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!
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:
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.
The warmest day of the year greeted this group of enthusiastic Catlin Gabel students. We all traveled across the mountains in the cheerful yellow school bus, only to be greeted by the remaining population of the state, all hiking and sightseeing at Smith Rock State Park. No matter. We soon broke into small groups and scattered ourselves around the various climbing venues within the Park. Students new to the sport of rock climbing spent Saturday at a basic rock school where they learned about belaying, rappelling, and climbing. The balance of the group challeneged themselves with climbs ranging from 5.8 to 5.12. By 8:00 pm everyone was tired enough to board the school bus for a ride into Redmond and a pizza dinner. The entire group camped at Skull Hollow campground that evening and watched the show from the Lyrid meteor shower.
Sunday was even warmer, and we had six different groups of students and leaders visiting various corners of the park and climbing hard. The fun ended by 2:00 pm and everyone rode the bus back to portland, singing and watching the scenery roll by.
An adventurous group of upper school students joined the Outdoor Program for an incredible three days in the sun on the John Day River in Eastern Oregon. Over the course of our trip, we floated nearly seventy river miles and completed many side hikes on the second longest undammed river in North America. On Friday, we met at 6am in the Cabell lot, where we loaded the bus with our personal and group gear for the weekend. We headed out of the lot by 6:20, and Pat Selman drove us to the put-in in Clarno, OR, taking I-84 and then heading S on Hwy 97 through Shaniko and Antelope. We met our rafts at the put-in at 10am, and transferred our equipment to dry-bags, coolers and other somewhat waterproof containers. We were momentarily set back when we realized that the rafts needed much more air in them, and we only had small “wonder” pumps (as in, "I wonder why I brought this lousy pump") to top them off with. Once we were loaded up, we had a long safety talk before starting down the river. We put on the river a bit before noon, and started floating in the very swollen river. There were many other boaters putting-in at Clarno. Five miles downriver, we pulled out in an eddy to scout Upper and Lower Clarno Rapids, and to eat lunch. Seth ran the gear boat through a hole in Upper Clarno rapid to see what we could expect with the paddle rafts. It proved not to be a problem, and after spending some more time scouting, we loaded the paddle rafts and ran the most formidable rapids of the trip without any problem! There was a lot of splashing and good excitement. We completed 18 river miles on the first day, and the weather was partly cloudy and beautiful, but we were all getting a bit chilly in the afternoon, as the wind started to kick up. We found a glorious campsite partway through Basalt Rapid, and set up our camp amongst the large juniper trees and beautiful basalt boulders on the shore. We hiked up to a rocky outcropping above camp and took in the wild scenery before playing Bacci ball and feasting on a large spaghetti dinner.
Saturday was a big day, complete with two hikes and thirty-three river miles. The river was pretty docile for this long section of river, but the canyon steepened around us and the scenery was dramatic. The day started with some exciting waves on the remaining portion of Basalt Rapids, and we floated eighteen miles before stopping for lunch and our first hike. We stopped at the eastern tip of Horseshoe Bend and ate lunch before hiking up to the saddle where we could see the river on both sides of us. This was a truly magical place, and the combination of sun, exertion from the hike, and relaxation from the long float created the perfect recipe for a peaceful nap. A few miles downstream Peter’s boat pulled out at Potlatch Canyon to see a panel of petroglyphs. Seth’s boat missed the eddy, but pulled out a few eddies downstream. Peter’s half of the group hiked to the petroglyphs and a side adventure that paid off with the discovery of an old settler’s home that had gone untouched for many years. David and Seth led the other group up a jeep track that looked as though it would connect with Potlatch Canyon. The trail passed a pretty spring and exited Buckskin Canyon before following a contour that headed toward Potlatch. We discovered a full cow skeleton bleached by the sun, and Annika discovered a rattlesnake, up close and personal (complete with a warning rattle!). The trail toward Potlatch looked long, and it was hot, so we headed back to the boats, and Peter’s boat appeared upstream in a matter of minutes. The group pushed on and we floated many miles before pulling out at the distinct Hoot Owl Rock - an impressive formation that sits atop a sharp ridge on the canyon and looks like a hunched bird . We arrived at camp at 6:30pm. We played Bacci ball, cooked an amazing fajita dinner, baked a cake in the dutch oven, and had group refelection time around the fire before bed.
