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May 31 - June 1 Opal Creek Ancient Forest

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7th Graders already planning a reunion trip!
Saturday, 9 am, eight 7th grade students and two adults met at Catlin Gabel and boarded Activity Bus 8. We drove SE from Portland towards Stayton Oregon. We ate lunch at the trailhead and started our hike around noon.   The hike was about three miles along on old forest service road along Opal Creek and through beautiful old growth forest. We stopped several times along the way to frolic in the crystal clear water, stand in awe of the ancient trees, and observe newts and other wildlife. We reached Jawbone Flats around 3 pm and were happy to find our bags had beaten us there. Our cabin had running water, heat, electricity and beds enough to comfortably sleep 10. Saturday afternoon we went back to the water and splashed in the sunshine until dinner. After a delicious meal of bean burritos we played charades and roasted s’mores.
We woke early on Sunday to breakfast of French toast, hot chocolate and bananas. After packing up we hit the trail and headed back down towards the bus, stopping along the way for more water play. This time students decide to build a rock bridge from the shore to a large rock in the middle of Opal Creek. For hours they moved rocks until they all could walk out to the “island.” We reached the bus and drove down to a beautiful picnic spot on the Elk Horn River. On our way back to Portland we stopped at The Gingerbread House for ice-cream. We were back at Catlin by 3pm; we parted ways after a wonderful weekend, already with plans of a reunion trip.

Klickitat River Rafting May 17

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Fast moving water & lots of splashy fun!
Trip leader Yen-Ling Wang was unable to take photos, but reported a great time was had by all. The group departed Catlin on time at 7 am. The weather was chilly in the morning, but with full wet-suits, breaking sun, and no showers, everone remained comfortable and in good spirits. Filling 3 rafts, students and adults alike took on full paddling responsibilities, with lots of whitewater excitement and, happily, no items lost overboard!  The day stretched out longer than originally planned, but early calls to families ensured smooth pick-ups back at school when the bus pulled in at 6:30 pm. As of this report posting, some of the Klickitat rafters have already signed-up for the June 29 trip to the White Salmon River! 


The Trail of Ten Falls

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Discovering Silver Falls State Park

We Portlanders can become easily convinced—when it comes to waterfalls—that the Columbia Gorge can’t be beat. It’s dramatic, magnificent…and oh so close! But, if you’re willing to venture a bit further a field, as our group of Catlin waterfall explorers did May 3rd, you will find a hidden world of lush green, spectacular free-falling whitewater, and winding dirt paths that meander along and BEHIND some of the most beautiful waterfalls Oregon (and therefore the world) has to offer. This place is Silver Falls; and, if you haven’t been there, put it on your list. If you have…go back and bring your friends! You won’t be alone but you will be amazed.

Our group of MS hikers was small in number (only four students and two adults) but  brimming with good humor and spirit. We left Catlin at around 9:00 on Saturday, May 3rd, and drove 90 minutes to the South Falls Trailhead of Silver Falls State Park. After a leisurely bus exit, and our mouth-gaping picture taking of the first waterfall, our journey began. Our goal: to complete the Trail of Ten Falls (a 7 or 8.5 mile loop depending upon who you believe). Over the next four hours, we meandered along the path looking for tracks, discussing the stories of the trees and of each other, having our minds blown by waterfalls that seemed to come from all directions, and otherwise reveling in a beautiful day in the woods.  
All-too-soon (though perhaps not for all of us) we were back at the bus and heading north toward Portland and home. We were tired, muddy and happy. A good adventure was had and the repertoire of Oregon’s breathtaking landscape was that much greater in the minds of these six explorers. 

