Sign-ups are open for Reconnect Earth’s summer backpacking trips. There are four trips offered, with one open only to female and nonbinary participants.
In the North Cascades National Park and Mount Baker National Forest, backpackers travel through an alpine landscape surrounded by jagged peaks.
All levels of hikers are welcome. Reconnect Earth also offers rental gear for equipment that some may not have access to. These trips all have tuition costs that are higher based on the length of the trip. There are scholarship opportunities for those who qualify, and the scholarship can cover up to 80% of the tuition cost depending on the trip.
Nick Engelfried is the founder of Reconnect Earth. He received his Master’s of Education in environmental education at Western Washington University in 2018.
“All [the trips] are in the North Cascades in either North Cascades National Park or Mt. Baker National Forest, so two really beautiful places,” Engelfried said.
Along with exploring the North Cascades, the trips are made for participants to connect with ecosystems and landscapes, as well as explore their own social identities.
Kit Williams attended a trip with Reconnect Earth last summer. She now volunteers when she can for the program.
“I think a big takeaway is it really is about reconnecting earth, it really is about learning about how we have lost a major connection with our external and natural part of our being,” Williams said.
The main reason Engelfried started Reconnect Earth was to bridge the gap between environmental activism and environmental education.
“We take folks out onto public lands and get to know those places, learn about issues affecting them, but we also talk a lot about how to take action, how to do something positive about the issues we are exploring,” Engelfried said.
The longest trip will be a nine-day Mount Baker Wilderness Immersion. The trip is from July 13 to 21 and will go from the Mt Baker National Recreation Area to the Mount Baker Wilderness next to remote Elbow Lake.
“They’re really great places for folks to have the opportunity to visit,” Engelfried said.
The Forests and Peaks of North Cascades National Park trip will take place July 28 to Aug. 3. Hikers will trek into the heart of North Cascades National Park on a piece of the Pacific Crest Trail: the Bridge Creek Trail.
If you are female or non-binary identifying, then you are eligible to attend the Mountain Glaciers and Meadows trip. From Aug. 18 to 21, you will get to know the beautiful alpine environments of Mount Baker.
“This is our first year doing that trip specifically for folks of that identity,” Engelfried said.
The shortest trip is a two-night adventure on Cascade Pass from Aug. 25 to 27. In a popular section of North Cascades National Park, there will be many sights including valleys carved by glacial erosion and ancient forests.
“We will be doing the Sahale Arm Trail on that trip, which is one of the most iconic and famous hikes in the North Cascades; it’s really beautiful,” Engelfried said.
Kristen Doering has worked in North Cascades National Park since 2015. She is a wilderness ranger for the park.
“The mountainous landscape here is pretty spectacular and pretty unique as well,” Doering said.
When exploring any wilderness land, it is important to be aware of the trail you leave behind you.
“One thing I try to emphasize with visitors is: it might seem that one person has a small impact … [but] the decisions we have and make out there do make a difference,” Doering said.
It is recommended for hikers and backpackers to take a look at the leave-no-trace policy. Its seven principles are the easiest ways to make sure no harm is being done to the environment when exploring.
Zen Hill (he/him) is a sports reporter for The Front. He is studying journalism with a public relations focus with hopes of becoming a sports broadcaster. He comes from Julian, a small town in San Diego County where he grew up playing basketball, soccer, track and field and baseball.