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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.


Middle Schoolers Climb in the Central Oregon Sun

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With spring teasing us in Portland, a group of middle school students and the Catlin outdoor program loaded up faithful bus #21 (back from a hiatus in the bus shop - thanks, Bubba!) to seek out some more dependable sun. Our destination: Central Oregon. Our goal: find some beautiful rock faces to climb! Upper School student Chris Reimann joined the middle school group to share some of his passion and knowledge about the sport of rock climbing.

Arriving at Smith Rock State Park, we were greeted by the very sun that we were out to find. This was the kind of sun that actually warms you when it hits your skin, and even the light wind was warm. We hiked down into the Crooked River canyon and hiked past all of the other climbers, packed into the dihedrals area. We marched past the hanging ropes and calls of fellow climber on the Phoenix Wall, and rounded the Southern Point of the magnificent Smith Rock group. Our hike ended at the base of the Waterfall Slab, where we set up for the day.  A basic rock lesson reinforced some of the fundamentals of the sport: fastening a harness, tying figure-8 follow-through knots, safety checks, and climbing commands. The rest of the day was filled with climbing laps on the Waterfall Slab and throwing rocks into the Crooked River. The late afternoon sun ignited the rock faces of the park as we made the final hike back to the bus (see above photo).

Sunday started with the frying of two cans of Spam over a homemade rocket stove, and Alon tasted the wonderful canned pork-product for the first time. We then headed out Cascade Lakes HIghway to the secret climbing spot of Meadow Camp. It was snowing when we arrived at the trailhead, and wind from the frozen peaks was funneling down the Deschutes River valley and the back of our necks. Nonetheless, we headed to the short cliffs just above the river to see what we would find. We were rewarded, as the sun broke through the gray and dried the rock around us. We climbed a series of "crack climbs," played some games of "camo," hiked along the river, and ate lunch in the sun before pushing ourselves to do one final climb each in the early afternoon. It was a fabulous weekend with a great group of people. I am grateful that we all had the opportunity to spend that kind of quality time together in the energizing, educational and inspiring landscapes of Central Oregon. Please enjoy some photos from our trip.

Winter Camping in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

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Yes, my friends...that is a homemade igloo, lit up under the clear night's sky by the eleven headlamps of our incredible group.

Due to a forecast for over two feet of fresh (but unstable) snow up on Mt. Rainier, we made a last minute change to our itinerary and headed up to the Trout Lake area at the base of Mt. Adams.  With the goal getting into the backcountry, and avoiding the presence of snowmobilers, we headed to the more obscure Snow King Sno-Park, donned our snowshoes and tromped up the unplowed road before turning off into the woods and meadows of the area.  Each spot looked better than the next as we scoured the landscape for a prime spot to build our winter camp.  We settled on a beautiful meadow and tucked our bags in the tree wells so that we could roll up our sleeves and start putting in the hours of work that would be required to build a snow empire.  Mike Wilson had brought his igloo maker, and the so-called "ICE BOX" was put into motion as we built a 12-foot diameter igloo from the ground up.  Meanwhile, our kitchen area was excavated and tents were erected.  The snow stopped for the evening, and that the stars came out in force.  All eleven us packed into the igloo for a spaghetti dinner before we started a campfire outside in the snow. 

We filled Sunday with an off-trail snowshoe excursion up to the top of a nearby butte, snowball fights, sweetened condensed milk (poured on every food item we had - winter camping requires high calorie input!), and burgers in the friendly cafe in Trout Lake before rolling back into Catlin.

Here are some photos from one of the program's classic winter trips.  Enjoy.

6th Grade Exploration of the Columbia River Gorge

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Water is a necessary ingredient for the verdant landscapes of the western Columbia River Gorge.  A group of intrepid 6th graders joined the Outdoor Program for a day of winter hiking, and water is what we found!  In our waterbottles, in the nearly dozen waterfalls we passed, in the form of snow on the side of the trail, dripping from the abundant mosses, and falling from the sky!  We didn't let a wet, Oregon storm stop us from completing the beautiful Triple Falls and Wahclella Falls hikes.  We ate lunch beside a raging creek, and warmed up with a whipped cream-topped cup of hot cocoa in Cascade Locks before heading back to Catlin.  Please enjoy some photos from our trip.

