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Passage boys’ latest adventures

The boys at Northwest Passage reviewed the photos from their most recent trip to Crex Meadows Wildlife Area and Shell Lake, and the results are great!

Garrett captures two Lilly pad flowers at Shell Lake.

Flower on Lilly Pad

Cooper discovers a bumble bee collecting nectar and pollen from a flower in order to make honey.

Buzy Bee2

Andre finds a family of Canadian geese swimming at Shell Lake.

andre canadian geese

Holden sees a deer running through the water at Crex Meadows.

deer dawn2

A reflection on love and hate


I gave you everything I had,

I risked everything for you to not get killed by my Dad.

I kept it 100 with you,

But all you did was play me for a fool.

You always told me I was your baby girl & you’d love me to the very end,

But now I just want to forget the entire world.


I forgive you,

But I can’t forget…it hurts

I really LoveHate you.


You were such a disgrace always leaving black and blue,

I tried to play it cool,

But I think everyone knew it was you.

In the end, you always said that you were sorry and you’d never do it again,

I believed you,

But it was never to end.


I forgive you,

But I can’t forget…it hurts

I really LoveHate you.


When I needed you to lend a hand,

You’d said to let ya know.

But you weren’t there.

I tried to leave and I couldn’t stand when you wouldn’t let me go.

My name is Monnee and I’m 16 years old, I am here at Northwest Passage to work on many things. This picture reminded me a lot about a past relationship. I picture myself as the leaf and the raindrops as many things that bothered me such as the abuse emotionally, verbally, and physically and all the stress. But as soon as I let the raindrop go, as in as soon as I let him go, I’ll be okay.

Monnee’s reflection is a part of her work at Northwest Passage, a mental health residential treatment center for kids dedicated to restoring hope through innovative mental health services for children and families. LoveHate is just one of the many great strides she is making on her journey of hope and healing. Thank you for sharing Monnee!

The doctors are in… the barn!

Come rain or shine, the kids of Northwest Passage really enjoy their time with our most lovable staff; the equine therapy horses.

Our Passage kids get to engage in all sorts of unique ways to express themselves and work through their feelings; from the arts to physical activity, we strive to give every kid an opportunity to heal. A program favorite is the opportunity to interact with these majestic beauties, two horses and a pony, through our equine assisted psychotherapy lead by Angela Fredrickson, LCSW and Shannon Brice, LCSW. Angela is a certified mental health and equine specialist through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association or EAGALA.

Our talented staff use metaphorical devices and purpose filled activities with the kids and horses, to allow kids to connect with their feelings. To learn more about the work we do with equine therapy check out an article we wrote last year: It’s magical, but it’s not magic.

Safety First! Underwater photography training for the ladies of Northwest Passage

This spring, Northwest Passage sought to bring our underwater photography programming to our girls intensive residential treatment center, Prairieview (formerly Passage III). Thanks to an ambitious Kickstarter campaign and its 84 backers, it is happening right now!

The campaign raised $14,392 to bring this project to life and aims to bring the healing qualities of time spent in the water to the kids as a part of their journey towards better mental health. It also got the attention of some pretty cool people. Celine Cousteau, the documentarian and grandaughter of famed explorer Jacque Cousteau, made reference to the healing power of nature and an appeal for support of our project. And Wallace Nichols, author of Blue Mind, a book that helped inspire the project’s creation, also chimed in with support of our work. It was amazing to see people from around the country contribute to our programming and we can’t wait to see the photos the girls come up with this summer.

Watch as the ladies of Northwest Passage hop into the pool to learn to use their flippers,  goggles, and snorkels!

Feelings, turtles, bees, and flowers!

The girls at Prairieview got to go outside and spend some healing time in nature today.

Mindful excitement

“Mindful Excitement”

This is an experience you want to live to see.  Have you ever seen something so exciting, But so mindful? This flower is working, but all you see is stillness.  There is much more to this flower than what you are seeing.  Be Mindful yourself, and you just may see that this flower has a little MOVE to it.


