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Sailing through the San Juan Islands

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Eighteen bold students set sale from Anacortes, Washington as part of their Winterim adventure.  Over the five days the group sailed to Matia, Sucia, Jones, Orcas and Lopez islands.  The group even managed to sail up into the Canadian Gulf islands for an afternoon, and also saw some porpoises.  There were lots of man overboard drills, cards played and hiking adventures on land.

Canyoneering in Utah

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Spectacular scenery and big adventure

A group of twelve Catlin Gabel students and leaders spent a week exploring the red rock canyons of southern Utah over spring break this year.  The group flew to Las Vegas and exited the place as fast as possible for the glorious wilderness not far from America's most unnatural city.  At the end of the five hour journey they found a pristine paradise of canyons, rocks, Indian dwellings and hidden rivers.  The first half of the trip was spent in Coyoto Gulch in the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument.  Four days of hiking along the gorgeous stream in its deep canyon home created lasting memories for the young crew.  The last three days were spent exploring slot canyons, some of them requiring technical climbing gear.  Each night the group camped out under the brilliant stars, made brighter by the moonless night. 

Students Ski in Glacier National Park

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Nordic skiing adventure in the Montana wilderness

Our interpid group of 12 students and two leaders boarded the eastbound Amtrak on Wednesday afternoon, minutes after taking their last final exam.  Although the train ran a little behind its posted schedule that was more than made up for by the amazingly kind and attentive service provided by the staff at the stations and especially on board the train.  The respect with which the students were treated was something they will remember for many years.  We travelled through the darkness for 14 hours or more before detraining onto a lovely siding in the windswept and snowbound reaches of the Flathead River bordering Glacier National Park.   We made the 100 yard walk to our hotel: the Izaak Walton Inn where we deposited our bags into our own separate house apart from the main lodge.  We spent that first afternoon skiing the many miles of groomed trails in the nearby hills.  For about half of he students this was their first experience using Nordic skis, but everyone took to it like a Powells employee to a tattoo parlor.  The snow was excellent- a foot of fresh powder had fallen the day before, and the temperatures were cold.  It dropped to 0 degrees on our last day.  The students learned the value of chemical hand warmers.  That evening the group played some intense group games that separated the clever from the thoughtful.

On Friday we made the drive down to McDonald Lake in Glacier Park- one the great features of this spectacular park.  We skied down some roads and then managed to ski up the foot trail to Johns Lake.  We also made an excursion across McDonald Creek and to the head of the lake. 

Our last day was Saturday and we were greeted by sunshine though with even colder temperatures.  This day was devoted to challenging adventures, which included lots of off-trail skiing through the woods, crossing creeks, falling down, climbing trees, capture the flag and glorious skiing in the sunshine.   That evening we boarded the train at the lovely siding once again and made the long trip back to Portland.

Creative Writing and Outdoor Program Team Up for a Trip!

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 Last weekend Creative Writing teacher Ginia King and Outdoor Program teacher Renee Jenkinson teamed up and took a group of Upper School Students on a creative writing retreat on the Oregon Coast.  It was one of those magical 65 degree and sunny winter beach weekends.  We spent time doing writing exercises, hiking, exploring, cooking great food, and sharing.  In it's second year, the creative writing trip continues to grow as a creative, relaxing, beautiful co curricular adventure!

Exploring Oregon's remotest places

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Oregon High Desert Adventure

Christmas Lake, Alkalai Flats, Crack in the Ground, Shiprock, Green Mountain and South Ice Cave were some of the features that Catlin students backpacked to over the extended break for conferences this year.

The group drove from Portland to the hamlet of Christmas Valley on Saturday and set off on foot northbound across the salt flats, which are the remnants of an ancient lake.  Some of the students found arrowheads(!) as we made our way to a remote camping spot, far from any habitation.  The moon was as bright as a reading light, and the stars shone more brightly than any the students had ever seen.  The next morning, after a dinner of oatmeal, fresh fruit, and Spam, we all set off on a very challenging twelve mile hike across the salt flats and into the higher sage country.  We spent a few hours at Crack in the Ground exploring its hidden recesses before climbing higher and higher into the juniper and then pine forest to a camp atop Green Mountain.  The panorama from our campsite allowed us to see over 1000 square miles of the state.  Dinner consisted of Philadelphia cheese steak sandwiches.  Our third day was spent exploring South Ice Cave and trying to force new passages among the rocks.  For most of the kids this was the most challenging outdoor experience of their lives.  Strong bonds were forged among the thirteen students, who represented all four classes of the school.

A weekend of sun at Smith Rock

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Rock climbing with your friends on a great weekend

Rock climbing in the desert sun is a perfect antidote for the autmun rains in Portland.   As is so often the case, the dramatic television news forecasts for approaching weather turned out to be, well, wrong, and the students on the trip were treated to unbridled sunshine all day Saturday, a clear (and cold) night, and unalloyed sunshine all day on Sunday. 

Once the group  finished climbing on Saturday, we all boarded the bus and drove into Redmond and enjoyed an authentic Mexican meal at Mazatlan Resturant.  That evening we set up camp in the Skull Hollow Campground, which was practically empty, and built a large bonfire which served as a forum for outdoor-related and moose jokes late into the evening.
The sun rose on our little campsite about 8am and we set about making our individual breakfasts.  The balance of the day was occupied with climbing the warm rocks along the Crooked River.

Outdoor Program and Arts UNITE at Ekone Ranch

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Horseback Arts Trip a Success for it's Second Year!

