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Challenging the vertical faces at Smith Rock

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A sunny weekend in central Oregon

A Complete Descent of Eagle Creek

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 Their day started innocently enough last Friday, going to their usual classes, but for sixteen of Catlin Gabel's finest it ended with an evening ascent to the summit of Chinadere Mountain near Mt. Hood.  From their lofty (and foggy perch) the students began a three day descent of the complete length of Eagle Creek all the way to the Columbia River.  

Along the way the group wandered through ancient Douglas fir and hemlock forests and camped under the stars.  On Saturday a few hours were spent swimming and exploring the joys of Eagle Creek. 


Canyoneering through the old-growth of Opal Creek!

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Deep Water Wading!

A weekend jaunt brought the Catlin Outdoor Program to the Willamette National Forest for two days of camping and canyoneering in the old-growth drainage of Opal Creek.  Donning wetsuits, we descended a three mile section of the creek on Sunday before scrambling up a side creek (and scaling a waterfall or two along the way!) to reach the road above and complete our loop back to the bus.  The copper-rich waters of the creek resulted in the most amazing green-blue water imaginable.  This beautiful water periodically collects in deep pools along the creek, and, since we were following no trail, we had most of the creek to ourselves on this toasty hot July day!  Please enjoy some photos from this adventure.

On the summit of the Middle Sister!

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A wonderful Oregon adventure


An eager and large group of students  set off to climb this 10,045 foot mountain the day after graduation.  The trail was in good shape for the first mile and a half, after which we ran into occasional snow patches (gone two days later) before reaching the river crossing.  We passed two large groups coming out, probably Mazamas, who had turned back on the north face of the peak.  They told us about bad ice conditions.  We noted they had no crampons which would indeed have made the ice an unpleasant host.  The second group had crampons and still reported turning back, so we became a bit concerned.  When the third group told us they had also turned back we began to think of options.  One of the party suggested the southeast ridge as likely being ice free, so that became our chosen route.

The hike in to camp took maybe 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete.  We camped at the first place where the slope begins to level off and the trees thin out, this may have been at 7000 feet or so.  We were able to find a bit of soil to camp on after being in the snow for 2 hours.  (The trail became mostly snow covered half a mile after the river crossing).  That afternoon we did a short snow school before making a dinner and going to bed.

We decided to go for a late start the next day to let the snow soften up a bit, and that worked out really well.  We left camp at 8:45.    We traversed SW up steep slopes and onto the Hayden Glacier where we roped up into four ropes.  We saw one or two crevasses on the crossing and then climbed steeply onto the southeast ride.  The ridge is in beautiful position and the climbing was fun.  The snow was soft and somewhat new, but Cooper kicked step all the way to the top.  We arrived at 1:05 pm- making fairly good time.  Though it was not breezy below, we had some wind at the top which made it quite chilly so we did not linger long.  We descended with some care and enjoyed glissading on steep portions once we were off of the ridge.  The walk back was enjoyable and the kids talked and laughed.  We were back to camp at 3:45 pm, a seven hour round trip. 

Everyone got together for a large debrief at the upper camp and then we were in bed before 9:00 pm.  Next day we hiked out and were to the cars by 10:00 or so.  We enjoyed a not-so-quick lunch in Mill City before arriving in Portland at 3:00 pm.

Biking Backroads from Mt. Hood to Detroit, Oregon!

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A glorious ride through the old growth forests

A wonderful itinerary!  A great group of students. We had Leroy or bus driver take us up to the Skyline Snow park 8 miles past Government Camp.  We packed up and set off, also hauling a Burly bike trailer behind us- each person taking an hour to pull the trailer.  In the trailer we put our group cooking gear and about half the food. 

We followed FS Road 42 south and west to the Little Crater Lake junction.  From here we took a four mile detour to see this remarkable natural spectacle.  The kids were amazed at the artesian fed lake and a few them actually jumped into the 34 degree water (!) but did not stay long.  There were a group of college students from Utah in the area as well.  We had lunch at the nearby campground before returning back up the hill to road 42.

The group biked for another two hours down past Timothy Lake and then up a very long and tiring hill to Summit Lake.  The lake is a mile west of the junction on a gravel road.  It ended up being a perfect spot to spend the afternoon and evening..  The lake is large and shallow and quite warm.  We waded for a while after selecting a nice campsite, then we built a log raft as a group.  Nico and Kallisti did most of the work, but everyone pitched in.  The raft was ready by 5:00 pm and several of us floated around in it.  It was very functional, but also was home to many ants who had called those logs home before we threw them into the lake. 

