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Rafting the Deschutes River

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Our first trip down the lower Deschutes

After millions of years carving its way northward toward the great Columbia River, the lower forty miles of the Deschutes River finally came to know the paddles of Catlin Gabel students.  On a sunny and occassionally warm weekend in October a group of students and leaders travelled from Sherar's Falls all the way to the mighty Columbia. 

During the journey the group camped by the river under the stars, cooked its meals on propane stoves, hiked to the top of two nearby peaks, and explored hidden canyons.  Take a look at the photos to share in the experience.













A day on a high Ropes Course

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On a warm Sunday a group of Catlin gabel students challenged themselves high in the trees of a local Ropes Course.  The students learned to try new things that moved them well outside of their comfort zone and brought them together as a group.  Take a look at the photos:





6th Grade Farm Visit

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On one of the last sunny weekends of the Summer, a group of 14 Middle School students, accompanied by 6 Upper School student chaperones visited Bumblebee Organic Farms.

It was two days of fun, two days of laughing, a campfire beneath a harvest moon, a grape eating contest, amazing food, a pair of sheep (or were they goats?), tractors, barns, sleeping through an incredibly loud rainstorm, amazing farm-fresh pancakes, and learning about life on a small, organic farm.

We met at Catlin after Saturday morning's storms had passed and loaded into an activity bus.  A drive toward the mouth of the Sandy river took us into Troutdale, home of Bumblebee Organic Farm.  We played a couple of challenge and team-building games before we broke off into three teams (Wolf Pack, Inner Power, and Firebirds) to be farmers for the rest of the weekend.

We performed farm chores such as harvesting grapes and tomatoes, working rows of beans, and shucking corn before it was time for dinner: an amazing pasta and salad night from produce straight off the vine.

Some exciting campfire skits were a highlight of the evening before we tucked ourselves into cozy (and dry!) tents before a midnight rainstorm took us through the night.  We woke up to clear skies and huge pancakes on Sunday and worked our way through a pumpkin patch before heading home in time to spend the rest of the weekend with our families.  It was sad to see the trip come to an end, but we walked away as friends, having learned so much more about farming, and more connected to the food we eat.  







OLA Backpacking in the Columbia River Gorge

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OLA Backpacking in the Columbia River Gorge

As another amazing Oregon summer began to close its doors, a group of Catlin students from the Outdoor Leadership and Adventure class dashed out for a long weekend of backpacking and fun in the Columbia River Gorge. 

We met in the Catlin lot and rocked an activity bus up to the Eagle Creek trailhead.  Hiking up Eagle Creek, we saw waterfall after waterfall after waterfall.  Punchbowl Falls, Oneonta Falls, Loowit Falls, Tunnel Falls, and High Bridge kept us excited and anxious to see what was around every bend. 

We arrived at a secluded camp on the river, journaled, and made a home for the night.  Waking up, we watched the sun gradually climb and bathe our gorge with light before packing up for our big day.  Covering a huge portion of our loop, the trail took us up and around Tanner Butte, through old burn sites, over streams, up hills, through meadows full of blueberry and hucleberry to our beloved Dublin Lake, which we reached just as night descended.  

After maybe too many laughs around a campfire and an amazing dinner, we headed into our tents and sleeping bags to enjoy a windy-but-clear night, full of shooting stars. 

The next morning, we said goodbye to our camp and lake and made our way back to the bus... through one of the last hot days of 2009!

It was a great weekend of bonding, sightseeing, and getting away from the bustle of our school lives.  We can't wait to get out again!

Click on a photo below to check out a slideshow from the trip.







Jack Lazar '09 talks about the importance of the outdoor program

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From the Spring 2009 Caller

An exceptionally reflective young man, Jack has matured through Catlin Gabel’s outdoor program

From the spring 2009 Caller
The outdoor program opened a whole world for me, allowing me to dig deeper inside myself in a setting that’s not judgmental and is accepting and encouraging. The combination of group dynamics and the outdoors inspires me and stimulates me. It’s not just a hobby but is the fuel of my development.

