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Bagby Hot Springs Backpacking & Service: November 20-23, 2008
In late November, a bold team of Catlin Gabel students, looking forward to four days of climbing and community service, set out to the high desert of Central Washington, to the Tieton River valley.
Relaxation and group bonding were hallmarks of the trip.
After a grueling day of community service (we moved sections of burnt logs for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Elk Creek Station).
Our lodging was the cozy Chinook Pass Work Station, a pair of bunkhouses maintained for firefighters and others doing service in the area.
We played some cards.
OK, we played A LOT of cards.
Some of the students were so thrilled at carrying these logs that they went back a second day!
And then we climbed.
And the climbing was good.
"Nachos en Naches" may have even been better.
At the end of the trip, we were all much closer and we piled back into the bus, only to have a snow-filled adventure on the way home. Returning to our homes, our real beds, and schoolwork, we had challenged ourselves, created stronger bonds, done some good in the world, and enjoyed our time thoroughly. This trip will not soon be forgotten.
For five glorious spring days students from Catlin Gabel sailed through the San Juan Islands of Washington and into Canada. The eight students were the crew for the 50 foot sailboat, manning the helm, the sails, preparing meals and exploring isalnds along the way.
Smith Rock climbing trip, October 2008
By Eddie Junior
Smith Rock climbing trip, October 2008
By Eddie Junior
The air was cold and sweet on that grey October morning as I pulled into Catlin’s parking lot. People moved like chipmunks, carrying large packs to cars and buses as if storing acorns for winter. I was about to embark upon the largest outdoor trip in the history of the school. Some 40 students and 15 leaders, both from Catlin and from a city-wide student outdoor club, The Explorer Post, would take part in our weekend long trip to the rock-climbing Mecca of Oregon.
Two and a half hours later for the cars, and 3 and a half hours later for the people on the bus, we all finally arrived at the Smith Rock parking lot. The annoyed looks of the 20-something climbing bums (who were not pleased to see a bunch of loud kids pull up in a school bus) could not break our high spirits. About half of the group left for beginner rock school at some nearby cliffs to practice belaying, knot tying and rappelling, while the rest, myself included, headed out in smaller groups all over the area. My heart sunk when I heard our group would be going to Staender’s Ridge, which despite its great climbing, presented one of the furthest hikes possible. But I survived the trek and spent a wonderful afternoon lead-climbing and setting up some moderate routes for my group.
Just as we began packing up our gear that evening, I caught the smell on the wind of fresh-cooked meat, melting cheese and a kind of gooey and cold potato salad. We crammed all our stuff into our packs and returned to the parking lot as fast as we could. As I crested the hill leading up to the parking lot I heard the sweet music of angels singing and felt the warm essence of barbeque dinner engulf me. We all ate like kings that night, cramming down cheeseburgers and throwing back root beers, which our wonderful friends who hung up the harness early that day, had cooked for us. After dinner we went to the campsite and enjoyed a long evening of bonfire, guitar, and hanging out with new friends.
After deciding to sleep outside (not in a tent) with nothing but a sleeping bag and my wits to keep me warm, I woke up chilly and my sleeping bag and pad were drenched with dew. A thick fog hung over Skull Hollow campground, but I admired the potential for a beautiful sunny day as I munched a pb&j sandwich for breakfast. Slowly but surely, we took down tents, rolled up sleeping bags and pads, and loaded into cars and the bus for day two of our trip. With basic training out of the way we split up into more small groups which to different sections of Smith Rock’s most popular climbing area. I got to do some more challenging climbing that day, leading and top-roping sevreral routes, while always keeping a mellow attitude. The day wound down at about 2:30, since we needed to get back to Portland in time for hours and hours of homework. 55 people piled back into their respective means of conveyance, tired, but happy, and we set off into the setting sun.
Warm autumn sunshine provided a wonderful enviroment for over forty students who spent a weekend rock climbing at Smith Rock State Park in central Oregon.
