- Course of Study
- College Counseling
- Daily Schedule
- Documents and Forms
- Faculty Profiles
- Student Life
- Code of Conduct
- Community Service
- Diversity Conference
- Elana Gold Project
- Outdoor Education
- Service Learning
- Student Organizations
- Support Services
A group of Middle School student joined the outdoor program for a sunny 20-mile ride on the Banks-Vernonia trail on the flanks of the Coast Range. The Banks-Vernonia trail was once an old railroad that has been converted to a multi-use trail. In addition to the abundant ferns, streams, and woods that we rode past, we also cycled by historic railroad bridges and ended our ride at a lake in the small town of Vernonia. We stopped multiple times to share food, explore an old, abandoned fuel house from a defunct mill, and play capture the flag and frisbee in a park. We were all happy to be out of the city and enjoying a true Oregon fall day! Please enjoy some photos from our ride!
October 14-16, 2011
Report by Bob Sauer
We gathered in the parking lot at Catlin Gabel early on Friday morning. We quickly stashed our gear in the bus, and Pat drove us out to our put-in on the Deschutes River on Hwy 26 near Warm Springs. Silas and Travis were waiting at the launch spot with our All Star rafts and gear. We stuffed dry bags with gear, filled three coolers with food, donned splash jackets and neoprene booties, and discussed and demonstrated safety and rafting procedures. The voluminous gear was strapped into the gear raft, and the 12 students boarded the other two rafts to begin our descent. We floated under the highway bridge and into adventure.
The first day was fairly calm, river-wise. That gave us time to coalesce as crews and to appreciate our beautiful surroundings. There was plentiful birdlife – many great blue herons, neat, white collared king fishers, and little groups of mergansers in the eddies. The banks teemed with fishermen, casting, casting, casting but never catching anything that we could see.
We floated 20 miles down to Whiskey Dick, where we set up camp for the night. The volunteer dinner crew put together the dinner: southwest fettuccine. The extra southwestern-ness contributed by the inadvertently burned onions gave a smoky flavor that didn’t add well to the overall taste. There was a lot left over. On the other hand, the salsa ensalada disappeared completely. Winter is on its way, and it was dark by 7:30. We were happy to head to our sleeping bags soon after that.
The next morning we were up at 7:00 and enjoyed a pancake breakfast. We broke camp, loaded the rafts, and were under way on the river by 9:30. Just downstream we stopped to scout the Class IV Whitehorse Rapids. We subsequently ran them without difficulty. We passed through areas of extensive grass fires that had burned earlier in the year. Entire slopes of the deep valley were dark brown and a bit forbidding. The black ash wasn’t visible except in the burned areas right along the river. On the higher slopes the dark basalt showed through the sparse ash and rendered the landscape brown rather than black. With the usual grass gone, the spectacular geology was even more in evidence than usual. Alluvial fans debouching from the steep, narrow side canyons showed their spread of rocks openly. The dark, burnt hillsides contrasted sharply with those unburnt, whose napped golden hue was the color of lightly cooked buttermilk pancakes. We stopped at Turtle Rock for some jumping off the high rock of the turtle’s beak into the deep eddy below. We pulled out at Buckskin Mary to camp for the night.
That evening we had build-your-own-burritos for dinner. There were plenty of trimmings to put in them, and everyone ate well. The early darkness again pushed us to turn in much earlier than we would at home. In the night there were several rain showers, fortunately light enough not to drench people or gear left outside. Some animal with sharp claws tried to get into the garbage bag inadvertently left hanging on the table, but it didn’t find much of interest. Another animal (or perhaps the same one) dragged some nesting material into the bottom of one of the empty dry bags. But by morning the animal was gone.
We had 18 river miles to cover the next day, and we had to meet the bus at Sandy Beach in the early afternoon. That meant an early start. We got up at 6:45, when it was still dark. The sky lightened as we packed our gear, and we didn’t need flashlights to eat breakfast. After we consumed muffins and cereal, packing up went efficiently, and we cast off by 8:40. We ran the exciting rapids at Wapinitia, Boxcar, and Oak Springs. Shortly before the takeout we stopped to let those who wanted to float through a rapid. No one had done this the day before at Buckskin Mary, despite the example of another high school group, most of whom floated through the rapid there while some of us watched. This time though, most of our group braved the cold waves to bounce through the rapids, some more than once. The rest of the muffins from breakfast and the leftover Oreos from lunch made a welcome energy boost to the chilled. From this rapid to the take-out was a quick 10-minute float.
