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The glory of climbing in the sun

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A Weekend at Smith Rock

With a nod to the east and a wave of the hand to the rain in Portland, a bus load of eager students departed Portland for the Central Oregon climbing Mecca of Smith Rock State Park.  Twenty- four students and ten leaders spread themselves over the 3000+ climbs of the Park over the two days.  A group of eight kids learned how to  lead on rock, focusing on placing protection in cracks, while another group learned the basics of rapelling, belaying and climbing.  A third group went right out and tried their hands at the most challenging climbs in the area.  That evening we all had dinner at a legendary Mexican restaurant in the berg of Redmond.  By ten p.m. we were setting up our tents in the sagebrush near Skull Hollow Campground for a night on the stars.  More climbing and  fun characterized a sunny Sunday before we drove the big yellow school bus back to Portland.

 

 

 

 

Upper Schoolers Explore the Mines and Woods of Oregon's Largest Low Elevation Rainforest

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Opal Creek Outdoor Trip Report

  Saturday morning we loaded up and hit the road for the two hour drive to Opal Creek.  Our destination: Jawbone Flats, an old mining town in the middle of Oregon’s largest contiguous low elevation old growth forest.  When we got there we began the three mile hike into Jawbone with our day packs.  On the way in we explored an old mine where you could see the tracks, we reassembled a mini railroad with wheels that would follow the rails, we played optical illusion games with the crystal clear waterfall and picnicked among gigantic trees and sang.  At last we rounded a bend and came upon a little village of old buildings where among an old general store and ancient cars we found our cabin for the night.  We took a breather with a game of cards and some fire building before heading out for some more hiking.  

 This time we explored more old mining artifacts, the glorious Opal Creek, executed surprise snow ball sieges, and honed our stone skipping and target throwing skills. When we got back to our cabin we set about making ourselves a delicious Thai feast which we enjoyed before a fun evening of games, making cookies and laughing into the night.

 

 Morning came with a little dusting of snow and after our breakfast of berry quesadillas.  We packed up and headed out on our final hike.  We headed up to Ruth Mine and were rewarded with a glorious snowy trail above the creek where we threw snowballs, learned the names of plants, and took in the majesty around us.  Too soon it was time to head back to the bus and the drive to Catlin.  We rolled in around 4 refreshed, bonded, and smiling.  Another Outdoor trip success!

 

 


Nordic skiing from Timberline down to Government Camp

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What happens when you take a bunch of teenagers with lots of downhill skiing experience and put them on Nordic skis?  A lot of falling?  Well, yes.  But also a whole lot of learning!  This past weekend a group of courageous Upper School students donned cross country skis and attempted - successfully - to ski all the way from Timberline Lodge to Government Camp.  They made it (with up to 60 falls per person), and then they did it again, and again.  By the final run, as the sun was setting, the students were down to between 0 and 10 falls per person.  Admittedly they were doing some things that veteran cross country skiers might not try - such as taking jumps, doing 360s, and seeing how fast they could go.  All in all it was a grdeat learning experience for the students.

We spent the evening in the Huckleberry Inn in Government Camp, had pizza and played games.  Sunday saw us make a complete circuit of Trilliuam Lake before hanging up the boards and heading back to town. 

 

Catlin Creative Writers + Catlin Outdoor Program = Amazing Weekend!

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Pacific Creative Writing Trip to Camp Westwind

We couldn’t have been luckier with the weather, the sun beamed down on us all weekend on the Oregon Coast.

 Creative writers and outdoor enthusiasts boarded the bus on Saturday and headed to Camp Westwind for our private writing retreat! After settling in and eating our lunch we tore out the doors of our lodge onto the beach and played like puppies, running, chasing, and leaping with beachy joy! 

We found a sea cave and helped one another scale the rocks and make it through the gauntlet.  We all made it and were rewarded by dramatic shore break and gorgeous light.  

 

We were fascinated by the array of unique objects washed up from the Japan Tsunami.  We found a whole lightbulb that had travelled unbroken, filament still attached across the sea!!! 

 

We returned to camp for snacks and writing where Ginia lead us in poetry and other writing exercises.  It was immediately apparent we had some very talented writers among us.

