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Chamonix Alps : 1B • June 13-July 5, 2016

Le Tour du Mont Blanc

July 3, 2016

It is unreal to think that our third and final section of our European summer has drawn to an end.  After five days of trekking, sightseeing, and blue skies in the rugged landscape surrounding Mount Blanc, our rugged, ever-enthusiastic team of fourteen is train hopping for the final experience that Europe has to offer: Paris!!!

As the morning sun arose on day fifteen we knew that change was coming! It was time for us to exchange our bathing suits in for pants and jackets, and dust off our boots for the Tour du Mont Blanc. Today was also a travel day and like our prior days this meant train time! Now veterans of the Euro rail we navigated to Geneva without a single hiccup, and we’re now only one short bus ride away from Chamonix, and the monstrous Alps. Upon arriving we checked into our hostel for the night called Chamionard and began to prepare for the days ahead of us. Today was also special because we got to go into the heart of Chamonix and experience what a European mountain town had to offer. We were not left disappointed! We had dinner tonight at a local burger joint called Poco’s Locos, where a few members of our group Brighton, Eddie, Ben, and Savannah all claimed that these burgers were the best burgers they had ever had. We ate to the backdrop of the sun setting over the towering mountain side of Mount Blanc. Finally, after a long day of travel, preparation, and excitement it was time to lay our heads down and dream of the Tour du Mount Blanc.

Just like that, day sixteen was finally upon us, the fateful day that we would finally enter into the heart of the Alps and begin the Tour.  Today we awoke with a renewed excitement that only trekking and mountain climbing can bring a group of adventure travelers. After breakfast we loaded up into our vans that took us to our trail head, and just prior to leaving the hostel we met up with Micheal our guide and new companion for the extent of our stay on the Tour. After a short shuttle to the trail head we were finally standing face to face with the giants (the Alps).  Mary took charge as we began our ascent into the Alps and lead the group up the winding switch backs. With the sun on our faces and the road growing ever fainter behind us, we pushed and pushed seeking glory as we inched closer and closer to the saddle we were trekking towards. By mid day we had reached our mark, having climbed over one thousand positive vertical meters we all rejoiced together. It was a mutual feeling of success and fortune that we all got to have together as we continued further on into our day. After our climb up we were rewarded in more ways than one. The views we witnessed were unbelievable! Mountain after mountain, with peak after peak! Not to forget the snow that surrounded us, like a Michigan football field in the dead of winter. Brighton, Lydia, Sally, Hampton, Ben, Margie, Maggie, Mary, Jewell, and Grace all rewarded themselves after the climb by sledding down the trail instead of walking. While they were sledding Savannah, Mary, Eddie, and Sam took part in a snowball fight. Once the fun was over it was time to start moving again. We hiked all the way to a grassy lunch spot protected from the wind by a slight dip in the mountain side, where we could see nothing but mountains from side to side. After lunch we continued to push, knowing now that the difficult part of our day was out of the way it was only downhill from here. Till all of a sudden, we saw something fleeing across the snowy trail in front of us, and it turned out to be an ibex (or so we think) a deer that is native to the region. Furthermore, we pushed on sledding at any point of the trail that we could to give our legs and minds a short break. Step after step we pushed onward as the town we could see from atop our snowy ridge grew closer and closer, as we sunk deeper into the valley. Finally, success we reached La Fouly the town we would be calling home for the night. With much eagerness we retreated into our hotel rooms successful after a long days climb, awaiting the feast we had in store for us. Dinner did not disappoint, we ate a chicken curry dish with rice and vegetables. With tired minds and full bellies we sunk back into our bedroom chambers and began to prepare ourselves for the trials and tribulations that the next day would present.

We awoke on day seventeen to picture perfect skies a welcomed reward for the beginning of our second day. After a more strenuous first day we had a much more relaxing second day. We even were able to sleep in, which all of us gratefully accepted. After breakfast we packed our bags, laced our boots back up, and began trekking yet again. Only after a short while we came across a park slash playground where our guide Micheal taught us about different floral and fauna that surrounded the area. After his lesson Grace, Sally, and Brighton found a short zip line, which they zipped down before it was time to press forward again. Before long we were back on the trail weaving in and around trees that surrounded the forest. Until just before lunch we emerged out of the forest into a very small mountain village that the trail took us through. Inside the village Margie and Maggie found a garden that was being protected (or surrounded) by what looked like at least fifty garden gnomes. Soon after it was time to leave the village and we reentered the forest climbing ever gradually at this point searching for a protected place to have lunch. Lunch was a welcomed reward and break for us. We ate an assortment of deli meats and cheeses as we sat in the vastness of the valley still surrounded on all side by mountains. After lunch we continued our trek, pushing deeper and farther down the trail. As we emerged out of the forest and into the town of Champex, we realized that we would be sleeping next to a beautiful alpine lake.

