Service and Kayaking

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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!