After a relaxing no school Friday, students met up at 2:00 for a 2:30pm sharp departure East to Goldendale WA.  On the bus we sang, got acquainted, and chatted and arrived at Ekone Ranch in the beautiful slanted evening light.  The bus filled with smiles as the bus wove down the driveway into the valley filled with horses, little smoking chimneys, pigs, goats, and golden leaves. 
 Shonie met us and we got the lay of the land before moving into the longhouse where we set ourselves up in bunks and lofts.  We stretched our legs on a walk around the ranch and some pig feeding before heading over to the kitchen where we were greeted by a warm stove and delicious dinner.  Students all gathered around a table chatting, eating, and enjoying the company. Just as we were finishing, Nance and Ailie arrived and joined the group! After dinner we helped clean up, bundled up, and headed over to the lodge where we lit a fire beneath the watch of Monarch the buffalo head.  Half the group had planned activities for the evening and we played “hot seat,” a question game where the bonding was sweet and the group got a lot closer.  Just after 10 we headed back to the longhouse where we stoked the wood stove and settled into the chilly evening under the full moon. 
 7:30 came early with the calling of wild turkeys through the morning mist and the breakfast crew bundled up and headed down to the kitchen to help get breakfast ready.  Everyone joined them at 8 and we enjoyed a delicious warm breakfast before cleaning up, getting ready for the day and meeting up for some stretching and plan making.  1/3 of the group went riding while the other 2/3s did encaustic wax painting, photography, and horse charcoal drawings with Nance.  The riders returned from their riding lesson and glorious autumn loop along the canyon rim in time for lunch  and we all ate in the sunshine under the fall leaves.  After lunch we moved wood in the forest and had some quiet solo time where students napped, read, and enjoyed the peace of the valley. In the afternoon the groups rotated.  Art was made, horses were ridden, and adventure was had!
 The evening found us gathered together enjoying a delicious dinner before another evening of games around the fire.
 Our final morning was spent with the remainder of students riding while the rest of us hiked to the bottom of the canyon to a beautiful oasis! After lunch the bus arrived.  We had a talent show on the bus ride back  which included yodeling and songs! We got back to Catlin at 4pm dusty, relaxed, and happy.

Rafting the Mighty Deschutes River

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Upper School students spend three days on Oregon's great river

This fall we had so many students sign up for the annual fall rafting trip that we created two trips as a way to assure everyone a quality experience. 

The first and second groups were both guided by the able oarsmen of All-Star Rafting, from Maupin.  Bob Sauer was the Admiral of the first team and Paul Monheimer was the Admiral of the second group.  We were favored by great weather all weekend, and the students had the funnest time.  The first day was spent navigating fairly straightforward rapids from the put in at Warm Springs to a camp near Whiskey Dick.  Most of the time was occupied getting to know each other. learning various paddling techniques and getting to know our guides.  Dinner that night was prepared by the students under the watchful and hungry eyes of the guides and school faculty.  The students and leaders slept out under the stars or in tents.

Day two included the challenge of White Horse Rapids, a class III-IV rapid that is long and somewhat complex.  Everyone made it through unscathed and on they travelled after a brief stop for some swimming and jumping into the river.  That night was spent near the old townsite of Dant.

On the third and final day the group faced up to the challenge of the toughest rapids on the lower river.  These rapids include Boxcar, Wapinitia and Oak Springs.  We stopped to scout some of these and used the expertise of the guides on others.  Everyone got wet- and those who were not wet were invited into he river on the sunny day.  The trip ended about noon on Sunday and the bus was filled with smiling and happy faces on the return trip to Portland.

Biking through Oregon's Old Growth Forests

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Three days on Mount Hood amid the Autumn Colors
Bicycling along paved mountain roads, surrounded by the colors of the fall, seventeen Catlin Gabel students and four leaders made a 60 mile tour of the high Cascades of Oregon during a  flawless October weekend. 

The trip began on a Friday morning at a snow park about six miles south of Government Camp just past Clear Lake.  The group unloaded its belogings from the bus and strapped some of them on to their trusty two-wheelers while putting the rest in a friendly van that would help transport the gear from one forest campsite to the next.  The trip was planned so as to be entirely on paved roads through the Mt. Hood National Forest and Willamette National Forest.
The first day featured some ups and some downs as far as elevation gain went.  We had a nice lunch near Little Crater Lake, a little visited gem of this great state, and made a visit to the nearby Pacific Crest Trail.  From here we biked back up to Forest Service Road 42, our main artery of travel and proceeded to Timothy Lake.  A few students roused the courage to wade in its chilly waters.  That evening we camped at Summit Lake and feasted on a lengthy spaghetti dinner.
Day two provided glorious downhill biking along narrow and winding forest roads, all the way down to the Clackamas River.  We ate our lunch right beside the river while some hearty souls tested the icy waters.  From here we biked south along FS 46 to an obscure campsite along Sisi Creek.  The students spent the afternoon playing capture the flag and a memorable game of Ultimate Frisbee on the narrow and nearly deserted forest road.
Our final day started with a challenging climb up to the pass that seperates the Clackamas River drainage from that of the Santiam River.  Once on top, and with little or no warning, we embarked on an unending downhill ride of 14 miles that took us right into the town of Detroit.  The smiles wouldn't stop. Most fun ever.

St Helen's Blast Team Fortitude!

