June 25, 2016
The first morning of backpacking has arrived, and although there is a normal amount of hesitation amongst the kids, there is an equal sense of excitement for the challenge that waits. Mary Frances began our day as an LOD and shared a great quote about conquering these challenges, which motivated everyone to continue to look forward to the trail. The leaders corralled the kids and began driving to the trail. Ed entertained us all at the trailhead with countless group games!
We hit the trail at just after lunchtime. Lili started off the trip by establishing herself as the designated water filtration enforcer, and she was not going to let anyone fall victim to the threat of any water borne bacteria! As we continued our voyage into the backcountry, we eventually ran into the other Colorado Trail group. Elinor, Charles, and the rest of our Charlotte and Atlanta kids were able to say “hey!” to their friends from home. Using the other group’s advice, we picked a campsite just a quarter mile down the trail, shortening the day’s mileage just a tad, but it gave us the opportunity to have an awesome campsite we couldn’t pass up!
As cook crew began serving dinner, Nolan was unable to contain his excitement, making it well known that pasta was his favorite meal yet. All slept well with 1 day on the trail under their belt, and we were greeted by pancakes… a family of marmots the following morning! Though the marmots retreated from the kitchen early, no one stayed longer than Will, ensuring that no scraps went to waste.
Day 2 was our toughest hike of the trip, but Ed steered the way by studying the odds and ends of our map – everyone around him provided the group with plenty of positive encouragement. At the end, our campsite was greeted with open arms from Liles and Kate, and a solid break was enjoyed before we set up the tents for the night. Knowing the toughest day was over surely helped everyone persevere more than any day thus far.
The camp was jovial – our personal pizzas were delicious and we had a very meaningful Moonup led by Kacie, Palmer, and Elinor. Riding our highest spirits yet, our group destroyed the third day of backpacking. The day began with Esme keeping half the group’s mind off the trail with the most absurd stories, and we ended up covering the same distance as the previous day with half the breaks. As we arrived at camp with time for a late lunch, Palmer and Hugh then assumed the role of entertaining the group with hours of impressions, wit, and laughter. Our hike out was short yet bittersweet as perhaps the most rewarding section came to a close.
After a successful backpacking trip, the group was rewarded with a trip into Telluride to eat burgers and drink milkshakes, as the leaders reflected on how much each kid has evolved by focusing on the development of the group as a whole.
Personally, I am excited to witness the rewards of forming a strong group pay-off in the final days of our trip. These kids have provided us with tons of joy, and all three of us would like to thank you for your trust in providing us and them this trip. It’s been a blast thus far.
-Kacie, Blake, and Guthrie
June 22, 2016
June 20th, 2016
The crew is fresh off the Arkansas River where everyone completed over 30 rafting miles in just a two-day span. Everyone made it down the river safely with just Palmer as our lone “swimmer” for the trip, but the leaders acted fast to get him back in the raft. Needless to say, Palmer thought it was best part of the river. Our guides, Kelsey and Mikey provided us with great experience and even better meals, while making it even more fun on the river for the kids. Kelsey even handed the guiding reigns over to Mary Frances and Liles for part of the calmer rapids.
Esme provided most of our entertainment for the trip, leading the camp in a Taylor Swift symphony and eventually convincing everyone to join in. Behind the camp we had a massive rock that Charles, Ed, and Will led a group up to watch the sunset over the Rockies, a great group moment. Our guide Mikey brought along his guitar and sang with Elinor for the group, which kept the kids up a little ways past the sun. Hugh and Ed were some of our most experienced rafters coming into the trip, but left very impressed with the challenges faced and conquered by the end. Nolan has defended his choice of Keens in a sea of Chacos and whitewater valiantly, and he really is outnumbered 14 to 1. In light of the Chaco weekend, we have opened a Chaco-tan competition, with Kate leading the charge and Lili a close second, with 12 competitors also gunning for the ice cream prize on airport day.
Charles, Esme, Nolan, Lili, Hugh, Elinor, Will, Mary Frances, Palmer, Liles, Ed, and Kate all want their parents to know that they miss them but are very grateful for sending them on this great trip because they are having a blast.
Warm wishes from Colorado,
Kacie, Blake, and Guthrie
June 22, 2016
Our fantastic trip has continued towards zip-lining adventures and sand dunes! We woke up at our riverside campground and headed to meet our zip-lining guides in the canyon by lunchtime. Our guides, Owen and Harmony, led us through the most historic zip-lining park in Colorado. Liles and Elinor were sporting their Moondance shirts with hilarious poses (in effort to make their mark on the annual catalog!).
Just a half a day later, we were on the road for the Great Sand Dunes National Park, which features the tallest dunes in North America. Many exciting games were played at the campsite that afternoon. Hugh was extremely invested as always, and was teaching us more games than we can process! Will and Palmer brainstormed a dessert idea involving grilling Chewy bars and M&Ms…the leaders still don’t know how it worked but everyone who created it loved it. After dinner & dessert we hustled down to the base of the sand dunes for Moonup, with a hundred colors draping the background of the dunes. Our first cloudy day created a breathtaking sunset. After we closed the nightly Moonup gathering, we moved back towards the tents to get a couple hours of sleep.
At 3am, a chorus echoed from our campsite as we woke everyone to pack the tents and make our move up the sand dunes for sunrise. Kate and Charles made sure to blanket the parking lot with bug spray before we even began. In waves, the group started the trek up the dune. Leading the first wave, Nolan started running up the dune to set the pace. He ended up getting about twice as much hiking as the rest of the group, but with the help of Palmer, Will and Ed he finally made it to the top. He ran out of energy for the first time all week! Mary Frances, Esme and Lili made our presence known by drawing MOONDANCE with footprints in the sand, where many photo ops were taken.
The hike was the most challenging section thus far, but it yielded the most beautiful reward. The leaders feel more confident in the group’s ability to tackle our backpacking section, and we look forward to writing all about it in just a few days time.
All smiles from Colorado!
-Kacie, Blake, and Guthrie
June 18, 2016
We have arrived in Beautiful Colorado! The weather has greeted us warmly with some gorgeous days, and reports say we have plenty left. After a long first drive towards Crested Butte, Will almost made it to the camp before getting hooked with a stray fishing fly, but he resiliently came out with no scars and a fun story. We pitched our first of many camps, where the girls, led by Liles, crushed the boys in tent-set-up speed. The next day we began our first activity, rock climbing, with Kate and Charles leading the way as our first LODs (Leaders Of the Day). We were fortunate enough to have some excellent guides, and Hugh helped sustain about a two hour conversation with one of them about why America was superior to Wales. The Welsh guide had now dubbed Charles “Braveheart” and the leaders are very much in favor to the nickname sticking. By the end of our first day, Esme had started running circles around the guides, and was the first up our last and most challenging rock. Ed sat and analyzed Esme’s route before killing the long climb, almost through lunch. Palmer has endlessly defended his precious Panthers in the midst of reigning Super Bowl country, and doesn’t seem to be letting his allegiance down anytime soon. Mary Frances was more committed to climbing than anyone and impressed us all with a final valiant effort on the groups’ last climb. Lili is currently leading the hydration train, committing everyone to a gallon a day and being a huge help to the leaders while she does it. Elinor has already taken charge multiple times in the kitchen, teaching everyone new methods and tips, including ourselves. Nolan and Will are fine being surrounded by their southern peers, but have yet to get over the word “y’all” being thrown into daily conversation. Everyone is having an incredible start and spirits are high in Colorado, we will be back very soon after we finish our rafting section.
-Guthrie, Blake, and Kacie