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Adventures on the Coast with the Outdoor Program
A group of eight middle schoolers joined the outdoor program for a weekend of exploration along the northern Oregon coast. The weather was crisp, clear, and sunny, and the group was able to experience the beach in dramatic fashion. After rolling past the clear cuts and rolling hills of the Coast Range, the group stopped to explore the beautiful Hug Point. Limited by the high tide, and wanting more room to run, we boarded the bus again and headed to the "secret beach" in Oswald West State Park. Accompanied by a group of nearby surfers, we built sand volcanoes, played touch football, and explored tide pools and waterfalls. Tired and chilly, we continued south down the coast and established ourselves in our yurts at Nehalem Bay State Park. We cooked burritos, made a fire, and played some ridiculous games before going to sleep in the comfortable yurts. A team of raccoons came by while we were inside our yurts playing cards, and stole all of our muffins that we had left outside. The heat went out in the girls' yurt, so they bundled up to stay warm through the night. After some cards and a big breakfast, the group headed down to the wide, open beaches of the state park, where we played soccer, jumped off of dunes, and collected shells before getting back on the bus to head back home. The sun joined us for most of the weekend, for which we were grateful! Please enjoy the photos from this beautiful weekend. Until the next adventure!
Saturday: McKay Creek Habitat Restoration
Despite the forecast for some true holiday weather, a dedicated and excited group boarded the activity bus early Saturday morning for what surely was to be a true adventure. Taking advantage of the extra space in the bus, we made sure to bring plenty of warm clothing and lots of extra food. Our exploration of the natural wonders of the state started with a ride through the stunning Columbia River Gorge, which became increasingly dry and the hills more rolling as we moved east. Meeting the junction with highway 197, our bus turned south for a weekend in the central part of the state.
As we arrived on a private 1,000-acre property along the McKay Creek in the Ochoco Mountains, we were greeted by Catlin Gabel alumni Jack Lazar and Kendra Klag, who had driven all the way from Walla Walla, Washington, to join us for the weekend. Garry Sanders, his dog, and a few other members of the Crooked River Watershed Council supplied us with coffee and hot chocolate as they taught us about the history of McKay Creek and the damage that has been done to the drainage through diversion for irrigation. While standing on the banks of the creek, we learned about the removal of the irrigation dams and saw the result of the heavy excavation that the Council has done to return the stream bed to a more natural state while maintaining the ability to divert water for irrigation. The group learned about the modern techniques for stabilizing a riparian habitat, as well as the complexities of balancing the economic, social, and environmental concerns with such a project. The creek looked beautiful, but lacked vegetation. That is where we were to come into play!
Equipped with pickaxes, shovels, polaskis, and clippers, the group began planting native plants along the creek bank. Thanks to our group, multiple species of sedges, willows, cottonwoods, and dogwoods were all given a chance for life in this beautiful corner of the Ochocos. The project wouldn't have been complete without some heavy labor, and the whole group took part in hauling a long, snake-like roll of reeds that had been used to absorb sediment out of the creek. The sun shone on us for most of the afternoon, while the sound of the healthy creek and some light, fragrant smoke from a burning slash pile added to the special setting. We couldn't get over how great it was to be peacefully working outside in such a beautiful place. We wrapped up our work for the day just as the massive autumn moon rose over the tops of the Ochoco Mountains. Thanking Garry and the Council for such a great day, we boarded the bus and headed to our heated yurts in Tumalo State Park.
Sunday: Badlands Wilderness Stewardship
There are few things more beautiful than a light dusting of snow in the high desert, and that is just what the group woke up to as we stepped out of our cozy yurts. Heading to yet another area in Central Oregon, we were joined by Catlin Gabel student Cooper Lazar and David Eddleston, an ex-British army officer who is the director of work projects for the Friends of the Badlands Wilderness (Fobbits). David taught the group about the area's recent designation as a wilderness while also describing the interesting lava formation of the Badlands and the ancient junipers that inhabit it. We were blown away to hear that a core sample of a juniper tree in the area dated the tree over 1,600 years old!
We soon set off the highway, led by David and his GPS through the desolate and beautiful Badlands. Our work for the day involved digging up old signs, removing nails from old fence posts, and excavating a series of huge posts that had at one time supported old cattle gates. We were all struck by how very different this ecosystem was to the area that we had done our plantings in the day before. We had been working in a riparian area, and now we found ourselves in true Oregon desert! Cryptobiotic organisms covered the ashy soil, while sage, juniper, and bunch grass constituted the vegetation of the region. We found some glass bottles and rusted tin cans from a bygone era. Our work involved over four miles of backcountry hiking between various sites, and again the sun was shining for much of the day.
