July 25, 2016
Hola from the Coast of Brava!
Since you last heard from us, we have spent two wonderful, relaxing days on the gorgeous, crystal blue coast of Spain in L’Escala at Cala Montgo Campgrounds. After a long day of train travel, John Michael and I decided to cook this crew a delicious bungalow-cooked meal: taco salads/burritos! We filled up our tummies, then headed to the beach for our first Moonup in Cala Montgo. The moon was shining on the water and the sailboats’ masts were swaying in the harbor; your perfect, picturesque scene for moonup. Ramsey and Harry, our LODs for the day, came up with a hilarious moonup question: if you could be any fruit or vegetable what would you be and why? We had some hysterical, in-depth answers that had our bellies aching with laughter. After Moonup, we played a giant game of big booty. Naturally, as masters of big booty, John Micahel and I were the two finalists. The crew decided that we had to do a veggie-off to decide the winner. Little did they know, however, that we had secretly conversed to throw Lawson into the water instead of compete for the winner. The countdown began, “One, two, three… Droopy Asparagus!” And instead of acting it out, we sprinted over to Lawson, tossed her over Jam’s shoulder and ran her into the water! Before you knew it, Will was throwing Bo onto his back and running him into the water as well. Will began to hesitate about his decision, but Ramsey, always quick to join the shenanigans, made that decision for all three of them, plunging the whole crew into the chilly night waters. It was a hilarious, eventful Moonup, and a great start to our time at the beach!
On day two, we slept in and woke up to a delicious egg and bacon breakfast made by our wonderful chef, John Michael. What a treat! We lathered up on sunscreen and headed down to the beach to meet our sea kayaking guides. Today, we paddled along the magnificent Coast of Brava under high cliffs and through some outstanding natural caves. We learned about the history of the rock, the history of the coast, and a lot about its preservation. Just before our lunch spot, Bo took a little tumble, flipping in his kayak, but Lilly was there to the rescue! She performed an Eskimo rescue and Bo got back up in a jiffy with the help of her boat. Quite impressive on both of their parts! We stopped for lunch in a lovely little cove where we explored the rocks, swam around, and even jumped off some cliffs! (It was safe I promise!) The way back to Cala Montgo was windy and difficult, but this group pushed through and did a fabulous job supporting each other and getting back safely to the harbor. This night we decided to treat ourselves to some delectable restaurant dishes, then head to the beach once more for Moonup! Isaac and Laney, our LOD squad for the day, asked one of our favorite questions: if you could have dinner with anyone in the world dead, alive, or fictional, who would it be and what would you eat? It was an entertaining Moonup full of giggles and smiles all around. As we walked back to the bungalows, we passed by the Cala Montgo “Summer Dance Party” where people of all ages were dancing to a DJ. How could we resist!? We simply could not… We threw on those boogie shoes and hit the dance floor! We danced for about an hour straight under the stars of Spain with the whole Cala Montgo community- definitely a highlight of our time at the beach!
On day three, our day looked a little different because of the weather conditions. Unfortunately, we were not able to kayak because the wind was just too strong. Instead, we drove about an hour to the south where we trekked along the coast, looking out over the bluest of blue waters as sailboats passed by and the wind blew through our hair; it felt surreal to be surrounded by such stunning scenery. We descended to the beach where we scrambled up onto some rocks and enjoyed our last afternoon on the coast. We snorkeled around in the shallow waters, gazing at the fish, the sea urchins, and the coral. It was a relaxing, yet adventurous afternoon.
