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MS Smith Rock Climbing: April 2007

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Middle School Smith Rock Climbing: April 14-15, 2007

Check back soon for a trip report!

Smith Rock Climbing Adventure, April 2007

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Students from Catlin Gabel School made the journey across the mountains to the fairer weather of Central Oregon over the weekend of April 21-22. It took about three hours to get there in the cozy yellow bus we call "Melinda". Once there, we divided into a couple of groups: those going to beginning rock school, and those with climbing experience. The rock school students went to North Point and learned how to belay, move on fixed lines, rappel and climb. The weather was nice, though there were occassional sprinkles - just enough to send other parties home and allow the Catlin Gabel group to assume complete control of Smith Rock State Park. The climbing group didvided into some smaller parties, with some travelling to the west side, some to the dihedrals and some to red wall. Students who are certified as leaders put up routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.10a. That evening after a spirited debate we drove into Redmond for a Mexican style fiesta at a local restaurante.

Then the fun began as the group held a dance in conjunction with another youth climbing group (The Explorer Post) just outside Redmond. The melodic notes of Sir Mix A. Lot (not his given name) and others serenaded the sagebrush of Central Oregon as 35 dance starved students laid their inhibitions aside and expressed themselves in complete honesty. That night we slept the sleep of the pardoned lamb in the Grasslands east of Smith.

On Sunday the group split into five parties. Once again the Park was ours as an early morning shower discouraged lesser climbers. Our groups scurried throughout the rock faces, completing climbs they had only dreamed of. By the end of the day a whole generation of new rock climbers had been created. We trooped up the hill to reboard the yellow rocket and make the journey back to the sedate lives that awaited us in Portland.

John Day River Raft Trip: April 2007

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The after school Outdoor Leadership and Adventure Program offers a rafting trip each term, and this year we went down the 70 mile wilderness stretch of the John Day River. There were nine students and four leaders in three rafts for the big adventure.

On the first day we drove in the bus which we affectionately call "Betty" to the put-in near Clarno. The rafts were waiting for us, and we loaded them and shoved off for the three day adventure. Within an hour we faced the first big challenge: Clarno rapids, a class three challenge that extends over half a mile of river. As a group we scouted the problem for over an hour. One by one our rafts went through gthe foaming whitewater, with each emerging unscathed on the downstream end. From here we continued on our northerly route eventually stopping at a wonderful camping spot after 20 miles of travel. That night we played cards only briefly before going to sleep under the stars.

The weather dawned clear the next morning and we were on the river by 7:45 am. We floated past unique geologic features and watched eagles and osprey fish for their own breakfast. About noon we pulled the rafts over at the apex of Horsethief Bend and made the hike up to the saddle where we could see river wind its way both north and south. The paddling that afterboon was more challenging as we moved against the wind for most of the time. Just around the bend from Owl Rock we pulled the rafts over and settled in at a fine campsite. Some of the students took a hike up to Owl Rock while dinner was being prepared. Again most everyonme slept out under the stars.

On the third day of the trip, Monday, we paddled to Ferry Canyon and pulled the rafts into the marshy area where the stream meets the John Day River. The group took a long and somewhat challenging hike onto the hills above the John Day and overlooking an abandoned ranch. Once back to the rafts we floated north through some mild rapids. The weather stayed perfect and we met the bus at 2:30pm. The drive back was fairly quick, and we laughed and talked over the trip through history we had all just experienced.

Deschutes River Rafting: April 28-30, 2007

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Comforting Promises:

Deschutes River Rafting Trip Report

by Zanny, Grade 9

The rafting trip was an exciting journey filled with memorable moments. After an antsy bus ride, the twelve of us were finally ready to be suited up, booties and all. We learned the basic commands of the raft- all forward, all back, left back, right back, and even “high side” if the raft is at risk of flipping.

The first and second day of the trip we were all catching on, and becoming oriented with the river. We made a lot of snack breaks and had plenty of time when we were not paddling to just soak in the beauty around us- the red-winged black birds and column basalt. The raft group I was a part of definitely bonded, although not all of us were friends at the beginning of the trip. We played games on the raft, and told group stories, switching off every word. All of us even got a chance to guide the raft ourselves, shouting commands (in a friendly way of course!) to the crew based on the current and bends of the river. It was quite an experience to be such a leading figure and to be depended on to use your sense of judgment of how to maneuver the raft.

On the third day, we all walked with small strides apprehensively towards the scouting point for the infamous rapid, “Oak Springs”. The guides explained to us, pointing to the different sections of the river, all the possible ways of going down the rapid. First, on the left, there were a few very big waves to go over then a small slide. On the right side the raft would just go straight down a huge water slide into a hole, which to most of us, looked like a great place to potentially flip over. To make matters worse, rocks encompassed both sides, right and left. These rocks were not pleasantly smooth river rocks, but rather rocks that common rafters called “cheese graters”. The two raft groups then split up to discuss which route they wanted to guide their raft down.

The group I was a part of unanimously agreed on which side was the most intense- the right side. Whether or not we actually wanted to go down the right side was another story. While a couple of people were intent upon having an epic run at the right and risky side, others were a bit more reluctant. Exclamations along the lines of, “I want to live to see my wedding day!” were being made followed by comforting promises like “I promise that if we flip I will at least try to swim after you”.

Finally, we came to a consensus: we would go down the right side. ALL BACK. We shakily pulled out of the viewing point, one crew member decided to tie a loose shirt around his head, making him look even more intense. ALL FORWARD. Our crew, shouting sharply at each other to paddle well in order to assure everyone a safe ride, also let out some loving remarks to one another like “no matter what happens, you’ve been a great friend.” RIGHT BACK. After a short little dip and bump and a minor spray of water, we had conquered our enemy: Oak Springs. That rapid may have battled our mental limits, but we won the war, and it was a fun ride down too!

Evenings were filled with good times; night hikes along railroad tracks, bocce ball, improv stir-fry, president (card game), and campfires (without the fire due to fire laws). All and all, rafting was challenging, tiring, and a lot of us were exposed to new things, but there were also countless good times. One thing is for sure; we could all agree that the Deschutes rafting was a wonderful trip!

Board retreat sets stage for next few years

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by Lark Palma, head of school

The board of trustees and administrative leadership are participating in a two-day planning retreat on April 13 and 14. The retreat provides an opportunity to clarify Catlin Gabel’s priorities and re-commit to innovation, diversity, and progressive education. The retreat is not a replication of the Imagine 2020 work. Rather, coming together for two days provides a way to make sure we are all on the same page with respect to how we move forward. Initiatives, strategic directions, and a five-year plan have already been laid out. The next steps involve prioritizing.

The board and administrative leadership must engage in philosophical discussion so that each person has a big-picture perspective and an informed appreciation for the nuances and interdependence of each part of the school. This perspective is essential for informed decision-making and effective governance as we evolve to meet the needs of 21st-century learners.

The trick is to balance our ambition with economic realities. We will wrestle with competing demands and trade-offs. Catlin Gabel must be intentional about our use of resources. We must ask what we should do that will make the most difference to the most students while staying true to important traditions. We must be nimble in meeting the future without forfeiting our legendary strengths. How school looks today is different from how school will look in the future. We must continually assess what we are doing to provide current and future students with the best possible education.