As the boys set out on yet another ice cream adventure, others relaxed on the sunny patio of our refuge. Mary, Sally, Jewell and Kat headed to the lake for an afternoon stroll. The tour de lac was peaceful and scenic. The four ladies enjoyed some much appreciated quiet time too! That evening the hostel was a full house! We were joined at supper by a large rambunctious group of Dutch cyclist! “One of the top three dinners- for sure!” shouted Sam and Hampton, as we all cleaned our plates of delicious chicken pasta.

Day 18 was up, up and away, as we left the shores of Lac Champex we were off to the ghost town of Trient. Today we would gain an elevation of 2,250ft and a decent of 2,450ft down the Col de Forclaz into Trient. We had an unforgettable lunch performance by Jewell, laughs were shaking the floor below us. Energy was high after lunch, as there was no stopping Savannah leading us up the spectacular Bovine route. Grace was not far behind encouraging and singing with the crew the entire way down to Trient. We made a quick pit stop at a wonderful little Swiss shop to gather stickers, post cards and of course a bite of chocolate! Soon after we arrived, Michael, our guide, led a post hike yoga stretch session that Hampton, Mary and Kat enjoyed.

FONDUE, fondue, fondue was the name of the game that evening! As some students choose chicken curry for dinner, others indulged in bubbling bowls of tomato cheese fondue! The night was capped of with ice cream dessert and a giggly moonup session.

The 19th day would be a trek out of the land of the chocolate and back into croissant territory! (Switzerland->France) Our second to last day on the tour would be a grand one! We will be ascending 4,300 ft and descending 3,700 ft into Argentiere, where the fabulous Hotel de la Couronne awaited us. We were Oh SO grateful for the weather, it was 75 and sunny, a perfect alpine afternoon. The group was jiving, taking loads of pictures while Curtis and Cleestus (Ed& Brighton) wiped up an impromptu stand up oldies act for us. Up and up we climbed to the summit, nestled in the le Tour ski resort was elated. This was the highlight of the trip for many. Maggie, Ben, Eddy and Brighton ran ahead of the group to get a sneak peak at the view. Finally! Mont Blanc in plain and beautiful sight! The view was so incredible we had a lengthy photo shoot atop the beautiful mountain pass. Lunch and leadership followed, Lydia and Sally educated the group on the 7 principles of leadership. Kat ran back to the group for a leadership pop quiz that was rewarded with copious amounts of Twix & KitKats!!!

The crew was on a mountain high for the rest of the afternoon, singing and shouting there way into the town of Argentiere. Michael, our guide, stopped at a beautiful church in the center of town. Some students enjoyed a few special moments of peace and quiet inside the chapel to close out our day. The Stone Pizza bar for dinner was a knock out- pizza for all and to all a good night!

Day 20 was halted early due to inclement weather. We enjoyed a lavish buffet breakfast in Hotel de la Couronne. Michael later took the students to a nature reserve museum where he had worked as a high school student. The group packed up their gear and headed on the train down to Chamomix. Energy was through the roof, as they knew an extra town day was in the works for our afternoon plans. Souvenirs, sugar and salty treats filled the afternoon.  Chamonix is the mecca of outdoor adventure, climbing and sports. The town was bustling with people gearing up or finishing an expedition. It was cheeseburgers in paradise, paradisssse for this group!

POCO LOCO a Moondance and Salamander favorite, we set our home base at the famous cheeseburger spot in the heart of Chamonix. We enjoyed a day of shopping, snacking and final snapshots!

Only two more days left of our European adventure, where did the time go! Today we will leave the wonderful mountain town of Chamonix, a fan favorite among the group, and train from Geneva to Paris.

We are off to the city of glittering lights and love! Paris here we come!

Thanks to all for an unforgettable trip!!