With our practiced experience we quickly unloaded the rafts, organized the gear, and set off back to Portland, arriving at Catlin Gabel ahead of schedule. It had been a fun three days, filled with thrilling rapids, napping in the calm stretches, teamwork, camaraderie, and fine self-cooked food. Sign us up for another trip!
In her book, Hiking Oregon's Geology, Ellen Morris Bishop paints a pretty magical scene while describing the Eagle Creek drainage some 25 million years ago. She says, "you would be strolling trhough a diverse forest of oaks, maples, gingkoes, sycamores, and sweet gum trees...The animals might look a bit odd. They would include three types of two-toed horse about the size of a Great Dane, the camel Oxydactylus, and a plant-eating animal call a chalicothere that resembled a bear with a horse's head (Bishop, Ellen Morris. Hiking Oregon's Geology. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books, 2004)." While we didn't find any horse-headed grizzlies, and the ecosystem had changed quite a lot, we still found Eagle Creek to be as wonderful as ever.
As the backbone of the Outdoor Leadership and Adventure course, this weekend backpacking trip brought a lot of themes together from class. It allowed us to come together as a group while putting to the test both the practical skills that we work on during the course (setting up a camp, lighting stoves, ecological appreciation, navigation, etc.). the weekend also gave us a deeper context to explore some of the more abstract concepts that we throw around in OLA, such as leadership, communication, and grit.
We passed climbed a mountain, camped on a lakeshore, and passed many waterfalls (and even took some time to wade at the base of one!). Please enjoy some photos from this wonderful weekend.
A warm July day saw a dozen students board the shiny yellow bus for a trip over to the warm side of the mountains. We headed for Horsethief Butte State Park, just across the river from The Dalles. We parked in the new parking lot for the park, and paid the $10 parking fee before walking up to the crags that make up Horsethief Butte. Most of the students were new to rock climbing outdoors, but took to it like fish in water. We set up four different routes, and every student tried every route-- in fact, I think every student completed every route. In the early afternoon it got so warm that we headed over to Horsethief Lake and spent some time in the cool water adjacent to the Columbia River. During the drive home we stopped for ice cream in Cascade Locks, which added to the already exuberant feeling of accomplishment.
"I've never been this tired in my life...not even when I stayed up to watch Harry Potter 7 on opening night!"
The words of this wise student summed up how we all felt after the nearly 12 hours of hiking that went into the powerful experience of standing on top of a Cascade volcano and peering down into the smoking crater. All of us here in Portland orient ourselves by looking North to the snow-covered rise of Mount St. Helens, but few of us can claim to have been lucky enough to see the world from on top. Thirteen excited and newly-graduated 8th graders joined the company of one dedicated 7th grader, four adult climb leaders, and an increasingly heavy ironing board to try their hand at reaching the summit.
As most of the group was new to the wonders of mountaineering, the greater portion of Saturday was spent in the sun, learning about the fundamentals of a safe and successful climb. We talked about the essential clothing and personal equipment that one needs for an outing, as well as the importance of food, water, rest and paying attention to ones breathing and body. We learned the basic skills needed on a mountain climb at a short Snow School (on a less than impressive snow slope!) These techniques included the rest step, plunge step, walking with an ice axe, putting on and walking with crampons, and the theory behind a self-arrest.
Back at camp, we explored the edge of the lake, played some ridiculous games, and feasted on a "make-your-own burrito" spread. There is nothing like chorizo to power you up a mountain. We all went to bed early knowing that we would be awake again in only a few hours to start the climb.
