Our caravan of minivans was greeted with a beautiful rosy sunrise early Tuesday morning as we headed out of town en route to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Student’s handled the long hours in the car well, entertaining themselves and training their eyes to look at the tiny details that make desolate Eastern Oregon fascinating. We arrived at the Field Station, our home away from home for the next few days, and settled into the dorms before exploring the surrounding areas. Around us we could see the snowy Steen’s Mountains, high buttes and low plains, and Malheur Lake. The sun set to a chorus of coyote howls. After dinner we played several wild games of hide and seek and cops and robbers under the brilliant stars before going to bed for an early start the next morning.
We woke early the next morning (some would consider this still nighttime) to meet the naturalist who would teach us about the birds of the area. Some of us had an easier time getting up than others, but luckily nobody was left behind. The naturalist took us along a dirt road way up on a butte in hopes of finding a sage grouse lek (a gathering where males strut to impress females). Each van had a radio so our naturalist could tell everyone about the places we were seeing, and the birds we would hopefully see. After several miles he stopped us and as we peered out the window in the pale dawn light, the puffy white chests and radiating tail feathers of sage grouse appeared. We had found the lek! We listened to the clucking noises they made and watched as the birds strutted around. Our naturalist was so knowledgeable about the area and the birds and we were lucky to have him with us.
As we drove back to the Field Station we kept our eyes open for other animals. We saw some smaller birds and deer, but we were really hoping to see wild horses. We knew that of all the places we would visit, this was the only one we might have a chance to see them. As we got closer & closer to the main road our hopes of seeing the horses dropped. Suddenly, a voice over the radio announced that the first van had spotted wild horses! They were beautiful. A herd of pronghorn stood next to them, providing scale to the huge horses. The pronghorn raced off, but the horses stayed, and we got to watch them for some time as the stallion gathered his herd and studied us.
Climbing and Mountain Winterim 2010
Though our meticulously-laid plans were thrown out the window again and again, we somehow we pulled it all together and created an incredible adventure!
Our group of nine students and two leaders met on Tuesday morning at Catlin and loaded into two mini-vans for four days of climbing and road-tripping. We drove to Smith Rock State park and hiked to Student Wall, where we did a safety de-brief and set up an area to teach climbing, belaying, moving over a fixed line, and rappelling. It was the first time any of us had basked in sunshine for weeks!
That night we drove to Skull Hollow campground--we had the entire place to ourselves. We went on a stealth (and my stealth I mean "playing techno as loud as possible in a minivan") mission to gather firewood and had quite the scorcher during dinner.
On Wednesday morning we drove back to Smith and headed off to the Dancer/Jete/Combination blocks area. Students and leaders led climbs and toproped a number of excellent lines (note: Double Trouble is AMAZING!!!). We ended our day a bit early to get to the trailhead of Mt. Washington before dark.
In driving to the trailhead, we found a viewpoint of Mt. Washington that showed that the peak would be impossible to climb. Like "Mountain of Death" impossible. We decided to try to another peak. Driving back East, we called friends and family and used iPhones to find a peak in climbable conditions. Peter suggested Mt. Thielson and the students made a decision to head South. We drove to Thielson and slept in the parking lot.
On Thursday we woke early and left the trailhead at 8am for our summit bid. Snow conditions were not good for XC travel. We gained the ridge below the massif and the students led up the southern slopes until 12:30 when we stopped for lunch (much of which had been forgotten!). The weather had become ideal for spring mountaineering and we did some “snow school” training on the sunny flanks. Though the summit pyramid looked snowy and daunting, we made our way upwards.
At 3:00 we arrived at the final pitch below the summit and scouted for a safe, clean line up the SE or SW ridge. Neither offered safe climbing, so we backed in the sun below the summit pinnacle. We boot-skied, glissaded, and plunge-stepped back to tree-line, putting our heads down for the long descent back to the car.
On Thursday night we found an incredible campsite up a creek off the Umpqua and enjoyed our last night out—all of the students slept under the stars!
Friday was a final breakfast and a long drive back to Portland, dotted with stops for Ultimate Frisbee, gas at the slowest pumps imaginable, and AMAZING milkshakes.
