A group of Middle School student joined the outdoor program for a sunny 20-mile ride on the Banks-Vernonia trail on the flanks of the Coast Range. The Banks-Vernonia trail was once an old railroad that has been converted to a multi-use trail. In addition to the abundant ferns, streams, and woods that we rode past, we also cycled by historic railroad bridges and ended our ride at a lake in the small town of Vernonia. We stopped multiple times to share food, explore an old, abandoned fuel house from a defunct mill, and play capture the flag and frisbee in a park. We were all happy to be out of the city and enjoying a true Oregon fall day! Please enjoy some photos from our ride!
October 14-16, 2011
Report by Bob Sauer
We gathered in the parking lot at Catlin Gabel early on Friday morning. We quickly stashed our gear in the bus, and Pat drove us out to our put-in on the Deschutes River on Hwy 26 near Warm Springs. Silas and Travis were waiting at the launch spot with our All Star rafts and gear. We stuffed dry bags with gear, filled three coolers with food, donned splash jackets and neoprene booties, and discussed and demonstrated safety and rafting procedures. The voluminous gear was strapped into the gear raft, and the 12 students boarded the other two rafts to begin our descent. We floated under the highway bridge and into adventure.
The first day was fairly calm, river-wise. That gave us time to coalesce as crews and to appreciate our beautiful surroundings. There was plentiful birdlife – many great blue herons, neat, white collared king fishers, and little groups of mergansers in the eddies. The banks teemed with fishermen, casting, casting, casting but never catching anything that we could see.
We floated 20 miles down to Whiskey Dick, where we set up camp for the night. The volunteer dinner crew put together the dinner: southwest fettuccine. The extra southwestern-ness contributed by the inadvertently burned onions gave a smoky flavor that didn’t add well to the overall taste. There was a lot left over. On the other hand, the salsa ensalada disappeared completely. Winter is on its way, and it was dark by 7:30. We were happy to head to our sleeping bags soon after that.
The next morning we were up at 7:00 and enjoyed a pancake breakfast. We broke camp, loaded the rafts, and were under way on the river by 9:30. Just downstream we stopped to scout the Class IV Whitehorse Rapids. We subsequently ran them without difficulty. We passed through areas of extensive grass fires that had burned earlier in the year. Entire slopes of the deep valley were dark brown and a bit forbidding. The black ash wasn’t visible except in the burned areas right along the river. On the higher slopes the dark basalt showed through the sparse ash and rendered the landscape brown rather than black. With the usual grass gone, the spectacular geology was even more in evidence than usual. Alluvial fans debouching from the steep, narrow side canyons showed their spread of rocks openly. The dark, burnt hillsides contrasted sharply with those unburnt, whose napped golden hue was the color of lightly cooked buttermilk pancakes. We stopped at Turtle Rock for some jumping off the high rock of the turtle’s beak into the deep eddy below. We pulled out at Buckskin Mary to camp for the night.
That evening we had build-your-own-burritos for dinner. There were plenty of trimmings to put in them, and everyone ate well. The early darkness again pushed us to turn in much earlier than we would at home. In the night there were several rain showers, fortunately light enough not to drench people or gear left outside. Some animal with sharp claws tried to get into the garbage bag inadvertently left hanging on the table, but it didn’t find much of interest. Another animal (or perhaps the same one) dragged some nesting material into the bottom of one of the empty dry bags. But by morning the animal was gone.
We had 18 river miles to cover the next day, and we had to meet the bus at Sandy Beach in the early afternoon. That meant an early start. We got up at 6:45, when it was still dark. The sky lightened as we packed our gear, and we didn’t need flashlights to eat breakfast. After we consumed muffins and cereal, packing up went efficiently, and we cast off by 8:40. We ran the exciting rapids at Wapinitia, Boxcar, and Oak Springs. Shortly before the takeout we stopped to let those who wanted to float through a rapid. No one had done this the day before at Buckskin Mary, despite the example of another high school group, most of whom floated through the rapid there while some of us watched. This time though, most of our group braved the cold waves to bounce through the rapids, some more than once. The rest of the muffins from breakfast and the leftover Oreos from lunch made a welcome energy boost to the chilled. From this rapid to the take-out was a quick 10-minute float.
With our practiced experience we quickly unloaded the rafts, organized the gear, and set off back to Portland, arriving at Catlin Gabel ahead of schedule. It had been a fun three days, filled with thrilling rapids, napping in the calm stretches, teamwork, camaraderie, and fine self-cooked food. Sign us up for another trip!
Golden wheat fields, quaint towns, quiet streams, booming waterfalls. Fifteen of Catlin finest spent the day biking along the deserted roads of the highlands above Maupin on a perfect fall day. The group met at Catlin at 8am and drove over Government Camp to a remote highway junction past Pine Grove. All the bikes were unloaded, tires pumped up and water distributed before everyone headed north toward the town of Tygh Valley. We toured the small town and then headed east over some rolling hills to White River Falls State Park. The Park is a little known grassy sward overlooking the dramatic triple falls of the White River- a river that begins its journey high on the eastern slopes of Mount Hood. We all had lunch there before hiking down to the abandoned power station. A few of our number waded into the chilly river.
