July 15, 2016
On our way to the airport!
Though we are on the verge on ending our adventure, the final chapter has been absolutely incredible. We left the backpacking excursion to eat lunch in the beautiful town of Telluride, CO. With the kids having free choice of their mid-day meal, it goes without saying that more hamburgers, milkshakes, and french fires were consumed to count. Once everyone’s stomachs were stuffed we loaded back into the van and made our way east towards the trip’s final section. We were back on the Arkansas River. We loaded up the rafts to tackle the river’s Royal Gorge section that claimed more than its fair share of swimmers. David gave us another memorable moment when we saw him fifteen feet away from the aimlessly signaling that he was okay why he was cracking up with laughter. Two of our lead paddlers in the second boat were almost thrown in before Jane reached in and simultaneously yanked their leaning bodies back into the boat. Quite the move. Four more valiant rafters lost battles to the river before being pulled back in, all with similar reactions. Further downstream when the water had calmed, Wills, Cole and Max engaged the other Colorado Trail group in a raft war that ended up just being an excuse to pull a bunch of the leaders into the water. Despite an eventful day, the only injuries sustained were stomachs aching from laughter.
We got back to our campsite with time to serve a great cookout prepared by the leaders. Jack really outdid himself that night, racking up seven burgers while still saving room for s’mores and breakfast the next morning. Claire and Tate motivated everyone to sleep under our desert sky for one of the best nights for stars that we had the whole trip. After everyone else had risen we made our way towards Divide, a town right outside Colorado Springs, where we would spend our last full day of the adventure. Max took charge of cleaning the van that was just as dirty you might expect twelve days of twelve middle-schoolers would make it. After we knocked that out we made our way to the thrift store to pick out an outfit for the pizza banquet we would have later that night. The highlights of the evening was a theme of pajama shorts amongst the girls that was inspired by Tate, Annie’s decision to take it two steps forward with a pink pajama dress, and last but not least, Edward’s purple high heels. Our group was hunched up with laughter as he hobbled into the restaurant. We ate way too much pizza, but that didn’t stop Caroline form reuniting with her best friend Ice Cream after one last campsite surprise from the leaders. After a brilliant skit performed by two of the leaders, an incredible sunset Moonup, and some final late night pranks from Elizabeth and the girls, we began to lay our heads on mother earth for perhaps the final time together. Though hearts are heavy at Denver Airport the journey has been grand. We quietly met on July 2nd gathered around baggage claim 4. Awkward welcoming smiles developed into harmonious and hysterical laughter. Sweat turned into accomplishment, scrapes became stories for home, and twelve strangers became a decorated unit with memories to last a lifetime.
We all thank you so much for affording us these amazing friendships. Everyone will be home in good time to relay all the good times themselves.
-Kacie, Blake, and Guthrie
July 13, 2016
The backpacks are off!
Our group is filing into the van, coated in dirt and filled with memories. The backpacking section started with an early morning wake-up at Ridgway State Park and a quick drive to the Bear Creek Trailhead. We had one of our shorter hikes to the first campsite, where we ran into the other Colorado Trail group! Tate and Elizabeth ran into old friends from a previous Moondance trip, and everyone else had yet another opportunity to make more friends. Once we established our territory in the campsite, Max, Jane, and Edward established their ENO triangle that would stay strong for the remainder of the trip. They were extremely inviting though, providing plenty of space for the rest of the kids to hang within. Jack, Cole, and Wills took to exploring the mountain above our campground, and got to take in some of the best views our trip has offered yet. Our streak of sleeping under the stars continued that night, making for some more awesome memories!
We got up early to the beautiful aroma of pancakes and were quickly energized for a productive hike. Hiking along the trail, we met many people from across the world, including a gentleman of about 30 years of age that said he had done the same Colorado Moondance trip when he was 13. What an incredibly small world! We arrived at the next campsite with plenty of time to spare – giving Wills plenty of time to work on his “dirt blanket.” There were fake beards and plenty of t-shirt stains, but we made sure he took a river bath before we all got into the van. David’s hiking stick, “Steven”, faced many near-accidents, where he was almost lost in the river, but the group worked together to ensure Steven made it through to the end of the trip – Steven now has his own spot in our U-Haul. When it was time for everyone to move towards bed, Caroline led the push for one “all-the-girls” tent that was completed when Jane decided it might be slightly too cold to sleep in her hammock that night.
The next morning we awoke as seasoned backpacking veterans and cruised to our last campsite for our best push yet. With more chill-time than normal, everyone took their turn hanging in ENOs, helping prepare dinner, and playing some of the many games we have learned up to this point. Annie and Claire were among our most active s in the kitchen from beginning to end, facilitating with everything – from prep to clean. We sat in a massive dandelion field right before sunset and had our last backcountry Moonup, where we shared some great laughs and memories that will be kept for a long time.
We are pleased to share that the group’s unity is stronger than ever, largely in part because of the rigor this backpacking section offers the kids. The bonds that formed will only grow as the final day approaches, but with a group of kids this close, it seems that we have a ton of fun left before then. We will be back in touch for an update on airport day, but thank you in advance for sending all of these incredible kids on this trip, and giving us the opportunity to get to know them.