 

Dinner was a burrito fiesta smorgasboard. We also baked a cake! After dinner we played games. We built a fire and played games and sang all Sanders’ favorite songs around the fire.  

 

We woke up Sunday morning to sunshine.  We headed to the beach for individual reflection time as the light changed and the weather got even more gorgeous.  We returned to camp for a waffle feast.  We sat and digested over some more writing and sharing before packing up to hike up to the High Meadows.  After a grueling climb we arrived on top of the world where we basked in the sunshine and took in the views.  We came back from our hike to soup and salad.  We split into factions after lunch.  Some played on the beach, others hiked, and some of us found a pod of sea lions basking on the shore! 

 

Dinner was spaghetti and meatballs and we headed outside for an evening of dune games, a one match bonfire challenge , s’mores, and laughter.  

Monday morning came too soon and we left camp squeaky clean, headed up to Catlin, stopped for snacks and arrived sandy, safe and sound.  

 

 


Skiing in to a Forest Service Lookout

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A night in Five Mile Butte Lookout

East of Mount Hood and in the forested hills west of Dufur is a fire lookout built in 1939.  The lookout sits atop Five Mile Butte in the Mount Hood National Forest and was used to monitor lightninhg strikes for half a century.  This past weekend three different groups of Catlin Gabel students made the 3 mile ski up to the top of Five Mile Butte.  The groups cooked hamburgers in the lookout- and spent the night high above the wooded landscape, surrounded on all sides by stars.

 

 

 

 

Ochocos Backpacking, Cabin, and Lookout Mountain Climb

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Students Dominate!

  What do you do faced with 11 days off and a great big world out there to explore? You head to the Ochocos for four days over conferences for the adventure of a lifetime!

We met Saturday morning at Catlin in the pouring rain, piled into our bus, and hit the road! Four hours, some Odyssey annotating, and many sourpatch kids later we arrived at the Ochoco Ranger House in the heart of the Ochoco Mountains in central Oregon.  We moved in and headed out to explore.  We stretched our legs with a hike up to the high point behind the house where we found a beautiful memorial and a lovely view of the valley.  Some headed back to the house while a few of us rigged up a ropes system and climbed a tower to get an even better view.  

 Refreshed we returned to the house to make pizzas and salads for dinner.  As we were enjoying our tasty dinner we glanced out the door and IT WAS SNOWING! This was especially exciting because Andrea and Esteban had never seen snow before! The celebrations began! Bonfire! S’mores! Sledding! Snowball fights! 

 

 Colin, the other trip leader, taught everyone how to split wood and and we had a magical evening.  We warmed up afterwards by packing our bags in preparation for our morning departure up Lookout Mountain.  

 

We woke up to a beautiful day Sunday, put on our packs, and and began the eight mile hike up the mountain.  Sadly we had to leave three of our party behind due to illness.  The sun was shining, there were beautiful views around each bend,  and we saw cougar, deer, coyote, and rabbit footprints in the snow.  We stopped for lunch and snacks and to boil snow for our water.   As we neared the summit the wind picked up and it began to snow.  When we got to the top we found shelter in the trees out of the wind where we set up our tents and hunkered down for the night.  The weather was cold and we huddled up, got cozy and enjoyed hot mac and cheese before bed. 

 

 When the sun came up one side of the mountain was golden and clear and the other side was a big black cloud with snow shooting out of it.  The sunrise was spectacular as we enjoyed our oatmeal.  We headed down the mountain together, bonded by our stormy night together.  We saw a pheasant and four deer before we saw the rest of our party rested and recovered coming up the trail to meet us! A glorious reunion ensued and we happily headed back to the cabin for stories, lunch, and naps.  

 

 The afternoon sunshine got us outside again on a wood gathering adventure and the evening found us making brownies, roasting hot dogs, re-living our adventures, laughing, and playing games. 

 

 Tuesday morning had come to soon, the trip flew by! We got up, made a tasty breakfast, cleaned the house and hit the road.  A fantastic sing along made time fly and by 2:00 we were at McMennamans Edgefield where we ate lunch and soaked in the hot pools before and early evening return to school.  It was a fun and special trip.  With such a small group we really came together and made new friends bonded by adventure!