From here we biked down the glorious road all the way to the Deschutes River itself. A few Native Americans were trying their luck at gathering in the fall run of salmon at Sherar's Falls. The route from here took us along the Deschutes for eight miles before we arrived in Maupin. Ice cream, both vanilla and chocolate, were provided to all deserving hands as we passed through Rhododendron on the way home.
In her book, Hiking Oregon's Geology, Ellen Morris Bishop paints a pretty magical scene while describing the Eagle Creek drainage some 25 million years ago. She says, "you would be strolling trhough a diverse forest of oaks, maples, gingkoes, sycamores, and sweet gum trees...The animals might look a bit odd. They would include three types of two-toed horse about the size of a Great Dane, the camel Oxydactylus, and a plant-eating animal call a chalicothere that resembled a bear with a horse's head (Bishop, Ellen Morris. Hiking Oregon's Geology. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books, 2004)." While we didn't find any horse-headed grizzlies, and the ecosystem had changed quite a lot, we still found Eagle Creek to be as wonderful as ever.
As the backbone of the Outdoor Leadership and Adventure course, this weekend backpacking trip brought a lot of themes together from class. It allowed us to come together as a group while putting to the test both the practical skills that we work on during the course (setting up a camp, lighting stoves, ecological appreciation, navigation, etc.). the weekend also gave us a deeper context to explore some of the more abstract concepts that we throw around in OLA, such as leadership, communication, and grit.
We passed climbed a mountain, camped on a lakeshore, and passed many waterfalls (and even took some time to wade at the base of one!). Please enjoy some photos from this wonderful weekend.
Four high school students, English teacher Brett Mathes, and outdoor ed teacher Erin Goodling spent the weekend hiking along the banks of the Clackamas River, enjoying views of raging waterfalls, wading in Fish Creek, and discussing poetry until the wee hours of the morning around the campfire. Even the drizzle on Saturday night and Sunday morning wasn't able to keep their spirits at bay. These haikus appropriately sum up the weekend for this great group:
Black rose, gift of love
Marshmallows, peanut butter
On the banks of the river
Model on a rock
Puddle in my tent
Should’ve placed the tarp better
Thank god for coffee!
Hiking in the woods.
Swimming in the cold water.
Sitting 'round the fire.
There’s something so nice
about wool hiking socks, and
hip-hop on the bus
We arrive early.
Hanging dripping tents and tarps.
Hooray for field day!
A large group of 26 Catlin Gabel students spent a sunny weekend at Smith Rock State Park climbing on the rocks and towers of central Oregon. On the first day about half the students spent the day at a rock school, where they learned climbing techniques, commands, rappelling, and knots. The other half of the group split into smaller groups and ventured off to climb routes rated from 5.7 to 5.11. Following a full day of activity we headed off to a Chinese resturant in nearby Redmond for a huge meal. The night was spent at Skull Hollow Campground about seven miles from Smith Rock.
On Sunday we all divided into four groups and scattered to various locations to set up climbing operations. The sun was out, and it was quite warm in the sun. We all gathered up at the big yellow bus at 2:00 p.m. and headed back to our homes in Portland.
Three van loads of Catlin Gabel students and half a dozen students from other Portland schools spent a week in (mostly) sunny Idaho in June. City of Rocks National Reserve provides some of the best sport climbing in the world--on quality, clean granite. The camping is fantastic and the surroundings beautiful. This year we had 22 students and six advisors for the excursion. It took an entire day to make the drive, highlighted by pizza on very thin crust in Burley, Idaho. The second day saw us up at the Breadloaves climbing area in fine sunshine. Despite the irreverently named climbs, everyone tried their hands at routs rated from 5.7 to 5.11b. By mid afternoon some clouds had rolled in and people were getting nervous, so we packed up the ropes and headed back to camp, arriving just before a major rain shower.
Being true Oregonians, the team was unphased and were able to stay dry for the most part. The next morning the drizzle continued, but cleared off pretty quickly. On this day we split into three groups. Two of the groups went up toward the Breadloaves area, while one went to the backside of Breakfast Rock and then to Morning Glory Spire. The climbing was fantastic in the warm sunshine. That evening we packed up our tents and walked down the road to the "great campsite" which had come open just for our use. The third day of climbing was highlighted by the takeover of Elephant Rock by our intrepid and mostly brave group. Practicing their language skills, the students were able to comvince other parties of the necessity of our group completing various climbs. By the end of the day just about everyone had had their fill of the great routes. Our fourth day of climbing was spent on the beautiful rocks that surrounded our camp. By this time the temperature was getting a bit warm for rock climbing, so students chose climbs featuring shade. On this, the final, night all the students put together acts for a brilliant talent show. Laughter filled the night air, and continued in the vans on the ride home the following day.
Often June provides good weather for an attempt to reach the summit of Mt. Hood. This spring was quite an exception. A group of 8 students and 3 adult leaders spent a pleasant Sunday just after school let out learning skills needed for glacier climbing. Once everyone felt comfortable that they knew what they needed to know, we all travelled down the mountain and stayed at the Mazamas Lodge. We had a fine dinner and early breakfast prepared for us before we stepped out the door into the rain at 1:00 am. Thinking we could rise above the rain we headed up the Timberline Road, but, alas, the rain continued up at 6000 feet. There was little wind and the students weren't cold, so they insisted that we at least give it a try. The group hiked up the hill near the chairlift to the Silcox Shelter, where we all reassessed. The group was doing well, staying warm and fairly dry in the rain. We continued the ascent all the way to the top of the Palmer snowfield. Once here the group consensus was to head back down, as the weather was not improving--and leaving the relative safety of the ski slopes was not something we wanted to do in this poor weather. With everyone still in good spirits we headed down the hill where our bus driver was waiting for us. We loaded everyone up and returned in good spirits to Portland by noon.