Winter Arrives in Time for a MS Adventure to Clear Lake Butte Fire Lookout

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Light, perfect powder blanketed the flanks of Mt. Hood as the small school bus headed up to the Skyline Sno-Park for an overnight trip to an old, abandoned fire lookout.  Our group of seven middle school students and two leaders donned cross-country skis and glided up an un-plowed road before turning up Clear Lake Butte for a steep, but rewarding climb up to the fire lookout.  The learning curve for skiing is steep, but the Catlin middle schoolers picked up the technique with surprising speed.  As we climbed, the clouds that had deposited the beautiful new snow started to part and we enjoyed filtered sun through the trees at each of our rest breaks.  Skiing with a backpack is a significant challenge, and we all welcomed the sight of the 40 foot lookout tower.  A wood stove and panoramic views awaited us up above! 

We melted snow for tea water, stoked the stove, and prepared a large pasta dinner to enjoy by the fire.  Our cookie-baking experiment on the woodstove proved to be only somewhat successful, if you count appearances for something.  Nevertheless, they were delicious!  An elaborate pulley system outside of the lookout allowed us to raise snow (to melt for water) and firewood up to the cabin, and also allowed us to lower backpacks and large items.

Everyone enjoyed each other's company, and we were all happy to see the long-awaited snow.  You couldn't help but feel deeply relaxed in the cozy lookout.  An egg breakfast, warm-up ski and a snowball fight started the next morning.  After enjoying ourselves at the lookout, we put our (lighter!) packs on and started the ski back down to the bus.  There was some requisite falling and flailing, but everyone did extraordinarily well.  Many first-time skiiers reported that they couldn't wait to try it again in the near future.  We had a wonderful trip.  Please enjoy some photos from this overnight adventure.



Middle Schoolers Rock Central Oregon

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Climbing at Smith Rock State Park

On a glorious December weekend 13 students from Catlin Gabel's Middle School spent a weekend climbing at Smith Rock.  While most of them had been climbing indoors at the rock gym before, few had actually made the trek to one of America's sport climbing Meccas.  The group spent Saturday climbing in the Cinammon Slab area and Sunday in the Phonecall area.  Once the light had faded to dark on Saturday afternoon we all boarded the bus and headed in to town for pizza.  The night was spent in warm and comfortable yurts at Tumalo State Park.

First Snow at the Devil's Peak Lookout

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A hypothermic forecast forced us to abandon our original plan of descending an 8+ mile section of Opal Creek in the Willamette National Forest.  We put that plan (which would surely require some wading) on the shelf for a warmer weekend, and instead headed up above the freezing level for an amazing weekend in an old, abandoned fire lookout.  The Devil's Peak Lookout sits atop Hunchback Ridge outside of the small town of ZigZag on the flanks of Mt. Hood.  There is no particularly easy way to reach the lookout; one gradual path to the top requires miles of driving on rutted roads to reach the trailhead, while the other trail is easy to access but involves an unrelenting climb of over 3,200 vertical feet in under 4 miles once on the switchbacking trail.   This hearty group chose the short drive and steep trail.  We packed up our backs in the wet, old-growth forests off of the side of the road, and started UP!  We soon broke through into the snow.  A dusting turned into a few inches toward the top.  The footing was not the best, but the trail was easy to follow, and we were all pleased to be out of the city and in the peaceful quiet of the Cascades.  Once at the lookout, our boisterous group became task-oriented: gathering firewood for the stove, starting a fire, melting snow for drinking water, opening the heavy wooden shutters of the cabin, and preparing a massive and DELICIOUS dinner.  Hot drinks, cards, madlibs, stories and jokes filled the final hours before we filled every inch of floor space in the lookout for our night's sleep.  We awoke to views of Wy'East (Mt. Hood) in all of its sunlit glory.  We were so glad to have taken the forecast with a grain of salt and headed out into the woods, regardless.  A big breakfast, some more exploration, a speedy descent down the steep trail and some old-fashioned donoughts at Joe's wrapped up an outstanding weekend.  Please enjoy some photos from our trip!



