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Big Wild : 2B • July 2-July 15, 2016

Final update

July 15, 2016

Hello friends and family! We are sad to see everyone depart from Jackson today, but as our wise LODs Molly and Isabel mentioned at our final Moonup last night, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” We had a magical final evening beginning with a delicious and perhaps overly-filling Mexican dinner. Parker and Harrison ordered steaming hot fajitas and everyone’s bellies were filled to the brim. In order to sneak a free dessert, we told the waiter that it was Fred’s birthday, so they brought out sopapillias and whipped cream that were not surprisingly devoured within seconds. The boys enjoyed wearing sombreros as we sang happy birthday. We drove up the ole dusty trail to our campground for a beautiful view of the Tetons to set up camp for the night that just consisted of sleeping bags and ground pads. Our final Moonup beneath the shooting stars and pine trees was roaring with emotions as we discussed ways in which we can embed lessons we learned on our trip into our daily lives. Parker mentioned that we were a family, not “like” a family. Elizabeth mentioned that she learned the importance of the little things that can add up, and Sky noted the importance of the friendships that were born. We then reflected back on our trip and recalled our favorite memories from the past two weeks. We dozed off under the stars in a big cuddle puddle.

Once arriving at the airport just before the sunrise at an early 5am, Fred found more dog biscuits to snack on during his travels back to Mobile. Parker’s flight was the first to take off, which resulted in a storm of tears and bear hugs. Luckily Margot, Ava, Haynes, Isabel, Frederick, and Molly all had a couple more hours together on a flight towards Dallas! Claire and Sky were the last to depart Jackson with heavy hearts and a memorable experience to look back on.

Thank you parents for sharing your wonderful sons and daughters with us for the past two weeks, and we hope to cross paths with you all again soon! Stay in touch and keep on Moondancing!!

Wick & Margaret

Howdy from Jackson Hole!

July 15, 2016

On Sunday (7/10) we woke up early at Three Island Crossing State Park in Idaho and got on the road to Pinedale, WY. We stopped over in Jackson Hole to buy a few groceries for our backcountry meals and got back in our big white whale of a van. Once in Pinedale, we visited the Great Outdoors shop to buy fishing licenses, flies, and other supplies we would need in the backcountry. While we were stocking up, the kids rifled through Great Outdoors’ renowned sticker bucket and Elizabeth made a world-record setting sticker buy (I think it was 28 stickers). With fishing licenses in hand, we set off for the Green River Outreach for Wilderness ranch where the kids learned how to pack their packs, brushed up on their backcountry protocol, then we packed up our stuff and did a short hike over to Soda Lake (a rare brackish high mountain lake) to start our one night backpacking simulation. After getting permission from the owner of the ranch, we set up our sleeping pads in a small boat house on the edge of Soda Lake. We took a short walk down to the beach at Soda Lake and Sky and Haynes led our Moonup under the bright light of the moon. It was incredibly cold that night, but we were well equipped with plenty of layers to keep warm.

The next morning we hiked out of the Soda Lake area and we cooked French toast and Nutella for breakfast. Everybody made adjustments to the gear they would be bringing into the backcountry until we had nothing but the bare essentials in our packs. We divvied up cook gear and food evenly between the packs and we were finally ready to hit the trail, but first we hit the dirt road over to Big Sandy campground in the southwest Wind River Range, where we would be kissing our beloved van goodbye for four days. Our plan was to make a five mile hike up to Blue Lake and set up base camp for the next days’ attempt at two peaks collectively known as the Warriors. The Warriors are smack dab in the middle of a cluster of viciously vertical spires known as the Cirque Of The Towers. The Cirque is the main attraction that the Wind River Range has to offer. The group maintained a positive attitude on the trail all day, and Haynes led the group up to Blue Lake in the short span of three hours. As we skirted Blue Lake looking for a suitable campsite, we couldn’t help but notice the countless brook trout cruising the calm waters. We set up camp and the kids got right down to fishing. The anglers were catching fish with almost every cast. Molly caught the biggest brookie of the trip! That night Elizabeth, Sky, and Claire made backcountry pizzas and they were BOMB (better than that wood fired brick oven stuff). During Moonup we made a plan for the next days’ attempt at the Warriors and got in the zone to accomplish a truly difficult task by relying on each other.