This October we went up to the Indian Heaven wilderness, between Mt. Saint Helens and Mt. Adams. We realized before we started our hike that the weather would not be excellent, but decided to go anyways, because we knew we could make the best of it. Although the weather challenged us physically, the spirit of the trip was fantastic, which made the voyage meaningful.
We bussed to the trailhead, guided by our map and the smooth sounds of Simon and Garfunkel. The ride was beautiful, especially after the crossing the Hood River Bridge; the forest was changing into her fall oranges and yellows. I had never seen the wilderness in such a vivid display of color. This was only a glimpse of the beauty to come. We started the hike by letting our high spirits shield us from the rain and cold. As long as we were moving and talking and laughing, the rain did not trouble us.
Before long we settled on a campsite and proceeded to set up our tents. The cold started to set in, and I began to focus on my cold hands instead of the beauty of the lake we were lucky enough to camp next to.
After a quick rest we set out again to explore Indian Heaven. We saw hundreds of little glades and meadows, dusted with reds and yellows. The clouds and the mist created a mysterious and soothing solace, which we might not have experienced if the weather had been great.
We came across a giant patch of wild huckleberry plants, which were weighted down by the juicy fruit. We feasted and laughed together. It was truly amazing to discover that amazing abundance of treasures in the middle of the wilderness. That find was defiantly a high point of the trip.
We journeyed back to camp to cook dinner. The cold was setting in, and the rain soaked through some of our layers. There was no shortage of gourmet food on this trip. We prepared miso soup, French bread with brie, pesto pasta, and hot chocolate. It was a satisfying way to end the satisfying day.
The next morning it began to snow. We cleaned our campsite quickly and headed for home. The hike out felt refreshing, like we were coming to the end of a saga of rain and cold. The conversation and mood was great, we all knew we had endured something difficult, and felt stronger from the experience. I would recommend this trip if you are looking for a great way to test your physical endurance, and want to witness one of the prettiest places on Earth.
North Umpqua Rafting & Hiking: June 29 - July 2, 2008
|How to surf a raft, lesson one.|
Four whole days of rafting, hiking, playing and relaxing along the North Umpqua River in southern Oregon! Perfect sunny weather, cool green river--what more could you ask for?
|How to surf a raft, lesson eight.|
|Falls Creek Falls (yup, thats the real name)|
|Watching huge salmon jump up Steamboat Falls|
After a three hour drive to Mt. Rainier National Park we loaded up our packs in the Snow Lake parking lot. The trail was pretty much snow covered the entire way. Our campsite was gloriously placed on the north shore of the lake with an inspiring view of Unicorn Peak. We swam in the ice covered lake - ever so briefly.
On climb day we got an early start. The route took us up toward the steep Unicorn Glacier to the col, where the call was to "go for the summit." We traversed the long ridge singing verses from The Sound of Music and found ourselves at the base of the dramatic summit pinnacle. The route to the top was 5.5 rock climbing, and we were all on the top within an hour. The route to Boundary Peak took us across a steep east facing snow slope and eventually to an attractive summit. Some four later after a challenging descent we found ourselves back at our tents.
What could be more different from the Pacific Northwest than the slickrock canyons of SE Utah? Eight intrepid students set forth to explore Canyonlands National Park and surrounding public lands by canoe, Aiyana Hart-McArthur and Bob Sauer close on their heels. We flew to Salt Lake City, drove to Moab, then headed to the Green River with our rented canoes. We paddled more than 100 miles along the river, passing ancient ruins, pools of quicksand, Great Blue Herons and mosquitoes the size of herons. At the Green Rivers confluence with the Colorado River we celebrated by jumping out of our canoes into the merging streams, bathed in the meltwater of the Rockies. We returned by jetboat, heading upriver on the Colorado to Moab, glad to wash off the desert dirt, but sad to leave the calm of the canyons.
