Author Archives: nickengelfried

About nickengelfried

I'm a writer, naturalist, educator, and activist.

A Fall Hike to Lost Lake

Admiring the Chuckanut Sandstone cliffs

On Saturday Reconnect Earth set out on our first weekend day trip of the Fall 2019 season: a hike to beautiful Lost Lake in The Chuckanut Mountains just sought of Bellingham. Our group of seven people started at the North Chuckanut Mountain Trailhead, following the Hemlock and North Lost Lake Trails which took us gradually uphill higher into the Chuckanuts. Large Douglas-fir and western red cedar trees towered above us, and we paused throughout the trip to identify and talk about local plant species that also included western hemlock, big-leaf and vine maples, Oregon grape, sword ferns, and many others. Bird calls and the occasional long trill of a Douglas squirrel sounded from the forest canopy above us.

As we approached Lost Lake our group also stopped to appreciate one of the most impressive landscape features in this area: the immense Chuckanut Sandstone cliff formations. We looked up at these cliffs composed of compressed marine sediments that accumulated over the course of millions of years. Today the Chuckanut Sandstone shelters a variety of lichens that grow in the open rock face, and are a great place to look for fossils of ancient plant life.

Finally we reached the lake itself, a secluded spot in the heart of the Chuckanuts where water lilies float on the water’s calm surface and dragonflies patrol their territory. Some of us ventured out on fallen logs that took us several yards over the lake itself, while others chose to stay safely on shore. After exploring the lake for a while our group gathered together and had an lively discussion about climate change and its impacts on Washington. We also discussed groups and individuals who are taking the lead on confronting the climate crisis, from local sustainable business owners to the global Climate Strike movement.

Photo credit: Jonny Lee

On the return trip to the trailhead we had almost reached our destination when we were treated to a last unexpected wildlife encounter: two deer wandering across the trail who we were able to approach within feet of. It was a fitting conclusion to another memorable adventure into Northwest Washington’s wild places with Reconnect Earth.

Want to join one of our next weekend day trips coming up this fall? Find out more about them and sign up here.

Coming Back Home: Stories that re-imagine environmentalism

Saturday, November 9, 2019


Bruna Press & Archives, 221 Prospect Street, Bellingham, WA

Join Reconnect Earth for this special event on Nov. 9th celebrating and supporting the next generation of environmental leaders. Over the course of the evening you’ll hear readings from winners of a student (ages 16-29) essay and poem contest on re-imagining an inclusive twenty-first century environmental movement, learn how Reconnect Earth’s programs are supporting student activism, have the chance to enter a raffle of items donated by local businesses and artists, and enjoy light refreshments.

This event is a fundraiser that helps make possible Reconnect Earth’s work to foster and grow a network of empowered young leaders to sustain grassroots environmental and social movements for years to come. A donation of $15-$40 (depending on your income level) at the door is suggested. Other opportunities to donate will be available throughout the evening.

RSVP to let us know you’re coming and help us estimate crowd size.

Can’t come to the event but still want to support Reconnect Earth’s work? Donate online here.

Are you a student interested in entering the writing contest? Learn more here.

Get Outside With Reconnect Earth This Fall!

A new school year is here, and Reconnect Earth is getting ready for another season of weekend trips to beautiful natural areas in and around Bellingham, WA. This fall we’ll be hiking to Lost Lake in the Chuckanut Mountains, exploring the vibrant marine life along Samish Bay, and looking for migrating salmon, among other adventures. Learn more about specific upcoming trips and sign up to join one here!

How We Made an Impact in Summer 2019

This August Reconnect Earth concluded our first field season running eight-day backpacking trips for students focused on exploring and learning about environmental issues, social justice, and grassroots activism skills. Fifteen students from three Northwest state participated in our program this summer, joining our trip leaders for an unforgettable experience in the North Cascades. Participants explored and deepened their own relationship with the more-than-human world; engaged in workshops on campaign planning and skills including running a meeting, lobbying, and nonviolent direct action; and explored complex topics like the history of colonialism in the Northwest and how oppressive systems manifest in outdoor spaces.