6th Grade Boys Weekend at Nehalem Bay State Park

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Yurts, Sand Dunes & Bay Expoloration

The weekend of April 12-13 welcomed spring to Oregon, providing sunny, dry conditions for the 6th grade boys trip to Manzanita and Nehalem Bay State Park.  Full of energy and ready to enjoy sand and water, the boys tackled tall dunes, explored beach streams, and created a sand fort by the bay's shores.  Saturday night brought stories around the campfire, s'mores, and all boys snuggled into one yurt, with all available beds and floor space occupied.  Sunday morning started with a hearty campfire breakfast, hiking, and more local exploration.  Manzanita beckoned for late morning treats and a picnic lunch at the local park.  When 2 pm rolled in and the bus called us back, most heads turned to napping and easy dreams of a weekend well played!

Horsethief Butte Hiking, Climbing & Camping

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Exploring the Columbia Hills, past and present

Saturday April 5th, 9am we met at Catlin Gabel School and boarded Activity Bus #8. We headed east through the Gorge towards the Dalles. About Hood River we left the rain behind and broke out in the glorious April sunshine.

     We arrived at Horsethief lake about 11:30 and enjoyed our lunch on the banks of the Columbia River. At 12:30 we began our pictograph tour, which highlighted “She Who Watches.”

      Around 2pm we headed to Horsethief Butte for some rock climbing. Each student successfully climbed several routes before the wind and the rain returned and drove us back to the shelter of our campsites. We set up tents and cooked pasta for dinner. That evening we sat around the fire, roasted smores and told wildly entertaining stories. We drifted to sleep to the sounds of owls hooting.
Sunday woke up to clear skies and a delicious breakfast of pastry bites, oatmeal, bananas and SPAM. We broke camp and headed back to the butte for some more hiking and climbing. After a great day and lunch at the butte, we headed back to the bus around 2.

      On our way home we decided to follow the recommendation of our petroglyph tour guide, Paula, and check out Schreiner Farms. The unassuming road lead to a world of marvelous animal surprises and our joy increased exponentially as we spotted bison, gazelle, camels, zebras and three giraffes! As we turned around Mr. Schreiner him self invited us to get out of the bus and interact with the animals.

      Our final stop was at the East Wind Drive through in Cascade Locks where we celebrated the conclusion of a great trip with ice cones.  We returned happy and healthy to Caitlin Gabel around 5pm .

Exploring Forts and History on the Oregon Coast

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Experiential learning at its best

A large group of Catlin's eighth grade class spent a weekend among the forts, batteries, and bunkers protecting the Columbia River from enemy attack over the past 120 years.  We spent the night in yurts, warmed by electric heaters, at Fort Stevens State Park.  Over the two day the group visited Fort Clatsop, Battery Russell, Battery Mishler, Battery 245, Fort Stevens and the wreck of the Peter Iredale.  Lots of games were played among the various installations.  We spent part of an afternoon playing Ultimate Frisbee in the sun on a wide and empty beach.  A beautiful weekend.

6th Grade Girls Take The Beach!

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Crabbing! Beach! Yurts! New Friends!