|Our cozy lodging at the Lazy Lizard Hostel in Moab.|
|Loading up on day one|
|Aiyana explains the groover (portable river toilet) situation our first night on the river.|
|Cards on the river|
|John Wesley Powell named the Butte of the Cross in 1868.|
|Party in the quicksand!|
|Inspecting 900 year old granary ruins near Turks Head|
|This granay in Jasper Canyon must have stored a LOT of corn!|
|Mere moments later, the canoe became a submarine explorer of Cataract Canyon.|
|Time to head home...|
|...but not before a pre-departure swim in Moabs Mill Creek...|
|...a quick read...|
|...a bit of music making...|
|...and a bite to eat!|
The summit of Mt. Adams is 12,300 feet and a group of teenagers from the Portland area successfully climbed to that point this past July. The group first hiked into base camp at 8,050 feet - a hike made unnecessarily long by snow-caused road closures - and spent the night in tents among the rocks. On the second day the party awoke at a very early hour and made the climb to the summit. It took about six hours from basecamp to get everyone to the summit. the descent was nothing but fun, as the climbers were able to slide down most of the way back to camp.
|The summit of Mt. Adams|
By Peter Green
Whether we go on a rafting trip, climbing trip, or bicycling trip, students learn from being given responsibility to take care of themselves and their friends. They need to make choices about setting up their own shelters, cooking meals for the group, maneuvering the raft through rapids, and selecting a good climbing route. Although adults are always present and have set expectations and defined boundaries, we aren’t directing the students.
The outdoor program gives all students an opportunity to learn by experiencing and experimenting. Sometimes kids who are exceptional classroom students seek out a trip so they can grow in new ways—so they can enhance their emotional, social, and leadership qualities. Then there are those who are not as successful in the classroom but who find that they excel, that they are the best among their peers, in certain outdoor pursuits. When they bring these successes back to campus, we sometimes see these students make strides in their classroom expectations and socially among their peers. Kids need to have areas where they feel competent. When they do, they are better overall learners and certainly happier in their lives.
|Lower Schoolers on "An Excellent Adventure"|
Peter Green is the director of Catlin Gabel's outdoor program.
LOWER SCHOOL EXPERIENTIAL DAYS
FOSSIL HUNTING AT CAMP HANCOCK AND BEYOND
|A 5th grader loving her time at Camp Hancock|
At OMSI’s Camp Hancock, near the John Day River in eastern Oregon, we hiked and explored a gorgeous high desert landscape underlain with myriad fossils. Students discovered, touched, and dug up such things as fossil katsura tree trunks, oreodont skeletons, calcite crystalfilled equisetum stems, nimravid skulls, dawn redwood twigs, leaves from an ancient rainforest floor, and the shoulder bone of a great raptor with wings as much as 30 feet across. The children smeared their faces with red, brown, and green mud made from paleo-soils millions of years old during hikes, while the skies filled with snow flurries, rain showers, and sun.
We followed hikes the next day with a trip to the John Day Fossil Beds visitor center, where we could see fossils and reconstructed habitats, and comments like these abounded: “Hey! Look! We were just there—right there!” “We saw that yesterday in the Nut Beds!” Other highlights included learning to make string from native plants; a visit to a rock shelter with walls containing pictographs made from blood, fat, rock powders, and charcoal; and learning to use an atlatl to throw spears. Evenings were filled with after-dinner dish washing for 100 people, sing-along campfires, story telling, meeting Mariah the great horned owl, astronomy discoveries, playing the Hancock Trivia game, and a fabulous night hike.
Things kids learned: how to wash dishes fast and efficiently, make a bed, pack a bag, and sweep up a cabin; how natives moved seasonally through the landscape; that smilodonts preyed upon oredonts; that early horses, the size of cats or terrier dogs, lived in rainforests and had four toes; that central Oregon was once tropical ocean front, with avocados, bananas, and palms; how juniper trees preserve water in the dry climate; how to identify mule deer versus elk scat; how and why scientists collect, protect, and preserve fossils; and that not all really amazing fossils are from dinosaurs. So, how cool is that?
