Not a Lover of Himalayan Blackberry

By Megan Young

For the first time, I got to experience Bainbridge Island not on a soccer field, but at a very special place memorializing the exclusion of Japanese Americans from the island. I have been to Bainbridge many times to play competitive club soccer, so I am familiar with the soccer fields and teams, but everything else on that island was a green blur that I experienced through a window as I drove to get to my next game.


Notice the amateur pulling weeds in the foreground (AKA me) pretending like she knows how to use clippers with blackberry growing every second around her feet.

On a Tuesday morning, I  volunteered with my IMBY group at the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial. After riding the ferry, we drove to the site and met the lovely people who work and volunteer there. We got right to work; pulling out the not-so-loved himalayan blackberry and not-as-hated horsetail from the soil. I had to double-up on work gloves because blackberry is incredibly pokey! The thorns almost feel like slivers if they poke you the wrong way. I developed a hate for blackberry (it was my first time pulling it), but I loved being able to help the memorial and the wonderful people that work there. The sliver-like pokes were worth it!

Looking at the hard work we did at the end of the afternoon was rewarding. The thick layer of blackberry and horsetail was removed by our team and we could actually see the soil that was under the  twisting thorn branches. Nothing we did can be compared to what happened on the same site during the 1940s with Executive Order 9066.


The names and ages of those who were forced to leave Bainbridge from Executive Order 9066 are decorated with colorful frogs and other artful gestures such as hand-folded cranes.

 The unjust removal of Japanese Americans happened right in our backyard. Although we cannot do anything to change the past, we can help now. Gestures such as pulling invasives from a site or listening to someone’s story are simple, but incredibly thoughtful and important.
Learning more about the memorial and hearing Clarence Moriwaki speak about his major role in developing this site, which I might add started from a dream with a shoebox filled with only $1200, was amazing. He was incredibly open to sharing his story, and hearing the future hopes for the site was heartwarming. I truly was honored to help him and everyone involved with the site.

Through a Lens

Part 2. By August Franzen

        Two weekends ago, I spent seven hours on my feet, in the sun, and having high-energy conversations with strangers. When I got home, I barely had the energy to get a glass of water before falling on my couch. I’m a little ashamed of what I ate for dinner that night – it may or may not have consisted of tortilla chips and carrots.

        My slightly embarrassing dinner aside, it was a fantastic Saturday. I was working at the National Park Service tent at Dragon Fest in the International District. We were there to let people know that the national parks are for everyone to enjoy, and that we at Klondike and In My Backyard support the community. We brought the traditional brochures about the parks such as maps and guides, but our ‘Mobile Park’ had so much more. We had a ten-foot interactive map with trivia and stickers for marking your favorite parks as well as a table full of plastic animals and plants for children to play with. I even had an owl puppet that made children laugh when I flapped its wings and whistled “whooo, whooo”. We were able to give out free park passes to fourth graders, which brought them wide-eyed delight. It wasn’t just kids who enjoyed our Mobile Park; adults did too. I could hear the change in their voice when they started to tell stories about their travels in the parks. No matter how tiring working in the hot sun might have been, the positivity they brought was enough to sustain me for an entire day of animated conversation.

        But it wasn’t all happy kids and nostalgic adults. There were plenty of people who were totally disinterested when they came to talk or ignored us entirely. For as many people as there were who told stories, there were just as many people who didn’t respond at all. For every kid who played with our plastic bears, there was one who lost interest when they found out the bears weren’t for sale. That’s the nature of tabling, but I sensed it was more than that.

        As the day went on, one of the biggest challenges was that I had no phrase or slogan to engage with people as they walked by. I tried out a number of things, but nothing rolled off the tongue and grabbed people’s attention. If someone came to talk to us, they saw us and came of their own accord. The visitors at our booth were, for the most part, like the visitors to national parks on the whole: they already knew who we were. There were some exceptions, of course, and that was a different challenge.

        How do I explain what a national park is? I tried any number of ways but every description seemed inadequate in some way. “They are giant parks that everyone can camp and hike in.” True, but it leaves out urban parks that preserve cultural heritage like Klondike or the Bainbridge Island Memorial. “Parks are special natural and cultural places that are preserved for all people to visit.” Also true, but vague to the point of being useless.

