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6th Grade Farm Visit: September 2008

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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.

Nancy Neighbor Russell 1932-2008

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Oregonian article, an obituary of one of our most distinguished alumni, co-founder of Friends of the Columbia Gorge, September 08

Learning by Doing in the Outdoors

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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 2007

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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!

Mt. St. Helens Climb: June 2007

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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.


MS Smith Rock Climbing: April 2007

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Middle School Smith Rock Climbing: April 14-15, 2007

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Ghosts of the Coast: February 2007

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Ghosts of the Coast: February 25-26, 2007

Close Encounters, as told by Nathan (7th grade)

It was my first time on an outdoor trip. Even on the bus to the coast, we were getting to know each other. Card games dominated the day. We stopped at Tillamook cheese factory, and got some ice cream. Now, you may be thinking “wait, isn’t it supposed to be an outdoor trip? As in not sitting around eating ice cream?” As it turns out, at our next stop, a sand spit, we got right into the spirit of the trip.

When we got off the bus, Aiyana took us to a sandy spot, and told us the history of the beach. This is where we learned about the ghost part of the trip. Apparently, there used to be a town on the spit, which got washed away. The point is, we were standing on a ghost town. The funny thing was, there was no trace of a town or anything.

A short hike later, and we were on a completely deserted beach. Somehow, we got into that classic game, the one where you run from the oncoming tide, but then you remember you’re in Oregon, and it’s really cold water. We were being ourselves and getting really close. The tide seemed to come further in than anyone was used to. One unfortunate person, Talbot, happened to bend down as a new wave came. She stood up just in time to see the wave. She started to run, tripped, and fell into very very cold water. The person closest to her, me, went to fish her out. I am happy to say, that I went through both sets of clothes that day.

These trips are awesome and I recommend that you go on them. Everyone gets to know each other and it’s the most fun I’ve had on a camping trip. Just remember, always come prepared.

"This is great---no crowds!"

looking for agates
"This came down a river?!?"
"Hmm..." (entrance to the tunnel at Oceanside)
"What on earth? Where...?"
we emerge

"What if we got stranded and had to spend the night in here?"
the return--across the abyss

fun with kelp!
"Hmm...what could we do with this?"

Speed-mania! Faster!

"preparing" dinner
inside our cozy warm yurt (1 of 2)


(can we say "stinky"?)
shiny new metal
after a stormy night, hail. Lots of hail.
our homes away from homes

trees in line on a nurse log

holding down the tip of Cape Lookout
looking back towards the campground and Netarts Bay
"what, do I have mud on my face?"
squish squashing our way back

it is a looong ways down
among giants
the crew

MS Snow Adventure: January 2007

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Middle School Snow Adventure: January 14-15, 2007

Eleven Middle Schoolers headed up to Mount Hood for a weekend of fun in the snow. On Sunday we learned how to dig snowcaves, but after discovering there wasnt quite enough snow for it at 4000 elevation, we switched to massive fort-building and snowball fights. A few sledding runs down the hill, some card games, a huge warm dinner, and hang-out time on the bunks rounded out the evening. The next day we packed up, rented snowshoes, and began a hike up the forested slopes of Multipor Mountain. After much struggle, readjustment, and step-kicking, we made it to the summit! The view was magnificent, but the cold wind urged us on, and we began our slip-sliding descent to the base of the mountain.

MS Waterfall Hike: December 2006

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Middle School Waterfall Hike: December 19, 2006

One brisk Tuesday morning, five middle school students (accompanied by five taller folks) headed out to the Columbia River Gorge. The winds howled past us at Crown Point, the icy mist made the path slippery at Latourell Falls, yet still we continued on. At Horsetail Falls, we hit the trail, crusing past Ponytail Falls, snags, future nurse logs, switchbacks and icicles. After crossing the high bridge over Oneonta Creek, we stopped for lunch, then continued up to Triple Falls. We circled back to the bus, and made a quick stop at Multnomah Falls for some hot chocolate before heading home.