The outdoor program allowed me to develop my leadership skills. I never really thought I’d be where I am now. In my freshman and sophomore years, no one did: I had abilities but didn’t apply myself. Now I challenge myself and try to make my work as personal as possible.

Photography opened my eyes to how visuals can speak of hidden meanings. Literature opened me to a world of creative writing and interpretation. Philosophy with Michael Heath opened me to a world of thought.

My mom was extremely ill when I was in 6th grade and became paraplegic. It’s been one of the most influential, sensitive, and defining times of my life. I had to realize that my parents weren’t perfect or immortal at a much younger age than most people do. I also have ADHD, a primary cause of my social isolation. These problems caused a painful awareness that made me stronger and allowed me to develop in a different way.

I have enrolled at Whitman, but I plan on taking a year off. There are so many possibilities. I will probably do some humanitarian work, traveling, mountaineering, maybe even medical training or a gap year program. I want to help others develop their passions. Catlin Gabel has taught me more than just biology or pre-calculus or literature. It’s taught me to be proud of what I’m passionate about, how to think wholly but critically, how to be flexible, and how to determine my future. Success comes from your resourcefulness, not your resources

Backpacking the Wallowas with Llamas, Summer 2009

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We gathered at the Catlin parking lot early Monday morning, 8 students and 2 adults.  After loading the bus and trailer with all our gear, we set off for the long drive to the Wallowa Mountains in NE Oregon.  On arrival in Richland we were trained in the care and loading of llamas, who were to carry most of our gear for the next 6 days.  We said goodbye to the llamas after this brief meeting and went to our forest service campsite on Eagle Creek for a chili and cornbread dinner and a lot of Frisbee.

The next morning we packed up and headed off to link up with the llamas.  After a loooooong drive on dusty dirt roads we finally arrived at the Main Eagle trailhead on the southern edge of the Wallowas.  Getting the llamas saddled and loaded the first time took a long time.  Fortunately their owner Gary patiently stayed and helped us do this.  Finally we were ready to set off into the wilderness.  We filled out our wilderness permit and started up the trail along Eagle Creek.  In places the trail was narrow and bush lined, so we had to hike single file.  The llamas could be linked together like a train, so that 7 students did not each need to take one.  The trail crossed the creek twice on sturdy wooden bridges.  We stopped for lunch at a narrow gorge, the first spot in a long while where the trail widened enough for us to get off it.  After the second bridge, the way got wilder as the trail continued up the glacially carved valley.  We had to ford the next stream.  There was a log for humans to cross on, but the llamas had to be led through the icy water.  At the next junction, the sign was gone, but it was pretty obviously the fork we were seeking.  We forded the main stream to find the steep climb to Bear Lake.  The water was so cold it was almost unbearable.  It was quite late at this point, due to the long drive, and the slowness of the loading and leading of the llamas, so we decided to camp in the beautiful streamside meadow, instead of making the freezing crossing and the steep ascent to Bear Lake.  We found a wonderful campsite, even complete with showers!  (Some previous campers had left two sun showers hanging on a log.)  We unloaded the llamas, pitched tents and made dinner.

The next day we pushed on up the valley.  We reached its end and climbed up a side trail to Eagle Lake, formed in the cirque left by the glacier that once filled and carved this valley.  The llamas had trouble negotiating the switchbacks and the llama trains had to be uncoupled so that the llamas could be led individually.  As the students had already become quite fond of the llamas, and knowledgeable about their quirks and characteristics, this was actually a welcome turn of events.  Although it was July, there was still a lot of ice floating on the lake.  We had lunch on a rock with grand views over the lake and down the valley we had ascended to reach it.   The descent to the junction with the main trail went more smoothly that the climb up had gone.  We continued up the main trail towards Cached Lake.  The trail had just emerged from being covered with snow, and no maintenance had yet been done.  We ran into an area with a lot of downed trees.  Some we were able to skirt by leading the llamas around them.  Some we cut out of the way with a collapsible saw.  But then the trail-blocking trees became too big and too numerous to deal with.  It took a half hour of scouting to find a way around the extensive blow down (or perhaps avalanched down) area.  Finally we arrived at Cached Lake, and set up camp.  There was snow in the area, so we could refrigerate our milk and dessert pudding.  We had a fire that night, and smores were made and enjoyed.