The skies were grey but the attitudes were bright as we gathered in the Theater Parking Lot for weekend Girls Beach Trip.  In our pre trip huddle we loaded our baggage and talked about the “baggage” we were leaving behind.  We figuratively dumped things like stress, homework, worry, and drama in the lot and drove away from it all towards a weekend of fun, learning, bonding, trying new things, and making new friends at the Oregon Coast.
 The bus ride was a radio sing along party full of laughter and dancing in our seats.  Two hours later we pulled in to Nehalem Bay State Park, parked the bus and the girls navigated us to the beach.  We stashed our lunches, ran to greet the sea and played sardines and camouflage in the dunes  where the sand and tall grass was ideal for hiding.  We ate our lunches in the perfect little wind protected nest before we were chased back to camp by the wind and the rains. 
 We had a blast seeing who could fake the coldest wettest face and the winners easily persuaded the kind camp hosts to let us check in an hour early.  After settling into our yurts, the clouds parted again and Ann, Pongi, and the girls set out to see the sunset over the Ocean.  Renee stayed back to set up the dinner prep and fend off raccoons and soon saw the headlamps of the team bobbing around on the dunes.  Soon the girls, Ann, and Pongi popped out and came back to the Yurt.  Promising tales of their adventure around the fire. 
 Half the group built a fire with Pongi and the other half prepared our fiesta with Renee and soon we were all enjoying warm burritos by our warm fire. 
 After we cleaned up dinner we re grouped by the fire and were regaled with the tale of the dunes in the darkness.  One by one the girls added onto the tale of their trip back from the beach where they got turned around, had to strategize, and finally found their way back.  The group was proud of their victory and bonded by the experience!
 We enjoyed s’mores and played a game before heading back to our Yurts for visiting hours.   Girls went between the Yurts playing games, painting nails, and talking before we all settled into our little nests and chatted until lights out.
 After a cozy night of rest under the sound of rain on our roofs,  we woke to no rain, breakfasted and packed up.  We bussed over to the Brighton Marina on Nehalem bay where we rented some crab traps and joined the crabbers on the dock to try our luck at crabbing.  Before too long the girls pulled up two enormous keepers.  The other crabbers were impressed that these 13 11 year olds were having such luck! We cooked our crabs and enjoyed a lunch of wraps, crab, fruit, and veggies and dip by the fire at the Marina.  Too soon it was time to load up again and we began our journey home with a quick stop at the Tillamook Cheese factory where we got ice cream, sampled cheese, and played games.  We were back at Catlin at 3:30pm, salty, sandy, and sleepy, with new friends and tales of adventure.

Rafting the Mighty Deschutes River

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A sunny October weekend on the water

A yellow bus towing a tightly packed trailer pulled out of the gravel lot of Catlin Gabel School at 8:00am on Saturday October 12th. It cut its way through the rain and the basaltic cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge in search of chilly rapids, starlit skies and one particularly epic camp breakfast. In the two days to follow the fifteen adventurers would get their fill of churning whitewater, bacon, and chocolate chip-enriched pancakes…but they would not see a single star  (had they not brought a thirty pound telescope perhaps the skies would have cleared)


Below is an account of this trip brought to you by those students who lived to tell the tale (which fortunately included everyone who signed up).

We woke up to the sun rising to climb on the bus to the Deschutes River. After a couple hours of driving, we arrived at White River BLM campground and set up our camp before continuing on to Maupin City Park for a delicious BBQ lunch prepared by our guides at All Star Rafting. From there we got suited up in wet suits, booties, spray jackets and life jackets. Then we got back on the bus and reviewed safety protocols before hopping in our rafts and heading down the river.


People on the right side of the raft got SOAKED while the people on the left only got splashed a bit. Some people rode the bull, which means they sat on the front of the raft. Jesse broke his paddle (likely because he’s so strong…this was added later by Jesse).


We got to swim through one rapid (Elevator rapid) with one of our guides but only after being bombarded with safety info. Still, eight of us jumped in one after the other and were swept away. We paddled to shore smiling from ear to ear but a little sad that the rafting was almost over. We then went back to the All Star Rafting headquarters and peeled off our soaking wetsuits and outfitted ourselves with warm clothes for our drive back to camp.


Half the group prepared dinner while the other half walked up a beautiful viewpoint. When we got back to camp, night had descended and a chill was in the air. We scarfed down some food (burritos!) and feasted on sweets (s’mores…and gummy worms!).


The day had worn everyone out and the camp began to grow quiet. One-by-one people headed their tents to talk until they nodded off.


The next day…

The sun rose on the sleepy campground and brought light to the zombie-like kids. We ate a breakfast of bacon, eggs and chocolate chip pancakes and began to open our eyes. Later we walked up into the hills as a group and looked back as the light glistened off the flowing river and the camp and breathed in the beauty.


