Trip reports

Send by email

Deschutes Bike Trip

Send by email

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.

John Day Rafting Trip

posted in
Send by email
A wonderful wilderness adventure

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climbing at Smith Rock: April 10-11, 2010

posted in
Send by email
Two days of sunshine on the rocks

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Eastern Oregon

Send by email
Breakaway trip to the Malheur WIldlife Refuge

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.

Back at the Field Station our naturalist set us several mist nets to catch birds so that we could see them up close. We caught about fifteen Dark-Eyed Juncos, a Spotted Towhee, a House Sparrow, and an American Robbin that we weighed, measured, and studied before releasing. Holding the wild birds was a truly incredible experience, and once again our naturalist was able to teach us so much. This was a wonderful example of experiential learning and the students loved it.
 
After a little free time and journaling, we took off to relax in some hot springs. On the drive there we kept track of when we were “in the middle of nowhere” and when we were “somewhere,” learning how people define “nowhere.” We played in the warm water for a while before showering and filling up our waterbottles, trying to find some water that was not “boring.”
 
We drove back through the Refuge and visited the Bird Museum at the Refuge headquarters where they had on display stuffed bird that we could look at up close. In the golden light of twilight we watched hundreds of snow geese flying through the air above us.
Back at the Field Station our dinner crew cooked up some yummy dinner, and also concocted a story about how one student on the trip somehow became Nutella. That student very graciously put up with the silliness. The night ended with a game of wildly chasing each other around under the stars again.
Luckily we got to sleep in a bit the next morning before setting off on an adventure. We had a few places we wanted to see but the itinerary was very flexible. All we knew was that we had to be in Frenchglen for dinner at 6:30. Students really appreciated the unscheduled time and being able to do things for as long or as short as they wanted.
 
Our first stop was the Round Barn where we were greeted by Sandhill Cranes. The students found an ingenious way to appreciate the Round Barn: blind races through the barn. One student would be the guide and the other would be the racer. It was terrifying, but also a great way to interact with the barn and to learn to guide and trust each other. We also got to see a raven and a hawk fighting in the air.
 
Our next stop was the Diamond Craters, huge depressions in the basalt flows found everywhere. We hiked to the top of a hill and soaked in the view, enjoying the spectacular weather we were graced with.
 
After the Craters we stopped Buena Vista pond which was filled with swans, ducks, and geese. We watched the birds and wrote in our journals before we went on a short hike to the top of a butte to find an incredible panorama view of the area and some rocks to scramble on. Our last little stop was a campground where we saw a hawk on the ground eating its dinner, and a Great Blue Heron.
 
We arrived at the Frenchglen Hotel for a delicious dinner, of which we all ate too much. After returning to the Field Station we played cards and ran around outside before settling into bed.
 
 
 
The next morning we packed up our belongings and cleaned our dorm before our long drive back to Portland. Overall the trip far exceeded my expectations. This kind of trip could easily bore many students but they learned to creatively entertain themselves and interact with such a spectacular place. The learned to look closely at the small details of a large scene. Students also learned to be more responsible for themselves by cooking and cleaning for themselves, all the while making it fun. They also learned the lesson of how when one person doesn’t fulfill their group responsibility, it affects everyone else. I certainly felt that the trip passed too quickly!
 

 

Climbing and Mountaineering Winterim 2010

Send by email

 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!

Sailing in the San Juan Islands

posted in
Send by email
Five days of adventure

What could be more fun than sailing on a 50 foot sailboat through Washington's magnificent San Juan Islands? 

This year during the Upper School's winterim, 16 students from Catlin Gabel sailed two large sailboats for five beautiful days.  The boats were chartered from a local company.  The students did all the work in running the boat, including selecting the course, tacking the boat,  raising the sails, fixing the meals, anchoring the boats and preparing for battle with rival crafts.  Each boat had two experienced sailors on board from the Catlin Gabel community to help the students learn the ropes.

The groups visited Sucia Island, the Canadain Gulf Islands, Jones island, Orcas island and Spencer's Spit on Lopez island..