“Pink Beauty”

My Name is Monnee Ne’Wese Haack and I am here at NWP to work on the things that will make me healthier and happier.

When I needed protection,

You were there.

When I needed love,

You were there.

When I needed an escape.

You were there.


But you didn’t help,

You harmed.

And you didn’t love,

You lied.

And you weren’t an escape,

You were an addiction.


And now I am learning to help myself,

Love myself,

And escape into my own soul.

And I will fight you,

And I will win.

Minding its own BEEsiness

“Minding its own BEEsiness”

I love spring. I love seeing everything turn green, and the snow melt away. I love the blossoms on trees and bushes. Being able to “bee” outside with only a sweatshirt comforts me. It’s warm. It’s nice. Lots of people dislike when the weather begins to warm up because they fear something they believe will hurt them-bugs. When people see bees, their automatic response it to run and hide. People associate bees with being stung. But why? When I see people, I don’t associate them with murder, destruction of the earth, rape, thievery, or adultery. I think when we see a bee, our response should be grateful. They’re pollinating our flowers and crops. Flowers are beautiful. People love flowers, we buy them for our spouses for special occasions, and place them in the middle of our table for décor. Without bees, how would we be able to do so? I was super close to this bee, and it continued minding its own business, because I was not aggravating him in any way, hence, I was not running and trying to escape him. Bees are misunderstood. They are beautiful creatures & should be treated as such.

Hide & Go Seek

“Hide & Seek”

I chose to do my reflection on this picture because this turtle was not a happy turtle. In fact, he looks quite grumpy. It’s still a beautiful picture, though. It’s kind of like people. Everyone is going to be in a bad mood sometimes, or sometimes they’ll be sad, frustrated, and maybe even stubborn, but that doesn’t take away their beauty. It also reminds me of paparazzi with celebrities. They’ll go up and invade someone’s personal space and try to use it to their advantage when they’re upset. I’m kind of doing the same thing to this turtle…. Sorry bud.

Prairieview is an intensive residential mental health treatment center in Northwestern, Wisconsin.

Sharp-tailed grouse dance in the Namekagon Barrens

Is She Looking:

Sharp-tailed Grouse dance in the Namekagon Barrens

By Ian Karl, Northwest Passage Experiential Programming Coordinator

Sharp-Tailed Grouse, with their mottled dusky feathers and signature short pointed tails, once populated a vast swath of North America. They could be seen from Alaska to New Mexico and they dominated the pine barrens of North Western Wisconsin. Through years of extreme habitat change, the population of Sharp-Tailed Grouse in Wisconsin was severely impacted. In recent years however, conservation efforts of organizations such as the Wisconsin Sharp-tailed Grouse Society and Friends of the Namekagon Barrens Wilderness Area (FNBWA) have begun to restore the population of these magnificent birds in their native habitat. Once a year, for a few short weeks, the males display their stunning purple and gold accented breeding plumage and perform a truly breathtaking dance in a courtship ritual to win the favor of the hens.

In late April Northwest Passage was presented with an unprecedented opportunity by the FNBWA for one of our residents to view and document this fleeting event to share with the world. Weston, one of our star photographers from Passage I, joined Seth Pearson, Northwest Passage Creative Arts Teacher, for a very early morning in one of the FNBWA’s viewing blinds “lek” (courtship dance location) in the pine barrens of the Namekagon River, part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, our region’s own National Park.

Northwest Passage extends its sincere gratitude to the Friends of the Namekagon Barrens Wilderness Area for this exceptional opportunity. As is evident from Weston’s comments, it is an experience that will not soon be forgotten.

