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Skagit River Journal

of History & Folklore
Free Resources Stories & Photos
(Seattle & Northern 1890)
Covers from British Columbia to Puget sound. Counties covered:
Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan. An evolving history dedicated
to the principle of committing random acts of historical kindness


Noel V. Bourasaw, editor 810 Central Ave., Sedro-Woolley, Washington, 98284
Home of the Tarheel Stomp Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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North Cascades Institute

Including updated schedule and contact information, September 2004

Schedule for Fall and Winter
      The most exciting news for those of us who are fascinated with the Poets on the Peaks, who were the namesake for John Suiter's fine book as they manned North Cascades fire lookout towers in the 1950s Gray Snyder is coming back to the Northwest. On Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2004, Village Books and North Cascades Institute will host poet and Pulitzer Prize winner Gary Snyder at Bellingham High School. Proceeds from this event will benefit Institute education programs for people of all ages. Snyder has released his first collection of new poems in 20 years, Danger on Peaks. A book purchase includes a free ticket ($10 value) while supplies last. You can read the first part of the Journal review of Suiter's outstanding book, Poets on the Peaks. Another exciting NCI offering is the fall nature writing retreat the sixth annual, this year called "Landscapes Wild and Tame," on Oct. 14-17, 2004, in LaConner. You can join instructors Robert Michael Pyle, PhD, William Kittredge, MFA, and Annick Smith as they explore how landscape has influenced their writing and guide participants to reconnect to the places they call home. Tuition includes lodging, breakfasts and lunches, a boat tour of the Skagit Bay and an evening reception at the Museum of Northwest Art. For more information about how to register for these events or any of NCI's broad range of classes, see the contact information below.

Introduction to North Cascades Institute
      Many readers inquire about classes available on the history and environment of the Skagit river and the Northwest. We refer them to the North Cascades Institute [NCI] in Sedro-Woolley, which has made those kinds of classes their mission. Established in 1986 to provide field-based education about the Pacific Northwest to people of all ages, the NCI has grown from a staff of two teaching 250 students to a staff of 18 teaching 15,000 in 2002.

(An eagle searches for fish on the Skagit river)
An eagle searches for fish on the Skagit river

      Those who attended the ground-breaking in 2001 of the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center on the premises of the old Diablo Resort saw how creative these people can be. Saul Weisberg, NCI founder and its executive director, saw an opportunity when Seattle City Light sought a way to prove that it was a good neighbor. The Diablo Lake area near the dam in the North Cascades National Park was once a Mecca for hikers and nature lovers, but the resort was run down and was closed in the mid-1990s. So Weisberg planned a project called Reach For the Peaks, which would raise $2.5 million for a residential education center, classrooms, laboratory, library, amphitheater, dining hall, boathouse, overnight accommodations and a network of trails that would honeycomb the area but would not harm the environment. That project piggybacked onto the $11.75 million that the Learning Center Project had already raised by 2001. This whole plan was an unprecedented partnership between the non-profit NCI, the federal government and Seattle City Light, a project formed in the outcome of a mitigation settlement agreement for the re-licensing of the Skagit Hydroelectric Project. NCI's project was so well designed that some real heavyweights lent their name and energy, including author Barbara Kingsolver — who is also an NCI instructor, Jim Whitaker — the first American to successfully climb Mount Everest, and Paul Schell, former mayor of Seattle.
      That is the latest project of many launched by NCI, which has truly fulfilled its mission of educating people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. One ongoing program that is especially impressive is their coordination of classes with local schools. While teaching students to love and respect our special place here around the Skagit river, NCI has created a series of books that have compiled the history of the area going back centuries before modern man recorded it. Some of these books that are a valuable basic part of our library include:

      Seniors are also a big part of NCI, through programs such as Elderhostel and SAGE ?? Senior Adventure, Growth & Enrichment, and an eight-week-long program. Professional internships are awarded annually as NCI trains 12 professional conservation educators. Another major program provides training and education for Eagle watchers on the Skagit. Other school programs include a mountain school for 800 fifth-grade students, a service learning program at Newhalem for middle and high school students and a graduate residential master's program in environmental education with Huxley College. An especially interesting class is one where Jeff Muse teaches students about how Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen and Jack Kerouac worked as firewatchers at Lookouts on Desolation Peak and Crater Mountain in the early and mid-1950s. Students get a rare opportunity to climb Desolation and see the entire range of the North Cascades, including Mount Hozomeen at the Canadian border.

      To learn more about the Learning Center Project and receive information about upcoming classes, contact NCI at:

Story posted on Sept. 1, 2003, and last updated on Sept. 15, 2004
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You can read about our prime sponsors:
Read the history websites of our sponsors and supporters, who help fund research of local history:
Heirloom Gardens Natural Foods at 805B Metcalf street, the original home of Oliver Hammer
Oliver Hammer Clothes Shop at 817 Metcalf street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 82 years
Bus Jungquist Furniture at 829 Metcalf street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 36 years
Schooner Tavern/Cocktails at 621 Metcalf street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, across from Hammer Square


Peace and quiet at the Alpine RV Park, just north of Marblemount on Hwy 20
Park your RV or pitch a tent by the Skagit river, just a short driver from Winthrop or Sedro-Woolley


College Way Antique Mall, 1601 E. College Way, Mount Vernon, WA 98273, (360) 848-0807
Where you will find wonderful examples of Skagit county's past, seven days a week


DelNagro Masonry Brick, block, stone — See our work at the new Hammer Heritage Square
See our website www.4bricklayers.com
33 years experience — 15 years as a bonded, licensed contractor in the valley
Free estimates, reference, member of Sedro-Woolley Chamber (360) 856-0101

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