 


Support the Catlin Gabel Difference

Send by email
Teachers speak about our distinctive programs
From the Winter 2010 Caller
The programs here embody Catlin Gabel’s uniqueness. These important offerings advance the mission of the school by continually reinforcing and refining the notion of progressive education. The teachers quoted here highlight what makes these programs exceptional and what they contribute to a Catlin Gabel education.
 

Robotics
By Dale Yocum, Middle & Upper School robotics program director

Catlin Gabel’s robotics program gives students experience with hands-on engineering. More important than that, it is an opportunity to work together as a team accomplishing an impossible goal in a time too short and with a budget too small, just like the real world. Our robotics team is the most decorated in Oregon, advancing to the world championships the last three years in a row. Our membership continues to grow, with 10% of the upper school now taking part. The next phase of work for robotics is to apply our skills earned in competitions towards other problems in the community. Our work to improve the quality of life for the elephants in the zoo is the first example of how we will reach out.

Outdoor Education
By Peter Green, outdoor education director & Upper School dean of students

The outdoor education program is the place where students grow in ways that will help them face the challenges of the outside world. It is one of the ways we help prepare them for the unexpected. The program provides leadership opportunities where students are genuinely challenged to lead their peers, make decisions, and confront daunting obstacles. This past year we passed a major milestone with 60% of the current Upper School students having been on an outdoor program trip. January marks the fifth anniversary of the program, and we have offered over 120 trips. Our plan is to involve as many students as possible. We will be offering more trips that are truly adventures, like our trip to Paulina Butte in central Oregon, where the group will hike up in winter conditions and try to construct a pond or tub to warm themselves before camping out.

Global Education
By Spencer White, global education coordinator & Middle School Spanish teacher

Global education at Catlin Gabel takes full advantage of the international diversity of parents, faculty, and staff to design activities and travel experiences that do not rely on outside contractors or travel agents. Connections to places and cultures far from Catlin Gabel exist in our students’ daily classes and lives rather than as an isolated, future destination. Our students need to be able to communicate and act internationally at every level of their education. Fostering abilities in cross-cultural communication and critical thinking about global issues is at the forefront of our global initiative. Our global programs are developing exponentially. We have launched the Viewfinder Global Film Series, which showed 23 films this year. We invite families from all divisions to gather monthly to view and discuss films selected by the faculty, connected to curriculum. This series honors the diversity of our families and allows us to expand our perspectives on the world and its cultures. In addition, global trip opportunities for Middle and Upper School students this year include Costa Rica, Martinique, Nepal, Cuba, and Japan.

The Learning Center
By Kathy Qualman, Middle & Upper School learning specialist

The Learning Center is truly the place where each child is the unit of consideration. We help students from all four divisions understand their unique cognitive abilities and work with them to identify and practice strategies that get them to their academic goals. We facilitate communications between families, students, teachers, and outside resources so that we are coordinated in supporting student learning. For students there is no stigma attached to using the Learning Center. It’s seen as a resource for all, just like the libraries. Our achievements are highly personal to each student and family. We believe they are life changing and life enhancing. It makes us proud to see the transformation in students, culminating with graduation, when we see our students walk across the stage every June. In recent years between 75% and 95% of each graduating class has used our services during their time at Catlin Gabel. We are working on improving our ESL support, strengthening our efforts to help students transition between divisions, integrating new technologies, strengthening support for new students, becoming a more active professional resource for teachers, investigating partnerships with other institutions, and becoming a resource to our greater Portland community.

PLACE--Planning and Leadership Across City Environments (formerly the Urban Leadership Program)
By George Zaninovich, PLACE director

This unique program allows students to gain exposure to local government and learn how engaged citizens can influence the future of their communities. Every PLACE class culminates in a service learning project where students form an urban planning consulting firm and complete a plan for a client. This directly benefits the community as Catlin Gabel students, working with students from other public and private high schools, tackle a need in our city and find appropriate solutions. Recently, thanks to the work of PLACE’s advisory committee made up of city leaders and Catlin Gabel students and teachers, PLACE was awarded a prestigious grant from the Edward E. Ford Family Foundation. We have added partners in Portland’s Bureau of Planning of Sustainability, Portland State University, and Portland’s public schools. PLACE has come a long way in the last year by adding semester classes at Catlin Gabel, and offering the course at Lincoln and Marshall high schools. We are looking to build a more robust urban studies curriculum at Catlin Gabel, as well as expanding the summer program to include a middle school Urban Exploration camp and more opportunities for high school students from across the region.