Kat & Sam

A little message from across the sea:

LYDIA- We saw the prettiest view of Mont Blanc on summit day! Dad you would’ve loved it. Can’t wait to see y’all. Love you!

MARY- Hey everyone! I miss you all and yota dearly. The ice creams amazing but the views are even better! Peace-Love

SAV- Hey guys! We made it thru all the hiking and now we are off to Paris! Can’t wait to see ily & Imy!- SAV

ED- Discovered true love for Nutella and Poco Loco burgers.

HAMPTON- I love Poco Loco burgers Yummmy!!!!

MAGGIE- Please bring the dogs in the car when you pick me up on Tuesday. Thanks:)

BRIGHTON- On the way to Paris, see you guys in a few days.

JEWELL- Gold Bond has become my friend. Throw out all the bread before I get home!

SALLY- I’ve decided to eat meat again! Just kidding.. I’m still vegetarian. See you Tuesday and being the dogs:)

GRACE- YO, remember my surprise. Think back to why Dad wouldn’t smile in Decatur. Surprise! Book me an appt. please. Love y’all and also change my senior portrait.

Costa Brava kayaking!

June 27, 2016

It is hard to believe that the second adventure-filled section of our European tour has drawn to an end.  After two easy days of sea kayaking, swimming, and sun bathing in the turquoise blue Mediterranean Sea, our rugged, ever-enthusiastic team of fourteen are train hopping for our third and final challenge: hiking deep into the heart of the Alps, on the Tour du Mount Blanc!

Day twelve started just like every other travel day that we have had so far: early! Even though dawn was just breaking, excitement was in the air because we knew that we were trading in our winter gear for sun tans and beach vibes. Now seasoned travelers, navigating the train system to Cataluna and Costa Brava was easy with no hiccups or difficulties. Upon arriving at Cala Montgo (our camp ground for sea kayaking), the young adventures learned with a great deal of enthusiasm that they would be cooking our meals for the first time on the trip! With recipes in their minds and culinary secrets on everyone’s lips, we sent Lydia, Brighton, Maggie, and Hampton the chosen team of four to buy dinner from the super market for everyone. They did not disappoint as they came back from shopping victorious, bringing us a bounty delicious treats. Tonight for dinner, we feasted on burritos and fajitas filled with Spanish meats, veggies, rice, beans, cheese, and much more that was prepared by everyone, yum! The night was not over after dinner we took to the beach and the water for the first time, to get a taste for the sea. While Hampton, Maggie, Brighton, Ben, and Eddie kicked around a soccer ball, Grace, Mary, Savannah, and Sally all frolicked around in the water splashing around at their delight. While Margie, our token photographer, snapped scenic beach photos of all! Finally, after a long day of travel, we got to relax on the beach and prepare for our first day of kayaking on the Mediterranean Sea.

Our first day of sea kayaking finally arrived on day thirteen of our European adventure. Today started much differently than hiking had, we got to sleep in and even prepare our own breakfast. This was a much welcomed treat for everyone, because we finally got to have an “American” breakfast of eggs and bacon, rather than breads and jams. Everyone was excited to rekindle their friendships with eggs and bacon, and Hampton, Mary, Jewell, and Sally spear headed the cooking this morning, providing the fuel we needed to start the day. Once bellies were full, we took to the beach in search of our next excursion, which did not take long to find as the sea kayaking guides were waiting for us prepped and beachside. After a quick paddling tutorial, we took to the high seas and began our paddle. After about ten minutes, we came to a cliff where our guide, Manu, jumped ship and then did the unthinkable, jumped off the cliff!! After he showed us that it was safe and how to approach it we eagerly followed his example. We were now cliff jumpers in training with everyone taking the plunge, and Grace, Lydia, Maggie, Sally, and Brighton jumping again and again. Finally, it was time to move on. However, we proceeded to paddle into cave after cave and even saw bats in one of the caverns! One cave was special – there was a small cavern within the cave that Manu took Savannah, Maggie, and Grace into.