By the end of the day, David Eddleston let us know that not only had we become honorary Fobbits due to our considerable contribution, but we were part of the elite group known as "Snow Fobbits," a designation held only for volunteers that have done work in the Badlands in snowy conditions. After saying our goodbyes, the group headed back to our yurts in Tumalo for an incredible afternoon of cards, bananagrams, and mad libs.
Monday: Central Oregon Exploration
Tired and satisfied from a weekend of fulfilling work, the group decided to hike along the shores of the Deschutes River within the state park before settling into the bus for the long ride back to Portland. Another fresh dusting of snow made the tall Ponderosa pines and volcanic rock even more impressive. The group decided that we weren't ready to stop exploring, so halfway through the drive home we pulled over at White River Falls State Park to observe the impressive, three-tiered waterfall and an old, dilapidated power station. Happy to have stretched our legs, we reboarded the bus for our final push back to school.
We arrived with the satisfaction that we had definitely earned all of the relaxing and eating that we will get to do over the rest of our Thanksgiving break.
Cruising the wide open roads of north central Oregon on a clear November day--what could be better? Eight students and faculty spent Sunday, November 20, bicycling throigh the hills above Maupin. The roads were dry, and the late fall foliage made for a wonderful ride. The cows raised their heads with curiosity but soon returned to their grass consumption as we passed. The group visited the small hamlet of Tygh Valley, and then headed east to White River Falls State Park. Above the dramatic falls we had a nice lunch, and then made the short walk down to the White River.
After lunch the group made the greatest ride in all of Central Oregon as we descended the curving road through the canyons leading toward the Deschutes River. Once near the river we watched the Indians almost fishing from the platforms that hang over Sherar's Falls. The nearly level road along the river took us back to Maupin, where the bus was waiting for us.
Escaping the deluge in Portland, several dozen Catlin Gabel students took a ride over the great mountain to the rock climbing Mecca that is Smith Rock State Park. The sun shone almost all day Saturday as the students learned the basics of rock climbing and then tried their luck at some challenging problems. For dinner that night the group of 47 piled into a legendary (one out of five stars) Mexican restaurant in Redmond. Somehow they managed to accomodate the crowd and serve us all some pretty good food. We headed over to the BLM Grasslands to set up our tents. During the night the rains came, some students got wet, most stayed dry.
Sunday morning saw some wild showers and then a lot of sun while we waited for the battery on the bus to be recharged. No problem there. Once at Smith we hiked down to the climbs in the full sun, only to have some showers pass through once we were on the actual climbs. Oh well. Back on the bus for the ride home and a return just before 6:00 pm.
The Outdoor Leadership and Adventure course, also known as "The Academy," met after school on Friday, October 22, to embark on their most ambitious adventure to date. With gear neatly piled in the bus, the team bounced down an, at times, tight and rutted forest service road out of Government Camp. Night fell, but the group navigated the forest lane and arrived at a rustic campground next to the remote Kinzel Lake. The group prepared and enjoyed chorizo burritos before attempting the difficult task of starting a fire with damp twigs and sticks. Dedication paid off, and after groveling in the dirt, and a little bit of smoke inhalation, the fire took life. It was hard to believe that a few hours before, we were in class back at Catlin.
Saturday morning started with muffins, juice, and hot chocolate. The group assembled the gear that we would need for our journey up to the Devil's Peak Lookout. This, of course, included a backpacking guitar for the musical members of the team. With our bags on our backs for the first time, the group walked around the rim of Kinzel Lake before starting the climb. The forecast had been grim for Saturday, so we were pleased to see the sun peek through the clouds from time to time. The fall colors were in full display as we hiked through the mountain forest. Higher still, the group took a much needed break at a rocky viewpoint that looked out at the heavily forested foothills of Mount Hood. The wind was blowing and Josh serenaded the group with a rendition of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood." The sun added to this great moment.