        Why was I having such trouble explaining what a national park is, when I volunteer at one and have been going to them all my life? Precisely for the reasons I thought it would be easy. I was so immersed in national parks, I didn’t understand what it’s like to not know what they are. My parents had gone backpacking with me while I was eighteen months old (and yes, they did have to pack out the dirty diapers), so there has never been a time when I wasn’t familiar with national parks. At Mount Rainier last month, I was struck by how holding a camera changed my interactions. At Dragon Fest, I was struck by how my own experiences changed my perceptions. Because I went to Yellowstone at age seven, I had a hard time talking to seven year olds who hadn’t been to a park. Because I’ve been to Olympic National Park twice in the past four years, I had a hard time explaining why it exists. This mental lens, like that of my camera, can sometimes be a barrier to real, deep communication. It’s a problem that arises in my college courses as well: my professors and classmates spend so much time learning the scientific names of native plant species that we forget Pseudotsuga menziesii’ is utterly meaningless. What matters is that it’s a tree and what really matters is that a person can walk beneath it.

        Over the past two months, I’ve become more and more aware of these blind spots within the National Park Service. As an agency, the NPS has gotten so used to its own existence that it doesn’t reach out as well as it could. For so long the parks have appealed to people who look like me – white, male, and able to afford hiking boots – that they struggle to go beyond me. People who know the parks will visit them, and people who don’t, won’t.

        These are the problems that the In My Backyard program was founded to address. These are the problems that motivated me to join. But it means that at every step I am trying to move outside my own experiences. I’m trying to work against my own privilege and the privilege of my organization. It’s necessary. It’s rewarding. It’s essential for the Park Service to open their doors wider and invite more people in, just as it’s essential for me to recognize the advantages I’ve had. At times, it can feel like a chicken-and-the-egg type problem, but when it does, that’s just a reminder that this work needs to be done.

        As Dragon Fest progressed on into the evening, these thoughts took up more and more of my mind. I tried to stay focused on engaging with visitors, but I was having trouble staying engaged myself. Eventually I took a short break and asked myself a single question. Why did I visit national parks? It wasn’t a simple question. The answer is wrapped up in so many memories. It’s stitched into the scarf I wore skiing in a Yellowstone winter, laced up in the boots I wore to hiking through lava tubes in Hawaii, and drenched in rain from the Olympic peninsula. But at the core, the answer is that I can see things there I can’t see anywhere else. I let this answer guide me.

        The next kid who came to play with the toy animals on our table looked at me in confusion when I asked him if he had been to a national park before. He shook his head no, the words unfamiliar to him. It was clear that he came to our tent just to play with the plastic eagle he held in his hand. When I told him “You can see real eagles at national parks”, though, he grinned and his eyes lit up. “And the best part is, everyone is welcome there,” I continued. I can only hope that one day he’ll take me up on the offer.


Casey Andrews engaging visitors & representing the Every Kid in a Park program, which promotes youth in the outdoors by giving out free park passes to fourth graders and their families.

The Dream of Remembrance

bain 2

It started with a dream and $1,200 in a shoebox.

The Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial marks the place where 227 Japanese Americans were taken from their homes and relocated to an internment camp almost a thousand miles away. They were the first of thousands of Japanese Americans to undergo this ordeal that resulted from racial prejudices that were intensified after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in WW||. What happened to these people was truly horrific and this place could have very easily been developed into something that would erase the uncomfortable memory of what happened here 75 years ago. However, because of the persistence of Clarence Moriwaki and the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community, this site elegantly shares the story of those who were victimized through Executive Order 9066.

The memorial simultaneously evokes feelings of sorrow and celebration as you walk along the wall, with all of the names and ages of the Bainbridge Island Japanese Americans that were relocated. Beautiful hand-done carvings with accompanying quotes capture the range of emotions that were swirling in the hearts of those affected. Two traditional Japanese arches mark the beginning and the end of the memorial space, which is decorated with tiny paper cranes made by visitors and hung from the wall and arches. Eventually, the hope is to rebuild the dock over the bay where the ship was boarded by those evacuated.

Hearing the story of this place first-hand from Clarence was a true gift. Learning about the site’s rich history and creation process brought a deeper meaning to where we had just spent the morning pulling blackberry. Every element–from the location, to the pathways, to the memorial wall itself–has been intentionally designed to communicate the level of care that the community has for this place and the memories it holds. I feel very fortunate to visit this amazing site, and I encourage everybody to head out there and see a real dream come true.