The next morning we slept in, ensuring our batteries were fully charged to power us at high elevation. We brunched on blueberry and blackberry pancakes prepared by Haynes, Parker, and Molly. We stocked up on snacks and water (treated with iodine of course) after a bit of fishing and set off to conquer the Warriors. We hiked up a mile and gained about five hundred feet in elevation and started to approach tree line. We stopped for a break, and to check out the view above tree line. We had just shy of fifteen hundred ft. of elevation left before the summit. The final summit push was nothing but a group effort. With Elizabeth and Harrison leading the group, the kids were constantly encouraging each other and constantly commenting on the unavoidable aroma of skunk bush. When we reached the ridge just below the summit and looked out on the Cirque we were all struck with awe, and the last two hundred feet became an easy stretch.

We (Wick and Margaret) were brimming with pride that day. Every Moondancer stood atop the jagged giant, and we couldn’t have done it if not for the continuous motivational whoops and hollers from the kids. Staring out at the Winds from 12360 ft. can literally take your breath away. Surrounded by the Cirque, looking down the near vertical face of the Warriors down to Lonesome Lake was a solidifying experience for our group. For many of us, it was “the coolest thing I’ve ever done”. After about thirty minutes of lounging at the summit we turned around and spotted our tents down at Blue Lake’s edge. Camp and dinner was beckoning the group home, so we started our descent. Sky, Harrison, and Parker had some extra fuel left in the tank, so they made the traverse across the saddle to Warrior 2 (12406 ft.).

Back at camp, the cook crew prepared a hearty burrito bowl meal, and during Moonup we discussed the valuable lessons that we would take away from the trip. Our eyelids were heavy from the days’ exertion and we all fell asleep within seconds of laying our heads down.

The next morning we slept in yet again and broke down camp. Fred, Margot, and Ava cooked hash browns and we threw the frisbee around the clearing we were camping in before moving on to our next spot. Our next campsite was six hundred feet of elevation below Blue Lake at V Lake. Isabel led our group off trail successfully down to V Lake. On our way down to V Lake we stopped in a big clearing, and our guide, Connor stumbled upon an arrowhead that he estimated to be five hundred years old. We couldn’t help but imagine the Shoshone hunting camp that must have been there hundreds of years before. At V Lake we found camp on a peninsula that jutted out towards the lakes center and had Jiffy-Pop popcorn, ramen, and mashed potatoes for dinner. Fred and Isabel led our Moonup at the lakes edge as the sun went down.

The next day we woke up at a reasonable hour and broke down camp again. We had grits and sausage for breakfast and started back on the trail toward the trailhead. The walk out was a bit emotional, and we were wishing that we had more time together in that amazing place. Back at the van we snacked,unpacked our packs, and said goodbye to Connor. We got back on the bumpy dirt road and headed back into Pinedale to take showers at the Pinedale Aquatic Center. Once we were all squeaky clean we headed back to Jackson for our final banquet at the world-famous El Abuelito family restaurant. After dinner we went out for ice cream at Moo’s in the Jackson town square. With bellies full of tacos and dairy we went up to Shadow Mountain for our final night’s campsite. The view of the Tetons was incredible and our last Moonup was overflowing with love and emotion. It was finally dawning on us that our group was hours away from adjourning.

Stay tuned for shout outs from the kids!