In the distance we had heard thunder rolling across the mountains for all of the late afternoon and the sky started to cloud over.  We urged everyone to get their shelters set up.  About six pm we glanced over to the lake and saw an odd site- the far end of the lake- just 300 yards away - seem to be embroiled in some sort of tumult involving clouds, wind and water.  It seemed mostly incomprehensible, but after several seconds we alerted the kids that it was about to rain very hard.  The alarm spread through the camp and those who had completed their shelters managed to find refuge from the huge hailstorm that swept into the camp 30 second later.  Hail the size of quarters pounded our site for maybe 10 minutes accompanied by a bit of thunder and lightning.  Eventually it turned to just rain and soon after let up for a pleasant though cloudy evening.  The storm provided a nice incentive for the construction of some very fine shelters that evening and the next.  After a five course dinner we sat around the fire talking about the state of the world.

Pancakes and spam made up our breakfast the next morning and we soon set off at a leisurely pace along FS 42 in a little mist.  The road past this point becomes narrow and unusually beautiful for a paved road through the forest.  In places the pavement has moss along its edges and it travels through legitimate old growth descending down toward the Clackamas River.  The group split into two parties before the big descent – one half taking a gravel alternative that rejoined the main road after five miles.  We enjoyed lunch along the Clackamas then turned south onto FS Road 46 and the long trek to Detroit.  The kids were battle hardened by now and the hills didn’t really seem to bother them.  We made a detour up a gravel road across the Clackamas to visit an active logging operation.  The crew foremen took some time to explain everything to us and demonstrated the high lead operation.  It was the first time any of the kids had seen logging in action.  We found a nice campsite along Cub Creek, south of Sisi Creek where we played cards and enjoyed a large campfire late into the night.

We tried to get an early start the next day for our 1000 foot climb out of the Clackamas watershed and into the Breitenbush.  The cloudy weather was perfect and we reached the pass in a little over an hour.  The downhill ride to Breitenbush was full of joyous screams and unending smiles.  We had lunch at a small group camp before heading further down the hill.  Some of the students took a dunk in the river and shortly thereafter we met Leroy and our bus just east of Detroit.

Steens Mountain Exploration 2012

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"You can't stop looking at the scenery"

Steens Mountain:  Oregon's great landscape

Over a very warm week in July ten students made a long circuit of Steens Mountain and its spectacular features – including a very demanding ascent of Little Indian Gorge on Steens Mountain in one long day. 

The trip began simply enough with a nine hour ride in Catlin’s favorite little bus, #21, down through Bend, over to Burns and south to tiny town of Frenchglen.  Passing along the endless wetlands we saw many unusual and exotic birds.  We drove up the north loop road, stopping at the Kiger Gorge overlook to talk about geology and how the breathtaking landscape was formed.  Overt the crest of the mountain we continued and down the tortuous south loop road to the South Steens campground. 

Half of the students in the group had not been on an Outdoor Program trip before, and four of them had never been backpacking.  It’s hard to tell whether this inexperience led them to underestimate or to overestimate the challenge of the week to come.

We hiked for an hour and a half to the point where Little Indian Creek flows out of its gorge.  Here we put together a serviceable camp and spent the evening, enjoying a dinner of rice and sausage in a sour cream sauce.  We all were aware of the challenge awaiting us on the next day.

 We made an early start, leaving camp by 6:30.  The huge gorge of Little Indian Creek, which was created by glacial scouring over thousands of years, runs in an east-west direction for eight miles before opening on to the plains below. The gorge contains no trails at all, and is home to lush vegetation along the many streams.  It is over 1500 feet deep and several miles wide in the classic U-shaped formation of glacially created gorges.  It lies on the southwestern flank of this great mountain massif.  Its great headwall at its eastern end rises to 9200 feet. 

The very first steps set the tone for the day as walked straight into the thicket of brush that encases the river during much of its length.  We passed some old fence railings scattered along the ground as we worked our way up the hillside so as to avoid the heaviest of the brush.  For several hours we traversed the hillside through painful old sagebrush, willow thickets and dense aspen groves.  The occasional slopes of scree were a relief to our legs and arms that had been scratched so badly in the brush. 