The Arts
By Nance Leonhardt, Middle & Upper School art teacher

 
Active participation in the arts is essential to each student’s understanding and appreciation of humanity. We honor the integrity of each student’s work and aim to create an environment that facilitates creative risk taking, where the process is as important as the product. One example of many vibrant programs in the arts is the Poetry in Motion project, which frees students from traditional media conventions and pushes them to explore cinematography and editing from an experimental and expressionistic angle. It generates cross-divisional connections between filmmakers and poets, and joins the community in a creative process. Each year students in the project produce 45 original films, inspired by works of poetry written by community members ranging in age from 4 to 65 and beyond.
To support these, and all of the amazing programs at Catlin Gabel, please visit the giving website or call or email the development office, 503-297-1894 ext. 302.  

 

Interests, Passions, Magnificent Obsessions: Writer & explorer, senior

Send by email

From the Winter 2010 Caller

Passions: writing poetry and prose, outdoor exploration
Interest: environmental studies

“I’ve always been observational. I was quieter when I was young, and lines of poetry came together naturally. Writing is satisfying, a way for me to sift it all. I write precisely and slowly. Sometimes I’m frustrated because the ideas come but the words don’t, and I just sit there for 45 minutes. But eventually I get where I want to be.

Starting in 8th grade I got good feedback on poetry that I’d written and was pointed to entering contests. I got self-motivated from the contests that I won. But mostly I won because I kept on throwing stuff out there, and some of it stuck. I found out that poetry is not just childhood rhymes but is about seeing emotion in the world—and it’s an art form that gets to people.

Sometimes I can’t make sense of a situation until I write it down in poetry. I get the same release through words that I get in mountain climbing or rock climbing. The outdoor program has influenced my poetry. My recent poems have all been about nature and being outdoors. It’s a challenge: loads of people write about nature, so can I as a teenaged girl say anything new about it?

My class in environmental science and policy is really important to me now. I’ve changed my second choice of major to environmental studies. I see my role in poetry, but environmental studies is about the physical side of life. It’s affected my decisions about eating, shopping, how you get places. You can’t not pay attention to these things. My general job is to change.”

 

 

Girls Cross-Country Ski Trip

Send by email

 We set out for the mountain on a warm, sunny Saturday morning, ready for anything. We arrived at Teacup Lake, packed our day-packs, and slathered on sunscreen. Who knew summer arrived in February?! There were several beginner skiers and they all picked up the sport easily, quickly wanting to take the most difficult trails and ski down hills. The first big hill we went down was intimidating at first, but we all skied down it, and were proud of ourselves at having accomplished that. We lunched in a sunny patch with a spectacular view of the mountains.

After lunch we discussed our options. The girls had a choice between lots of short trails or one big long trail (the challenge trail), and they opted for the challenge trail. We started off, and although they claimed they were tired, the girls set a fast pace. When we got to a fork with a big hill or a flat section, they always chose the hill. We took several breaks along the long trail until we got to another fork where we had a big decision to make. We could go the short, flat way back to the bus, or we could go up a big hill (Screamer Hill), and then down a fast, steep hill. In the end, they all chose to go up the steep, long hill. Although this hill was a struggle, they all made it look easy, and were proud of themselves at the top.
 
We skied back to the bus and drove to the lodge. After storing our stuff in our room we went outside to build a lifelike snowwoman, sled, and “surf. As it got dark we came inside to warm up, and get cozy. We played foosball, pool, ping-pong, and Life before dinner was served. Lots of hot cocoa was sipped. After dinner we watched a VHS version of Mrs. Doubtfire before debriefing the day and settling into our sleeping bags.
 