-Kacie, Blake, and Guthrie
July 9, 2016
It’s been a wild 24 hours! We started out with a zip-lining section that gave us some incredible views of Browns Canyon that’s been formed through the help of our good friend, the Arkansas River. Jane and David were dancing while on the lines, specifically “dabbing”, and the rest of the group was thoroughly entertained! Cole almost kicked his leader in the head at the end of the last line but it’s totally okay because we got a sweet GoPro shot out of it. Some of the kids, namely Annie, were calmer on the line, making it easier to get steady pictures at every opportunity. We were able to complete all six lines before noon, giving us plenty of time to get to our next campground. We stayed inside the Great Sand Dunes National Park where we quickly set up camp and cooked up some hot dogs and veggies. Separated from the campfire activities was Max, who spent a solid three hours throwing the Frisbee with his leaders. He could have gone for three more had it not been time to eat. After dinner and a quick Moonup we sent everyone to bed extremely early, mostly because of the next day’s hike. At three in the morning we started moving people out of their tents and loading up the van for the quick ride to the base of the sand dunes. After a short river-crossing we began to hike the incline of the dunes. Most of everyone took the slow and steady route, but Caroline left the group in the dust (sand) and sprinted up the ridges to watch the rest of us struggle to keep her within earshot. Everyone was keeping positive spirits throughout the hike, mostly in part because of the witty jokes and comments from Edward, our constant source of entertainment. Once there, Wills took the lead in our task to draw M-O-O-N-D-A-N-C-E in the sand. We told everyone to pack a small breakfast for the top of “High Dune”, and everyone got another great laugh in when Jack brought out his “Energy Ball” creation: a Nutella quesadilla that was balled up and smothered in honey. But with no fear he still put on a smile and ate the whole thing. The very end was definitely the most tiring part, however the cramps that were once felt from Claire and Tate turned into roaring laughter and they talked of how the difficulty of the challenge made the top so much more satisfying. Elizabeth agrees. Post-hike, the leaders feel more confident than ever in the group’s ability to tackle our backpacking section, and we look forward to writing about it all in just a few days’ time.
-Kacie, Blake, and Guthrie
July 7, 2016
Colorado Trail B is fresh off the river and still a little wet as we are loading into the van. Two days ago we dropped off our boats in the Arkansas River and immediately hit some exciting whitewater. Max and Cole started out by taking charge in the front of the “guys” boat, and Annie and Tate followed suit for the girls. That section featured the river main attraction that is “Miracle Mile,” a mile of exclusively class three or higher rapids. Wills was next to the guide and helped shout orders up to the front of the boat, making sure everyone was in sync. Once finished, our guides nudged on both boats to engage in Raft Wars, spearheaded by Jane and Edward. The wars included and unusually large amount of water guns and splashing paddles, but everyone made it out safely. The rapids were huge and everyone worked very hard on the water, but there was no shortage of energy by the time we reached camp. The guides introduced everyone to a tug-a-war game with a rafting twist. Using the guides’ rescue rope, two competitors stood on each end of the beached raft and tried pulling the other off solely through the use of the rope. Jack and Caroline proved their ability by quickly figuring out the best strategies and dominating for most of the afternoon. We were very blessed with a fun group of guides. Jane and her leader Blake spent most of their free time fly-fishing, a skill very few of the kids came to the trip with. After we finished an awesome Moonup Elizabeth persuaded most of the girls to sleep under the stars and take in some breathtaking skies before going to bed. The next day began early with pancakes topped with strawberries, whipped cream and blueberries, a rafting treat. After filling our stomachs we embarked towards the last stretch of the trip. Our final hour included some of the best whitewater yet. Claire probably got the most experience with the river on that mile, filling the role of the lone swimmer for the trip, but those remaining on the vessel quickly pulled her back to safety. David’s pinecone friend, Mr. Pickles, was sacrificed just as we were unloading from the raft, hoping that it would mean good luck for many trips to come. Edward, Elizabeth, Cole, Jane, Jack, Tate, Wills, Caroline, David, Annie, Max, and Claire 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!!
-Kacie, Blake, and Guthrie
July 5, 2016
The kids hit the ground running and relationships instantly started forming in the airport; especially once David arrived, he had no problem breaking the ice. Our one long drive of the trip landed us just outside Crested Butte with plenty of camp room and an incredible view of the lake. We started out with a tradition of ours and served some delicious pizza for our first dinner from a local favorite. Jack won the competition for the most slices but had no comments for the press afterwards. Our first Moonup, a nightly tradition where we recap our day and are allotted time for reflection, was a big success and where we could really see everyone meshing together as one group. Edward and Elizabeth were selected as our first Leaders Of the Day (LODs) and we all went to bed excited for our first adventure the following day. We started out rock climbing early the next morning with high spirits and our group was entertained from start to finish. Most of them could barely be separated from the rock face for lunch, where Claire taught our newly gluten free counselor how to make a sandwich out of green peppers. After a long day scaling the rocks we ended up stopping in the town of Crested Butte for ice cream and no one was more excited than Caroline, no one. After finally settling her in the car we made our way back for dinner. The leaders started to accept volunteers for our fist cook crew, and Tate, Jane, and Max stepped up to the plate. The plates that night were filled with the popular vote of mac-n-cheese. With some instruction from the leaders, our first cooked dinner was a success and we are hoping to expand to more diverse meals later. The night ended with a small hike down to the lake where we got to test out some rock skipping skills, and had Cole set our record for the night while helping out his peers along the way. A truly awesome night. We got to tackle a new set of climbs the next day and the kids brought the same level of energy as the day before, much to the surprise of our guides. Annie and Wills were by far the most active on the wall this time around. They had set out to do every climb at least twice and Wills was stopped just short as the sun was no longer giving us enough light. Everyone is comfortable and safe while we move our way towards rafting, and the leaders couldn’t be happier with how well the group has clicked in just three days. Will be back with many awesome adventures to share after rafting!
-Kacie, Blake, and Guthrie