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A Night in a Forest Lookout

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                                      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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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"

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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!







Fall Outdoor Leadership and Adventure Wrap-up

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Outdoor Leadership and Adventure, Fall 2009

The Fall 2009 OLA was a tremendous success!  Every Tuesday and Thursday we set out in a little, yellow bus and went out for outdoor challenges, adventures, and personal growth.  We will all have great memories of hiking in Forest Park, learning about tents and shelter, canoeing on the Willamette, ecological restoration, maps and navigation, visiting a farm, biking on the Leif Erikson, disc golf, rock climbing, and a forestry hike.  Students also participated in a rafting or a backpacking trip!  It's amazing to think that we crammed so many adventures into such a short period of time.

Ultimately, OLA is a great opportunity to spend some time learning about the abundance of recreational opportunities in our region, enjoy the outdoors with a great grout of students, devlop personal leadership skills, and learn to work as a group to meet unique challenges.

Please click on a photo, press play, turn on some music (the evolution of rock was en vogue this fall), and watch the slideshow.  Enjoy!







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