After an easy morning of paddling, we stopped for lunch, which consisted of meats, cheese, bread, and a fan favorite: Nutella. Eddie plunged deeper into the jar of Nutella than he did into the water after the cliff jump.  With full bellies, the group hit that post lunch lull and decided to turn back towards the safety of home base. This turned out to be a wise decision as the seas began to get choppy with white caps sprouting up all around us. This caused Eddie, Margie, and Sam to all join the Mediterranean Sea swim team (meaning we flipped), but this was no bother because it was a welcomed cool down from the hot sun. After a rambunctious paddle back to shore, we took to the beach to catch some rays and soak up the Costa Brava culture. While some slept, Grace and Mary played volleyball with locals, where as others such as: Margie, Lydia, Savannah, Kat, Jewell, and Sally immersed themselves in the thrift shops surrounding the beach buying different jewels and keepsakes. Eddie, Hampton, Ben, and Brighton found a way to cool off in more ways than one. After hoping in and out of the water, they went and found themselves some ice cream, thus making it a true beach experience.  After the beach, we retreated out of the sun to our bungalows and started cooking our next feast, spaghetti and veggies! This was a group effort in which everyone participated in and enjoyed. With the first day coming to a close, we went back to the beach to soak up the last rays of sun, as the sun dipped below the horizon, escaping us behind the Mediterranean.

The second and final day of sea kayaking began the same way as the first, with some much-deserved rest. The gang whipped up a good ‘ole fashion American bacon and eggs buffet. We were in for a treat today, as the kayak guides bused us to a tropical oasis, a national park about 45 minutes from Costa Brava that was clean, quiet and pristine. We munched on apples, oranges and muffins as the guides prepped our kayaks for a successful launch. As some folks from the gang were hesitant for the day, Savannah brought the noise with cheerful enthusiasm as we left the bay.  Soon after, we paddled up upon a cliff that Manu gave us the OK to jump off of. Grace, Sally, Maggie, and Lydia led the flight off the cliff, soaring through the air like eagles, then landing like mermaids into the smooth turquoise blue waters of the Mediterranean. Once the rest of the crew saw this, they immediately abandoned their cockpits and took to the skies to join the rest of the flock in flight. Once it was time to continue the paddle, the fun truly began! What started as a day paddle quickly escalated into a go-cart track as everyone weaved in and out of rock formations, passing and over taking one another at will. For a twenty minute span, we had all become formula one drivers attempting to win the cup. By lunchtime, we had reached our final destination – the ‘Russian Pools’ referring to a Russian man and his English wife who resided there in the late 1930’s after WWII. Savannah, Sally and Mary kindly laid out quite the spread for our afternoon feast upon the Russian rocks. Hamp stepped up to the plate, helping the guides shuffle and organize a proper send off for each kayak out of the Russian bay.

After lunch, we drag raced all the way back to the finish line and crossed the pristine shoreline as a unit! While we waited to load into the busses, Grace and Maggie attempted to bury Sam in the sand, while everyone else happily lounged around watching and laughing. The bus ride home provided many of us with a much needed nap time, and upon arriving back to our campground, we awoke and were ready to go again. After a quick dip in the pool and a breath-holding contest between Sally, Brighton, Hampton, and Jewell, we went back to the cabins to prepare for the night’s feast. Dinner featured many different items, as we sought to eat all of our food. We had salad prepared by Maggie and Savannah. Eggs and bacon prepared by Sally, Grace, and Mary. Finally, for the main course, we had pasta. The buck did not stop there we had one more surprise for the day and that was ice cream, which everyone rejoiced in and ate happily. After an easy two days of sun-bathing and swimming it was finally time to gear up again for the mountains. The three tiny wooden cabins were filled with giggles, games and salamander scavengers all through the night. Tomorrow will be filled with time, travel and trains. Breakfast in Spain, train through Switzerland and dinner in Chamonix!

Until next time, adiós amigos 🙂

Sam & Kat

Bonjour, Salut, and Greeting!

June 25, 2016

Bonjour, salut, and greetings to all that are reading this from both Kat and Sam, words cannot even begin to explain the amazing adventures that we have embarked on so far, including the ones that we have yet to experience.

We will do all we can to paint a picture of the trip with each update we post. It is hard to believe that the first action-packed section of our European adventure has already drawn to a close. After eight days of hiking and trekking in the enormous Pyrenees Mountains, our tough, ever enthusiastic team of twelve is making its preparations for our second big adventure: sea kayaking deep into the heart of the Mediterranean Sea.

Day one started as any new adventure must, at the airport where we all sat eager and excited to pass through the gate and begin a trip of a lifetime that none of us will ever forget. Spirits began to soar as we boarded the flight and excitement filled the eyes of all twelve adventurers. After seats had been taken we quickly ascended into the air and thus we all knew deep down the trip had finally begun.