Several of the students had trouble with the heat, and with the exhaustion of the effort.  Our backpacks were quite large- with four days supply of food in them.  Temperatures reached into the mid 90s and we spent a lot of time staying hydrated and resting in the shade provided by the aspen thickets.  It was about 2:00 pm when we stopped for lunch near a cool issue of water we found in one of these thickets.  A restful place it was, but after 45 minutes it was apparent that we needed to press on.  We dove into the brush and beat our way through onto a rocky slope above.  Here we were greeted with our first good view of the headwall-  the steep and rocky slope at the head of the gorge that rises about 1200 feet.  This is where the ancient glacier had done most of its scouring and created a dramatic wall sealing off the gorge at its upper end.  We were able to see a straightforward way to get to the top, much to the relief of some of the students who had recently seen “The North Face” and were imagining the Eiger.

Ascending the headwall took many hours, with progress being slowed by the intense heat and steep terrain.  We reached the top at maybe 4:00 pm, only to see we were not where we hoped to be.  A long traverse north brought us above a band of cliffs, below which we were able, finally, to spot our destination:  Little Wildhorse Lake.  We scrambled down the cliffs, across some snow and staggered into our camp.  I think everyone was genuinely exhausted by the day’s efforts.  The beauty of the spot had a rejuvenating effect, though.  We were next to a small lake, where the water was about 75 degrees.  We waded and ‘swam’ for about an hour.  The views in most directions were essentially unlimited -- for we were at 9000 feet in southeast Oregon.  We could see a haze in the air from fires, apparently, though.  Despite our elevation it remained warm all evening and into the night.

The third day of the trip began with a leisurely breakfast of Spam and oatmeal.  Although we knew that almost the entire remainder of the trip would be downhill, we had one huge challenge ahead of us.  We would need to descend the even-taller headwall of Big Indian Gorge.  And we would have to do so by “feel”, because by approaching the steep face from above we would have no way to look further than perhaps a hundred feet down in our attempt to find the safest way down the 1600 headwall. 

 The initial descent takes you into an extraordinarily pleasant basin streams, patches of snow and wildflowers.  This nice landscape ends abruptly at the edge of the headwall.  With the stunning walls of the gorge surrounding us on three sides (one of ths students called it “the view you never got tired of looking at”) we began the search for a safe way down.  On the far left side a few of the students spotted a grassy slope that appeared to lead most of the way down into the basin.  Getting to the slope would be the challenge.  A few members of the party scrambled down the rocks to see if a safe way could be discerned.  They came back to report that, with some care, it could be done.  Our “care” came in the form of a rope.  We tied secured each member of the party and over a period of two hours successfully and safely deposited each member of the group onto the (steep) grassy slopes below.  We made the remainder of the descent into the huge basin as a group. 

Our first priority was to find a trail – we had heard that one existed in Big Indian Gorge.  We were more than tired of bushwhacking and our scratched and bloodied legs could take little more.  Nevertheless it took an hour of searching to eventually stumble upon the trail.  We hiked another half hour and found a nice campsite next to the river, where we soaked in its cool waters and played cards nearby.

Our fourth day was a gentle hike, in the heat, along Big Indian Creek.  We stopped for a protracted lunch at a good swimming hole before eventually finding our campsite from the first night where Little Indian Creek comes in from its own gorge on the left. The circle was complete!  Smiles all around, a good dinner of beef stroganoff and Middle Eastern Ramen made a perfect evening.  Around the campfire that night we shared our view of the experience, and inducted the three freshmen into the sophomore class. 

The hike back to the patiently waiting bus the next morning took only an hour.  The drive out to Frenchglen was pretty but we were shocked to see the thousands of acres scorched by a range fire north and south of the town during our four day absence.  Th students recovered well from the shock, though, and slept for the next three hours.  We were back in Portland before 5:00 but the amusing antics of ODOT and its closure of I-5 prevented us from reuniting with our families until almost 6:00pm.



Nine amazing 8th grade graduates reach the summit of Mount St. Helens

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Kicking off the summer from the crater rim!

We couldn't have asked for a better day on the mountain!  The wintry weather that had started the month of June dissipated with a gentle wind, and the sun emerged early in the morning on Sunday and would stay with us for the enitre duration of our twelve hour climb.  Nine strong, and excited 8th grade graduates joined David Zonana, Mary Green, and Erin Goodling for this year's annual climb of Mount St. Helens.  Their hard work payed off, as everyone in our group reached the crater rim, where we soaked up the early afternoon sun and looked out to the surrounding Cascade volcanoes.  Mt. Hood, Adams, Rainier, Jefferson, and the craggy Goat Rocks were all exposed and draped in a new layer of late-season snow.  While the snow level was higher than last year's climb, the road to the Climber's Bivouac had not yet melted out, forcing us to start our climb from the Marble Mountain Sno-Park.  This variation on the climbing route - known as the "Worm Flows" - adds an extra one thousand feet of elevation gain and several trail miles to reach the summit.  But that didn't slow down this hearty group!  Another climber on the trail remarked to me, as I was literally running to catch the students in the front, "Is that your group way up there?, they are MOTORING!" 