All that is left to say is that we after a two and a half hour drive and a lunch stop in the Columbia Gorge we arrived back at Catlin Gabel at 3:00 on Sunday. Everyone was happy. It was a great trip

Sixth grade farm overnight photo gallery

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An outdoor education adventure

Students enjoyed a snapshot of farm life, from playing with the animals to harvesting their own food for dinner. Click on any photo to view a larger image, download the picture, or start the slide show.

Middle Schoolers So Summertime Climbing at French's Dome and Salmon River Slab

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 Eight Catlin Middle Schoolers met up Saturday evening with recent grad Chris Reimann, Senior Hannah Skutt and two other trip leaders for a quick climbing trip.  We drove out to the Salmon River where we camped overlooking the water, went for a night dip, had a fire, ate kettle corn and m and m’s got outfitted for an early start and slept under the stars. 
 Sunday morning we got up early, had breakfast and drove to French’s Dome.  When we arrived we had the whole place to ourselves.  Sam and Chris put up routes and Renee showed students the basics of climbing.  Soon we were doing climbs, cheering one another on and were joined by another leader, allowing us to do even more climbing! After a few hours, we took a lunch break and moved our operation over to Salmon River Slab where some students climbed and others swam in the cool Salmon River.  Soon we were all enjoying the river.  Cooled off, happy from climbing, and content we loaded up and headed to Calamity Jane’s for burgers before heading back to school.  Our mini trip felt like the perfect mid summer adventure!

Middle Schoolers Backpack Goat Rocks!

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Summer Trips have officially started!

Friday morning eight summer fresh Middle School Students met at Catlin to kick off summer with a backpacking trip to Washington’s Goat Rocks.  After packing up and checking all our gear we hit the road and drove north and east to the extinct volcano between St Helens, Adams, and Rainier.  When we neared the trailhead we ran into snow in the road so we parked and began our trek.
 The first part of the trail was soft pine covered path with many little waterfalls, beautiful huge trees, and incredible views of the peaks.  After a couple miles we hit snow and had to use our snow navigation skills to stay on the trail.  Climbing higher we found a place with less snow by a beautiful lake where we set up camp for the night.  We dined on burritos, hung up our food, explored the lake, and enjoyed a fire on our first night with new and old friends.
 After a good nights sleep we woke to bird song and no rain.  We packed up, ate breakfast, and had a group meeting about our route which was inevitably going to get snowier and snowier.  We opted to carry on and see how far we could get, knowing we could always come back and camp at a lower elevation.  We set our sights on Snowgrass Flats. 
We worked hard to get there and ended up kicking steps in the snow towards the end, but we made it to Snowgrass Flats, a wide open beautiful snow covered basin.  Here we made a sledding track, put garbage bags on and did some epic sledding!
We decided not to continue up at this point due to the increasing snow levels, and students did the navigation as a group to get back to find the trail.  We camped near the river in a snow free glade. 
 That afternoon we played camouflage, dried our socks like s’mores by the fire, and spent the evening laughing, eating mac and cheese, and playing games around the fire. 
 On our final morning we woke up to drizzle and an intrepid group of Renee, Ellie, Mia, and Culla hiked back up to Snowgrass flats where we had lost some tent poles off of a bag.  Tent pole mission successful, we rejoined the group all warmed up for the hike back together.  Chatting along the trail made quick work of our return to the bus where we loaded up and headed down the road to a nicer picnic spot. 
Around 1 we stopped, changed, re-organized our gear, and had lunch before loading up for the long drive home.  We got back to Catlin at 5 and stopped at the gear shed to hang up wet gear and clean the bus.  We met parents and older, wiser, more relaxed, and accomplished group at 5:20 to say goodbye.

Graduated 8th Graders Summit St Helens

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Incredible Day, Incredible Climb, Incredible New Upper Schoolers!