—Scott Bowler, Lower School’s “Mr. Science”
|A 1st grader prepares to decorate a chair autobiographically in "My Life as a Chair"|
ADVENTURES WITH FAIRIES AND GNOMES
|A cupcake left for the fairies|
Our children brought and shared books, gowns, experiences, wands, stories, enthusiasm, and hopes of finding a gnome or fairy. Our expectations were simple: to build relationships among peers of different ages, while exploring and identifying native habitat. After stories from around the world of gnomes and fairies, we headed off into various woods where we “walked like foxes,” not disturbing native life, participating in and deeply observing our surroundings.
Students learned about “manners” in the woods and streams, leaving no trace, something that the fairies would appreciate and the gnomes would respect. We baked cupcakes to give to the fairies, “because they are greedy and have a taste for sweets.” Some students created a fairy language, with translation keys, to write messages to the fairy folk. Others documented their days in drawings and detailed writing, finally publishing their findings and research in a shared newspaper full of beguiling class quotes and musings. We constructed colorful, jingly wands and pointy red hats. As we ventured out, students counted, collected, and pressed native plants to include in scrapbooks. They made copies of photographs, poems, and recipes to include.
The last day we practiced the life skill of quickly changing from muddy hiking gear to luncheon attire on a bus, to make a special date at the Heathman Restaurant. As we reviewed the different manners appropriate to fine dining, the students shared what they knew to be necessary: do not pound on the table when you want your food, remember to say please and thank you, don’t kick the table or your friends, try a bite before you say no thank you.
During Experiential Days students jump in, take healthy risks, and bond with one another. Maybe it is because there is magic in the woods, but more likely, I believe, with full, uninterrupted days given to exploration and creation, real magic happens.
—Mariam Higgins, 4th grade teacher
|A student gets slimed, a badge of honor|
"I was slimed three times!”
This was the magical moment I was waiting for. By our fourth day, one 7-year-old who had been a bit insecure about getting dirty could not get enough of the cows. We had talked all week about “getting slimed”— cows have wet noses and are incredibly curious, and “sliming” is their way of interacting with you. We wore it like a badge of honor.
These 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders learned about every step of the cheese-making process, watched the making of queso fresco, and ate cheese. We blind-tasted tiny cups of milk to identify which was whole milk, 2%, 1%, skim milk, half and half, and goat’s milk. A veterinarian told us how a calf is born, how and why cows are dehorned, how their four stomachs work, and how newborn calves have virtually no immune system and would die without drinking their mother’s rich colostrum milk.
One of the greatest lessons was about systems—we literally followed the process of milk from udder to grocery shelf. John, our organic dairyman, brought the children into the pasture and dug up the earth so the children could explore the soil, earthworms and all. He helped them see the connection between our earth and the food we eat, and why his cows are pasture fed. We talked about how his farm was different from the big, commercial farm we had seen. We learned about the concept of interdependency—and the consequences of choices we make—at its very basic level.
When we helped empty last year’s swallow houses, a student announced that she found what might be a dead baby bird inside one. A dead baby bird?! Everyone gathered around, wide-eyed, while Farmer John casually explained why many of the baby birds don’t survive. After a few minutes of furrowed brows, the children went back to their tasks. I learned about life and death on a dairy farm growing up, something I realize our youngsters don’t “get” as readily in the confines of city living. Life and death are all over farms. It’s simply the cycle of life
Our learning was deep and rich—and every bit of it experiential. Ask any one of our “cows” kids about it and they will go on and on. I was astounded at the connections they made in their learning. How could it be that children could learn major life lessons in just four days?