The inaugural Hood River Watershed Ecology trip, planned collaboratively with the Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute, provided students with the unique opportunity to explore the land surrounding the Hood River, south of the Columbia River Gorge and southeast of Mt. Hood, from multiple perspectives.
In addition to classic outdoor trip highlights such as learning to use an ice axe and crampons for the first time, glissading down snow fields on Mt. Hood, camping in Elk Meadow surrounded by wildflowers and Mt. Hood smiling down, flying down hills on our bikes alongside small tributaries to the Hood River, making s’mores by the campfire, and paddling down Class III rapids in inflatable kayaks, trip participants also learned invaluable lessons about the complexity of the Hood River watershed’s ecosystem and the ways in which humans rely upon and interact with it.
Here are some snapshots of each day of the trip:
Day 1: Water Quality at the Source, Eliot Glacier, Climate Change and Mini-Snow School
We drove up to Cloud Cap early Monday morning and met Kelly Nokes from Columbia River Waterkeeper right away at the headwaters of the Tilly Jane Creek. She taught us how to measure pH, temperature, turbidity, and more, all of which indicate the health of the water and its capacity to sustain life.
We then hiked up onto Eliot Glacier with Darrel Lloyd, a glaciologist that has been photographing Eliot and surround glaciers for thirty years. He showed us photos of changes over time, and the shrinking ice astounded us. He also talked at length about the science and ecology of glaciers and their importance to the overall health of a watershed. For example, the more a glacier melts, the more rocks and debris slide down the mountain into rivers, thereby destroying habitat and fish spawning grounds.
Finally, George taught everyone how to safely walk with crampons, how to use ice axes for self-arrest, and how to glissade down the snow fields—a fun change from the serious academics earlier in the day. Many students said they definitely want to try climbing Mt. Hood when the chance arises later this year.
“Until this trip, I always though of Mt. Hood as just a place for snowboarding. That’s it. That’s all I did there. Now I have a whole new way to look at it…it’s where our water comes from, it’s a good place to hike, forest fires have come through there…there’s just a lot more to think about.” –Andrew
Day 2: Backpacking the Timberline Trail, Wildfire, Coniferous Forest, Alpine Wildflowers, Gnarl Ridge, Elk Meadow
On Tuesday we began the first leg of our backpacking trip, heading southeast and traversing the timberline of Mt. Hood’s northeast side. We quickly climbed above the timberline and looked down upon it for much of the day, with Mts. Rainier, St. Helens, and Adams behind us to the north.
We crossed countless snowfields and ridges, and eventually came to a good resting spot. Alan Horton, a thirty-year veteran of the US Forest Service, accompanied us on this portion of the backpacking trip so that he could help us to better understand wildfires and forest ecology. Peter and Andrew both read articles about wildfire in preparation for the trip, and they contributed good background information to the discussion.
“We sometimes think that whatever we do to stop forest fires is helping nature, when actually nature has its own way of stopping things and has a plan for how everything works, and we’re just interfering and usually making it worse.” –Peter
Alan spoke not only of the complexities of managing fires and forests, but also of the challenge of maintaining his conservationist philosophies in a system that often values economics above ecosystems. Four students cited conversation with Alan as the highlight of the day.
“I come away from this very brief, touching experience with you all with a renewed hope in our future, because you are so attentive and you have such great attitudes. I know you’ve got some great ideas that are going to be good for the earth. Thank you for letting me part of your experience.” –Alan
After our discussion and some off-trail navigation due to higher-than-normal snow levels, we descended onto Gnarl Ridge just below Lamberston Butte and felt awed by the sweeping views of grey sediment and rock alternating with snow patches all the way down the gorge below the Newton-Clark Glacier. We ate lunch on top the ridge, and while eating heard what we mistook to be thunder…but without a cloud around! We turned around and saw a dramatic rock fall way up high near the summit of Mt. Hood, as clouds of dust plumed up into the sky.
We then continued to descend into the coniferous forest and eventually made our way to the spectacular Elk Meadow, with all its wildflowers and small creeks. We sketched the mountain, wrote journal entries, napped, feasted on macaroni and cheese, and fell asleep on the edge of the meadow.
Day 3: Backpacking the Cold Spring Creek Trail, Salmon Habitat and Lifecycle, Old Growth Forest
We awoke to a layer of frost on our sleeping bags and tarps on Wednesday morning—a reminder of our relatively high elevation (around 5300 feet) sleeping in the meadow. The Cold Spring Creek Trail, running alongside its namesake through a second-growth forest, proved much easier to navigate than the previous day’s Timberline Trail.
At one point we sat down on the side of the trail and learned from Genevieve and Emily about old growth forest, climax forests, the spotted owl debate, and other interesting ecological tidbits. We felt lucky to have such resident experts! We made good time on the eight or so miles to Tamanawas Falls, where we ate lunch under the mist of the waterfall.