A short distance later, the Academy gained their first view of the base of Mount Hood itself - the peak hidden in heavy clouds. Two switchbacks later, we arrived at the Devil's Peak Fire Lookout. Beautifully rough around the edges, the old wooden shelter was a welcome addition to our weekend. Andrea lifted the shutters, and we established ourselves in our new spot. A short hike down to another viewpoint offered us opportunity to collect firewood, and, more importantly, to throw rocks into to hats that had been set up as targets. Back at the shelter, the group started an impressive fire outside in a fire pit, and cooked delicious macaroni and cheese. The rain arrived just as the food was finished, and everyone ventured upstairs into the lookout, where the night continued with many more songs and card games. The storm intensified as the Academy turned in for bed. Ten of the fourteen members packed into the shelter while Rachel and Julianne braved the elements in their tent. Sideways rain and ominous wind added to the adventure.
The team woke up to a decision. Do we brave the storm and take a longer hike down Hunchback Mountain, or do we backtrack the way that we came? The rain had turned to snow. It was as though fall had given way to winter overnight. Based on the conditions, the group decided to take the shorter hike back down to the bus. The trail looked completely different having been dusted in snow, and the viewpoints revealed nothing but a white sky. Descending rapidly, the group arrived safely at the bus. Another bumpy ride in the bus took the group closer to civilization.
The academy stopped to enjoy some coffee and glazed old-fashioned donuts at Joe's Donuts in Sandy. A reward for adventuring through an amazing and epic weekend.
Catlin Gabel has recently installed a challenge course where students will have the opportunity to test themselves on a variety of high and low elements. The course is nestled in the woods below the Lower School Art Barn.
Safety issues have been thoroughly vetted and were our top priority in designing and building the course. Professional arborists assure us that the trees used to anchor the course are not at risk of damage.
The course is designed for students ages 10 and over. Use of the course is strictly limited to times when a trained facilitator is on site. Almost two dozen faculty-staff members have taken the extensive professional training sessions required to become facilitators. (See photo.) When a facilitator is not supervising the course, the ropes and cables are secured and inaccessible to passersby.
Every challenge course has its own personality. Catlin Gabel’s facility was constructed with an emphasis on group cooperation and overcoming obstacles. Under the guidance of trained facilitators, groups of students will tackle various challenges that require skill and ingenuity to resolve. The course contains four high elements and seven low elements. Some of the elements can be tailored for use by different age groups. Parent and alumni groups can arrange for challenge course events by e-mailing outdoor education teacher Erin Goodling ’99 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We expect that sports teams, global education groups, departments, and classes will use the challenge course to help set the stage for their work together,” said Peter Green, outdoor education director.
We are very grateful to Andy and Becky Michaels, Oregon Mountain Community, Reed and Tina Wilson, and an anonymous donor for this exciting addition to our program. The challenge course fits right in with Catlin Gabel’s hands-on experiential approach to learning.
Leaving the forecast for a soggy Portland weekend behind, twenty Catlin Gabel students and six adult leaders rolled over the Cascades in Pat's big bus for a homework-free three days on the impressive Deschutes River. The group met their watercraft for the weekend at a bend in the river where the Deschutes snakes through the Warm Springs Reservation.
After boarding the rafts, the group paddled away for what turned out to be a beautifully sunny day filled with swimming, games, otter and great blue heron sightings, and impressive vistas of the dry, rugged beauty of Central Oregon. Friday night, we camped under large Ponderosa pines and learned about the important train route that parallels the river all the way up to the mighty Columbia River.
Day two started with the exciting navigation of Whitehorse Rapids, through which all the Catlin Gabel rafts rode unscathed. Students tried their hand at steering the rafts through more minor rapids and we stopped for a break in a beautiful eddy, complete with jumping rocks. An amazing meal of homemade burritos was a crowning moment to an already incredible day.
The rapids on the third day posed the most formidable challenge to the team, but the students skillfully maneuvered their rafts through the famous Wapinitia, Boxcar, and Oak Springs rapids, among others. Many students decided to abandon their boats and swim through Upper Elevator Rapid, which is also known as "Swimmer's Rapid." After an exciting day of giggling and waves crashing over their heads, the damp Catlin Gabel team boarded Pat's big bus at the Sandy Beach take-out for the final leg of the adventure back to campus. It was an amazing group of people, an amazing trip, and now all we can do is wait for the next outdoor program adventure.