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Attitudes rise as raindrops fall

The wild weekend weather forecast and perniciously persistent illness conspired to whittle away at the participant list over the course of the week leading up to our departure on this adventure.  From what had originally been a nearly full activity-bus-load of 11 students and 2 leaders, timidity and sickness diminished our number to a mere 4 students and 2 leaders standing in the parking lot by the bus on Saturday morning at departure time.  The gray skies and forbidding forecast notwithstanding, there was great enthusiasm and energy throughout this small but intrepid group as we loaded the bus and left Catlin on time.

On the two hour drive to the mountain the skies grew darker and the rain showers more frequent.  The multi setting speed control on the windshield wipers had to be adjusted to ever faster rates the closer we got to our destination.  At the turnoff to Ape Cave, we paused to discuss our options.  A brief, transitory lessening of the deluge deluded us into carrying on to the Lava Canyon Trailhead, following the planned itinerary.  We were the only vehicle in the parking lot.  After suiting up in our rain gear, we set off down the paved trail to the canyon floor as the rain intensity picked up again.  The impervious pavement provided a wide channel for the water to flow down, switchback after switchback.  Artistically placed logs that made distinct natural borders for the path in fine weather now were dams keeping the water on the path and creating deep pools that spanned the pavement forcing us to teeter along the logs in a futile effort to keep our feet dry.  The creek at the bottom of the canyon, impressive at any time as it winds its way over old lava flows and cascades over their edges, was even more spectacular now, swollen with rainwater, opaquely brown with silt, and raging through its whirlpools and over its waterfalls.  We passed safely over it on a high steel bridge, and then back on an even higher, satisfyingly swaying suspension bridge.  In the river below the next rampaging waterfall we could hear large boulders shifting in the current, moved along by the unusually high volume of water. 

We left the paved portion of the trail and followed the narrow and steep path cut into the precipitous cliffs along the dramatic canyon uncovered by the lahar flow from the 1980 eruption and made more striking by the years of erosion by the creek in just such weather as this.  Even the trail was being reworked by the rainfall, as runoff made its way down the steep incline of the narrow path, carrying small loose pebbles along with it before finally cascading over the cliffside to join the brown torrent below.  Side creeks that normally would be an easy crossing required careful footwork and adroit jumping to cross their full-spate cascades splashing over the trail.  We paused to admire the distinct contacts between different lava flows, and to notice the unusual cooling in one flow that resulted in laminar cracks rather than the more common columns.  We were finally turned back by a creek too wide to jump and with no convenient logs to serve as bridges or stepping stones.

We climbed aboard the bus, and some made the first of many changes of clothing in a futile effort to keep dry-clad – an effort that soon exhausted the dry clothes supply.  The interior of the bus was quickly festooned with dripping clothing.  In betweenst the drips we ate our lunches – not dry, but at least out of the rain.

On the drive back towards Ape Cave, the streams running off the upper lahar and across low places in the road were noticeably deeper than they had been on the way out.  The water reached up at least to the hubcaps of the bus as we dipped through en route to higher (but not much drier) ground.  Despite the by now continuous heavy rainfall, the large parking lot at Ape Cave was ¾ full of vehicles.  Many people seemed to be seeking a drier outing underground on this soggy day.  This turned out to be a vain hope.  While there’s often a bit of dripping from the roof overhead at the entrance to the cave, the great volume of rain from this storm meant that the permeable basalt flow above dripped through the entire length of the tube.  There was a stream of water running along the floor of the lava tube from entrance to end, a distance of ¾ mile.  In the narrower and steeper sections the sound of the rushing water echoed off the damp stone walls and made the unusual underground stream sound even larger.  The drips underground were larger and heavier than the raindrops above, so there was no doffing of raincoats or ponchos as we had hoped to be able to do.  At the bottom end of the tube, a lake had formed on the sand floor that now blocks the lower exit to the tube.  Presumably the water will slowly seep through the sand and return the cave to its more usual damp but waterless state once this storm has abated.  We took advantage of a lull between other visitors to turn off all our lights to appreciate just how dark the inside of a cave is.  (It’s REALLY dark.)  The experience was novel this time, though, due to the extra noises.  Usually it’s very quiet during this experiment, only the shuffling of our own group disturbing the silence.  This time we heard the distant noises of other groups farther up the tube and the continual rush of the running water flowing down to meet us at the lake.

We drove down the road to the Trail of Two Forests parking lot.  The lot was almost completely filled with sheriff’s vehicles, so we had to park our bus and trailer in the turnout outside.  (The trailer had been arranged back when the trip roster was much larger.  It now contained only the drinking water containers and fuel canisters.  With the smaller group size that we now actually had, all gear fit inside the bus, out of the rain, although not necessarily dry.)  Talking to two of the strapping, large men in the lot, we found that they were part of a search and rescue operation looking for a lost mushroom picker in the wet woods.  We were on a quest to find Lake Cave, another lava tube, unmarked, that I had learned of the existence of only the day before from Peter.  The friendly searchers in the lot confirmed that the entrance was hard to find.  One of them only was only able to find it with the aid of his GPS unit and by knowing its exact coordinates.  The searcher-in-chief at the parking lot was not thrilled at our plan of heading off into the woods to find a location that we didn’t know.  We promised not to go far, and to not become another search project for him.  In the event, we found the entrance to the cave easily and quite quickly.  Peter’s scant, but accurate, directions enabled us to walk almost directly to it.  This cave we had to ourselves.  There was a metal ladder to descend into the main part of the lava tube, and then a lot of scrambling over large rock falls to proceed to the lower sections.  Although some of the party was able to descend a short but steep wall into a large, open chamber, others of us were not, so the entire group turned around at this point, satisfied at having found and explored the cave exclusively, but a little disappointed at not having encountered its eponymous lake.  We returned safely and entirely to the parking lot, where we checked back in with the search director.  Then, as long as we were there, we took the Trail of Two Forests loop hike.  It’s all paved and boardwalked, so there’s little chance of getting lost.  The volcanic features on display here were new to many of the group.  Several also did The Crawl, wriggling through two tree casts in the lava flow that now make a rough, hard, narrow tunnel that was today rather damp.  Just as we loaded the bus, one of the searchers came over to tell us the rescue effort had just made voice contact with the missing mushroom hunter.