Dear mom, dad, and Anise, w R finally took a shower after 2 weeks in the wilderness! Backpacking was fun. I really miss y’all and can’t wait to see y’all. -Ava

Dear fam, just took a shower and I smell fantastic! I can’t wait to see you tomorrow! Bring cheezits to the airport! -Margot

Hey Myers fam, I finally took a shower! I can’t wait to see y’all and have had so much fun!!! Love you. -Molly

Mom and dad, I can’t wait to see y’all!! We took a shower so we finally smell good! I’ve had so much fun. Love y’all. -Isabel

Dear mom, dad, and guy, can’t wait to see y’all! Hey G I got a lil gift for ya. Had the time of my life!!! -Elizabeth

Dear family, last day, it flew by! Can’t wait to see y’all tomorrow! Love you guys. -Parker

Mom, dad, Fia, and Mick, see y’all tomorrow! I speak very southern now! Just showered off 5 pounds of dirt! -Sky

Hodge squad, I’m so so excited to see you guys!!! Leaving everyone is going to SUCK!!! I took a shower and no longer have Bob Marley dreads. -Claire

Dear mom/dad, I’m very clean and having fun. The fishing was pretty good. -Harrison

Dear mom and dad, just finished backpacking and fishing was amazing. See you soon. -Haynes

Dear mom and dad, I just showered and it felt great. I also ran out of money. -Frederick


Fun on the Salmon!

July 10, 2016

Greetings from Heller Bar, WA!


The last four days on the Salmon River have been indescribable, but we’ll do our best to put it into words.


On Tuesday (07/05) we tackled the arduous eight hour drive up to Ponderosa State Park, ID. Upon arriving to the campground we discovered that we were the lucky occupants of the largest campsite in the park! Our spot was right on the lake’s edge. Not only that, we had our own private dock! Ava, Parker, and Nicholas immediately made their way down to the dock to test the waters. They came back with the good news that the water was “warm” (we think it was between sixty and seventy degrees). Once we all set up our tents under the massive, ancient pines, we trotted down to the lake for a sunset swim. To our surprise, the water really was warm (compared to the stream we swam in back in Jackson Hole). As the sun went down behind the hills across the lake, everyone hopped out to dry off and we were FREEZING. Luckily for the rest of the group, Margot and Margaret had snuck off to start a fire up at camp for their frigid buddies. Once the shivering subsided, Fred, Ava, and Sky dug around our pantry and whipped up a veggie-ramen smorgasbord of which had never been tasted. We positioned our Moonup circle around the dying embers of the campfire and listened to some guitar pickin’ from Parker. We could not wait to get on the water the next day.


Early the next morning, Isabel and Molly emerged from their tent and were greeted face-to-face by a mama doe and her three fawns – the wary whitetails didn’t stick around to chat for long. We donned our Chacos and bathing suits, tossed all the gear we would need for the next four days into dry bags, and struck out for the Hammer Creek boat ramp, but not before discussing Leave No Trace protocol for pristine rivers, such as the Salmon. We would be using a portable pit toilet system called a groover to pack out all of our waste, and the kids couldn’t wait to use it! After crossing the 45th parallel and then into the Pacific time zone in the wee span of an hour, we went over river safety, coated ourselves in waterproof SPF 30 and eagerly boarded our rafts. We finally shoved off for our eighty-seven mile whitewater adventure just below Hells Canyon (the deepest canyon in the US (the Grand Canyon is the third deepest)).


After about five minutes of floating in a gentle current stretch, the two passenger rafts neared each other for the first time, and naturally a vicious splash fight erupted between the two vessels. With the hot Idaho sun breathing down our necks, it didn’t take long until everyone jumped in to cool off. We stopped briefly on a beach to have chicken curry salad sandwiches prepared by none other than our very own Haynes, Harrison, and Elizabeth. A few miles downstream we came upon a giant log that was wedged in a crack in a rock twenty feet above the river by high water conditions. The log was a perfect jumping spot with a deep landing and Harrison valiantly volunteered to leap first. Harrison’s jump was a perfect ten (even from the Russian judge) and everybody fell in line to try the log jump. After the log jump we paddled on down through class II and class III rapids until we found a lovely white sand beach called the Killer Goat Beach, to camp on. The KGB had a flat ledge with a soft sand embankment to set up tents on, but the tents ended up being neglected in exchange for an open night sky to sleep under. The boys took a hike upstream and hopped in the river to do a short downstream swim, then Harrison, Haynes, and Elizabeth got started on dinner (spaghetti and meatballs) while everyone else played the rope game (a one-on-one version of tug o’ war with a balancing act thrown in). After we devoured our peach cobbler dessert, Haynes and Elizabeth led our Moonup and we all rattled off our favorite words and imitated each other’s graceful flailing from the log jump. Once Moonup wound down, we yawned, shook the sand off, and slipped into our sleeping bags with the Milky Way in full view overhead.