We are asking each trustee and staff member to come to the retreat prepared to explore the areas of the school that are essential to who we are as a community. For example, our baseline assumptions might include small student-teacher ratio, varied and rich educational programs, experiential learning, faculty professional development, and health benefits for employees. Each given carries a price tag. The question we hope to answer is which ideas are so central to Catlin Gabel that they are non-negotiable. In a similar exercise several years ago, the community approached the campus master plan by defining “sacred spaces.” The overwhelming consensus was the paddock and Fir Grove were off limits to building projects.

I am excited to report that Michael Heath, who becomes Upper School head on July 1, has agreed to join us on the retreat. The two-day meeting is a terrific opportunity for Michael to learn about Catlin Gabel in detail and to get to know the trustees and staff members with whom he will work closely.

In order to help retreat participants fully engage, Skip Kotkins, PNAIS and NAIS board member, and CEO of Skyway Luggage, will facilitate our two days together.

To inspire and inform us about recent trends in education we have invited two guest speakers. Peter Cookson, dean of the graduate school of education and counseling at Lewis & Clark College, will talk about education in the future. Meade Thayer, executive director of PNAIS and a former admission director, will address access and affordability in independent schools.

When this group of bright, dedicated people sets the stage for the next few years at Catlin Gabel, rejuvenation is an inevitable outcome. I look forward to continuing this conversation and refining our priorities with faculty-staff, alumni, and parents.

Experiential learning adds value to education

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by Lark Palma, head of school

One hallmark of progressive education at Catlin Gabel is experiential learning. Throughout the year students are engaged in participatory learning both inside and outside the classrooms. In February and March experiential learning takes the form of Winterim in the Upper School, Breakaway in the Middle School, and Experiential Days in the Lower School. In all three divisions students and teachers explore activities outside our normal settings. In the Upper School students plan and lead the Winterim offerings with faculty chaperones. I have written in the past about the tremendous value we place on this aspect of our curriculum. I thought it would be interesting for you to read what our students have to say about experiential learning. I asked seniors, who have recently completed their final Winterims, to answer a few questions about what they have gained from their experiences. Their answers have been edited for length and clarity.

How have Experiential Days, Breakaway, and Winterim added value to your education?

Peter Hatch (Catlin Gabel lifer): Experiential learning has added a lot to my education. Looking back, the times devoted to experiential learning (along with activities with similar formats, like class trips) have been the true highlights of my Catlin experience. These times have allowed me to interact with and get to know students and teachers I hadn’t previously known, and interact with people I already knew on a wholly different level.

Hannah Carr (Catlin Gabel lifer): Every trip I have been on has given me a fresh look about something I never knew about. I can still remember an Experiential Days about horses and watching a horse give birth.

Katie Meyers (Catlin Gabel since 9th grade): Winterim is a delight. Because they are student run (in the Upper School), they change every year, and you never know what is going to happen from year to year. It’s a nice break from the classroom and gives us a chance to learn a new skill in a hands-on manner. Because of Winterim I learned about investing in stocks vs. real estate, how to fuse glass, what makes British comedy funny, and the history behind Texan culture. Education shouldn’t only be about memorizing textbooks, it should be about creating a well-rounded individual, and Winterim allows that to happen.

Ethan Tucker (Catlin Gabel lifer): They have been an integral part of learning outside the classroom.

What was your favorite Experiential Days, Breakaway, or Winterim? Why?

Cam McClure (Catlin Gabel since 9th grade): This was by far my favorite Winterim. I worked with a friend (Alix Vollum) to create a Winterim where we drank tea, learned tango, and knitted or crocheted. It was very mellow and we had a good mix of ages.

Andrea “Andy” Moerer (Catlin Gabel lifer): My favorite Winterim was the California College Search one because it really looked good on my college applications that I had already visited a lot of the colleges I applied to.

Rob Kaye (Catlin Gabel lifer): Flying to the Coast in 5th grade. Led by a parent and a teacher, we flew in a helicopter and then flew in a plane to the Oregon Coast. All that awesome plane stuff in 5th grade made it the best, and also the amount of freedom we had in exploring the Tillamook Air Museum. And a 2nd grader actually got to fly the helicopter.

Peter: I think my favorites have been the two whitewater rafting trips, in 7th and 9th grades. Both trips had about the same format (we even ran the same rivers) so returning to the experience in 9th grade was a lot of fun. I also loved the chance to get into the outdoors, and try something that I probably would not have wanted to do, or been able to afford, if the program had not come through school.

Katie: My favorite Winterim is a toss-up between Glass Fusion and Everything’s Bigger in Texas. I not only became closer with my peers on the “Glass” Winterim, but I met teachers in other parts of the school that I wouldn’t have otherwise been acquainted with. “Texas” was a blast because it was my last Winterim and the group was fantastic. We visited the Alamo and a mission outside of San Antonio, as well as a slew of museums to learn about the Spanish influence on Texas.

Ethan: My favorite was Habitat For Humanity because it allows students to learn a valuable skill while giving back to the community.

What was your least favorite Experiential Days, Breakaway, or Winterim? Why?

Cam: My least favorite Winterim was the one I chose based on friends rather than activity. Bad idea!

Andy: My least favorite Winterim was my freshman year because we were supposed to make a magazine, but all we did was go shopping and see movies.

Peter: I have had pretty good luck. Of course some were better than others, but I can’t recall a time when I have come away with an overall negative impression.

Hannah: My least favorite Breakaway was a cooking one. Although I did enjoy the cooking aspect, I learned that you couldn’t simply cook for three days straight and still keep an interest. However, I really liked one of the cooking classes we went to.

Cody Snell (Catlin Gabel since 6th grade): Writing at the beach; not enough activities.

Have you tried something new during Experiential Days, Breakaway, or Winterim that you continue to do or would like to do again?

Peter: Yes, I’d say the best example is probably a writing Breakaway in the Columbia Gorge in 6th grade. Although I had been interested in writing, I think that this really did a lot to encourage my fledgling interests into something I really prided myself in.

Hannah: My freshman year I did a glass fusion Winterim that I liked a lot. Although right now I don’t have time to continue making glass, I think in the future I would do it again. I loved being able to take something home that I had made and show it off to my parents.

Ethan: For Habitat for Humanity I have learned construction skills, and I am considering doing a project for AmeriCorps through Habitat.

Rob: White water rafting. I did rafting Breakaways twice, and then a Winterim. That summer I convinced my family to rent a guide and raft and do a day trip on the Deschutes. Great experience and introduced me to something new.

Were you ever assigned to an Experiential Days, Breakaway, or Winterim course that you expected to dislike and ended up liking? What were the reasons for your shift in attitude?

Peter: I wasn’t really looking forward to this year’s Exploring Portland’s Green Scene Winterim. It was much more interesting and informative than I had expected.

Ethan: Yes, sophomore year, my Habitat for Humanity Winterim didn’t sound like much fun, but I needed community service hours. I learned so much and had such a great group of leaders and upperclassmen that my opinion turned around quickly.

Cody: No, I always correctly predicted whether I would like a trip or not.

Do you have any advice for underclassmen about Experiential Days, Breakaway, or Winterim

Ethan: Pick something that you want to do and you think will be rewarding. Signing up with friends is nice, but meeting new people and making new connections is worth a few days without your best friends. Also, don’t hesitate to sign up for a Winterim that requires you to put some work into it. I have found that actually making a difference during Winterim is much better than having everything provided for you.

