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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.  


A weekend exploring the sites of the Northern Coast

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Camping in a yurt


What a wonderful way to spend an Oregon weekend!  A group of a dozen Catlin Middle Schoolers visited various Worl War II sites surrounding Fort Stevens, including various gun emplacements, ammunition bunkers and lookout stations.  After multiple games of hide and seek mixed with history discussions the group spent the afternoon at Fort Clatsop where everyone explored the story of Lewis and Clark's westward journey.  On Saturday night we travelled into Astoria for Thai Food before bedding down in our comfortable and warm yurts.

Sunday found the group eating a pancake breakfast and driving across the bridge traversing the Columbia River to Cape Disappointment.  We spent most of the day at Fort Canby before heading bck south to Battery Riussell for one final exploration of that site.


Middle School Winterpalooza Trip

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We gave Winter the welcome it deserves with Zip Lines, Snowballs, Sledding, Games, and hot picnics!

  Saturday morning weather reports predicted a big snow dump so with eager hearts we piled into the bus in the Portland drizzle, popped in the Bob Marley tape we found, and headed up to Government Camp.  We arrived and found Govy gray skied, and lacking new snow.  Our spirits were not to be dampened as we checked into the Huckleberry Inn bunk room, ate lunch outside, and bundled up and set out for adventure.  First stop was a snow pile and an impromptu snowball fight en route to Skibowl.  The lack of snow on the ground may have stopped our tubing plans but not our fun.  We carried on to skibowl and went Zip Lining!  3 stories above the ground we zipped and whooped and hollered along the 500’ zip-line with Mt Hood in the sky above us.  

 Chilly and exhilarated we headed back to the Huckleberry for cocoa and games.  At sunset we bundled up again for some night time flashlight camouflage playing which ended in a Pizza party at the Ratskeller!


 Back at the Huckleberry we hung out, played games, talked, and wished for a snowy wake up. 


 Sunday morning: Snow! A small posse headed outside before breakfast to see how much snow was out there and ended up getting interviewed by the news before returning to the inn for breakfast and packing.  


 Packed up we set out to Trillium Lake with our sleds and hot picnic lunch for a little hike, take no prisoners snow battle and hot lunch picnic under the trees in the snow.  


  Full and happy we hiked back to the bus and headed back to Portland the weekend a success.   




Sixth Grade Farm Trip Overnight a Success!

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Sixth Graders Go Hog Wild!


  I could hear the bus of 18 singing sixth graders approaching and ran to greet them as they pulled into the dirt driveway of Duyck’s Peachy Pig Farm Saturday afternoon.  We unloaded the bus, had a little welcome meeting and helped one another trek our gear through rows of raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries to set up camp.  With tents set up in the shade of a row of pine trees we fueled up with a snack and  to explore the 6o plus acres of bucolic farmland.  We grazed on berries, figs, plums, filberts, fresh corn, and tomatoes.  We played on an amazing merry go round, and visited Pigs, week old piglets, goats, a llama, a mini horse, a big horse, chickens, geese, ducks, a cow and an Emu! On our way back to camp be collected fresh veggies for our dinner. 

 Back at camp we made personal Calzones.  Each student made their own dough, filled it with fresh veggies, personalized it, and got back a piping hot hand pie full of farm freshness to dip in marinara sauce! 

 Night fell and some of us went to start a campfire, others headed up the hill to play capture the flag in the moonlight. As the full moon rose higher in the sky we all came together to the fire to enjoy, s’mores, jokes, and reflections of the day.   Tuckered out and well fed we retired to our tents to rest up for another fun filled day on Sunday.


 The roosters woke up up around seven, followed by the sound of

giggles in tents as camp stirred to life.    We woke up Gracie in her tent with a cupcake, candle, and a round of “Happy Birthday.”  Early risers grabbed buckets and headed into the berry patch to collect fresh strawberries and raspberries for our berry crepe breakfast.  We worked together to cut the berries and make our crepes.  The kitchen was inspired with left-over using creativity and we were soon pumping out self titled “Berry Blast,” “Original Berry,” “Original,” ”S’mores,” and “Plain” varieties!