Caving November 2006

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Caving Adventure in the Washington Cascades

Seven students from Middle School and thirteen Upper Schoolers travelled to the remote forests near Trout Lake, Washington to explore lava tubes over the weekend of November 4th and 5th.

Horsethief Butte Rock Climbing: October 2006

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Horsethief Butte Climbing & Camping: October 13-14, 2006

Wow! We just got back from a wonderful rock climbing trip with 11 Middle Schoolers. I cannot sing their praises enough.

Early Saturday morning, these kids met at the theater parking lot ready to go, and cheerfully rode the bus east to Horsethief Butte near The Dalles. We spent five hours learning how to tie a Figure 8 knot and put on a harness, testing our skills on the rock, and exploring this amazing rock outcropping under clear skies. Saturday afternoon was spent swimming in Horsethief Lake, playing soccer and Frisbee, and generally running around. A huge meal, prepared by the kids, was followed by flashlight tag, Smores, star gazing, and a little talk about Celilo Falls. Sunday morning we went down to the Columbia River again and had a rock throwing contest, spotted hundreds of ducks, and looked at dozens of petroglyphs. The rain didnt hit until we were driving home.


Smith Rock March 2006

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Getting out of town on a homework free weekend means traveling to Smith Rock State Park for some rock climbing. Seven students and five leaders spent two days climbing in the sunshine of Central Oregon. Half of the group was first time climbers. We camped in the desert and sat around the campfire swapping tales of unrestrained adventure.

Middle School Breakaway to Camp Collin

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An enthusiastic and large group of middle schoolers ventured to Camp Collins on the Sandy River for a three day outdoor experience in March of 2006. The students stayed in rustic cabins and spent most of each day trying their hand at various challenges provided by the on-site ropes course. During their free time students played cards and explored the area.

The intrepid group

Ochoco Mtns Backcountry Ski and Snowshoe Tri

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Winterim 2006: Ten students and faculty travelled to the Ochoco Mountains of Oregon and skied through untracked powder in cold conditions. The group stayed at a warm Forest Service cabin.