And motoring, they were!  Marty did not sit down once in the seven hours leading up to the summit, Jacob carried a large snow disk to the top (that, at times, doubled as a sail), Sam neglected to wear anything more than a T-shirt, Hayle was simply having an easy time of it all, and Gregor made himself a commitment that "I am going to climb this mountain!"  The glissading on the way down was nothing short of spectacular, with one glissade chute even leading over a small cornice that resulted in some hang-time!  It was a tremendous effort on everyone's part, and a highly enjoyable day in the sun!  Please enjoy some photos from our adventure and a big thank you to Ian, Ethan, Parsa, Nic, Marty, Jacob, Erin, Mary, Hayle, Gregor, and Sam for making this such an incredible and memorable weekend!  Happy Summer!

Middle Schoolers backpack along the magical Siouxon Creek

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A great weekend outing to wrap up the school year

Nine 6th and 7th grade students joined the two Davids from the Outdoor Program and Sara Dier from the Learning Center on a weekend backpacking trip to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  Nick and Miguel had returned from their 7th grade class trip just hours before we departed for our backpacking adventure on Saturday morning, but that wasn't enough to stop them from joining in on the fun.  Due to a drippy forecast, and trip reports of muddy trails, we moved the destination for this trip away from the original plan of the Tillamook Head Traverse between Seaside and Cannon Beach.  This was a good call, as the trail along the Siouxon Creek is wonderfully maintained, and we harly saw any precipitation at all!

This trip provided the opportunity for many of the students to try out backpacking for the first time, but you could hardly have guessed that that was the case!  Between the class trips and other Outdoor Program offerings throughout the year, all of the student participants had gained significant outdoor experience over the past year, and everyone made the transition from car camping to backpacking without any major hurdles.  We split up group gear, and did a backpacking tutorial - covering packing a backpack, adjusting the straps, proper foot care, and hiking as a group - before heading off down the trail.

The trail descends right off the bat before crossing West creek on a cool log bridge, and proceeds to flatten out once reaching Siouxon Creek.  We stopped at Horseshoe Falls to look at the first of many falls along the trail and to snack on our big bag of trail mix.  Alon proved to be quite good at catching M&Ms after throwing them into the air.  We put the packs back on, and continued along the wooded, Cascade creek.  For its ease of access and beauty, this trail is relatively unknown and we passed many open and inviting campsites before settling in in a wide open spot along the creek.  After setting up camp, we headed back on the trail to a rocky beach that we had passed on the way in.  We explored the creek shore, skipped rocks and had a rock-throwing competition before heading back to camp to cook our pasta dinner.  Some cheesecake and relfections on the day around the fire, rounded out a satisfying day.

Sunday morning started with hot cocoa, oatmeal, and the requisite SPAM.  We packed up our personal gear, but left our tents standing as we explored further upstream to see what we could find.  The trail winds its way up the verdant gorge, at times passing along dramatic precipices, before reaching another crossing of one of the many tributaries to Siouxon Creek.  We crossed the creek on logs, and then explored the rocky shelves that form the rim around the main channel of Siouxon.  We then continued a bit farther to discover a large, and spectacular waterfall.  We messed around in the splash-zone of the falls and filled waterbottles before heading back down the trail.  Multiple rounds of the game "Eagle Eye" were played in a large campsite on the way down the trail, and Marcell was unbeatable as the Eagle. 

After our enjoyable side hike, we made it back to camp and finished breaking down tents before heading back toward the trailhead with our full packs.  Again, there was nary a complaint as we sang and joked our way down the trail.  We stopped for a nice lunch at a viewpoint overlooking another waterfall before powering through the final couple of miles on the trail.  Activity bus 21 was loaded up as we exchanged high-fives after a successful trip.  We were back on campus by 4:30 on Sunday, ready for the final week of classes, and all the more excited for the start of SUMMER!