—Vicki Swartz Roscoe, head of the Lower School
MIDDLE SCHOOL BREAKAWAY
COSTA RICA TRAVEL
|Middle School students and teacher David Ellenberg work hard in Costa Rica|
Dropping off brave students at homestays scattered throughout Monteverde, climbing a high tower dwarfed by tropical jungle to begin a zip-line tour, thrilling to an encounter with Capuchin monkeys checking us out from perches in trees, pausing with journals to sit and reflect on all the Spanish phrases washing over them: these are some of the many images I conjure from two weeks in Costa Rica, over Breakaway time and more, with eighteen 8th graders.
Global travel is a challenge to provide, yet the payoffs are immediate and extensive. Students quickly transition from unsteady newbies filled with trepidation to comfortable travelers who know their way around a town with no street signs or numbered addresses. Seeing them process so many unknowns and work through unfamiliar situations, I find their personal growth truly inspiring.
—David Ellenberg, MS world history teacher
|These students were part of the FooDelicious group, which explored commercial food through visits to a bakery, wheat lab, donut shop, cheese company, pasta restaurant, and beachside candy shop. They came to understand where the typical foods they eat come from and how each component of the process is linked.|
|Learning about Shakespeare through an acting workshop in Ashland|
Live theater in Ashland, Oregon, opened the bill of this trip, exposing Middle Schoolers to a worldclass ensemble with first-rate music, costumes, staging, and venues. Diversity was key to the works they saw: Fences, a contemporary American play, The Clay Cart, a traditional East Indian play, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream— set in a 1970s disco, which the students really connected with. To further immerse them in the Shakespeare play, an Ashland actor and teacher led a workshop explaining Shakespeare as a person, discussing the play’s plot and historical context, then involving the students physically through movement and acting.
Hands-on fun continued at the science museum in Ashland, which is totally experiential in its nature. “You have to touch and move everything, and the students loved it,” said trip co-leader Mark Pritchard, Middle School music teacher.
One important lesson of Shakespearience for students was learning to stay within financial limits. They stayed in a dorm at Southern Oregon University to save money. They had a strict group budget for eating out, so everyone was responsible to the group and had to make good decisions, both monetarily and in terms of healthful eating. “The other fundamental lessons were learning to act responsibly in public, support each other, and do the right thing so the group represents the school well, and we stay welcome,” says Mark.
HOOP DAYS, a joint project with the Middle School and the 5th grade
|Visiting the Rose Garden, home of the Portland Trailblazers|
Hoop Days was the most wonderful four days EVER! I got to meet Jerome Kersey and wear his NBA championship ring! I got to go to the Blazers locker room and see Brandon Roy’s locker and touch his shoe! I learned all about the Rose Garden arena—did you know that Paul Allen built a secret apartment in it so he could spend the night after the games? I learned how radio and TV broadcast sports and I got to design my own shoe at Nike and meet with a designer who talked to me about it. It was also great to learn basketball tips and tricks from Pee Wee Harrison, of the Harlem All-Stars. This is just some of what I got to do.
The places we went all said they loved having the Catlin Gabel students, and even though they never did this kind of thing before they would love to do it again next year!
—Matthew Bernstein ’15, who had the original idea for the Hoop Days experience
UPPER SCHOOL WINTERIM
BECOMING A WORLD-CLASS NEGOTIATOR
|Online meeting with students from Gaza|
Upper School history teacher Peter Shulman and IT director Richard Kassissieh first gave us a quick overview of the history of Israel and Palestine, focusing on land ownership and the conflict over thousands of years. We took in a lot of information that day, and we gained a lot of understanding for both sides of the conflict. Our teachers also had us go around the room and explain who we are here and now, what we stand for, and where we come from. As people spoke around the room, every person had something special and unique about their origin and what brought them to where they are. Despite our different backgrounds, we all wanted to learn more about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The next day we met at 7 a.m. to speak with a group of students from Gaza through Skype, an online audio and visual connection. Remembering the experience continues to remind me how I want to change policy and injustice in the world as I continue to grow up. We were told that the group that we’d be speaking with was made up of Palestinian students my age living in the Gaza Strip, where attacks on both sides of the conflict continue to cripple the two fighting powers and prevent them from reaching an agreement.