Ultimately this trip was about getting a diverse group of students together and empowering them to create the most incredible road trip possible.
Take a look at our journey by clicking any of the pictures below and watching a slideshow. Put on some music (no techno, please) and enjoy!
What could be more fun than sailing on a 50 foot sailboat through Washington's magnificent San Juan Islands?
This year during the Upper School's winterim, 16 students from Catlin Gabel sailed two large sailboats for five beautiful days. The boats were chartered from a local company. The students did all the work in running the boat, including selecting the course, tacking the boat, raising the sails, fixing the meals, anchoring the boats and preparing for battle with rival crafts. Each boat had two experienced sailors on board from the Catlin Gabel community to help the students learn the ropes.
The groups visited Sucia Island, the Canadain Gulf Islands, Jones island, Orcas island and Spencer's Spit on Lopez island..
From the Winter 2010 Caller
By Dale Yocum, Middle & Upper School robotics program director
By Peter Green, outdoor education director & Upper School dean of students
By Spencer White, global education coordinator & Middle School Spanish teacher
The Learning Center
By Kathy Qualman, Middle & Upper School learning specialist
PLACE--Planning and Leadership Across City Environments (formerly the Urban Leadership Program)
By George Zaninovich, PLACE director
By Nance Leonhardt, Middle & Upper School art teacher
To support these, and all of the amazing programs at Catlin Gabel, please visit the giving website or call or email the development office, 503-297-1894 ext. 302.
From the Winter 2010 Caller
Passions: writing poetry and prose, outdoor exploration
Interest: environmental studies
“I’ve always been observational. I was quieter when I was young, and lines of poetry came together naturally. Writing is satisfying, a way for me to sift it all. I write precisely and slowly. Sometimes I’m frustrated because the ideas come but the words don’t, and I just sit there for 45 minutes. But eventually I get where I want to be.
Starting in 8th grade I got good feedback on poetry that I’d written and was pointed to entering contests. I got self-motivated from the contests that I won. But mostly I won because I kept on throwing stuff out there, and some of it stuck. I found out that poetry is not just childhood rhymes but is about seeing emotion in the world—and it’s an art form that gets to people.
Sometimes I can’t make sense of a situation until I write it down in poetry. I get the same release through words that I get in mountain climbing or rock climbing. The outdoor program has influenced my poetry. My recent poems have all been about nature and being outdoors. It’s a challenge: loads of people write about nature, so can I as a teenaged girl say anything new about it?
My class in environmental science and policy is really important to me now. I’ve changed my second choice of major to environmental studies. I see my role in poetry, but environmental studies is about the physical side of life. It’s affected my decisions about eating, shopping, how you get places. You can’t not pay attention to these things. My general job is to change.”
We set out for the mountain on a warm, sunny Saturday morning, ready for anything. We arrived at Teacup Lake, packed our day-packs, and slathered on sunscreen. Who knew summer arrived in February?! There were several beginner skiers and they all picked up the sport easily, quickly wanting to take the most difficult trails and ski down hills. The first big hill we went down was intimidating at first, but we all skied down it, and were proud of ourselves at having accomplished that. We lunched in a sunny patch with a spectacular view of the mountains.
Paulina Lake XC Ski, February 2010
An ambitious trip (with inauspicious beginnings) hits big!
This past Valentines Day, a group of eight students and three trip leaders met at Catlin for an adventure into the snow and wilderness. It started with a drive to Bend over Santiam pass. There was no snow on the road and we were concerned that there would be little snow at Paulina Lake. Fortunately, we were able to score some firewood from a dentist who served lemonade (long story).
We stopped in Bend to rent XC skis, boots, and poles (note for the future: purchase insurance--more later). We drove to Tenmile sno-park, 30 miles south of Bend where we donned our skis and headed off into the snow at around 2:00pm. There were, unfortunately, a great many snowmobilers. The students were not impressed by the snowmobilers.