Ochoco Mountains ski and snowshoe adventure

Our backcountry skiing winterim began way too early on the morning of February 15th 2006. We loaded the bus, cracked out the Oreos and began our long drive to Prineville Oregon. Ana slept as we ascended Mt. Hood and woke only when we stopped in Welches to rent our skis and snowshoes. The excitement level jumped as we traveled further; the air became nippy and the snow deeper. When we arrived, Ana jumped out of the bus yelling incoherently, as we followed we noticed she was pointing at a cat in this tree. The cat began climbing backwards down the tree and jumped into her arms. We unpacked and got out our skis thinking we could just ski on the road for awhile, we were wrong. As soon as we got to the road we realized that it had just been plowed and we would ruin our skis if we continued, so Greg jumped over the pile of snow on the side of the road and we all followed him because he was the titular head and was supposed to know what he was doing. But he didn’t and we split up because it was a very steep hill and some of us couldn’t get up the hill. Greg and Peter ended up going and getting the bus and we drove up where the snow plow had stopped and got out and started skiing. We stopped at this big hill and a bunch of us climbed up the hill and jumped/rolled down. Then we continued on a bit and drove back to the cabin. We had a fiesta dinner. The next day we went to a snow park and our goal was to ski to some crazy meadow that Peter found on the map. “oh come on guys, its only a couple miles away” but no. We skied for 5 hours and never even made it to the meadow. We went down some really steep hills in the beginning and Peter S., Mandy and Cristin decided to go another way. I cannot tell you what they did, but we continued down the hills into this valley. One of the most memorable moments was when we had come to a log in the path; Ana and Peter decided to just go over but we would have had to wait forever so I started up the hill with Ian, Greg, William and Jack. We made it over the place with the log and Ian went down. I followed him but crashed right into a tree well and was stuck. Jack had made it down by then too and he unhooked his skis and came over to help me out. But William had decided that he was going to come down right where I did too, and he crashed in to the tree and me. Greg then, despite the warnings of Peter and Ana came down too, saying “oh no, I won’t hit them” but he did. So now me, Jack, William and Greg, were smashed up into this tree. It took a while to get unstuck but we continued and crossed a very little frozen creek, and up to a road. We followed the road for what seemed like hours and finally we saw all of the meadow that we would ever see. About ½ a foot by 1 foot through some trees, but none of us I think felt any disappointment because we had come so far. The trek back was pretty hard for me at least, but we kept talking and that talking took my mind off of the physical pain in my legs and well I guess if I could have felt my fingers it would have taken my mind off of that too. We were taking a water/Gatorade break and for some reason talking about Günter (pronounced goon-thur), some weird rock climber I think, when apparently I said “he is so hot” but I swear that I didn’t! Then we continued on the road; Peter got out his GPS and informed us that we could continue 2.5 miles down the road or go up this steep hill right to the bus. Everyone ran up the hill and packed our stuff onto the bus and left to go pick up Mandy, Peter and Cristin. On the way down, Ian got on the radio and yelled “The goose cannot land, the goose cannot land!” but we stopped and picked up our remaining team-members and traveled home. We had soup dinner with grilled cheese sandwiches. The next day we decided to do some snowshoeing because it was our last day to do any snow activities; we went out to some lake and snow-shoed around it but it was so cold and windy that we decided that we needed to do something else and had a snowshoeing Olympics. William amazed everyone by beating Ian and Greg in the front-ways running but he still refuses to do track. Then we went to the cabin and left Mandy, Cristin, and Ana there (because they wanted too) and went out skiing or snowshoeing again. We went up this path and then up off the trail to this really steep hill, which we climbed up and then found this really cool bowl which we (being Ian, Peter, Peter and me, cause we were the only ones with skis) skied down and in. It was really hard both hard to ski down and hard to fall on; but it was probably one of the most fun times I had on the trip. We then continued because Greg was getting a little antsy and was going on without us and went further up the road to this big hill which went down to a little mine we found out later. The only building we could see from the road had was covered with a thick layer of snow and surrounded all the way to the eves with snow. We would have liked to continue on into the woods and ski some more but the sun was beginning to set and so we skied up the hill again and began our decent. Going down that hill was also a lot of fun but that day was the coldest of them all, and my gloves were freezing even with my hands in them. Peter then stopped really suddenly and told Ian to fall over, and so he did and Ian threw himself into the pile of snow on the side of the trail. The snowshoers (I don’t think that is a word) were coming down the trail and Peter yelled to them that Ian had fallen and broken his leg and I started fake crying and we all decided that our best course of action was to build a fire. (If you haven’t gotten it yet, this was all just to see if we could build a fire in the snow) So we gathered things that we thought we would need, including little twigs, dry if possible, and needles, and moss. Jack got out his water-poof matches and after one feeble attempt we got a nice fire going and it was actually quite warm. Then we stood around and talked until the sun was very close to being gone and we skied down the rest of the hill, got on the bus and went home. Then for the final night, we had lasagna of which William had the most. The next day we packed, cleaned and loaded for about 2 hours and drove home. OOH! I forgot to mention that every morning the bus wouldn’t start and so we would have to call Catlin and ask them how to start it. They said that we had to find some cord and plug on the front of the bus and plug it in every night because it was the starter that was just too cold for it to start the bus. So William and I went out after dinner the second night and we (meaning him) stuck his hand in the front of the bus and wiggled it around until we found the plug. Then the bus worked. But on the ride home we played this game that Cristin started where you go around and say animals that start with a certain letter until someone can’t think of one and then we go to the next letter. Jack was probably the most memorable because we would be on ‘p’ or something and he would whisper to Ian, his team member something and Ian would make a funny face and say, “Jack! No wrong letter.” I also forgot to mention our card games every night because those were also a huge part of the trip because we really got to find out about each other. We mostly played caca however hearts became a favorite among many of us and I just have to say that I shot the moon. Then there was a spoons competition, which I won. This trip was a lot of fun, it was my first outdoor trip at Catlin and I don’t think that it could have been any better. The skiing was fun even though I was very sore for the rest of the weekend.