Day two began as one could imagine, with the plane touching down in Amsterdam bringing many of us our first taste of Europe as excitement brewed even heavier. Sadly we could not lace up our boots quite yet as we still had one more flight to Geneva and then a bus to Chamonix in the heart of the Alps. Upon departing the bus we were finally standing face to face with some of the Giants (the Alps) that we would soon be conquering. At dinner tonight we got our first taste of European cuisine, a meal in which we all enjoyed, knowing now the trip had truly started.

Day three started bright and early at four am, our final travel day to Lourdes, France, the heartbeat of the Pyrenees Mountains. Even though we started bright and early everyone was chippy and cheery for our first taste of the European rail system which we navigated through successfully with little hiccups and bothers. During the train ride Hampton, Grace, Edward, and Lydia entertained the group with a game of what are the odds. Upon switching trains we relied on the keen eyesight of Jewell to spot our next train gate, where we were able to domino ourselves into the train moments before the closing of the doors and the departure of the train. Finally, after one more train and a bus we arrived in Lourdes and were given our first glimpse of the mountains that stood towering in the distance behind the city. For dinner tonight we had a fan favorite, pizza, which was so good that both Brighton and Ben were able to consume an entire pizza pie individually. With bellies filled and tired minds we retreated to the comfort of our hotel (Hotel Lutetia) and dreamed of our coming adventures.

Day four, finally the fateful day had arrived and it was truly the moment that we began our trip. This was our first day in the Pyrenees and after a short shuttle into the heart of the mountains we began our adventure. Excitement and eagerness boomed throughout the group as we began down the trail and tackled our first kilometer as a group together for the first time. Quickly into our traverse of the mountain, Savannah, Mary, and Sally stumbled into a pile of snow and started an impromptu snowball fight. After sometime of dueling with snowballs we continued on down the trail excited about the memories to come. After a few hours of moving and grooving down the trail we came to a perfect spot to have lunch, right above the tree-line surrounded on all sides by towering peaks, a view that would be worthy to be placed on a postcard. Lunch consisted of bread, cheese, meat, and chips which we all eagerly devoured, an earned award for our first days achievements. Thankfully, Hampton was able to eat all the excess meat, which earned him the nickname of hammy boy (the meat was ham). Pushing forward, Maggie was able to switch the group into another gear as she trail blazed at the head of the group and took us down below the tree line. Spirits continued to soar as Grace, Lydia, Jewell, Sally, and Maggie all sang songs down the trail keeping everyone entertained and alert. After a full day of trekking we finally crossed into Spain, and arrived in the town of Torla, and our refuge for the night. Thankfully, we were able to rely on Margie to communicate in Spanish for the group. Here we were treated to a full course meal before we retreated into our beds tired and happy.

Day five began a little differently than any day so far that we have had because it was Ben’s birthday. Unaware and unprepared for the activities to come he sleepily walked into breakfast where he was bombarded by the happy birthday song by the entire group, with Grace hitting the high notes like a seasoned opera singer. Like any birthday party everyone was pleased to receive different types of candy, with Ben receiving “Filipe”, which was a foot and a half tall chocolate bunny that he happily scarfed down and shared with the group. After the festivities we went back to business and began our trek up and into Ordessa Canyon. Maggie and Brighton both lead the charge into the canyon with the rest of the group hot on their heels. The canyon trail was filled with many different scenic views, most importantly were the mega waterfalls that we got to view from a safe distance. Further down the trail we stopped again to play a game called ninja, which is a Moondance fan favorite. In which Eddie, Hampton, and Sally all shinned and unlocked their inner ninja skills. After a challenging first day of hiking (the day before) we decided as a group to only go halfway into the Canyon. We then leisurely sat in an open field sun bathing and enjoying the picnic that the refuge had made for us. Here Sally and Maggie displayed they’re stunning ability to “French” braid hair. Afterwards an impromptu game of limbo broke out, in which Ben, Hampton, Mary, Jewell, and Lydia all saw how low they could go, with Ben being the ultimate winner. After our leisure time in the sun we finally moved to our refuge for the night called Burjaruelo. Here some of us napped while others such as: Grace, Lydia, Sally, Savannah, Maggie, and Margie all went and either took a polar bear plunge into the river, or watched the sheep, cattle, and horses move throughout the grasslands. But even after such an eventful day the day was still not done as Eddie showed his uncanny ability to play chess, thus earning him the nickname “Chessnut Eddie”. After a long day of hiking, relaxing, and fun we finally settled down into our refuge to another amazing dinner and good night of sleep.

