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Big Wild : 3B • July 18-July 31, 2016

Big Goodbyes from Big Wild

August 1, 2016

Howdy from the Jackson Hole airport!

Today was a day full of long security lines and sad goodbyes. It was abnormally busy this morning n the terminal today, but that gave us ample time to enjoy each other’s company one last time.

Here’s a brief on what all has happened since the last trip update:

After Dairy Queen (they were very surprised!), we went  downtown to a local park to play Frisbee golf as a family before our final banquet dinner. The game went on for a very long time and Paden took the final goal, winning the game for his team. We did a vote in the car for where we could hold banquet and Evan and Everett brought up the idea of returning to Pinky G’s for dinner. We went to Pinky G’s in the heart of downtown Jackson, WY to celebrate two full weeks of fun and adventure. It was very strange returning to civilization after two weeks of being in the wilderness, but everyone embraced it with open arms. After banquet, we drove to our secret moonup hill overlooking the Teton silhouette. Brennan and Christopher took many pictures of the sunset while Lizzie, Hailey, Lillie, Anna, Liz, MJ, Margaret, and Rachael chatted amongst themselves with the red and purple backdrop in the background. We did not have moonup here because it started to rain and everyone bolted back to the van. However, once we got back to the campground, we sat around and listened to Wick play a song he wrote on his guitar before LODs Brennan and Christopher had everyone go around and state which college he/she wishes to attend one day. Let’s just say that we have a very intelligent group full of bright futures. Wick asked the kids to go around and say what all they learned over the past two weeks. The answers were varied, and each one touched the hearts of everyone else in the van. We all went to sleep last night full of joy and definitely not ready to wake up early to depart ways.

Everyone has officially left Jackson Hole and is on the way back home. We are sad that they are gone, but we are excited for the promising futures of each person in the group. Please feel free to reach out to us whenever. We loved getting to know each person on our trip and hope to keep in touch!

Lizzie & Wick

Backpacking Bliss

July 31, 2016

Greetings from the Wind River Range! We are currently on our way to Pinedale, WY for some much-deserved showers and then to Jackson Hole, WY for our final banquet. The past four days have been filled with starbursts, alpine lake jumps, animal bones, sour patch kids, sour patch kids pancakes, m&m pancakes, and coyotes. Don’t worry; we’re all in the van safe and sound.


The day before we began our backpacking adventure in the Wind River Range, we arrived at the GROW ranch in Pinedale, WY. We devoured two rotisserie chickens while a herd of cows surrounded us with their powerful moos. There must’ve been about thirty of them and they mooed at us from about twenty feet for almost an hour until the leader of the group, a giant red cow, herded them towards the opposite direction. We packed up what we needed for the night and began our short hike down to the “Soda Lake Hotel” (shed) where we would sleep for the night. Once we thought we were far away from the mooing, the leader of the clan performed a sneak attack and startled everyone on the front porch with a grunting moo. Wick serenaded her away with his soft guitar skills and she went on her way. The group set up sleeping bags on the porch of the shed while Lizzie and Wick set up their camp inside the shed. Once everyone thought the wrath of the wildlife was over, a bat came flapping into the shed and winged it’s way around Wick and Lizzie, frightening them. Wick picked up a stick and shooed it out while Lizzie screamed in unsupport and the kids laughed and fought from the front porch. Once the bat got out safely, everyone scurried to the beach of the lake and did Moonup among the bright moon beams reflecting off Soda Lake. Leaders of the Day MJ and Lillie asked everyone what the cows would say if they could talk. Liz and Hailey had the best response with, “Moooooooondaaaaaance.”


The next morning we woke up and headed back to the van, where we packed our backpacking packs and returned to the GROW ranch to meet our guide, Conor, and prepare for our four-day adventure. The drive to the Big Sandy trailhead took about an hour, which was filled with pump-up music and sing-alongs. LODs Liz and Hailey spear-headed the hike and rallied the group uphill for about six miles until we arrived to our GOREGEOUS campsite on Blue Lake in the Wind River Range. Blue Lake is a medium-sized alpine lake encompassed by rocky summits sprinkled with snow patches. Once we arrived to our campsite, Rachael, Hailey, and Everett made everyone personal pizzas for dinner. Conor joined our group for Moonup and everyone talked about the psych of the following day’s hike, up the ~12,300-foot summit of Warrior I.