By 4am everyone in the group was up and putting the final touches on their gear, and we were at the Marble Mountain trailhead and moving toward the mountain by 6:15. Our first break all together came at timberline where the sun greeted us in full force. The trail through the "Worm Flows" soon met up with Monitor Ridge, and the group worked its way up this prominent feature on the mountain. The shortest route to the top of the mountain starts at a trailhead known as the "Climber's Bivouac," but due to the heavy snow this year, the bivouac had not yet melted out, forcing our group to take the longer approach from Marble Mountain. The extra distance didn't slow us down, as our group easily kept pace with another Mazama party that was on the mountain that day.
The group tired as we neared the top, and a bit of fog covered the summit, but everyone pushed on. The first in our party reached the top at 1:11pm, and the rest of us trickled up to the rim before we all started the incredible glissade back to the forest. As the fog cleared, we had unbelievable views north to Mt. Rainier, and down to the impressive, and smoking lava dome.
The ironing board made it all the way up to the summit only for us to realize that somebody had forgotten the iron! Please enjoy these photos from this incredible weekend. It was an experience that we all will be able to draw from in many ways for years to come.
"Who forgot the iron?"
The day dawned gray, with the promise of dampness ahead. Nevertheless, the intrepid hikers, 11 students and 2 leaders, gathered at Catlin to set off to climb Dog Mountain. All were present before the hour for departure, so the expedition left 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Driving through the Gorge the clouds thickened, the moisture condensed, and the wipers came on. In the distance much brighter clouds over Dog Mountain enticed us onwards.
As we approached the trailhead, the summit of our climb was shrouded in cloud. The trail at the base was clear and dry, so after introductions all around, we set off up the first steep pitch in high spirits. True to tradition, some students charged ahead, while others (and one leader) plodded up in the rear. With stops at each junction to ensure that everyone went the same way, the group was never overly stretched out. Despite the chilly, damp season we’ve had so far in the Northwest, the wildflowers were emerging colorfully. Yellow Balsamroot, red Indian Paintbrush, and, higher up, lilac Phlox were to be seen, along with many others.
The wind rose and the temperature dropped as we neared the summit. We were very glad of the extra layers and warm hats and gloves we’d brought along. As we huddled in the flower fields at the top, a light rain began to fall as the view alternated between the damp inside of a cloud, fleeting views of snowy slopes on the Oregon side of the Gorge, and spectacular panoramas westward over Wind Mountain and down the Gorge towards Portland. Living up to its name there were many dogs of all sizes on the trail. One even sported a doggy rain poncho.
The wet, windy and chilly weather didn’t dispose us to linger on the top, so we soon packed up our things and set off down the alternate route towards the base. The lower we descended the warmer it got. By the time we reached the trailhead the sun was out and it was a beautiful day.
The group came for many reasons: conditioning to climb Mt Hood or Mt St Helens, to build towards a summer of hiking, or just to have fun outdoors. Since all made it to the summit, the goals were achieved. We returned to Portland and Catlin 6 minutes ahead of schedule, tired but well satisfied with our efforts of the day.
Students of all grades of Catlin's Upper School ventured up the windy roads of the Mount St. Helens Volcanic Monument for a weekend of backpacking along the beautiful Siouxon Creek. Three seniors took a break from their end-of-the-year, senior projects to join us on one of their last Outdoor Program trips. After loading up our packs at the trailhead, we headed down the trail in perfect sunshine. Mary quickly led the pack past multiple waterfalls and impressive rapids along the creek. The trail crossed the full stream over bridges and we stopped multiple times to sit in the sun and enjoy being outside. A long lunch at a rocky beach quickly turned into a rock throwing contest, with Max proving to be MVP.
The weathered turned around dinner time, and we cooked our food, played cards, and turned in for bed all while trying our best to stay dry. After a long night's rest, we cooked our breakfast and packed up camp to start the pretty hike back to the bus. We stopped at the Dollar Tree in Battle Ground, WA on the way home to pick up a random assortment of gifts for Peter Green who had to stay home for the weekend due to a knee surgery.
Please enjoy some photos from our weekend.
Three Middle School students, eight Upper School students, and four faculty/staff members just returned from a fantastic weekend of biking and environmental service.