A Misty Hike with Middle Schoolers

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We Love the Columbia River Gorge!

Despite typical fall Portland rains, ten middle school students and two leaders forged ahead and enjoyed a misty Saturday in the gorge while most Portlanders stayed indoors and missed out on this gorgeous day.


Our original plan was to hike to Elk Meadows, which we changed to Ramona Falls upon realizing that the stream crossing would likely be fairly intense with the fall rains. We then made another change the morning of the hike, however, because we received word that the bridge over the Sandy River heading to Ramona was already taken down for the winter. Armed with resolve to find a beautiful hike that involved a waterfall, we headed toward the Columbia River Gorge.


We met at the Cabell Center at 8:30 am, bright and early. After a quick get-to-know-each other game we boarded the bus and drove east. The sky lightened a bit as we drove, and we decided to seize the opportunity created by the early foul weather to do the well-known but usually-avoided hike (due to crowds) to Wahkeena and Multnomah Falls. We had the first three-fourths of the trail basically to ourselves, and it hardly rained!


After a few miles of switchbacks, we stopped for lunch at the highest elevation point. Students enjoyed the adventure of mini-stream crossings, and especially enjoyed allowing the mist from both Wahkeena and Multnomah Falls to land on them. The 5.2 miles of hiking whizzed by!


 This group of students proved to be emerging outdoor leaders. Not only did the chilly weather not stop them, but neither did the steep terrain. The four 8th grade boys all enthusiastically agreed they look forward to climbing St. Helens this year, and the five 6th grade boys and one 6th grade girl held their own keeping up with the swift pace of the older students.


We made it back to school by 3:00 and felt thankful that the shorter drive allowed for a longer hike. We can't wait until the next one!



6th Grade Farm Camp-Out with the Outdoor Program

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Hazelnuts, pumpkins, and pigs

A group of ten 6th grade students ventured west to the rolling farmland of Cornelius, Oregon, for a weekend of exploration, pumpkin carving, and fun. We all got to know each other better over the course of the two days while also learning new outdoor living skills!  

After setting up camp next to the berry fields of Duyck's Peachy Pig Farm, we set off to explore the 67-acre property on foot. We passed and identified many crops - berries, fruit and nut trees, and vegetables - before entering the hazelnut orchard.  Upper School students Siobhan and Annika joined the group and helped out with camp tasks. We took our time in the orchard, stopping for a good-hearted hazelnut war and hazelnut throwing contest before hiking up into the cedar grove at the top of the property. Our hike along the perimeter of the farm ended in the pumpkin patch, where we each picked a pumpkin that called out to us. After carving them up, we played games and harvested fresh vegetables for a primavera sauce that would accompany our big pasta dinner. The feast was delicious, and we ended the night with a nice campfire in the woods before turning into bed in our tents. Sunday held more games, fresh food, and a visit to the farm's namesake pigs before loading up the bus and heading back to Catlin Gabel. The sun shone on us the entire weekend, and inspired us all to look forward to the next time that we can spend time together in the outdoors!

Cruising on the Banks-Vernonia Trail

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A beautiful fall bike ride

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!

Annual descent of the Deschutes River

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Three days in Oregon's high desert

Deschutes Descent
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!


OLA Backpacking: Wahtum Lake to Eagle Creek

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In search of a bear-like animal with a horse's head

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.

Rock climbing at Horsethief Butte

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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.

Extreme Ironing on the Summit of Mount St. Helens!

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Thirteen newly-graduated 8th Graders, one 7th grader, and one ironing board reach the top of a NW landmark.

"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?"


Outdoor Program Hike Up Dog Mountain

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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.


Backpacking along the banks of Siouxon Creek

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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.