 
 
 
 
We woke the next morning and ate breakfast before discussing the plan for the day. The girls wanted to ski somewhere where they could make their own trail and avoid groomed tracks, and eventually selected White River. The girls also wanted to pour maple syrup on the snow like they do in Canada, and so after a little cajoling, several of them went and asked for some syrup. After their sugary treat, they sledded for a while before we headed to White River to ski.
 
 
 
We made our way up the canyon with the girls leading the way through the trees. The snow was heavy and deeper than the day before as we were not on a groomed trail. At this point we came to a steep hill above a snow bridge over a small creek that the girls wanted to cross and continue into the trees. We explored this area for a while, not without a few tumbles, before skiing back to the open part of the canyon to find steep hills to slide down. We skied on a bit further and up a ridge before returning to our first slide. At the end of the day we piled into the bus and headed home, with a quick stop for doughnuts on the way.
 
 

 

Paulina Lake XC Ski, February 2010

Send by email

Paulina Lake XC Ski, February 2010

An ambitious trip (with inauspicious beginnings) hits big!

This past Valentines Day, a group of eight students and three trip leaders met at Catlin for an adventure into the snow and wilderness.  It started with a drive to Bend over Santiam pass.  There was no snow on the road and we were concerned that there would be little snow at Paulina Lake.  Fortunately, we were able to score some firewood from a dentist who served lemonade (long story).

We stopped in Bend to rent XC skis, boots, and poles (note for the future: purchase insurance--more later).  We drove to Tenmile sno-park, 30 miles south of Bend where we donned our skis and headed off into the snow at around 2:00pm.  There were, unfortunately, a great many snowmobilers.  The students were not impressed by the snowmobilers.

We skied until near dusk on a fairly difficult trail.  Though a couple of students were challenged, most of the skiers were successful, despite relatively heavy packs, and we made a decision nearing sundown about whether to continue.  Our namesake was the deciding vote in pushing on, and we made easy mileage to the lake along the groomed trail.  Once at the lake, we again had to make way over challenging terrain.  Darkness was following and our leaders made a wrong turn and there was some heated debate as to how best to proceed.  We turned around and made our way back to the lake where there was easy skiing along the shore.  Once the going got difficult again, we decided to make camp in a gorgeous stretch along the frozen shore.

We made an extensive camp with tents, a kitchen, and a fireplace with benches.  Food was warm and spirits were high.  A few extra jackets and layers were distributed and everybody was warm.  We debriefed and, though most lows were about our time on the wrong trail, students were happy.  We went to sleep around 11pm with students assuring me that they were warm with hot water bottles, dry clothes, etc.

Monday morning was about 30 degrees and very pretty.  It took nearly three hours (!) to pack up camp.  We then skied back to the groomed trail and made a push toward the Paulina summit.  Students happily self-distributed among like skill levels.  There was a very competitve race to the highpoint.  The trip leader did not win this race.  We then all turned around and raced back down the hill.  The trip leader did win this race, though the assistant trip leader believes that it may not have been as fair as she wold have liked.

A long ski down brought us back to the bus where we were once again greeted by the "power sledders."  We drove back home over Santiam pass.  The students were happy and excited the whole way home.  When we got back to campus, we had the whole group help clean up the gear and put materials back in the OP shed.  Students were dismissed at 7pm and all went home to warmth and coziness. 

So put on a mix tape and watch the slideshow!

 

 

 

 

Winter Overnight in a Fire Lookout, January, 2010

Send by email

Winter Overnight in a Fire Lookout, January, 2010

Arguably too much fun.  Dufur.  "Power Sledding."  Off trail.  The Lookout.  Group photo.  Dumbwaiter.  Adventure.  Our version of "Power Sledding."  Jumping over trees.  Or almost.  Chopping wood.  Fear.  Bananachocolatemess.  Snowball ambush.  "Just Married."