My first night in Seattle, I cried myself to sleep. I could not believe that I had signed up to travel “clear across the country with no human or canine companion,” to quote a text I sent to a friend that same night. Now, nine weeks later, I struggle to leave. My HBCUI summer has been unlike anything I have hitherto experienced, and will be difficult to top. Before the close of my first week, Jimi and I had a meeting to discuss the trajectory of my internship – this included choosing which events I’d participate in, coming up with a focus for my outreach, and, surprisingly, selfish goals. When Jimi asked me what my selfish goals were, I was a bit thrown off, so I had to take a minute for some introspection. The very moment in which I had to assess what I wanted to gain from my HBCUI summer has been a guiding light throughout the duration of my internship. The goals discussed that afternoon were, of course, directly related to the time I would spend at KLSE, but they also forced me to think about what long-term goals I had and how I planned to achieve them.

With educating at the collegiate level as my ultimate career aspiration, it was important to me that the experience I gained this summer be transferrable and related (even if seemingly remotely) to that goal. My internship was especially beneficial in the fact that I was afforded a great deal of autonomy while also having the opportunity to be part of a collaborative group, and the meeting point of these two is a position that I am likely to be in within my desired field. Developing the program, mentor training, and working with IMBY to begin the specific curriculum were invaluable experiences that will undoubtedly help me in my future.

Developing APAP was, of course, an amazing experience that allowed me to make many community connections, but it was just as (if not more) gratifying to be able to simply engage with the community at various events, which was the satisfaction of a more personal goal for me. As a member of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated – a community-conscious, action-oriented organization – I firmly believe that when one enters a community, it is one’s responsibility to positively impact the community. Developing APAP and Seattle’s Black Reflections are both long-term methods by which I sought to do so, while being a smiling face and interactive person at events was a more immediate impact. Whether my presence at an event is what showed a black child that there is hope and opportunity for them, or let a member of the LGBTQIA community see that their life and their love is celebrated by the agencies in their physical community, both instances hold their own merit and exemplify the importance of engaging beyond the physical boundaries of the parks.

Perhaps my favorite thing about working at KLSE was the park’s constant push to not only encourage the community to get out, but to do the same themselves! People took note of and even commented on the ever-increasing community involvement because, sadly, this has not been typical of the National Park Service. Being at KLSE, helping to change the narrative, and taking the park outside of what has long been considered the NPS norm was inspirational, and led me to realize that these same practices should be applied in my everyday life. By taking myself outside of my norm this summer, I gained work experience, life lessons, and a family in the Pacific Northwest. I can only imagine what pushing my norms will do for me in the future.


Changing Spaces


Last summer I graduated from my undergraduate program at Seattle University. Less than 24 hours later a car packed full of food and gear would sustain my fellow backpacker and I for roughly the next 24 days. I guess I needed to get away from computers, classrooms, final exams, and general structure for a moment. Over 3,000 miles of driving, and 250 miles of hiking, as leisurely as you can do it, is not always relaxed, even if it is rewarding. Carrying everything you may possibly need leaves little room for indulgence; yet I dream of being in the glacial lakes, soaring mountains and endless horizons no matter the toil.

IMG_1434So I’m not used to seeing this many tents – and there’s a 4th hidden from this angle. What I’m even less familiar with, and once again not even gracing the photograph, is the amount of gear we were able to contemplate having at our disposal. Usually an extra sweatshirt is a luxury; this time I brought extra sleeping bags that went unused.

Strangers yet colleagues, a cohort existing with less than a month’s worth of acquainted time together, but enamored and elated by ideals that brought us to intern for the National Park Service, we were now destined to brave the Mt. Rainier wilderness together, on the ferocious mountain still blanketed in snow. Okay, it was only one night. It was also at a clearly designated campsite. However, pulling up to a site with 10 people and 3 cars was indeed like nature pulling us into her clasp, if only for an evening. Contrasted to hiking in 8 miles to find a place to sleep, waking up, breaking down a site, and trekking another 10 miles before eating dinner, a brief respite of deliverance via automobile on this occasion was happily embraced.