Cam: Create your own! If there’s something you’re interested in but can’t usually find the time to devote to it, Winterim is the perfect chance to concentrate on the activity and introduce new people to it!

Cody: This is one of the best ways to meet new people. Don’t sign up for an Experiential Days, Breakaway, or Winterim just because your friends are on it.

Katie: They shouldn’t be afraid to sign up for a Winterim that they are interested in, even if none of their friends sign up for it. You meet new people and have fun, even if you didn’t think you were going to. Also, don’t be afraid to create a Winterim. Students making Winterims out of a single idea or concept that they want to pursue is the heart of Winterim.

Middle and Lower School students and teachers look forward to Breakaway and Experiential Days in March. Among the varied Middle School offerings are trips to explore history and museums in Washington, D.C., art in New York City, sailing in Puget Sound, and theater at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Closer to home students can study dance, take cooking classes, and explore wood, steel, and stone sculpture. Lower School students can choose from trips to Eastern Oregon for fossil hunting or Mt. Bachelor for first-time skiers, or explore the wide world through photography, immersion into Japanese culture, or imagination-expanding fairy and gnome hunting in Portland’s parks and green spaces.

Catlin Gabel is committed to experiential learning. As we move forward, we are exploring ways in which experiential learning can dovetail with the global education and sustainability initiatives identified by Imagine 2020.

Thank you teachers, students, and parents for organizing and supporting experiential education opportunities. Learning by doing is always worthwhile.

Ghosts of the Coast: February 2007

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Ghosts of the Coast: February 25-26, 2007

Close Encounters, as told by Nathan (7th grade)

It was my first time on an outdoor trip. Even on the bus to the coast, we were getting to know each other. Card games dominated the day. We stopped at Tillamook cheese factory, and got some ice cream. Now, you may be thinking “wait, isn’t it supposed to be an outdoor trip? As in not sitting around eating ice cream?” As it turns out, at our next stop, a sand spit, we got right into the spirit of the trip.

When we got off the bus, Aiyana took us to a sandy spot, and told us the history of the beach. This is where we learned about the ghost part of the trip. Apparently, there used to be a town on the spit, which got washed away. The point is, we were standing on a ghost town. The funny thing was, there was no trace of a town or anything.

A short hike later, and we were on a completely deserted beach. Somehow, we got into that classic game, the one where you run from the oncoming tide, but then you remember you’re in Oregon, and it’s really cold water. We were being ourselves and getting really close. The tide seemed to come further in than anyone was used to. One unfortunate person, Talbot, happened to bend down as a new wave came. She stood up just in time to see the wave. She started to run, tripped, and fell into very very cold water. The person closest to her, me, went to fish her out. I am happy to say, that I went through both sets of clothes that day.

These trips are awesome and I recommend that you go on them. Everyone gets to know each other and it’s the most fun I’ve had on a camping trip. Just remember, always come prepared.

"This is great---no crowds!"

looking for agates
"This came down a river?!?"
"Hmm..." (entrance to the tunnel at Oceanside)
"What on earth? Where...?"
we emerge

"What if we got stranded and had to spend the night in here?"
the return--across the abyss

fun with kelp!
"Hmm...what could we do with this?"

Speed-mania! Faster!

"preparing" dinner
inside our cozy warm yurt (1 of 2)


(can we say "stinky"?)
shiny new metal
after a stormy night, hail. Lots of hail.
our homes away from homes

trees in line on a nurse log

holding down the tip of Cape Lookout
looking back towards the campground and Netarts Bay
"what, do I have mud on my face?"
squish squashing our way back

it is a looong ways down
among giants
the crew

Sailing in the San Juan Islands

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Andrew guides the boat through the San Juan islands of Washington
Trimming the sails

Sailing in the San Juans

By Stephanie

We arrived at Catlin Gabel about six in the morning; to go to the San Juans for the experience of a lifetime. With sleep in our eyes, seven other students, the two adults and myself loaded the bus with the clothing and food that we would use to survive at sea. There were plenty of fruits and vegetables to fight off the scurvy. As we strapped ourselves in I had no idea how much fun was headed my way. Five short hours had passed and we pulled into the yacht charters. After a short orientation, we boarded the Double Eagle, our home for the next five days. We began to settle in, picking our beds, storing our food in cabinets and learning the ins and outs of the boat. That same day we got an alert that there were gale warnings, meaning the wind was too dangerous to sail in. The disappointment of not being able to sail soon ended when we began to play nautically themed games and started to get to know one another. Still docked, we left the boat for some pizza and dessert. After we got back on the boat we sat down for a movie before bed. We watched “Master and Commander”, which improved our knowledge of life at sea. About ten-thirty we laid down to rest for the next day.

That next morning I woke to the smell of spam and French toast. Never having spam before and hearing unpromising things, I was a little nervous about eating it. When it touched my lips, I knew I would be waking up each morning hoping for a few good pieces of spam. As the clock struck twelve (eight bells) he wind dropped and we were ready to sail. We put on our gear and climbed to the top level of the boat. We motored out of the dock and were finally at sea. Our hearts began to race as the skipper called out commands, “tighten the jib.” and “prepare to tack.” Not knowing what any of these things meant we followed the directions and eventually learned what we needed to know to sail a boat. We pulled into our next destination, anchored in the water and jumped into the dingy to explore the island. On land we climbed in caves and explored the beach. We lost light quickly and headed back to the boat. We prepared for dinner and played our favorite card game around the table. Hungry from a full day of sailing we scarfed down a plate of lasagna and watched a movie about sailing. As thoughts of sailing raced through our heads we climbed into bed for another good night’s sleep. Waking at seven the next I was ready to sail. We got off to an earlier start and raised the anchor around nine in the morning. That day was packed with excitement as we sailed through a pod of harbor porpoises. There were 80 to 100 of them. They jumped out of the water and swam around our boat. While sailing we saw two bald eagles together – just like our boat’s name - and many other birds. When we came to the next island we lowered the anchor and hopped in the dingy to go play ultimate Frisbee on the beach. When we got tired and cold we returned to the ship and played a relaxing game of cards. After we had warmed up and finished dinner, we went back to the island for a bonfire. As a group we shared the highs and low of our trip and spent time with each other around the fire. Growing tired we put out the fire and headed to our ship for bed. That next day we rose to watch the sunrise out over the water. We arrived at the island around one pm and gathered our gear for rock climbing. As we reached the island we hopped out of the dingy and began to hike a steep rocky trail to the rock face we would be climbing. As I climbed into my harness and put on my helmet I began to feel nervous. I approached the rocks and they felt cold on my palms. I began to climb. Knowing that I was so far from the ground my heart raced as I neared the top. When I was coming down the thrill of climbing was overwhelming and I was so happy that I overcame my nerves and climbed. We hiked back down the hill and went back to the boat for another game of cards. Knowing it was our last night we made the most of it by playing all of our favorite games and enjoying the company of everyone. Late that night we went to bed. As the boat rocked us to sleep we recalled all of our adventures on the trip. The rain fell hard that night, leaving us a wet boat to sail back to the yacht charters where our journey had started. We cleaned the ship and packed all of our belongings. We pulled into the dock and carried our bags and what was left of the food to the bus. Saying our last goodbye to the Double Eagle we got on the bus and pulled out of the parking lot. The bus ride back was full of laughter and remembering the events that took place when sailing through the San Juan’s.