We headed east on FR 90 towards our campground.  The weather continued extremely wet.  Even though it was only mid-afternoon, the skies were so thickly beclouded that it seemed more like evening.  The winding road was littered with leaves and branches.  Although the conditions were now windless, so that the rain came straight down, it must have been very windy earlier.  The obstacles meant extreme attention was needed for driving safely.  We reached the campground about 4:30.  There were three other hardy parties, with well-established camp setups amidst the general sogginess.  We found a site with sufficient open, puddle-free ground for our tents and a table with trees around for the tying up of a sheltering tarp.  In the continuous rainfall, the tents were quickly erected, and with three long lengths of rope, the tarp was carefully hung, centered over the table.  It proved to have an unexpected, but very convenient feature – it was self-bailing.  As the rain water collected into an ever deeper pool on the top, causing the whole affair to sag closer to the table, the center of mass shifted, and the pool moved towards the edge of the tarp.  At a critical time, the whole pool poured itself over the edge, and the lightened tarp rose above our heads. Then the whole process started over again.  Once we’d gotten over our amazement and astonishment at this phenomenon, we turned it even further to our advantage and started catching the water dumps in our dishpans to use as dishwashing water.  As the water pump was quite a distance from our campsite, this was a much more convenient way to obtain the wash water.

By staying under the continually falling and rising tarp, we were able to stay fairly dry (and in close conversation) while dinner was prepared: Caesar salads, French bread, and tortellini in cream sauce with peas.  This was sandwiched in between (even though it was much more than sandwiches!) endless rounds of hot drinks, the consumption of all of which did much to buoy our dampened spirits.  As darkness fell, however, the rainfall increased rather than tapering off.  The puddles between the tents continued to grow and started to encroach on the tents themselves.  The time between auto-dumps on the tarp (Vince was timing them) shortened from nearly 6 minutes to 3 minutes and then to 2 minutes.  A walk to the outhouse, away from the shelter of the tarp, resulted in saturation of bits of clothing that to this point in the day had remained dry, despite the continuous deluge.  Part of the wetness was brought on by a detour to see the lower falls of the Lewis River, which were just beyond the outhouse.  The falls were a spectacular sight – a luminous curtain of white in the deep gloom of the drenched evening, rushing loudly over a wide swath of rock.  The overabundance of the recent additions to the water supply undoubtedly added to the magnificence, and promoted lingering to appreciate the spectacle, while contributing to the sogginess of the trip personnel.

Throughout the adventure to this point the attitude and enthusiasm of the intrepid few who were partaking in the expedition had been exemplary.  There was continuous conversation keeping things lively and interesting, and consistent excitement about the excessively wet but still enthralling escapades that kept bobbing up before us.  As the rainfall rate seemed set to keep increasing, the tents (along with just about everything else we had) were saturated and sodden, and the prospect was now to head to a wet bed at 7 pm, for a long and soggy night, with the forecast for tomorrow’s weather no better, it seemed best to end the trip at this point, with spirits and enthusiasm still high.  So, by general agreement, we packed up the soggy tents and dishes and stuffed everything in the bus.  Despite the darkness and the drenching downpour, we had everything packed and tucked in the bus within half an hour, helped along by dessert brownies.

The adventure was not yet over, however.  The deserted roads were still littered with leaves, branches, and occasionally rocks that had to be avoided.  We proceeded slowly and cautiously along the interminable windings of the shortcut down to Carson and the straighter, more main roads along the Columbia that we hoped would speed our return to Portland.  It was a good thing that the proceeding was cautious, as rounding one sharp turn on the descent to the Wind River Valley, the high-beam headlights revealed, through the curtain of falling rain, an entire tree fallen across the road, blocking it completely.   Further (wet) investigation up close showed that the tree, while certainly too substantial to be simply heaved aside, was small enough to be susceptible to sawing.  Fortunately we HAD a saw, brought in the expectation that we might find firewood to supplement the supply we had brought for a fire for our smores.  The sodden nature of the firepit and all local potential firewood meant that the saw hadn’t been brought out until now.  It proved up to the task, with enough effort from many of the party, of clearing half of the roadway.  Comparisons were made by those who had been on the Elana Gold Project this past June to the trail clearing efforts we (successful and more drily) made then using the same saw.   We threw the cut and broken tree pieces over the embankment, reboarded the bus, and continued on our wet way.  10 miles farther on, red and blue flashing lights erupted behind the bus, so we pulled over at the first turnout, and they pulled in behind us.  What Now?  It was another sheriff, looking for a search and rescue training (not the actual rescue that we had seen, we soon established,) that no one had thought to tell him the location of.  Seeing our bus, he thought we might be transporting searchers-in-training.  We had to inform him otherwise, and he set off on his continuing search effort, while we resumed our continuously eventful progress towards Portland.   The roads were now more main and frequented and less nature-littered, although not any less wet.  We passed through Carson, and headed west on Washington 14.  We crossed the river at Bridge of the Gods, thinking that a quick hour’s drive on I-84 would return us to Catlin.  Ha!  The toll taker on the Oregon side, hearing that we were heading west, told us that I-84 was closed, due to an accident, and he couldn’t say when it might open again.  He allowed us to make U turn and return to the Washington side of the river toll-free.  We continued west on WA 14. As we approached Vancouver, the rainfall slackened enough that I could finally turn the windshield wipers off completely for the last half hour.  It was the first time they’d been off for more than two minutes at a stretch all day.  We arrived back at Catlin about 10:30, just as the Homecoming Dance was winding up, and where parents soon retrieved their soggy, but contented offspring, who now had so many tales to relate.