Everyone slept in the next morning and woke up to Liz, MJ, and Anna making everyone pancakes. They decided to get funky with it, so they added m&ms, sour patch kids, and blueberries. Once everyone was up and ready, we began our day hike to Warrior I. The hike consists of about 2,300 feet vertical gain and many scrambling sections. LODs Paden and Rachael were awesome about cheering on the group to keep everyone motivated to make it to the top. We stopped often to rearrange the line-up of the group, drink water, and munch on trail snacks. After about four hours of vertical gain, every single person made it to the summit of Warrior I! All 15 of us, including our guide Conor, stood atop one of the many summits of the Wind River Range. After a short photo shoot, everyone sat around and soaked up the last of the precious moments left on top of Warrior I. The descent was not long—about two short hours—until we arrived back at camp, where we made burrito bowls, did a late night Moonup, and went to bed. Oh wait, did we mention that EVERYONE made it to the summit of Warrior I?! J J


The next morning was our second day of sleeping in, and boy was it well deserved. Evan, Lillie, and Margaret grilled up hash browns and onions for brunch while the rest of the crew scattered around the lake. After brunch, we packed up our packs and prepared for a half day of hanging around Blue Lake. There was a lot going on, from fly-fishing to sun tanning. Conor, Lizzie, Margaret, Liz, and Hailey braved the cold waters and took a dip in the lake. After a few hours of recreation, and the fish deciding they weren’t interested in our hooks, we marched downhill about five hours to a new campsite along V Lake. Ramen Noodles and mashed potatoes were the move for dinner, and then we did Moonup on the Beach of V Lake. LODs Anna and Evan asked everyone what they learned on this trip. Each answer brought the group closer as everyone realized that our trip would soon end and become a part of the past. It was a very intimate Moonup and one that we will never forget.


We woke up early the next morning, ate grits, and completed the rest of the two-mile hike back to the van. LODs Christopher and Brennan (aka the brother duo) spearheaded the hike out and took the crew straight to the van, where everyone celebrated the adventure. We are now on the way to Jackson Hole for Dairy Queen (shh, the kids don’t know this yet!) and banquet. Tomorrow will be an early morning at the Jackson airport as we say our goodbyes. We are very sad to see them go, but we have absolutely loved watching them grow in two short weeks! We will send another update after everyone has left the airport.


Here are some shout outs from everyone!


Hey! May we please go to Starbucks after I get there. Miss and love you! –Margaret


Houston’s when I get home please and thanks! –Hailey


Guess what… I survived in the wild I hope y’all haven’t missed me too much… know it isn’t as fun at home without me! –Liz


I love you and roll tide. –Evan


Love you. –Everett


Hey guys, I’ll see you tomorrow. Having fun. I love you and miss you. –Rachael


Love you. –Paden


Love and miss you! –Anna


Hey fam! See you guys tomorrow, hope you had a good flight and hope dads trial is going well. Love y’all! –Mary John


I love you and miss you can’t wait to see you. –Christopher


Can’t wait to see y’all tomorrow. –Brennan


Love y’all and can’t wait to see y’all! –Lillie

Rafting...What Fun!

July 26, 2016

Howdy from Heller Bar, WA!


The last four days have been an absolute blast! Leaving the river and saying goodbye to our guides was hard to do.


On Thursday (7/21) we arrived at Ponderosa State Park outside of McCall, ID. We set up camp under the massive pines and walked down to the lake to take a sunset swim. The water was surprisingly warm. We stayed in for a while and washed off the dirt we had brought with us from the Tetons. We hopped out and dried off before it got too cold and headed back up to our campsite to get started on dinner. Liz, Christopher, and Hailey made a bit of asian-inspired veggie stir fry and quinoa for the group to enjoy. After dinner Everett and Anna led our Moonup, during which we discussed the coolest things we had ever done. We all slept out under the stars, looking through the pines in our hammocks that night.