 After breakfast we went to feed the animals.  Our hands were tickled by horses lips, we giggled about pig snouts, and had our hears melted by the goats.  We played some more and all gathered around Gracie’s beautiful birthday cupcakes and celebrated.  

 A Scavenger hunt was just the thing to burn off our cupcake energy and we searched the farm high and low for treasures before heading back to camp for fresh veggie pasta lunch.  


 After lunch we loaded up our gear, hung out with our friend the David Bowie Rooster, and headed to the barn where we met Jacinta who let us hold piglets! It was a real highlight to cradle week old pigs in our arms!




Hike The Chasm!

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Middle School Oneonta Gorge Day Hike

We piled aboard our bus at 10am and headed out to the gorge, after less than an hour of hanging out together on the bus we parked, went over the trip and began hiking switchbacks up the gorge through the tall ferns to Ponytail Falls.  This 2.7 mike loop brought us over a bridge above Oneonta Falls (our final destination) where we could peer down into the chasm we would later hike up.  We stopped for snacks where the trail led us behind Ponytail Falls and then snaked back down through the forest, finishing our loop through historic Oneonta Tunnel. 

After a lunch by the river we began our chasm adventure.  The journey starts with a scramble over a log jam.  We helped one another over the massive pile of logs and came to our second challenge: chest deep water with sheer cliffs rising on each side.  Some of us scaled the walls as long as we could to stay dry, some of us waded the river.  Our reward for our bravery was arriving at beautiful Oneonta Falls where we splashed and played until our return to the bus.  

On teh ride home we had a storytelling competition for the best Oneonta folklore.  The winners were Josephine, Emma, and Hannah with tales of horses, turtles, bison, and snakes and how Oneonta Gorge came to be.  They won homemade cookies on Monday at school!


Canyoneering through the old-growth of Opal Creek!

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Deep Water Wading!

A weekend jaunt brought the Catlin Outdoor Program to the Willamette National Forest for two days of camping and canyoneering in the old-growth drainage of Opal Creek.  Donning wetsuits, we descended a three mile section of the creek on Sunday before scrambling up a side creek (and scaling a waterfall or two along the way!) to reach the road above and complete our loop back to the bus.  The copper-rich waters of the creek resulted in the most amazing green-blue water imaginable.  This beautiful water periodically collects in deep pools along the creek, and, since we were following no trail, we had most of the creek to ourselves on this toasty hot July day!  Please enjoy some photos from this adventure.

Nine amazing 8th grade graduates reach the summit of Mount St. Helens

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Kicking off the summer from the crater rim!

We couldn't have asked for a better day on the mountain!  The wintry weather that had started the month of June dissipated with a gentle wind, and the sun emerged early in the morning on Sunday and would stay with us for the enitre duration of our twelve hour climb.  Nine strong, and excited 8th grade graduates joined David Zonana, Mary Green, and Erin Goodling for this year's annual climb of Mount St. Helens.  Their hard work payed off, as everyone in our group reached the crater rim, where we soaked up the early afternoon sun and looked out to the surrounding Cascade volcanoes.  Mt. Hood, Adams, Rainier, Jefferson, and the craggy Goat Rocks were all exposed and draped in a new layer of late-season snow.  While the snow level was higher than last year's climb, the road to the Climber's Bivouac had not yet melted out, forcing us to start our climb from the Marble Mountain Sno-Park.  This variation on the climbing route - known as the "Worm Flows" - adds an extra one thousand feet of elevation gain and several trail miles to reach the summit.  But that didn't slow down this hearty group!  Another climber on the trail remarked to me, as I was literally running to catch the students in the front, "Is that your group way up there?....man, they are MOTORING!" 