The adventure was not yet ended, however, as after cleaning and securing our steady, reliable bus, I drove home, over leaf and tree-bit strewn roads (it must have been very stormy in Portland, too,) to find my street even darker than usual in stormy weather.  When the garage door failed to open despite repeated pressings of the opener, I realized that the power must be out.  Not only was my house dark (which I had expected) but all the neighbors’ were too.  So I ended up going to bed by flashlight after all.  At least the bed was totally dry.  And by the time I got up the next morning (not very early) the power had been restored.  (It has been raining almost all day today – conducive to the writing up of our adventure and confirming the wisdom of having called an ending to the trip at a highpoint last night.  Chilly, wet hiking in saturated woods today, with no views of the volcanic crater would have been quite poor ending after all of yesterday’s exciting events.)

Although the account of these exploits may seem incredible, they are all true.  (And they all happened in a single day.)  What is even more amazing, and for which I am exceedingly grateful, is that the natural winnowing process described the opening paragraph of this account yielded a superb expeditionary force, whose enthusiasm and spirits remained high throughout, who were excited about ALL the activities we did, the challenges we faced and overcame, and changes we had to implement.  Despite the excessive moisture component (far exceeding even rafting trips) we were subjected to, the attitudes, positive participation, continued cheerfulness, and appreciation of the adventure of every single member of the expedition made a very successful and exciting excursion out of what very easily could have been a soggy mess.  I would eagerly lead another (ideally drier) adventure anywhere with this exemplary team.

A Second 5 Day San Juan Sea Kayaking Expedition!

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After a long bus ride (4.5 hours) and an early start (7:30am) the bus arrived in Anacortes.  Students bid auto travel farewell and got on the 2pm ferry to Friday Harbor.  Renee met them at the dock and we were all whisked away to Jackson beach where the boats were ready to go.  We had a kayak class, loaded our boats, checked the map, and hit the water by 5.  We caught an incoming tide up to Turn Island and after a long day and many modes of travel we were “home!”
 Turn Island is over run with raccoons and students brainstormed ways of fixing the infestation.  The winning idea was a “coon-cannon” which would catapult them into the water.  After some unsuccessful attempts at launching raccoons we enjoyed an evening of talking on the rocks, a tasty mexican fiesta, and getting lulled to sleep under the stars to the sound of scampering critters. 
 Saturday morning was an early wake up so we could catch the turning tide at 7:30 am.  Students were champs and everyone was ready to go by 7:30 and we were on the water headed north.  We made an easy crossing of San Juan Channel with views North to Canada!
 We got to Yellow Island which we re-named Yololand and while we waited for the caretaker to invite us ashore we rafted up and ate a melon.  We explored the Nature Conservancy’s Yololand and found a pristine beach where we rested, swam, chatted, got burried in pebbles, and pretended we were in the tropics.  Refreshed we hopped back in our boats and paddled to Jones Island where we explored the island, saw a bunch of porpoises, got water, explored tidepools, played games, had a group Uno game, and enjoyed the most gorgeous campsite overlooking San Juan Channel! We slept under the stars bellies full of s’mores and tin foil packet stews. 
 Sunday we got to sleep in until the sun found us.  Captain Peter navigates our way to Blind Island where we met a camp group who was in one of the sites.  We explored the tidepools and set up camp before kayaking over to Shaw for Ice Cream and a walk.  On Shaw we learned someone had left a bag on our Island and Andrew and Renee went back to get it.  Back on Shaw, yet another group of kids had moved in and we invited them all to play a gigantic game for sardines that evening!
After dinner we met the other kids and had a great game.  Catlin kids were gregarious and welcoming and fun was had by all.  As it got dark we got ready for our nigh kayak.  We paddled into the bay and the bioluminesent plankton lit up with every paddle stroke.  It got brighter and brighter and was truly magical!  As we got closer to our Island we shined our lights into the water to see what we could attract.  At first it was just tiny worms but before long giant 2 foot polychete worms that looked like giant swimming centipedes were swimming up from the depths to check us out.  Both fascinated and scarred we returned to Blind Island and a restful sleep over the water.  
 Monday we left Blind Island at 11, well fed, rested, and ready to paddly around Shaw.  We kayaked to Indian Cove and played on the sandy beach, ate lunch and swam, before loading back up to cross San Juan Chanel again.  We had to paddle far north on Shaw because the currents pulling south were strong and we weren’t ready to go back to Portland yet.  We made the crossing and sang at the tops of our lungs as we battled the currents and and were finally back at Turn Island.  We were greeted by our raccoon friends and set up a beautiful camp on the beach.  We cleaned up our boats, made dinner, and invented many desserts from our leftovers before heading across the island for some log throwing and exploration. 
 The next morning we packed up, made a quick crossing to San Juan Island, met Tim, got all loaded up and were on the 3:50 Ferry in no time.  Larry was a champ driving the bus back to Catlin with a stop at Burgerville before a 9pm arrival back at school.