Middle School Ropes Course Trip

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Middle School Ropes Course

Students from Catlin Gabel's Middle School traveled to the Ropes and Challenge Course at OES on February 27th. The group spent the entire day trying their hands at group and individual challenges.

Middle School Ropes Course

Students from Catlin Gabels Middle School traveled to the Ropes and Challenge Course at OES on February 27th. The group spent the entire day trying their hands at group and individual challenges.

Canoeing trip

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Canoeing and camping in Mt. Hood National Forest

Deschutes River October 2005

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Deschutes River Rafting October 2005

Surviving the Deschutes River

By Rob Bishop

Deschutes River Rafting October 2005

Surviving the Deschutes River

By Rob Bishop

We left the school on the morning of the 22nd of October. After riding on bus to the Warm Springs put in, we met with our river guides. We loaded five rafts in the glorious sunshine and set off for the Whiskey Dick camp site. Whiskey Dick, as our guide told us, lived on the river for twenty years. He lived on nothing but what he could find in the environment. Well, almost. On the first day of rafting, we didn’t encounter any major rapids and focused mainly on team building. After putting the freshman to bed at a respectable time of 5:30 p.m., we commandeered a passing merchant ship with an inattentive captain and sailed down Ricochet River. The next day we floated through White Horse Rapids and Buckskin Mary. White Horse falls in the category of a class 4 rapid and is known as the hardest and longest rapid chain of the Deschutes. It also contains the infamous “Oh S---!” rock, named for the words most rafters use when they first see it. After White Horse, we spent the rest of the day at various spots where we stopped and took little hikes or climbs. It was on one of these short hikes where we found the evidence of a long missing leprechaun, magic bumble bee - fat Oprah. We spent the second night just downstream from a small fishing community named Dant. That night, in honor of Sam’s 17th Birthday, we made him Cheese Cake and gave him our mediocre presents. On the third and final day of our journey we celebrated the 14th birthday of Johnny by letting him skipper us through the other big rapids of the Deschutes. This included Boxcar, Oak Springs, and Falafel. Ah, to be 14 again. Each rapid had its challenges and were all very exciting. The effort was accompanied by disconcerting chants of “Little Debbie”. We took out below Maupin and drove back in time for the seniors to make their dinner plans. Each day we covered about 20 miles, a leisurely pace that gave us time to stop and get a feel for the environment outside of the River.

Ahhh, the trip is over....

Caving in SW Washington

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Exploring the caves of SW Washington

A group of nineteen Middle School students and leaders set off from Catlin Gabel School on October 20 to explore the lava tubes near Trout Lake, Washington. We drove the two hours in a fine yellow bus before stopping at Cheese Cave. The students explored this complex lava tube both north and south from the entrance. The cave had been used to store cheese in past years. From here the group spent the rest of the day looking for the elusive "Jug Cave".

Exploring the caves of SW Washington

A group of nineteen Middle School students and leaders set off from Catlin Gabel School on October 20 to explore the lava tubes near Trout Lake, Washington. We drove the two hours in a fine yellow bus before stopping at Cheese Cave. The students explored this complex lava tube both north and south from the entrance. The cave had been used to store cheese in past years. From here the group spent the rest of the day looking for the elusive "Jug Cave". Although we never found our quarry, we did come across some lava bridges and a long cave that took us deep into the woods. That night was spent in the Klickitat County Park in Trout Lake where we feasted on burritoes.

The next day we made a leisurely break from camp and went off to explore New Cave. Although we found the cave easily, we were surprised and pleased to discover some unexpected caves and sinks to the west. One of these was half a mile long and took us through some unexpected challenges. It was mid afternoon when we again saw daylight. After a lunch that included orange cupcakes we set off for home.

