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Winter Overnight in a Fire Lookout, January, 2010
Arguably too much fun. Dufur. "Power Sledding." Off trail. The Lookout. Group photo. Dumbwaiter. Adventure. Our version of "Power Sledding." Jumping over trees. Or almost. Chopping wood. Fear. Bananachocolatemess. Snowball ambush. "Just Married."
We left Catlin Gabel at 8:30 am. Our original plan to ski in and out was foiled by almost complete lack of snow. We cancelled our rental skis and just walked in our boots. A couple of eager students examined the map (with a questionable degree of success) and decide how we would get there. The initial route took us through some deep snow in the flats near eightmile campground. Once we started up the hillside we beat our way through brush then wandered over to the old growth forest. I think it took less than two hours (with lots of stops) to get all the way up to the lookout.
Once at the lookout we suddenly found ourselves with an entire afternoon to fill, and an egergetic group of kids. We went on an adventure, hugging the ridgeline west of the lookout. Only two of our students had ever chopped wood, which is an abomination that needed remedy. We had a clinic and safety talk about chopping wood. Then we chopped an enormous amount of wood. We spent the rest of the evening playing games and making dinner. Cleanup was a little long and difficult. We prepared a lot of warm water from snow. A lot of warm water.
That night three girls slept on the bed (winner of rock-paper-scissors) and one on the cupboard. Three boys slept on the floor, one on the deck, and one kooky leader slept wonderfully under a tree next to the lookout. It was roomy and warm inside, though our porch-sleeper experienced wind and cold and did not sleep well.
On the second day we had a leisurely breakfast, cleaned the cabin, and headed back to the bus, sneaking up on the third group for a snowball fight. The pictures are good, but somewhat incriminating. Check out the slideshow!
What started out as a cross-country ski trip turned first into a snowshoes trip before finally becoming a backpacking trip, but what a trip it was! We met at Catlin Sunday morning, loaded up the bus and drove to Hood River to rent a few pairs of snowshoes. While in Hood River we ran up what looked (and felt) like thousands of steps to discover a playground before we got back on the bus.
When we arrived at the Billy Bob Sno-Park we distributed group gear and left our little yellow bus, heading up the road towards the Five Mile Butte fire lookout. It was drizzling heavily, and our packs were heavy. We continued up the icy road for a ways before taking a break and munching on candy peach rings.
As we were putting our packs back on, several students proposed the brilliant idea to go straight up the side of the hill to get to the fire tower instead of following the road around to get there. We consulted the map and everyone agreed this was a good idea so we started walking up the muddiest slop imaginable—there were literally rivers of mud flowing down the hillside. Eventually everyone made it to the top, and we celebrated with more peach candy rings before the last push to get to the lookout tower. It was pretty exciting to finally see the tower in the clouds.
We climbed up the narrow, steep stairs and into our lookout tower to start a roaring fire in the wood stove and peel off soggy layers. The tower swayed gently when the wind gusted and the clouds and rain created a very isolated feeling, but it was warm and cozy in our little 15 ft. x 15 ft. room, perched 40 ft. above the ground.
Several of the students stayed down on the ground to start building a giant wall of snow. The rest of the group got settled in the tower. Everyone played an endless, silly game of Uno. Several of the students elected to run around in the snow/rain in just their shorts, which evoked barrels of laughter from everyone.
As the sky grew dark we prepared dinner, which was followed by several rounds of Hide & Seek, made all the more exciting by the dark and the fog. When we finished we found roasting sticks for s’mores and headed back up the tower to savor our dessert and get settled for the night. We sat around in a circle and talked about the day. As the clouds cleared to reveal a blanket of stars, students were lulled to sleep with Edward Abbey’s description of life as a fire lookout ranger.
We awoke to the rosey golden glow of sunrise bathing Mt. Hood in warm light. The skies were clear all around and we could see the broad backs of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier to our north. Who would have guessed we would get a blue bird day after the storm the day before?
We started breakfast and soon the savory smell of frying Spam filled the room, accompanied by fluffy golden pancakes and hot cocoa. Although some of the students were hesitant to try Spam when it plopped out of its can onto the cutting board, most of them boldly stepped outside their comfort zone and sampled the crispy delicacy. And they realized it’s pretty good when you’re roughin’ it.
For our descent we opted for some variety and scenic views and walked down the road. Well, some of us walked and some of us slid down the ice. There were some bumps and bruises earned along the way. At the bottom of the hill we discovered a perfect sledding hill to slide down on the ice before making our way back to our little yellow school bus. A wand on our windshield, left by the Upper Schoolers, greeted us. It felt good to take off our packs and get on the bus. With a twinge of sadness that the trip was over we headed off down the road, back to our families.