The next morning, Lauren from Salmon Raft came to our camp to drop off the water proof dry bags we would be carrying our stuff in, and to discuss Leave No Trace protocol for rivers like the Salmon and the Snake. We couldn’t wait to get on the water so we piled in the van and took off for the Hammer Creek boat ramp to meet our raft guides and shove off. At the boat ramp we went over some safety guidelines with our guides and loaded our stuff onto the gear raft. It was HOT (around 100F), and we came prepared with plenty of drinking water and an absurd amount of sunscreen, but the clear cool water of the Salmon was by far the best way to beat the Idaho heat. A little while past the boat ramp we stopped at a giant log wedged in the side of the canyon. The log was a perfect twenty five foot cliff jump with a deep landing. Hailey instantly took the opportunity to jump first, walking the entire length of the log like a balance beam to leap off the very end of the natural diving board. We hung around the log for a while to jump a few times. Once we were done jumping we encountered a few class II and III rapids and we stopped at the first beach of the trip for lunch. The kids couldn’t believe that they were on a white sand beach in the middle of Idaho. When we left our lunch beach we paddled another rapid then happened upon a group of fishermen that were in the midst of a serious battle with a massive sturgeon (an ancient bottom feeding fish). We stuck around in the eddy to watch the anglers reel the monster in. The sturgeon was seven feet long! Sturgeon grow around a foot every ten years so the one we saw was probably around seventy years old. We continued on and found camp on a wide beach about twenty two miles down the river from the boat ramp. At camp we walked upstream a bit and swam downstream back to camp. Rachael and Mary John were feeling extra adventurous and swam to the opposite bank, then hiked back upstream and floated the current a second time. We tossed the frisbee around as the sun went down and Evan, Paden, and Margaret cooked spaghetti and meatballs for dinner with some no-nonsense peach cobbler for dessert. That night Evan and Mary John led a discussion about things in life that we are thankful for, it was our longest Moonup so far and the answers given gave us (Lizzie and Wick) a much deeper understanding of how the kids view their world. We slept under the stars and the Milky Way was in full view.


The next morning Wick woke the kids with some guitar pickin’ and Christopher, Everett, and Hailey got started on a belly-filling bacon, egg, and pancake breakfast. The second day of rafting was even hotter than the first, and we could feel the water slowly starting to warm, but it still offered much needed relief from the sun’s incessant shining. The second day was action packed with famous rapid stretches. First we bobbed through Bodacious Bounce (class III) followed immediately by Half and Half (class III). After a calm stretch we splashed our way through Snow Hole (class IV). We stopped for lunch at the top of a giant oxbow in the river and found some perfect rocks for skipping. After lunch we paddled through Eagle Creek (class III) and made camp on a giant beach overlooking Wapshilla Rapids. Dinner that night was burgers and broccoli and after dinner we made a campfire and roasted marshmallows for s’mores. Margaret and Paden led our Moonup and Lizzie (now known as Lizard) serenaded us with some soft ukulele stylings. We slept outside once again in the hot clear night under clusters of constellations.