 


Oregon's High Desert by Bicycle

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Beautiful vistas and sunshine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to do on a rainy Portland weekend to escape the dreariness?  Head over to the Deschutes River!  A group of fifteen students and faculty made the trek over Mount Hood and parked their little yellow school bus about eight miles east of Bear Springs.  The bikes were unloaded and the team began the thirty mile ride for the day.  The first section was all downhill- in fact just about the whole trip was downhill.

 

We rode past beautiful sunlit wheat fields, on old highways and through small towns.  The group stopped at White River Falls State Park and then made the glorious descent down, down, down to the storied Deschutes River.  We camped near where the White River adds its flow to the Deschutes.  The stars were spectacular that night.  On Sunday we hiked to the top of the nearby ridge where we could see as far as Mt. Jefferson and into the great Oregon desert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outdoor Program + Art and Music = Success!

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Arts in the Wild Trip

 Saturday morning the bus was packed and ready with an accordion, three guitars, sketchbooks, song books, audio recording equipment, sleeping bags, and riding clothes. Sixteen of us were headed out to Ekone Ranch in Goldendale Washington for a weekend of making, playing, singing, exploring and riding. 

Ekone Ranch is 1060 acres of permanently protected forests, meadows and steppe at the edge of the Columbia River Gorge in south-central Washington State. An off-grid, non-profit, working ranch, home to year-round programming teaching sustainable living to children of all ages. 

 As soon as we passed the Dalles we left the rain behind and as we rolled down into the valley of the ranch the sun was out and we were surrounded by gorgeous fall colors.  We made quick work of settling into the long house that would be our roost for the next two days, fluffing out our sleeping bags on platforms and up in lofts.   

 We were eager to explore the ranch and took some time to get the lay of the land, from the open air lodge/tack room to meeting all the animals (horses, pigeons, chickens, cats, and dogs, to finding our lunch hot and delicious where we fueled up for our adventures. 

 After lunch we split up.  Some of us built forts in the woods.  Some found and recorded sounds by banging on trees and finding instruments in nature.  And others did plein aire painting and photography around the ranch.  Later in the afternoon some of us rode horses bareback while Zach and Ian serenaded us from a nearby hillside.  

 We had an adventurous pre-dinner hike out to the burial ground, where they do organic burials the first of its kind in the nation.  We got to the canyon rim and laid in the grass, taking in the colors and silence as the sun set.  

 We walked back in the dark trying to surprise one another all the way back to our hot dinner waiting for us. 

 After dinner we headed to the lodge, a huge hexagonal barn with a hole in the ceiling where we were met Rollean, a mountain man who made us a friction fire by spinning a dowel in his hands.  

 Out came the instruments.  We had a xylophone, three guitars, a cowbell, maracas, and more drums than you could shake a stick at.  We made a ruckus.  From percussion jams, to a cappella singing, to sing alongs of everything from Angel from Montgomery, to La Bamba, to Under the Sea.  

 The night rolled on and we headed out into the darkness for some games and running around in what we later found to be a field with plenty of horse poop in it.  Oh well, ranch life.  Nothing a few ghost stories couldn't take our minds off of. 

 Daylight savings gave us an extra hour of sleep and our pancake breakfast was delicious and just what was needed to finish out the trip strong.  

 The morning was filled with finishing projects, making more music, more hiking, and trail rides back out to the canyon and among the gorgeous golden oak trees.  

 It was a magical and rejuvenating weekend of making new friends, enjoying old ones, and challenging ourselves to see and hear things in new ways.  

 

 


Rafting the Lower Deschutes River

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Sunny weather

 

 

The Lower Deschutes River provided a wonderful three day journey through the Oregon high desert for a large group of Catlin Gabel students.  October sunshine and chilly temperatures provided a beautiful backdrop for the memorable experience. 

 

Catlin Gabel rock climbers spend four days in the City

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The City of Rocks: The best granite climbing in the northwest!