Sunday, we woke early and snacked on cinnamon rolls before breaking down camp. We were pushing the boats off shore before 9am, and we had nineteen miles to cover before reaching the take-out at the Cottonwood Bridge. There is very little whitewater on this stretch of river, and many interested students had the chance to learn how to steer and captain the rafts. We stopped at Owen’s Plain and hiked up to an old windmill and stone corral in the (relatively!) fertile valley. We stopped for lunch on a pretty gravel island where a group of Canadian Geese were lounging in the sun. After lunch, the girls decided to skipper their own boat to the take-out, leaving the boys in the other raft. We made it to the takeout at the Cottonwood Bridge, and Leroy was there in bus #23 again, and we arrived back at Catlin at 5:15pm, a bit tanner and with a wonderful adventure under our belts!
Team Ecuador 2012 took advantage of the four-day Winterim by taking part in a variety of activities that helped to prepare us for a successful trip in June. Over the course of the four days, students split into pairs to tackle trip logisitics, learned about Ecuadorian history on Catlin's challenge course, participated in a cultural competency workshop at MercyCorp's Action Center, wathced a docmentary about the environmental and polical tensions in Ecuador's Intag Valley, and completed student-selected research projects on topics relevant to what we will encounter on our global trip this summer. On top of all these local activities, the group spent two days in the Willamette National Forest on an overnight snowhsoe trip to the Mt. View Shelter.
The overnight portion was designed to allow the group to bond while gaining experience with living out of a backpack! The snowy but incredible trip offered a hands-on setting to discuss and learn about the skills, physical training, clothing and gear that will be necessary for a successful trip in June. Thank you to the whole team for making the overnight such a fun outing.
Please enjoy some photos from our week together. Our Ecuadorian adventure will be here before we know it!
After several pre-trip meetings the group seemed well prepared for its epic journey through the San Juans. The weather forecast looked disastrous, so we were all well prepared. (The weather ended up being fantastic really. Maybe 45 minutes of rain in five days. Lots of wind though!) The theme of this week was challenge - and the kids knew they were being challenged in a big way for these five days.
We left the Catlin Gabel parking at 12:15 on Sunday morning with a bus full of kids - most of them younger and inexperienced in the ways of sailing. We made the trip to Anacortes in about five hours. Sunday evening we walked in to town for some pizza, consumed outside the tiny pizza parlor in a biting wind. Everyone slept soundly that night in their warm boats, though.
Monday saw some brisk winds, and we sailed all the way around Orcas Island and set up camp on Jones Island. The winds were heavy enough that we had the mainsail reefed the whole day.
Tuesday we set out to sail around Shaw island - going clockwise. Our original plan had been to sail up into Canada and around South Pender Island, but the storm that was forecast made us change our minds. We had heavy winds (up to 28 knots) but no storm. One boat, smaller than the others, decided not to make the journey all the way around the island because of the winds and instead tied up at the dock on Shaw Island and did a little shopping run. That night we stayed again at Jones Island, and made a large campfire on the beach.
Wednesday was a busy day. We sailed to the head of Westsound, tied up our boats at the dock, and then walked up to the Helsell farm. We introduced ourselves and then made the hike up to Turtlehead. The view was spectacular. From there we walked down to the lake and did some rowing and wading We visited the lumber mill, and received a demonstration before visiting the barn and the rope swing. Once back in the boat we sailed south to Spencer’s Spit State Park. That evening we had a campfire on the beach before going to sleep for the night. Each of the students shared their insights from the sailing experience with the group.
Thursday we had a gorgeous sail east across the straits of Rosario and into the Anacortes harbor. The boats were returned essentially intact to Anacortes Yacht Charters, but the students seemed to have been greatly affected by the experience.
From the Winter 2011-12 Caller
By David Reich ’80, Challenge Course Manager
With spring teasing us in Portland, a group of middle school students and the Catlin outdoor program loaded up faithful bus #21 (back from a hiatus in the bus shop - thanks, Bubba!) to seek out some more dependable sun. Our destination: Central Oregon. Our goal: find some beautiful rock faces to climb! Upper School student Chris Reimann joined the middle school group to share some of his passion and knowledge about the sport of rock climbing.