“Little things, such as species becoming endangered, are really indicators of a larger problem, and we should look at it from a larger perspective—which can be frustrating for people in their own [non-interdisciplinary] careers sometimes.” –Genevieve
We then hiked about two miles down to Cold Spring Creek’s confluence with the East Fork of the Hood River, where we talked with Emily about salmon and salmon habitat. Soon we were joined by where we met Jurgen Hess, an alpine ecologist and retired Forest Service employee. We talked more about wildfire, old growth forest, and salmon habitat, and then hiked the rest of the way to the Tamanawas Falls Trailhead. We camped in Nottingham campground that night, alongside the east bank of the raging East Fork of the Hood River.
“I learned a lot about nature in Oregon since I just moved here [two weeks ago], and how it’s different from the East Coast. It’s bigger.” -Lucy
Day 4: Farming, Irrigation, Salmon, Wendell Berry, Biking the Back Roads North of Hood River, Interdisciplinary Innovation
We began our day at Tollbridge Park, where we met our bikes and Jerry Bryan and Jer Camarata from the Farmer’s Irrigation District. Jerry’s introduction left us a little confused, but undeniably curious. As we rode away from his recitation of Wendell Berry’s poem, “A Farmer’s Manifesto,” we wondered how such an outspoken, almost-retired, theology degree-holding atheist could possibly be doing anything useful for salmon and farmers alike.
“I liked what Wendell Berry said about how everything is connected and some people don’t realize that. If something [a fish] dies, people don’t realize that the fish are connected to the forest [for nutrients].” –Libby
We kept Jerry and Jer in our minds as we biked through perfectly manicured orchards of cherry, pear, and apple trees, with Mt. Hood looming over us the whole time. We eventually made our way to a fish hatchery operated in cooperation between the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Warm Springs Confederated Tribe. Albert, the hatchery assistant manager and a tribal member, and Jim, the hatchery manager, gave us a tour of the facility and helped us to understand the role of fish hatcheries in the broader context of managing the watershed and maintaining the health of Columbia River Gorge salmon populations.
Our next stop was Punchbowl Falls, as the confluence of the East, West, and Middle Forks of the Hood River. We ate lunch above the water, and afterward watched several salmon attempt to jump up a smaller nearby waterfall. None made it while we stood nearby.
We hopped back on our bikes and once again met up with Jerry and Jer. We followed them down a little-used gravel road to one of the Irrigation District’s innovative horizontal water diversion fish screens. We learned that the Irrigation District, whose job is to provide irrigation water for over 5,000 acres of Hood River farmland, hired Jerry twenty-five years ago because of his experience advocating for fish. Over the course of his tenure with the District, Jerry developed a knack for figuring out ways to satisfy the needs of both fish and farmers. He said, “I’m the guy they [farmers] love to hate!...As soon as we started thinking from the point of view of the fish, we actually figured out ways make the farmers more money than they’d made before, when they were ignoring fish health and habitat.” He helped develop an innovative screen that allows water to be diverted for irrigation without harming fish. People have come from all over the world to learn about this invention:
“The Farmers Irrigation District developed a screen technology that keeps fish from entering irrigation and hydroelectric canals. The Farmers Screen is a horizontal, flat-plate diversion screen that harmlessly moves fish over the screen and back to the river while safely diverting water for irrigation and hydroelectric use.”
Follow the link to watch live fish screen webcams and read more about it: www.fidhr.org/farmerscreen.htm
“I’m going to take away knowledge about the horizontal fish screen process because…when they showed us the diagram and the movie and then we actually saw it, it brought to life how much thought goes into this whole process, with the physics of it all and it made me realize that you can pull different ideas from different fields to solve one problem, and that makes teamwork sound a lot more important.” –Margaret
After our inspiring final meeting with Jerry and Jer, we continued down towards Hood River through the farms. We stopped to buy some cherries and enjoy them under a tree, and then made our way to Tucker County Park—our last campsite of the trip. Students waded in the river and sunned on rocks before a final delicious Pad Thai dinner, marshmallows, an impromptu performance by a fellow nine year-old camper, and sleeping under the stars.
Day 5: Inflatable Kayaks, the Hood and Columbia Rivers, the Former Powerdale Dam Site, Salmon Bake, Putting It All Together
Our final day of the trip proved to be the most refreshing and adrenaline-producing. Ben, Zack, and Sylus taught us how to safely navigate in inflatable kayaks, and we set off down the Hood River just below Tucker Park like a line of baby ducks. Students quickly adapted to paddling and adeptly maneuvered around rocks and rapids like veterans.
About two miles downstream, we pulled out to meet with Jeremy from the Department of Fish and Wildlife and Steve Stampfli, who’s helping to manage the habitat restoration process after the local power company decided to tear down the Powerdale Dam last year. We saw photos of the habitat restoration process and learned about the complications of providing power for local residents while also paying attention to fish habitat, air quality, farming needs, forest health, water quality, and cost.
“There are complications behind complications—for example, the decision to let a forest fire burn out or to put it out. Also, taking out the [Powerdale] dam means that more people’s energy might come from coal, but if you leave it there the fish can’t get through. There are a lot of trade-offs.” –Siobhan
We ended our day and trip at the mouth of the Hood River as it meets the Columbia, where we cleaned up and loaded the kayaks, and then enjoyed a delicious meal of grilled salmon caught that morning by a local Native American, local greens, and watermelon. We invited all the stakeholders we met throughout the week, and though most were too busy with work obligations to come out, Alan and his wife, Sharon, joined our group for our final meal.