What we did on our summer vacation:  Our group of 16 headed to The City of Rocks in southern Idaho on June 18th, and spent 4 wonderful days in one of the most beautiful climbing areas in the Pacific Northwest.  We spread our group out over two adjacent campsites, with a great fire pit for evening social time and an incredible talent show our final night.  We climbed hard and ate like royalty with our meal crews making beautiful dinners from scratch each night. While the nights were cold and the mornings were cool in the shade, the days were sunny, warm and beautful and a wonderful time was had by all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Challenging the vertical faces at Smith Rock

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A sunny weekend in central Oregon

A Complete Descent of Eagle Creek

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 Their day started innocently enough last Friday, going to their usual classes, but for sixteen of Catlin Gabel's finest it ended with an evening ascent to the summit of Chinadere Mountain near Mt. Hood.  From their lofty (and foggy perch) the students began a three day descent of the complete length of Eagle Creek all the way to the Columbia River.  

Along the way the group wandered through ancient Douglas fir and hemlock forests and camped under the stars.  On Saturday a few hours were spent swimming and exploring the joys of Eagle Creek. 

 

Canyoneering through the old-growth of Opal Creek!

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Deep Water Wading!

A weekend jaunt brought the Catlin Outdoor Program to the Willamette National Forest for two days of camping and canyoneering in the old-growth drainage of Opal Creek.  Donning wetsuits, we descended a three mile section of the creek on Sunday before scrambling up a side creek (and scaling a waterfall or two along the way!) to reach the road above and complete our loop back to the bus.  The copper-rich waters of the creek resulted in the most amazing green-blue water imaginable.  This beautiful water periodically collects in deep pools along the creek, and, since we were following no trail, we had most of the creek to ourselves on this toasty hot July day!  Please enjoy some photos from this adventure.

On the summit of the Middle Sister!

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A wonderful Oregon adventure

 

An eager and large group of students  set off to climb this 10,045 foot mountain the day after graduation.  The trail was in good shape for the first mile and a half, after which we ran into occasional snow patches (gone two days later) before reaching the river crossing.  We passed two large groups coming out, probably Mazamas, who had turned back on the north face of the peak.  They told us about bad ice conditions.  We noted they had no crampons which would indeed have made the ice an unpleasant host.  The second group had crampons and still reported turning back, so we became a bit concerned.  When the third group told us they had also turned back we began to think of options.  One of the party suggested the southeast ridge as likely being ice free, so that became our chosen route.

The hike in to camp took maybe 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete.  We camped at the first place where the slope begins to level off and the trees thin out, this may have been at 7000 feet or so.  We were able to find a bit of soil to camp on after being in the snow for 2 hours.  (The trail became mostly snow covered half a mile after the river crossing).  That afternoon we did a short snow school before making a dinner and going to bed.

We decided to go for a late start the next day to let the snow soften up a bit, and that worked out really well.  We left camp at 8:45.    We traversed SW up steep slopes and onto the Hayden Glacier where we roped up into four ropes.  We saw one or two crevasses on the crossing and then climbed steeply onto the southeast ride.  The ridge is in beautiful position and the climbing was fun.  The snow was soft and somewhat new, but Cooper kicked step all the way to the top.  We arrived at 1:05 pm- making fairly good time.  Though it was not breezy below, we had some wind at the top which made it quite chilly so we did not linger long.  We descended with some care and enjoyed glissading on steep portions once we were off of the ridge.  The walk back was enjoyable and the kids talked and laughed.  We were back to camp at 3:45 pm, a seven hour round trip. 

Everyone got together for a large debrief at the upper camp and then we were in bed before 9:00 pm.  Next day we hiked out and were to the cars by 10:00 or so.  We enjoyed a not-so-quick lunch in Mill City before arriving in Portland at 3:00 pm.

Biking Backroads from Mt. Hood to Detroit, Oregon!

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A glorious ride through the old growth forests

A wonderful itinerary!  A great group of students. We had Leroy or bus driver take us up to the Skyline Snow park 8 miles past Government Camp.  We packed up and set off, also hauling a Burly bike trailer behind us- each person taking an hour to pull the trailer.  In the trailer we put our group cooking gear and about half the food. 