The next morning Anna, Mary John, and Brennan prepared French toast and sausage for breakfast and we ferried over to the opposite bank of the river to take a short hike. The trail led us up to what we thought would be an abandoned ranch, but to our surprise a caretaker from the Idaho fish and game department was there to show us around and give us some history on the property and the dilapidated structures on it. The caretaker happily let us into the orchard there where we ate peaches, plums, apricots, and apples straight from the branch. Lillie picked some onions that we would use for dinner later that night. Unfortunately the pears weren’t quite ready to be plucked, but we ate our full of the other fruit. Everett and Brennan threw the frisbee for the dog on the property, and when we went to leave, the dog had a hard time letting us go. Back at the river we hopped back on the rafts and floated down to another cliff jump of about twenty five feet where Brennan conquered his fear of heights with gusto. After the cliff jump we continued downstream and came upon the confluence of the Snake and Salmon rivers where we spotted a dozen bighorn sheep making their way across the jagged rocks of the canyon walls. We made it to the Oregon/Idaho border! We stopped for lunch at a beautiful pebble beach on the Oregon side of the river and had some chicken curry salad. A little farther down the Snake we made camp at the most beautiful beach so far. We were on the Oregon side. Giant boulders of blue schist were rising from the white sand and the echo from the opposing canyon wall made for lots of hooting and hollering. Eager to jump off of more cliffs, Brennan found another rock to jump from at camp. Everett took a little blues guitar lesson at camp and plucked away for a few hours. We used the garden grown onions for fajitas and had some brownies for dessert. Rachael and Lillie led Moonup. We discussed our goals for the upcoming backpacking section, and for our upcoming lives. We slept under the stars for a fourth night in a row and saw the most startling shooting star any of us had ever seen. It had a bright red tail and it flashed and lit up the sky as it burned up.


This morning we woke up early and had ham and eggs before paddling the final section of the Snake River to the Heller Bar take out. Along the way we found river treasure! A full groover bucket (a portable river toilet) floating along at a leisurely pace that we were obligated to pack out for a forgetful kayaker. This was an important (and thankfully well-sealed) lesson in taking initiative to leave no trace in pristine areas. After some awesome final wave trains we took out at Heller Bar, ate some sandwiches, hugged our guides and got back in our beloved van.


Now we are on our way to Three Island Crossing State Park to stay for the night. We’ve gotten to see the Snake River in some really cool places – at its headwaters in Jackson Hole, at its deepest canyon in Twin Falls, ID, at its confluence with the undammed Salmon River, and tonight we will sleep where the Oregon Trail made its crossing of the Snake River.


Tomorrow we head down to Pinedale, WY, crossing through 11,000 acres of recently burned forest to get ready for our backpacking section in the Wind River Range. We are pumped to get out in the wilderness!


Stay tuned for some shout outs from the kids.


Dear mom and dad, we just got on the road since we just finished our rafting trip. The trip was along the Salmon River. It was amazing. Lots of great food and fun. Now we are on our way back to Wyoming to backpack the Wind River Range, which I am very excited for! Love y’all. -Lillie


Mom, dad and Caroline, I’m having such a fun time here, we just finished rafting which was awesome! At night we slept outside in the beach with the stars. We jumped off lots of fun cliffs too. Have an awesome time at camp Caroline, I’ll miss you a bunch. Please tell Savannah, Dakota, Wolfman, Ella, and Jackie hey for me. I got you a super cool Buff headband with a Jackson Hole map on it. The music we play here you would really like. Ooh Aah by Grits try listening to it, you would love it. Love y’all and miss y’all. -Rachael


Dear mom, dad and Thomas, hey guys! We are currently in Washington on our way back to Jackson after rafting. It was a ton of fun just like mom said. We rafted through Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and peed in all 3 states at the same time. After this we are going to backpack in the Wind River Range and we are trying to summit a mountain. Hope everything at home is going well. Miss you guys! Love you! P.S. Tell Sunny and Jesse hello! -Mary John


Dear mom and dad, I just finished rafting and now we are about to start our hike up the Warriors. I am having so much fun and miss you guys so much! Can’t wait to see you! -Anna


Hey mom, dad, John, Caki, and Tabor, I love and miss y’all so much. Rafting was a lot of fun and sleeping under the stars was amazing. Can’t wait to see y’all love y’all! Your fav child, -Hailey


Hi mom and dad, I love you very much, and I am having fun. -Evan


Dear family, we just went rafting! It was so fun and I ate my first breakfast sandwich ever! I have made so many friends! I am so glad I met Hailey and Anna! We have 12 hours of driving to do! Ahh! Love y’all! P.S. Alex, I hope had fun at the beach. P.P.S. I just was in three states at once. -Margaret


Dear mom and dad, I love you and miss you I am having a lot of fun tell everyone I said hi. -Christopher


Dear Morgan fam, Love you. -Everett


Dear Thompson family, love y’all. -Paden


Dear Vandy fam, still having lots of fun!! Miss and love you. -Liz


Hey mom and dad, y’all were right about coming here it is amazing. For the last four days we were rafting in the Salmon and Snake River and the food was great. Miss y’all. -Brennan

Big Adventure on Big Wild!