You intimately get to know somebody while stuck side-by-side in a vehicle for 3,000 miles (you also really get to know someone by setting up a campground or tent for the first time). In setting up camp, cooking food, pondering a single album to play on repeat over a road trip, the partnership here with new people I got to learn more about, made me enthusiastic for future work to come. I witnessed a willingness to embrace new experiences, a determination to problem solve, and blooming curiosity toward every crawling inch of the mountainside. This approach we will all hopefully carry over unto our work.

Our IMBY camping trip in Mt. Rainier National Park was somehow the first time I’d slept a night in the wilderness since my backpacking trip.

It had been too long.

Yet never once on that trip did I remember to stare at the stars and find the constellations like we did on this iconic mountain.

IMG_143124 days versus 24 hours: it is hard not to say I’m finding myself trying to take an equal lesson from both experiences. Perhaps lesson isn’t the right word. Perhaps that isn’t the best way to look at it either. What I definitely know I found was a sense of belonging, and a sense of relaxation. A relaxation I needed; one that is sometimes hard to find. Had me feeling like this snowman. Chillin.

By Aaron


MORA Drawing (Tacobet)

By Erin

Artist’s Statement: In the 4 years that I have lived in Seattle, the closest I had gotten to Mt. Rainier was driving up Boren and seeing the mountain through the gap between buildings. She remained a constant backdrop, only available in the summer months, coming out and reminding us that spring has arrived along with clear, blue views of the Cascades from any rooftop in Seattle. But Rainier remained a distant, inaccessible landmark until I was finally able to camp with IMBY and get to experience the mountain up close. I wanted to capture this new view I had of Mt. Rainier, both literally and figuratively, by drawing her portrait from the Longmire Campground. I spent quite a bit of time drawing on this trip, taking time to examine flowers, leaves, and cones. Drawing and sketching the world around me is how I connect to the natural world, and capturing those majestic moments cause me to reflect on the experience and reexamine what I saw. It allows me to reexperience the moment in a different light.

My Use of Ski Pants in June… A Blurb from a First Time Camper

By Megan

After spending a night at Mount Rainier National Park with my fellow IMBY teammates and supervisors, I realized that packing my snow jacket and ski pants was a great idea. For a girl that loves the heat and gets cold fairly easy, my ski outfit was definitely the way to go when the sun went down. Yes, I may have looked and sounded like a goof because I ‘swished’ every move I made from the nylon in my jacket and pants, but I don’t regret my decision of whipping those bad boys on.

If you can’t tell by now, that trip was my first time camping. I had no clue what to bring, how to cook food out in the wilderness, or even where I was going to be able to go to the bathroom. There were a lot of thoughts going through my head like, ‘What if there’s a snake?’ or ‘What if I stumble upon a bear, that’s unfortunately not Winnie the Pooh, but a real-life bear?’ I was a worry-wart; fortunately, I was surrounded by IMBYs and supervisors that knew what they were doing! This was definitely not their first rodeo.

The people I was surrounded by taught me a lot: how to pitch a tent, roll up a sleeping bag, boil water on a portable stovetop, and many more ‘second-nature’ things a camper should know. Although these actions are related to camping, the kindness and care toward a newbie in an unfamiliar environment were what remain in my mind after our trip. Being within a national park, like Mount Rainier, truly brings people together. We had to work together as a team to succeed in being safe, comfortable, and efficient in our days spent in camp. Surrounded by beautiful nature–with the ravens flying from tree to tree and squirrels pouncing on fallen trees–didn’t seem like something I would like when I first heard we were going camping. But, after the trip, I realized those little things out in the wild are precious. Where else would I hear a squirrel’s little feet running along crunchy bark? Where else could one hear a raven’s wings fluttering through the brisk air?

Removing myself from the bustling city of Seattle taught me that I love the little noises, sights, and gestures that the animals as well as my team afforded me. My team helped me explore my place within a national park with the assistance of what lives and breathes inside the national park. I felt like I belonged and cannot wait to experience another national park like Mount Rainier. I could be myself, bundled in my ski outfit, eating s’mores with a great group of people that valued my presence and the experiences I brought to the table.


Chanara and I obviously felt differently about the weather…



By Mattie

img_20170626_170139386.jpgGrowing up in a very practically minded family, my parents always told me, “You can wear whatever you want but you cannot complain.” This resulted in my clothing choices maybe not being always the most practical; as a child I liked to wear my butterfly embroidered jeans when visiting the park on mid July afternoons, and my poorly insulated pink petticoat to the outdoor ice arena in December. Rarely was I suitably dressed for the situation but I felt like I had the freedom of choice and consequently I never wanted to complain. I had some control over the situation I was in, therefore, I was in control of my attitude. I still carry that same mindset with me today.