We left Portland at 9:30 on Saturday morning and arrived at Trout Lake-Guler County Campground at about 11:45. We ate a quick snack, pumped up bike tires and practiced our hand signals, and set out through the beautiful countryside. Mt. Adams and the sun both smiled down upon us as we rode across the flat back roads between Trout Lake and Glenwood, WA.
We started in Trout Lake, took Sunnyside Road for several miles, and eventually turned right on Warner Road. We encountered minimal traffic. We then turned right on Little Mountain Road instead of Hwy 141, which again helped us to avoid lots of cars. After a few miles on Little Mountain Road, we encountered the White Salmon River and a perfect spot to stop for our picnic lunch. Students ate, visited, and lay in the grass along the banks of the river. Some enjoyed throwing big rocks in the water to see who could make the biggest splash.
We then hopped back on our bikes and finished the rest of the leg back to Trout Lake, and decided to ride into the area behind the little “town” to see what else we might find. Eventually, we encountered seasonal Trout Lake itself, and took photos of Mt. Adams reflected into the water. A few raindrops finally began to fall at this point, so we headed back to our campground after our 20 mile bike ride.
Just as we began to pull our rain flies onto our tents, the big, sporadic drops turned into a pelting and sustained downfall. We donned raingear and hopped back on our bikes for the half-mile ride to Trout Lake’s Station Café and their world-famous huckleberry milkshakes. Thunder and lightning began to rumble outside, but thankfully we were inside, nice and warm. We decided to get on the bus and drive to Cheese Cave for some exploration—the best outdoor activity possible in heavy rains.
That night we cooked a mac-n-cheese dinner, played cards and Bananagrams, and sang to guitar music thanks to Andrew and Graham, and went to bed to the soothing rain.
The next morning, we headed out to the Conboy Lake Wildlife Refuge. Dan and Lisa showed us how to use GPS devices, and we spent a few hours combing the area for a rare type of vetch, marking any unusual findings on our observation sheet and using the GPS device to mark the location. No one found any vetch, which will help the refuge make the case that climate change is making it hard for pollinators to perpetuate the various plant species, including the vetch, which means it may become endangered or extinct.
We returned to school Sunday evening feeling refreshed and tired--a perfect combination.
The Nez Perce knew the Grande Ronde River as Welleweah, or "The River that Flows into the Far Beyond." The Catlin Outdoor Program took a long weekend to explore the remote canyon that this beautiful river has carved in the far northeastern corner of the state. Draining the Blue Mountains and the nearby Wallowas, the Grande Ronde sees few people over the 212 miles that it travels before spilling into the Snake River at Hell's Canyon.
This trip was a true adventure, as none of the participants, not even the leaders had been on the river before. As we headed East toward Minam, the sunshine intensified and landscape changed dramatically from what we were used to. While the views from the bus were beautiful, they couldn't compare to the steep canyons, clear creeks, sandy beaches, and rocky ridge tops that we would explore during our river trip. We saw kingfisher, golden eagles, elk, and tons of deer along the way. A pair of bear hunters were the only other people that we saw over our three days in the canyon.
Aside from the natural wonders, there were many other memories made over the weekend. Puppies and baby goats at the Elgin Boot and Saddle shop, sharing riddles and jokes around the fire ring, the stinging of brambles against bare legs during an epic bushwhack, waiting for a new form of transportation from our take out at the Powwatka Bridge when our bus broke down......and Easter dinner at Denny's!
Please enjoy some photos from this adventure. And, thank you to everyone in Eastern Oregon that helped us to get home on Sunday when things decided not to go as planned. It all worked out in the end. More photos to come.
We left Catlin early Saturday—7:45—and took the ferry at Cathlamat across the Columbia because of a landslide on Hwy 4 in Washington. We arrived at Skamokawa at about 10:30, got suited up, and drove to our put-in. Four students went in tandem boats, and three when in solos. We paddled about 5 miles downriver, stopping for lunch on a windy beach a little over half-way.
Mark and Katie, our guides, were fantastic. They wove in stories of ancient tsunamis that impacted the local ecosystem, talked about Native American traditions of the area, and explained the white settlement process. They also helped students identify several birds and insects and make sense of the tidal patterns.