Five Day San Juan Island Sea Kayak Expedition

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We began our journey bright an early at 7:30am, embarking on our 4.5 hour drive north to Anacortes on the bus.  Leroy did a great job driving us north with perfectly timed stops and a spot on arrival at the ferry terminal.  Off the bus we were faced with the task of carrying all our gear, food, and food and gear for the second trip onto the boat.  The nice folks from the coffee shop lent us a hand cart and we were quite a sight schlepping aboard the ferry!
 The ride was gorgeous! That there seemed to be only teenagers on the boat was our first clue that we were entering summer-camp-land and in no time we docked in Friday Harbor, met Tim (the rental boat man) and headed to his shop to get the boats.  We were packed and on the water by 6:30pm and bid adieu to Tim as we made our way south to Griffin Bay Kayak Campground. 
 While making BLTs for dinner we heard our neighbors playing catch phrase and we joined in over the bushes.  Soon they brought it over and we had a great time playing the guessing game all together as the sun went down over the water.
 Sunday morning we woke to mists and met our other neighbors who’s mom went to Miss Catlin’s school back in the day! Small world!  We got loaded up and on the water and spotted moon jellies, seals, and beautiful red jelly fish as we made our way north to Turn Island, a small nature island we’d lunch on before our channel crossing.  We stopped on the island, went on a little hike, met some raccoon thiefs, and plotted our crossing of the channel. 
 We waited for ferry traffic to clear and began the crossing.  Being a weekend there were lots of pleasure boaters around and we had to keep paddling to stay balanced in the wake and get across without diverting ferry traffic.  Going up and down the waves “armada style” while Kyle whooped and hollered made the crossing quite fun.
Safely across we made our way North to stop on Yellow Island, a nature conservancy Island where we hiked and swam before loading up and heading north to Jones Island where we made camp.  On Jones we explored, found terrifying sea creatures, played games, refreshed our fresh water supply and ate s’mores at a gorgeous campsite overlooking the channel. 
 Monday was a sunny dry morning and due to the tides we got to have a lazy morning together watching the water change and chatting over breakfast and cocoa.  Once the tide began to recede we caught the current and paddled to Blind Island, a tiny Island in Blind Bay across from the Shaw Island ferry terminal.   We got there around lunch time and spent the afternoon exploring tidepools, practicing kayak self-rescue in the bay, and then paddling all together over to the Shaw Island Store for Ice cream!
 When we got back we caught a red rock crab and decided to add it to our dinner.  The students cooked, cleaned, and enjoyed the crab.  Maddy even ate the heart! The best part!  We made a no bake cake and the Juniors brought a tart to our new Island neighbors who had arrived while we were away.  While we waited for it to get dark we played sardines and after the sun set we went for a night paddle in the bay where we enjoyed bioluminescent plankton, sneaking around all the sleeping sailboats, and the peacefulness of being on the water at night!
 Tuesday was a misty morning and we decided to do a by land or by sea challenge.  We paddled half the group to Shaw Island and the other half took the boats in a foot vs. Paddle race around the Island.  In the boats we met a strong head wind and lost the race by a few hours.  The land crew found sculptures, baby deer, and the 9th graders basked in their Island fame and were recognized from the 8th grade play! We all got to watch bald eagles hunting and all met up at sandy Indian Cove.  The land crew presented us with the gift a a polychete worm in a shell.  So kind!  Indian Cove was full of campers so we caught a tide across the channel to Odlin County Park on Lopez Island were we got a campsite for our last night. 
 Our last night was games around the fire, volleyball, and sleeping under stars.  Mornign found us too soon and paddled back to Griffin bay where we met Tim, washed and unloaded boats, and headed to Friday Harbor for Ice Cream and farewells before a ferry ride and long bus ride back to Catlin.

Wallowas trip 2013 photo gallery

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Wallowas + Llamas = Wallamas


Climbing at sunny City of Rocks

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A wonderful summer getaway

The greatest cragging and crack climbing in North America is found at City of Rocks Idaho.  Seventeen students and five leaders made the lengthy one-day drive for a climbing adventure this past June.

The group camped at a few sites clustered together just below the pass.  Each day we would rise with the sun, have a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs, and then walk or ride in the vans to the various granite rocks in the area.  Students who had completed the school's "leading on Rock" course were often allowed to put up routes.  The weather was generally quite nice, with a few showers on Monday and some excess heat on Thursday.  Students shared resposnsibiliyy for meal preparation and cleanup while in camp.
Students made tremendous progress in their climbing skills, finishing climbs ranging difficulty from 5.6 to 5.11c.  The week was capped with a remarkable talent show around the campfire on the last evening.

Traversing the North Cascades of Washington

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An incredible adventure

A thirty mile backpack trip through the rugged North Cascades proved to be a challenging and memorable adventure for seven students and two leaders earlier this month.  The loaction chosen for the epic struggle between man and nature was the Glacier Peak Wilderness, which lies north of Mt. Rainier and south of Mt. Baker. 