The next morning Wick woke the group with some gentle guitar stylings, and Claire, Parker, and Margot got started on a pancake breakfast for the group. Sufficiently fueled for the day ahead, we loaded our gear onto the rafts and paddled onward. On our second day rafting we encountered two separate class III+ rapids (Snow Hole Rapid and China Rapid), and Claire rode the bull (on the nose of the raft) through both wave trains! During lunch Sky hiked up a bit from the beach and picked a whole Nalgene full of wild blackberries for the group to grub on! After a few more hours of rafting, we found an awesome camp spot just above Blue Canyon. The beach had a steep section and a steeper drop off into the water, making it a perfect spot for a raft slide. We flipped a raft upside-down, dumped water onto it and sent our buddies flying through the air into the water by lifting the raft up once they started sliding down the underside of the raft. Once we had all been launched into the river, we kicked back and made a city of dribble castles, and the sun started sinking, so we hiked up through a gauntlet of yellow thistles to watch the day star descend over the canyon. Somehow Fred managed to stomach three cheeseburgers, two brownies, and a heaping helping of broccoli for dessert (in that order) that night – there were inexplicable odors emanating from his raft the following day. We slept under the stars and satellites for the second night in a row.


The next morning offered some sweet relief from the heat with clouds overhead, but the clouds also promised precipitation later in the day. Once on the water we seized the opportunity to swim through a rapid and stopped for lunch shortly after. Before we dined, we hiked about a mile up to an old historic farm that was once home to the first Native American rodeo world champion. On the hike up we found wild apricots and apples and ate what the trees had to offer. They were delicious. The farm was abandoned but bountiful with fruit just begging to be harvested. We picked a gallon bag full of cherries, and filled our hats with more cherries to make a tart with later. The girls picked onions, raspberries, and lavender while the boys had a cherry-pit-spittin’-war. We started walking back down to the rafts, but stopped for a moment to pick some plums. The fruit we picked puts grocery store fruit to shame. Once we made our way back to the river’s edge we ate taco salad and boarded our rafts once again as the sky started to gray. After a few more miles we came upon the confluence of the Snake and Salmon Rivers. A breathtaking place. We tethered our rafts together and made a barge as rain started to pepper the canyon. Once we found a suitable beach to camp on, the rain really started to come down, just in time for us to set up tents. Despite the downpour, the gang’s spirits were high and we had a discofunk dance party in the rain as we set up our tents and the kitchen. The sky was either playing a joke on us, or it noticed the effort we were putting into getting dry, either way it decided to let up once we had finally set everything up. We made hot chocolate and tea to warm our bones. Once the wall of rain moved down the canyon we could see Oregon on the other side of the river. We started an intense ultimate frisbee game, with Nicholas making a heroic game winning diving catch. Molly, Nicholas, and Isabel cooked some delicious fajitas, and we made s’mores after dinner to go along with the wild cherry tart. Our last full day on the river was a doozie, and we were happy to relax in dry clothes and sleeping bags. Molly and Isabel led our Moonup with an inspiring conversation about perseverance and ice cream. That night it rained again, and our star-gazing sleep streak came to an end.


This morning we packed up our soggy tents, pushed our rafts off the wet sand, and drifted along towards Heller Bar, WA. On the way, a few of us jumped in the water at the Oregon/Washington/Idaho state line to pee in three states at once! From there it was a short paddle to the take out at Heller Bar.


Now we are on our way to Three Island Crossing, ID to camp for the night before heading to the Green River Outreach for Wilderness ranch in Boulder, WY to prepare for our backpacking expedition in the Wind River Range!


-Wick and Margaret


Stay tuned for shout outs below!