The following day we hoped to make it over the pass and down to the Minam River.  We broke camp and loaded up the llamas.  The trail led ever higher.  We got above the tree line, which meant ever grander vistas opened to our eyes.  It also meant increasing snow cover, and the trail became ever more challenging to find and follow.  In spots we had to go cross county considerable distances in order to try to keep the llamas happy.  (They didn’t like crossing the snow.)  We were successful in getting the llamas to within 200 feet of the pass.  Right at the pass a steep cornice on a lingering snow bank covered the trail.  Despite extensive scouting, we could not find a safe way to get the llamas over or around this obstacle.  We left them picketed on a relatively level spot by the trail, and made our own way up to the top of the ridge.  Here there was a wide, level meadow, a great place for lunch.  It was also high enough that we once again had cell phone reception, in the heart of the wilderness, and could call and change our pick up point for the end of the trip, as we would now have to backtrack on our route, instead of making a loop as originally planned.  We admired the panoramic view from here – back down the valley up which we had come, and on into the deep, green valley of the Minam River, from which the llamas were now excluded.  Entranced and enticed by this tempting view, we followed the trail some distance along the ridge, until it began to descend more steeply.  Reluctantly, we turned around, returned to the llamas and led them back to Cached Lake, where we remade camp.  As it was yet early, a group of adventurous explorers set off to investigate the far end of the lake and beyond.  They climbed up a long snow bank to cross a rocky ridge.  On the far side was an unexpected, hidden lush green meadow beside a burbling, crystal clear stream.  A fine place for a delicious snack.  They were tempted to linger there, but the call of the higher places upstream sang siren-like.  So they went on.  The way got steeper and looser and slipperier, but they persevered, even when forward progress slowed to creeping on hands and knees.  Finally a summit with a wide level space was reached.  After a rest, with congratulations and commendations all around (and a bit of first aid work), it was decided that descent was too dangerous by the route taken upward, so rather than go down again, the group continued upward to link up with the trail from earlier in the day.  The adventure thus became a loop hike, and ending up circling the lake (and then some).

On the day after this, we returned to our magnificent meadow campsite by Eagle Creek.  As this was a short, all downhill hike, we set up camp early, then set off to ford the creek and hike without the llamas up to Bear Lake, where we had intended to camp the first night.  Once we got there, we found that we actually had a much better campsite down by the creek in the meadow.  We ate our lunch in a much smaller campsite beside the lake, which was surrounded on two sides by immensely high, steep cliffs, and on the others by low banks with small, scraggly trees on them.  After lunch we split into two groups.  One (the sheep) returned to camp to nurse their burgeoning blisters, while the goats hiked a spur trail to Looking Glass Lake.  It seemed much farther than the 1.6 miles indicated on the map to this dammed lake, but once the initial steep climb was over, the trail was scenically spectacular.  We crossed small snow banks which provided cool, refreshing melt water for our water bottles.  A small tarn nestled in a broad meadow of blooming heather, transporting us momentarily to Scotland.  Our first view of our destination lake was from above, and we had to descend on extensive snow banks (by skiing on our shoes) to its banks.  This lake was surrounded by granite rocks that plunged directly into the deep water.  On some of them the glacial polish and striations left by the glacier that carved out the lake bed were quite evident.  The clear water was so enticing that all the students plunged into the water for a refreshing, icy dip.  Well, most of them plunged - the last whined and whinged his slow way in.  A swim out to a drowned tree was followed by a hasty retreat to dry off on sun-warmed but snow-surrounded rocks.