20150428_055113_resized copy

A Reflection by Weston:

I’ve always heard and imagined how rare it is to see, let alone hear, a threatened species perform a mating dance, but now out of fortunate timing and lighting I have wonderful pictures, as well as memories, of sharp tailed grouse performing their mating dances. Even before leaving to go to the photography site I was concerned about how it would turn out….Will there be any?…If so, how many?…2, 6, 10?! My questions were answered. Seth (my photography counselor) and I departed at 4:50 am to beat the sunrise, get in the blind and set up before the sun would peak over the hilltops. We arrived punctually and as we silently opened our doors we could hear the early birds already starting to perform. We looked at each other knowing it was going to be a good day. As we walked in the area the birds took off and we set off towards the blind with our expectations peaked. We entered the blind, set up our cameras thinking that the grouse would return in fifteen minutes or so. But in less than a minute they started coming back and in less than four minutes they all came back and picked up where they left off.

There were over 35 grouse with bright gold eyebrows, beautiful purple necks, and they were all chirping. They sound they made was almost like a low gobble. When they would all dance, they slouched their necks, hold out their wings and stamp their feet repeatedly. But the weirdest thing was that between dances, they would all stop and the air would hush for a full ten seconds. Then they would continue. It’s a mystery I still don’t understand, but will remember for the rest of my life.

-Westin, age 16.

We Are All Territorial

We Are All Territorial



Which One, Which One!

Which One, Which One!

Is She Looking!

Is She Looking!

Natural Duel, Take No Mercy

Natural Duel, Take No Mercy

It Comes Down To Her Choice

It Comes Down To Her Choice

She's Mine!

She’s Mine!


An Interview with Sam Thayer

An Interview with Sam Thayer

By Ian Karl and Garrett with assistance from Holden,
Photographs by Weston and Dylan

The young men at Passage I spent an afternoon on the Ice Age Trail with best-selling author and national expert on wild edibles, Sam Thayer . The day with Sam was the third in a series of community member interviews Passage I is undertaking, to meet with outdoors experts from our region who are passionate about regional wild foods. Northwest Passage Program Coordinator, Ian Karl, worked with residents, Garrett and Holden, to conduct the interview.

Sam became interested in Wild Edibles at a very young age. He said that he grew up with a lot of siblings and food around the house wasn’t necessarily that abundant and his parents weren’t real interested in cooking. “Eating mostly cereal, I was always hungry and looking for something better to eat.” At four years old he got tired of it and decided to start taking matters in to his own hands. That is where his passion started. As, “necessity is the mother of invention;” the cards we are dealt in our youth, when properly played, can lead to successful careers. This was just the case for Sam. His childhood interests led to a hobby which led to years of research and study and ultimately authoring two of the most successful books on wild edible plants.

A group of our kids from Passage I had the privilege to spend some time with him on a beautiful spring day on the Ice Age Trail near Straight Lake State Park. When choosing our location for our hike I wondered if there would be anything for us to find. Sam later assured me: “I never worry about the location because there is always food in the woods.” As the warblers sang in the treetops and the sun filtered down through the newly emerged leaves, we set off in to the woods and discovered exactly how much food was out there just waiting to be found.

Garrett: How many plants have you investigated or identified?

Sam: Probably around 800

Garrett: What percent of plants out there are edible?

Sam: I’d say, roughly one-third have some edible part at some point in their growth.

Sam then talked with the group about the safety and risks of foraging wild foods. He tells us that in the 40 years he has been alive there have been only two documented cases of plants being misidentified by foragers and causing severe illness. “That seems like a pretty safe hobby to me” he says and takes a bite of wood nettle. Sam then adds that you should never eat a wild plant until you are absolutely certain of its proper identification. “You have to be as confident that you know that wild plant as you would be if you were picking up a banana in the grocery store and knowing it’s a banana…then it is safe to eat that particular plant.”

Garrett: How much, do you rely on wild foods for your diet…do you ever shop in stores?