July 22, 2016

YEEEE HAWWW! We can’t believe that everyone is finally here with us! After countless hours of travel, everyone in our group arrived safely to the Jackson Hole airport where we packed up the U-haul and headed to Gros Ventre campground.

Upon arrival to our temporary home at Gros Ventre, we set up our tents and headed to the Gros Ventre River where we spent the afternoon jumping off a river cliff and wading around the rocky shores that parallel the white rapids. Evan set the mood with a giant cannonball and everyone followed behind him, splashing into the freezing clear water and scurrying back out. Hailey and Margaret fearlessly attempted to climb back up the rock, only to slip backwards into the water and laugh it off. When we returned to our campsite we enjoyed a delicious dinner of chicken kabobs, which Everett, Rachel, and Anna helped to make. We ended the night with a Moonup (nightly debrief) where everyone shared a challenge over the trip in which he or she wished to overcome.

The next morning we met our Exum climbing guides Lynn, Matt, and Brendan at Teton Village and took the gondola to the very top of the Jackson Hole Ski Resort. We turned around to find a panoramic view of the Gros Ventre Mountains across the butte. We hiked down to the boulder field where our guides would practice climbing technique with us, including footwork, hand holds, and rope skills. After everyone had the chance to practice, we trekked on over to the bottom of our multi-pitch climb. We were in groups of four or five, each one with a guide. Lynn, Matt, and Brendan lead the way up and we all put our hip belay skills to the test. Once we got to the top, we rappelled down and climbed back up a steep pitch that pushed each person to step out of his or her comfort zone. To end our ambitious day, we hiked back to the top of the mountain where our chariots (okay, gondola cabins) awaited us. The ride down was an easy and comfortable way to end our day, followed by a return to the campsite and short hike to a sunset spot that is wedged between the Tetons and the Gros Ventre Mountains. We perched up along the ridge of a hill paralleled with a silver-lined silhouette of the Grand Teton landscape. With this view to illustrate the backdrop of our Moonup site, we gazed into the distance and listened to Wick strum his guitar as the sun slid down the Tetons and a full moon crept up the Gros Ventre Mountains behind us. Leaders of the Day (LODs) Christopher and Liz facilitated an intimate conversation and then recognized Hailey and Brennan as the next day’s LODs.

The following morning we met our Exum climbing guides Matt, Sebastian, Marisol, Joe, and Mike at the Exum hut in Grand Teton National Park. Together we all rode the ferry across the clear blue Jenny Lake over to Cascade Canyon, next to Cascade Falls and with Mount Saint John above us. We bouldered around the base of the mountains to warm up and advance our climbing abilities until we hiked up to the base of our multi-pitch climbs. We broke into five groups, each with a guide, to climb multi-pitch and single-pitch, and to rappel over the steep edges of Cascade Canyon. The top of the climb greeted us with a picturesque view of Jenny Lake and Cascade Falls to one side and a close-up of Mount Saint John behind us. Each person had the chance to climb, belay, and rappel! Everyone in our group gained a better idea of what big mountains are like and broadened his or her climbing knowledge. It’s definitely safe to say that we’re all officially rock climbers! And swimmers apparently, because once we got back to the ferry station Christopher and Everett went to dip their toes in the water and ended up slipping in, giving us all a good laugh to end our work in the Tetons.

Our breathtaking rock climb was only the beginning of our awesome day. We drove back to our campsite to refresh ourselves before heading into downtown Jackson Hole for some Pinky G’s pizza! We devoured the pizza and put on our cowboy hats (literally, Evan and Christopher bought giant authentic cowboy hats) before heading to the RODEOOO!