Thanks for making this trip great, and enjoy some photos from our adventure:

The Secret Places of Oregon

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Real exploration in the high desert of Oregon

An intrepid group of seven girls and two boys spent three days exploring deep inside some of the most remote parts of the state. The drive from Portland took us over Mt. Hood and into Bend.  Further south past La Pine we angled east on Highway 31.  Our first stop was at Hole in the Ground.  We observed the geology of the area, as we did at many of the other sites during the trip.  The crater was bigger than anyone expected.  Some say it is a meteorite crater, but most of the geologists belive it was created by a catastrophic volcanic explosion.  

The next stop was at Fort Rock, AKA Dutch Baby, where we walked up into the crater of the extinct volcano.  The erosion from the waves was evident.    Back in the town of Fort Rock we went to the local museum, which had wonderful outdoor exhibits of genuine homestead houses, churches and places of business.  In the school house we saw that in 1886 the punishment for being late to class was five lashes.

Using supoerior map reading skills we travelled east on some good roads that eventually brought us to the Lost Forest.  We could tell that the dune buggy crowd would soon be occupying the area and the designated sites, so we opted for a camping area at the far eastern end of the forest.  Though this was a designated camping area, the roads were rough and the van had to be driven very carefully.  Our camping area was at the base of some very distinctive rocks- filled with huecos.  Could be a potential climbing area.  

Saturday morning we were up early- about 6:30 am.  We wanted to get over to see the sand dunes before the dune buggies came out.  We largely succeeded and entertained ourselves with rolling down the hills and long distance jumping contests.  From here we drove over to the Fossil Lake area.  We parked the rigs near the gate at the north entrance and walked the old lake bed for about three hours.  Each student found at least a dozen Pleistocene era fossils during their searching.  The day was beautiful.  We drove south to the town of Christmas Valley and had lunch at the golf course.  The rest of the afternoon was spent playing Ultimate Frisbee and golf.  We split into three groups and played a best ball match.  The kids really liked it- even those who had never golfed before.  

The next morning our start was a bit more leisurely.  We were out of camp about 8:30 and made our way via the complex desert road system to Crack in the Ground.  It is quite an attraction and its depths are easily traversed.  We spent a fair amount of time investigating the rock climbing possibilities and decided that next year we should in fact set up some climbs.  The rock is good basalt and the anchors could be juniper trees.

From here we headed north and stopped at the Green Mountain Lookout- a new lookout.  The drive back was long but the conversation was good.  We were in the Catlin parking lot about 5:30 pm.

A sunny weekend at Smith Rock

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Lots of new faces on the rocks

The warmest day of the year greeted this group of enthusiastic Catlin Gabel students.  We all traveled across the mountains in the cheerful yellow school bus, only to be greeted by the remaining population of the state, all hiking and sightseeing at Smith Rock State Park.  No matter.  We soon broke into small groups and scattered ourselves around the various climbing venues within the Park.  Students new to the sport of rock climbing spent Saturday at a basic rock school where they learned about belaying, rappelling, and climbing.  The balance of the group challeneged themselves with climbs ranging from 5.8 to 5.12.  By 8:00 pm everyone was tired enough to board the school bus for a ride into Redmond and a pizza dinner.  The entire group camped at Skull Hollow campground that evening and watched the show from the Lyrid meteor shower.

Sunday was even warmer, and we had six different groups of students and leaders visiting various corners of the park and climbing hard.  The fun ended by 2:00 pm and everyone rode the bus back to portland, singing and watching the scenery roll by.





Three Adventurous Days on the John Day River

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An adventurous group of upper school students joined the Outdoor Program for an incredible three days in the sun on the John Day River in Eastern Oregon.  Over the course of our trip, we floated nearly seventy river miles and completed many side hikes on the second longest undammed river in North America.  On Friday, we met at 6am in the Cabell lot, where we loaded the bus with our personal and group gear for the weekend.  We headed out of the lot by 6:20, and Pat Selman drove us to the put-in in Clarno, OR, taking I-84 and then heading S on Hwy 97 through Shaniko and Antelope.  We met our rafts at the put-in at 10am, and transferred our equipment to dry-bags, coolers and other somewhat waterproof containers.  We were momentarily set back when we realized that the rafts needed much more air in them, and we only had small “wonder” pumps (as in, "I wonder why I brought this lousy pump") to top them off with.  Once we were loaded up, we had a long safety talk before starting down the river.  We put on the river a bit before noon, and started floating in the very swollen river.  There were many other boaters putting-in at Clarno.  Five miles downriver, we pulled out in an eddy to scout Upper and Lower Clarno Rapids, and to eat lunch.  Seth ran the gear boat through a hole in Upper Clarno rapid to see what we could expect with the paddle rafts.  It proved not to be a problem, and after spending some more time scouting, we loaded the paddle rafts and ran the most formidable rapids of the trip without any problem!  There was a lot of splashing and good excitement.  We completed 18 river miles on the first day, and the weather was partly cloudy and beautiful, but we were all getting a bit chilly in the afternoon, as the wind started to kick up.  We found a glorious campsite partway through Basalt Rapid, and set up our camp amongst the large juniper trees and beautiful basalt boulders on the shore.  We hiked up to a rocky outcropping above camp and took in the wild scenery before playing Bacci ball and feasting on a large spaghetti dinner.