Looking back on this trip, I realize that opportunities like this don’t always come and I was really lucky to have gone sailing. I learned all about sailing; the terms and how to operate a sail boat. I made friends with people who I would have never thought of talking to. The most important thing I learned on this trip was to take risks and try things that make you feel a little bit uncomfortable. You will probably find that you love doing them, as I did with rock climbing and eating spam! Overall this trip was amazing and if chances like this come again I won’t hesitate to take them.

"This is different than school"
Off of Orcas Island
80 Harbor Porpoises!!
Ten knots in heavy winds
At anchor in Watmough Bight
Frisbee at Spencers Spit State Park
Its good to be out here
Sunset from Sucia Island
Sailing is a good thing
Sucia Island
On Chadwick Hill

Hey, somebody help him!

Upper School campus renovation continues

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by Lark Palma, head of school

In late March we will resume campus construction and continue work on the Upper School facilities. The campus will be enhanced in many ways by the planned remodel of the Dant House, the humanities building, and the science building. The need for renovating these three buildings was identified when the concept of an Upper School village with a central quad was articulated.

The number of Upper School students has increased from approximately 240 in 1994 to 285 today. The increase provides an infusion of new students, allows for greater diversity, and expands our course offerings. We have boosted the number of teaching positions so that class sizes and student-to-teacher ratios have remained constant. Now it is time to complete the building expansions to better serve the curriculum and learners.

The Dant House is Catlin Gabel’s original defining building. Renovating this beloved and historic building will restore the house to its earlier beauty and make the spaces more accessible, useful, and environmentally responsible. Plans include retaining the original woodwork, fireplaces, and other historic features. The office area will be opened up to make it visible from the entrance, and new faculty offices will be created. Some of the walls, fire doors, and open sprinkler pipes that were required by old fire codes will be removed. The original plumbing, which is 60 years old and no longer functions properly, will be replaced. The oil-fired boiler will be retired and the building will be connected to the library’s efficient and environmentally friendly heating system. In fact, underground pipes were laid between the library and the Dant House, as well as the humanities building, in 2002 in preparation for this project. New weatherproof windows will further decrease energy usage.

Legendary Portland architect John Storrs designed the humanities building, which served as the Upper School library for over 30 years. John Storrs’ work, which includes the Oregon College of Art and Craft campus and Salishan resort, is historically significant. The architects and builders involved in previous remodeling projects all agree that the humanities building is a Portland treasure. The remodel will retain the architectural character of the building, while completing the structural transformation it needs to go from a library building to a classroom building. The classrooms will have improved sound insulation, and the learning center will be expanded. The addition of an outdoor deck provides a new outdoor space for the community. Like the Dant House project, the humanities building project includes new windows and a heating system linked by underground pipes to the library’s heating system. This project benefits the Middle School as well as the Upper School because the humanities building houses two Middle School classrooms and the Middle and Upper School learning center.

We are adding a new teaching lab to the west side of the science building. The addition of a new faculty office will create a courtyard linking the math and science buildings. Planned upgrades to the science building include removal of the unattractive and unsuccessful grey accordion partitions. Glass walls that allow for natural light from the central clerestory windows to shine in all the classrooms will replace the partitions. A new exit from the center of the science building will lead to the new math and science courtyard.

Funding for the Dant House, humanities, and science-math remodels comes from the school’s working capital funds and contributions made to the projects.

Making the move

Students and teachers need not move from the math and science buildings this spring. However, the Dant House and humanities building must be vacated before renovations begin. Students, teachers, lockers, and furniture will relocate to one of the indoor tennis courts and temporary trailer classrooms. We elected to start the renovations in spring so they will be complete by the time school opens in the fall. As the spring weather takes hold, the problem of temporarily losing student hang-out space will diminish when kids gravitate to the outdoors.

In order to make time for moving out of the affected buildings and into temporary digs, we are extending spring break only for Upper School students to include Friday, March 23, and Monday, April 2. The teachers will use those two days to move out of their current classrooms and offices and into temporary classrooms and offices. The students did not complain about this schedule alteration when we announced the plan in early January.

We recognize that the temporary disruptions cause some hardship, but our students and teachers have proven themselves resilient time and time again. This year’s seniors will no doubt complain that their final months at Catlin Gabel are disrupted, but I can imagine them at their 10-year reunion remembering the glory of ending their high school careers in temporary classrooms. Surely the class of 2007 understands that others before them withstood campus construction projects so that today’s seniors could benefit from a new Middle School building, a glorious track and field, a remodeled gymnasium, and vastly improved Upper School facilities. By next fall students and teachers will undoubtedly overlook this temporary inconvenience when they move into beautifully remodeled and expanded facilities.

We take every precaution to ensure student safety during construction. Most of the work scheduled for April and May will occur indoors. Exterior work will take place during summer vacation. Construction sites will be tightly fenced. We are working once again with Walsh Construction, which has a proven safety record on our campus. Their crews are particularly respectful of our students and teachers.

Facilities are an important factor in learning. Ambience, relationship with outdoor spaces, and quality of classrooms enhance learning. When we plan for facilities improvements we always look to school founder Ruth Catlin for guidance. In her philosophy statement Miss Catlin included the learning environment as an essential ingredient: “To maintain a school with the most enlightened ideals of healthful, comfortable, cultural, simple and beautiful surroundings.” Our goal is to respect the inspiration of the architects who have come before and the historical memories of alumni while renewing and adapting to meet the needs of emerging generations of students.

MS Snow Adventure: January 2007

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Middle School Snow Adventure: January 14-15, 2007

Eleven Middle Schoolers headed up to Mount Hood for a weekend of fun in the snow. On Sunday we learned how to dig snowcaves, but after discovering there wasnt quite enough snow for it at 4000 elevation, we switched to massive fort-building and snowball fights. A few sledding runs down the hill, some card games, a huge warm dinner, and hang-out time on the bunks rounded out the evening. The next day we packed up, rented snowshoes, and began a hike up the forested slopes of Multipor Mountain. After much struggle, readjustment, and step-kicking, we made it to the summit! The view was magnificent, but the cold wind urged us on, and we began our slip-sliding descent to the base of the mountain.

Cross Country Skiing to Peterson Prairie: January 21-22, 2007

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Cross Country Skiing to Peterson Prairie: January 21-22, 2007

Mt. Adams Cross Country ski trip

By Alix Junior

We departed from Catlin early on Sunday and drove to Peterson Prairie, at the base of Mt. Adams in southern Washington. From the parking lot at the beginning of the trail we skied more or less two miles to the cabin, everything—clothing, sleeping bags, other accoutrements—in our backpacks. Stew graciously hauled the sled loaded with food. The road to the cabin was scenic, slightly uphill, and quiet, interrupted only by the snowmobiles that whirred past us.

The combination of remaining upright and moving forward at the same time proved more difficult than expected. Well, difficult for some of us— those who had skied before, as well as novices who had an innate knack for, it moved with enviable efficiency and grace. Carrying a pack both increased the risk of falling over and made standing up again after the fall near impossible. After the inevitable fall, sitting in the snow with my skis askew, I felt like a turtle weighted down by its shell and unable to turn itself right side up.