We followed FS Road 42 south and west to the Little Crater Lake junction.  From here we took a four mile detour to see this remarkable natural spectacle.  The kids were amazed at the artesian fed lake and a few them actually jumped into the 34 degree water (!) but did not stay long.  There were a group of college students from Utah in the area as well.  We had lunch at the nearby campground before returning back up the hill to road 42.

The group biked for another two hours down past Timothy Lake and then up a very long and tiring hill to Summit Lake.  The lake is a mile west of the junction on a gravel road.  It ended up being a perfect spot to spend the afternoon and evening..  The lake is large and shallow and quite warm.  We waded for a while after selecting a nice campsite, then we built a log raft as a group.  Nico and Kallisti did most of the work, but everyone pitched in.  The raft was ready by 5:00 pm and several of us floated around in it.  It was very functional, but also was home to many ants who had called those logs home before we threw them into the lake. 

In the distance we had heard thunder rolling across the mountains for all of the late afternoon and the sky started to cloud over.  We urged everyone to get their shelters set up.  About six pm we glanced over to the lake and saw an odd site- the far end of the lake- just 300 yards away - seem to be embroiled in some sort of tumult involving clouds, wind and water.  It seemed mostly incomprehensible, but after several seconds we alerted the kids that it was about to rain very hard.  The alarm spread through the camp and those who had completed their shelters managed to find refuge from the huge hailstorm that swept into the camp 30 second later.  Hail the size of quarters pounded our site for maybe 10 minutes accompanied by a bit of thunder and lightning.  Eventually it turned to just rain and soon after let up for a pleasant though cloudy evening.  The storm provided a nice incentive for the construction of some very fine shelters that evening and the next.  After a five course dinner we sat around the fire talking about the state of the world.

Pancakes and spam made up our breakfast the next morning and we soon set off at a leisurely pace along FS 42 in a little mist.  The road past this point becomes narrow and unusually beautiful for a paved road through the forest.  In places the pavement has moss along its edges and it travels through legitimate old growth descending down toward the Clackamas River.  The group split into two parties before the big descent – one half taking a gravel alternative that rejoined the main road after five miles.  We enjoyed lunch along the Clackamas then turned south onto FS Road 46 and the long trek to Detroit.  The kids were battle hardened by now and the hills didn’t really seem to bother them.  We made a detour up a gravel road across the Clackamas to visit an active logging operation.  The crew foremen took some time to explain everything to us and demonstrated the high lead operation.  It was the first time any of the kids had seen logging in action.  We found a nice campsite along Cub Creek, south of Sisi Creek where we played cards and enjoyed a large campfire late into the night.

We tried to get an early start the next day for our 1000 foot climb out of the Clackamas watershed and into the Breitenbush.  The cloudy weather was perfect and we reached the pass in a little over an hour.  The downhill ride to Breitenbush was full of joyous screams and unending smiles.  We had lunch at a small group camp before heading further down the hill.  Some of the students took a dunk in the river and shortly thereafter we met Leroy and our bus just east of Detroit.

Steens Mountain Exploration 2012

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"You can't stop looking at the scenery"

Steens Mountain:  Oregon's great landscape

Over a very warm week in July ten students made a long circuit of Steens Mountain and its spectacular features – including a very demanding ascent of Little Indian Gorge on Steens Mountain in one long day. 

The trip began simply enough with a nine hour ride in Catlin’s favorite little bus, #21, down through Bend, over to Burns and south to tiny town of Frenchglen.  Passing along the endless wetlands we saw many unusual and exotic birds.  We drove up the north loop road, stopping at the Kiger Gorge overlook to talk about geology and how the breathtaking landscape was formed.  Overt the crest of the mountain we continued and down the tortuous south loop road to the South Steens campground. 

Half of the students in the group had not been on an Outdoor Program trip before, and four of them had never been backpacking.  It’s hard to tell whether this inexperience led them to underestimate or to overestimate the challenge of the week to come.

We hiked for an hour and a half to the point where Little Indian Creek flows out of its gorge.  Here we put together a serviceable camp and spent the evening, enjoying a dinner of rice and sausage in a sour cream sauce.  We all were aware of the challenge awaiting us on the next day.