Arriving at Smith Rock State Park, we were greeted by the very sun that we were out to find. This was the kind of sun that actually warms you when it hits your skin, and even the light wind was warm. We hiked down into the Crooked River canyon and hiked past all of the other climbers, packed into the dihedrals area. We marched past the hanging ropes and calls of fellow climber on the Phoenix Wall, and rounded the Southern Point of the magnificent Smith Rock group. Our hike ended at the base of the Waterfall Slab, where we set up for the day. A basic rock lesson reinforced some of the fundamentals of the sport: fastening a harness, tying figure-8 follow-through knots, safety checks, and climbing commands. The rest of the day was filled with climbing laps on the Waterfall Slab and throwing rocks into the Crooked River. The late afternoon sun ignited the rock faces of the park as we made the final hike back to the bus (see above photo).
Sunday started with the frying of two cans of Spam over a homemade rocket stove, and Alon tasted the wonderful canned pork-product for the first time. We then headed out Cascade Lakes HIghway to the secret climbing spot of Meadow Camp. It was snowing when we arrived at the trailhead, and wind from the frozen peaks was funneling down the Deschutes River valley and the back of our necks. Nonetheless, we headed to the short cliffs just above the river to see what we would find. We were rewarded, as the sun broke through the gray and dried the rock around us. We climbed a series of "crack climbs," played some games of "camo," hiked along the river, and ate lunch in the sun before pushing ourselves to do one final climb each in the early afternoon. It was a fabulous weekend with a great group of people. I am grateful that we all had the opportunity to spend that kind of quality time together in the energizing, educational and inspiring landscapes of Central Oregon. Please enjoy some photos from our trip.
It seems as though it should be easy, just skiing down the hill from Timberline Lodge to Huckleberry Inn. Twice as easy if you do it two times. Skiing on Nordic skis is different than skiing on downhill skis, and for most of the students on the trip it was a very new experience. But everyone made it down the Glade Trail, and most were clamoring for more at the end of the day. After a quality meal at the Zigzag Inn the group of ten students and three adult leaders went to sleep in their various rooms at the Huckleberry Inn. Sunday saw the group heading over to Bennett Pass after an unecessarily greasy breakfast at the Huckleberry Inn. The weather was beautiful--not a cloud in the sky. The snow conditions were icy and maybe not that forgiving. The students, though, built on the skills they had acquired on Saturday and, for the most part, were able to remain in the upright position while skiing. The "Terrible Traverse" was indeed a problem. The route was a long one and covered eight miles, ending up way down at the Pocket Creek snow park. Everyone was tired and smiling at the end of the trek. A deep sense of satisfaction pervaded the group.
Yes, my friends...that is a homemade igloo, lit up under the clear night's sky by the eleven headlamps of our incredible group.
Due to a forecast for over two feet of fresh (but unstable) snow up on Mt. Rainier, we made a last minute change to our itinerary and headed up to the Trout Lake area at the base of Mt. Adams. With the goal getting into the backcountry, and avoiding the presence of snowmobilers, we headed to the more obscure Snow King Sno-Park, donned our snowshoes and tromped up the unplowed road before turning off into the woods and meadows of the area. Each spot looked better than the next as we scoured the landscape for a prime spot to build our winter camp. We settled on a beautiful meadow and tucked our bags in the tree wells so that we could roll up our sleeves and start putting in the hours of work that would be required to build a snow empire. Mike Wilson had brought his igloo maker, and the so-called "ICE BOX" was put into motion as we built a 12-foot diameter igloo from the ground up. Meanwhile, our kitchen area was excavated and tents were erected. The snow stopped for the evening, and that the stars came out in force. All eleven us packed into the igloo for a spaghetti dinner before we started a campfire outside in the snow.
We filled Sunday with an off-trail snowshoe excursion up to the top of a nearby butte, snowball fights, sweetened condensed milk (poured on every food item we had - winter camping requires high calorie input!), and burgers in the friendly cafe in Trout Lake before rolling back into Catlin.
Here are some photos from one of the program's classic winter trips. Enjoy.
Water is a necessary ingredient for the verdant landscapes of the western Columbia River Gorge. A group of intrepid 6th graders joined the Outdoor Program for a day of winter hiking, and water is what we found! In our waterbottles, in the nearly dozen waterfalls we passed, in the form of snow on the side of the trail, dripping from the abundant mosses, and falling from the sky! We didn't let a wet, Oregon storm stop us from completing the beautiful Triple Falls and Wahclella Falls hikes. We ate lunch beside a raging creek, and warmed up with a whipped cream-topped cup of hot cocoa in Cascade Locks before heading back to Catlin. Please enjoy some photos from our trip.
