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A sunny weekend at Smith Rock

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Lots of new faces on the rocks

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.





Three Adventurous Days on the John Day River

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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!


Ecuador 2012 participants get a jump on the adventure

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Winterim 2012

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!

Sailing through the San Juans

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High winds and beautiful weather

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.

Catlin Gabel's Eyrie Challenge Course

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Team building, risk-taking, and discovery

From the Winter 2011-12 Caller

By David Reich ’80, Challenge Course Manager

Catlin Gabel recently built a state-of-the-art challenge course in the wooded part of campus around the athletic fields. It is a great tool for hands-on learning in a beautiful natural setting and a new expression of the school’s commitment to experiential education.
I like to say that a day on a challenge course is like speeding up time, when it comes to individual growth or group dynamics. Like many outdoor adventures, the challenge course pushes participants out of their comfort zone and into areas of learning and growth. Participants push their own perceived limits, and discover how they perform under pressure. Teams learn how to constructively give and receive support, and individuals see how working with others collaboratively can help a team achieve more than they had previously thought they could accomplish.
Constructed from wood, cable, and rope, and strung between trees and platforms either just above the ground or high in the air, Catlin Gabel’s challenge course consists of four high elements and eight low elements. These “elements” or individual structures combine vertical climbing challenges and horizontal obstacle or initiative challenges. As a team is made up of individuals with complementary skills, it is important to maximize the opportunities for each person to contribute toward the team goals. The various challenge course elements allow participants to explore different levels of personal exposure, provide opportunities to learn about cooperation, open lines of communication, and develop skills in problem-solving, leadership, and coaching—and self-esteem.
Challenge course activities provide an environment that is full of new experiences and personal discoveries. They establish a setting that allows the facilitator to work with the group, helping them with debriefing and reflection, focusing on teamwork objectives and preparing them for bigger challenges— or the challenges found in the everyday world. We invite groups or organizations outside of Catlin Gabel to use the challenge course. It’s a great opportunity for corporate team building and professional development, designed to:
• Build team interdependence
• Build collaborative problem solving
• Develop risk-taking skills
• Open channels of communications
• Identify and develop leadership skills
• Clarify roles and responsibilities
• Strengthen relationships
Based on the needs and assessment of the particular visiting group, we will design a unique program to provide the best possible experience for group members. The course was designed and built according to national guidelines and standards, and a trained and certified facilitator with experience in working with adult groups supervises all activities on the challenge course.
Half or full day programs are available, with a gourmet chef to prepare lunch on campus. Call (503-297-1894 ext. 386) or email me for an appointment to tour the facility or to discuss your specific group needs. Visit our pages on the Catlin Gabel website, too.


Middle Schoolers Climb in the Central Oregon Sun

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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.

Skiing the Backcountry of Mt. Hood

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There were a few falls

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.






Winter Camping in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

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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.

6th Grade Exploration of the Columbia River Gorge

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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.

Winter Arrives in Time for a MS Adventure to Clear Lake Butte Fire Lookout

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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.



Skiing to a Forest Service Lookout

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A winter storm, but next to a warm fire

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! 

Middle Schoolers Rock Central Oregon

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Climbing at Smith Rock State Park

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.

First Snow at the Devil's Peak Lookout

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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!



Oregon's Greatest Landscape

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Upper Schoolers travel to Hart Mountain on a beautiful weekend

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. 


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.

A Misty Hike with Middle Schoolers

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We Love the Columbia River Gorge!

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!



6th Grade Farm Camp-Out with the Outdoor Program

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Hazelnuts, pumpkins, and pigs

A group of ten 6th grade students ventured west to the rolling farmland of Cornelius, Oregon, for a weekend of exploration, pumpkin carving, and fun. We all got to know each other better over the course of the two days while also learning new outdoor living skills!  

After setting up camp next to the berry fields of Duyck's Peachy Pig Farm, we set off to explore the 67-acre property on foot. We passed and identified many crops - berries, fruit and nut trees, and vegetables - before entering the hazelnut orchard.  Upper School students Siobhan and Annika joined the group and helped out with camp tasks. We took our time in the orchard, stopping for a good-hearted hazelnut war and hazelnut throwing contest before hiking up into the cedar grove at the top of the property. Our hike along the perimeter of the farm ended in the pumpkin patch, where we each picked a pumpkin that called out to us. After carving them up, we played games and harvested fresh vegetables for a primavera sauce that would accompany our big pasta dinner. The feast was delicious, and we ended the night with a nice campfire in the woods before turning into bed in our tents. Sunday held more games, fresh food, and a visit to the farm's namesake pigs before loading up the bus and heading back to Catlin Gabel. The sun shone on us the entire weekend, and inspired us all to look forward to the next time that we can spend time together in the outdoors!

Cruising on the Banks-Vernonia Trail

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A beautiful fall bike ride

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!

Annual descent of the Deschutes River

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Three days in Oregon's high desert

Deschutes Descent
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!