North Cascades Climbing Trip

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North Cascades Climbing Trip -- July 2005

Trip Report by Sam Alden

Photos by Peter Green

Trip Report - - - Trip Photos: In Chronological order

"Hey you guys, theres a stairway we could have taken right here"
Hmmm. I wonder if this would be a good place for a smoke break...
We arrived at the Watson Lakes trailhead with the subtlety of a school bus in the wilderness
These packs are kind of big, arent they?
Watson Lakes: Our campsite was on the shore of the far lake.
I dont remember that spaghetti sauce being there... is this a joke or something?
This place is kind of nice after all
Im sure I was wearing shoes on the hike in...
Our dedicated trip staff
Morning at Watson Lake
Base Camp
Were climbing a mountain today? I dont think we got that memo
The intrepid team
"Mountain climbing seemed easy, at least on paper. And where did I put that helmet?"
Mt. Watson from Watson Lake
Mt. Shuksan
"Is anyone else seeing these clouds coming in?"
"You know, this is a good place"
Roping up on the glacier
"you know, I dont really miss the homework"
"This place is very different from my home"
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain
"Just how deep are these crevasses you speak of?"
Climbing would be such a fine and glorious sport if it werent for all that climbing
"Trees at the top of the glacier. Go figure."
"No, I think it would be best if I just waited right here while someone else leads the summit pitch"
"These cotton pants work really well when its not raining"
No, dont worry about me. Ill just lead the summit pinnacle wearing these oversized plastic boots and maybe a light sweater and some gym shorts. Im sure it wont rain"
Patience is the watchword on climbing expeditions
"The rope is running through the heather. Im climbing on bushes"
"So, its pretty much raining"
"What better way to experience the true greatness of the North Cascades!!"
"Im sure it will let up any second"
The rain didnt deter the group: Everyone summited!"
"You know it is getting kind of cold. Why not build a fire?"
Sometimes a fire needs a little help
"If I dont make it home, tell my brother he can have all my possessions, but not my room"
Making our way to the west summit
The route wasnt so obvious, but we made it to the top of the west peak too!
"This is the kind of thing I try to avoid"
"Youre right, I think it is beginning to clear up. I can see my hand"
And the rain let up!
Off with the harnesses
Almost home
Basecamp is a good place


North Cascades Mountaineering Trip:

The confessions of a non-climber

By Sam Alden

My first twinge of fear occurred watching the instructional video that would prepare us for our backpacking trip into the North Cascades. The video explained how to walk across a glacier, catch yourself from sliding down an incline, et cetera. Judging from the first fifteen minutes of the movie, one would guess that scaling a mountain entailed mostly light hiking up gentle, snowy hills. The next segment of the video, however, dealt with crevasses. I watched in horror as the actors cheerfully hopped over gaping, icy ravines, before turning towards the camera to remark, “That wasn’t so bad now, was it?” Clearly, I realized, I was approaching a steep learning curve.

Nevertheless, I showed up at Catlin the day of the departure, ready to take risks and expand my horizons. We loaded our equipment onto the bus and set off on the six-hour drive into Washington. The ride would have been intolerable if not for Ian’s thoughtful purchase of a cassette by ‘The Cars’, which repeated over and over until we finally arrived at the trailhead. After I received my fair portion of the food and gear to carry, I started off with everyone else up the trail. I felt, momentarily, free of cynicism. I was excited about this trip, and I would come out of it with a completely new life experience. Predictably, though, it was replaced with the sensation of a Beluga-sized pack crushing me from above, and the knowledge that this hill wound upwards for miles more. I groaned to myself and struggled on.

Hours later, we arrived at our first campsite, situated picturesquely on the shores of Lake Watson. Slapping away mosquitoes, we assembled our tents and ate a surprisingly good dinner (Peter urged us to eat more than usual, because we had brought too much food) and went to bed. Having survived the strenuous backpacking, I counted the day a success.

The next morning, we set out to summit Mount Watson. Loading up small day packs with our snow clothes and helmets, we began to hike through bushes and mud towards the mountain. At some point, the trail we followed fizzled out, or else led in the wrong direction, because soon we were pushing our own paths through the tall grass. The greenery abruptly ended at the foot of a massive, steep incline of skull-shaped rocks. Climbing up, our feet twisted underneath us as rocks shifted, and more tumbled from above, disturbed by other hikers. At the top I caught my breath with the rest of the hikers, trading energy bars and gulping water. We had come to a clear transition point. Behind us, a sharp descent into the treeline- ahead of us, ending at our feet, was a giant glacier sloping up towards the top of the mountain. We hefted our ice axes and began to tramp up the shallow slope. It reminded me of the first half of the instructional video, and hoped that this would constitute the rest of the way to the top. But, as we reached the crest of a hill, we suddenly saw the peak of the mountain ahead of us. Stretching between us and the summit lay an open glacier, angling down gracefully to end in a dizzying cliff. This was exactly what I had feared from the beginning.