Saturday was a big day, complete with two hikes and thirty-three river miles.  The river was pretty docile for this long section of river, but the canyon steepened around us and the scenery was dramatic.  The day started with some exciting waves on the remaining portion of Basalt Rapids, and we floated eighteen miles before stopping for lunch and our first hike.  We stopped at the eastern tip of Horseshoe Bend and ate lunch before hiking up to the saddle where we could see the river on both sides of us.  This was a truly magical place, and the combination of sun, exertion from the hike, and relaxation from the long float created the perfect recipe for a peaceful nap.  A few miles downstream Peter’s boat pulled out at Potlatch Canyon to see a panel of petroglyphs.  Seth’s boat missed the eddy, but pulled out a few eddies downstream.  Peter’s half of the group hiked to the petroglyphs and a side adventure that paid off with the discovery of an old settler’s home that had gone untouched for many years.  David and Seth led the other group up a jeep track that looked as though it would connect with Potlatch Canyon.  The trail passed a pretty spring and exited Buckskin Canyon before following a contour that headed toward Potlatch.  We discovered a full cow skeleton bleached by the sun, and Annika discovered a rattlesnake, up close and personal (complete with a warning rattle!).  The trail toward Potlatch looked long, and it was hot, so we headed back to the boats, and Peter’s boat appeared upstream in a matter of minutes.  The group pushed on and we floated many miles before pulling out at the distinct Hoot Owl Rock - an impressive formation that sits atop a sharp ridge on the canyon and looks like a hunched bird .  We arrived at camp at 6:30pm.  We played Bacci ball, cooked an amazing fajita dinner, baked a cake in the dutch oven, and had group refelection time around the fire before bed.

Sunday, we woke early and snacked on cinnamon rolls before breaking down camp.  We were pushing the boats off shore before 9am, and we had nineteen miles to cover before reaching the take-out at the Cottonwood Bridge.  There is very little whitewater on this stretch of river, and many interested students had the chance to learn how to steer and captain the rafts.  We stopped at Owen’s Plain and hiked up to an old windmill and stone corral in the (relatively!) fertile valley.  We stopped for lunch on a pretty gravel island where a group of Canadian Geese were lounging in the sun.  After lunch, the girls decided to skipper their own boat to the take-out, leaving the boys in the other raft.  We made it to the takeout at the Cottonwood Bridge, and Leroy was there in bus #23 again, and we arrived back at Catlin at 5:15pm, a bit tanner and with a wonderful adventure under our belts!


Ecuador 2012 participants get a jump on the adventure

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Winterim 2012

Team Ecuador 2012 took advantage of the four-day Winterim by taking part in a variety of activities that helped to prepare us for a successful trip in June.  Over the course of the four days, students split into pairs to tackle trip logisitics, learned about Ecuadorian history on Catlin's challenge course, participated in a cultural competency workshop at MercyCorp's Action Center, wathced a docmentary about the environmental and polical tensions in Ecuador's Intag Valley, and completed student-selected research projects on topics relevant to what we will encounter on our global trip this summer.  On top of all these local activities, the group spent two days in the Willamette National Forest on an overnight snowhsoe trip to the Mt. View Shelter. 

The overnight portion was designed to allow the group to bond while gaining experience with living out of a backpack! The snowy but incredible trip offered a hands-on setting to discuss and learn about the skills, physical training, clothing and gear that will be necessary for a successful trip in June.  Thank you to the whole team for making the overnight such a fun outing.

Please enjoy some photos from our week together.  Our Ecuadorian adventure will be here before we know it!

Sailing through the San Juans

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High winds and beautiful weather

After several pre-trip meetings the group seemed well prepared for its epic journey through the San Juans. The weather forecast looked disastrous, so we were all well prepared. (The weather ended up being fantastic really. Maybe 45 minutes of rain in five days. Lots of wind though!) The theme of this week was challenge - and the kids knew they were being challenged in a big way for these five days.