Step away from life in Portland, from the accustomed environment and into a different world--a world dominated by ice and its dramatic impacts. The Elliot Glacier, one of the largest glaciers in Oregon, provided the stage for a large group of Catlin Gabel students this past weekend. The group camped at the scenic Cloud Cap Campground at the end of a long and winding road and high on the forested northern flank of Mt. Hood. On Sunday we awoke early and made the hour + hike up onto the glacier. The effects of glacial recession were all around us as we wound our way among rocks and gravel heading ever upwards to the ice. We set up climbs on the steep walls of the many crevasses and climbed the blue ice as the weather closed in. Fog, clouds and some rain reminded us that we were only visitors in this foreign environment. Following three hours of climbing we began the descent, soon emerging into the blue skies and sunshine of the Columbia Gorge. The hike was pleasant and beautiful. There being no objection, we all stopped for ice cream in Cascade Locks before returning to our individual existences in Portland.
McKenzie River Backpacking And Rafting
A group of nine students and two adult leaders went on an incredible adventure during what may be the last weekend of summer 2010.
We met at 8 a.m. at the school parking lot and loaded our gear into an activity bus and a trailer. We drove through Springfield, stopping for a quick tutorial on high-level frisbee skills. The frisbee only ended up on the roof of the building twice!
We continued up the McKenzie river, pushing the stereo to the max, up to the Paradise put-in, where we stashed Sunday's lunch and got a feel for the terrain.
After some trailhead-finding hijinks, we parked the bus and packed our bags. The rest of the trip was downstream, in a good way. The McKenzie River trail stretched out before us as we made our way through the lush forest. Nobody could believe how clear the water was. We stopped for some competitive stick-racing and snacks, and finally made our way to a riverside campsite, where we enjoyed a fine culinary creation.
Sunday morning was a traditional Spam breakfast, and we high-tailed it back down to Paradise. Funny thing, though, the well-stashed lunch had vanished. So we went on. Maybe we were a little hungry. After a safety and paddling talk we hopped into the rafts and headed downstream. The McKenzie did not disappoint. Plenty of whitewater mixed with some downtime and sunshine was just what the doctor ordered.
At lunch, we all threw together bits and pieces of what we had remaining from the backpacking portion of the trip. An orange. An apple. A handfull of dried pomegranate. Some trail mix. A little bread. Before we knew it, we were staring at an veritable FEAST!!! One of the most satisfying meals in the history of the outdoor program.
After our time of sustainance, we piled back into the rafts and floated down to the bus. Below is a slideshow of our experience.
Caveat Emptor:One of the students accidentally erased all of the pictures on the primary camera. He did this when he fell overboard. When I say "fell," I mean "was pushed." But his life jacket worked!
In the far and remote reaches of northern California lies a hidden gem, filled with glacial cirques, hundreds of waterfalls, alpine meadows and rushing streams. The Trinity Alps were the destination of this year's big backpack trip for Upper Schoolers from Catlin Gabel and other schools in Portland.
We all boarded a small yellow school bus that travelled at impressively slow speeds down interstate five to Redding in California. In the crushing hundred degree heat we turned west and began our ascent into the cool mountains. It might have been 4:00 pm when we parked our trusty vehicle at the Canyon Creek Lakes trailhead and began our hike in. With none of us having been there before we played it by ear, looking for interesting sites and settling on a campsite not far from the river after a three mile hike. During the second day we loaded up our packs and continued north toward our lakes- but wait - we decided that too many other hikers were heading toward those lakes. We instead took a left turn up a steep trail and by early afternoon found ourselves in the beautiful alpine wonderland surrounding Boulder Lakes. We spent the afternoon exploring and playing games among the huge granite and heather wonderland. We tried to count all the waterfalls in view from our camp, but failed. They were uncountable.WE had the huge basin all to ourselves.
On Wednesday we loaded up our summit packs and set off for a climb of nearby Mt. Hilton, one of the highest peaks in the range. It was a long effort, requiring ropes at one point and some careful travel in the snow. The summit was ours alone, except for 50,000 lady bugs. Heading back down to camp was a joy, punctuated by whoops and screams as the students learned the joy of glissading.
We visited Forbidden Lakes the next day (despite the name there were no punitive actions taken against us). About half the group plunged into the icy waters and the other half considered and rejected the idea. The lake was partially covered by ice and snow and lays in a deep chasm in the mountains, perhaps reminiscent of the Nanda Devi sanctuary. The heat eventually got the best of us and we packed up camp and headed down the hill to the firest sanctuaries along Canoyn Creek. The hike out on Friday was quick and painless.