Our adventurous group left Catlin Saturday morning to go to the lava tubes southeast of Bend and hike at Smith Rock State Park. We drove down the Gorge to get to Bend, and along the way got to see some cowboys moving their herd of cows down the road. After a spectacular drive out of the green forests of the Willamette Valley into the yellow grasslands of Central Oregon, we arrived at our first cave, Boyd Cave. Although many of the caves are closed for bat habitat restoration, we were allowed to go into Boyd Cave. After donning helmets and headlamps, we explored the narrow passageways, expansive rooms, and rocky scrambles of the lava tube. We even turned out all the lights and listened to the profound silence only found in a cave. At the very end of the cave we squeezed into a tiny tunnel before retracing our steps back to daylight.
Upper School Central Oregon Service and Wilderness Kayaking, November 2009
Soaring highs. Frigid lows. Bald eagles fighting in the air. Vultures. Green sheets. A rainbow stretching from one end of the lake to the other. Deer hunting. Service. Roundabouts. Never. To. Be. Forgotten.
Our crew of eight students and two leaders left Catlin a bit after 8am on Friday morning and headed out to Alder Creek Kayak on TOMAHAWK Drive (ominous). They had our ten kayaks and drysuits (more on this marvel of technology later) and PFDs and booties all ready for us on a trailer. We loaded up and, very cautiously, drove toward Bend.
After some interesting student-provided directions that took us in an unusual pattern through some of Bend’s finest roundabouts, we made our way to the Deschutes River Trail for our community service. After a brief safety talk during which we saw glaceirs pass by, we signed four green sheets, carried our tools, took a tour of the trail network, learned some more, talked some more about safety… and then did an incredible amount of trail work before the sun went down.
We drove away from Bend, toward Lake Billy Chinook, stopping to fill up in a Redmond gas station with an absurd collection of “Outdoor Cutlery” (read: big knives!).
We had the whole South Perry Campground to ourselves! Pulling in late on Friday night, we made our basecamp and had the first of many incredible dinners.
Saturday brought us good weather and, we launched our Kayaks, heading out for our first day on the water. The experience was magnificent. A snow-draped Mt. Jefferson served as our beacon to the east and we paddled to a large island in the middle of the placid gorge that is Lake Billy Chinook.
It turns out that the island was host to a huge population of deer which, obviously, needed a good chasing. We set off on our mission, covering the length and breadth of the island, always hot on the trail of our prey. To our surprise, the deer had a navy! The experience of the group chasing a herd of deer across the island was simply unforgettable.
After a night with meteoroligical conditions that left something to be desired, we set out for Sunday’s objective: an assault on the Metolius River. The plan was to make our way on Kayaks as far as possible and then hike upstream toward the headwaters of this incredible river. We made it maybe 100 yards up the river to the first rapid when we realized the impossibility of this plan. Most of us flipped our kayaks over, fell out, and swam--we all laughed at the folly! We paddled home, somehow the joy outweighed the lack of “success” and we took a short hike up to the rim of the lake. Atop an incredible and overhanging cliff, we looked out across an incredible landscape and scoped out Monday’s goal: the highest point in the surrounding landscape—the top of an ancient and exfoliating lava flow.
On Monday we were on a mission to have lunch atop this viewpoint. We went up and up and up, and found an incredible and safe passage to the summit. Atop a pile of rocks, we had the last of our amazing meals together as a group. A snowball fight and some light forestry management were highlights of the descent.
We returned to our bus, secured the kayaks, and headed back to Portland, enjoyably slap-happy after such an amazing trip.
Click on a photo from the gallery below, press "play," and share some of our experience. Enjoy!
Venables is also an award-winning author, photographer, and public speaker. He wrote the screenplay for the IMAX movie The Alps and appeared with Conrad Anker and Reinhold Messner in Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure. His books about his mountain adventures have won the Boardman Tasker Prize, the King Albert Medal, and the Grand Award at Banff International Mountain Literature Festival. Venables’s special visit to Portland is the last night of a tour that has taken him to New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, New York, and the Western states. For more about him, visit www.stephenvenables.com.
Catlin Gabel’s outdoor education program focuses on educating the whole student. By providing opportunities for students to face and overcome challenges, learn group living skills, and understand the way the natural world works, the program supplements the academic rigors faced by the individual student. The program broadens the education of both Middle and Upper School students by fostering their self awareness, exposing them to new environments and challenges while providing important leadership opportunities.
