Field Notes

Northern Lights : 1A • June 14-July 4, 2016

All Good Things Must Come to an End

July 4, 2016

And that’s a wrap! How fast does time fly? With the amount of fun we have had, we’d put it on par with NASA’s Juno spacecraft that’s trying to put itself into Jupiter’s orbit (1200 miles per hour for those interested).

We just wrapped things up with a wonderful couple of days in Anchorage, AK enjoying each other’s company and some great food. We arrived to our Anchorage campsite on Saturday afternoon and set up camp for our final night together. As the group set their tents up for the last time, we all couldn’t help but look back on our amazing time together. JT and Max took their time with theirs as they were in disbelief they wouldn’t be able to call it home anymore! After some snacks, Sarah and Margaret felt it was more than appropriate to get some games going amongst the group. After a few hours of our favorite “look down, look up” game we enjoyed a great dinner together. That night at Moonup, Kevin and Nathalie posed a great question of what everyone’s dream job would be. A really great question, it was awesome to hear some creative things.

Our final morning was spent organizing, but with this crew, it couldn’t have gone smoother. McKelvey and Lizzie have mastered the art of the “duffle shuffle,” and managed to get everything packed for their trip home in near record time. After everything was prepped, we all headed to our final banquet at an awesome restaurant in downtown Anchorage. We all ate ourselves full, with Claire and Lindy choosing to go all out with the buffet!

After our meal, we explored a bit of Anchorage. We checked out a number of gift shops and Jack and Alexander were sure to pick up some essential socks with Moose printed on them.

All in all, it was a really great final two days of the trip. It was a lot of fun had by all. While our goodbyes were sad at the airport, we all couldn’t help but smile looking back on our incredible adventures together in the Alaskan wilderness.

Savannah, Shelby and I would like to thank you all for sharing your kids with us the past few weeks. They truly made the experience a special one. We hope everyone can continue to take the time to get outside. The wilderness is a place where we can embrace our true selves, and I think it’s safe to say this group learned this first hand.

 

Happy Trails,

 

Will, Savannah and Shelby


Blue Skies in the Prince William Sound

July 3, 2016

Ahoy there! Coming at you live from the small hamlet of Whittier, AK where our salty crew of 15 Moondancers just wrapped up an incredible few days of Sea Kayaking.

We arrived to Whittier under overcast skies a few days back, traveling through the longest tunnel in North America – the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel (2.5 miles long!!) Whittier is located on the northeast shore of the Kenai Peninsula, at the head of Passage Canal. An interesting place for sure, it served as our launching pad into the legendary Prince William Sound.

The morning of Day 1 was spent learning the kayaking essentials, as well as boat packing 101. It’s a process to get a kayak packed and ready for 3.5 day trip, but our group made it look easy. Kevin, Alexander, Max and Jack volunteered to steer the “workhorse” pack boats, but somehow managed to get their boats packed before everyone else! Before any of us knew it, we were paddling the turquoise blue waters of the Prince William Sound. It was an overcast day, but the scenery (and McKelvey and Nathalie’s singing) kept everyone’s mood up. We camped that night amidst the lush greenery of the Chugach National Forest – we were all in agreement it was one of the more beautiful campsites any of us had been to.

We woke up on day 2 to an absolutely stunning morning filled with blue bird skies and bright sunlight – definitely a mood booster given the area receives 197 inches of rain a year! The day was spent exploring the coastline and entering the epic Blackstone Bay. We enjoyed lunch on a black sand beach, where JT and Claire even managed to sneak in a nap under the warm sun. We continued onwards into the bay where we had at least 5 bald eagle sightings – Lizzie and Sarah couldn’t help but marvel at all of their glory.

Day 3 was another incredible blue bird morning – 2 days in a row of the weather we had is an absolute rarity, folks. The day was spent exploring the Blackstone and Beloit Glaciers watching massive chunks of glacial ice crash into the water. Lindy and Margaret led the way up to the glaciers through the floating chunks of ice.

Our final day on the water was another incredible day (are you noticing a trend here?!). We paddled our way through the bay across smooth waters and a mild morning sun. We enjoyed hot chocolate together on a black sand beach until our charter pickup arrived take us back to Whittier.

All in all it was an incredible way to end the trip, and spirits are at an all trip high. We’ve grown close together as a group, and are looking forward to enjoying our last day together here in Anchorage.

 

Will, Savannah and Shelby


Navigating the Talkeetnas & the Chickaloon!

June 29, 2016

It’s hard to believe our time in the mountains has come to an end, but wow, what an incredible time we have had! After 8 days of wondrous backpacking in the Talkeetna Mountains, capped off by two days rafting the glacial-fed Chickaloon River, our group is now closer than ever.

Day 1 of backpacking began with a bright blue bird sky and high spirits all around. We started the morning off with breakfast burritos and quickly jumped into packing our packs (a bit of a process!). After a few lessons on how to pack the Moondance way, we were off to the races on getting our selves prepped and ready. JT and Alexander were the first to get their packs ready, and the three of us leaders were amazed at their speed and organization! After our prep, we hit the trail around mid day. The day stayed warm and sunny as we made our way through a rolling forest and eventually a mountain pass that we conquered together as a group. It wouldn’t have been the same without Margaret and Sarah, who both managed to knock it out with smiles on their faces.

Day 2 was another spectacular day. We hiked our way through rolling green meadows and sang “the sound of music” entirely in tune. McKelvey and Nathalie chose to have lunch by the magical Hick’s Lake, where we all basked in the glorious Alaska sunshine. We had the pleasure of watching a young moose traverse their way across the lake as we slathered peanut butter onto our tortillas!