As I walked into the room that morning, our mentor Richard, who is of Palestinian descent, explained the guidelines to my peers and me. “Withhold any questions you might have in regard to internal fighting between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza. As you know, Gaza is very small and very isolated. Words fly fast to the ears of harm-doers and direct, honest answers about these questions might have serious consequences for these students,” Richard told us.
The question that one of the Palestinian girls asked that will remain in my memory was, “Does the conflict here in Gaza, where we live, affect the daily lives for you guys?”
At that moment I felt embarrassed because it didn’t really enter into my mind daily. I attend school with the freedom to learn what the teachers have the autonomy to choose to teach us, and as citizens of the United States we have the freedom to travel. When it was my turn to speak, I stood up, and sat in front of the screen. I played with my hands, rearranging my scarf, and began to bite my lip, nervous and full of anxiety, thinking that the girl on the screen must hate us, the Americans, who get to be free.
I was wrong. She looked at me as a peer, a teenager, just like her. I found the words tumbling from my mouth easily as I addressed her.
“I go to school, and I never have to worry for my safety. My family and I don’t live in fear. The conflict doesn’t really cross our minds at all; in fact, many of us, in this room, never knew how profound and wrong the world still is in your part of the world. I know about it now, though, from taking this seminar, and I will do what I can to make your voice heard,” I said, wanting to speak more, but I didn’t.
Next, another one of my peers spoke from his heart, “I am sorry. I’m sorry that you can’t go to the movies and play with your friends in safety. I just want to say that our leaders’ actions do not reflect how the people in this classroom feel, because I know I’ll follow this conflict and have your life conditions in my mind from now on.”
The girl on the screen, a citizen of the world just like us, replied, “What you just said is enough. The fact that you understand what we are going through every day here in Gaza makes me have a smile on my face.” As she made this statement, the dimple in her cheek was visible. As she sat, wearing a headscarf that covered her hair, her body language shifted, her arms opened, and she sat forward in her chair; she was happy.
I noticed that the teacher coordinator beside her began to cry. She told us, “You see, the Palestinian youth never travel or meet anyone who isn’t Palestinian. I was lucky. I was able to travel, and I have friends who are Israeli and from other places around the world. These students do not even have that; they are isolated from the world.” I have an opportunity to make her problems and concerns heard.
I have the opportunity to learn and get an education that fits my characteristics and interests. Now I can look at the conflict from both sides, understanding that the conflict is not based on religion, but on land and power. Dialogue with these students made this conflict more real in my mind than I had ever previously imagined.
I know that my role in the lives of others will continue to strengthen and grow through my education. I hope to help the students who are not being given the chance, like my peers in Gaza.
—Aurielle Thomas ’08
MEXICO CLIMBING AND CULTURE TRIP
|Upper Schoolers reaching the summit of Iztaccihuatl|
Nine intrepid students and three adult leaders traveled in central Mexico for 10 days during Winterim to combine cultural exploration with a mountaineering adventure. The group gained an appreciation for the rich and deep culture of the country during their stays in Mexico City and the small town of Tepotzlan. The trip culminated with an ascent of Iztaccihuatl, a 17,373-foot peak.
The Mexico expedition achieved some deeper goals, too: students learned to live and work together; they were challenged physically, socially, and culturally; and finally, they came to understand more than they could before about the communities and people in a far less developed country.
