Trip reports

Send by email

October Deschutes Rafting Adventure

posted in
Send by email
Floating Through Central Oregon

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.

Ice Climbing on Mount Hood

posted in
Send by email
A day in a different world

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

Send by email

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!

City of Rocks, June 2010

posted in
Send by email
Climbing in the sun and on the granite!

Backpacking the Trinity Alps

posted in
Send by email
Incredible alpine country only a state away!



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.

8th Graders Climb St. Helens

Send by email

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~!!!



Senior Hood Climb

Send by email


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.

--Incredible food!

--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.

The Little Things and the Big Thing About Baseball

Send by email

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.”
 When we won our first game, I worried that our players were so excited that they’d offend the other team. Then again, when you haven’t won a baseball game your entire high school career, wouldn’t you jump up and down and scream when you got your first “W?”
February 26—Manhood—Outside the gym, after practice, I pull one of the new players aside. He’s been struggling this week. He’s a good player (we’d say, “he’s got a lot of upside”), but we need to rebuild some of his fundamentals. He’s also never had to work this hard, physically, ever.
There’s a big transition between middle school sports and high school varsity athletics. We’ll be playing against 200-pound gorillas looking to play in college. Wrestlers. Linebackers. The kid I’m talking to is 14 and could probably make the scale hit 140 if I handed him a 20-pound dumbbell.
We do a lot of physical conditioning. The younger players typically take some time to adjust. During this physical adjustment period, the boy I’m talking with has lost all accuracy with his throwing. We’d say “he couldn’t hit the ground if he dropped the ball.” I’ve been playing catch with him during warm-ups to protect the other players. I’ve seen tears well up in his eyes during three of these first four practices. Time for a chat.
At one point in the conversation, I say, “This is why I love baseball, because you can learn lessons through the sport that you can apply to the rest of your life. Right now you need to learn to make the adjustment from 8th grade baseball to high school baseball. Just like how you’re making the transition from 8th grade academics to high school academics. In both things you’re going to have to get tough, you’re going to have to work harder than you’ve ever had to before and you’re going to have to learn to control your emotions. I think you can do it.”
I do think he can do it. I need a #3 starter.
During my second year, the theme was “Playing the Game with Class.”
March 1—Playing in the Mud—It’s still a little wet to be using the whole field, but we need to put in defense and relays as soon as possible. The first game is two weeks away. The field is still holding too much water.
The players circle around the third base cutout, and we talk about the geography of our field. There are three layers. First, there’s the soil underneath everything. That’s what the grass grows out of. Surrounding the bases, there’s a layer of clay that builds the foundation for the cutouts. On top of that is a top-dressing. I explain to the players that this stuff is baked at like 5,000 degrees so that it becomes porous and can absorb three times its weight in water. This, I believe, is the science portion of baseball.
We squat around the perimeter of the cutout, grabbing chunks of clay that we’ve churned up during defense and conditioning, and rolling them into balls. When we’ve grabbed the biggest chucks, I have the players throw them so that I can lay them out for one of my captains to tamp back into the clay foundation.
One of the sophomores says, “I get to throw mud at my baseball coach.” I’m not too fond of how this sounds, but I don’t think I can argue with him.
The theme of my third year was “Learning to be Competitive.”
We drive a long way to get to some of the games. To the Pacific Ocean, literally. The team was shocked when I instituted the no-headphones, noelectronics, human-interaction-only rule. “Why can’t we listen to our iPods?” The answer was no.
In deference to my totalitarianism, a group of students began singing on the bus rides home. They got very into it, going so far as to print out lyrics.
It was awful: adolescent boys screeching the lyrics to Britney Spears, NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys. It was an assault on human musical aesthetics. It was the sound of my group of boys coming together. It was music to my ears.
The dynamics always change after our first road trip.
During my fourth year, our theme was “Working as a Team.”
Close to the deadline for this article, I get an email from a former player. He’s hoping to be in town and catch the end of a Friday double-header. I want him to come to the game, to cheer us on, and for the younger players to realize that they’re a part of something bigger than the second game of a double-header.
This year’s theme is “Respect for the Game.”
April 26—Heart—An unusually large wet-weather system has rolled in. We’re in the gym, hitting practice balls, tennis balls, softies, and whiffles. We’re looking ahead at the season: 8 tough games in 11 days. The arms are ready. Though we’re having difficulty getting on base, I’m fielding the best defense in my time at Catlin Gabel. We’ve seen each of the teams in our league. We know we’re the underdogs, but there’s a palpable sense that we can put it all together and make a run at the playoffs. I’d say our biggest asset is our cohesiveness. This team is all heart.
Chris Potts is an outdoor education teacher at Catlin Gabel and is in his fifth year as the head baseball coach.


Climb to the summit of Mt. Hood

posted in
Send by email
Students make it to the top of Oregon's highest peak
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.






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.

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!