We left the Catlin Gabel parking at 12:15 on Sunday morning with a bus full of kids -  most of them younger and inexperienced in the ways of sailing. We made the trip to Anacortes in about five hours. Sunday evening we walked in to town for some pizza, consumed outside the tiny pizza parlor in a biting wind. Everyone slept soundly that night in their warm boats, though.

Monday saw some brisk winds, and we sailed all the way around Orcas Island and set up camp on Jones Island. The winds were heavy enough that we had the mainsail reefed the whole day.

Tuesday we set out to sail around Shaw island - going clockwise. Our original plan had been to sail up into Canada and around South Pender Island, but the storm that was forecast made us change our minds. We had heavy winds (up to 28 knots) but no storm. One boat, smaller than the others, decided not to make the journey all the way around the island because of the winds and instead tied up at the dock on Shaw Island and did a little shopping run. That night we stayed again at Jones Island, and made a large campfire on the beach.

Wednesday was a busy day. We sailed to the head of Westsound, tied up our boats at the dock, and then walked up to the Helsell farm. We introduced ourselves and then made the hike up to Turtlehead. The view was spectacular. From there we walked down to the lake and did some rowing and wading  We visited the lumber mill, and received a demonstration before visiting the barn and the rope swing. Once back in the boat we sailed south to Spencer’s Spit State Park. That evening we had a campfire on the beach before going to sleep for the night. Each of the students shared their insights from the sailing experience with the group.

Thursday we had a gorgeous sail east across the straits of Rosario and into the Anacortes harbor. The boats were returned essentially intact to Anacortes Yacht Charters, but the students seemed to have been greatly affected by the experience.

Catlin Gabel's Eyrie Challenge Course

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Team building, risk-taking, and discovery

From the Winter 2011-12 Caller

By David Reich ’80, Challenge Course Manager

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


Middle Schoolers Climb in the Central Oregon Sun

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With spring teasing us in Portland, a group of middle school students and the Catlin outdoor program loaded up faithful bus #21 (back from a hiatus in the bus shop - thanks, Bubba!) to seek out some more dependable sun. Our destination: Central Oregon. Our goal: find some beautiful rock faces to climb! Upper School student Chris Reimann joined the middle school group to share some of his passion and knowledge about the sport of rock climbing.

Arriving at Smith Rock State Park, we were greeted by the very sun that we were out to find. This was the kind of sun that actually warms you when it hits your skin, and even the light wind was warm. We hiked down into the Crooked River canyon and hiked past all of the other climbers, packed into the dihedrals area. We marched past the hanging ropes and calls of fellow climber on the Phoenix Wall, and rounded the Southern Point of the magnificent Smith Rock group. Our hike ended at the base of the Waterfall Slab, where we set up for the day.  A basic rock lesson reinforced some of the fundamentals of the sport: fastening a harness, tying figure-8 follow-through knots, safety checks, and climbing commands. The rest of the day was filled with climbing laps on the Waterfall Slab and throwing rocks into the Crooked River. The late afternoon sun ignited the rock faces of the park as we made the final hike back to the bus (see above photo).

Sunday started with the frying of two cans of Spam over a homemade rocket stove, and Alon tasted the wonderful canned pork-product for the first time. We then headed out Cascade Lakes HIghway to the secret climbing spot of Meadow Camp. It was snowing when we arrived at the trailhead, and wind from the frozen peaks was funneling down the Deschutes River valley and the back of our necks. Nonetheless, we headed to the short cliffs just above the river to see what we would find. We were rewarded, as the sun broke through the gray and dried the rock around us. We climbed a series of "crack climbs," played some games of "camo," hiked along the river, and ate lunch in the sun before pushing ourselves to do one final climb each in the early afternoon. It was a fabulous weekend with a great group of people. I am grateful that we all had the opportunity to spend that kind of quality time together in the energizing, educational and inspiring landscapes of Central Oregon. Please enjoy some photos from our trip.