 We made an early start, leaving camp by 6:30.  The huge gorge of Little Indian Creek, which was created by glacial scouring over thousands of years, runs in an east-west direction for eight miles before opening on to the plains below. The gorge contains no trails at all, and is home to lush vegetation along the many streams.  It is over 1500 feet deep and several miles wide in the classic U-shaped formation of glacially created gorges.  It lies on the southwestern flank of this great mountain massif.  Its great headwall at its eastern end rises to 9200 feet. 

The very first steps set the tone for the day as walked straight into the thicket of brush that encases the river during much of its length.  We passed some old fence railings scattered along the ground as we worked our way up the hillside so as to avoid the heaviest of the brush.  For several hours we traversed the hillside through painful old sagebrush, willow thickets and dense aspen groves.  The occasional slopes of scree were a relief to our legs and arms that had been scratched so badly in the brush. 

Several of the students had trouble with the heat, and with the exhaustion of the effort.  Our backpacks were quite large- with four days supply of food in them.  Temperatures reached into the mid 90s and we spent a lot of time staying hydrated and resting in the shade provided by the aspen thickets.  It was about 2:00 pm when we stopped for lunch near a cool issue of water we found in one of these thickets.  A restful place it was, but after 45 minutes it was apparent that we needed to press on.  We dove into the brush and beat our way through onto a rocky slope above.  Here we were greeted with our first good view of the headwall-  the steep and rocky slope at the head of the gorge that rises about 1200 feet.  This is where the ancient glacier had done most of its scouring and created a dramatic wall sealing off the gorge at its upper end.  We were able to see a straightforward way to get to the top, much to the relief of some of the students who had recently seen “The North Face” and were imagining the Eiger.

Ascending the headwall took many hours, with progress being slowed by the intense heat and steep terrain.  We reached the top at maybe 4:00 pm, only to see we were not where we hoped to be.  A long traverse north brought us above a band of cliffs, below which we were able, finally, to spot our destination:  Little Wildhorse Lake.  We scrambled down the cliffs, across some snow and staggered into our camp.  I think everyone was genuinely exhausted by the day’s efforts.  The beauty of the spot had a rejuvenating effect, though.  We were next to a small lake, where the water was about 75 degrees.  We waded and ‘swam’ for about an hour.  The views in most directions were essentially unlimited -- for we were at 9000 feet in southeast Oregon.  We could see a haze in the air from fires, apparently, though.  Despite our elevation it remained warm all evening and into the night.

The third day of the trip began with a leisurely breakfast of Spam and oatmeal.  Although we knew that almost the entire remainder of the trip would be downhill, we had one huge challenge ahead of us.  We would need to descend the even-taller headwall of Big Indian Gorge.  And we would have to do so by “feel”, because by approaching the steep face from above we would have no way to look further than perhaps a hundred feet down in our attempt to find the safest way down the 1600 headwall. 

 The initial descent takes you into an extraordinarily pleasant basin streams, patches of snow and wildflowers.  This nice landscape ends abruptly at the edge of the headwall.  With the stunning walls of the gorge surrounding us on three sides (one of ths students called it “the view you never got tired of looking at”) we began the search for a safe way down.  On the far left side a few of the students spotted a grassy slope that appeared to lead most of the way down into the basin.  Getting to the slope would be the challenge.  A few members of the party scrambled down the rocks to see if a safe way could be discerned.  They came back to report that, with some care, it could be done.  Our “care” came in the form of a rope.  We tied secured each member of the party and over a period of two hours successfully and safely deposited each member of the group onto the (steep) grassy slopes below.  We made the remainder of the descent into the huge basin as a group. 

Our first priority was to find a trail – we had heard that one existed in Big Indian Gorge.  We were more than tired of bushwhacking and our scratched and bloodied legs could take little more.  Nevertheless it took an hour of searching to eventually stumble upon the trail.  We hiked another half hour and found a nice campsite next to the river, where we soaked in its cool waters and played cards nearby.