Once we returned to Cala Montgo and got in a good nap, we headed to the supermarket to prepare for tonight’s festivities: Iron Chef Cala Montgo edition 2k16! Team N1, consisting of Lawson, Darby, Addie, and Will, whipped up a mean tapas style meal with french toast, strawberry crepe, and a delectable egg and bacon mix. Hit the spot! Team N2, consisting of Bo, Kendrick, Lilly, and Isaac, hit us with a magnificent breakfast quesadilla full of everything one could ever want in a bfast dilla. Yum! And last but not least, team N3, consisting of Laney, Maxine, Ramsey, and Harry took the gold medal with their greasy, grilled cheese egg burger, a side of phenomenal potatoes and veggies made by Laney, and a labor of love by Harry who spent an hour mashing up Oreos to create a mean Oreo ice cream pie! All meals were outstanding, but team N3 simply stole our hearts. It was fun to see everybody come together in the kitchen and have fun getting creative. It was a wonderful end to our time in Cala Montgo
July 18, 2016
It has been a fast yet spectacular 10 days since your lovely children have arrived in France, and boy has it been a magnificent time! A lot has taken place, from swimming in glacier fed streams, to trekking over beautiful snowcapped mountains, and we can only imagine your brains are humming with anticipation about the countless stories of fun and laughter. So here we go:
Day one: On our first day of trekking, we laced up our boots and started for our first night’s destination: Le Refuge de Sarradets under the gorgeous Breche de Roland. The day began with a short 20 minute walk from the parking lot to the Col des Tentes where we could put one foot in France, and the other Spain. We sat gazing at the glorious view of both countries’ mountains, then began our slight uphill trek to the remote Sarradets. As we hiked higher and came closer to our final destination, we ran into a bit of snow travel in the late afternoon. So, we strapped on our micro spikes and followed our fearless snow expertise, John Michael, as he guided us safely through the snow field, over a beautiful waterfall, and up to the Col de Sarradets. Our LODs for the day, Darby and Bo, did a fantastic job of keeping spirits high, making sure everybody felt safe, and communicating with the entire group. John Michael and I were thoroughly impressed with the way this group handled their very first day of trekking, especially with all of the snow travel, which the majority of this crew had never experienced before—a wonderful thing for leaders to see on the first day, and a sign that this was going to be a stellar group of avid adventurers. At Sarradets, we met many local Spanish and French fellow Trekkers, including a French family who had two teenage boys. Lawson tested out her French she had been trying to learn and learned some new things from our new French friends. Both groups got to converse and learn a little more about each other’s cultures, something that is very unique to the Pyrenees experience. Sitting at about 8,000 ft, the view from Sarradets is breathtaking. On one side, you can look up to the stunning Breche de Roland, on another you can see the Cirque de Gavarnie and the top half of the tallest waterfall in Europe, La Grande Cascade, and turning a little further you can look back at the Col de Sarradets with mountain peaks in the distance and the sunset splashing an array of colors across the sky. It truly is an incredible sight, and one that I know will stick with many for a long time.
On day two, we were awoken by a loud thunderstorm that rolled through the mountains. We waited out the storm in the morning, then strapped on those micro spikes once more and booked it up to the Breche de Roland. Up at the Breche, we could see for miles and miles down into both the French and Spanish sides of the Pyrenees. We sat and relaxed for a little while to take in the view, then started our long descent for the day. It was a very long day and we covered a lot of mileage. Our LOD squad for the day was a dynamic twin duo, Harry and Isaac, and they did great job of keeping people motivated throughout our trek. The gang scrambled slowly and safely down the other side of the Breche, walked through some marshes, then finally reached Ordessa Canyon where we stopped for a lovely long break. During this break, John Michael and I threw off our boots, ran to the stream and plunged into the freezing cold water. As soon as our heads popped out, Maxine flashed past us as she ran into the glacial stream screaming and splashing around. The others saw this, and before you knew it, Darby, Ramsey, Bo, Kendrick, Will, Lilly, Isaac, Harry, and Addie all took a quick dip to cool themselves off, then ran out screaming because it was shocking how cold the water was. We then walked up to the waterfall where we took pictures and all got soaking wet from the mist of the falls.
