Outdoor Program US
In early July Catlin Gabel's new Head of School, Tim Bazemore, accompanied a group of Catlin students on a climb of the Middle Sister. Tim's son also joined the group of three Catlin students. The Middle Sister is Oregon's fifth highest peak at 10,038'.
Our trip began on a sunny Wednesday morning from the school parking lot where the crew of six loaded into a rental S.U.V. for the three hour drive to the Pole Creek trailhead south of Sisters, Oregon. We were surprised and disappointed to find that a fire last summer had completely burned the pine forest around the trailhead, and also most of the way up to basecamp. The lack of shade made for a hot hike into our camp at 6800 feet east of the Hayden Glacier. After setting up a camp -made easier by our choice to leave most of the tents behind given the great weather forecast - we headed over to a steep snowy knoll where we went over basic snow and ice skills. Luca and Finn instructed the group on self arrrest techniques, how to use an ice axe, and how to ascend and descend steep snow. We all enjoyed a dinner of lasagne and chicken soup once we returned back to our pleasant camping spot.
Climb day dawned clear with a promise of being a hot one. We set off up the hill after a breakfast of hot cocoa, oatmeal and canned pork product. The snow was in surprsingly firm condition and we put on our crampons just half an hour into the climb. The route we took - up the south lobe of the Hayden Glacier - was somewhat convoluted and steep in places. Crevasses were skirted without incident. The part settled into a good rhythm as we travelled up the steepening slope. Views to the east allowed Tim to get a bird's eye view of the vast extent of eastern Oregon and all the adventures that await his family here. Below the pass - where the peak connects to the North Sister - we took a long rest and prepared for the greatest challenge of the climb. After considerable preparation and consternation, but no hesitation, Finn led the party up a 55 degree headwall using pickets for protection that provided direct access to the summit ridge, and avoided the tedious and longer scree slopes sometimes taken from the pass itself. Above this pitch we crossed scree and more snow, with Luca kicking steps up toward the true summit, which we reached at about noon. The day was perfect, with only a gentle breeze to cool us off a bit as we ate ham and cheese bagels without the cheese.
We chose an alternate descent route which allowed us to avoid the glacier altogether and just walk down endless snowfields. The students practiced their glissading techniques and engaged in games of chance involving skills with their ice-axes.
That evening we lounged around camp, exchanging stories and playing cards. Almost everyne enjoyed a dinner of macaroni and cheese. The stars were bright until the moon rose, but by then everyone was asleep, tired from the day's challenges.
What a grand adventure! Eight intrepid students and two leaders finished a spectacular and challenging backpack through the North Cascades in early July.
Last summer, as our backpack trip around Glacier Peak was coming to a close, one of the students came up with the idea of doing a ‘through hike’ between the I-90 corridor and the US-2 corridor, essentially from Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass along the Cascade crest. After some research in the spring we were able to find a route that looked feasible, taking us from near Cle Elum through the high mountains to Stevens Pass. What made the trip challenging -- and special -- was that the Catlin students were the first ones this year to navigate their way through heavy snow, avalanche debris and bushwhacking and emerge successful on the other side.
The road north from Cle Elum was not nearly as bad as some of the internet postings had indicated- just long, and a bit potholed in places. Once we reached the trailhead it took us about an hour to eat lunch and get packed up. We set off north on the trail at a brisk clip, probably 3 miles per hour, and soon found ourselves hiking along the eastern shore of beautiful Hyas Lake. At the far end of this lake is another smaller lake. Originally we had planned to camp there, but we arrived so quickly that we agreed we should head up the steep hill east of us to beautiful Tuck Lakes. Unfortunately we quickly lost the trail in the snow and started a steep bushwack up the hillside which took almost three hours in itself, even though we covered maybe 2 miles. The kids ended up enjoying the adventure of the bushwhack, I kept waiting for one of them to suggest we just try to find the trail—something we could have done by moving south on the hillside. There was no snow at all on the whole west facing forested slope. After maybe 90 minutes we heard some yelling below from the others in our party who reported that one of our number had become sick and needed help carrying his stuff up the hill. We split up most of his gear and after maybe another hour we arrived at the lake. Tuck Lake is indeed beautiful, sitting in a rocky basin with a cute little island in the center. The surrounding area, though, was almost completely covered in snow so it was hard to find a good place to set up camp. Our kitchen ended up being on some rocks on the west bank and we made a good dinner and went to bed after ten. Three of the students and one of the adults slept out, eschewing their tents, as became the pattern for the rest of the trip. There were essentially no bugs that night or on any night the rest of the week.