We spent several minutes reflecting on the week’s experiences:
“I learned so much…everything from the meaning of the word turbidity to the best way to get a kayak off a rock. There’s so much middle ground we covered…There’s a lot to think about.” –Walker
“I’ll take away how connected everything is—much more so than I’d imagined. Every action has a reaction…If you take some fish out of a stream, that has a big impact.” –Alex
Siobhan and Genevieve ended with a closing poem that expressed our gratitude toward the salmon, our guests, and our experience of the week:
Once upon a time,
the sun swept slowly over Timberline.
The glacier slowly melted down in size,
As earth’s temperatures began to rise.
Extreme weather events increased
And glacial freezing began to cease.
Boulders and debris came down
Causing salmon to frown.
Thought the rivers’ health declined
And many forgot to keep fish in mind
People such as those gathered here
Worked hard to improve the earth’s atmosphere.
So hey there smoky salmon!
You have a future that’s worth saving.
We’re grateful for this meal we’ll take.
And thankful for all the fish for heaven’s sake.
The Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute plans to take local Hood River County students through a similar exploration next summer, and Catlin Gabel students may be back as well. Thanks to all the students, special guests, and leaders that took a risk and went for it this year--you are true ecological pioneers!
This fantastic week began with a 7:30 meeting time at Catlin on Sunday morning. We loaded the bus and drove up to Alder Creek’s Jantzen Beach shop where we met up with Chris and Paul to try out various kayaks and dry suits for fit on land. Once we all found our dream Michelin-man suits, booties, and vessels, we drove north across the Columbia for our Basic Skills Class on benign Vancouver Lake.
Though perfectly placid, within ten minutes on the lake at least four of us succumbed to the difficulties of balancing and maneuvering barely eighteen-inch wide boats across water, and capsized! Thankfully, our dry suits kept us warm and toasty. After learning the basic strokes and practicing our edging and turning (and a few more capsizes), we all dove in the water in order to practice rescuing each other. Students adapted quickly to the importance of good communication, emptying teammates’ boats of water after flipping, and “rafting up” in order to increase stability and make for easier re-entries. After a game of Sharks and Minnows, we pulled ashore, loaded boats on the trailer, and enjoyed a quick brown bag lunch in the park before moving further north toward Seattle.
As soon as the Space Needle emerged on the horizon, we knew that Chris Potts and the Seattle Bouldering Project loomed nearby. “If you want to start a business, expect that it will take roughly six times more time and seven times more money to get going than you think,” Chris warned as he gave us a tour of the sprawling complex that he and a buddy opened a month ago, just east of I-5. His time and investment clearly paid off, and we enjoyed two hours of world-class indoor bouldering—the next best thing to an actual trip to Squamish or the Valley. Though most of us reveled in the creative route-setting and steep walls, Ian, Hannah, and Henry spent most of their time wrestling with Chris on the pole-vault-landing-style padded floor. Chris won, hands down. Visiting and playing with Chris definitely makes the highlight list for this trip, and future Catlin groups should not hesitate to go out of their way for a stop at SBP!
We then continued our journey northward, and finally met up with Chris and Dave at Washington Park in Anacortes for our first night. After a hearty taco dinner in the dark, we settled into a night of sleep on soft pine needles under a thick canopy and clear skies.
After an early Monday breakfast of peanut butter, Nutella, honey, and banana sandwiches, we loaded the bus and caught the 8:30 am ferry to Guemes Island. We drove to our launch site at the far north end of the island and began the tedious process of packing gear into dry bags and cramming it into our long skinny hulls for our sea voyage to Cypress Island. We learned to pay attention to the balance of weight not only from the front to the back, but also side to side while packing our kayaks.
Once fully locked and loaded, the previous day’s Basic Skills Class proved to be a valuable learning experience that enabled our entire group to confidently and immediately hit the open-ish sea. A two-hour paddle on calm water propelled us past dramatic wildlife such as porpoises, seals, eagles, oyster catchers, and more to Pelican Beach on the north end of Cypress Island—our new home for the next three nights. And…everyone stayed dry! We set up camp, explored the woods and beach, napped, went for short hikes and runs through the trees, skipped rocks, threw rocks and logs, built forts and fires, ate delicious Pad Thai for dinner, read our fortunes to one another (at six cents a piece, you can’t beat WinCo’s fortune cookies for the ultimate conversation starters), and went to sleep to the sound of pebbles echoing against one another at the edge of the water.
On Tuesday, we paddled our longest stretch of the week along the cliffs of the west side of Cypress Island, down through Rosario Strait to Strawberry Island. Though somewhat of a misnomer (we found many more wild strawberries on Cypress than on Strawberry), the 200-yard long island became the perfect spot to stop for lunch and an afternoon siesta. Students explored the island’s rocks and meadows and consulted a field guide for information on wildflowers such as wild roses and yarrow. Three students decided to join Erin and Dave for a short paddle to the south side of Cypress Island and a three-mile hike, and the rest of the group sunned for another hour on Strawberry before heading back north to our base camp.