The group roped up into three groups and started slowly off. Once I got directly over the drop-off, I abruptly became aware of the delicacy of my predicament. How long could I keep from losing my footing on this white, slippery hell of a glacier? It became harder and harder to breath normally. Inside, I cursed Emily Jones for encouraging me to move outside of my comfort zone. I had never experienced such intense, pulse-pounding terror in my life.

“Hey, I can hear running water underneath us!” somebody yelled conversationally from up ahead.

“It’s probably nothing,” said someone else behind me. I started to write out my will in my head.

At long last, I reached the cap of rock at the peak of the mountain where the rest of the hikers had gathered. We weren’t far from the summit, but it was all vertical distance and so we had to wait while Olivia went up to secure a rope. We waited there on the rocks for over an hour and slowly consumed every scrap of food that we had brought with us. I lay comatose on the ground for much of it, trying to dream up some situation that would require a helicopter to airlift me off the mountain. I had stretched enough horizons for one day, and I wasn’t planning to rush up to the summit any time soon. At this point, a cloud swept over us from the west and it began to rain. Frankly, things looked grim.

Peter Green, bless his soul, agreed to make the ascent up to the summit alongside me. It was less of a rock climbing ordeal than a crazy scramble over slippery boulders and underbrush. At one point we paused to inspect a microwave-sized rock suspended over our heads, by some miracle of erosion, with nothing but some mud and loose stones. Truly, this trip opened my eyes to the constant wonders of nature. Finally, we made it up to the summit, a rocky crown surrounded by cloud on all sides. The fact that I was now on top of the highest object for miles around mattered less to me than getting under the yellow tarp someone had brought up and trying to sleep. I waited there for about an hour before we could go back down again, I found the descent much less terrifying, although I refused to admit it. I had by now entered a sort of pessimistic sulk, and would not allow myself to think of this as anything better than the most miserable experience of my life. And so I sat at the bottom of the rock peak, waiting for everyone else to summit Mount Watson, and froze and was crabby. My mood improved briefly as Peter lit a fire using the soggy twigs at our disposal –after failing to light it with a lighter alone, he held the open flame over a stream of bug spray and created a miniature blowtorch. But even that entertained me only briefly. I’ll admit it- I had a very bad attitude about this trip already, and it was only the second day.

Finally, we packed up and began the trek back down the glacier. I maintained my composure better this time, due in large part to the cloud cover blocking my view of the cliff. By nightfall we had returned to camp, and quickly ate dinner and fell into bed.

In the morning, we discussed our next course of action over breakfast. We could wake up at four the next morning and then march on to summit Mount Bacon, a twenty-hour round trip. The other option was to move camp one day and then summit Mount Tomyhoi the day after. After my ordeal that day, I opted for the less arduous of the trips and voted for Tomyhoi- the majority of the campers agreed with me. It meant, though, that Day Three passed by relatively uneventfully. I went on a short day hike with about half the camp, and then returned for dinner. I admit to spending much of the time contemplating that the trip was almost half-over.

The beauty of the wilderness
"I am very full"
"Whos ready for another?"