The Outdoor Program Recognizes the International Day of Climate Action, October 24, 2009
We did it! The Outdoor Program's first wilderness backpacking trip without the use of a single drop of fuel! We went deep into the heart of the Gorge using human-powered transportation and electric-powered public transit. Hugely rewarding, it was an incredible feat of transportation and logistics...
Our group of eight students and two leaders met on Saturday morning at Catlin and loaded bikes and trailers for our self-supported adventure. We then jumped into the saddle and rode to the Max station, riding a brand-new train east to the third-to-the-last stop. Departing the Max, we biked through Gresham and Troutdale, over the Sandy River, along the Columbia River Historic Highway, over Crown Point, down a thrilling and long hill, eventually making our way to Angel's Rest Trailhead. We locked our bikes and went a la pie up the south side of the Gorge to Angels Rest, one of the most prominent viewpoints in the Gorge. Atop the anvil-shaped rock formation, we unfolded our kits and ran along the rim of the Gorge in the spirit of environmental action and freedom. Enjoying a fantastic sunset, we made an amazing dinner and camped in a primitive campsite, and then returned to Portland on Sunday via the same route we took to the Gorge. Though it wasn't always easy, or convenient, we were given an indelible experience that will not soon be forgotten.
Ultimately this trip was about learning how to make a respectful and appropriate political statement, experiencing a unique sense of hard-earned liberation, and working together as a group toward sustainable living and transport.
Click on a photo from the gallery below, press "play," and share some of our experience. Enjoy!
Outdoor Leadership and Adventure, Fall 2009
The Fall 2009 OLA was a tremendous success! Every Tuesday and Thursday we set out in a little, yellow bus and went out for outdoor challenges, adventures, and personal growth. We will all have great memories of hiking in Forest Park, learning about tents and shelter, canoeing on the Willamette, ecological restoration, maps and navigation, visiting a farm, biking on the Leif Erikson, disc golf, rock climbing, and a forestry hike. Students also participated in a rafting or a backpacking trip! It's amazing to think that we crammed so many adventures into such a short period of time.
Ultimately, OLA is a great opportunity to spend some time learning about the abundance of recreational opportunities in our region, enjoy the outdoors with a great grout of students, devlop personal leadership skills, and learn to work as a group to meet unique challenges.
Please click on a photo, press play, turn on some music (the evolution of rock was en vogue this fall), and watch the slideshow. Enjoy!
On one of the last sunny weekends of the Summer, a group of 14 Middle School students, accompanied by 6 Upper School student chaperones visited Bumblebee Organic Farms.
It was two days of fun, two days of laughing, a campfire beneath a harvest moon, a grape eating contest, amazing food, a pair of sheep (or were they goats?), tractors, barns, sleeping through an incredibly loud rainstorm, amazing farm-fresh pancakes, and learning about life on a small, organic farm.
We met at Catlin after Saturday morning's storms had passed and loaded into an activity bus. A drive toward the mouth of the Sandy river took us into Troutdale, home of Bumblebee Organic Farm. We played a couple of challenge and team-building games before we broke off into three teams (Wolf Pack, Inner Power, and Firebirds) to be farmers for the rest of the weekend.
We performed farm chores such as harvesting grapes and tomatoes, working rows of beans, and shucking corn before it was time for dinner: an amazing pasta and salad night from produce straight off the vine.
Some exciting campfire skits were a highlight of the evening before we tucked ourselves into cozy (and dry!) tents before a midnight rainstorm took us through the night. We woke up to clear skies and huge pancakes on Sunday and worked our way through a pumpkin patch before heading home in time to spend the rest of the weekend with our families. It was sad to see the trip come to an end, but we walked away as friends, having learned so much more about farming, and more connected to the food we eat.
OLA Backpacking in the Columbia River Gorge
As another amazing Oregon summer began to close its doors, a group of Catlin students from the Outdoor Leadership and Adventure class dashed out for a long weekend of backpacking and fun in the Columbia River Gorge.
We met in the Catlin lot and rocked an activity bus up to the Eagle Creek trailhead. Hiking up Eagle Creek, we saw waterfall after waterfall after waterfall. Punchbowl Falls, Oneonta Falls, Loowit Falls, Tunnel Falls, and High Bridge kept us excited and anxious to see what was around every bend.
We arrived at a secluded camp on the river, journaled, and made a home for the night. Waking up, we watched the sun gradually climb and bathe our gorge with light before packing up for our big day. Covering a huge portion of our loop, the trail took us up and around Tanner Butte, through old burn sites, over streams, up hills, through meadows full of blueberry and hucleberry to our beloved Dublin Lake, which we reached just as night descended.