We drove to the trailhead in two black SUVs on a sunny Monday morning in very early July.  The hike begins at the end of an old logging road up the North Fork of the Sauk River.  Once here, the group split up all the gear and the food and loaded it into their backpacks and then started walking south up the well graded trail along the raging river.  After an hour of hiking the trail split, with the left trail heading up to White Pass and the right trail turning west and ascending Pilot Ridge.  We took the Pilot Ridge trail, which required us to cross the river first.  The log normally used for this task was partly submerged in the rushing waters so we headed upstream and eventually were able to find a few old growth logs.  The leaders set up the rope to act as a handline and each of the students made it across while the leaders transported their packs over the worst section.  Once across the river it was now late afternoon and we began the 3000+ foot climb through the forest to the top of Pilot Ridge.  The trail was pretty good, though we lost it at the 4500 foot level when we hit our first snow of the trip.  We would be destined to spend the next four days hiking through snow for the great majority of each day.  Part way up the hill we passed by decent campsite hoping to get one with a view higher up.  The struggle was great, but by 8:00 pm we were on top of the ridge and found an expansive snow field on the very crest of the ridge that would serve as our resting place for the night.On the second day we got a late start and began our actual traverse of the length of ghe ridge, which actually encircles the entire watershed of the river below.  We foiund ourselves walkinhg along flower covered hillsides with the most unbelievable view all around us.  We would see north to Mt. Baker and south to Mt Adams.  At any given time there were 30-50 dramatic North Cascade peaks surrounding us.  The students were captivated by the constantly changing and dramatic views.  Toward the end of the day while crossing a large headwall we came to some sketchy ground where we decided to set up a rope and belay students individually across.  While this took over two additional hours to accomplish, we did manage to get everyone across safely.  That night we dropped down to Blue Lake, which has an eerie other-wrodly aspect because of its cold visage, being snow covered and hidden in a glacier cut cirque.  We built a campfire towarm ourselves and had a good night.
In the morning we made a decision to take the Blue Lake High Trail.  The trail was as steep as it gets, but soon enough we found ourselves back in the sun, and traversed the snowy slopes to Dishpan Gap.  Our trail meets the Pacific Crest Trail at this point, and from here on we were on a higher quality trail, though still snow covered eighty percent of the time.  The kids were loving the adventure and we all took turns leading.  Around Kodak Peak we hiked and then down to Indian Pass.  We had some trouble finding the trail from the pass but after some steep bushwhacking we came across it and hiked the final two miles to a spectacular campsite at Reflection Pond.  That evening we had another great meal and celebrated independence day with patriotic dances.  Thursday found us up extra early and heading north toward White Pass.  After a long rest we decided to climb White Mountain, so we left our packs by the trail and made the ascent of the 7042' peak in about an hour.  The views were incredible!  Pop tarts were a nice summit treat.  Once back at our packs we hiked down, down, down to the Sauk River again and a nice campsite at Mackinaw Shelter.  The next day, our final day, we hiked the easy 5.5 miles north to the trailhead.
Truly one of the best trips in the history of the program!  A great group and scenery that cannot be beat.

Upper Schoolers Hike the North Umpqua Trail

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Hot Springs, River Swimming, and Backpacking Oh My!

8 adventuresome students met at Catlin Tuesday in the morning drizzle with full backpacks and a hunger for sunny summer adventure.  We headed down to the shed where we checked and packed our gear and food and hopped on the bus.  Our rental vehicle which was to set our shuttle broke down en route across campus and we opted for a one bus adventure.  We hit the road, packs ready, and drove south into ominous rainy skies on a mission for sunny river summer times.  Once we passed Roseburg the clouds lifted and though  the evening was cloudy it was dry.  We pulled into the parking area for Toketee falls around five.  Toketee Falls is a huge 2 tiered waterfall through massive basalt columns unlike anything we’d seen before.  We brought our stove and dinner things and made a dinner picnic on the tree house like viewing platform above the falls.  We played games over dinner and settled into our new group. 
 We washed up in the leaks off a wooden flume and well fed we headed to the trailhead.  We had decided to kick off our trip with a night hike to the hot springs!  Packs on and headlamps at the ready we were finally beginning our backpacking trip up the North Umpqua Trail! About 2 miles in we came to a river crossing and practiced group crossing techniques and rewarded ourselves with sour patch kids before turning on our headlamps and hiking through the dusk towards the springs.
 The final 1200 feet up the the pools was on rocks and we helped one another up before taking a second a the top to turn out our lights, listen to the river below, and marvel at the quiet beauty around us.  For many it was their first night hike and we all enjoyed the magic and tranquility of it.  Umpqua Hot Springs is a series of cascading pools on a cliff overlooking the North Umpqua River.  There was no better way to finish our day and to kick off our trip than by soaking in the night above the river in the hot waters before tucking into our sleeping bags. 
 The morning found us with drizzly weather, we ate and hit the trail again, searching for sunnier skies.  As the day continued the rains lifted and we passed numerous waterfalls before setting camp in the afternoon next to he river.  We spent the afternoon swimming, exploring, playing games, having a fiesta, and enjoying the fire before bed.
 Thursday we woke up to blue skies and warming temperatures! We decided as a group we’d like the challenge of trying to get all the way to Lemolo Lake, a 10 mile uphill challenge! We packed up after breakfast and started the day with solo hiking.  Hikers were spaced at 5 minute intervals along the very obvious trail and all enjoyed the peacefulness of being silent and setting one’s own pace under the canopy of forest with the sunshine dappling through.  We re-joined one another and the forest was filled with conversation, laughter, and singing.  We decided to do a second solo section after lunch.  At this point the day was getting hotter and the trail was getting steeper.  Students got to push themselves alone through this segment and when we re-grouped students decided that getting through challenges is much easier with the group.  We recovered with more sour patch kids and once again conversation and song filled the forest.  We were overjoyed when we finally came to the bridge that marked 7 miles, we were elated when we got to Lemolo Falls marking 8 miles, and words cannot describe the joy shared when we got to the dam at Lemolo Lake and gazed across at Mt Theilsen, the “lightning rod of the Cascades.”  Renee scampered ahead and met the group with Chips and Cookies from the Lodge and we set up camp at Poole Creek.  While Colin and the students got to know our new Mosquito neighbors, Renee headed down to pick up our bus and bring it back to the Lake.  
 Our last night was enjoyed around the campfire with reflections on our adventure and a huge sense of accomplishment shared by all. 
 Friday morning we got up and walked to Lemolo Lodge for a pampered breakfast out.  We ate pancakes, and eggs, and bacon together and then packed up camp to escape the mosquitos and make our way back home. We stopped en route to a refreshing swim in the river and got back to Catlin and our waiting parents at 5:45pm to bid farewell, see you next fall, and good job to our new friends.
 For some it was their first backpacking trip and we got to try many kinds of hiking: alone, group, night, day, rain, and shine.  The group was fantastic and new friends were made.  We found summer! Congratulations to Ben, Hannah, Jack, Kallan, Emma, Lily, Andie, and Isaiah! 