But while summer may be over for this year, Reconnect Earth’s work to support student activism is not. This fall, winter, and spring we’ll be amplifying issues important to young people through student-driven campaigns, ramping up our school year programming that takes participants outside to engage with wild spaces close to their communities, and providing additional opportunities for training in activist skills. It’s an exciting time to be doing this work: from climate change to gun violence, young people are leading the way on some of the most important issues of our time. Reconnect Earth’s goal is to support the growth of a new wave of student activism in whatever way we can.

Stay tuned for more announcements about upcoming events with Reconnect Earth over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, here are a few photos from some of the many special and inspiring moments on our Summer 2019 trips:

Help Reconnect Earth take this important work forward into the coming school year! Donate to support our programs for students here.

Washington Youth Call on Sens Murray and Cantwell to Support the Green New Deal

Students and supporters assemble before heading to Murray and Cantwell’s offices.

Yesterday Reconnect Earth joined Sunrise Movement Seattle and other youth-led organizations at the offices of Washington’s U.S. senators, to call on them to support a Green New Deal to fight climate change. This action, organized by Seattle students, was the latest escalation in Sunrise Movement’s campaign to pressure Sens Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell to join twelve other senators and 94 members of the House of Representatives in supporting our best opportunity to confront the climate crisis head-on.

Sunrise Movement Seattle has had many interactions with both Murray and Cantwell’s offices over the last several months–but despite claiming to be strong supporters of the environment, both senators have refused to take a stance on the Green New Deal. This puts them at odds with climate leaders including both of nearby Oregon’s U.S. senators and Seattle-area Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. So yesterday, Sunrise and other youth organizations decided to increase the pressure.

Around two dozen people met on the ground floor of the building out of which both senators conduct their Seattle field operations, before going over the plan together and taking an elevator up to first Murray and then Cantwell’s offices. At each office several young people who agreed to act as spokespeople delivered messages to staff in the small lobby area while most members of our group stood just outside the doors, flooding the hallway and holding signs and banners. At each office staff tried to get us to stop taking video–something organizers of the action felt was necessary to provide transparency and show how public officials are responding to calls to back the Green New Deal–and at some point building security was called. Despite this, participants in the action stayed peaceful and compassionate the whole time.

Since Sens Murray and Cantwell still have not signed onto the Green New Deal there will no doubt be additional escalations in this campaign–and Reconnect Earth is excited to support Sunrise Movement in this crucial work. For yesterday’s action we helped spread the word and recruit folks to participate, and we stand ready to do so again next time. Youth are rising in Washington and throughout the country in response to the climate crisis, and there will be much more to come!

Check out the video of the livestream from the action on Sunrise Movement Seattle’s Facebook page.

Report From the Field: Reconnect Earth’s First Summer Backpacking Trip!

From June 24th – July 1st, nine young people from three Northwest states (Washington, Oregon, and Montana) and two Reconnect Earth trip leaders spent eight days together in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, learning about and discussing environmental issues, social justice, and grassroots activism. Along the way the group experienced some of the most spectacular landscapes in the North Cascades, including subalpine meadows, old growth forest, and a hike to the base of a giant alpine glacier.

We started the trip on June 24th at the Schriebers Meadow/Park Butte trailhead in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Forest, hiking up the Park Butte Trail and reaching the beautiful Mazama Park Camp by late afternoon. Mazama Park is situated in a subalpine heather meadow, and it was here we pitched the camp that served as our base of operations for the first four days of the trip. The next few days included hikes to the historic fire lookout on Park Butte and to the bottom of Easton Glacier, as well as a rest day during which participants had a chance to recover from the physical activity while enjoying a day in Mazama Park.

On our fifth day in the field we packed up camp and hiked to Elbow Lake, descending from the subalpine environment into an ancient old-growth forest dominated by massive hemlocks and cedar trees. Our group camped for two nights at Elbow Lake, with some participants joining a hike to the Nooksack River on the sixth day of the trip. We admired towering trees and a mature forest ecosystem featuring saprophytic plants, diverse fungi, and amphibians like the western toad.