Our fourth day was a gentle hike, in the heat, along Big Indian Creek.  We stopped for a protracted lunch at a good swimming hole before eventually finding our campsite from the first night where Little Indian Creek comes in from its own gorge on the left. The circle was complete!  Smiles all around, a good dinner of beef stroganoff and Middle Eastern Ramen made a perfect evening.  Around the campfire that night we shared our view of the experience, and inducted the three freshmen into the sophomore class. 

The hike back to the patiently waiting bus the next morning took only an hour.  The drive out to Frenchglen was pretty but we were shocked to see the thousands of acres scorched by a range fire north and south of the town during our four day absence.  Th students recovered well from the shock, though, and slept for the next three hours.  We were back in Portland before 5:00 but the amusing antics of ODOT and its closure of I-5 prevented us from reuniting with our families until almost 6:00pm.

 

 

Nine amazing 8th grade graduates reach the summit of Mount St. Helens

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Kicking off the summer from the crater rim!

We couldn't have asked for a better day on the mountain!  The wintry weather that had started the month of June dissipated with a gentle wind, and the sun emerged early in the morning on Sunday and would stay with us for the enitre duration of our twelve hour climb.  Nine strong, and excited 8th grade graduates joined David Zonana, Mary Green, and Erin Goodling for this year's annual climb of Mount St. Helens.  Their hard work payed off, as everyone in our group reached the crater rim, where we soaked up the early afternoon sun and looked out to the surrounding Cascade volcanoes.  Mt. Hood, Adams, Rainier, Jefferson, and the craggy Goat Rocks were all exposed and draped in a new layer of late-season snow.  While the snow level was higher than last year's climb, the road to the Climber's Bivouac had not yet melted out, forcing us to start our climb from the Marble Mountain Sno-Park.  This variation on the climbing route - known as the "Worm Flows" - adds an extra one thousand feet of elevation gain and several trail miles to reach the summit.  But that didn't slow down this hearty group!  Another climber on the trail remarked to me, as I was literally running to catch the students in the front, "Is that your group way up there?....man, they are MOTORING!" 

And motoring, they were!  Marty did not sit down once in the seven hours leading up to the summit, Jacob carried a large snow disk to the top (that, at times, doubled as a sail), Sam neglected to wear anything more than a T-shirt, Hayle was simply having an easy time of it all, and Gregor made himself a commitment that "I am going to climb this mountain!"  The glissading on the way down was nothing short of spectacular, with one glissade chute even leading over a small cornice that resulted in some hang-time!  It was a tremendous effort on everyone's part, and a highly enjoyable day in the sun!  Please enjoy some photos from our adventure and a big thank you to Ian, Ethan, Parsa, Nic, Marty, Jacob, Erin, Mary, Hayle, Gregor, and Sam for making this such an incredible and memorable weekend!  Happy Summer!

Middle Schoolers backpack along the magical Siouxon Creek

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A great weekend outing to wrap up the school year

Nine 6th and 7th grade students joined the two Davids from the Outdoor Program and Sara Dier from the Learning Center on a weekend backpacking trip to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  Nick and Miguel had returned from their 7th grade class trip just hours before we departed for our backpacking adventure on Saturday morning, but that wasn't enough to stop them from joining in on the fun.  Due to a drippy forecast, and trip reports of muddy trails, we moved the destination for this trip away from the original plan of the Tillamook Head Traverse between Seaside and Cannon Beach.  This was a good call, as the trail along the Siouxon Creek is wonderfully maintained, and we harly saw any precipitation at all!

This trip provided the opportunity for many of the students to try out backpacking for the first time, but you could hardly have guessed that that was the case!  Between the class trips and other Outdoor Program offerings throughout the year, all of the student participants had gained significant outdoor experience over the past year, and everyone made the transition from car camping to backpacking without any major hurdles.  We split up group gear, and did a backpacking tutorial - covering packing a backpack, adjusting the straps, proper foot care, and hiking as a group - before heading off down the trail.