Our final full day started with a short hike down the valley to a campsite not so far from the trail head.  We found a shaded site right by rushing Eagle Creek. After setting up camp and picketing out the llamas, we set out to explore the “not maintained” trail to Arrow Lake.  It climbed steeply up the side of the valley.  Up and up and up it went.  After a stream crossing we found a well situated rock with a grand view for lunch.  But we were not yet at the top, so we continued on, going up ever more slowly, but keeping at it, until we’d climbed over 2000 feet, and were back in the land of snow.  False summits kept taunting us, making us think we were nearly at our goal, only to find another, higher ridge behind the one we had just topped.  At last, though, we reached the actual top, and the trail began to descend.  In the distance, too far in the distance, across a too deep canyon, we spied the lake we thought we were heading for, a snow free pond glimpsed from the snow blocked pass two days earlier, that we had thought to gain more easily by this alternate route.  But it was too far, the time too late, and the feet too tired to try to reach it today.  With heavy hearts we turned around and returned to a small, ice berg infested lake at the pass we had just crossed.  We sat down wearily for a well deserved peanut M&M break.  Careful perusal of the topo map revealed that this was actually the Arrow Lake we sought, not the tantalizing traitor we had seen in the distance.  Although disappointed in our ambition of being able to swim in the lake, deterred by the icebergs and the wind blown surface dust that collected at our end of the lake, we were nonetheless encouraged to realize that we had in fact reached our goal after all.  The descent went much more quickly and easily.  We were able to appreciate things we had missed on the way up, like the wild beauty of a corkscrew tree burned out in a spiral by lightning.

The last morning we got up an hour earlier than the previous mornings, to be sure of making the trailhead pickup for the llamas.  We were all such practiced hands at breaking camp and llama loading that we managed our quickest wake-up call to walk out time ever.  Even the llamas knew something was up, and for the first time all trip hiked at a pace over 2 miles per hour.  (Previously the best we’d been able to average with them was 1 mile an hour.)  As a result, we were back to the bus quite early, and were able to unpack and organize our things, as well as have some lunch and play some Frisbee before Gary and his family showed up to claim the llamas.  All too soon they were gone, and we began the long drive back to Portland.

Now we are left with great memories of the camaraderie of camp and trail; the magnificent scenery; the fabulous, filling food; the foibles of the llamas; the evenings of smores, Frisbee flinging and card playing; and the adventures of drinking melted snow, steep scrambles, shoe skiing, swimming, wilderness cuisine preparation and consumption, and trail finding.  Oh for another such trip!

Please watch the slideshow of this trip by clicking on any of the below photos and pressing "play."  Enjoy!

California Surfing and Grayback Massif Traverse, Summer 2009

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This past July a group of eleven headed south from Portland with two ambitious goals: to surf the fabled breaks of NoCal and to make a traverse of the Grayback Massif (the highest peak in the Klamath Range).  What started as an experiement became an unforgettable road trip.  Waves were ridden, summits were tagged, friends were made, laughs were abundant... we were sorry to see it all end.  Please click on a photo, press play, turn on some music (Baba O'Riley!), and watch the slideshow.  Enjoy!



Upper School Squamish Climbing, Summer 2009

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This summer, a group of 26 climbers boldly crossed our northern border and set out upon the rocks of Squamish, British Columbia.  We spent 5 days cragging, multi-pitching, camping, laughing, cooking, eating, and enjoying the beautiful weather and atmosphere surrounding one of the premier climbing destinations in North America.  Squamish is located just outside VVancouver - on the road to Whistler Ski Area.  The trip was a truly remarkable and special event, one that will forever be imbeded in the minds and hearts of its participants.   Please click on a photo below, press play, turn on some music (Creedence is good!), and watch the slideshow.  Enjoy!















Steens Mountain Backpack Trip, June 2009

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Ten Catlin Gabel students traveled through the hidden wonders of Oregon's magical Steens Mountain during five perfect days in June. The group backpacked up the spectacular Big Indian Gorge through lush riparian vegetation located in the heart of the high desert of eastern Oregon. At the top of the gorge the hikers found a way up through the rocks and snow and emerged at Little Wildhorse Lake. At 8600 feet the lake has magnificent view across the Alvord Desert and into Nevada. The summit of Steens mountain is 9600 feet and one of the highest points in the state. After visiting the summit, the team descended (carefully) into Little Blitzen Gorge where they camped for two more nights amid wildflowers, streams, waterfalls and endless bird life. The five day adventure was a highlight of the summer for the students.