Sam: I’m not a purist about it. I shop in stores plenty for my family and me. I probably eat about 50/50 store bought and wild foods. . Last year my wife and I harvested 83 gallons of Blueberries, however last year was exceptional blueberry year. When it comes to certain wild foods, though, it’s really important not to overharvest. Many people don’t realize that a small patch of wild leeks for example take many years to grow, but only a minute to dig up.

Garrett: What is your favorite wild plant to eat.

Sam: That’s a really hard question to answer. But I guess I would say, either wood nettle (which we ate today) or black locust blossoms. You can make all sorts of things out of black locust. Each year I make black locust ice cream for my daughter on her birthday…which happens to fall just about the right time for harvesting them.

Garrett: What is a cherished memory you have from your experiences foraging?

Sam: I have so many, it’s really hard to choose just one. But, one time when I was exploring near the south shore of Lake Superior I was walking back to a creek to trout fish. I walked in to an opening and saw over an acre of wild leeks on the ground in front of me. I was amazed.

Garrett: Are you going to pass your passion for wild foods on to your kids?

Sam: I already am. My kids don’t know that foraging in the woods isn’t “normal.” It’s just part of what we do as a family.

Garrett: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not foraging?

Sam: Woodworking, cooking, photography, hunting, and fishing …and looking for snakes (he says with a chuckle, since we had been looking for snakes behind rocks and under logs throughout our hike).

Garret: Is there a recipe that you would like to share with us?

Sam: I like to make soups because it’s ok to make mistakes with your recipes when making a soup. If I get enough leeks today I am going to make a simple soup of Morels, leeks, and wood nettle. I’ll steam the nettles to remove the stingers, then add butter and salt and pepper and cook the other ingredients with it in a vegetable broth.

The day proved to be nothing short of amazing. Our group (myself included) was captivated by the fascinating details that our eyes were opened to on our hike. Many thanks to Sam for his generosity and time. It was a day that will not soon be forgotten.

Sam grew up in in Wausau, WI. He later spent some years on the south shore of Lake Superior where he began writing his first book, Forager’s Harvest. He now lives near Birchwood, WI. More information on Sam Thayer, his books, and workshops can be found at

Westin “giraffe-ing” some delicious Basswood leaves

Westin “giraffe-ing” some delicious Basswood leaves

Sam explaining proper identification of Winter Cress

Sam explaining proper identification of Winter Cress

A spring peeper on a Big Leaf Aster, edible when the leaves are young.

A spring peeper on a Big Leaf Aster, edible when the leaves are young.

Edible Columbine Flower

Edible Columbine Flower

Sam explaining the importance of proper plant identification when foraging.

Sam explaining the importance of proper plant identification when foraging.

Dylan, enjoying the edible Columbine flower. Often mistakenly called Honeysuckle.

Dylan, enjoying the edible Columbine flower. Often mistakenly called Honeysuckle.

Sam Thayer telling our group about our first wild edible of the day. A wild mustard called Winter Cress.

Sam Thayer telling our group about our first wild edible of the day. A wild mustard called Winter Cress.

Help expand our programming with Kickstarter

Help expand our underwater photography programming by supporting our Kickstarter campaign today. To donate visit our project, Under the Surface.

Last summer, we did an experiment. After four years of being awed by the astonishing strength and artistry of the youth in our In a New Light therapeutic nature photography program, we decided to venture under the surface.  Funded by a National Park Service grant, our intrepid teens created a stunning and unprecedented collection of underwater photos of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.  But even more importantly, the water brought out a level of skill, passion, and resilience that blew everyone away.  The “New Light Under the Surface” experiment worked.

This year,  we need your help to expand the world’s first and only therapeutic underwater photography program to accomplish the following goals:

1.  Double the number of youth doing underwater photography by expanding our programming to the Northwest Passage girls’ facility.

2. Expand our expeditions to build image collections of our region’s beautiful lake ecosystems, including Lake Superior and its watershed.

3. Publish a hardcover coffee table book of images to share with the world.

We’d be honored if you’d join us in this mission.

Watch the video and learn more by visiting our project today!

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