The forecasts spoke of rain and lightning but turned out wrong, we couldn’t have had better weather for this year’s graduating 8th graders St Helens Climb.  After showering fathers with love for Fathers Day we met up at Catlin at noon for our epic adventure.  A short 1.5 hour drive brought us to the Lone Fir in Cougar WA where we picked up our permits and signed the climbers registry before continuing on to Marble Mountain Sno Park.  The usual summer route from the Climbers Bivouac hadn’t opened yet so we used the winter route up Worm Flows which starts at Marble Mountain.  We found lovely shady tent sites off the parking lot, did some nesting, and took inventory of our gear.  We put on our mountaineering boots, gaiters, and strapped our ice axes to our bags for our leg stretching day hike up to the tree line in search of snow where we planned to learn to wield our ice axes and travel on snow safely.  The snow line eluded us after an hour of hiking so we stopped at a tiny patch and had mini-intro-snow-school before returning to camp.  It was a good little hike where we were able to identify any snafus with our gear and make the necessary adjustments. 
 Back at camp, over personal pizzas and caesar salads we talked about our goals and fears and went to bed excited and happy to all be on the same page.  We agreed we all needed to feel safe asking for breaks, check in with one another, encourage each other, be proud to have come as far as we have and that attitude, not altitude is everything.
 5am came quickly and we woke up with the birds and dawn light to a breakfast of croissants and toppings.  We packed up efficiently and hit the trail.  It was shockingly easier than the day before and we were quickly up to the timberline.  The group did an great job sticking together and taking care of one another as we began scrambling up the boulders and soft ash via Worm Flows.  At the top of the boulders we began our traverse over to Monitor Ridge where we were able to navigate easily with our map and the majestic Monitor Rock.  We finally hit Swift Glacier and our earnest snow travel was to begin.
 We took some time for real snow school where we practiced glissading, self arrest, plunge stepping, kicking steps, and got comfortable in the snow.  It was a steep climb up to the ridge and students rallied and encouraged one another kicking steps and counting steps and rests enthusiastically.  The view got better and better until we could look down on the clouds and watch the sun dance across Oregon and Washington below us. 
 Finally, 8 hours after beginning we summited! A cloud blew in and wind kicked up as we high fived, took pictures, and minded the cornice.  After all that work, all that middle school, everything, we had four determined and successful new mountaineers!
 Then it was time for the best part.  Glissading down.  We put on our garbage bag diapers, made our way over to a nicely shaped glissade track, prepped ourselves for self arrest and were able to glissade, in about an hour, what took us almost 6 hours to climb! It was truly magical looking out over Oregon, sledding down the side of St Helens, with friends right in front and behind us hooting and laughing.  For the rest of our lives, we'll gaze up at the snowy parts of St Helens from Portland and remember that we slid down all that snow on our (as Emily says) patooties.
 After the incredible descent, recharged with some sour patch kids, we began our hike out through the forest arriving at the bus around 6pm. 
 We packed up, stopped in Cougar to let them know we made it, and ate burgers and milkshakes at Burgerville. On our way home we sang to the radio and got to see a beautiful rainbow stretch over Portland as we entered the city! We were back in Portland at 9:25pm. 
 We are so proud of these climbers.  Not only did they support one another, they chose to challenge themselves, try something new, maintained amazing attitudes, and set an incredible course for their upper school careers ahead.  Congratulations Liam, Claire, Emily, and Miguel!

Middle Schoolers Kick of Summer with a Surf Trip!

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Middle School Outdoor Program Surf Trip Repot