And motoring, they were!  Marty did not sit down once in the seven hours leading up to the summit, Jacob carried a large snow disk to the top (that, at times, doubled as a sail), Sam neglected to wear anything more than a T-shirt, Hayle was simply having an easy time of it all, and Gregor made himself a commitment that "I am going to climb this mountain!"  The glissading on the way down was nothing short of spectacular, with one glissade chute even leading over a small cornice that resulted in some hang-time!  It was a tremendous effort on everyone's part, and a highly enjoyable day in the sun!  Please enjoy some photos from our adventure and a big thank you to Ian, Ethan, Parsa, Nic, Marty, Jacob, Erin, Mary, Hayle, Gregor, and Sam for making this such an incredible and memorable weekend!  Happy Summer!

Middle Schoolers backpack along the magical Siouxon Creek

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A great weekend outing to wrap up the school year

Nine 6th and 7th grade students joined the two Davids from the Outdoor Program and Sara Dier from the Learning Center on a weekend backpacking trip to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  Nick and Miguel had returned from their 7th grade class trip just hours before we departed for our backpacking adventure on Saturday morning, but that wasn't enough to stop them from joining in on the fun.  Due to a drippy forecast, and trip reports of muddy trails, we moved the destination for this trip away from the original plan of the Tillamook Head Traverse between Seaside and Cannon Beach.  This was a good call, as the trail along the Siouxon Creek is wonderfully maintained, and we harly saw any precipitation at all!

This trip provided the opportunity for many of the students to try out backpacking for the first time, but you could hardly have guessed that that was the case!  Between the class trips and other Outdoor Program offerings throughout the year, all of the student participants had gained significant outdoor experience over the past year, and everyone made the transition from car camping to backpacking without any major hurdles.  We split up group gear, and did a backpacking tutorial - covering packing a backpack, adjusting the straps, proper foot care, and hiking as a group - before heading off down the trail.

The trail descends right off the bat before crossing West creek on a cool log bridge, and proceeds to flatten out once reaching Siouxon Creek.  We stopped at Horseshoe Falls to look at the first of many falls along the trail and to snack on our big bag of trail mix.  Alon proved to be quite good at catching M&Ms after throwing them into the air.  We put the packs back on, and continued along the wooded, Cascade creek.  For its ease of access and beauty, this trail is relatively unknown and we passed many open and inviting campsites before settling in in a wide open spot along the creek.  After setting up camp, we headed back on the trail to a rocky beach that we had passed on the way in.  We explored the creek shore, skipped rocks and had a rock-throwing competition before heading back to camp to cook our pasta dinner.  Some cheesecake and relfections on the day around the fire, rounded out a satisfying day.

Sunday morning started with hot cocoa, oatmeal, and the requisite SPAM.  We packed up our personal gear, but left our tents standing as we explored further upstream to see what we could find.  The trail winds its way up the verdant gorge, at times passing along dramatic precipices, before reaching another crossing of one of the many tributaries to Siouxon Creek.  We crossed the creek on logs, and then explored the rocky shelves that form the rim around the main channel of Siouxon.  We then continued a bit farther to discover a large, and spectacular waterfall.  We messed around in the splash-zone of the falls and filled waterbottles before heading back down the trail.  Multiple rounds of the game "Eagle Eye" were played in a large campsite on the way down the trail, and Marcell was unbeatable as the Eagle. 

After our enjoyable side hike, we made it back to camp and finished breaking down tents before heading back toward the trailhead with our full packs.  Again, there was nary a complaint as we sang and joked our way down the trail.  We stopped for a nice lunch at a viewpoint overlooking another waterfall before powering through the final couple of miles on the trail.  Activity bus 21 was loaded up as we exchanged high-fives after a successful trip.  We were back on campus by 4:30 on Sunday, ready for the final week of classes, and all the more excited for the start of SUMMER!