Trip Update 2:
Wooooaaahhhh what a crazy two days to start the trip. Really getting those calves into shape!! After getting a little more shut eye then usual, we had the classic breakfast of bread, bread, jam and a little more bread. Lacing up our boots and busting out our poles, Maxine and will led the way up the Valle de bujuarelo, following the red and white stripes of GR11 up plateaus, across narrow canyon walls and meandering through lush green forests. Today was a wonderful third day of trekking, just long enough to really get our muscles moving but not to strenuous to cause any aches and pains. After a great day of hiking, some solid riddles and trail games we arrived at the beautiful Refugio de bujuarelo where we plopped down on the grass, took off our shoes to let out stinky feet breath that crisp crisp air and took in the wonderous sights around us. The games and riddles continued on with Laney introducing the classic pterodactyl to the group and the secret of “black magic” coming out. We even had the opportunity to play a quick game of duck duck goose with some local Spanish teens also camping in the area, talk about some cultural immersion! Following our spectacular outdoor games, we all headed inside for some well deserved rest and a shower. During this time the boys through together a riddle of their own which the laid on us at dinner that night and boy was it a funny one. After another magnificent dinner the day slowly came to a close with the setting of the sun and circling up of moonup. With another wonderful day in the books, we all laid our heads down for a little shut eye thinking about the steep steep uphill we would be facing early in the morning the next day!
Rise and shine, it’s hill hiking time!!! The morning came fast and frigid. Waking to a wonderful breakie of you guessed it, bread! But this time we had a special treat of some wonderful pineapple juice, cheese and some meats! Those extra proteins and sugars sure would help on this long day we had a head of us. With our bellies full, boots tied tight and game faces on we headed out into the cold windy morning Mother Nature was offering us. Starting the day up front, Lily did a wonderful job helping me set a nice smooth pace for everyone on our strenuous morning of uphill. Rising out of the trees we were able to gaze back down upon the rushing river and the historical refuge we rested our heads in the night before. With mountains surrounding us and the wind a howling we continued on up up and away until we pulled over the col de bujuarelo and stepped back into France. Up on the col it was a whirlwind of craziness, the valley below acting like a funnel for the whipping wind flying up at us, it was a fantastic time. After a quick snack we said goodbye to Spain and the whipping wind and took off down into the valle de Pouey. Arriving into the valley, the group decide to sit down for a nice lunch and gaze up at the col de Serradets, the same col we crossed snow and skree to reach just a few days earlier. Everyone gazed in admiration as they realized how much we had covered in meager four days of trekking, it was pretty awesome. Down in the valley we continued on, with a raging river on our right and spectacular sheer cliffs on our left we passed by herds of cattle and sheep heading happily in the beautiful rays of the sun. Rounding a bend onto the plateau de Bellevue we received a truly awe inspiring sight, a lush green meadow littered with purple and yellow wild flowers gazing directly upon the cirque de Gavarnie, this cirque is wondrous in many ways. Being one of the more popular cirques in the Pyrenees, it is humongous in size with sheer cliffs up to 800m in height scattered with glacial fed waterfalls, one of these waterfalls being le grand cascade, the tallest waterfall in Europe. It is truly a scene straight from J.R. Tolkiens mind. After our minds kicked back to “reality” we continued our trek down from this lush plateau and in to the quaint little town of Gavarnie. After some crepes and shenanigans in town we continued on a little bit further to the grange de holle, a beautiful little refuge run by the French alpine Club which would be our home for the night. Kicking our boots off we relaxed outside under the beautiful sun, playing games and laughing our hearts out. Another magnificent dinner in our bellies topped off by some brownies for dessert we circled up for moonup and soon laid our heads down onto some comfy pillows and snoozed off to sleep.
Being awakened by the magnificent sounds of bells from our lovely neighbors the cows, we rose to another tasty breakfast, but wait this time we had some cereal!!! Bellies full of bread, cereal and diesel fuel (coffee of course!) we set off. Swinging through Gavarnie we decided to make a quick pit stop at the local thrift store where Lawson, Ramsey and a few others picked up some retro garb to rock on the trail. Continuing on, we headed up a gradual hill leading up to the base of the magnificent cirque de Gavarnie and grand cascade. Taking some time in this beautiful cirque, we perched up on one of the many boulders left behind thousands of years ago when this cirque and valley were formed through glaciation. After some head dunks in the frigid water we retraced our steps back to the main trail and sat down for lunch. After a delicious picnic, Alexis and I surprised your kiddos with some ice cream from the nearby hotellerie, it was the least we could do after their fantastic behavior and enthusiasm throughout the first stages of our trip. Bellies full of ice cream we trekked on, knowing we had a very steep uphill to finish our day off we took our time and coasted up to this magnificent stream perfect for a quick dip. With Ramsey, Harry, Isaac, Darby, will, bo, and Addie joining Alexis and I for a quick dip we all laughed in amazement at the beauty of where we were. Refreshed and rejuvenated we gazed up, up at the beautiful Refugio de espugettes as well as the steep trail leading to it. With some encouragement from the local horses and cows we began our assault on this strenuous push. Step after step we rose and got closer until BAM!!! We were there! With a heavenly view of the valle de Gavarnie, Breche de Roland, cirque de Gavarnie and col de bujuarelo we were able to retrace our steps across the mountains to our current place. Some card games followed by more riddles and dinner which once again was freaking glorrrrrious, we sat down for a beautiful sunset and moonup!