After maybe too many laughs around a campfire and an amazing dinner, we headed into our tents and sleeping bags to enjoy a windy-but-clear night, full of shooting stars.
The next morning, we said goodbye to our camp and lake and made our way back to the bus... through one of the last hot days of 2009!
It was a great weekend of bonding, sightseeing, and getting away from the bustle of our school lives. We can't wait to get out again!
Click on a photo below to check out a slideshow from the trip.
JACK LAZAR '09
An exceptionally reflective young man, Jack has matured through Catlin Gabel’s outdoor program
From the spring 2009 Caller
The outdoor program opened a whole world for me, allowing me to dig deeper inside myself in a setting that’s not judgmental and is accepting and encouraging. The combination of group dynamics and the outdoors inspires me and stimulates me. It’s not just a hobby but is the fuel of my development.
BECOMING A LEADER
The outdoor program allowed me to develop my leadership skills. I never really thought I’d be where I am now. In my freshman and sophomore years, no one did: I had abilities but didn’t apply myself. Now I challenge myself and try to make my work as personal as possible.
Photography opened my eyes to how visuals can speak of hidden meanings. Literature opened me to a world of creative writing and interpretation. Philosophy with Michael Heath opened me to a world of thought.
LEARNING THROUGH HARD TIMES
My mom was extremely ill when I was in 6th grade and became paraplegic. It’s been one of the most influential, sensitive, and defining times of my life. I had to realize that my parents weren’t perfect or immortal at a much younger age than most people do. I also have ADHD, a primary cause of my social isolation. These problems caused a painful awareness that made me stronger and allowed me to develop in a different way.
COLLEGE PLANS—AND FUTURE THOUGHTS
I have enrolled at Whitman, but I plan on taking a year off. There are so many possibilities. I will probably do some humanitarian work, traveling, mountaineering, maybe even medical training or a gap year program. I want to help others develop their passions. Catlin Gabel has taught me more than just biology or pre-calculus or literature. It’s taught me to be proud of what I’m passionate about, how to think wholly but critically, how to be flexible, and how to determine my future. Success comes from your resourcefulness, not your resources
MS Cross-Country Skiing on Mount Hood: February 15-16, 2009
Nine Middle Schoolers found their snow-legs during this perfect trip on the slopes of Mount Hood! While many of us started out off-balance, within a few hours we could cruise through the woods undeterred! We tested our skills with XC Olympics--limbo (George won), one-ski/one-foot races (Cooper won), and of course a snowball fight (did anyone win?). The Mazama Lodge was a cozy place to pass the evening with chess, ping-pong and plenty of hot chocolate. In the morning we set out for adventure and lots of exciting downhill on the Crosstown Trail. We even found treasure--a geocache stocked with a rubber ducky and notes from past travellers! And on top of it all, we couldnt have asked for better weather. A perfect, lovely weekend.
This January, a group of seven middle schoolers took an awesome overnight cross-country ski adventure to Peterson Prairie near Mt. Adams. We met on a cold morning and drove through forests blanketed with snow to the Atkinson Snow Park. We donned our overnight packs and skied in fabulous conditions up the well-groomed forest road.
We explored the surrounding area: frozen rivers, icicles, and snow slopes were abundant.
We cooked a huge pasta dinner, created a variety show, made smores, and had no problems tucking ourselves into warm, comfortable beds.
It snowed lightly all night and we woke up to 24 degrees, 3-4 inches of fresh snow, and blue-white marble skies.
After a huge oatmeal breakfast and a thorough cleaning of the cabin, we departed—-visiting the ice cave on the way back to the bus.
Students explored the length of the cave, fascinated by the frozen pools on the cave floor and the huge icicles. We emerged from the cave, had lunch in the snow, and skied back to the bus.
The students warmed up with cookies inside the bus and we drove back. It was a perfect weekend in the snowy woods of Southern Washington.
A group of Middle School students met at noon on the 27th and (just barely) made the 15-minute ride bus to La Finquita Del Buho (The Little Farm of the Owl), a small, organic farm in Hillsboro. Once at the farm, we briefly discussed the economics and logistics of the CSA and the farm. We introduced ourselves to the owner/operators of the farm and enjoyed a tour of this quaint farm.
Our first farm chore was to collect eggs from the trailer that served as the henhouse. The kids laughed and screamed when interacting with the chickens. We fed the chickens and then watched the pigs take a mud bath to cool off (the weather was enjoyably warm).