Tuesday morning we slept in a bit and then hiked over to Tuck’s Pot- a small lake southwest of the main lake. It was even more beautiful than our home lake. We then packed up and began a challenging hike toward Marmot Lake. The way took us up to Deception Pass, where we had lunch and then westward on a mostly snow-covered trail over Blue Ridge and to the headwaters of Blue Ridge Creek. We entered a spectacular basin where 13 waterfalls fell from the surrounding cliffs to form the creek. Here we were fortunate to locate the trail and followed it downstream for maybe a mile until we came across the first of many avalanche debris zones where the trail was completely covered in fallen timber and piles of old snow. Tediously we made our way over, under and through the mess before successfully locating the trail on the western slopes as it began its ascent toward Marmot Lake. After a few more avalanche swaths were crossed we came across a steep gully filled with snow, maybe 30 meters across with a bad runout. Michael carefully kicked some steps across and we all made it -- holding our breaths. A few of the students were uncomfortable. Maybe 200 yards later we came across another, similar, snowfield. This one was steeper and with some big holes in the middle where a sliding student might disappear. After about half an hour of investigation and discussion we decided to abort our quest for Marmot Lake and turned back. Several student reported that this ‘turn around’ was the low point of the day for them. We made our way back across the first snow slope, with care, through the avalanche debris to the forest floor near Blue Ridge Creek. George somehow was able to locate a nice campsite in the old growth forest that actually had an old fire ring from previous visitors – even though it was across the river from the trail. We built a nice fire and had a good dinner, deep in the woods.
Our hike the next day was long but not as challenging. We returned up the creek to the waterfall basin and then over gentle Blue Ridge Pass to Deception Pass where we had a snack. From here we followed the PCT north- almost all snow covered, past several junctions, over some dramatic and beautiful streams to Deception Lakes. On this day we arrived early enough to enjoy exploring the area. After a dinner of Cheesy Enchilada we played a game of Salad Bowl- which the kids loved. Most everyone except the two girls and Mitch slept out under the brilliant stars that night. The beauty of the spot was almost overwhelming and the students wandered among the meadows and flowers near the lake fully disconnected from their urban lives back home.
Thursday was a tough day. We started the hike out from the lake on the PCT and reveled in the spectacular view as we ascended the west facing slopes toward Pieter Pass. Wildflowers were everywhere and it was such a pleasure to be free from the snow. Just before the crest of the ridge we came across some steep snow which we were able to avoid by scooting straight up to the ridge above. The scene on the east side of the divide- down which we must travel to continue on our way to Stevens Pass - was disconcerting. The way was 100 percent snow covered and quite steep and long- the lake was maybe 800-1000 vertical feet below us. Its ice covered status was alarming in itself- sort of a cold and forbidding objective. Michael set off on the trail, which we could barely discern through the deep snow. We rounded one switchback and then quickly lost the trail in the mostly open snow field. After some thought we all dropped into a climbing position and began to kick steps down the steep slope, facing into the slope, one at a time. From this point we negotiated our way among clumps of trees before coming across a long (over 1000 linear feet) snow filled gully that led all the way to the lake. At the top it was quite steep, maybe 40 degrees, and the snow was a bit firm. Over the next hour everyone made it down the long slope in their own style and we all breathed a sigh of relief as we kicked steps along the lakeshore. The adventure wasn’t over though as it was necessary to ascend a steep wooded and wet slope out of the lake basin to locate the PCT on its western flank. This we finally did and found a place for lunch at about 230 pm. From here it was just a snow walk along Glacier Lake and down to Surprise Lake. We found a wonderful campsite at the far, northerly, end of the Lake and the students hung out in the warm sun. It was a wonderful and celebratory way to end a tough day of challenging trail breaking. That night we had a nice sharing time next to the lake before heading to bed about 10pm.