At lunchtime we convened at the cabin, our tiny, yellow, three-room home away from home. Afterwards, we skied to and across three or four natural bridges that spanned a gully. Several people climbed into the aforementioned gully, sans skis, and a raucous snowball fight erupted. In an adjacent gully, others built jumps of various sizes. If memory serves correctly, Michal, Rocky, and Conrad managed to ski the jumps and land on their feet at least once. These amazing feats of cross-country downhill ski jumping and perfect landing, however, were not repeated despite our efforts.

Everyone returned to the cabin at sundown to cook dinner, lounge around, melt snow for water, and change into dry clothing. We shared our thoughts on the trip so far, as well as beautiful nature-related moments. We played cards and drank hot chocolate, tea, and coffee (made possible by a coffee filter and sieve contraption to filter out the pine needles and bits of moss) until bedtime.

The second day, we deviated from the main trail and chose instead to ski through untracked snow on our way back to the natural bridges and nearby gully. We brought the sled, and spent the morning skiing and sledding down steep ravines (mostly successful) and off of cornices (decidedly less successful). Somewhat shockingly, no major injuries were sustained. On the trip back to the parking lot we stopped at the Ice Cave, where we made a descent down snow-covered stairs into the chilly cavern. The ice stalactites and stalagmites were eerie but beautiful.

The bus ride home was quintessential: the sun was setting, and we were sleepy and content. That sentiment suits the trip quite well, as the experience left us exhausted and sore, but it was nonetheless rewarding.

Natural Arch Bridge!

The arts thrive - but need better homes

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by Lark Palma, head of school

Let him daily tell or write or sing or dance or act or paint
all that he has seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted. —Priscilla Gabel, founder

I am writing just before winter break when the campus is bustling in many arenas, most particularly in the arts. We celebrate the season with an array of musical, dramatic, and artistic presentations. I am impressed by the devotion of our arts teachers and inspired by our students’ talent. Every time an actor or musician steps on stage, a theater technician cues a sound effect, or an artist exhibits a painting, I know he or she broadens learning beyond the ordinary.

Catlin Gabel celebrates the arts throughout the year. We launch the school year with a faculty–staff art exhibition in the Cabell Center foyer. Faculty and staff representing all divisions and departments, not just the arts, demonstrate their remarkable creativity. Annually, I look forward to seeing my colleagues’ artistic expressions, and I appreciate how they extend themselves to the entire community. It is wonderful for students to see aspects of their teachers they might not otherwise get to know. By sharing our artistic accomplishments with students we model lifelong learning
and creative pursuits.

As the school year continues, students in each division have their opportunity to display artwork in the Cabell Center foyer. The Lower School art exhibition, currently in the Cabell Center, amuses, delights, and awes. The variety of work and depth of beauty is something to behold. Student art is not confined to the Cabell Center. Paintings, drawings, and sculptures can be found all over campus – wooden sculptures in the Middle School, student photography in the Upper School library, displays in the art studios and ceramic studios, murals on classroom walls. Performing arts take center stage during the weeks before winter break. For over six decades the eighth grade’s annual performance of St. George and the Dragon has delighted young and old alike. Upper School students look back and remember the roles they played in years gone by (and are convinced their version had higher production value). The little ones look forward to seeing St. George battle the dragon in a choreographed sword fight and imagine themselves as eighth graders.

The award-winning Upper School choir and instrumentalists inspire us with their power and talent. This winter’s concert celebrating the anniversary of Mozart’s birth was nothing short of breathtaking. Our students’ musical sophistication is phenomenal. The joy and wonder of Revels is reflected in the faces of the children on stage. Each and every first through fifth grader sings and dances, and the older children play instruments. This annual celebration of international music serves to remind us that we are truly educating children for cultural literacy by helping them fall in love with music and movement at an early age.

Throughout the year I am thankful to the artists, actors, and musicians, who pass on their craft to children and young adults. The arts faculty does so much for our students. And they do it in some substandard facilities. Our splendid arts program deserves commensurate facilities. Enhanced and new arts studios are high on our priority list for capital improvements.

With the exception of the beautiful Lower School Art Barn, our art studios are small and lack storage space. As a result, our excellent art curriculum cannot expand beyond current offerings.

Fantastic student work is created daily, but most of us do not see it because we have insufficient display space. The Cabell Center Theater cannot accommodate our numerous drama classes and performances. As a result, at any given time many student actors perform and rehearse in spaces adapted but not completely suitable for theater. Our music classes are taught in classrooms that are old and drafty, or hot, loud, and acoustically unfit. We make do. Celebrate our amazing arts programs. Thank the music, art, and drama teachers for their work. And put your thinking caps on for how we can improve the campus to better serve the budding artist in every child.

MS Waterfall Hike: December 2006

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Middle School Waterfall Hike: December 19, 2006

One brisk Tuesday morning, five middle school students (accompanied by five taller folks) headed out to the Columbia River Gorge. The winds howled past us at Crown Point, the icy mist made the path slippery at Latourell Falls, yet still we continued on. At Horsetail Falls, we hit the trail, crusing past Ponytail Falls, snags, future nurse logs, switchbacks and icicles. After crossing the high bridge over Oneonta Creek, we stopped for lunch, then continued up to Triple Falls. We circled back to the bus, and made a quick stop at Multnomah Falls for some hot chocolate before heading home.

Ochoco Mtns. Backcountry Ski Trip

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Ochoco Mtns Backcountry Ski and Snowshoe Trip

Winterim 2006: Ten students and faculty travelled to the Ochoco Mountains of Oregon and skied through untracked powder in cold conditions.

Winterim 2006: Ten students and faculty travelled to the Ochoco Mountains of Oregon and skied through untracked powder in cold conditions. The group stayed at a warm Forest Service cabin.