We left Catlin Gabel at 8:30 am.  Our original plan to ski in and out was foiled by almost complete lack of snow.  We cancelled our rental skis and just walked in our boots.  A couple of eager students examined the map (with a questionable degree of success) and decide how we would get there.  The initial route took us through some deep snow in the flats near eightmile campground.  Once we started up the hillside we beat our way through brush then wandered over to the old growth forest.  I think it took less than two hours (with lots of stops) to get all the way up to the lookout.

Once at the lookout we suddenly found ourselves with an entire afternoon to fill, and an egergetic group of kids.  We went on an adventure, hugging the ridgeline west of the lookout.  Only two of our students had ever chopped wood, which is an abomination that needed remedy.  We had a clinic and safety talk about chopping wood.  Then we chopped an enormous amount of wood.  We spent the rest of the evening playing games and making dinner.  Cleanup was a little long and difficult.  We prepared a lot of warm water from snow.  A lot of warm water. 

That night three girls slept on the bed (winner of rock-paper-scissors) and one on the cupboard.  Three boys slept on the floor, one on the deck, and one kooky leader slept wonderfully under a tree next to the lookout.  It was roomy and warm inside, though our porch-sleeper experienced wind and cold and did not sleep well.

On the second day we had a leisurely breakfast, cleaned the cabin, and headed back to the bus, sneaking up on the third group for a snowball fight.  The pictures are good, but somewhat incriminating.  Check out the slideshow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Night in a Forest Lookout

posted in
Send by email

                                      Nowhere can you see the great forests of the Northwest better than from a forest lookout tower.  A group of Catlin Gabel students hiked over snow and through the forest to a special place-  the lofty perch of the Five Mile Butte lookout in Mt. Hood National Forest.  We slept, cooked and played in the lookout for the two days.  Late on Saturday night the entire group ventured outside into the darkness and snow for a walk.  After half a mile the pronouncement came down from above and it became necessary to build a fire.  This was accompished after about an hour of gathering wet sticks, moss, twigs, bark and a tiny bit of dry wood.  The next day the group of six students and two leaders enjoyed a pleasant downhill walk back to the bus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Middle School Fire Tower Trip

Send by email
An adventure at Five Mile Butte

What started out as a cross-country ski trip turned first into a snowshoes trip before finally becoming a backpacking trip, but what a trip it was! We met at Catlin Sunday morning, loaded up the bus and drove to Hood River to rent a few pairs of snowshoes. While in Hood River we ran up what looked (and felt) like thousands of steps to discover a playground before we got back on the bus.

 

 

When we arrived at the Billy Bob Sno-Park we distributed group gear and left our little yellow bus, heading up the road towards the Five Mile Butte fire lookout. It was drizzling heavily, and our packs were heavy. We continued up the icy road for a ways before taking a break and munching on candy peach rings.

As we were putting our packs back on, several students proposed the brilliant idea to go straight up the side of the hill to get to the fire tower instead of following the road around to get there. We consulted the map and everyone agreed this was a good idea so we started walking up the muddiest slop imaginable—there were literally rivers of mud flowing down the hillside. Eventually everyone made it to the top, and we celebrated with more peach candy rings before the last push to get to the lookout tower. It was pretty exciting to finally see the tower in the clouds.

  

 

 

 

 

We climbed up the narrow, steep stairs and into our lookout tower to start a roaring fire in the wood stove and peel off soggy layers. The tower swayed gently when the wind gusted and the clouds and rain created a very isolated feeling, but it was warm and cozy in our little 15 ft. x 15 ft. room, perched 40 ft. above the ground.

 

 

 

Several of the students stayed down on the ground to start building a giant wall of snow. The rest of the group got settled in the tower. Everyone played an endless, silly game of Uno. Several of the students elected to run around in the snow/rain in just their shorts, which evoked barrels of laughter from everyone.

  As the sky grew dark we prepared dinner, which was followed by several rounds of Hide & Seek, made all the more exciting by the dark and the fog. When we finished we found roasting sticks for s’mores and headed back up the tower to savor our dessert and get settled for the night. We sat around in a circle and talked about the day. As the clouds cleared to reveal a blanket of stars, students were lulled to sleep with Edward Abbey’s description of life as a fire lookout ranger.