Hey parents & guy, we just finished rafting it was so awesome. I’m having so much fun!! Love y’all. -Elizabeth


Mom & dad, miss y’all and love y’all so much! Rafting was super fun and now we are on our way to backpack. Tell cooper I say hi (heart symbol) -Isabel


Mom + dad + Jack, I miss y’all so much but am having an amazing time. We just finished rafting and sleeping under the stars. Hope you got home safely and had fun. -Love Molly


Dear family, I am having a lot of fun and am trying new foods. We slept under the stars on the 87 mile rafting trip. Miss y’all! -Fred


Greetings, we just finished an awesome raft trip down the Salmon River. It was through an awesome canyon and it was a blast. -Love Haynes


Dear mom and dad, we have been rafting through the Salmon River for the last four days. It was super fun. -Harrison


Dear Hooleys, we just finished rafting the Salmon River and we had the best time. We slept under the stars on the beach. Love you. -Sky


Dear family, we rafted some 87 miles down the Salmon River, it was so fun. I hope you guys are doing good. I miss y’all and I can’t wait to see you. -Parker


Dear mom and dad, we just finished rafting the Salmon River. It was fun and the food was good I love and miss you.

P.S. I met this awesome kid, he is an inspiration and role model in my life. The man. The myth. The legend. Haynes. -Nicholas


Dear mom, dad, and Anise, we just got back from rafting today and it was really fun. We slept outside and saw all the stars at night. I also really enjoyed going to the bathroom in the groover. Anyway love y’all and miss y’all. -Ava


Dear mom, dad, James, & Sawyer, we just got back from rafting today & it was super fun & beautiful! I loved it. We slept under the stars & spent all day in the river! I peed in three states at once!!!!!!! Well we start backpacking tomorrow, it’s going to be awesome! Love y’all! (heart symbol) xoxo -Margot


Dear Hodge Squad, camp is lit. I’ve lost many things, some bad some not too bad. LMAO I miss all of you guys a whole lot!!! LOVE YOU!!! (heart symbol) -Claire

Having a Grand Time!

July 7, 2016

Hello world! We are off to a great start here in Jackson, Wyoming. We collected our new friends at the airport and are excited to be taking flight on a grand ole adventure!

After setting up camp at Gros Ventre Campground just outside of Grand Teton National Park, we kicked off our first evening with a visit to see some cowboys ride and wrangle bulls at the Jackson Hole rodeo! While listening to some tunes deemed ‘science music’ by the group, we watched the sun set behind downtown Jackson and absorbed the livestock scents. We got to see Skylar ride a mechanical bison while Frederick chowed down on a dog biscuit he had mysteriously acquired from the airport. The rodeo called for all children under the age of twelve to the ring, so Harrison, Haynes, and Frederick went down to make their best attempt at capturing a bandana from a sheep. We returned to camp for the night for our first Moonup, discussing our spirit animals and excitement for climbing the next morning.

We woke to the birdsong in the valley and after some donuts, we hopped in the van to get to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort to meet our Exum climbing guides in Teton Village. After a 2,000 ?? foot climb in the gondola, we hiked to the Toilet Bowl to begin level one climbing school! Our guides taught the group a couple of knots, how to belay, and basic climbing techniques. During our lunch break, the gang found a melting snow patch and went over to investigate, tossing snowballs and slipping and sliding in the mud below. We then practiced our rope skills and began up the rock face of the bowl. Once reaching the top, the clouds decided to spit a little bit of sleet on us for a couple of minutes, but cleared up quickly so we could learn how to repel! After descending the gondola, we headed back to Gros Ventre for a swim in the chilly Snake River and Harrison got his fly rod out to send a few casts. Molly, Parker, and Elizabeth, our cook crew, made delicious beef tacos with beans and corn. After dinner we hustled to clean up and go to a spectacular secret spot to watch the sunset behind the Tetons. This Moonup, with a stunning pink backdrop, was led by Margot and Harrison, our first Leaders of the Day—LODs, where we learned fun facts about each other and Claire told a few scary stories. Once the sky fell into darkness we headed back in the van where we could see fireworks in the distance from the village.