On the sixth day in the Pyrenees we awoke to sunshine, blue skies, and eager faces to begin hiking again. After eating breakfast we fastened the seat belts on our packs and strapped back up to begin hiking again. The day started off very smooth and very relaxing, just a casual stroll through the woods. Until we emerged from outside the tree line and Savannah spotted a rainbow forming behind us in the valley, a good omen for things to come. However, the weather decided not to cooperate with our plans and overcast skies began to roll in over our heads. This did not dampen our mood as Eddie and Margie continued to set our pace up the mountain in a defiant stand against the weather. Even though the weather was not on our side the group was still in a good mood, with Grace, Jewell, Maggie, and Sally all continuing to sing songs and spread cheer on the trail. As we continued to trek up the mountain we began to realize that today was not going to be the same as the previous days, the weather would not allow it to be. Upon summiting the mountain our trail was on the weather had taken a turn for the worse, what had started out as a light drizzle had turned into a snow storm. Yes a snow storm in June. We were all mesmerized by both the thought and the idea but that did not deter us from achieving our goal. We ate lunch in the protection of a rock shelter, which prior hikers had built as we sought to wait out the bulk of the snow storm. Finally, a break in the storm occurred and we decided to push forward and trek up the mountain to reach our next refuge, Saredettes located just below the Breche de Roland, the opening in the mountains that allows you to pass between Spain and France. This would not be an easy task because now we were faced with a new challenge one that we had practiced through the prior days of hiking, walking through snow. A task that requires a little bit of finesse but is easy if you are up for the task. Brighton and Ben were more than up for the task as they both followed Sam, kicking steps into the snow making it easier for the team behind them. As we continued to push through the falling snowflakes something magical appeared in the distance, the fog of the storm had finally cleared enough for us to see the valley, the valley floor, and all the mountains that had been hidden under a cloak of fog. Excitement was rekindled at this point, as our spirits were lifted, with the lifting of the fog. However, we soon discovered that we would not be able to press on because the storm took yet another turn this time for the worse and we were forced to turn back to safety. To escape the storm we retreated down the valley towards the town of Gavernie. Where we took shelter at hotel Oxygen a quaint mountain hostel refuge in the heart of the city. After a long day of hiking and trekking we finally were able to retire and dreamed of good things and good weather to come.

The start of day seven was much different then any day we had experienced so far because today we slept in. Soon after awaking we ate breakfast and then rested and relaxed knowing that there would be no hiking today. The boys (Hampton, Eddie, Ben, Sam, and Brighton all challenged each other to ping pong duels in which Sam came out the victor. Furthermore, we spent a wonderful day in the city relaxing sun bathing and eating fruit. Until it was finally time to move on and get back on track to our next refugee, which was just around the corner from Gavernie. Well rested and right minded we went to sleep ready to tackle the challenges of the coming days.

Day eight of Trek – Boots dried out and laced back up, we were ready to rock! The team moral was high as the chatter vibrated up and back across the entire trail. Jewell took charge leading a morning stretch in the early breaking sunshine. She and Mary, her fellow LOD led the group down into the quaint town of Gavernie and along the riverside towards the magnificent cirque de Gavernie. Housing what is known as Europe’s highest waterfall.  We had a scrumptious couscous lunch below the waterfall in the valley of the cirque surrounded by assorted black and white sheep, baaaaaaaah! During our lunch break, we even played a game of trekking pole baseball where Grace slammed in a home run! As LOD Jewell stepped up tremendously with the navigation, though a map was foreign to her at the start of the day by afternoon she charged the crew up to our next mountain retreat- Refuge des Espugettes. The group persevered through a tough uphill climb to our mountain chalet that we would graciously reside in for the next two consecutive nights. The animals were vast and ample at Espugettes, from horses to sheep to calves and even donkeys! Grace, Maggie and Lydia truly became one with the horses. It was a magical evening, “the best yet” said many students. To close the evening Mary and Jewell led a scenic moonup full of laughter.