 We awoke to the rosey golden glow of sunrise bathing Mt. Hood in warm light. The skies were clear all around and we could see the broad backs of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier to our north. Who would have guessed we would get a blue bird day after the storm the day before?

 

 

 

 

 

We started breakfast and soon the savory smell of frying Spam filled the room, accompanied by fluffy golden pancakes and hot cocoa. Although some of the students were hesitant to try Spam when it plopped out of its can onto the cutting board, most of them boldly stepped outside their comfort zone and sampled the crispy delicacy. And they realized it’s pretty good when you’re roughin’ it.

After breakfast we built giant forts of snow in preparation for a massive snowball fight. With white balls of snow flying back and forth, and the sounds of shrieks and laughter in the air, we realized it was a pretty good morning. The snowball fight devolved into a quest to destroy each other’s forts, which finally dissolved into a pile of laughing kids. Another game of Hide and Seek ensued before we decided it was time for lunch. As we munched our bagels we watched the swirling clouds of a storm flow over Mt. Hood and appreciated the sun on our faces. 
 
Just as we were about to leave the tower, a group of Catlin Upper School students arrived for their night in the tower. A huge group hug and some caramel apple pops marked the passing of the torch. 
           
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

For our descent we opted for some variety and scenic views and walked down the road. Well, some of us walked and some of us slid down the ice. There were some bumps and bruises earned along the way. At the bottom of the hill we discovered a perfect sledding hill to slide down on the ice before making our way back to our little yellow school bus. A wand on our windshield, left by the Upper Schoolers, greeted us. It felt good to take off our packs and get on the bus. With a twinge of sadness that the trip was over we headed off down the road, back to our families.

There were high points and low points, easy parts and hard parts, and even though they struggled, everyone had their own successes—and that is where the learning and personal growth starts. As I drove down Hwy 84 through the dramatic landscape of the Columbia Gorge, I couldn’t help but smile and think that we are so fortunate to live in such a wonderful world and to be able to share it with such a great group.
 

 

Smith Rock Adventure

posted in
Send by email
An unusual winter weekend

Ever Dreamed of having a state park to your self?  A bunch of Catlin Gabel students headed down to Central oregon for a weekend of climbing and adventure just after classes ended in December.  the weather was surprisingly warm and even sunny for the first day of rock climbing.  On the second day while some of the students climbed, the rest opted to take on a massive and competitive scavenger hunt all over the park and beyond.  The adult leaders helped the kids come up with some daunting challenges, and the kids added a few surprising challenges of their own.

 

 

MS Caving

Send by email

Our adventurous group left Catlin Saturday morning to go to the lava tubes southeast of Bend and hike at Smith Rock State Park. We drove down the Gorge to get to Bend, and along the way got to see some cowboys moving their herd of cows down the road. After a spectacular drive out of the green forests of the Willamette Valley into the yellow grasslands of Central Oregon, we arrived at our first cave, Boyd Cave. Although many of the caves are closed for bat habitat restoration, we were allowed to go into Boyd Cave. After donning helmets and headlamps, we explored the narrow passageways, expansive rooms, and rocky scrambles of the lava tube. We even turned out all the lights and listened to the profound silence only found in a cave. At the very end of the cave we squeezed into a tiny tunnel before retracing our steps back to daylight.

 
After emerging from underground, and a quick game pinecone baseball in the sagebrush, we drove to Arnold Ice Cave in the pink evening light. The ice-filled entrance to the cave is at the bottom of a large sinkhole, which we scrambled down to. We played on the ice, clambered over boulders, and scraped together tiny snowballs.
 
As the sun set (early!) we drove to a house in Bend where we spread out sleeping bags, made a delicious dinner of bisghetti, played games and relaxed. The next morning we got up early and went to Smith Rock State Park for a hike up to the best viewpoint around. We scrabbled over boulders, watched rock climbers, and pointed out rock formations that looked like monkeys. Although it was a step trail to the top, the view in every direction and the sense of accomplishment at reaching the top inspired cheers. Everyone noticed some sort of natural beauty, whether it was the Great Blue Heron in the reeds, the multicolored rocks, or the rustle of the wind in the junipers. We ate lunch next to the Crooked River, and then turned towards home.