Ochoco Mountains ski and snowshoe adventure

Our backcountry skiing winterim began way too early on the morning of February 15th 2006. We loaded the bus, cracked out the Oreos and began our long drive to Prineville Oregon. Ana slept as we ascended Mt. Hood and woke only when we stopped in Welches to rent our skis and snowshoes. The excitement level jumped as we traveled further; the air became nippy and the snow deeper. When we arrived, Ana jumped out of the bus yelling incoherently, as we followed we noticed she was pointing at a cat in this tree. The cat began climbing backwards down the tree and jumped into her arms. We unpacked and got out our skis thinking we could just ski on the road for awhile, we were wrong. As soon as we got to the road we realized that it had just been plowed and we would ruin our skis if we continued, so Greg jumped over the pile of snow on the side of the road and we all followed him because he was the titular head and was supposed to know what he was doing. But he didn’t and we split up because it was a very steep hill and some of us couldn’t get up the hill. Greg and Peter ended up going and getting the bus and we drove up where the snow plow had stopped and got out and started skiing. We stopped at this big hill and a bunch of us climbed up the hill and jumped/rolled down. Then we continued on a bit and drove back to the cabin. We had a fiesta dinner. The next day we went to a snow park and our goal was to ski to some crazy meadow that Peter found on the map. “oh come on guys, its only a couple miles away” but no. We skied for 5 hours and never even made it to the meadow. We went down some really steep hills in the beginning and Peter S., Mandy and Cristin decided to go another way. I cannot tell you what they did, but we continued down the hills into this valley. One of the most memorable moments was when we had come to a log in the path; Ana and Peter decided to just go over but we would have had to wait forever so I started up the hill with Ian, Greg, William and Jack. We made it over the place with the log and Ian went down. I followed him but crashed right into a tree well and was stuck. Jack had made it down by then too and he unhooked his skis and came over to help me out. But William had decided that he was going to come down right where I did too, and he crashed in to the tree and me. Greg then, despite the warnings of Peter and Ana came down too, saying “oh no, I won’t hit them” but he did. So now me, Jack, William and Greg, were smashed up into this tree. It took a while to get unstuck but we continued and crossed a very little frozen creek, and up to a road. We followed the road for what seemed like hours and finally we saw all of the meadow that we would ever see. About ½ a foot by 1 foot through some trees, but none of us I think felt any disappointment because we had come so far. The trek back was pretty hard for me at least, but we kept talking and that talking took my mind off of the physical pain in my legs and well I guess if I could have felt my fingers it would have taken my mind off of that too. We were taking a water/Gatorade break and for some reason talking about Günter (pronounced goon-thur), some weird rock climber I think, when apparently I said “he is so hot” but I swear that I didn’t! Then we continued on the road; Peter got out his GPS and informed us that we could continue 2.5 miles down the road or go up this steep hill right to the bus. Everyone ran up the hill and packed our stuff onto the bus and left to go pick up Mandy, Peter and Cristin. On the way down, Ian got on the radio and yelled “The goose cannot land, the goose cannot land!” but we stopped and picked up our remaining team-members and traveled home. We had soup dinner with grilled cheese sandwiches. The next day we decided to do some snowshoeing because it was our last day to do any snow activities; we went out to some lake and snow-shoed around it but it was so cold and windy that we decided that we needed to do something else and had a snowshoeing Olympics. William amazed everyone by beating Ian and Greg in the front-ways running but he still refuses to do track. Then we went to the cabin and left Mandy, Cristin, and Ana there (because they wanted too) and went out skiing or snowshoeing again. We went up this path and then up off the trail to this really steep hill, which we climbed up and then found this really cool bowl which we (being Ian, Peter, Peter and me, cause we were the only ones with skis) skied down and in. It was really hard both hard to ski down and hard to fall on; but it was probably one of the most fun times I had on the trip. We then continued because Greg was getting a little antsy and was going on without us and went further up the road to this big hill which went down to a little mine we found out later. The only building we could see from the road had was covered with a thick layer of snow and surrounded all the way to the eves with snow. We would have liked to continue on into the woods and ski some more but the sun was beginning to set and so we skied up the hill again and began our decent. Going down that hill was also a lot of fun but that day was the coldest of them all, and my gloves were freezing even with my hands in them. Peter then stopped really suddenly and told Ian to fall over, and so he did and Ian threw himself into the pile of snow on the side of the trail. The snowshoers (I don’t think that is a word) were coming down the trail and Peter yelled to them that Ian had fallen and broken his leg and I started fake crying and we all decided that our best course of action was to build a fire. (If you haven’t gotten it yet, this was all just to see if we could build a fire in the snow) So we gathered things that we thought we would need, including little twigs, dry if possible, and needles, and moss. Jack got out his water-poof matches and after one feeble attempt we got a nice fire going and it was actually quite warm. Then we stood around and talked until the sun was very close to being gone and we skied down the rest of the hill, got on the bus and went home. Then for the final night, we had lasagna of which William had the most. The next day we packed, cleaned and loaded for about 2 hours and drove home. OOH! I forgot to mention that every morning the bus wouldn’t start and so we would have to call Catlin and ask them how to start it. They said that we had to find some cord and plug on the front of the bus and plug it in every night because it was the starter that was just too cold for it to start the bus. So William and I went out after dinner the second night and we (meaning him) stuck his hand in the front of the bus and wiggled it around until we found the plug. Then the bus worked. But on the ride home we played this game that Cristin started where you go around and say animals that start with a certain letter until someone can’t think of one and then we go to the next letter. Jack was probably the most memorable because we would be on ‘p’ or something and he would whisper to Ian, his team member something and Ian would make a funny face and say, “Jack! No wrong letter.” I also forgot to mention our card games every night because those were also a huge part of the trip because we really got to find out about each other. We mostly played caca however hearts became a favorite among many of us and I just have to say that I shot the moon. Then there was a spoons competition, which I won. This trip was a lot of fun, it was my first outdoor trip at Catlin and I don’t think that it could have been any better. The skiing was fun even though I was very sore for the rest of the weekend.

Cross Country Skiing: December 16-17, 2006

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Clumsy Gracefulness

by Julia, Grade 10

At 8 o’clock on Saturday morning, fifteen pairs of sleepy eyes boarded a small yellow bus, each eagerly anticipating a weekend of skiing and bonding. We talked and listened to cheesy road trip music as our surroundings changed from grey puddles to piles of gleaming white snow. Stopping in Sandy for ski gear, many of the members started to awaken, restoring the deep-seated enthusiasm they had when signing up for the trip. My excitement grew steadily during the car ride, and reached a high point when renting the ski gear. I doled out chocolate to those who hadn’t quite realized what was going on yet.

We drove up the mountain until finally we reached our destination. After checking and rechecking for all the necessary (but surprisingly unnecessary) warm layers, we commenced our journey into the wonderful world of cross-country skiing. Ironically, the course we took started with a steep downhill, and as a result of our ignorant confidence many of us had a rocky start. After that, we embarked on a series of gentle rolling hills, and they became quite enjoyable after we mastered the art of standing upright. Each one of us had our own original way of avoiding direct contact with the snow, and many proved faulty. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the beautiful and serene setting with each wobbly glide. After a quick and cold stop for lunch, some of us ventured a bit further while the rest started back to the bus.

After about 5 hours of skiing, the whole group ended up at the bus, tired but satisfied. We looked forward to the warm and luxurious cabin awaiting us. When we arrived, a beautiful cabin welcomed us with open arms, though the power had stopped working. Despite this minor setback, we made the best of it by spending the night enjoying each other’s company, lighting Hanukkah candles (courtesy of Rob Kaye), eating dinner, and playing cards.

We awoke to power once again, and got ready for another day on the mountain. This time, we split our group in two, a beginning group and an intermediate one. Although both groups were to go about the same distance, the intermediate faced steeper and more frequent hills. I decided to go with the intermediate group, which started with a hike up a downhill ski slope. After that, we had another long ski uphill. After defying gravity for what seemed like ages, we finally reached a gratifying downhill slope. I enjoyed the downhill, but looking back I also appreciated the uphill because of the time we had to spend with nature. While trudging up Mount Hood, we were able to gaze at the serenity of the snow and the abundance of trees, a rare occurrence in everyday school life.

After another 5 hours of skiing that day, many of us felt ready to head back down, and after a stop at Joe’s doughnuts, we arrived back at Catlin. The brevity of the trip was nice because it offered only a taste of cross-country skiing, and left me wanting to return to the mountain. I’m sure all of us made great memories on this trip, and all that I learned about cross country skiing and the other people accompanying me will not soon be forgotten.