Friday’s hike was nothing but pleasant as we descended the trail 6 miles down Surprise Creek to the trailhead arriving at 10:15. Leroy pulled the bus in at 10:32. Our ride home was fun enough, we stopped at the Denny’s in Federal Way for a high calorie meal before heading home.
For a week of fun this past June, 23 students and 8 advisors made the drive east to City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho. Each day the team divided into four smaller groups and spent the day climbing on the beautiful granite that makes "the City" a world class climbing destination. Students who had completed the appropriate training were allowed to lead and put up climbs. Everyone participated in the meal preparation, cleanup and a wonderful talent show at the end of the magical week.
A classic Oregon adventure-- biking the old roads of the Willamette Valley, crossing covered bridges, and having fun on a warm and sunny afternoon.
The adventure began Friday night with a showing of Buster Keaton’s 1926 silent classic “The General.” A small group of trip students and parents enjoyed the film greatly and looked forward to sighting familiar settings during our trip. We departed Saturday at 8:20, the expeditionary force consisting of 6 students and 2 leaders. We pulled into Baker Bay Campground, in a Lane County Park, right on the lakeshore. We arrived 3 hours after leaving Catlin. Despite the governor’s drought declaration for Lane County, the reservoir was completely full. We ate our lunches around a huge table in the midst of a fairy-tale ring of our camping tents that had sprung up, thanks to our busy group, all around the periphery of the site. After lunch we secured the campsite against roving animals and the (highly remote) possibility of rain, and climbed on to the bikes to set off on our explorations. We started with a fun 2 mile descent, past the earthen dam, through open fields filled with yellow and white daisies, and by the Army Corps of Engineers campground at Schwarz Park below the dam. We crossed the outlet stream well below the spillway, and cycled west to where the Row River Trail crossed the road.
The Row River Trail is a former logging railroad that has been converted to a trail. The entire 15.6 mile length from Cottage Grove to Culp Creek is paved and wonderfully smooth for biking on. At Harms Park we looked high and low (even taking a detour up a hilly side road) to look for a trestle used in “The General.” We didn’t see anything remotely like what we’d seen in the film. Disappointed and let down by the guide book, we stopped for a rest in the park. After our break we headed eastward again along the lake. The trail emerged more into the open as we got to the marshy upper end of the reservoir. Our route continued on past the town of Dorena, and climbed ever so gently up the inlet river. After milepost 13.5 the trail became wilder. None of the bridges we saw on this trip are usable by cars anymore, but we were able to bike and walk on all of them. We headed back on Shoreview Drive to the campsite. It was about 5:00 when we returned to camp, and there were still many hours of daylight left. After settling chore duties for the rest of the trip, an expedition to the lake shore was mounted. Near the floating barrier protecting the mooring area there was a clear path into the lake. The floating barrier consisted of long sections of corrugated plastic pipe linked end to end like a long lake-snake. The pipes were a meter in diameter, and closed at the ends so they would float. They looked highly roll-y, but the students were able to get up on them and sit or stand on them.
We returned to the campsite to change and prepare dinner. The meal was burritos with all the fixin’s, followed by triple chocolate brownies. Nobody went hungry, and despite many dirty dishes, a very efficient clean-up crew dealt with them quickly.
We walked down to the lake shore to admire the sunset over the water and the trees across the bay. A game of Presidents was quickly organized. The rules were explained to the neophytes, and all 8 of us played. When it finally became too dark to see the cards, we started a fire in the fire ring in the midst of the tents. Once sufficient coals had developed, s’mores were toasted, constructed, and consumed. This was a first introduction to these traditional camp treats for several members of the party. All agreed that they were deliciously tasty.