Morning time, morning time, we’re all friends at morning time! With some extra sleep, the group awakened a little later then usual but fully rejuvenated and ready for a “small” day hike. Goal of the day: summit Pimene. A wonderful 2800 meter tall peak providing 360 degree views of the Pyrenees, it truly is a majestic little peak. Starting with a steep uphill that only got steeper, the group through it in cruise control and before we knew it were at petit Pimene, the little brother or false summit of our end goal. After some snacks and hydration, hydration is key, we continued on. Leaving the trail and hopping on the ridge we scurried our way up and after some solid class four scrambling we were on top of this beautiful peak. Gazing out across the Pyrenees we chatted, listened to tunes and in the end ha a wonderful moment of silence. A silence that allowed us to think about this magical place we had called home for the past week, the opportunities each one of us had been given by our loved ones to be here, the fears overcame, the goals achieved, and most of all the amazing bond that had been formed between us, from strangers to family! After this time of reflection, this crew of young alpinists started out descent back down to Espuquettes. Arriving back to our magical refuge, we kicked back for some relaxation, snacks, and card games. Some quick naps and it’s time for dinner, per usual dinner was fantastic and capped off with a great dessert of vanilla pudding/custard covered in chocolate chips. Bellies full and eyes getting heavy we moved our party outside for some quick games before moon up and bed time. After a few very intense rounds of the question game and Ramsey’s spectacular performance in the story game, a game in which he unknowingly creates his own story that he is attempting to figure out, we circled up and had a magnificent moon up. Our final night at Espuquettes truly was a special one as the sun slowly descended behind the mountains and cast it’s rays upon our sleepy eyes
Morning time morning time, the twins turn 17 with this sunshine! Yep that’s right, not one but two birthdays today! The wonderful sultan twins, Harry and Isaac, were so kind to grace us with this special day of celebration. Even though our breakfast of bread, jam and more bread is just a gift from the gods, they had a different idea for our bday boys today, surprising them with some ham and cheese omelets to start off a new day and new age right! With breakie in our bellies the hiking soon began. Our final day of trekking was truly a peaceful and enjoyable one. A little uphill to start followed by a smooth descent in to a majestic valley. This descent was soon followed by a casual stroll along the headwaters of the lac de gloriettes. Stopping for lunch just before the lake we all grubbed down on our picnics while watching Bo, Ramsey and Will slowly perfect their headstand form! Getting our feet moving, we soon came upon the most glorious of all lakes, lac de gloriettes, where we all hopped in for a quick rejuvenating dip. Yep, every single soul scrambled in to the frigid glacial-fed waters, providing a refreshing cool off from the heat of the sun. After a hop, skip, and a jump over a beautiful bald resembling black balsam in nc, we were on our final stretch of the Pyrenees, a stretch that would lead us into the cirque de troumouse and to our final hostel, Maillet.
We took the afternoon to relax, take showers, hangout at the outdoor café and play hysterical games. At moonup, the horses were running around, the waterfall towered above Maillet, and we reflected on our truly awesome week in the majestic Pyrenees. As our first section comes to an end, we are sad to say goodbye to the mountains that began to bring this crew together, but we are looking forward to relaxing our legs on the crystal blue beaches of Spain and exploring the cliffs and coasts of the Mediterranean. John Michael and I are so proud of the way this group pushed themselves in the Pyrenees and bonded as a group. They accomplished goals that they had thought not possible, and we cannot wait to see what else is in store for these young, stellar adventurers!