We skied until near dusk on a fairly difficult trail. Though a couple of students were challenged, most of the skiers were successful, despite relatively heavy packs, and we made a decision nearing sundown about whether to continue. Our namesake was the deciding vote in pushing on, and we made easy mileage to the lake along the groomed trail. Once at the lake, we again had to make way over challenging terrain. Darkness was following and our leaders made a wrong turn and there was some heated debate as to how best to proceed. We turned around and made our way back to the lake where there was easy skiing along the shore. Once the going got difficult again, we decided to make camp in a gorgeous stretch along the frozen shore.
We made an extensive camp with tents, a kitchen, and a fireplace with benches. Food was warm and spirits were high. A few extra jackets and layers were distributed and everybody was warm. We debriefed and, though most lows were about our time on the wrong trail, students were happy. We went to sleep around 11pm with students assuring me that they were warm with hot water bottles, dry clothes, etc.
Monday morning was about 30 degrees and very pretty. It took nearly three hours (!) to pack up camp. We then skied back to the groomed trail and made a push toward the Paulina summit. Students happily self-distributed among like skill levels. There was a very competitve race to the highpoint. The trip leader did not win this race. We then all turned around and raced back down the hill. The trip leader did win this race, though the assistant trip leader believes that it may not have been as fair as she wold have liked.
A long ski down brought us back to the bus where we were once again greeted by the "power sledders." We drove back home over Santiam pass. The students were happy and excited the whole way home. When we got back to campus, we had the whole group help clean up the gear and put materials back in the OP shed. Students were dismissed at 7pm and all went home to warmth and coziness.
So put on a mix tape and watch the slideshow!
Winter Overnight in a Fire Lookout, January, 2010
Arguably too much fun. Dufur. "Power Sledding." Off trail. The Lookout. Group photo. Dumbwaiter. Adventure. Our version of "Power Sledding." Jumping over trees. Or almost. Chopping wood. Fear. Bananachocolatemess. Snowball ambush. "Just Married."
We left Catlin Gabel at 8:30 am. Our original plan to ski in and out was foiled by almost complete lack of snow. We cancelled our rental skis and just walked in our boots. A couple of eager students examined the map (with a questionable degree of success) and decide how we would get there. The initial route took us through some deep snow in the flats near eightmile campground. Once we started up the hillside we beat our way through brush then wandered over to the old growth forest. I think it took less than two hours (with lots of stops) to get all the way up to the lookout.
Once at the lookout we suddenly found ourselves with an entire afternoon to fill, and an egergetic group of kids. We went on an adventure, hugging the ridgeline west of the lookout. Only two of our students had ever chopped wood, which is an abomination that needed remedy. We had a clinic and safety talk about chopping wood. Then we chopped an enormous amount of wood. We spent the rest of the evening playing games and making dinner. Cleanup was a little long and difficult. We prepared a lot of warm water from snow. A lot of warm water.
That night three girls slept on the bed (winner of rock-paper-scissors) and one on the cupboard. Three boys slept on the floor, one on the deck, and one kooky leader slept wonderfully under a tree next to the lookout. It was roomy and warm inside, though our porch-sleeper experienced wind and cold and did not sleep well.
On the second day we had a leisurely breakfast, cleaned the cabin, and headed back to the bus, sneaking up on the third group for a snowball fight. The pictures are good, but somewhat incriminating. Check out the slideshow!
Nowhere can you see the great forests of the Northwest better than from a forest lookout tower. A group of Catlin Gabel students hiked over snow and through the forest to a special place- the lofty perch of the Five Mile Butte lookout in Mt. Hood National Forest. We slept, cooked and played in the lookout for the two days. Late on Saturday night the entire group ventured outside into the darkness and snow for a walk. After half a mile the pronouncement came down from above and it became necessary to build a fire. This was accompished after about an hour of gathering wet sticks, moss, twigs, bark and a tiny bit of dry wood. The next day the group of six students and two leaders enjoyed a pleasant downhill walk back to the bus.
What started out as a cross-country ski trip turned first into a snowshoes trip before finally becoming a backpacking trip, but what a trip it was! We met at Catlin Sunday morning, loaded up the bus and drove to Hood River to rent a few pairs of snowshoes. While in Hood River we ran up what looked (and felt) like thousands of steps to discover a playground before we got back on the bus.