The next morning Haynes, Isabel, and Nicholas helped us start the day with blueberries and pan-toasted bagels. We headed up to the Exum headquarters in Grand Teton National Park to lace up those climbing shoes again! After taking the ferry across Jenny Lake, we hiked into Cascade Canyon towards Hidden Falls. We split into four groups with different guides to conquer a rock face below Mt. St. John. We practiced climbing footwork and techniques on boulders and prepared for takeoff! Everyone found cracks to place their fingers in and surfaces to smear in order to summit the rock. Once reaching the peak, we rejoined for a late lunch and repelled down an overhanging cliff with a great view of Jenny Lake and the valley. The kids hiked back up to the top to repel down for a second time.

After climbing, we headed back to Gros Ventre for a little nap time and another dip in the creek next to our campground. The cook crew created a magnificent veggie stir fry with quinoa to warm our bellies. We topped off the day with a Moonup led by Skylar and Nicholas who asked us, “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” We snuggled up in our tents and hammocks to another quiet night in Wyoming.

This morning Ava, Frederick, and Skylar cooked delicious eggs and bacon for everyone before hitting the road to Idaho. We are now on our way to Ponderosa State Park to meet our raft guides! Hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth of July! Read below to see shout outs from the kids:


Dear mom and dad and Guy, if you could go ahead and mail me all of my clothes and belongings that would be nice because I’m never leaving 🙂 love y’all. -Elizabeth

Dear mom and dad: having the best time ever!! Mom, I swore I lost one of my shirts… But just found it 🙂 which is good because I’m not coming home <3 miss and love y’all so much!!! -Isabel

Dear mom and dad: having so much fun here! We are heading to rafting and had a blast rock climbing and repelling!! Love you and miss you<3 -Molly

Dear mom and dad: Sup. It’s fun. <3 I want to go paragliding now. We rock climbed and it was awesome. Miss you -Haynes

Dear Mom and Dad: Hello. It’s great. We mountain climbed yesterday. I haven’t gotten a chance to go fishing yet but I will if I get one. -Harrison

Dear Mom, Dad, and John, I’m having a great time out here, I loved rock climbing. I love and miss y’all -Parker

Dear Hodge squad, This trip so far is the highlight of my summer, maybe even the YEAR!! Rock climbing is now my ish. We all need to come back sometime! That would be cool. I miss and love you guys so much. Hope the two weeks without me aren’t too dreadful! 🙂 -Claire

Mom, Dad, Mimi, Papa, Mick- I reckon this is the best trip of my life. I hope y’all don’t miss me too much. We’ve done the coolest stuff and I can’t wait to show you the pictures -Sky

Dear Mom and Dad, I have been having lots of fun in Jackson Hole hiking, swimming, and chilling. The rock climbing is so fun because you don’t have to wear a harness. At first I was worried but they said the worst that could happen is that you could get a concussion. The food is good, and I was on cook crew last night. We made vegetable stir fry. Anyways I miss and love y’all very much. Love, Nicholas  P.S. I was kidding, we wear harnesses, and it is completely safe.

Dear mom and dad and Ben- I’m having a good time out here and am making new friends. I am learning stuff. I climbed a mountain yesterday and I am in the car to Idaho right now. -Frederick

Dear Mom, Dad, James, & Sawyer, I’m having a great time hiking! Everyone is super nice and friendly. I’m taking lots of pictures to show you when I get back. Yesterday we went rock climbing on the Teton mountains and it was super scary/fun once we got to the top we repelled down and that was the scariest thing ever… I couldn’t bring myself to do it twice but there is a video of me doing it. Right now I’m in the car driving to Idaho (don’t know how to spell) and I’m super pumped to go white water rafting! But the water is gonna be freezing! So the music in the car is all country lol. Don’t worry too much! And try not to miss me so much! Xoxo – Margot!

Dear Mom, Dad, and Anise I am having a lot of fun at Moondance. Climbing and repelling were terrifying by I ended up having a lot of fun. I can’t wait to go rafting, love y’all! Have fun in Paris. -Ava