Our camp at Little Wildhorse Lake

Little Blitzen Gorge








Best Campsite in the State

Big Indian Gorge

Descending into Little Blitzen Gorge

North Umpqua Rafting: June 17-20, 2009

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Climb to the Summit of Mount Hood, June 2009

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Climbers near the halfway point. The shadow of Mount Hood is visible at sunrise

On Tuesday June 16th students from Catlin Gabel school found themselves looking across the entire state of Oregon (and Washington) from the summit of Mt. Hood. The day was perfect, with a light breeze, and the students made the ascent in less than six and a half hours.

Just below the summit at 9:15 am

Snow school the day before the climb

On the top

Carefully descending from the top

After the climb

Deschutes River Rafting: April 25-27, 2009

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A fine spring weekend spent among the dry hills and and rushing Deschutes River of Central Oregon. Fifteen students set forth on this venture, determined to paddle against the wind, climb to the canyon rim, swim the frigid rapids and camp beneath magnificent starry skies.

Smith Rock April 2009

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Smith Rock is a world renowned mecca for rock climbing. A group of 19 students from Catlin Gabel spent a weekend there under sunny skies in April. Students climbed climbs ranging from 5.7 to 5.11c in many different places throughout the state park. On Saturday night the group enjoyed a large barbecue before driving over to the Grasslands to set up camp. Once our tents were up we spent hours telling stories around the campfire.

What a nice white house.
Here is a QuickTime movie. It is small, so it will play within this window.

Central Oregon Biking and Hiking: April 2009

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The biking/hiking trip was definitely relaxing and invigorating!

While zooming down the road on our bikes along the Deschutes River we witnessed tons of GORGEOUS scenery.

Everyone was able to enjoy the warm central Oregon weather as well as everyone’s company.


We had a tasty barbeque with the CG smith rock climbers the first night and slept under an enticing, starry, night sky!

The next morning we awoke for an exciting day hike up and back down smith rock.

This is definitely a trip worth running again.

Peru 2009

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Winterim and global education came together for students and teachers who traveled to Peru. The highlight of the trip was a four-day trek past many Incan ruins to Machu Picchu.

Craters & Caves Winterim: March 2009

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376,245 laughs.

1000 miles.

11 students.

6 days.

376,245 laughs.

1000 miles.

11 students.

6 days.

2 states.

1 amazing horror mockumentary.

This student-led winterim knocked our socks off! We explored several of the many wild areas of southern Oregon and far northern California, from the heavy snowfall Crater Lake National Park to the desert sun and dark caves of Lava Beds National Monument.


Mt. Rainier Snowshoeing and Snow Camping

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On the trip to Rainier National park, we experienced snow, foxes, avalanches and the hard work it takes to keep a flame going.

Most of the crew didn’t have any experience on snowshoes. After we threw on our packs and headed out, it became clear to us how hard we were going to have to push ourselves.

As it turned out, we started in the bottom of a huge valley. The way we chose to go was up.

The first hour was the hardest because we were traveling at a consistently aggressive pace, with much-needed rests in between.

After summiting the crest of the valley wall, we took in the views of the scenery around us and as a group decided where to sleep.

With 45 minutes left ‘till the sun went down, we reached “The Throne,” a mini-peak that became our home for the next three days.

Atop our Throne, we could see everything surrounding us, with Mt. Rainier to the North, the Tatoosh range to the South, and everywhere snow. We quickly set up the tents, made dinner and jumped in our cozy sleeping bags.

The next two days were full of snowshoeing adventures, eating PB&J’s, and hanging out at base camp.

It was a great experience that we will never forget.

Beach Weekend: February 21-22, 2009

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What a great way to unwind! Eight Upper School girls spend a weekend relaxing and playing on the Oregon Coast. The sun shone down on us at Ecola State Park, where we climbed amongst boulders, hiked to a viewpoint of an island lighthouse, and spotted a whale lolling in the waves. We spent the night in yurts--playing cards, eating marshmallows and fighting off raccoons. Sunday morning we checked out the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale and military bunkers at Fort Stevens.