Teaching what matters

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by Lark Palma, head of school

I recently attended a conference for independent school heads and deans at Harvard University. The conference, “Leading and Managing the Independent School of the Future,” explored how American schools can best deliver relevant teaching and learning.

I was particularly intrigued and gratified by the presentation by David Perkins, senior professor of education at Harvard University, because so much of what he said validated what we do at Catlin Gabel. Armed with a doctorate in mathematics and artificial intelligence from MIT, David Perkins has turned his attention to research and development in teaching and learning for understanding, creativity, problem-solving, and reasoning in the arts, sciences, and everyday life.

David Perkins makes a clear distinction between rote learning for tests and meaningful learning, which he calls knowledge arts. As he describes it, knowledge arts include “communicating strategically, insightfully, and effectively, thinking critically and creatively, and putting school knowledge to work out in what educators sometimes humbly call the ‘real world.’ The knowledge arts bundle together deep reading, compelling writing, strong problem-solving and decision-making, and the strategic and spirited self-management of learning itself, within and across the disciplines.” Sounds like Catlin Gabel, doesn’t it?

He talked about how schools underserve students when they focus on test results and mechanical learning rather than on teaching kids how to think, analyze, and apply their knowledge. He summarizes his appraisal of most American schools by dividing teaching into that which is “taught a lot, but matters not,” and that which is “not taught, but matters a lot.”

The concept of teaching what matters speaks to the national conversation about testing. Catlin Gabel and other progressive schools resist the trend toward teaching that which matters not by eschewing Advanced Placement classes. By definition AP classes teach to the test. After hearing David Perkins, I am more convinced than ever that we are doing what’s best for students by avoiding the rigid AP curriculum.

Last month I wrote a response piece for The Head’s Letter, published by Educational Directions, on this topic. My article was published as an endorsement of a New York Times op-ed piece by Rodney LeBrecque, an educational consultant and former independent school dean at Choate Rosemary Hall and science department head at Milton Academy. Here is my response:

I applaud Rodney LaBrecque’s position on the Advanced Placement examinations. Catlin Gabel School has never taught AP courses, for the reasons Mr. LaBrecque cites. We have always felt that teachers need the freedom to create courses that meet the needs of the students and provide flexibility to make what’s happening now open for investigation. Students take the AP exams – in all subjects available to them – if they want to. Our median grades are 4 and 5.

A strong curriculum that emphasizes thinking skills, information management and interpretation, and that focuses on the skills of a discipline affords a student the necessary preparation for solid collegiate work. And Mr. LaBrecque did not mention that many colleges give their own placement tests in various disciplines.

NAIS and regional independent school associations should band together to take a strong stand against the AP culture. We threaten our own independence by AP-ing and IB-ing to such an extent that we might as well be under the thrall of No Child Left Behind. I do not believe that top students in public or private schools are well served by exam-directed classes: there’s no room for engagement with original ideas, and too much rote memorization.

For many independent schools, teaching beyond AP is a way to compete with other local choices. If we communicate that our curriculum exceeds the AP standard, we can counter AP proponents, while providing something much more substantive for our students.

Swimming upstream is not always easy, which is why I am so proud that Catlin Gabel has been in the vanguard of teaching what matters.


Caving November 2006

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Caving Adventure in the Washington Cascades

Seven students from Middle School and thirteen Upper Schoolers travelled to the remote forests near Trout Lake, Washington to explore lava tubes over the weekend of November 4th and 5th.

Canyoneering in SE Utah's Robbers Roost: November 16-22, 2006

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to Salt Lake City, drive south, over mountains, past canyons, pause to play frisbee in a sleepy town punctuated by the lights of gas stations: Hanksville, Utah. Last outpost of civilization.

Drive dirt roads, dodging kamikaze jack rabbits, park at trailhead. We have arrived.

Wake to brilliant sunrise, mountains, canyons surround. Load all belongings in backpack, repack, repack once more. Tie boots, check map, set off.

Mesa recedes, slickrock appears. Descend step by careful step with the world spread out before you. Eat, rest, cross river, hike on. Our camp is our home.

Explore archways and quicksand. Feast on pasta, made more delicious by hard work. Move to a new camp, wading through the river over again and again. Cold clear nights freeze our boots and reveal stars upon stars.

Rise early, hike, climb, hurry to reach our goal. A darker canyon, narrow and twisting, opens to us. Enter, wiggle, slide, rappel, use caution, exclaim.

This place is ours, we belong to it.

Utah, According to Sam (senior)

After a long day of travel, I quickly fell asleep, and remember mostly a sense of slowly leaving behind all of civilization as we drove further and further into the desert. Long after the sun had set, we stopped to play a night game of Frisbee, eerily illuminated by the harsh lights of a gas station. Finally, after having gingerly guided the vans over miles of dirt road, we found ourselves at the trailhead.

In the morning I had to massage the tip of my nose for five minutes before it felt warm again. For the first time, we could see the desert surrounding us. An enormous mountain range shot up out of the tableland, while in front of us were the canyons. After dividing up the group equipment among the packs, we set off downhill. As we descended down slickrock formations as round and smooth as gigantic popcorn kernels, I noticed that the canyons were a fascinating study in color combinations-- the cliffs rearing above us ranged from rusty to crayon-pink to a glassy black that looked like scorchmarks from a rocket.

The most surreal moment for me came as we turned a corner and found ourselves facing a ridiculously tall, sheer cliff the color of pepto-bismol. Branching off from the main canyon, we hiked a little ways up the side canyon where we planned to set up base camp, and laid our tents and tarps down under the spindly branches of an old tree. The canyon walls leaned in towards us, creating an odd, stadium-like effect.

Since we were hiking up a creekbed, we experienced the entire spectrum- mud that your foot immediately sunk into like iron weights in water, mud that was mostly slippery clay, mud that looked like solid rock but had the consistency of thick chocolate frosting, and this really bizarre mud with a thin pudding-like membrane which slowly stretched under your weight and then broke like a punctured waterbed (we later found out that this was quicksand).

Angel’s Arch was a large circular hole that pierced right through a thin peninsula of canyon wall jutting out like the front of a ship into the canyon. We clambered up through the hole and around what would be the bow of the ship to the top of the rock wall. From here, we could access a strange, globular landscape of tremendous slickrock half-globes.

Once dark had set in we sat down to fix dinner- quesadillas made with three different kinds of cheese. It struck me that almost anything tastes better when you’re cold and hungry. After extensive debate about the days ahead, we decided unanimously to pack up and travel to a new campsite further down the canyon, and then go rappeling from the mesa the next day. I harbored some anxiety about the rappeling-I pictured leaping off some sheer precipice of ungodly height, tethered by a wire-thin cord to a small shrub. But I agreed with the decision, albeit hesitantly.

In the morning we packed up the campsite and headed up the river. We had to cross the Dirty Devil river again, and then immediately cut back across. We continued to switch back and forth like that for a good few hours, at one point hugging a cliff wall to inch along a narrow rock shelf. After a nasty tangle with some quicksand, we ate lunch on a sunny sand bank and made sandwiches.

(more below)

(continued from above)

In a search for a drinking water source, Aiyana and I ventured up a ravine made up of pink so dark it was almost magenta. The rock swirled into itself so fluidly it looked more like liquid than stone. The ravine was punctuated by deep holes big enough to fall into, which collapsed down into blackness like whirlpools. We found only a tiny pool of stagnant water and mud, and returned to the group with the bad news.