Light, perfect powder blanketed the flanks of Mt. Hood as the small school bus headed up to the Skyline Sno-Park for an overnight trip to an old, abandoned fire lookout. Our group of seven middle school students and two leaders donned cross-country skis and glided up an un-plowed road before turning up Clear Lake Butte for a steep, but rewarding climb up to the fire lookout. The learning curve for skiing is steep, but the Catlin middle schoolers picked up the technique with surprising speed. As we climbed, the clouds that had deposited the beautiful new snow started to part and we enjoyed filtered sun through the trees at each of our rest breaks. Skiing with a backpack is a significant challenge, and we all welcomed the sight of the 40 foot lookout tower. A wood stove and panoramic views awaited us up above!
We melted snow for tea water, stoked the stove, and prepared a large pasta dinner to enjoy by the fire. Our cookie-baking experiment on the woodstove proved to be only somewhat successful, if you count appearances for something. Nevertheless, they were delicious! An elaborate pulley system outside of the lookout allowed us to raise snow (to melt for water) and firewood up to the cabin, and also allowed us to lower backpacks and large items.
Everyone enjoyed each other's company, and we were all happy to see the long-awaited snow. You couldn't help but feel deeply relaxed in the cozy lookout. An egg breakfast, warm-up ski and a snowball fight started the next morning. After enjoying ourselves at the lookout, we put our (lighter!) packs on and started the ski back down to the bus. There was some requisite falling and flailing, but everyone did extraordinarily well. Many first-time skiiers reported that they couldn't wait to try it again in the near future. We had a wonderful trip. Please enjoy some photos from this overnight adventure.
Clear Lake Butte Lookout sits high atop a peak just south of Oregon's highest point- Mount Hood. The views are fabulous - when it's not snowing. And snowing it was throughout the entire two day adventure shared by six Upper School students and two leaders. The group skied the old Forest Service road from US Highway 26 for about four miles. The snow piled up in glorious weightless drifts, decorating the trees like a Currier and Ives painting. It took about two hours to ski to the lookout. After setting things up inside the group went out to practice their technique in the perfect powder snow. Even after an hour or two the technique remained unperfected, but darkness arrived. With a little Italian flair the group prepared a massive spaghetti dinner, followed by homemade chocolate chips cookies baked on the woodstove. Everyone in the group agreed to take on the challenge of trying to build a fire outdoors. It took a little over two hours, but the group was successful in getting a fire going in the snow!
On a glorious December weekend 13 students from Catlin Gabel's Middle School spent a weekend climbing at Smith Rock. While most of them had been climbing indoors at the rock gym before, few had actually made the trek to one of America's sport climbing Meccas. The group spent Saturday climbing in the Cinammon Slab area and Sunday in the Phonecall area. Once the light had faded to dark on Saturday afternoon we all boarded the bus and headed in to town for pizza. The night was spent in warm and comfortable yurts at Tumalo State Park.
A hypothermic forecast forced us to abandon our original plan of descending an 8+ mile section of Opal Creek in the Willamette National Forest. We put that plan (which would surely require some wading) on the shelf for a warmer weekend, and instead headed up above the freezing level for an amazing weekend in an old, abandoned fire lookout. The Devil's Peak Lookout sits atop Hunchback Ridge outside of the small town of ZigZag on the flanks of Mt. Hood. There is no particularly easy way to reach the lookout; one gradual path to the top requires miles of driving on rutted roads to reach the trailhead, while the other trail is easy to access but involves an unrelenting climb of over 3,200 vertical feet in under 4 miles once on the switchbacking trail. This hearty group chose the short drive and steep trail. We packed up our backs in the wet, old-growth forests off of the side of the road, and started UP! We soon broke through into the snow. A dusting turned into a few inches toward the top. The footing was not the best, but the trail was easy to follow, and we were all pleased to be out of the city and in the peaceful quiet of the Cascades. Once at the lookout, our boisterous group became task-oriented: gathering firewood for the stove, starting a fire, melting snow for drinking water, opening the heavy wooden shutters of the cabin, and preparing a massive and DELICIOUS dinner. Hot drinks, cards, madlibs, stories and jokes filled the final hours before we filled every inch of floor space in the lookout for our night's sleep. We awoke to views of Wy'East (Mt. Hood) in all of its sunlit glory. We were so glad to have taken the forecast with a grain of salt and headed out into the woods, regardless. A big breakfast, some more exploration, a speedy descent down the steep trail and some old-fashioned donoughts at Joe's wrapped up an outstanding weekend. Please enjoy some photos from our trip!