As the night was so fine, several of the students decided to sleep out on a tarp, rather than in tents. They were still cocooned in their sleeping bags when the wake-up call sounded at 7:30, and the traditional Frying of the Spam commenced at 8:00 to begin the day properly. Lunches were made and stashed for eating later in the day. We washed up, packed away the kitchen gear, struck the tents, and loaded the bikes in the trailer. By 9:15 there was no sign we’d ever been in the campsite, and we drove away to Cottage Grove.
In Cottage Grove we cast about to find the city end of the Row River Trail. After searching for parking, we unloaded the bikes, stashed the gear from the trailer in the bus, and set off to follow the bike trail eastwards. There was a huge organized bike ride going on for the weekend which had all the downtown section of Main Street closed off to car traffic. There were ride volunteers at many of the street crossings, which eased our ride to the city outskirts. We came to the day’s first covered bridge at Mosby Creek. We crossed the river on a steel railroad bridge a few yards away. The next covered bridge we saw across a field, with no direct access. We had to cycle beyond it then back on Row River Road to see Currin Bridge. When we continued on, such was the enthusiasm of the group that all members charged gung-ho on up the trail beyond the road crossing before the last in line realized that that crossing had been the intended turn around point; it was where we had first gotten on the trail the day before. We ended up doing the climb to the dam again. After a full afternoon of biking a wide variety of roads, including some particularly steep sections which required a few riders to walk their mounts up the inclines, we rode to a nearby Dairy Queen (scouted when we first entered Cottage Grove the day before) for a well-earned treat. Then it was time to return to the bus to load up the bikes for the drive back to Portland. On the 2.5-hour drive north the gray skies cleared, leaving smudgy clouds like pencil-erased holes in the blue sky. We arrived at Catlin on schedule at 5:00 pm.
This was a marvelous trip. The weather was fine, the spring greenery and flowers very scenic. The biking was easy and low key, the on-trail parts particularly beautiful and soothing. The covered bridges were plentiful and varied. The crew was wonderful: friendly, inclusive, enthusiastic, helpful, adept at keeping themselves amused, and despite the wide range of biking, camping, and outdoor program experience, they stuck together and enjoyed themselves and the group.
Climbing Mt. Hood (Oregon’s tallest peak) is not always blue skies and sunshine.
- To learn to work together as a group
- To face challenges and difficulties and successfully overcome them
- To learn mountaineering skills
- To have fun!
The summit-bound group broke into nicer weather above and made its way to the top, arriving at 11:50 a.m. The summit was devoid of other climbers, but also of any view whatsoever.
A large and enthusiastic group of 22 Catlin students made the journey to southern Oregon on a late April weekend. Leaving the campus after classes on a warm Thursday afternoon the big yellow school trundled its way down to Indian Mary campground along the Rogue River where the kids set up tents to protect them during a showery night. Friday morning the group was up by 6:15 a.m. and made the short drive to the put-in where Graves Creek meets the Rogue River. The first day was "splashy" with lots of students taking the dive into the chilly waters. By mid afternoon all six boats were tied up at the Rogue River Ranch. On Saturday morning the group quickly entered Mule Creek Canyon, with its beautiful canyon walls and numerous waterfalls. Shortly thereafter all the boats pulled over for a detailed scout of Blossom Bar, the big and sometimes frightening challenge on the wild Rogue. This year it turned out that the river levels were high enough to allow a passge down the right side of the river over some drops and rapids, avoiding the Picket Fence altogether. The rest of the day was spent in conversation and playing games on the individual boats. After landing the boats and derigging them, the team boarded the bus and headed north to Humbug State Park. It was a rainy night but everyone stayed dry and made an early exit to begin the long drive back to Portland.
A group of 30 students and leaders spent a wonderful sunny weekend at Smith Rock State Park in central Oregon, developing their rock climbing skills. On the first day the group split into fiove smaller bands and set up operations at various spots aroiund the park. That evening everyone travelled to Redmond for a fine meal of burgers and pizza before pitching their tents at Skull Hollow Campground in the grasslands. On Easter Sunday we made an early start and were able to have our pick of the great climbs all day.