When we arrived at the Billy Bob Sno-Park we distributed group gear and left our little yellow bus, heading up the road towards the Five Mile Butte fire lookout. It was drizzling heavily, and our packs were heavy. We continued up the icy road for a ways before taking a break and munching on candy peach rings.
As we were putting our packs back on, several students proposed the brilliant idea to go straight up the side of the hill to get to the fire tower instead of following the road around to get there. We consulted the map and everyone agreed this was a good idea so we started walking up the muddiest slop imaginable—there were literally rivers of mud flowing down the hillside. Eventually everyone made it to the top, and we celebrated with more peach candy rings before the last push to get to the lookout tower. It was pretty exciting to finally see the tower in the clouds.
We climbed up the narrow, steep stairs and into our lookout tower to start a roaring fire in the wood stove and peel off soggy layers. The tower swayed gently when the wind gusted and the clouds and rain created a very isolated feeling, but it was warm and cozy in our little 15 ft. x 15 ft. room, perched 40 ft. above the ground.
Several of the students stayed down on the ground to start building a giant wall of snow. The rest of the group got settled in the tower. Everyone played an endless, silly game of Uno. Several of the students elected to run around in the snow/rain in just their shorts, which evoked barrels of laughter from everyone.
As the sky grew dark we prepared dinner, which was followed by several rounds of Hide & Seek, made all the more exciting by the dark and the fog. When we finished we found roasting sticks for s’mores and headed back up the tower to savor our dessert and get settled for the night. We sat around in a circle and talked about the day. As the clouds cleared to reveal a blanket of stars, students were lulled to sleep with Edward Abbey’s description of life as a fire lookout ranger.
We awoke to the rosey golden glow of sunrise bathing Mt. Hood in warm light. The skies were clear all around and we could see the broad backs of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier to our north. Who would have guessed we would get a blue bird day after the storm the day before?
We started breakfast and soon the savory smell of frying Spam filled the room, accompanied by fluffy golden pancakes and hot cocoa. Although some of the students were hesitant to try Spam when it plopped out of its can onto the cutting board, most of them boldly stepped outside their comfort zone and sampled the crispy delicacy. And they realized it’s pretty good when you’re roughin’ it.
For our descent we opted for some variety and scenic views and walked down the road. Well, some of us walked and some of us slid down the ice. There were some bumps and bruises earned along the way. At the bottom of the hill we discovered a perfect sledding hill to slide down on the ice before making our way back to our little yellow school bus. A wand on our windshield, left by the Upper Schoolers, greeted us. It felt good to take off our packs and get on the bus. With a twinge of sadness that the trip was over we headed off down the road, back to our families.
Ever Dreamed of having a state park to your self? A bunch of Catlin Gabel students headed down to Central oregon for a weekend of climbing and adventure just after classes ended in December. the weather was surprisingly warm and even sunny for the first day of rock climbing. On the second day while some of the students climbed, the rest opted to take on a massive and competitive scavenger hunt all over the park and beyond. The adult leaders helped the kids come up with some daunting challenges, and the kids added a few surprising challenges of their own.
Our adventurous group left Catlin Saturday morning to go to the lava tubes southeast of Bend and hike at Smith Rock State Park. We drove down the Gorge to get to Bend, and along the way got to see some cowboys moving their herd of cows down the road. After a spectacular drive out of the green forests of the Willamette Valley into the yellow grasslands of Central Oregon, we arrived at our first cave, Boyd Cave. Although many of the caves are closed for bat habitat restoration, we were allowed to go into Boyd Cave. After donning helmets and headlamps, we explored the narrow passageways, expansive rooms, and rocky scrambles of the lava tube. We even turned out all the lights and listened to the profound silence only found in a cave. At the very end of the cave we squeezed into a tiny tunnel before retracing our steps back to daylight.
Upper School Central Oregon Service and Wilderness Kayaking, November 2009
Soaring highs. Frigid lows. Bald eagles fighting in the air. Vultures. Green sheets. A rainbow stretching from one end of the lake to the other. Deer hunting. Service. Roundabouts. Never. To. Be. Forgotten.