WE DID IT (all of us!)
This climb of Mt. St. Helens was open to graduating 8th graders. The students and their parents came to a pre-trip meeting to discuss the trip, training and equipment—from the beginning, everyone seemed engaged.
For training, the students joined some upper schoolers on a training hike up Dog Mountain in the Columbia Gorge—students were slowed down by conversation, but it was a good opportunity to talk about appropriate clothing and fitness for the climb.
On June 17 we met at Catlin at 10am, packed the bus, and drove up to the trailhead on St. Helens, stopping in Woodland for an adventure in Safeway (team game to find high-quality trash bags). The weather was great and we hiked 1.5 miles to a snowy slope to do “snow school” (kicking steps, self arrest, glissading).
We woke early the morning of June 11 for our summit attempt, hiking over compacted snow before proceeding to treeline.
The climb alternated between open snow slopes and the rocky, gravely ridgeline. The group moved quickly through intermittent clouds and sun. The wind began to pick up at about 6,000 feet and we ascended into a veritable whiteout. We dropped packs about 1000 feet below the summit, and celebrated reaching the top by eating “Summit Tarts.” Visibility at the summit was about 30 feet, which was somewhat disappointing, but everybody was in a great mood.
We had the most incredible glissade ever!!! We were back to our packs and down the slope in an hour! Everybody was giddy with enjoyment.
We left camp at 7:30 pm, reached the summit around 12:30 pm and returned to camp around 3pm. We were back on campus at 6:30. ~SPEED RECORD~!!!
SENIORS CLIMB STORIED/LEGENDARY/FABLED MT HOOD (almost)
After they'd readujsted to post-graduation time, a group of eight seniors, accompanied by some of the finest leaders that money can buy, went up for a couple of days on "la montana."
What this trip was about:
--Bonding as a group of newly-graduated students.
--Learning about snow dynamics and snow stability.
--A lodge to ourselves
--A little bit of maybe sneaking into the kitchen for Rice Krispy Treats.
Unfortunately, this trip was also about forty mile per hour winds and sub-freezing temperatures. That can kind of slow you down when you're trying to walk up a mountain.
Once again we planned a climb for June (rather than May) as a way to take advantage of the longer days and better weather. Our group left Portland on Monday June 14th at 11:30 am and drove up toe Timberline Lodge where we got geared up for snow school. We began the school about 1:15 and ran until a bit after 5:30 pm. We began with a short course on snow stability testing and moved on to digging pits, a discussion on various methods of snow travel, self arrest, and then ropework. The weather was quite nice and we had incredible views of the mountain.
We drove down to the Mazamas Lodge and were able to park right in front, making loading and unloading a breeze. The lodge personnel were very kind and we were the only guests present. We reviewed the forecasts and looked at the telemetry from 6000’ and 7000’. Indications were that it was to be cold and breezy in the morning. Very breezy.
We woke up to even breezier forecasts and telemetry.
From the beginning, our pace was slow. The wind was strong and increased as we gained elevation. Combined with sub-freezing temperatures, the atmospheric conditions were pretty difficult. We had a long break about 500 vertical feet below the top of the Palmer, where we had a good look at the rising clouds. Conditions were deteriorating fairly quickly as wind gusts were sometimes making us unstable on our feet! We pushed onto the top of the Palmer where we were able to find respite from the wind behind the snowcut.
The leaders decided to give students an opportunity to turn around.
6 of us went up, 6 went down.
The go-downs called our amazing limosuine driver on the cell phone and went back to Mazama lodge and had a nap.
The 6 remaining climbers proceeded up through the wind. We went as high as 500 feet below the hogsback, the sunlight chasing us as we rose. The weather, boots banging shins, and the lack of psych on the potential for a summit finally go to everybody and we took a long break, listening to music and watching the clouds roll by before we decided to come down.
The descent went well (glissading galore!) after some icy moments up high. We were back at the bus in time for the afternoon snowstorm.
By Chris Potts
From the Spring 2010 Caller
The argument that “baseball is a game of little things” is, to me, unassailable, as is the philosophy that high school sports should be used as vehicles to teach students lessons that can carry them through the rest of their lives. Holding these truths in tandem, you quickly realize that the avenue to reach these larger lessons is to build a cohesive team, a community of ballplayers. Unfortunately, there’s no handbook for this, there’s no one way to do it. Just like baseball, it’s putting all of the little things together in the right way.