Our next task was to clear the ground in the apple orchard so that we had space to set up tents. The students sorted the good apples from the bad (the good apples were later pressed for fresh pear-apple cider—the best we’d ever tasted—and the bad apples were fed to the goats, pigs, chickens, and turkeys), and then set up their tents. After tent set-up, we enjoyed some relaxing time in the hammock and tire swing before we went back to farm chores.
The afternoon was spent caring for the animals (goat nails needed to be clipped and medicine given) and harvesting fruits and vegetables for the amazing pizza dinner that would come later. The vast majority of the food consumed on the trip was harvested by the students the day of the trip.
The working conditions were very harsh!
Fresh, hot pizza was cooked in the outside wood-burning pizza oven, after which we played a group card game, chatted about the day, and ate s’mores and fresh apple pie. We had a big, scary, false alarm where we thought we’d lost a kitten and went on an exhilarating flashlight kitten search before we were told that the kitten had been taken from the farm.
After a cold night, the morning brought a breakfast of student-cooked oats, hot cider, hot chocolate, and cereal. The sun rose and soon warmed the environment and we assisted with the farm’s harvest. We helped pick a great deal of cherry and heirloom tomatoes and a bushel of apples right off the tree. The owners/operators of the farm spent a great deal of their time with us and we reciprocated by assisting greatly in their harvest—the food we picked went directly on sale!
We played one last group game, said goodbye to our new friends (both friend and animal), and drove back to Catlin. Hopefully we’ve planted the seed to a life-long appreciation of small farming.
By Peter Green
Whether we go on a rafting trip, climbing trip, or bicycling trip, students learn from being given responsibility to take care of themselves and their friends. They need to make choices about setting up their own shelters, cooking meals for the group, maneuvering the raft through rapids, and selecting a good climbing route. Although adults are always present and have set expectations and defined boundaries, we aren’t directing the students.
The outdoor program gives all students an opportunity to learn by experiencing and experimenting. Sometimes kids who are exceptional classroom students seek out a trip so they can grow in new ways—so they can enhance their emotional, social, and leadership qualities. Then there are those who are not as successful in the classroom but who find that they excel, that they are the best among their peers, in certain outdoor pursuits. When they bring these successes back to campus, we sometimes see these students make strides in their classroom expectations and socially among their peers. Kids need to have areas where they feel competent. When they do, they are better overall learners and certainly happier in their lives.
|Lower Schoolers on "An Excellent Adventure"|
Peter Green is the director of Catlin Gabel's outdoor program.
White Salmon Valley: July 19-21, 2007
Through the July mist and drizzle, 12 triumphant middle schoolers explored the White Salmon Valleys whitewater, wilderness trails and basalt caves. We rafted down Class III-IV whitewater, including the 10 foot Husum Falls, hiked into Lake Wapiki in Indian Heaven wilderness, and explored the depths of Ice Cave and New Cave near Trout Lake.
A student report on the trip will be posted here soon!
Mount St. Helens Climb: June 10-11, 2007
|The last few steps to the summit!|
|We made it! (Check out that crater rim in the background.)|
Seven recently graduated 8th graders (plus one incoming 8th grader) huffed and puffed their way through clouds, sleet and sun to the 8365 foot high summit of Mount St. Helens. The effort invested in ascending the snowy slopes of the peak was rewarded with "summit tarts," satisfaction in a difficult thing done well, and a long speedy glissade back down the "hill".
We had planned to spend the day before the climb doing "snow school"--learning how to kick steps, self-arrest (front, back, feet-first and head-first) and glissade (controlled seated slide)--but as we neared the mountain, the steady rain began. Sprinkles soon became a downpour, so we decided that rather than roll about in the sodden snow, we would seek shelter. We headed into Upper Ape Cave for dark explorations
By the time we returned to camp, the rain had stopped, and a delicious pasta feast was prepared. We ate, cleaned, packed, and hit the hay to be ready for the climb the next day.
We rose at six, and began our hike toward tree line. Mist enveloped us, disappeared and returned as we made our way ever upwards. We learned our snow school lessons, and began the true ascent, kicking steps in steep snow and scrambling over boulders from age old lava flows. An hour passed, then another and another, each one requiring goldfish crackers, sips of water, and small beads of sweat. At long last the summit was in view. We reached our goal and collapsed on the rim of the volcano, joyous, tired and satisfied.
Check back soon for a student trip report!
|Fleeting view from the summit.|
|Day before the climb, outside Upper Ape Cave, in the rain.|
|Inside the dry, cozy confines of Upper Ape Cave.|
|Did we mention "cozy"?|
|Preparing for the big feast.|
|Preparing mentally for the mountain.|
|Running the last few feet...|
|...and then collapsing.|
|The triumphant group.|