Our crew of eight students and two leaders left Catlin a bit after 8am on Friday morning and headed out to Alder Creek Kayak on TOMAHAWK Drive (ominous). They had our ten kayaks and drysuits (more on this marvel of technology later) and PFDs and booties all ready for us on a trailer. We loaded up and, very cautiously, drove toward Bend.
After some interesting student-provided directions that took us in an unusual pattern through some of Bend’s finest roundabouts, we made our way to the Deschutes River Trail for our community service. After a brief safety talk during which we saw glaceirs pass by, we signed four green sheets, carried our tools, took a tour of the trail network, learned some more, talked some more about safety… and then did an incredible amount of trail work before the sun went down.
We drove away from Bend, toward Lake Billy Chinook, stopping to fill up in a Redmond gas station with an absurd collection of “Outdoor Cutlery” (read: big knives!).
We had the whole South Perry Campground to ourselves! Pulling in late on Friday night, we made our basecamp and had the first of many incredible dinners.
Saturday brought us good weather and, we launched our Kayaks, heading out for our first day on the water. The experience was magnificent. A snow-draped Mt. Jefferson served as our beacon to the east and we paddled to a large island in the middle of the placid gorge that is Lake Billy Chinook.
It turns out that the island was host to a huge population of deer which, obviously, needed a good chasing. We set off on our mission, covering the length and breadth of the island, always hot on the trail of our prey. To our surprise, the deer had a navy! The experience of the group chasing a herd of deer across the island was simply unforgettable.
After a night with meteoroligical conditions that left something to be desired, we set out for Sunday’s objective: an assault on the Metolius River. The plan was to make our way on Kayaks as far as possible and then hike upstream toward the headwaters of this incredible river. We made it maybe 100 yards up the river to the first rapid when we realized the impossibility of this plan. Most of us flipped our kayaks over, fell out, and swam--we all laughed at the folly! We paddled home, somehow the joy outweighed the lack of “success” and we took a short hike up to the rim of the lake. Atop an incredible and overhanging cliff, we looked out across an incredible landscape and scoped out Monday’s goal: the highest point in the surrounding landscape—the top of an ancient and exfoliating lava flow.
On Monday we were on a mission to have lunch atop this viewpoint. We went up and up and up, and found an incredible and safe passage to the summit. Atop a pile of rocks, we had the last of our amazing meals together as a group. A snowball fight and some light forestry management were highlights of the descent.
We returned to our bus, secured the kayaks, and headed back to Portland, enjoyably slap-happy after such an amazing trip.
Click on a photo from the gallery below, press "play," and share some of our experience. Enjoy!
In early November six students and two leaders from Catlin Gabel set out to find the last wild steam donkey in the northern Coast Range. The drive from the school took the group over the complex of old logging roads in the Tillamook State Forest that cover the hills above the Salmonberry River. Six students ages 13-17 made up the intrepid group.
Most of the first day was spent learning about the logging history and equipment that shaped the Northwest. A basecamp was set up above the Salmonberry River and a large smoky fire kept the group warm. After a dinner of flaming chicken and multipile pies the group turned in for the night.
The day of the search dawned rainy and a bit chilly. Two miles of hiking brought the party to the Salmonberry River. The search through the dense woods followed shortly thereafter. Using information provided by local historian Merv Johnson, who had visited the donkey in the late 70s, the group combed the steep hills above the river. Brush and sword fern, soaked thoroughly from weeks of rain, was scoured in the quest for the large piece of iron machinery. Shortly after noon the cry of "The burro has landed!" crackled across the two way radios in the party. A mad sprint through the brush followed and soon the poor donkey was surrounded.
The students clambered over the beast and could piece together the history of the huge machine. Back in the 1920s, before the great Tillamook Burn swept through the watershed of the Salmonberry River, these steam powered "yarders" were used to haul logs up and down the steep hillsides to a central location from where trains could take them to the mill. Once a particular operation, or "show," was completed, the machine were hauled through the woods on a wooden sled to the next show. In some cases the machines were just left in the woods. This donkey was built in Seattle, probably during the early part of the last century. It has sat on this forested bench above the Salmonberry River since the day when the loggers walked away from it, many, many years ago.