Throughout the trip our group engaged in a activities and discussions designed to increase participants’ knowledge of local natural history, environmental and social justice issues, and how to use grassroots organizing skills to create a better future. Topics included the history of Indigenous peoples and colonization in the Washington; workshops on campaign planning, grassroots lobbying, and nonviolent direct action; and exercises and facilitated discussions designed to help students explore their relationship with the natural world while harnessing their power as agents of positive change.

On our last full day together we moved camp from Elbow Lake back to Mazama Park for one final night in the field before returning to the trail head the next morning. Finishing the trip and saying goodbye was a bittersweet process for everyone involved; our nine participants and two trip leaders formed bonds during our time in the North Cascades that will last well into the future.

This first trip of the season is meant to be simply a first step for participants to engage in creating a more environmentally and socially just future–whether with Reconnect Earth, other organizations, or on their own. Going into the next school year Reconnect Earth will be providing support to young people organizing grassroots campaigns in their schools or communities. All alumni of our summer trips are invited to apply participate in this next phase of our work.

Meanwhile, we’re getting ready for our next eight-day trip coming up in August. Apply to join the trip here and participate in an eye-opening experience you’ll never forget!

A Conversation About Decolonizing

On March 10th Reconnect Earth led an event designed to spark conversations about decolonization and confronting the horrific history of colonialism in what is now Washington. This trip, called Decolonizing Bellingham’s Landscape, was part of our ongoing work to do environmental education in a new way that acknowledges and celebrates the history of Indigenous peoples on the landscape.

Whatcom Creek

Reconnect Earth begins all of our trips with a formal acknowledgement of the Indigenous peoples on whose land it takes place. However, the goal of this particular event was to go much further. We began in downtown Bellingham, walking down to Bellingham Bay below Maritime Heritage Park where we had a conversation about how Indigenous peoples like the Lummi have harvested food from the water since time immemorial. For countless generations the Bay has been a source of sustenance for the Lummi, who have managed their fishing practices in sustainable ways and continue to do so today.

We next walked up into Maritime Heritage Park itself, a small urban park located where Whatcom Creek enters the bay. We stopped by a western red cedar and talked about the Lummi’s many uses of this tree, including everything from building cedar log canoes to making highly sophisticated fishing nets from cedar bark. This was followed by a conversation about cultural appropriation and when it is or is not respectful to use Indigenous art and imagery in public places (hint: the key is building authentic partnerships with Indigenous artists).

Pausing in Maritime Heritage Park

We continued to an overlook above the bay from which we could see Lummi and Orcas Islands. We discussed the long history of coastal peoples as expert seafarers. Prior to colonization the Lummi regularly made canoe journeys down the West Coast to the mouth of the Columbia River to trade with the villages there. The Haida, whose territory is in what is now northern British Columbia and southern Alaska, are known for making even longer canoe voyages as far south as California.

Toward the conclusion of the trip we arrived at the bridge over Whatcom Creek itself. This is close to where the first permanent White settlers in what is now Bellingham built a sawmill in 1852. The Lummi treated them with hospitality, but just a few years later that kindness was repaid with dispossession. At the Treaty of Point Elliot in 1855, the Lummi and other Indigenous groups from throughout Northwest Washington were persuaded under duress to sign most of their territory over to White settlers. This is an injustice which has yet to be rectified.

Our group made a timeline of the colonization which took place in Washington during the mid-1800s. We also talked about the long history of Indigenous resistance to colonizing forces. This includes the Puget Sound War of 1856, sparked by the colonial government’s duplicitous behavior in the wake of the Point Elliot Treaty signing. Today Indigenous people continue exercising and advocating for their right, guaranteed under the terms of the treaty, to fish in their accustomed territory.

This Reconnect Earth trip was in no way intended as a substitute for learning directly from Indigenous people, who alone can speak authentically to their experience in what is now Northwestern Washington. Rather, the hope was to spark conversations that would lay the groundwork for deeper learning about the Indigenous presence on the landscape. To this end, we also talked about local opportunities to learn from Indigenous educators and community leaders in ways that don’t put undue demands on their time.

You can read more about the philosophy behind this Reconnect Earth event here. And stay tuned, because our work to continue engaging with these issues through education is certainly far from over.