Summit Day. The best day nine.  Mars bars all around!

While some decided to enjoy a day of rest and relaxation others decided to charge to the top. Maggie, Jewell, Brighton, Sally, Lydia, Eddy, Hampton and Ben all enjoyed there picnic lunch and Mars candy bars at the summit of Pimene 2801m high.

“The 360 degree view was sick”- Brighton

“A tough climb but well worth it!- Ben C

As the boys shuffled down the ridge line, Sam took a group of girls on a real life snow slide.

A glacier amusement park some would call it. Maggie turned to me with a huge smile on her face, “This is one of the coolest things I have ever done!”  As we returned back into the valley of beautiful and abundant livestock, we found Grace frolicking with the donkeys and wild horses.  The afternoon was filled with chocolate bars, journaling and some much needed R&R. The evening was consumed by some much yearned for pasta and a beautiful mountain sunset.

Our last and final day ten of trekking was a challenging and spectacular close to the Pyrenees section of our European adventure. Maggie shined as LOD, setting a consistent and even pace for the group. After the pass summit, Hampton jumped into the front of the line propelling the crew down into the valley below, his enthusiasm was contagious. This was a large hiking day but the group really came together on their search for the Lac de Gloriettes, a turquoise colored alpine lake. Over the course of the day many lessons were reviewed such as the leave no trace principals, navigation and map reading. Lydia and Grace also taught hydration and water purification some skills the two honed in Alaska last summer as students. Step after step we continued up and back across the alpine tundra to arrive at our final destination Le Mallite Hotellerie.  We enjoyed a silent reflection time before darting down to the stone house with blue shutters in the jaw dropping cirque de Troumouse. This refuge had it all 360 views, magnum bars and even 4 puppies! We kicked back and relaxed the rest of the group enjoying a bottomless pasta meal. The next morning our much deserving worn out feet got to sleep in. The crew played Rummi Cube, Spades and Connect Four before Mandy would arrive to take us back into the town of Lourdes. As a treat, we had a town day afternoon restocking on food and goodies we would need for train travel day. That evening we had a scrumptious French pizza dinner and capped off the night with moonup!

The chatter was high in Hotel Lutetia that night as the kids packed their packs for sea kayaking in Costa Brava, Spain!

Until next time….Au Ovoir/Adios it’s off to Espania for this crew:)

Chao, Kat & Sam

PS: FYI-Eddy is up 3:2 in the Chess ping pong tourney.


Lydia- “Hey mom and dad! Hope y’all had fun in Dolomites. The backpacking and views have been incredible, you’d love it dad. Tell everyone hi and love you!! ”

Grace- ” What is up rentals. I hope firefly was fun and you got me a kol shirt. I am having lots of fun and have a surprise for you. Keep bubs out of cage. Love y’all, adios. G ”

Margie- ” Hey family! Europe is crazy. I’ve seen and done so much, I have so many insane stories for you. Everybody is pretty cool. Miss and love y’all and can’t wait until Walloon!”

Hampton- “Trip is good. Love Hampton”

Ben- “Trip is going really well. Hiking is tough but not too hard. I miss you sometimes- can’t wait to meet in Paris!”

Edward-” I’m having a good time, starting to miss American food. Got some cool stories to tell, heard the Cavs came back, but see y’all soon! ”

Brighton- “Yo family! Trip is going well in Europe, mom you would love it! Hunter, you’re gonna have to sit this one out. Peace- Brighton”

Mary- “Hey fam! Everything has been so eventful but worth every minute. I’m not sure if I’ve eaten more bread or laughed more. I miss y’all and American food bunches! Salut-Mary

Savannah-” Hey fam! I miss y’all so much! I have conquered so many things I would have never done before like climbing rock walls. I can’t wait to come home and tell y’all everything while eating Mexican. I love y’all so much- Savs”

Sally- “Hi everyone! I miss everyone so much. The trip has been wonderful. Hiking was so much fun and I wish you all could see the views! Can’t wait to see everyone in July- lots of love, Sal.  Ps: EMT! ”

Maggie- “Hey Ma & Pops! Miss you guys and cannot wait to tell you about all beautiful places. This trip has already been such and adventure! Give the animals some love for me! To the moon and back-Mags”

Jewell- “Hey fam! Trip is great. Lots of love- Jewell”