Venables is also an award-winning author, photographer, and public speaker. He wrote the screenplay for the IMAX movie The Alps and appeared with Conrad Anker and Reinhold Messner in Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure. His books about his mountain adventures have won the Boardman Tasker Prize, the King Albert Medal, and the Grand Award at Banff International Mountain Literature Festival. Venables’s special visit to Portland is the last night of a tour that has taken him to New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, New York, and the Western states. For more about him, visit www.stephenvenables.com.
Catlin Gabel’s outdoor education program focuses on educating the whole student. By providing opportunities for students to face and overcome challenges, learn group living skills, and understand the way the natural world works, the program supplements the academic rigors faced by the individual student. The program broadens the education of both Middle and Upper School students by fostering their self awareness, exposing them to new environments and challenges while providing important leadership opportunities.
The Outdoor Program Recognizes the International Day of Climate Action, October 24, 2009
We did it! The Outdoor Program's first wilderness backpacking trip without the use of a single drop of fuel! We went deep into the heart of the Gorge using human-powered transportation and electric-powered public transit. Hugely rewarding, it was an incredible feat of transportation and logistics...
Our group of eight students and two leaders met on Saturday morning at Catlin and loaded bikes and trailers for our self-supported adventure. We then jumped into the saddle and rode to the Max station, riding a brand-new train east to the third-to-the-last stop. Departing the Max, we biked through Gresham and Troutdale, over the Sandy River, along the Columbia River Historic Highway, over Crown Point, down a thrilling and long hill, eventually making our way to Angel's Rest Trailhead. We locked our bikes and went a la pie up the south side of the Gorge to Angels Rest, one of the most prominent viewpoints in the Gorge. Atop the anvil-shaped rock formation, we unfolded our kits and ran along the rim of the Gorge in the spirit of environmental action and freedom. Enjoying a fantastic sunset, we made an amazing dinner and camped in a primitive campsite, and then returned to Portland on Sunday via the same route we took to the Gorge. Though it wasn't always easy, or convenient, we were given an indelible experience that will not soon be forgotten.
Ultimately this trip was about learning how to make a respectful and appropriate political statement, experiencing a unique sense of hard-earned liberation, and working together as a group toward sustainable living and transport.
Click on a photo from the gallery below, press "play," and share some of our experience. Enjoy!
Outdoor Leadership and Adventure, Fall 2009
The Fall 2009 OLA was a tremendous success! Every Tuesday and Thursday we set out in a little, yellow bus and went out for outdoor challenges, adventures, and personal growth. We will all have great memories of hiking in Forest Park, learning about tents and shelter, canoeing on the Willamette, ecological restoration, maps and navigation, visiting a farm, biking on the Leif Erikson, disc golf, rock climbing, and a forestry hike. Students also participated in a rafting or a backpacking trip! It's amazing to think that we crammed so many adventures into such a short period of time.
Ultimately, OLA is a great opportunity to spend some time learning about the abundance of recreational opportunities in our region, enjoy the outdoors with a great grout of students, devlop personal leadership skills, and learn to work as a group to meet unique challenges.
Please click on a photo, press play, turn on some music (the evolution of rock was en vogue this fall), and watch the slideshow. Enjoy!
After millions of years carving its way northward toward the great Columbia River, the lower forty miles of the Deschutes River finally came to know the paddles of Catlin Gabel students. On a sunny and occassionally warm weekend in October a group of students and leaders travelled from Sherar's Falls all the way to the mighty Columbia.
During the journey the group camped by the river under the stars, cooked its meals on propane stoves, hiked to the top of two nearby peaks, and explored hidden canyons. Take a look at the photos to share in the experience.
On a warm Sunday a group of Catlin gabel students challenged themselves high in the trees of a local Ropes Course. The students learned to try new things that moved them well outside of their comfort zone and brought them together as a group. Take a look at the photos: