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Big Wild : 1B • June 15-June 28, 2016

Backpacking & farewell!

June 28, 2016

Howdy from Jackson Hole!

It’s been a rowdy 5 days since we last checked in. We just returned from a 3-night backpacking trip in the Wind River Range. The kids are all departing today and we are seeing them off with heavy hearts but high hopes for their futures!

On Thursday, we drove from Three Island Crossing in Idaho all the way down to Boulder, WY to do a 1 night backpacking simulation at the Green River Outreach for Wilderness camp. The kids learned wildlife protocol, brushed up on their Leave No Trace principles, and practiced packing their packs. The next morning, the kids whittled their gear down to the bare essentials before hitting the trail from Sweetwater Creek in the Southwestern corner of the Wind River Range. We started off our hike with an introductory stream crossing with Tommy and Katherine leading the crossing teams. We aimed for a high mountain pond as a base camp for the next three days, but early season conditions and the primitive trail system cut us short of the target camp. Instead, we enlisted our LOD’s (Tommy and Katherine) to help select a safe camp in an area with a nearby water source.  Once camp was set, Bella, Abby, John Elliott, and Tommy cooked an amazing backcountry dinner, consisting of pita pizzas and summer sausage.

The next morning, Alice, Isabel, and Harwell cooked wild mulberry pancakes while Barrett, John Elliot, and Tommy played games with our guide, Jake. After our brunch, we broke down camp and headed off to find new camp.  After crushing ~500 ft of vertical in under a mile, the kids were pooped and the trail suddenly ended.  We dropped our packs and sent out a scout team to find potential camp spots. The rest of the group refilled and treated their water bottles in a snowmelt stream while they waited. The team came back with news of a good camp, but it would require a tough bushwhacking (off-trail) uphill push. We fueled up on GORP and pink lemonade and set off through the maze of fallen pine. Once the grade started to level off, we found the campsite in a quiet glade with a crystal clear stream running just 300 ft. away. We rewarded ourselves with sour patch kids and short naps. The cook crew got started on dinner, making dough for biscuits, rising the dough with their body heat by tucking it under their puffy jackets.  They cooked delicious burrito bowls with pan-fried sweet potatoes. That night our LOD’s (Harwell and Alice) led a discussion about things that make us happy and we all slept hard that night.

The next morning, we woke up to Allie, Caroline, and Barrett cooking cheese grits and sausage for the group. We would need ample fuel for the long downhill push that day. We covered just short of the previous 2 day’s mileage in 1 day. Our LOD’s (Barrett and Caroline) set our pace and kept us on trail all the way down to another snowmelt creek full of little brown trout. We all practiced our fly casting and Jackson (the future fly guide) caught 7 fish!

The next morning, we packed our packs for the last time and walked a short distance to our van after a stream crossing that each student completed individually. We then headed back to the Green River Outreach for Wilderness camp to debrief and fish their stocked pond. As we were leaving, we ran into the Moondance crew that was getting ready to summit the Grand Teton! We triumphantly returned to civilization, smelling stinkier than the rodeo (from day 1), to take well-deserved showers in Pinedale, WY. Once everyone felt like new young men and women, we skedaddled back to Jackson to meet the one and only Hayes Hitchens for a debrief in the park. After meeting Hayes we all went into downtown Jackson for souvenirs, pizza, and ICE CREAM! After ice cream, we cleaned out the van and headed back to Gros Ventre campground for our final Moonup. We discussed what this trip had taught us and ways that we could carry what we learned into our everyday lives. This conversation was inspiring for us (Wick and Margaret), and it solidified everything we had done over the past 2 weeks. After Moonup, we laid our sleeping pads in a circle, cocooned ourselves in sleeping bags, and just as we all looked up to the clear Wyoming sky, a bright white shooting star streaked across the sky. Everything was right.

This morning, we drove to the Jackson Hole airport with the sunrise painting our faces with alpine glow, and said very difficult goodbyes, but not before playing a few games and being our unfiltered, goofy selves for all of the airport terminal to see. We group-hugged at least 10 times and watched the kids walk out to their planes, with the Tetons staring down at them.  We were sad to let the kids go, but so happy that we got to be part of such a cohesive group, and happy that we experienced it all standing side by side.

Thank you, parents, for raising such amazing young people, and thank you for allowing us to show them these amazing places and experiences.

Thank you kids for being you! Never stop! We love you!

Wick & Margaret

Greetings From The Heart of Idaho!

June 23, 2016

We have just completed our 3 night 4 day rafting adventure down the Salmon River, and found ourselves emptying out the rafts just outside of Lewiston, Washington this morning.

We camped at Ponderosa State Park near McCall, ID on the 19th, where we discussed the principles of Leave No Trace. One of the Salmon Rafting guides then came by the campsite to chat with the group about river safety and lend us dry-bags for our trip so we could begin packing what we needed. Bella, Abby, and Jackson cooked up a late dinner consisting of delicious fried rice and beans, topped with some bacon that Jackson meticulously manned. We summed up the night with a quick Moonup led by Isabel and Barrett, discussing our favorite movies and television shows and our excitement for rafting.

After a chilly night, we drove to Hammer Creek to begin our 82 mile journey down the longest river in the U.S. that is still free flowing without a dam and still contains wild Salmon. After the group was divided between two rafts and the guides gave us a more detailed overview of what we would be doing, we set sail down the river. Cian, one of the raft guides, told great stories of the Salmon River and its ancient inhabitants such as gold rush miners, Chinese labor workers, and Native American tribes. We pulled over to make a sandwich lunch and rest our muscles. We continued paddling along and came to the Snow Hole rapid, our first class IV rapid of the trip. Caroline and Allie ‘rode the bull’ on each raft, sitting at the front of the boat clinging on to a rope and taking many of the first waves head on. We set up camp for the evening at White House Beach, about 25 miles downriver from where we started. We went for a dip in the river, soaked up some much needed warm sunshine, tossed the frisbee, and played a rope game that combined balance and tug of war. Each contestant stood on one of the guides’ ammunition boxes and stacked the rope on the ground—a skill we learned while rock climbing—in an attempt to gather all the rope on their side or pull their opponent off balance. Caroline, Jackson, and Barrett all collected cricket exoskeletons on the beach and enjoyed a crunchy bug appetizer before dinner! The cook crew prepared a yummy salad, spaghetti and meatballs, and peach cobbler. Bella and Tommy led Moonup and asked us where we would go if we could go anywhere, sparking conversations about past adventures and future prospective travels. Everyone had tents set up but opted to sleep under the stars together and dozed off to the sound of chirping crickets and crashing waves.

The next morning the LODs Jackson and Allie helped carry the groover—our mobile rafting toilet—back to the gear boat and we launched from our sandy white beach campsite. We rafter through a class IV rapid called China Creek before stopping for a delicious taco salad lunch. We jumped off the sand bar ledges into the water, found an old mining tool on the beach, and gathered some mulberries from a tree on the shore. After lunch we zoomed through several rapids and jumped out of the boats to swim through some class II waves. We pulled over to another pristine white beach to set up camp for the evening. We drew pictures in the sand, built drip castles, and tossed the football around with the sand between our toes. Delicious burgers were prepared by John Elliott, Harwell, and Jackson for dinner. We had incredible brownies topped with fresh mulberry syrup for dessert. Allie and Jackson led a Moonup about our goals and asked what we would do if we could do anything. We gazed up at the stars and drifted into a deep sleep on the sand.

The third day of rafting consisted of even bigger rapids and brighter skies. Katherine, Caroline, and Isabel prepared yummy sausage and French toast for breakfast and we floated on down the Salmon River. We made a stop so everyone could jump from a fifteen foot columnar basalt cliff into the water. After paddling hard through Slide Rapid, we took a lunch break at the confluence of the Salmon and Snake Rivers where we played a few rounds of mafia and soaked in some rays. We shortly came to the state intersection of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho and had an opportunity to pee in the river in three states at once! We continued paddling down the Snake River admiring the unique geological features along the way. We stopped at Cherry Creek where Tommy and John Elliott climbed and discovered some waterfalls and refreshing pools to soak their warm skin in. We jumped from an even higher basalt cliff into the refreshing Snake River. After a long day of paddling in the sun we camped at yet another beautiful sandy beach in a canyon in Washington. The lovely ladies cook crew made fajitas while we skipped rocks in the smooth alcove and set up camp. After dinner Katherine and Caroline daringly challenged each other, and Katherine ate a spoonful of leftover plate scrapings! Alice and Katherine began the Moonup circle by leading a discussion about everyone’s dream jobs and we fell asleep with the Big Dipper twinkling above us again. Some of the group stayed up to watch the beautiful summer solstice moonrise over the ridge.