One student kayaked for the first time in his life, and several had only tried it once or twice. All got the hang of it fairly quickly. Katie towed one student through a tricky section where it was a bit exposed and windy, but otherwise students were self-sufficient and adequately challenged and successful.
We finished kayaking around 3:00, cleaned up, and drove out to Cape Disappointment. We set up our tents and then headed to the beach. After a few hours building incredible drift wood forts on Waikiki Beach, we went back to our campsite and cooked burritos for dinner. We were in bed by 10:15.
Breakfast consisted of peanut butter, banana, nutella, and honey sandwiches, along with hot chocolate. We packed up the bus and drove to the trailhead to the park’s lighthouse. The two mile hike proved to be plenty in the rain and wind, and we then went to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. After lunch beside an “urban” lake park in Ilwaco, we headed over the Astoria Bridge and home along Hwy 26.
Students agreed that this was the perfect introduction to kayaking, and many are already looking forward to convincing their families and friends to try it out!
Winter Comes Back to Mt. Hood
The winter finally came back to Oregon and blanketed Elk Meadows in two feet of fresh snow. A group of adventurous upper school students prepared themselves with snowshoes, warm sleeping bags, and winter camping gear and set off onto the flanks of Mt. Hood. We had beautiful clear skies, which made for impressive sunsets, stargazing (including a shooting star that shot all the way behind the mountain), and incredible views of the east side of the mountain. The group met its first challenge arriving at the crossing of Newton Creek. A couple of wood saws, some engineering genius, and an hour or so later, and our group had a sturdy bridge across the icy waters. It is hard work living in the snow for the weekend, but the group worked beautifully together, and created an impressive winter camp, complete with snow-benches, an ice-block windbreak, a snow-table, and snow-stairs. Deciding to test the insulating power of the snow, the whole group dug a big snow trench and slept through the night in the tarp-covered shelter. Sunday we hiked up towards Elk Mountain and took part in some phenomenal sledding. Please enjoy a few photos from this winter adventure.
Our 2011 course catalog will be available in early March.
Class offerings range from arts and music, to sports, modern languages, writing, SAT prep, outdoor education, service and more.
The dates for most 2011 summer classes are July 5 – August 5 and serve preschool through high school students.
» For information, e-mail or call Len Carr, Summer Programs director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 503-297-1894 ext. 406
PLACE — Planning & Leadership Across City Environments
June 20 – Juy 15
Grades 10 – 12 and recent high school graduates
PLACE is a unique program, run by Catlin Gabel School in partnership with the greater Portland community, that focuses on how we relate to our urban environment through smart planning and effective leadership.
Outdoor Program Summer Trips
Rafting, hiking, camping, climbing, backpacking, biking and exploring. A great way to meet other kids and challenge yourself in NEW ways
Catlin Gabel offers a number of outdoor adventures.
Elana Gold '93 Memorial Environmental Restoration Project
June 17 – 22
Grades 9 – 12
Established in 1993 to carry out land restoration projects in the Barlow Ranger District on Mt. Hood National Forest.
It could have been the middle of May, as a group of adventurous 6th graders set out to enjoy a sunny day of snowshoeing on Mt. Hood this past Saturday. Even though it was the first time snowshoeing for almost the whole group, we covered nearly five miles over the course of the day while still finding the time to explore a frozen lake, have multiple snowball battles, a snowball throwing contests, and build a bearded snowman. We learned about the ancient hemlock trees, old man's beard, and the winter landscape of the Cascade Mountains. Sitting on the back of the bus, we wrapped up a grand adventure with hot chocolate, homemade cookies, and rice crispie treats. Please enjoy some photos from this great day.
The sun was setting in dramatic fashion over the Oregon desert, and the clouds that had been hung up on the Cascades to the West had dislodged themselves and were threatening rain. Half of our group had rappelled into the collapsed lava tube while the rest stood at the edge looking down. None of us at the bottom had yet started exploring the pitch black cave that was our only way out of the sink hole. We were in the middle of one of many of the adventures of a truly great weekend. Impressive snow during the bus ride over the pass, pulled pork tacos next to a wood stove, and an abandoned, yet sunny Smith Rock State Park provided plenty of other memorable experiences. Everyone in the group pushed themselves in many ways, and hopefully returned to Portland a little more adventurous. Please enjoy some photos from our trip.