On our recent IMBY retreat to Mt. Rainier National Park, I made the conscious decision to bring one pair of shoes (I was trying to pack lightly) and I decided to bring my favorite pair: my brown Birkenstock sandals. For the majority of the trip it was a great call. They were easy to slip off so I could put my feet up in the car, they were easy to walk in, and most importantly, my feet didn’t feel trapped. However, as we were exploring the Paradise Visitor center, I watched my cohort one by one make their way to the hillsides covered in feet of compacted snow to do group pictures.

img_20170626_165902007.jpgIt was at this moment I started to question my footwear choice. Not only would my bare feet be exposed to the icy slush, but I could tell by watching others it was going to be slick and my beloved Birks had little to no traction left on their well-worn soles. I stood at the base of the entrance for a moment as I pondered my situation. It was tempting to stay right there and be the long shot photographer, but I could hear my parents in the back of my mind reminding me whose decision it was to wear sandals on a camping trip. Although I fully realized that my old Birks and the icy snow weren’t the most perfect of pairs, I plunged ahead, taking on that hill as if I were adorned in the highest quality pair of snow boots. It’s easy to say that I was rewarded for my sacrifice. We all had a blast: throwing snow, slipping and sliding, as well as taking ALL the pictures. This was arguably one of the best moments of our whirlwind trip and I barely noticed how cold my feet were.

We all make little decisions every day that affect the way we experience life’s moments. Sometimes our choices leave us better prepared for some moments than others, but even if we make the “wrong” choice, it doesn’t have to stop us from seizing the moment and making wonderful memories. So go ahead, wear those sandals, and let them take you on an adventure!

Lost and Found


In my last post, I said that coffee was Seattle’s redeeming quality. I’d like to retract that statement. The more time I spend here, the less the area seems to need redemption. This is especially evidenced in its natural beauty. I have yet to encounter a space in the city that doesn’t offer a picturesque view of mountains, beautifully inviting waters, or trees galore. Before coming to the Pacific Northwest, my experience with the outdoors was comprised almost entirely of family cookouts, city parks, and beach trips. These things have always been a part of my life, but I never considered them enough to call myself an outdoors person. Thankfully, my perception of the value of my interaction with the outdoors was changed after taking a camping trip to Mount Rainier with this year’s cohort of IMBY interns. It wasn’t the act of camping itself that gave me this sense of belonging (as it relates to the outdoors) but rather the way by which it became relevant and relatable to my lived experiences. While seeing Mount Rainier in all her glory and watching the neverending Nisqually River flow effortlessly was awe-inspiring, it also evoked a sense of familiarity.

During my self-reflective wandering, I passed a family who had set up camp and were grilling in preparation for dinner. I thought about the countless graduation parties, Thanksgivings, and random gatherings in which my family has congregated in the same way, just coming together to enjoy the weather and, more importantly, each other. I realized that regardless of whether or not we were at a campsite, a small city playground and park, or at my granny’s house, the merit of the experience would not waver. The outdoors hold a special place in every culture’s family experience, and it unifies us.

As I continued walking, I ended up veering off of the paved trail, finding a nook that offered a view like nothing else I had seen that weekend. In that moment, cautiously balancing on rocks and peering between trees, I was taken back to a fall afternoon in 2006. I was in the third grade, and my friend and I were in the neighborhood park looking for an adventure. Somehow, we convinced each other that it would be a great idea to squeeze through a locked fence that led to trees and a huge hill. After stumbling through the trees and summiting our own little mountain, we had a bird’s eye view of the thing that our town is best known for – orange groves. Lake Wales houses the world headquarters for Florida’s Natural orange juice, so it’s not like we’d never seen orange groves, this was just different. We’d worked so hard and the phenomenal view was our reward. Thinking back on this moment, I realized why the outdoors are the beating heart of the Pacific Northwest. Not only can you use the vast amount of natural resources as an opportunity to connect with the people who mean the most to you, but, at every turn, there is opportunity to experience that inexplicable wonder and joy that we sometimes feel is lost in childhood. There is always something new to find, and I can’t wait to explore further.