Highlights of the remaining days include rafting seven boats together and creating a makeshift sailboat with a hammock and paddles (it worked!); finding dozens of bones, shells, pebbles, feathers, and other treasures; hiking seven and a half miles up and down the highest peak on Cypress Island; Dutch oven apple pie and polenta lasagna; learning about the incredibly complex currents, tides, topography, ebb and flood patterns, and weather variables of the San Juans; building drift wood fires and roasting marshmallows; playing silly games such as “hit the stick” and “launch each other off the log” on the beach; a nighttime paddle amongst billions of phytoplankton all lit up; sunny, clear skies and temps in the 60s and 70s; sleeping under the stars; a mixed-age group of students working extremely well together; and a windy and rough but exciting and satisfying paddle on our return to Guemes Island at the end.
The drive home went smoothly thanks to a late lunch stop at Burgerville in Centralia. We listened to our theme song, “Brandy is a Fine Girl” by Looking Glass at LEAST six times on the way home, belting the lyrics out the windows. Our life, our love, and our lady, indeed, was the sea—at least for the last five days. Most students agreed that leaving the islands proved to be their principal “low” of the week. All agreed that they’d do this trip again, ideally for at least a full week. We will be back!
"I've never been this tired in my life...not even when I stayed up to watch Harry Potter 7 on opening night!"
The words of this wise student summed up how we all felt after the nearly 12 hours of hiking that went into the powerful experience of standing on top of a Cascade volcano and peering down into the smoking crater. All of us here in Portland orient ourselves by looking North to the snow-covered rise of Mount St. Helens, but few of us can claim to have been lucky enough to see the world from on top. Thirteen excited and newly-graduated 8th graders joined the company of one dedicated 7th grader, four adult climb leaders, and an increasingly heavy ironing board to try their hand at reaching the summit.
As most of the group was new to the wonders of mountaineering, the greater portion of Saturday was spent in the sun, learning about the fundamentals of a safe and successful climb. We talked about the essential clothing and personal equipment that one needs for an outing, as well as the importance of food, water, rest and paying attention to ones breathing and body. We learned the basic skills needed on a mountain climb at a short Snow School (on a less than impressive snow slope!) These techniques included the rest step, plunge step, walking with an ice axe, putting on and walking with crampons, and the theory behind a self-arrest.
Back at camp, we explored the edge of the lake, played some ridiculous games, and feasted on a "make-your-own burrito" spread. There is nothing like chorizo to power you up a mountain. We all went to bed early knowing that we would be awake again in only a few hours to start the climb.
By 4am everyone in the group was up and putting the final touches on their gear, and we were at the Marble Mountain trailhead and moving toward the mountain by 6:15. Our first break all together came at timberline where the sun greeted us in full force. The trail through the "Worm Flows" soon met up with Monitor Ridge, and the group worked its way up this prominent feature on the mountain. The shortest route to the top of the mountain starts at a trailhead known as the "Climber's Bivouac," but due to the heavy snow this year, the bivouac had not yet melted out, forcing our group to take the longer approach from Marble Mountain. The extra distance didn't slow us down, as our group easily kept pace with another Mazama party that was on the mountain that day.
The group tired as we neared the top, and a bit of fog covered the summit, but everyone pushed on. The first in our party reached the top at 1:11pm, and the rest of us trickled up to the rim before we all started the incredible glissade back to the forest. As the fog cleared, we had unbelievable views north to Mt. Rainier, and down to the impressive, and smoking lava dome.
The ironing board made it all the way up to the summit only for us to realize that somebody had forgotten the iron! Please enjoy these photos from this incredible weekend. It was an experience that we all will be able to draw from in many ways for years to come.
"Who forgot the iron?"
The day dawned gray, with the promise of dampness ahead. Nevertheless, the intrepid hikers, 11 students and 2 leaders, gathered at Catlin to set off to climb Dog Mountain. All were present before the hour for departure, so the expedition left 5 minutes ahead of schedule. Driving through the Gorge the clouds thickened, the moisture condensed, and the wipers came on. In the distance much brighter clouds over Dog Mountain enticed us onwards.
As we approached the trailhead, the summit of our climb was shrouded in cloud. The trail at the base was clear and dry, so after introductions all around, we set off up the first steep pitch in high spirits. True to tradition, some students charged ahead, while others (and one leader) plodded up in the rear. With stops at each junction to ensure that everyone went the same way, the group was never overly stretched out. Despite the chilly, damp season we’ve had so far in the Northwest, the wildflowers were emerging colorfully. Yellow Balsamroot, red Indian Paintbrush, and, higher up, lilac Phlox were to be seen, along with many others.
The wind rose and the temperature dropped as we neared the summit. We were very glad of the extra layers and warm hats and gloves we’d brought along. As we huddled in the flower fields at the top, a light rain began to fall as the view alternated between the damp inside of a cloud, fleeting views of snowy slopes on the Oregon side of the Gorge, and spectacular panoramas westward over Wind Mountain and down the Gorge towards Portland. Living up to its name there were many dogs of all sizes on the trail. One even sported a doggy rain poncho.
The wet, windy and chilly weather didn’t dispose us to linger on the top, so we soon packed up our things and set off down the alternate route towards the base. The lower we descended the warmer it got. By the time we reached the trailhead the sun was out and it was a beautiful day.
The group came for many reasons: conditioning to climb Mt Hood or Mt St Helens, to build towards a summer of hiking, or just to have fun outdoors. Since all made it to the summit, the goals were achieved. We returned to Portland and Catlin 6 minutes ahead of schedule, tired but well satisfied with our efforts of the day.