 

Service and Kayaking

Send by email

 

Upper School Central Oregon Service and Wilderness Kayaking, November 2009

Soaring highs.  Frigid lows.  Bald eagles fighting in the air.  Vultures.  Green sheets.  A rainbow stretching from one end of the lake to the other.  Deer hunting.  Service.  Roundabouts.  Never. To. Be. Forgotten.

Our crew of eight students and two leaders left Catlin a bit after 8am on Friday morning and headed out to Alder Creek Kayak on TOMAHAWK Drive (ominous).   They had our ten kayaks and drysuits (more on this marvel of technology later) and PFDs and booties all ready for us on a trailer.  We loaded up and, very cautiously, drove toward Bend.

After some interesting student-provided directions that took us in an unusual pattern through some of Bend’s finest roundabouts, we made our way to the Deschutes River Trail for our community service.  After a brief safety talk during which we saw glaceirs pass by, we signed four green sheets, carried our tools, took a tour of the trail network, learned some more, talked some more about safety… and then did an incredible amount of trail work before the sun went down.

We drove away from Bend, toward Lake Billy Chinook, stopping to fill up in a Redmond gas station with an absurd collection of “Outdoor Cutlery” (read: big knives!).

We had the whole South Perry Campground to ourselves!  Pulling in late on Friday night, we made our basecamp and had the first of many incredible dinners.

Saturday brought us good weather and, we launched our Kayaks, heading out for our first day on the water.  The experience was magnificent.  A snow-draped Mt. Jefferson served as our beacon to the east and we paddled to a large island in the middle of the placid gorge that is Lake Billy Chinook.

It turns out that the island was host to a huge population of deer which, obviously, needed a good chasing.   We set off on our mission, covering the length and breadth of the island, always hot on the trail of our prey.  To our surprise, the deer had a navy!  The experience of the group chasing a herd of deer across the island was simply unforgettable.

After a night with meteoroligical conditions that left something to be desired, we set out for Sunday’s objective: an assault on the Metolius River.  The plan was to make our way on Kayaks as far as possible and then hike upstream toward the headwaters of this incredible river.  We made it maybe 100 yards up the river to the first rapid when we realized the impossibility of this plan.  Most of us flipped our kayaks over, fell out, and swam--we all laughed at the folly!  We paddled home, somehow the joy outweighed the lack of “success” and we took a short hike up to the rim of the lake.  Atop an incredible and overhanging cliff, we looked out across an incredible landscape and scoped out Monday’s goal: the highest point in the surrounding landscape—the top of an ancient and exfoliating lava flow.

On Monday we were on a mission to have lunch atop this viewpoint.  We went up and up and up, and found an incredible and safe passage to the summit.  Atop a pile of rocks, we had the last of our amazing meals together as a group.  A snowball fight and some light forestry management were highlights of the descent.  

We returned to our bus, secured the kayaks, and headed back to Portland, enjoyably slap-happy after such an amazing trip.

Click on a photo from the gallery below, press "play," and share some of our experience.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Students Find Lost Logging Camp

posted in
Send by email
The last wild "steam donkey" in the Northern Coast Range

In early November six students and two leaders from Catlin Gabel set out to find the last wild steam donkey in the northern Coast Range. The drive from the school took the group over the complex of old logging roads in the Tillamook State Forest  that cover the hills above the Salmonberry River. Six students ages 13-17 made up the intrepid group. 

Most of the first day was spent learning about the logging history and equipment that shaped the Northwest.  A basecamp was set up above the Salmonberry River and a large smoky fire kept the group warm.  After a dinner of flaming chicken and multipile pies the group turned in for the night.