Thanks for making this trip great, and enjoy some photos from our adventure:

Three Adventurous Days on the John Day River

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An adventurous group of upper school students joined the Outdoor Program for an incredible three days in the sun on the John Day River in Eastern Oregon.  Over the course of our trip, we floated nearly seventy river miles and completed many side hikes on the second longest undammed river in North America.  On Friday, we met at 6am in the Cabell lot, where we loaded the bus with our personal and group gear for the weekend.  We headed out of the lot by 6:20, and Pat Selman drove us to the put-in in Clarno, OR, taking I-84 and then heading S on Hwy 97 through Shaniko and Antelope.  We met our rafts at the put-in at 10am, and transferred our equipment to dry-bags, coolers and other somewhat waterproof containers.  We were momentarily set back when we realized that the rafts needed much more air in them, and we only had small “wonder” pumps (as in, "I wonder why I brought this lousy pump") to top them off with.  Once we were loaded up, we had a long safety talk before starting down the river.  We put on the river a bit before noon, and started floating in the very swollen river.  There were many other boaters putting-in at Clarno.  Five miles downriver, we pulled out in an eddy to scout Upper and Lower Clarno Rapids, and to eat lunch.  Seth ran the gear boat through a hole in Upper Clarno rapid to see what we could expect with the paddle rafts.  It proved not to be a problem, and after spending some more time scouting, we loaded the paddle rafts and ran the most formidable rapids of the trip without any problem!  There was a lot of splashing and good excitement.  We completed 18 river miles on the first day, and the weather was partly cloudy and beautiful, but we were all getting a bit chilly in the afternoon, as the wind started to kick up.  We found a glorious campsite partway through Basalt Rapid, and set up our camp amongst the large juniper trees and beautiful basalt boulders on the shore.  We hiked up to a rocky outcropping above camp and took in the wild scenery before playing Bacci ball and feasting on a large spaghetti dinner.

Saturday was a big day, complete with two hikes and thirty-three river miles.  The river was pretty docile for this long section of river, but the canyon steepened around us and the scenery was dramatic.  The day started with some exciting waves on the remaining portion of Basalt Rapids, and we floated eighteen miles before stopping for lunch and our first hike.  We stopped at the eastern tip of Horseshoe Bend and ate lunch before hiking up to the saddle where we could see the river on both sides of us.  This was a truly magical place, and the combination of sun, exertion from the hike, and relaxation from the long float created the perfect recipe for a peaceful nap.  A few miles downstream Peter’s boat pulled out at Potlatch Canyon to see a panel of petroglyphs.  Seth’s boat missed the eddy, but pulled out a few eddies downstream.  Peter’s half of the group hiked to the petroglyphs and a side adventure that paid off with the discovery of an old settler’s home that had gone untouched for many years.  David and Seth led the other group up a jeep track that looked as though it would connect with Potlatch Canyon.  The trail passed a pretty spring and exited Buckskin Canyon before following a contour that headed toward Potlatch.  We discovered a full cow skeleton bleached by the sun, and Annika discovered a rattlesnake, up close and personal (complete with a warning rattle!).  The trail toward Potlatch looked long, and it was hot, so we headed back to the boats, and Peter’s boat appeared upstream in a matter of minutes.  The group pushed on and we floated many miles before pulling out at the distinct Hoot Owl Rock - an impressive formation that sits atop a sharp ridge on the canyon and looks like a hunched bird .  We arrived at camp at 6:30pm.  We played Bacci ball, cooked an amazing fajita dinner, baked a cake in the dutch oven, and had group refelection time around the fire before bed.