This morning we woke up and packed up camp to raft the last few miles of the Snake to our boat ramp. While waiting for the van, we picked a bag full of mulberries and a few blackberries. We are currently driving back towards Three Island Crossing State Park in Glen Ferry, Idaho and just stopped for Huckleberry milkshakes. Tomorrow we will head towards Pinedale, WY to prepare for backpacking in the Wind River Range.

-Margaret and Wick

Check out the shout outs from the kids below!

Hey family! We just ended whitewater rafting and are about to start backpacking. We are all having tons of fun. I love you guys! –Bella 

Hi you guys! Whitewater rafting was so fun! I loved it. The stars were super cool too. I love you all and miss you guys. BTW tell CJ to feed my fish if he’s still alive. –Allie

Hey! Rafting was so much fun! We went through some fun rapids. We are about to go backpacking. Miss y’all! –Alice

Hey! I loved rafting. We did some cool rapids. Really excited for backpacking. Miss y’all! Tell Bailey hey for me –Katherine

Hey fam! Miss you guys a lot, but am having so much fun. Rafting was great and I ate a bug too! I also used bacon grease as lotion cause my skin is so dry… Might have wanted to pack some lotion… Oh well I just can’t wait ’til you guys scream at how bad my sunburn is. –Caroline 

Hey everyone! I had so much fun rafting, jumping off cliffs, and sleeping under the stars. I am so excited for backpacking and learning how to fly fish. Say hi to the dogs and ducks and everyone else for me! And I am not sunburned but have an awesome keen tan! I love and miss y’all tons! –Abby

Family, the rafting trip was great and full of fun activities. We jumped off cliffs, swam through freezing rapids, and slept under the beautiful stars. We are now driving to where we will be backpacking for the next few days. Happy late Father’s Day and see y’all soon! –John Elliott 

Hey fam! I am having the best time out here in the west. We just finished our rafting section of the trip and it was so fun. We ate the best food, ragged some sick rapids, and jumped huge cliffs. I’ll see y’all soon, love you guys! –Isabel

Hey Mom and Dad. The last four days have been very exciting. Rafting on the Salmon River was a blast; we paddled through some huge rapids, slept under the stars, and went to three new states: Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. I love you. –Harwell 

The rafting trip was amazing. We rafted in 3 states! Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. We also camped on beaches in all 3 of those states. Hope you’re having a good time at home. –Tommy 

Hey Mom and Dad going on the Salmon River was a blast we slept in a group- we went cliff jumping and got soaked on the rapids. –Jackson

The past days on the Salmon River were amazing. I ate a burger in the river waters on a beach in Idaho and a fagita on the sand in Washington. I hope you guys are okay and are having a great time at home –Barrett

Having a 'Grand' Time

June 18, 2016

Hello from Big Wild!


It’s been an amazing 3 days in the Tetons. The kids arrived on day 1 tired from traveling so we played some get-to-know-you games and set up camp at Gros Ventre campground with a view of the Grand Teton peeking over Black Tail Butte.


Once all of our tents were set up we took off for downtown Jackson for the JH rodeo! Amid the strange smells and ten gallon hats we watched ranch hands ride buckin’ broncos bareback, lasso cattle and cowgirls barrel race at breakneck speeds. Once the last bull rider was tossed from his mount, we headed back to camp for our first Moonup and discussed living in the moment and a few of our favorite things. We all crawled into our sleeping bags with heavy eyelids.


The next morning Isabel, Katherine, and Caroline woke up early to cook us delicious eggs and bacon, despite being woken up the night before by 2 pranksters in gorilla suits! We hopped in the van and headed into Teton National Park to meet with our renowned climbing guides at the Exum guide hut. After a safety discussion we boarded the Jenny Lake ferry and made our way across the lake to Cascade Canyon. With the Tetons looming overhead, we learned knot-tying, belaying, and practiced our climbing footwork before heading up to Hidden Falls for our first multi-pitch climb. We broke into 2 rope teams, with Jackson leading one and Alice leading the other. Once we topped out we did a short standing repel to prepare for the next day’s larger dangling repels. We hiked back to the Exum hut with heavy ropes and new skills that we would need for day 3’s intense multi-pitch climbs. We saw a moose on our way out of the National Park! That night our cook crew (Isabel, Katherine, and Caroline) helped everyone step out of their comfort zone by preparing an amazing veggie stir fry and quinoa dish. During some down time before dinner, Barrett and Jackson threw the tennis ball and helped to begin writing a group journal for the duration of our adventure. Before turning in for the night, our leaders of the day (LODs) Abby and Harwell led an inspiring conversation about each team members’ goals for our trip.