The day of the search dawned rainy and a bit chilly.  Two miles of hiking brought the party  to the Salmonberry River.  The search through the dense woods followed shortly thereafter.   Using information provided by local historian Merv Johnson, who had visited the donkey in the late 70s, the group combed the steep hills above the river.  Brush and sword fern, soaked thoroughly from weeks of rain, was scoured in the quest for the large piece of iron machinery.  Shortly after noon the cry of "The burro has landed!" crackled across the two way radios in the party.  A mad sprint through the brush followed and soon the poor donkey was surrounded.

The students clambered over the beast and could piece together the history of the huge machine.  Back in the 1920s, before the great Tillamook Burn swept through the watershed of the Salmonberry River, these steam powered "yarders" were used to haul logs up and down the steep hillsides to a central location from where trains could take them to the mill.  Once a particular operation, or "show," was completed, the machine were hauled through the woods on a wooden sled to the next show.  In some cases the machines were just left in the woods.  This donkey was built in Seattle, probably during the early part of the last century.  It has sat on this forested bench above the Salmonberry River since the day when the loggers walked away from it, many, many years ago.

 

 

 

Stephen Venables appears at Catlin Gabel School

Send by email
Community event brings famous climber to poirtland

 

Stephen Venables, considered one of the world’s great mountaineers, spoke to a crowd of 160 students and adults from around the Portland area on November 17th at  Catlin Gabel School.  He is one of the very few Westerners to have reached the summit of Everest without supplementary oxygen. His night alone near the top, without tent or sleeping bag, has become one of the legends of modern mountaineering. In this stunning slideshow, Stephen recounted some of his many adventures around the world. Highlights include the North Face of the Eiger, Uganda’s Mountains of the Moon, explorations on Snow Lake, and several groundbreaking Himalayan climbs including the new Anglo-American route up Everest.

Venables is also an award-winning author, photographer, and public speaker. He wrote the screenplay for the IMAX movie The Alps and appeared with Conrad Anker and Reinhold Messner in Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure. His books about his mountain adventures have won the Boardman Tasker Prize, the King Albert Medal, and the Grand Award at Banff International Mountain Literature Festival. Venables’s special visit to Portland is the last night of a tour that has taken him to New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, New York, and the Western states. For more about him, visit www.stephenvenables.com.

Catlin Gabel’s outdoor education program focuses on educating the whole student. By providing opportunities for students to face and overcome challenges, learn group living skills, and understand the way the natural world works, the program supplements the academic rigors faced by the individual student. The program broadens the education of both Middle and Upper School students by fostering their self awareness, exposing them to new environments and challenges while providing important leadership opportunities.

 

 

 
 

 

Outdoor Program goes "350"

Send by email

The Outdoor Program Recognizes the International Day of Climate Action, October 24, 2009

We did it!  The Outdoor Program's first wilderness backpacking trip without the use of a single drop of fuel!  We went deep into the heart of the Gorge using human-powered transportation and electric-powered public transit.  Hugely rewarding, it was an incredible feat of transportation and logistics...

 

Our group of eight students and two leaders met on Saturday morning at Catlin and loaded bikes and trailers for our self-supported adventure.   We then jumped into the saddle and rode to the Max station, riding a brand-new train east to the third-to-the-last stop.  Departing the Max, we biked through Gresham and Troutdale, over the Sandy River, along the Columbia River Historic Highway, over Crown Point, down a thrilling and long hill, eventually making our way to Angel's Rest Trailhead.  We locked our bikes and went a la pie  up the south side of the Gorge to Angels Rest,  one of the most prominent viewpoints in the Gorge.  Atop the anvil-shaped rock formation, we unfolded our kits and ran along the rim of the Gorge in the spirit of environmental action and freedom.  Enjoying a fantastic sunset, we made an amazing dinner and camped in a primitive campsite, and then returned to Portland on Sunday via the same route we took to the Gorge.  Though it wasn't always easy, or convenient, we were given an indelible experience that will not soon be forgotten.

Ultimately this trip was about learning how to make a respectful and appropriate political statement, experiencing a unique sense of hard-earned liberation, and working together as a group toward sustainable living and transport.

Click on a photo from the gallery below, press "play," and share some of our experience.  Enjoy!