—Peter Green, outdoor program director
|Community service is an important Winterim option. Gwen Survant-Kaplin ’08 and a group of students helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity and worked at a building materials recycling center.|
PORTLAND: THE CITY BY DAY, THE CITY BY NIGHT
|Students learn how the fire department works|
This year for Winterim, I had the rewarding (and somewhat taxing) opportunity to take on the responsibility of a student organizer. It all started when student activities director Mark Lawton asked me if I’d like to investigate “what makes Portland tick.” His idea was nebulous: travel around the city by foot, by bus, and by sheer ingenuity in order to get a feel for the kinds of minds behind our social and civil services, entertainment, and media organizations, and to see what really goes on behind the scenes. After recruiting my friend Rohan Jhunjhunwala ’11, we joined Mark and librarian Sue Phillips to begin the daunting task of scheduling trips to such places as fire departments, bowling alleys, fine dining establishments, Portland Impact, the Portland Planning Bureau, and the newspaper headquarters of Street Roots and the Oregonian, in addition to the Oregon Department of Transportation control room and the newsroom of television station KATU. Even before we set out, I became adept at navigating the information superhighway in order to locate interesting people to speak with, getting in touch with and speaking to important city officials, and juggling the agenda as it evolved out of the minds of the four of us.
Imagine how rewarding it was when it all finally came together, when I realized that our grand scheme no longer looked good simply on paper, but had taken on a life of its own. What really struck me was that wherever we went, there were people who enjoyed what they did, who took great pride in telling us all about it. Their excitement transferred onto us, and we found ourselves filled with questions such as, Whose responsibility is it that individuals who have been arrested maintain their human rights? How does a homeless newspaper operate? How are you making the Pearl District more environmentally friendly? And the most important question, How can I get involved and make a difference? By taking a bit of a risk in order to answer a deceptively simple question, our small group came away with a deeper understanding of the community at large, and thereby armed ourselves to make a positive difference in it.
—Josh Langfus ’11
|Counselor George Thompson ’64 and arts teacher Tom Tucker ’66 led “Guitars, Guitars, Guitars!” Students of all levels improved their guitar skills through workshops with visiting musicians and hours of playing music together.|
Wow, a rafting trip on two of the Northwests most beautiful rivers! But wait--why no rafting photos here? It turns out this trip was about whitewater PLUS camping, fierce card games, playing with our food, slip-sliding through ice caves, even hide-n-seek in the dark woods. Nineteen students had a blast!
A glorious week of sunshine blessed adventure in Icicle Creek Canyon. Thats what eight students from the Portland area shared this past June. Bringing a wide variety of rock climbing experience, the students camped, cooked and climbed the granite walls that surrounded Icicle Creek. Some students led dificult crack routes while others top roped even more challenging problems.
Attempt on the summit of Mount Hood, June 2008
Huge redwood trees beyond comprehension, unspoiled coastlines and beautiful streamside camping: sixteen students from Catlin Gabel school travelled to northern California in June to bicycle through this magical land.
Biking in Redwoods Trip Report
June 12-15th, 2008
By Erica junior
After a week of blissful summer, finding myself huddled in the gravel parking lot at 7:30 am was enough to send me flying back to bed, but the promise of sunny blue California skies and trees wider than our school bus kept me rooted. Somehow we all squeezed into the very short bus, and headed south. With every mile we drove it grew increasingly sunny, and we all bonded over shared sugar bombs (candy-coated peanuts) and the radio’s frequent playings of Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville”. During an impromptu rest-stop on the side of the highway we uncovered a small suitcase behind a boulder, brimming with what seemed like a kleptomaniac’s latest finds: unopened Fimo modeling clay, staples and paperclips, lip gloss, a hose nozzle, etc. We reached our campsite around 4:30pm, and unloading gear we suited up our bikes to ride through Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. True to their words, the Redwoods were massive, and we stood in a silent awe at the aptly named “Eternal Tree” before leaping about for photo ops. The “Corkscrew Tree” prompted us to improvise a history—about how the great mythical giants had used it to uncork their red wine, which had in turn spilled across the forest creating the “red”woods (we weren’t sure where the “white” or the “rose” woods were). That night, after sixteen miles of riding, our dinner of garlic bread, Caesar salad, and spaghetti perfectly suited the endless starry sky. (Continued below)