The rodeo helped us to bring out our inner cowboys and cowgirls. Many others in the group bought cowboy hats and wore them as they cheered on the rodeo participants. When the announcer invited all kids 12 years old and under into the arena for the sheep chase, a majority of our group ran out to join. Those who were too tall to attempt the act stayed behind to cheer on the “kids” as they rolled around in the dirt and ruthlessly chased the sheep. Except for Paden, who ran out there and stood out like a sore thumb because he was the tallest out there, laughing and giggling with all of the rest. Although none of them snatched the bandana off the sheep, they were all winners in our hearts. The height of the laughter was after the rodeo when we all ran over to the mechanical bull. Rachel, Christopher, Margaret, Anna, and Mary John hopped up and gave the bull a ride while the rest of us cheered on in support. The rodeo took us all on a wild ride and we enjoyed every moment of it. Later that night we strolled back to the campsite where we enjoyed a Moonup full of Wick’s guitar, Lizzie’s ukulele, and many stories of most embarrassing moments. LODs Brennan and Hailey announced Everett and Anna as proceeding LODs.

This morning we woke up, cooked eggs and bacon, loaded up the giant white whale (van), and headed for Idaho! We are now en camino to Ponderosa State Park, where we will prepare to hop on the Snake River in the morning. Wish us happy rafting!

Lizzie and Wick

Here are some shout outs from our rock climbers and bull riders:

Anna: Hi mom and dad and Graham, Audrey, Colin, and Quinn! I am having so much fun at camp! Every day we do really fun activities and adventures. We jumped off a cliff into a river the first day, and since then we have done a lot of rock climbing on one of the mountains in the Tetons. We are going rafting for like 3 days tomorrow! Love and miss you! Anna

Hailey: Hey everyone! I miss and love y’all more than you know. Give Tabey and everyone a hug for me. It’s actually really hot here. I’m really excited to go rafting, but we’re driving 8 hours. Wish y’all could see these views. Can’t wait to see y’all. Love y’all! Hailey

Mary John: Dear mom and dad and t: Hey guys! I am having so much fun here! We are about to go rafting and I am so excited. I can’t wait for you guys to meet me out here. It’s so cool and you will love it. Not really as hot as Charlotte! Love you guys! MJ

Rachael: Hey mom and dad, its  your daughter Rachael, I am having a blast here, the weather changes from like 40 degrees to 95 degrees. Right now I’m on the way to go rafting and I’m super excited. I climbed up really big mountains and rappelled off them and I almost peed my pants. See you in a few days, I love y’all. Rachael

Lilly: Hi mom and dad, Right now we are headed to Idaho to start rafting. It has been so much fun and so beautiful. These past few days we have rock climbed. It has been a lot of fun! Love y’all! From, Lilly

Margaret: Hey family! I am having tons of fun! I have made lots of friends! Everyone is so funny! We have been rock climbing. It was hard, but the view w as really cool. I tried eggs this morning and really liked them! P.s. cook them Wick’s way- bacon grease, garlic powder, salt & pepper. The go pro is AWESOME and I’m so glad I got it. Thank you for buying it. I can’t wait to go rafting. Wick said we could pick cherries. My counselors are really fun! I hope all is greatness. Adios! Love you! <3 Margaret

Evan: Dear mom and dad: I love you! And I miss you!!! Say hi to my dogs for me, Evan

Liz: Dear Vandy fam, miss & love y’all!! Having fun (: <3 Liz

Paden: Dear mom & dad: I am having fun, done lots of activities –Paden

Christopher: Dear mom and dad: I love you and miss you tell Mimi and Patpat hi for me and Nonnie and Pops.  Tell Nat and Lucky hi for me. I love you! -Christopher

Brennan: Dear mom and dad: I’m having fun I’ve done lots of things I didn’t think I would do like rock climb up a mountain and some other stuff anyways I miss y’all Love, Brennan

Everett: Dear family, having fun love y’all -Everett