The dishwashers: Now where was that lake?
The master drummer
Rest day and a picnic at Anderson Lakes
Some went on a day hike even on their rest day
The sun came out and the gear got dry
Knot tying for fun and profit
Oh, look at the little bunny.
Let me see now, does a straight beat a flush or is it the other way around? Wait, all the spoons are gone!
On Day 4 we MOVED CAMP and set ourselves a new obective: To hike into Yellow Aster Meadows and attempt Mt. Tomyhoi.
It was hot and the hike was kind of hard - but you cant keep good people from smiling and having a good time

The next day, we packed up all our tents and food and headed back down the trail towards the bus. I found that the backpacking aspect of the trip was growing more and more natural to me, and I no longer struggled to keep up with the others. I found that I could sustain a certain pattern of breathing and walking for considerable lengths of time without tiring, and I actually enjoyed the walk back. After loading the gear onto the bus, we piled in and drove off to another trailhead. The hike was aggressively uphill, and the sun had taken this opportune moment to leave its cloud cover and beat down upon us with unprecedented fervor. The trail leveled out for a while as it wound around a valley basin, before leading up again into sparse, dry countryside. Gasping for breath, we abruptly paused in our climb to find ourselves at the top of a cliff, with the campsite far below us. An amazingly steep cutback trail led down the cliff face to the rocky terrain where we would pitch our tents. I dumped my pack on a boulder and ran off to join the rest of the hikers in a small pool of freezing mountain water.

This campsite was situated on a little grassy area in the midst of a field of stones. On one side loomed the cliff we had come down, while on the other a series of hills rolled off into the distance. We started up the hills the next morning, off to summit Tomyhoi. Unlike our experience with Watson, the hike to the mountain itself took up a major portion of the day. We paused at one point to look over into Canada on the other side of a mountain ridge.

Ah, Mt. Baker, our constant companion
Taking a break
Its a breathtaking trail
Not a bad basecamp for our attempt the next day
You know, I kind of like this climbing thing...
"Bro, can I tell you something? I dont really know what to do with myself if I dont have homework"
"Swimming in lakes, climbing mountains, this is what growing up is supposed to be"
Dinner time
"Why dont I just go ahead and finish this off?"
"Tell me again why were leaving?"
"Youre right, we dont need to stake down the tents"
Starting the climb, looking back at basecamp

At some point we came upon Mount Tomyhoi, and were confronted with- yes- another glacier. This one was bigger, and the cliff much farther off- but at the same time, the slope we would cross it at was closer to vertical than horizontal. I stomped through it with some amount of confidence. Eating snow, I found, distracted me enough from the matter at hand to keep me from panicking. Mount Tomyhoi rose up in a ridge, rather than the traditional cone. As a result of this, we found ourselves moving up from point to point along the mountain, with ropes stretched in between. Sometimes the other station was not even visible, around a corner or over a ledge. In between climbing we waited for hours in the wind and sun, receiving only a faint idea of what lay ahead from the intermittent radio signals. I had little problem, for the most part, until we arrived at the foot of a large rock face. The climbing looked relatively easy for the majority of the ascent, but at the very top we would have to clamber over a boulder that jutted out over the edge. I waited for my turn t come, again wary of the climb. Once again, however, Peter Green was kind enough to go up with me. I admit to being a complete wuss about climbing. When I finally screwed up my courage and began it, though, I managed to get up the entire cliff with very little effort. I felt like turning to a non-existent camera and remarking cheerily, “That wasn’t so bad!” And bolstering my confidence still further was the fact that now, for the first time, I could see the summit. Peter and I scrambled up the short path up to the top, and suddenly we were there.

The only way I can describe the sight is by saying that for the first time, I became truly aware of the limitations of my eyes. Set into sockets in my skull, they reveal to me only about 180˚ of vision- less than that, even. The panorama in front of me (and to the left, and the right, and behind me) was just too vast to take in from only one vantage point. I needed duel IMAX screens in my head. I could see Canada to the right of me, and way in the distance the Puget Sound on my left. Behind me were nothing but mountains, and in front of me they ended abruptly in green hills and farmland. Mount Tomyhoi seemed to be a convergence point of sorts, geographically and politically. I clambered back down with genuine confidence.