Skiing the Backcountry of Mt. Hood

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There were a few falls

It seems as though it should be easy, just skiing down the hill from Timberline Lodge to Huckleberry Inn. Twice as easy if you do it two times. Skiing on Nordic skis is different than skiing on downhill skis, and for most of the students on the trip it was a very new experience. But everyone made it down the Glade Trail, and most were clamoring for more at the end of the day. After a quality meal at the Zigzag Inn the group of ten students and three adult leaders went to sleep in their various rooms at the Huckleberry Inn. Sunday saw the group heading over to Bennett Pass after an unecessarily greasy breakfast at the Huckleberry Inn. The weather was beautiful--not a cloud in the sky. The snow conditions were icy and maybe not that forgiving. The students, though, built on the skills they had acquired on Saturday and, for the most part, were able to remain in the upright position while skiing. The "Terrible Traverse" was indeed a problem. The route was a long one and covered eight miles, ending up way down at the Pocket Creek snow park. Everyone was tired and smiling at the end of the trek. A deep sense of satisfaction pervaded the group.






Winter Camping in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

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Yes, my friends...that is a homemade igloo, lit up under the clear night's sky by the eleven headlamps of our incredible group.

Due to a forecast for over two feet of fresh (but unstable) snow up on Mt. Rainier, we made a last minute change to our itinerary and headed up to the Trout Lake area at the base of Mt. Adams.  With the goal getting into the backcountry, and avoiding the presence of snowmobilers, we headed to the more obscure Snow King Sno-Park, donned our snowshoes and tromped up the unplowed road before turning off into the woods and meadows of the area.  Each spot looked better than the next as we scoured the landscape for a prime spot to build our winter camp.  We settled on a beautiful meadow and tucked our bags in the tree wells so that we could roll up our sleeves and start putting in the hours of work that would be required to build a snow empire.  Mike Wilson had brought his igloo maker, and the so-called "ICE BOX" was put into motion as we built a 12-foot diameter igloo from the ground up.  Meanwhile, our kitchen area was excavated and tents were erected.  The snow stopped for the evening, and that the stars came out in force.  All eleven us packed into the igloo for a spaghetti dinner before we started a campfire outside in the snow. 

We filled Sunday with an off-trail snowshoe excursion up to the top of a nearby butte, snowball fights, sweetened condensed milk (poured on every food item we had - winter camping requires high calorie input!), and burgers in the friendly cafe in Trout Lake before rolling back into Catlin.

Here are some photos from one of the program's classic winter trips.  Enjoy.

6th Grade Exploration of the Columbia River Gorge

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Water is a necessary ingredient for the verdant landscapes of the western Columbia River Gorge.  A group of intrepid 6th graders joined the Outdoor Program for a day of winter hiking, and water is what we found!  In our waterbottles, in the nearly dozen waterfalls we passed, in the form of snow on the side of the trail, dripping from the abundant mosses, and falling from the sky!  We didn't let a wet, Oregon storm stop us from completing the beautiful Triple Falls and Wahclella Falls hikes.  We ate lunch beside a raging creek, and warmed up with a whipped cream-topped cup of hot cocoa in Cascade Locks before heading back to Catlin.  Please enjoy some photos from our trip.

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

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Light, perfect powder blanketed the flanks of Mt. Hood as the small school bus headed up to the Skyline Sno-Park for an overnight trip to an old, abandoned fire lookout.  Our group of seven middle school students and two leaders donned cross-country skis and glided up an un-plowed road before turning up Clear Lake Butte for a steep, but rewarding climb up to the fire lookout.  The learning curve for skiing is steep, but the Catlin middle schoolers picked up the technique with surprising speed.  As we climbed, the clouds that had deposited the beautiful new snow started to part and we enjoyed filtered sun through the trees at each of our rest breaks.  Skiing with a backpack is a significant challenge, and we all welcomed the sight of the 40 foot lookout tower.  A wood stove and panoramic views awaited us up above! 

We melted snow for tea water, stoked the stove, and prepared a large pasta dinner to enjoy by the fire.  Our cookie-baking experiment on the woodstove proved to be only somewhat successful, if you count appearances for something.  Nevertheless, they were delicious!  An elaborate pulley system outside of the lookout allowed us to raise snow (to melt for water) and firewood up to the cabin, and also allowed us to lower backpacks and large items.

Everyone enjoyed each other's company, and we were all happy to see the long-awaited snow.  You couldn't help but feel deeply relaxed in the cozy lookout.  An egg breakfast, warm-up ski and a snowball fight started the next morning.  After enjoying ourselves at the lookout, we put our (lighter!) packs on and started the ski back down to the bus.  There was some requisite falling and flailing, but everyone did extraordinarily well.  Many first-time skiiers reported that they couldn't wait to try it again in the near future.  We had a wonderful trip.  Please enjoy some photos from this overnight adventure.