On another gorgeous Portland morning as the sun was just beginning to heat up the day, Brendan and Leroy met our surfing students at Catlin and headed out to Cannon Beach.  They rolled into Cleanline Surf Shop, met Renee, and got all set up with wetsuits, booties, and hoods.  Lexie and NW Women’s Surf Camps instructors met us at the surf shop and we caravanned as our anticipation built to Short Sands Beach in Oswald West State Park.  The hike to the beach is a gorgeous 3/4 mile walk through beautiful forest.  We buddied up and carrying our boards, followed the cool Short Sands Stream down to the ocean.  
 We paused at the overlook above the beach and learned about the history of the park and how to read the waves, check the tides, find optimal surf conditions, spot the rip-tides, and decide where to surf.  Feeling smart we schlepped our gear across the sunny beach to the north end where we set up our spot, and learned the basics of paddling out, catching waves, popping up, wiping out, and staying balanced on our boards.  It was finally time to get in the water!
 It couldn’t be a more gorgeous sunny day! The surf was perfect for us with medium waves and NW winds.  We stayed on the inside and had an amazing afternoon catching waves! Everyone caught waves!
 Around 2:30 we were wiped and climbed out to snack, explore and hydrate before making the hike back up the hill with our gear to the bus.  Salty and happy we returned to Cannon beach, returned our gear, and enjoyed fresh fish n chips and a trip to the candy shop.
 By the end of the day we all wished we could stay longer but we hit the road and drove away from the setting sun and were back at Catlin around 7pm. 

Middle School Opal Creek Ancient Forest Adventure Trip Report

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Hiking, Mines, Rivers, Gold, and Tire Rolling!

Saturday morning we rolled out of the city and into the woods of Opal Creek. The three mile hike in was an adventure of mine exploration, cold water dips, lunch picnics, and games as we walked deeper into the largest contiguous area of low elevation old growth in Oregon. We took the slightly longer single track path along the river where we got to peer over an edge and down into the wild chasm of Opal Pool! Strolling into Jawbone Flats we were immediately transported back in time to Oregon’s mining heydays. Our cabin, one of the oldest in the camp, was the perfect home for our weekend. We moved into the upstairs bunk room and went to the meadow to play before dinner.

Then the BEST thing happened! We found a giant tractor tire! Though this may seem like a mundane event at first it was far from it. We learned we could get into the tire and roll one another around, we discovered the thrill of huge tire leap frog and we discovered the best toy of 2013. We snuck in a few rounds of woodsy camouflage. Dizzy and happy we returned to our cabin for a fiesta dinner of tacos and chips and dips.

The sun went down and we returned to the meadow for star gazing and night games under the moon and under the watch of the ancient forest. Morning found us slowly waking up, making breakfast, enjoying hot drinks on the porch by the stream, and slowly coming to life. We ate fresh fruits and cereals and embarked on our hike up to Ruth Mine where we mined for Pyrite and snacked before heading back to the meadow for a farewell to our beloved tire and a picnic lunch. On the hike out we played frisbee continuously and stopped for a final camouflage showdown before arriving at our bus, loading up, and sleeping and laughing with new friends all the way home.

6th Grade Girls Take Over the Coast

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6th Grade Girls Beach Trip

The drive to the coast was filled with songs and string games as we cruised over the coast range and South to Beverly Beach.  We arrived, grabbed our lunches and ran out the the beach where we picnicked, played in the waves, had a mud ball fight, jump roped with seaweed and played games.  Wet and happy we returned to camp to rinse our feet in warm water and move into our three yurts. 

Once we settled in and got dry we headed inland to hike through the old growth forest where we found huge trees like castles that we could climb up and hide in! We played camouflage and made forest crowns.  After our hike we returned to our yurts to get ready for our costume party dinner where we had Ninjas, Boys, and Slumber partiers in attendance! We ate tostadas and built a fire to roast marshmallows on and make s’mores.  To run out our s'more energy we headed out to the beach where we lit sparklers and wrote in the darkness under the gaze of the Yaquina bay light house.  Back at the yurts we played games, told stories and talked into the night until sleep found us and the morning came, bringing us a glorious sunny day!  

After breakfast we packed up and headed to Otter Rock where the tide was perfect for tide pool exploration where we poked sea anemones, found shell treasures, and had hermit crab races! We decided to break up the drive home with a quick stop in Depoe Bay where we acquainted ourselves with with the local cuisine of many types of popcorn and salt water taffy.  Our last stop was Lincoln Beach where we picnicked and played games until all too soon it was time to load back in the bus and sing our way back to Catlin.