When I interviewed for this job, I was told, “Baseball at Catlin Gabel is on life support.” But when I first met the team, I realized that they were a great group of young players who needed somebody to give them some discipline, some foundation.
We’re not a winning program. In my five years at Catlin Gabel, we’ve lost many more games than we’ve won. It’s not even close. I would argue, however, that we’re an extremely successful program. Each year, this group of students comes together. We’ve grown in numbers every year. Our baseball team is an inclusive and incredible, albeit unique, community.
What follows isn’t that elusive handbook for team-building. It’s a look at a few of the little things that we’ve done together.
Each year I choose a theme around which to build our team mentality. The theme for our first year was “Building Something We Can Be Proud Of.”
During my second year, the theme was “Playing the Game with Class.”
The theme of my third year was “Learning to be Competitive.”
During my fourth year, our theme was “Working as a Team.”
This year’s theme is “Respect for the Game.”
Chris Potts is an outdoor education teacher at Catlin Gabel and is in his fifth year as the head baseball coach.
Early on the morning of June 14, 2010, six students and three leaders found themselves standing on the summit of Oregon's flagship peak: Mt. Hood. In beautiful weather, they made the climb from Timberline Lodge in about seven hours. The group had spent the day before learning the ins and outs of safe travel on steep terrain, rope travel, and self-arrest. The students on the trip prepared for several months, and each completed at least two conditioning hikes in Columbia Gorge. A few students did extra conditioning hikes. All this effort was rewarded with the unsurpassed views from the top that morning.
What a wonderful weekend! A stellar group, sunny skies, and scenic destination made for a trip full of laughter and smiles. We drove out past the Dalles to the Deschutes State Park where we loaded up our panniers and bike trailer and took off on the trail. The first few minutes were a little steep but we eventually made it to flatter ground. We rode to our campsite where we unloaded our gear, had lunch, and relaxed before heading off down the trail. We discovered two old rail cars and an old homestead. Relaxing in the grass at the homestead, we imagining the lives of the people who lived there, played games and laughed heartily.
We rode back to our campsite, the wind in our face. Sometimes it was so strong it stopped us in our tracks! We persevered, inspired by some Goldfish waiting at camp, and finally made it back to camp, where we set up tents and made dinner. As it got dark and we waited for hot cocoa heat up, we created a giant slide down a small hill in the tall grass. Shrieks of amusement echoed across the canyon.
The next morning we woke up to sunny skies and calm breezes. After breakfast we hiked to the top of the canyon, a mango in tow to celebrate Tango With The Mango Day. It was tough to get to the top, but we were rewarded by incredible views wildflowers, yummy treats. We returned to camp where we ceremoneously had a last tango with the mango and had an unusual lunch on our upside-down table before packing up and riding back to the bus, tired but happy.
The John Day River is the second longest wild river in the lower United States. It flows from the high alpine forests surrounding the Strawberry Mountains of eastern Oregon on its long and convoluted journey to the Columbia River. For much of its path it travels through rolling pasturelands, but its last 100 mles take it through rugged canyons in a serpentine course that attracts boaters and rafters from throughout the region.
Thirteen students from Catlin Gabel School and three brave leaders set off on this true wilderness adventure one weekeend in April. For three days the group passed no roads and saw no other boaters while travelling back in time among ancient lava flows and more recenty abandoned homesteads. The team guided their rafts from the bridge at the old town of Clarno for 70 miles to the Cottonwood Crossing. Students steered the boats for the most part, and largely avoided rocks (with a couple of notable exceptions). Each evening the team assembled a camp along the shore in a spectacular setting and explored the hills, streams and side canyons along the way.
Throughout the trip students read aloud to the group from a first person narrative written by a group of men who had travelled the John Day years ago. Their experiences were intriguing, even provocative.
Two dozen students eager to head out of town and try out some adventure found themselves at Smith Rock State Park ready to rock climb. On the first day - Saturday - everyone broke into groups based on their skill and experience. Half the students spent the day at North Point learnoing about belaying, climbing and rapelling. The remainder walked all the way around the Smith Rock massif and set up climbs on the westside that were challenging and in the sun. That night we all enjoyed a huge barbecue in the park. Warmed by a campfire at the Skull Hollow Campground that night the group swapped stories and dreamed about advenhtures to come.
Sunday was spent climbing in the sun among the rock spires, before heading back to Portland.