Adventures on the Coast with the Outdoor Program
A group of eight middle schoolers joined the outdoor program for a weekend of exploration along the northern Oregon coast. The weather was crisp, clear, and sunny, and the group was able to experience the beach in dramatic fashion. After rolling past the clear cuts and rolling hills of the Coast Range, the group stopped to explore the beautiful Hug Point. Limited by the high tide, and wanting more room to run, we boarded the bus again and headed to the "secret beach" in Oswald West State Park. Accompanied by a group of nearby surfers, we built sand volcanoes, played touch football, and explored tide pools and waterfalls. Tired and chilly, we continued south down the coast and established ourselves in our yurts at Nehalem Bay State Park. We cooked burritos, made a fire, and played some ridiculous games before going to sleep in the comfortable yurts. A team of raccoons came by while we were inside our yurts playing cards, and stole all of our muffins that we had left outside. The heat went out in the girls' yurt, so they bundled up to stay warm through the night. After some cards and a big breakfast, the group headed down to the wide, open beaches of the state park, where we played soccer, jumped off of dunes, and collected shells before getting back on the bus to head back home. The sun joined us for most of the weekend, for which we were grateful! Please enjoy the photos from this beautiful weekend. Until the next adventure!
We just returned from a fantastic late-fall caving trip to the Trout Lake, Washington, area. Though temps dropped into the 30s, we didn't care because we were deep below the surface of the earth...where it's always cold!
Students arrived on campus at 10:00 and played a fierce game of Birdie on a Perch to get the energy flowing. We drove east on Highway 26 and stopped at Eagle Creek to see spawning salmon and eat lunch. It was a perfect place to stop thanks to the hundreds of fish swimming around and a nearby picnic shelter. We headed to Hood River, crossed the Columbia, and then turned north until we arrived at Trout Lake, Washington.
We first explored Cheese Cave. Students were amazed to hear stories of the little cabin sitting on top one of the caves entrances, and to realize that the cave was actually used at one point for storing cheese. After a safety briefing, students donned headlamps and helmets and descended into the cave. We walked a few hundred feet in the direction of the stairwell leading toward the house, and then tracked back to the main entrance and went down a smaller passageway leading to a crawlspace after a few hundred feet. Some students crouched down and went all the way to the end, and a few watched from a little ways away.
We then boarded the bus and drove 10 minutes to Ice Caves. We played a team-building game using a rope and a carabiner, and then descended into the cave. Students were amazed at the ice formations made by water dripping form the ceiling. Some slipped through the tiny crevice to make the loop in the first section of the cave, while others waited and then continued on with the group for the second and third caves. Students then had a snowball fight, and we drove to the Guler-Trout Lake County Campground.
After dinner of mac ‘n’ cheese, canned salmon, peas, and roasted red pepper soup, we sang songs around the campfire and made s’mores. Students went to bed around 10:00.
The next morning, we ate breakfast, played a quick game of Pirate Tag, and headed toward Beacon Rock for a hike. The wind whipped and rain pelted, however, so we decided to do a hike on the Oregon side with a little less exposure. We did the 2 ½ mile hike (out and back) to dramatic Wacella Falls, at the end of a mossy and cliff-filled gorge. After a quick game of “I Spy with my Eagle Eye” and sandwiches, we headed back to school. What a fantastic weekend!
Several 6th graders climbed outdoors on real rock for the first time this weekend, and they are hooked! We met in the Catlin Gabel theater lot Saturday morning, played a quick game of pirate tag to help students get to know each other, loaded up the bus, and set out for Horsethief Butte near Lyle, Washington.
After donning harnesses, helmets, and shoes, students learned to tie figure 8 knots and began climbing. One student after another made it to the top of the thirty-foot climb, and others challenged themselves with harder climbs and made it part-way up. Adults belayed in the beginning, and after getting the hang of climbing some students gave belaying a hand. We also set up a belayed rappel station, and many students tried it out for the first time!