The trail descends right off the bat before crossing West creek on a cool log bridge, and proceeds to flatten out once reaching Siouxon Creek.  We stopped at Horseshoe Falls to look at the first of many falls along the trail and to snack on our big bag of trail mix.  Alon proved to be quite good at catching M&Ms after throwing them into the air.  We put the packs back on, and continued along the wooded, Cascade creek.  For its ease of access and beauty, this trail is relatively unknown and we passed many open and inviting campsites before settling in in a wide open spot along the creek.  After setting up camp, we headed back on the trail to a rocky beach that we had passed on the way in.  We explored the creek shore, skipped rocks and had a rock-throwing competition before heading back to camp to cook our pasta dinner.  Some cheesecake and relfections on the day around the fire, rounded out a satisfying day.

Sunday morning started with hot cocoa, oatmeal, and the requisite SPAM.  We packed up our personal gear, but left our tents standing as we explored further upstream to see what we could find.  The trail winds its way up the verdant gorge, at times passing along dramatic precipices, before reaching another crossing of one of the many tributaries to Siouxon Creek.  We crossed the creek on logs, and then explored the rocky shelves that form the rim around the main channel of Siouxon.  We then continued a bit farther to discover a large, and spectacular waterfall.  We messed around in the splash-zone of the falls and filled waterbottles before heading back down the trail.  Multiple rounds of the game "Eagle Eye" were played in a large campsite on the way down the trail, and Marcell was unbeatable as the Eagle. 

After our enjoyable side hike, we made it back to camp and finished breaking down tents before heading back toward the trailhead with our full packs.  Again, there was nary a complaint as we sang and joked our way down the trail.  We stopped for a nice lunch at a viewpoint overlooking another waterfall before powering through the final couple of miles on the trail.  Activity bus 21 was loaded up as we exchanged high-fives after a successful trip.  We were back on campus by 4:30 on Sunday, ready for the final week of classes, and all the more excited for the start of SUMMER!

Thanks for making this trip great, and enjoy some photos from our adventure:

The Secret Places of Oregon

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Real exploration in the high desert of Oregon

An intrepid group of seven girls and two boys spent three days exploring deep inside some of the most remote parts of the state. The drive from Portland took us over Mt. Hood and into Bend.  Further south past La Pine we angled east on Highway 31.  Our first stop was at Hole in the Ground.  We observed the geology of the area, as we did at many of the other sites during the trip.  The crater was bigger than anyone expected.  Some say it is a meteorite crater, but most of the geologists belive it was created by a catastrophic volcanic explosion.  

The next stop was at Fort Rock, AKA Dutch Baby, where we walked up into the crater of the extinct volcano.  The erosion from the waves was evident.    Back in the town of Fort Rock we went to the local museum, which had wonderful outdoor exhibits of genuine homestead houses, churches and places of business.  In the school house we saw that in 1886 the punishment for being late to class was five lashes.

Using supoerior map reading skills we travelled east on some good roads that eventually brought us to the Lost Forest.  We could tell that the dune buggy crowd would soon be occupying the area and the designated sites, so we opted for a camping area at the far eastern end of the forest.  Though this was a designated camping area, the roads were rough and the van had to be driven very carefully.  Our camping area was at the base of some very distinctive rocks- filled with huecos.  Could be a potential climbing area.  

Saturday morning we were up early- about 6:30 am.  We wanted to get over to see the sand dunes before the dune buggies came out.  We largely succeeded and entertained ourselves with rolling down the hills and long distance jumping contests.  From here we drove over to the Fossil Lake area.  We parked the rigs near the gate at the north entrance and walked the old lake bed for about three hours.  Each student found at least a dozen Pleistocene era fossils during their searching.  The day was beautiful.  We drove south to the town of Christmas Valley and had lunch at the golf course.  The rest of the afternoon was spent playing Ultimate Frisbee and golf.  We split into three groups and played a best ball match.  The kids really liked it- even those who had never golfed before.  

The next morning our start was a bit more leisurely.  We were out of camp about 8:30 and made our way via the complex desert road system to Crack in the Ground.  It is quite an attraction and its depths are easily traversed.  We spent a fair amount of time investigating the rock climbing possibilities and decided that next year we should in fact set up some climbs.  The rock is good basalt and the anchors could be juniper trees.

From here we headed north and stopped at the Green Mountain Lookout- a new lookout.  The drive back was long but the conversation was good.  We were in the Catlin parking lot about 5:30 pm.