What could be better than wandering across breathtaking open grasslands, exploring abandoned homesteads and descending through ancient canyons on a rainy Portland weekend? Seven students and three leaders from Catlin's Upper School made the trip to Southeast Oregon in a couple of spiffy rental SUVs the weekend before Thanksgiving.
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The drive took us first to The Dalles, and south on US 197 (to avoid frantic skiers racing to $74 downhill skiing at Mt. Hood). The rain that was soaking western Oregon ended soon enough and we broke into sunshine around Bend. The drive through La Pine, Fort Rock, Silver Lake and Summar Lake was magnificent. The incredible beauty of the endless vistas had the students in awe most of the time. We stopped in Silver Lake to visit the memorial to the victims of the Christmas Eve fire that killed scores of children and adults there over a hundred years ago.
We reached our destination of Plush in the afternoon and spent time visiting some ancient pictographs and petroglyphs along the shores of a nearby lake. That evening we spent a warm night in a cabin donated for our use by a local resident.
On Sunday we were off early and drove up to the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge Headquarters. From there we headed south to our trailhead near Blue Sky. We had arranged for a couple of helpful Plush resident to shuttle our vehicles for us - allowing us to make the 17 mile hike in just a single (downhill) direction.
We were following a track recommended to us by the Oregon Natural Desert Association as being spectacular, untravelled and good for winter travel. They were right on all counts. The initial few miles of the hike took us along old abandoned jeep roads through beautiful grasslands. Now that grazing has been suspended on the Refuge, the students were able to see the area in its full beauty of luxuriant grass and wildflowers. We came across dozens and dozens of animal tracks in the fresh snow as we walked. A herd of pronghorn antelope grazed not far from where we walked. The students were excited to see a small herd of wild horses cross our trail not more than a quarter mile from us. We visited an abandoned homestead and then crossed a few small passes before finding a nice location to spend the night.
Monday saw us travel south over a few more passes and across the heads of several canyons. On top of one pass we were treated to a truly specacular view of the canyons and escarpments of the area that extended all the way south to California. Several students said it was the most magnificent view they had ever seen. The group came upon Wool Lake, and found it completely frozen over. We discovered a number of pictographs on an obscure cliff face that may never have been seen before (who knows?). A short time later we came across a carving from early pioneers that was dated from 1897. What a great way for students to learn history!
We descended Fischer Canyon that afternoon and ended up camping at a hot springs. Lucky for us the water was indeed hot and we spent several hours soaking while dinner was prepared. The next day we boarded our SUVs for the ride home-- the students were enchanted by the landscape and we stopped many times to take photos and look at the scenery before we arrived at school before dinner.
Despite typical fall Portland rains, ten middle school students and two leaders forged ahead and enjoyed a misty Saturday in the gorge while most Portlanders stayed indoors and missed out on this gorgeous day.
Our original plan was to hike to Elk Meadows, which we changed to Ramona Falls upon realizing that the stream crossing would likely be fairly intense with the fall rains. We then made another change the morning of the hike, however, because we received word that the bridge over the Sandy River heading to Ramona was already taken down for the winter. Armed with resolve to find a beautiful hike that involved a waterfall, we headed toward the Columbia River Gorge.
We met at the Cabell Center at 8:30 am, bright and early. After a quick get-to-know-each other game we boarded the bus and drove east. The sky lightened a bit as we drove, and we decided to seize the opportunity created by the early foul weather to do the well-known but usually-avoided hike (due to crowds) to Wahkeena and Multnomah Falls. We had the first three-fourths of the trail basically to ourselves, and it hardly rained!
After a few miles of switchbacks, we stopped for lunch at the highest elevation point. Students enjoyed the adventure of mini-stream crossings, and especially enjoyed allowing the mist from both Wahkeena and Multnomah Falls to land on them. The 5.2 miles of hiking whizzed by!
This group of students proved to be emerging outdoor leaders. Not only did the chilly weather not stop them, but neither did the steep terrain. The four 8th grade boys all enthusiastically agreed they look forward to climbing St. Helens this year, and the five 6th grade boys and one 6th grade girl held their own keeping up with the swift pace of the older students.
We made it back to school by 3:00 and felt thankful that the shorter drive allowed for a longer hike. We can't wait until the next one!