Sunday, we woke early and snacked on cinnamon rolls before breaking down camp.  We were pushing the boats off shore before 9am, and we had nineteen miles to cover before reaching the take-out at the Cottonwood Bridge.  There is very little whitewater on this stretch of river, and many interested students had the chance to learn how to steer and captain the rafts.  We stopped at Owen’s Plain and hiked up to an old windmill and stone corral in the (relatively!) fertile valley.  We stopped for lunch on a pretty gravel island where a group of Canadian Geese were lounging in the sun.  After lunch, the girls decided to skipper their own boat to the take-out, leaving the boys in the other raft.  We made it to the takeout at the Cottonwood Bridge, and Leroy was there in bus #23 again, and we arrived back at Catlin at 5:15pm, a bit tanner and with a wonderful adventure under our belts!


Ecuador 2012 participants get a jump on the adventure

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Winterim 2012

Team Ecuador 2012 took advantage of the four-day Winterim by taking part in a variety of activities that helped to prepare us for a successful trip in June.  Over the course of the four days, students split into pairs to tackle trip logisitics, learned about Ecuadorian history on Catlin's challenge course, participated in a cultural competency workshop at MercyCorp's Action Center, wathced a docmentary about the environmental and polical tensions in Ecuador's Intag Valley, and completed student-selected research projects on topics relevant to what we will encounter on our global trip this summer.  On top of all these local activities, the group spent two days in the Willamette National Forest on an overnight snowhsoe trip to the Mt. View Shelter. 

The overnight portion was designed to allow the group to bond while gaining experience with living out of a backpack! The snowy but incredible trip offered a hands-on setting to discuss and learn about the skills, physical training, clothing and gear that will be necessary for a successful trip in June.  Thank you to the whole team for making the overnight such a fun outing.

Please enjoy some photos from our week together.  Our Ecuadorian adventure will be here before we know it!

Catlin Gabel's Eyrie Challenge Course

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Team building, risk-taking, and discovery

From the Winter 2011-12 Caller

By David Reich ’80, Challenge Course Manager

Catlin Gabel recently built a state-of-the-art challenge course in the wooded part of campus around the athletic fields. It is a great tool for hands-on learning in a beautiful natural setting and a new expression of the school’s commitment to experiential education.
I like to say that a day on a challenge course is like speeding up time, when it comes to individual growth or group dynamics. Like many outdoor adventures, the challenge course pushes participants out of their comfort zone and into areas of learning and growth. Participants push their own perceived limits, and discover how they perform under pressure. Teams learn how to constructively give and receive support, and individuals see how working with others collaboratively can help a team achieve more than they had previously thought they could accomplish.
Constructed from wood, cable, and rope, and strung between trees and platforms either just above the ground or high in the air, Catlin Gabel’s challenge course consists of four high elements and eight low elements. These “elements” or individual structures combine vertical climbing challenges and horizontal obstacle or initiative challenges. As a team is made up of individuals with complementary skills, it is important to maximize the opportunities for each person to contribute toward the team goals. The various challenge course elements allow participants to explore different levels of personal exposure, provide opportunities to learn about cooperation, open lines of communication, and develop skills in problem-solving, leadership, and coaching—and self-esteem.
Challenge course activities provide an environment that is full of new experiences and personal discoveries. They establish a setting that allows the facilitator to work with the group, helping them with debriefing and reflection, focusing on teamwork objectives and preparing them for bigger challenges— or the challenges found in the everyday world. We invite groups or organizations outside of Catlin Gabel to use the challenge course. It’s a great opportunity for corporate team building and professional development, designed to:
• Build team interdependence
• Build collaborative problem solving
• Develop risk-taking skills
• Open channels of communications
• Identify and develop leadership skills
• Clarify roles and responsibilities
• Strengthen relationships
Based on the needs and assessment of the particular visiting group, we will design a unique program to provide the best possible experience for group members. The course was designed and built according to national guidelines and standards, and a trained and certified facilitator with experience in working with adult groups supervises all activities on the challenge course.
Half or full day programs are available, with a gourmet chef to prepare lunch on campus. Call (503-297-1894 ext. 386) or email me for an appointment to tour the facility or to discuss your specific group needs. Visit our pages on the Catlin Gabel website, too.