Day 3 was a great day spent relaxing together as a group. We took a breather to rest our legs and enjoy each other’s company. Jack made things even better by amazing us all with some crazy card tricks!

Day 4 was spent back on the trail. With rested legs, there was nothing holding us back! We zoomed along through the Caribou Creek valley, marveling at the incredible scenery around us. Our leader of the day, Kevin navigated us through the terrain nearly flawlessly. Topographic maps are no easy task to read, but he made it look easy!

Day 5 was our final push to the amazing Alaskan tundra we’d all heard so much about. It was a challenge for all, but a good kind of challenge met with a ton of reward. We continued our way up the valley we had grown accustomed to, and climbed a hill (mountain!) up to the rolling perma-frost ground of the tundra. Max made it all look easy, but the group was able to thrive off of his energy. Margaret and Lizzie couldn’t realize what they were more amazed by: the accomplishment of reaching the tundra, or the tundra itself! All in all it was a great day with incredible views.

Day 6 was an eventful day for all. We crossed Chitna Pass – a saddle in the Talkeetna Range that allowed us to exit the tundra and work our way back down to tree line. It is truly an incredible spot that gave us sweeping views of not just the Talkeetna Range, but the majestic Chugach Mountains as well. Claire couldn’t believe the view to the point where she was at a loss of words!

The last few days of our backpacking were spent enjoying each other’s company and working our way towards the beautiful Chickaloon River. We had some stretches of tough terrain, but Nathalie provided some much needed comic relief that kept us all upbeat in the best kind of way. We were happy to throw a party for birthday-girl Lindy, complete with party hats and hash browns!

After a great last night along the banks of the Chickaloon River, we had front row seats to watch our raft guides fly in via bush plane on a backcountry landing strip with all of the rafting gear. After a quick intro, the guides were hard at work getting our gear prepped, while we chowed down on a delicious fresh sandwich bar.

Before we knew it, we were barreling down the Chickaloon on our rubber rafts. After using our feet the past number of days, this was a welcome change of pace! The glacial fed river was as swift as could be, and before we knew it we were hanging around a campfire that night while our guides made dinner. After an incredible meal of lasagna (lasagna in the woods…wha?!) we headed to bed with full bellies and good vibes.

After a great breakfast scramble, our final day on the river was filled with quite a few exciting Rapids and laughs all around. We ended with a small stretch on the mighty Matanuska River, and finished it off with a huge chicken salad lunch along its banks.

All in all, it was an incredible experience. True wilderness is something that’s hard to come by in this day and age, but we managed to find it and embrace it. With our group as close as ever, we head to sea kayak tomorrow with excitement at an all time high!

Will, Savannah & Shelby


Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh my!

June 18, 2016

Greetings from the Last Frontier! All is well in the great state of Alaska, and these Moondancers are bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Airport day went off without a hitch. Once our group was all accounted for, we treated ourselves to a gourmet Papa Johns’s Pizza dinner. After a few get-to-know-you games and an intro lesson to a Moondance fan favorite, Big Booty, we settled into our new homes for the summer and zonked out after a long but exciting day of traveling.

The next morning, we broke camp at Ship Creek, loaded into the Magic Bus, and headed for Hick’s Creek where we would be staying for the next few nights during our ice climbing section. On our ride to Hick’s Creek, we were amazed by the stunning views of Denali we could see from the comfort of the Magic Bus. Russ, our driver, said the mountain was over 150 miles away! That afternoon, we headed out to find a secret swimming hole. After about 30 minutes of searching for the lake, we spotted to our left a mama and baby Grizzly bear!  They were about 100 yards away, so we were at a safe distance, but it was thrilling to see such magnificent creatures! McKelvey and Lizzie were particularly excited!  And as if we thought the excitement was over, back at camp about an hour later, a huge moose came trotting through our campsite!  All the girls were cracking up that a moose so casually came parading through our home. After setting up camp and eating the delicious stir-fry that Nathalie and Alexander (the “Spice Masters”) cooked up, we had our first real moonup.

Rise and shine, it’s time to climb! Our first day of ice climbing was phenomenal! After going over the ropes – literally and figuratively – with our guides Nick and Alma, we headed for the glacier. Kevin was the first brave soul to tackle a route to the top, with all the kids following in his footsteps. Sarah and Lindy were the first girls to take a whack at the ice and they really proved how tough girls are! Max and Alexander challenged each other to the more difficult over-hanging climb later in the afternoon, showing off their newfound ice climbing skills. During the rappelling section, Jack got over his fear of heights, and even though Claire got flipped upside down (and broke a Nalgene in the process) she couldn’t stop giggling the whole time. That night we had taco bowls and everyone gobbled them up before hitting the hay.

Our second day of ice climbing was equally as exciting. Half of the group took on a summit challenge while the other group circumnavigated the lake on the glacier. Everyone had a blast! The leaders of the day today, JT and Claire kept the group pumped up all day and encouraged everyone to keep up the good work when the climbing got difficult. Afterwards, we headed to Long Rifle Lodge for the most delicious Moose Tracks ice cream imaginable. Jack, Margaret, and Claire helped make a delicious vegetable and pasta soup, which warmed all of us up after the long day of climbing.

This morning, we packed our packs and prepared for our 8 day hiking section ahead of us, followed by a few days of rafting. When we get out of the back country, there will be more updates to come!

Wish us happy trails!
Shelby, Savannah, and Will