We set up tarps and sleeping pads as the sun began to disappear behind the mesa. We began to realize at this point that we had brought a slightly excessive amount of food. I got very excited about the prospects of an elaborate spaghetti dinner, and coerced several others into frying, mixing, and otherwise preparing the dinner.

Our plan for the next day was to trek up to the top of the mesa and then rappel down a narrow side canyon. Upon awaking, we found that our boots had frozen overnight and were impossible to get on. We wrestled with them until everyone had some kind of footwear on. One by one we tied in and scrambled up a steep slope of slickrock, until we had all assembled just below the mesatop. Finally, we reached the flatlands. It was the first time since waking up at the cars that we had been this high. The sun was suddenly unavoidable and unbearable, and we began to shed. We saw for the first time in days evidence of civilization- tire tracks and beer cans. We stopped at the top of the cliff we planned to descend, and it was somewhat difficult to eat lunch with such a clear view of the impending danger.

We tied the rope to what Chris assured me was a secure anchor (it looked more like a pile of boulder loosely stacked on a slope). Then we all walked up to the cliff, roped in, and rappelled. I had been apprehensive, but the actual descent was quite manageable and even fun- there’s a certain James Bond-like quality to it.

The canyon had become very narrow and twisty, and for the next few minutes we noticed a significant drop in temperature as we made our way down the passage. The clay-colored cliff walls bent and curled like smoke, blocking out the sky and enveloping us in their grasp. I’m not sure if the sinister atmosphere I’m describing was something that I noticed at the time, or what I imagined retroactively, in light of the events that took place afterwards.

We had decided to climb down a short cliff while roped in, with Chris and Aiyana acting as our anchors by bracing themselves against the cliff walls while we climbed down. Michael went first, and then Max, both without incident. The rest of us waited in a loose line, chatting and kicking rocks. Suddenly, everyone around me became very silent. I turned to see what they were looking at. A tiny rattlesnake, as big around as my thumb, was curled up a few feet from Chris. Aiyana whispered to us that we should all calmly and quietly climb down as unobtrusively as possible. Any sudden noises or movements might have endangered Chris.

(more below)

(continued from above)

After ten minutes of very quiet rock-climbing, we had all gotten down to the bottom, and we could discuss the event in incredulous tones. Chris’s statement on the event was, in my mind, the most descriptive: “I respected the snake. There was respect, but– also– there was fear of the snake. And the fear was that the snake was going to bite me.”

We hadn’t gone too much further before we hit another obstacle- an impossibly narrow, steep passage of canyon that we would have to slide down feet first if we wanted to get through. Again we waited in line to rope up and make the descent. This time I actually found myself a bit frightened by the experience—the sensation was fairly claustrophobic. I did eventually hit the ground, and then we actually emerged from the narrow canyon! Wonder of wonders! We could see the sunset, as well as actual vegetation and wildlife. It was a beautiful sight.

As we followed the canyon bottom back to camp, we kept encountering gigantic, foul-smelling cow droppings, and it wasn’t long before we encountered their source. A herd of cows was ambling nonchalantly down the trail, and quickly spooked at our approach. After this long day, I was feeling a little under the weather, and was inexplicitly missing my headlamp. As night fell, I resembled a zombie- staggering forward uncertainly with my arms outstretched (to ward off branches) and moaning groggily. When we got to camp, I tore off my boots and immediately fell into bed and went to sleep.

After an intensely pancake-oriented breakfast, we crossed the river one last time and took off up a hill, until we finally reached a dirt road on top of the mesa. We arrived at the cars with hours of daylight left, and enjoyed our first free time in days. Dinner that night was quesadillas and whatever we could dredge up out of our packs. We fell asleep next to the vans secure in the knowledge that the next day would require next to no physical exertion.

Click on the pictures below for a larger version.

Caving November 2006

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Caving Adventure in the Washington Cascades

Seven students from Middle School and thirteen Upper Schoolers travelled to the remote forests near Trout Lake, Washington to explore lava tubes over the weekend of November 4th and 5th.

Central Oregon Service & Rock Climbing: November 18-21, 2006

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We met at 8am, gathered up our belongings. Setting off by bus, we were met by Dave Corkran, alumnus who had worked 25 years ago at the same spot we would. We were joined by a staff member from the Bureau of Land Management in front of the BLM building. Expecting to find a large assortment of gear in our trailer, we were bewildered to only find a couple of shovels. We imagined our attempts at cutting down Juniper trees with those… not good. But Lady Luck was on our side, and Dave Corkran arrived with enough gear and saws for all eleven of us…mostly. On the bus ride to our site, we saw all of the Juniper trees (they covered the hillsides and extended beyond the horizon). If theres one thing we learned this trip, it was that many juniper trees should die. That was the joke anyway. We cut down Juniper trees and cut willow wands to plant, as well as digging an endless amount of weeds and tossing them away only to find them at our feet again when we dug somewhere else. After about three hours, we left and set up camp next in a flood plain. Then we ate dinner (I forgot to bring plates, forks, etc. so I had to eat in a frying pan with a spoon Dave Corkran loaned me), and went to cut wood for a fire. We used our saws to get random dry pieces of wood (we got some pretty big pieces too), and set them on fire ^_^ . Then we went to the flood plain to look at stars.

Day 2:

After cutting junipers for two hours, I feel like I had been running a cross-country race and run out of adrenaline and sugar. I notice something white at the bottom of the river. I set the tree down and approach the object curiously. My shoes stick to the rotting wet ground and slosh their way to my goal. The grass parts like a curtain being pulled aside and reveals a deer skeleton lying on the ground. When we drive away from the site, cars in the on-coming lane of traffic gape at our bus--we had strapped the deer skull to the grill, staring out blankly at the world. After edging closer and closer to the barbed-wire fence, a herd of cows started staring at us. After our final twenty trees, we were so close to the fenced off area with the cows, they started to moo menacingly. Finally, we had lunch—it’s amazing how satisfying a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich can be after working for two hours. We ate on the back of Dave Corkran’s car…good times. We got rid of the evidence of our feast and went back to work. I saw Andrew cutting down a honkin’ sized tree that fill the entire ravine for 30 feet.

Day 3:

We finally got around to going to Smith Rock Monday. Andrew and I hadn’t ever done outside climbing, and Andrew had never done any climbing. We did a bunch of climbs I thought were hard, and it was sunny and warm. It was really fun, and we got a lot of climbing in. After all of our climbing, we went back to camp and slept.

Day 4:

Expecting the same weather, especially because it was sunny and surprisingly warm in the morning, I wore my shorts. Big mistake. When eating breakfast, Peter points out a cloud in the distance. All of us say it’s just a little cloud, but Peter says something like, “just a little cloud? That’s an entire weather system!” He was right. Soon, it spread out across the entire sky, threatening to pour its contents over our heads. Climbing was cold, especially in shorts. Eventually, it warmed up, but only for about an hour at about two o’clock. It was still fun, and though I was too afraid to do multiple pitch climbs (where you climb, anchor yourself to the rock wall, then belay your partner up until you climb the entire face), many people did. I had fun on the smaller climbs, and we left at about three thirty. By the time we got back, darkness had enveloped the Earth.