted and need to cancel, please contact us immediately so we can offer your spot to another student.
I AM 14-18 YEARS OLD BUT I AM NOT IN HIGH SCHOOL. CAN I STILL PARTICIPATE?
Yes, as long as you are between 14-18 years old as of June 1, 2013, you can participate in our 8 and 15-day courses.
Do you offer scholarships or financial aid?
Yes! North Cascades Institute is committed to making our programs accessible to students from all backgrounds by offering scholarships to those in need. Scholarships for the 8 and 15-day courses are awarded based on financial need and application merit. Up to 80% of participants will receive a full or partial scholarship. Recipients of full scholarships need only pay the $50 acceptance feel.
When will I know if I will receive a scholarship?
All applicants and parents will be notified by April 19 by email.
When are the fees for the 8 and 15-day courses due?
If you are accepted to one of our 8 and 15-day courses, you must submit a $50 non-refundable acceptance fee by May 10 to hold your spot. All course fees will be due by June 3. If submitting payment in full by June 3 is a burden, please contact us to schedule a payment plan. 100% of tuition fees must be received seven days before the start of the course. Enrollment after June 3 requires payment in full at registration time.
Please see our Payment and Cancellation Policies for more information and contact us if you have additional questions.
Are there additional costs?
No. Our tuition includes all gear and food during the course. We provide transportation from Bellingham, Sedro-Woolley, Everett, Seattle and Tukwila.
Should I bring spending money?
Money is not needed during our courses for students ages 14-18. However, at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, we have a gift shop to buy North Cascades souvenirs if you like. For Leadership Corps, we recommend bringing a little extra spending money for the short time you may be near services and not at the Environmental Learning Center.
What if I need to cancel?
Please contact us immediately so that we can offer your spot to another student. Short-notice cancellations often prevent others from attending.
What is your refund policy?
Course fees are refundable up until June 3, 2013, minus the $50 acceptance fee, and are non-refundable thereafter. Please see our Payment and Cancellation Policies for more information.
When do leadership corps students receive the $800 stipend?
Participants in the 31-day Leadership Corps will receive an $800 stipend upon completion of the course. Checks will be mailed in August one week after the last day of the course.
What are the Family Orientation meetings?
The Family Orientation Meetings are an opportunity for students and their families to get additional questions answered and to meet the program coordinator and other staff and trip leaders. We will have examples of gear you will need on your course and you will learn more about the program and the areas you will be exploring this summer.
We are offering these meetings over two evenings in late May in Sedro-Woolley and Seattle. These meetings are optional but we encourage accepted students and their families to attend. We will be serving a delicious pizza dinner!
What is the fall reunion all about?
Our fall Reunion will take place in late September or early October in Seattle. Families and students who participated in a summer course this year are invited. We will complete a service project, eat a pizza lunch, watch a slideshow of photos from everyone’s summer course, celebrate and reconnect. We’ll also share ways to stay involved, including the Youth Leadership Conference. Transportation is provided from certain locations.
What is the Youth Leadership Conference? How do I attend?
The Youth Leadership Conference takes place at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center every November. The conference is a fun way to reconnect with students and trip leaders from your course while continuing to expand your leadership skills. You will have the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions, which may include how to apply for jobs, leadership styles, conflict management, public speaking, the college admissions process, environmental justice, trip planning 101 and more. You will also participate in an Opportunity Fair where you can network and learn about service, job, internship and next-step opportunities.
The conference is open to alumni our programs. You must submit a short application, due in early October. The Youth Leadership Conference application will be posted on our website in June.
Please see our Youth Leadership Conference page for more information.
Wait! I have more questions!
Please contact North Cascades Institute at (360) 854-2599 or firstname.lastname@example.org.