Catlin Students Climb the Prouty Glacier Route on South Sister

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A challenging route and a great group

Eight students and two leaders made a challenging ascent of the Northeast face of the South Sister in mid-June of this year.  Starting from the Green Lakes trailhead along the Cascade Lakes Highway the team hiked, mostly in snow, to a camp next to Green Lake.  The students were awed by the scenery and had the whole area to themselves.  Starting early on Monday morning the group circumnavigated the lake and climbed the mountain's eastern flank before dropping on to the Prouty Glacier.  Two rope teams were assembled and using crampons the group made its way up the steepening slope to the headwall that blocks access to the summit from this side.  With care (and ropes and protection) the team ascended the short rock and ice pitch onto the summit slopes above.  Led by one of the more experienced students the team arrived at the summit just before noon.  The weather was good enough to allow for a leisurely stay on top before a fun glissade descent down the mountain's more commonly climbed southern slopes.  That evening was spent around the stoves swapping tales and sharing good memories.

Upper Schoolers Learn to Surf!

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Upper Schoolers Preview Summer with a Surf Trip to the Oregon Coast!

Dawn patrol style we met at Catlin at 7:15am and rolled out to Cannon Beach.  We pulled into Cleanline Surf Shop and met by friendly faces we got all set up with wetsuits, booties, and hoods.  Lexie and the NW Women’s Surf Camps instructors met us at 10 and we caravanned with building anticipation to Short Sands Beach in Oswald West State Park.  The hike to the beach is a gorgeous 3/4 mile walk through beautiful forest.  We buddied up and carrying our boards, followed the cool Short Sands Stream down to the ocean. 
We paused at the overlook above the beach and learned about the history of the park, how to read the waves, check the tides, find optimal surf conditions, spot the rip-tides, and decide where to surf.  Feeling smart we schlepped our gear across the sunny beach to the north end where we set up our spot, put on our wetsuits and learned the basics of paddling out, catching waves, popping up, wiping out, and staying balanced on our boards.  It was finally time to get in the water!
It couldn’t be a more gorgeous sunny day! The surf was uncharacteristically huge for this time of year with waves on the outside at 8 feet.  We stayed on the inside and had an amazing afternoon catching waves! Everyone caught waves and stood up!
 Around 2 we dried off in the sun and climbed out to snack, explore and hydrate before making the hike back up the hill with our gear to the bus.  Salty and happy we headed to Cannon beach, returned our gear, and enjoyed fresh fish n chips, ice creams, Nico's first post-braces caramel apple and some fantastic dune jumping on the beach.
By the end of the day we all wished we could stay longer but we hit the road and drove away from the setting sun and back to Catlin.

Canoeing on a Cascade Lake

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Lewis and Clark explore Clear Lake

The adventure started the moment we pushed off from the forested north shore of Clear Lake.  Fourteen students and four leaders carefully balanced their canoes as they took heir initial, tentative, strokes on the placid lake. 

The clouds were low and threatening to rain, but the lake was not all too wide and soon enough we were at our camping spot.  We set up our tents and built a nice fire.  The afternoon was spent exploring the peninsula by foot and by canoe before we enjoyed a burrito dinner.  That evening showers passed through, but we were warm and dry in our tents.  Following a pancake breakfast we made a much longer foray on the water around the peninsula and up to the head of the lake.  By 12:30 we were back in camp, packing up our supplies before we canoed back to the bus and made the drive back to Portland.

Rafting the Mighty Grande Ronde River

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Following the path of Chief Joseph

The Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers are the ancestral home of the Nez Perce Indians.  This is the land that Chief Joseph and his people fought for, and eventually had to abandon in their unsuccessful quest to outrun the U.S. Calvary and find freedom in Canada.  A group of 18 Catlin Gabel students and four faculty made the journey down these rivers on a warm and sunny weekend in April, covering about 40 miles of wild and scenic river.  Each night we camped along the river among towering Ponderosa Pine trees and grasses green with the spring. We hiked to the crest of one of the surrounding hills to suvey the glorious landscape.