Eighteen bold students set sale from Anacortes, Washington as part of their Winterim adventure. Over the five days the group sailed to Matia, Sucia, Jones, Orcas and Lopez islands. The group even managed to sail up into the Canadian Gulf islands for an afternoon, and also saw some porpoises. There were lots of man overboard drills, cards played and hiking adventures on land.
A group of twelve Catlin Gabel students and leaders spent a week exploring the red rock canyons of southern Utah over spring break this year. The group flew to Las Vegas and exited the place as fast as possible for the glorious wilderness not far from America's most unnatural city. At the end of the five hour journey they found a pristine paradise of canyons, rocks, Indian dwellings and hidden rivers. The first half of the trip was spent in Coyoto Gulch in the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. Four days of hiking along the gorgeous stream in its deep canyon home created lasting memories for the young crew. The last three days were spent exploring slot canyons, some of them requiring technical climbing gear. Each night the group camped out under the brilliant stars, made brighter by the moonless night.
Our interpid group of 12 students and two leaders boarded the eastbound Amtrak on Wednesday afternoon, minutes after taking their last final exam. Although the train ran a little behind its posted schedule that was more than made up for by the amazingly kind and attentive service provided by the staff at the stations and especially on board the train. The respect with which the students were treated was something they will remember for many years. We travelled through the darkness for 14 hours or more before detraining onto a lovely siding in the windswept and snowbound reaches of the Flathead River bordering Glacier National Park. We made the 100 yard walk to our hotel: the Izaak Walton Inn where we deposited our bags into our own separate house apart from the main lodge. We spent that first afternoon skiing the many miles of groomed trails in the nearby hills. For about half of he students this was their first experience using Nordic skis, but everyone took to it like a Powells employee to a tattoo parlor. The snow was excellent- a foot of fresh powder had fallen the day before, and the temperatures were cold. It dropped to 0 degrees on our last day. The students learned the value of chemical hand warmers. That evening the group played some intense group games that separated the clever from the thoughtful.
On Friday we made the drive down to McDonald Lake in Glacier Park- one the great features of this spectacular park. We skied down some roads and then managed to ski up the foot trail to Johns Lake. We also made an excursion across McDonald Creek and to the head of the lake.
Our last day was Saturday and we were greeted by sunshine though with even colder temperatures. This day was devoted to challenging adventures, which included lots of off-trail skiing through the woods, crossing creeks, falling down, climbing trees, capture the flag and glorious skiing in the sunshine. That evening we boarded the train at the lovely siding once again and made the long trip back to Portland.
Last weekend Creative Writing teacher Ginia King and Outdoor Program teacher Renee Jenkinson teamed up and took a group of Upper School Students on a creative writing retreat on the Oregon Coast. It was one of those magical 65 degree and sunny winter beach weekends. We spent time doing writing exercises, hiking, exploring, cooking great food, and sharing. In it's second year, the creative writing trip continues to grow as a creative, relaxing, beautiful co curricular adventure!
Christmas Lake, Alkalai Flats, Crack in the Ground, Shiprock, Green Mountain and South Ice Cave were some of the features that Catlin students backpacked to over the extended break for conferences this year.
The group drove from Portland to the hamlet of Christmas Valley on Saturday and set off on foot northbound across the salt flats, which are the remnants of an ancient lake. Some of the students found arrowheads(!) as we made our way to a remote camping spot, far from any habitation. The moon was as bright as a reading light, and the stars shone more brightly than any the students had ever seen. The next morning, after a dinner of oatmeal, fresh fruit, and Spam, we all set off on a very challenging twelve mile hike across the salt flats and into the higher sage country. We spent a few hours at Crack in the Ground exploring its hidden recesses before climbing higher and higher into the juniper and then pine forest to a camp atop Green Mountain. The panorama from our campsite allowed us to see over 1000 square miles of the state. Dinner consisted of Philadelphia cheese steak sandwiches. Our third day was spent exploring South Ice Cave and trying to force new passages among the rocks. For most of the kids this was the most challenging outdoor experience of their lives. Strong bonds were forged among the thirteen students, who represented all four classes of the school.