Students of all grades of Catlin's Upper School ventured up the windy roads of the Mount St. Helens Volcanic Monument for a weekend of backpacking along the beautiful Siouxon Creek. Three seniors took a break from their end-of-the-year, senior projects to join us on one of their last Outdoor Program trips. After loading up our packs at the trailhead, we headed down the trail in perfect sunshine. Mary quickly led the pack past multiple waterfalls and impressive rapids along the creek. The trail crossed the full stream over bridges and we stopped multiple times to sit in the sun and enjoy being outside. A long lunch at a rocky beach quickly turned into a rock throwing contest, with Max proving to be MVP.
The weathered turned around dinner time, and we cooked our food, played cards, and turned in for bed all while trying our best to stay dry. After a long night's rest, we cooked our breakfast and packed up camp to start the pretty hike back to the bus. We stopped at the Dollar Tree in Battle Ground, WA on the way home to pick up a random assortment of gifts for Peter Green who had to stay home for the weekend due to a knee surgery.
Please enjoy some photos from our weekend.
Three Middle School students, eight Upper School students, and four faculty/staff members just returned from a fantastic weekend of biking and environmental service.
We left Portland at 9:30 on Saturday morning and arrived at Trout Lake-Guler County Campground at about 11:45. We ate a quick snack, pumped up bike tires and practiced our hand signals, and set out through the beautiful countryside. Mt. Adams and the sun both smiled down upon us as we rode across the flat back roads between Trout Lake and Glenwood, WA.
We started in Trout Lake, took Sunnyside Road for several miles, and eventually turned right on Warner Road. We encountered minimal traffic. We then turned right on Little Mountain Road instead of Hwy 141, which again helped us to avoid lots of cars. After a few miles on Little Mountain Road, we encountered the White Salmon River and a perfect spot to stop for our picnic lunch. Students ate, visited, and lay in the grass along the banks of the river. Some enjoyed throwing big rocks in the water to see who could make the biggest splash.
We then hopped back on our bikes and finished the rest of the leg back to Trout Lake, and decided to ride into the area behind the little “town” to see what else we might find. Eventually, we encountered seasonal Trout Lake itself, and took photos of Mt. Adams reflected into the water. A few raindrops finally began to fall at this point, so we headed back to our campground after our 20 mile bike ride.
Just as we began to pull our rain flies onto our tents, the big, sporadic drops turned into a pelting and sustained downfall. We donned raingear and hopped back on our bikes for the half-mile ride to Trout Lake’s Station Café and their world-famous huckleberry milkshakes. Thunder and lightning began to rumble outside, but thankfully we were inside, nice and warm. We decided to get on the bus and drive to Cheese Cave for some exploration—the best outdoor activity possible in heavy rains.
That night we cooked a mac-n-cheese dinner, played cards and Bananagrams, and sang to guitar music thanks to Andrew and Graham, and went to bed to the soothing rain.
The next morning, we headed out to the Conboy Lake Wildlife Refuge. Dan and Lisa showed us how to use GPS devices, and we spent a few hours combing the area for a rare type of vetch, marking any unusual findings on our observation sheet and using the GPS device to mark the location. No one found any vetch, which will help the refuge make the case that climate change is making it hard for pollinators to perpetuate the various plant species, including the vetch, which means it may become endangered or extinct.
We returned to school Sunday evening feeling refreshed and tired--a perfect combination.
The Nez Perce knew the Grande Ronde River as Welleweah, or "The River that Flows into the Far Beyond." The Catlin Outdoor Program took a long weekend to explore the remote canyon that this beautiful river has carved in the far northeastern corner of the state. Draining the Blue Mountains and the nearby Wallowas, the Grande Ronde sees few people over the 212 miles that it travels before spilling into the Snake River at Hell's Canyon.
This trip was a true adventure, as none of the participants, not even the leaders had been on the river before. As we headed East toward Minam, the sunshine intensified and landscape changed dramatically from what we were used to. While the views from the bus were beautiful, they couldn't compare to the steep canyons, clear creeks, sandy beaches, and rocky ridge tops that we would explore during our river trip. We saw kingfisher, golden eagles, elk, and tons of deer along the way. A pair of bear hunters were the only other people that we saw over our three days in the canyon.
Aside from the natural wonders, there were many other memories made over the weekend. Puppies and baby goats at the Elgin Boot and Saddle shop, sharing riddles and jokes around the fire ring, the stinging of brambles against bare legs during an epic bushwhack, waiting for a new form of transportation from our take out at the Powwatka Bridge when our bus broke down......and Easter dinner at Denny's!
Please enjoy some photos from this adventure. And, thank you to everyone in Eastern Oregon that helped us to get home on Sunday when things decided not to go as planned. It all worked out in the end. More photos to come.
A Happy Surfing Song
--adapted from Damien Marley's "We're Gonna Make It"
Hannah knows she lost her waiver
It’s not a big deal, No!
But we gotta get it
Lets all go
To get Hannah’s waiver
It wont be fun, Yeah!
But we gotta fake it
Let’s go to the wa-ter
It is really warm? NO!
But that doesn’t matter
Ride a wave
Cuz we’re gonna shred it
Even though it’s cold, Yeah!
But we’re gonna shred it.
We know we’re gonna fry it
We don’t have a pan, No!