Day 3 started off with a quick breakfast and then we headed back to Teton National Park to climb with Exum guides in Cascade Canyon. Before riding the ferry across Jenny Lake, Isabel spotted an incredibly rare black bear with brown fur with 3 cubs in tow! We observed the bear family with awe from across the Jenny Lake outlet river, but we calmly and swiftly made our way to the ferry when it became clear that the mother bear was looking for a way to cross the river. Once we made it to the canyon, we practiced bouldering techniques and learned new hand holds. Then we split into 4 rope teams and began up our respective routes, each more difficult and daunting than the previous day’s climb. This time we battled high wind, fully vertical faces, and technical pitches, all while straining our voices to overcome the continuous roaring of the Hidden Falls. Topping out at the top of our climbs was extremely rewarding, and everyone had developed newfound trust for their team members. Once atop our routes, we ate lunch and prepared for various repels, each with free-hanging sections of at least 30 feet, some up to 100 feet! Bella courageously climbed and hung on for dear life, making great strides towards conquering her previous fear of heights. This time on our way out of the park we saw an elk herd. We’ve gotten so lucky with wildlife sightings! Once back at camp John Elliot, Harwell, and Tommy made everyone some incredible tacos piled high with ALL the fixins they could imagine. After filling up on tacos we were feeling a bit sedentary, but we drove to a short walk on the Antelope Flats. We walked past a small abandoned homestead before setting up our Moonup circle, except this time it was a semi-circle because nobody wanted to have their back facing the breathtaking sunset taking place behind the Tetons. We all exchanged hilarious stories about the day’s climbs and repels and discussed our fears that had been conquered, and the fears we had yet to conquer. We slept hard that night.


Today we are hittin’ the road to Northwestern Idaho to kick off our rafting trip on the lower Salmon River. While crossing a bridge over the Snake River, we noticed some people base jumping and quickly decided to pull over so we could watch them sail through the sky. Everyone ran over to the area where we could see the bridge and get a great view of the Snake River canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho. Allie and Bella are currently leading the dance grooves and tunes for the drive ahead. We’ll be staying at Ponderosa State Park tonight, and everyone is pumped to get out on the water! Parents – keep scrolling to read your kids’ shootouts below!


-Wick and Margaret


Having a lot of fun! Happy Father’s Day! -Alice

Hey mom, dad, and AJ! I miss you all and happy Father’s Day dad! I’m having a lot of fun and I have a smaller fear of heights now. Love you guys! -Bella

Hi mom & dad! I’m having a great time. We just went rock climbing and it was super cool. Happy Father’s Day dad! Love you so much. I miss you guys. Tell CJ that I miss him too. -Allie

Hey mom & dad! Having so much fun. I have made some great friends. Happy Father’s Day dad! Shout out to Bailey – miss him too. -Katherine

Hey mom + dad! Moondance is so fun! I might have poison oak but it’s still cool! Happy Father’s Day dad! Love you all. -Caroline

Hey mom, dad, & everyone! I’m having tons of fun with all of my new friends! I am trying everything and taking lots of pictures! It is so pretty up here. I miss and love y’all tons!! Happy Father’s Day dad! I love you! -Abby

Family, I am having a great time up here! It is so nice. I used the restroom in the nicest spot possible. The view from off of that mountain side was amazing. See y’all soon! -John

Hey mom and dad! I am having so much fun in Jackson Hole. We just finished climbing and repelling for two day. Today, we are traveling to Idaho for a long rafting trip on the Salmon River. I’ll see you soon. Happy Father’s Day dad and I love y’all. -Harwell

Hey mom and dad! I’m having such a great time in Jackson Hole. Thank you so much for sending me on this trip. Love you guys! Also happy Father’s Day dad! -Isabel

Mom and dad I hope you are having as much fun as me. The trip is amazing and I am making some great new friends. Also happy Father’s Day and tell Cosmo I said hi. -Barrett

Hey dad, mom thank you for sending me on the trip. I’m having fun in Jackson. I hope you are also having fun. -Jackson

Hey mom and dad. So far, we have spent 2 days rock climbing and it has been so fun. Next we will go rafting. I’m having so much fun. Happy Father’s Day! -Tommy