We left the climbing area around 5:30 and drove east to Maryhill State Park. We set up tents, ate a big burrito dinner, made s’mores around the campfire, and played card games. Everyone went to bed by 10:00. It rained hard all night, but we slept soundly to the rhythm of the rain and stayed dry for the most part.
The group awoke to blue sky peeking between the windmills lining the cliffs above the Columbia River, and packed quickly on Sunday morning. We ate a breakfast of Spam, muffins, bagels and cream cheese, and bananas. We then went to check out the Maryhill Stonehenge replica, and then drove back across the Columbia to Oregon to do the four-mile hike to Elowah Falls and Upper McCord Creek Falls. Students stood in the mist of the falls after hiking through lush green ferns and Northwest forest. We stopped for a picnic lunch at Ainsworth State Park, and returned to campus mid-afternoon, tired but feeling so refreshed!
Catlin Gabel has recently installed a challenge course where students will have the opportunity to test themselves on a variety of high and low elements. The course is nestled in the woods below the Lower School Art Barn.
Safety issues have been thoroughly vetted and were our top priority in designing and building the course. Professional arborists assure us that the trees used to anchor the course are not at risk of damage.
The course is designed for students ages 10 and over. Use of the course is strictly limited to times when a trained facilitator is on site. Almost two dozen faculty-staff members have taken the extensive professional training sessions required to become facilitators. (See photo.) When a facilitator is not supervising the course, the ropes and cables are secured and inaccessible to passersby.
Every challenge course has its own personality. Catlin Gabel’s facility was constructed with an emphasis on group cooperation and overcoming obstacles. Under the guidance of trained facilitators, groups of students will tackle various challenges that require skill and ingenuity to resolve. The course contains four high elements and seven low elements. Some of the elements can be tailored for use by different age groups. Parent and alumni groups can arrange for challenge course events by e-mailing outdoor education teacher Erin Goodling ’99 at email@example.com.
“We expect that sports teams, global education groups, departments, and classes will use the challenge course to help set the stage for their work together,” said Peter Green, outdoor education director.
We are very grateful to Andy and Becky Michaels, Oregon Mountain Community, Reed and Tina Wilson, and an anonymous donor for this exciting addition to our program. The challenge course fits right in with Catlin Gabel’s hands-on experiential approach to learning.
This year’s 6th Grade Farm Trip opened a whole new world for several students, and welcomed veteran outdoor participants back to the field. Several sixth graders experienced their first night sleeping in a tent, first visit to a farm, and first time making s’mores! Veterans helped newcomers learn to set up tents, cook on a camp stove, and predict an impending rainstorm. And not one student let the rain dampen his or her spirits!
We began our adventure on a sunny Friday morning. All nineteen middle school students and four upper school student chaperones loaded their gear onto the bus and we drove thirty-five minutes west to Duyck's Peachy Pig Farm. We rolled past cornfields, pumpkin patches, and rambling farm houses, and chickens and a llama greeted us as we pull into the Peachy Pig Farm parking area.
The first items on our agenda included taking an exploratory walk around the eighty acre farm and eating lunch at the top of the hazelnut orchard. We passed apple trees, pear trees, eggplant bushes, and pepper plants en route to our picnic spot. After lunch, students ran relay races in the orchard and learned how to identify poison oak.
Next, we went back down near the farmhouse and set up tents and played some team building challenge games. Who knew that guiding a carabiner along a rope in the shape of a spiderweb could be so difficult?! Students practiced listening to each other, trading off leadership roles, and maintaining patience in order to solve the challenge.
The rest of our evening included farm chores such as collecting nuts and raking leaves, picking produce for our pasta dinner, and cooking an incredible meal from scratch. Almost everyone agreed that the eggplant, pepper, squash, and tomato sauce we'd worked together to cook tasted ten times better than anything store-bought. We capped off the evening with songs and s'mores around the campfire, and tucked each other into bed just before the rain arrived.
In the morning, we awoke and celebrated one students' birthday with fresh berry pancakes and whip cream. Several students tried Spam for their first times, and liked it! We carved pumpkins, cuddled with baby farm, packed up our tents, thanked Gary and Sally--our farm hosts, and made our way back to school--muddy but happy!