Our caravan of minivans was greeted with a beautiful rosy sunrise early Tuesday morning as we headed out of town en route to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Student’s handled the long hours in the car well, entertaining themselves and training their eyes to look at the tiny details that make desolate Eastern Oregon fascinating. We arrived at the Field Station, our home away from home for the next few days, and settled into the dorms before exploring the surrounding areas. Around us we could see the snowy Steen’s Mountains, high buttes and low plains, and Malheur Lake. The sun set to a chorus of coyote howls. After dinner we played several wild games of hide and seek and cops and robbers under the brilliant stars before going to bed for an early start the next morning.
We woke early the next morning (some would consider this still nighttime) to meet the naturalist who would teach us about the birds of the area. Some of us had an easier time getting up than others, but luckily nobody was left behind. The naturalist took us along a dirt road way up on a butte in hopes of finding a sage grouse lek (a gathering where males strut to impress females). Each van had a radio so our naturalist could tell everyone about the places we were seeing, and the birds we would hopefully see. After several miles he stopped us and as we peered out the window in the pale dawn light, the puffy white chests and radiating tail feathers of sage grouse appeared. We had found the lek! We listened to the clucking noises they made and watched as the birds strutted around. Our naturalist was so knowledgeable about the area and the birds and we were lucky to have him with us.
As we drove back to the Field Station we kept our eyes open for other animals. We saw some smaller birds and deer, but we were really hoping to see wild horses. We knew that of all the places we would visit, this was the only one we might have a chance to see them. As we got closer & closer to the main road our hopes of seeing the horses dropped. Suddenly, a voice over the radio announced that the first van had spotted wild horses! They were beautiful. A herd of pronghorn stood next to them, providing scale to the huge horses. The pronghorn raced off, but the horses stayed, and we got to watch them for some time as the stallion gathered his herd and studied us.
Climbing and Mountain Winterim 2010
Though our meticulously-laid plans were thrown out the window again and again, we somehow we pulled it all together and created an incredible adventure!
Our group of nine students and two leaders met on Tuesday morning at Catlin and loaded into two mini-vans for four days of climbing and road-tripping. We drove to Smith Rock State park and hiked to Student Wall, where we did a safety de-brief and set up an area to teach climbing, belaying, moving over a fixed line, and rappelling. It was the first time any of us had basked in sunshine for weeks!
That night we drove to Skull Hollow campground--we had the entire place to ourselves. We went on a stealth (and my stealth I mean "playing techno as loud as possible in a minivan") mission to gather firewood and had quite the scorcher during dinner.
On Wednesday morning we drove back to Smith and headed off to the Dancer/Jete/Combination blocks area. Students and leaders led climbs and toproped a number of excellent lines (note: Double Trouble is AMAZING!!!). We ended our day a bit early to get to the trailhead of Mt. Washington before dark.
In driving to the trailhead, we found a viewpoint of Mt. Washington that showed that the peak would be impossible to climb. Like "Mountain of Death" impossible. We decided to try to another peak. Driving back East, we called friends and family and used iPhones to find a peak in climbable conditions. Peter suggested Mt. Thielson and the students made a decision to head South. We drove to Thielson and slept in the parking lot.
On Thursday we woke early and left the trailhead at 8am for our summit bid. Snow conditions were not good for XC travel. We gained the ridge below the massif and the students led up the southern slopes until 12:30 when we stopped for lunch (much of which had been forgotten!). The weather had become ideal for spring mountaineering and we did some “snow school” training on the sunny flanks. Though the summit pyramid looked snowy and daunting, we made our way upwards.
At 3:00 we arrived at the final pitch below the summit and scouted for a safe, clean line up the SE or SW ridge. Neither offered safe climbing, so we backed in the sun below the summit pinnacle. We boot-skied, glissaded, and plunge-stepped back to tree-line, putting our heads down for the long descent back to the car.
On Thursday night we found an incredible campsite up a creek off the Umpqua and enjoyed our last night out—all of the students slept under the stars!
Friday was a final breakfast and a long drive back to Portland, dotted with stops for Ultimate Frisbee, gas at the slowest pumps imaginable, and AMAZING milkshakes.
Ultimately this trip was about getting a diverse group of students together and empowering them to create the most incredible road trip possible.
Take a look at our journey by clicking any of the pictures below and watching a slideshow. Put on some music (no techno, please) and enjoy!