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!
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!
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.