But we’re gonna fry it
Use a plate
Cuz we’re gonna fry it
It’s gonna work, Yeah.
We don’t want to diet.
We know we’re gonna shred it
Its not too cold, No!
We’re gonna shred it
We’re gonna shred it
It’s not too cold, No!
We’re gonna shred it, Yeah.
Seven happy upper school students and two teachers returned to Portland on Sunday afternoon feeling rejuvenated and exhausted at the same time. Surfing will do that to a person!
We left Catlin at 9:15, listened to reggae the whole way, and made it to the Seaside Surf Shop by 11:00 in order to have time to get fitted for wetsuits and boards before heading to Short Sands Beach for the perfect tide and swell.
When we arrived at Short Sands, participants helped carry boards down the ½ mile green and winding path to the beach. We were greeted by about 50 other surfers clad in lycra, paddling out and catching small waves inside and big waves (8’) on the outside. Seth and Lauren did an incredible job explaining Short Sands’ particular currents and breaks—different from most breaks because of the cove’s protection on three sides—and then students practiced their pop-ups on land.
We then headed for the water and fought strong currents to walk and paddle out to the inside breaking waves. Lauren and Seth each took a small group of students and pushed them as the white water came upon them to help them get going. Within 5 or 6 tries, every single student stood up on his or her long board! Students spent the next two hours practicing what they learned, struggling against the currents, and trying to make sense of all the components that go into surfing.
Once we were all tired out, we carried the boards back up to Lauren’s van and said goodbye. After a snack in the parking lot, we went back down to the beach and hit the trail going out to Cape Falcon. Students stood in awe at the side-view of the wave sets as they rolled into the bay, and we discussed some of the details of surf etiquette and technique, as well as wave structure and formation.
After our hike, we collaborated to make a delicious dinner of grilled fish tacos on the green Coleman stove. Though we forgot a frying pan, we made it work by using a metal plate and tin foil. After hiking back up to the bus and loading up all our dinner stuff, we drove south to Manzanita and Hannah Jaquiss’ family’s beach house. We watched the inspiring surf/climbing movie, 180 Degrees South, and fell asleep.
The next morning we drove north back to Short Sands and put all the stuff we’d learned Saturday to good use. Students enjoyed the slightly more mellow waves, though it did make for a greater challenge actually catching the waves. One student even went outside with one of the instructors and tried his hand with a short board.
We stopped for burritos in Manzanita and made it back to campus by 4:30--feeling so stoked!
There is a peace, comfort and inspiration that comes from two and a half feet of fresh, powdery snow falling in one of the wildest and most beautiful pockets of Oregon. That is exactly what ten ambitious upper school students found as they embarked on a five day backcountry ski trip to to Oregon's only National Park. We were offered a variety of new experiences, from skiing along the edge of a volcanic caldera, to cooking meals in a kitchen carved from snow, to building a snow cave large enough that all thirteen people in the group could enjoy a hot macaroni and cheese meal inside. It is hard work moving and living in such a wintery environment, and we all left with a new appreciation for what we are all capable of accomplishing when we let ourselves have these beautifully challenging experiences. Please enjoy some of our photos from this epic journey.
As the bus approaches the dock, the rows of what look like tiny plastic sailboats come into clear view, and we get our first glimpse of the Puget Sound. The sun is setting on Sunday, March 14th as we pull our bags off the bus, and assemble into two boat teams: the Double Eagle and The Brothers. These will be our teams for the rest of the week, and we quickly stow gear and grab a slice at a gourmet pizzeria in Anacortes before tucking in for an early bedtime. The next morning we are up at sunrise, untying our dock-lines and puttering out into the open sea. With a gust of wind, we hoist sails, and at the Captain’s orders, we are ready to “tack” and “jive” as we weave our way through the San Juan Islands. When we are not too busy sailing, we are becoming skilled chefs and dishwashers in the tiny cabin kitchen, and perfecting our card playing skills and yoga poses on deck. The weather remains marvelous throughout the week, with peek-a-boo sunshine and warm, swift showers that leave the air smelling fresh and sweet. Each night, we find a new place to anchor. We play ultimate Frisbee on soft sandy beaches, and take a walk to a lighthouse where the view leaves us breathless. As the sun sets, we gather around a campfire, and the trip leaders surprise us with fireworks (until we are kicked out by the rangers… no fireworks, and no fires! Didn’t we read the signs? …Nope!) A friendly boat rivalry exists, and members of the Double Eagle prank The Brothers by changing the name on their boat to “The Others” … only to discover that The Brothers were one step ahead, greeting their peers with buckets of cold water. The Zodiac from Double Eagle engages in a wild dinghy race with The Brothers' dinghy, and a dingy overturns, leaving three unlucky and wet sailors. Overall, a fantastic week, and an experience none of us will forget.
Snowshoe is what we do,
Girl power by the hour,
Munchin' on some lentil stew.
When we felt tired we turned to sledding,
And at nighttime we hit the bedding.
Freshmen, seniors, co-mingling,
Got so cold our toes were tingling.
Whatcha gonna say?
Talk 'til your jaw drops,
Then hit the hay.
White River Canyon is what we hike,
Don't need no snow skis
Nor a mountain bike.
Lunch time is fun time
And we do it with ease,
As long as you're comfortable
And your butt don't freeze.
Had a great weekend
Thanks to the sun's rays,
Sad to return to school
Late on Sunday!