We crossed the high alps for over a mile
What a team!
Higher and higher toward our goal
Getting ready to rope up
Taking a wee rest as we near the final ridge
Now it gets a little complicated... we must be climbing!
Investigating the glacier as a possible descent route. No go.
Climbers on the summit pinnacle
The summit of Mt. Tomyhoi - July 18, 2005
On the summit!
Waiting, waiting, waiting at the col. Perfect weather for a nap.
Roped up on the summit ridge
A disreputable pair on the top of this noble peak
Seth regains the summit ridge. He is wearing an orange pack on his back.
"Wow, I cant believe places like this exist"
A pleasant walk back down to basecamp
Mt. Shuksan
Alpenglow on Mt. Baker

On the way back to camp, we faced some significant setbacks. Someone dropped Peter’s pack off a cliff, and it took both ropes and a few hours to climb down and retrieve. As if that weren’t enough, when we finally arrived at camp two of the tents had blown away in high winds. One of them (mine, thankfully) got snagged in a cluster of trees and didn’t fall into the ravine. The other tent, however, landed squarely in the stream at the bottom. However, the day ended well as we used up all our food in one fell swoop, gorging ourselves on a sprawling bonanza of ramen, pasta and soup.

I came away from the trip with a real appreciation of the exhilaration of hiking and rock-climbing, despite my initial anxiety. I found that it really does pay off to take risks and broaden horizons, and I recommend this trip to anybody not interested in climbing mountains.

San Juan Islands Bicycle Trip

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San Juan Islands Bicycle Trip

This past June seven students and three adult leaders travelled to the San Juan Islands of Washington.

San Juan Islands Bicycle Trip

This past June seven students and three adult leaders travelled to the San Juan Islands of Washington. During the six day trip the team visited different islands, swam, boated, hiked and explored. The students carried all of their personal gear, and most of the cooking supplies and food on their bicycles.

Day 1: We drove to Anacortes from Portland and boarded the ferry "Yakima" for Orcas Island. Once there we biked twelve miles to Indian Point, where we were the guests of Bill Horder. Bill joined us for most of the rest of the trip. The first leg of the trip was difficult. Thats when we learned how to pull the trailer and how to pack all of our gear so it wouldnt fall off the bicycles. Once at Indian Point we set up camp near a small lake, and cooked next to the beach.

Day 2: We biked over to a large farm owned by Jack and Jan Helsell. Much of the morning was spent jumping into piles of hay from prodigious heights in the barn. We hiked to the summit of Turtlehead Mountain (Orcas Knob) and ate a scenic lunch. From here we went to a beautiful lake on the Helsell property. The group was split into two teams for some intense competition involving a swimming, rowing and bicycle race. It was a thrilling race with the winning team coming in ahead of the second place team by mere seconds. That night many students slept out under the stars.

Day 3: We had spam and pancakes for breakfast and headed off on the challenging bike across Orcas Island and up to Moran State Park. The group stopped in Eastsound for lunch and began the long climb more than half way up Mt. Constitution to Mountain Lake. One of the students made it the entire way without stopping for a rest. We stayed in a scenic site right on the lakes shore that night and had smores around the campfire.

Day 4: Rain greeted us in the morning, our first (and only) rain of the trip. Most of the day was spent in a rustic log shelter in front of a roaring fire playing ca-ca and listening to stories. Once the rain let up we played some challenge games and made a hike up to the "Little Summit" on Mt. Constitution. After a dinner of hamburgers we played three intense games of capture the flag in the old growth forest near the lake.

Day 5: A thrilling ride all the way down to eastsound highlighted the morning. We spent an hour in a used bookstore where almost everyone found something to buy. From there we travelled the length of the island to the Orcas ferry landing. By now we were seasoned bicyclists and the going was easy. We jumped on board the ferry for the short ride to Shaw island. What a delightful place Shaw is. Without the constant traffic of Orcas Island to rattle our nerves we had a relaxing ride to Indian Cove County Park. Once again we camped next to the ocean. Most of the afternoon was spent playing memorable games of Ultimate Frisbee and Kick the Can. After dinner that night everyone slept under the stars and watched as the glowing ferries sailed past in the dark.

Day 6: We packed up early and rode to the Shaw Island ferry landing. Breakfast consisted of muffins, fruit and juice bought from the general store at the landing. We were back at Anacortes by noon and boarded the yellow bus for the long ride back to Portland.