Friday morning we packed up camp and drove still further south, passing through quaint California coastal towns before we reached the start of the “Avenue of the Giants” around 11:30am. Peter had told us we’d have 46 miles of small up-and-downs but overall little change in finishing elevation for the day. Soon we passed the “Immortal Tree”, the approximate height of a 24-story building, and survivor of the 1964 flood as well as a direct lightning strike. After only an evening of biking before, our bottoms felt ridiculously sore, and we painfully began to climb uphill in the heat. At the top of the hill was kitschy Redcrest, where we stopped to tour the “Eternal Tree House”, a room with a door below the roots of a huge tree. Numerous motorcycles had zoomed by us already, and waiting in line for the bathroom a leather-vested woman struck up conversation with Sophie and Emma and me. Looking at our beet-red faces and water-bottles clutched like lifelines, she laughed: “We’re biking too, but we don’t gotta pedal!” My dad had excitedly attached an odometer to my bike before leaving, and as we coasted downhill from Redcrest I watched in terror as the mile count for the decline grew—over two miles that although pleasant now, looked horrible to ride up after our other 40+ miles were completed. (Continued below)
We promised we’d walk up the massive hill together, trying to lighten our spirits. After a lunch stop by the side of the beautiful Eel River, we pedaled on, loving the way the overhanging branches fractured the sunlight to send rays streaming across our path, the air smelling floral and summery. Over ice cream bars in the late afternoon heat, we decided to turn back earlier than planned to insure we would find our next campsite, so around 3:00 we started retracing our path at 17 miles. The group naturally split up as people found their pace, and so when a loud hissing came from my back tire, Sophie and Emma and I were all alone. It was significantly flat within a few seconds, so we pulled over to a shoulder and waited, watching motorcycles whiz by. Finally, after we were sure we had somehow become the last in the group and would have to divide to find help, Joey, Julia, and Scott, our bicycle mechanic, appeared like a godsend at the crest of the hill, and in no time the tube was replaced. By the time we reached the dreaded great uphill before Redcrest, everything in side of us said we would never reach the top, but one pedal at a time we somehow surfaced above it all, even Joey on his one-speed. We drove the bus to Rockefeller forest to gape at a grove of the biggest trees in the world, before driving a few more hours south to the campground and some of the best-tasting burritos in the world.
Our planned 43-mile ride on Saturday was dissuaded by a ranger warning of cars whipping around corners on beer-runs and the enormity of a hill we would have to surmount, so back in the bus we drove over the horribly vertical hill and through the ghostly town of Petrolia, past dismembered porcelain dolls hanging along a white fence. Parking the bus, we biked a few miles to the beach, observing the very dead-smelling whale washed up, and napping in the warm sand of the dunes. After lunch, we found a perfect swimming hole along the river, and our group played Frisbee with very grateful dogs that had appeared, built artful rock dam formations, and enjoyed the warm sunshine. With only a few biking incidents that day (Julian had somehow launched himself into the bushes from his moving bicycle, Mannie’s took a superman dive onto he road, and Sophie’s bungie cord exploded sending a flip-flop flying into the trees never to be found again) we returned to camp for a tranquil afternoon of basketball, cards, reading, and skipping rocks. Eating cherry cheesecake around the fire that night, we reflected on the trip, our aching muscles and mile-wide smiles evidence enough of all we’d accomplished. Jesse gave Reid an accolade for “always being so adorable”, and we slept a final night below the great California stars.
We left camp the next morning around daybreak, driving along the scenic and stunning Lost Coast of California as the sun cut through the low fog, illuminating the endless ocean flanked by high cliffs dotted with sheep and bountiful purple and orange wildflowers. Driving all day, singing along to oldies on the radio and stopping only to take pictures, play Frisbee, and eat the remaining food, we reached Portland around 6:15pm, grimy, sore, and positively beaming.