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Northern Lights : 1C • June 1-June 2, 2016

Fond Farewell

July 4, 2016

And they’re off! A successful final day in transition as we shifted back to the front country. After another lovely two hours of a TaySway music/dance party led by Blake, Morgan and Abbey in the Magic Bus, we were once again back to Ship Creek to wrap up our time in Alaska.  We set up our tents for the final time and a bittersweet feeling sunk in to our hearts. Ruff, Julia, and Hadley caught up with some acquaintances from our sister sessions before we enjoyed a surprise pizza dinner!  The other group introduced to a new game called “slack jaw” and JD, Sam, and Rachel proved to be professionals! We had a lovely Moon Up where we shared what we gained from this Moondance experience and what we will take home with us.

On our last day, we slept in and then woke up to clean some gear, pack our duffels, and then head into downtown Anchorage for our banquet! We shopped at a store called Grizzlies where Luke, Gigi, Ollie, and Sam bought some snazzy souvenirs for their families and loved ones. For banquet, we went to Flattop Pizzeria and indulged ourselves in a delightful array of pizzas. Will R. suggested a game of pool and the others quickly followed! Our banquet was fun, happy, sad, and filled our bellies to the brim! We then headed back to Ships Creek where the Magic Bus greeted us to escort us to the airport. This trip has been so amazing and we are going to miss this crew so much! I can assure you; your children had the trip of a lifetime!

-Morgan, Will, and Abbey

Sea Kayaking & Island Hopping

July 4, 2016

Ahoy mates!! We are back from the Prince William Sound! It was an incredible experience for all! We began the adventure when we met our super cool guide Jeff, who gave us the low down of how sea kayaking would go! He told us we would be taking a boat out to a beach and kayaking to camp on Eagles Nest Island where it actually lived up to its name. Right above our tents, there he was, majestically perched in his lair; an eagle. Our first day of kayaking was short but well lived. We switched from hiking where we used all of our leg strength to sea kayaking where we used a heap of arm strength. Parents, your kids can lift heavy loads, no problem! Upon arrival to the island, we set up camp amongst the pines before the tide came in. We cooked a lovely meal of fried rice and then shared a Moon Up under the bug net, set up by Ollie, Luke, Will, and Ruff. Our question included “what is your spirit animal” and the answers were very spot on! We had a good night’s rest and were ready for the next day!

Day 2
Keep the wildlife coming! After some hearty breakfast burrito bowls, we set off for our tour of Blackstone Bay and tidewater glaciers. Within 30 minutes, Rachel got eyes on the blow hole of two humpback whales! We paddled alongside the whales towards the glaciers, and our seal friends bobbed in and out of our boats! We navigated the icebergs as we approached Benoit Glacier and we took in an up close and personal view of the calving of this mighty glacier. We stopped for lunch at mid-glacier beach where Gigi, Sam, Will, and Rachel whipped us up a great meal of grilled cheese and tomato soup! Hadley had the right idea and led us all into a great afternoon siesta right there on the beach.

We arose from our naps, packed the boats up, and moved onto our next cove. We sat in awe of an amazing glacial waterfall and watched the Blackstone glacier calve into the ocean over a large cliff band. We paddled back to our island hideaway, changed into our comfy camp clothes, and enjoyed a lovely dinner of chicken alfredo. We sat in awe over how amazing our dining room was on the island surrounded by the quiet bay with glaciated mountains rising straight up in all directions.

On our third day on the water, we paddled from Eagles Nest Island to Decision Point. We woke up early, intending there to be quite a few kayakers fighting for campsites due to Fourth of July traffic. We paddled out of the fjord around 8 am and back into Blackstone Bay to our lunch spot, “the driveway.” This was a nice little cove where we enjoyed our food and stared out into the beautiful Aqua blue water. The last leg of our day seemed to fly by as we reached Decision Point around 2pm. The group had the great idea to take an afternoon siesta on the beach as we soaked up the Alaskan sun. We had a nice dinner wake up call by Rachel as cook crew had prepared a nice dinner of southwest Mac and Cheese. Afterwards, Luke and JD presented us with the idea of making a second dinner of pancakes! The group happily complied and we enjoyed these pancakes thoroughly as we gazed upon the horizon. Post dinner, Julia and Blake suggested the idea for the crew to sleep on the beach. Gigi and Hadley were elated by this idea and decided to join them. What an awesome ending to a fantastic day!

On our last day of sea kayaking, we woke up early and got on the water so that we could make it back to Whittier before 1pm. Everyone’s spirits were high and we approached Whittier with excitement but also sadness to leave the ocean behind. We enjoyed some ice cream and assorted foods by the port and hopped on the Magic Bus back to Anchorage! Only one more day together and we were feeling so sad!

-Morgan, Will, and Abbey

Ice Ice Baby

June 28, 2016

Ice, ice baby!! A chilly morning here at Hicks Creek. Our guides Alma, Mitch, and Jake equipped us with boots and crampons and led us fearlessly onto the Matanuska Glacier. A stroll through the crevasses and moulins took us to our first day of ice climbing. Sam and Ollie led pack on the first climbs of the day and we all followed suit. Rachel was keen on learning to belay while Blake tooled her way up the wall. Luke is an ice climbing fiend! Cold and wet, the team retreated a bit early and the leaders treated everyone to ice cream at the Long Rifle Lodge. The team spotted their first bull moose on the way back to Hicks Creek, which was quite a sight to see! Ruff, JD, and Will led a crew in setting up shelter over the camp kitchen in the afternoon as we knew overcast skies had the chance to pop at any moment. Just before Moonup, Hadley, Gigi, Julia, Morgan, and Abbey joined in on yet again another concert- belting the words to songs they most craved to hear.

Day two on the ice was so awesome as we got to explore the ins and outs of the mighty Matanuska Glacier! Thankfully the weather was on our side, and we got to fully embrace the joys of being here. Our guides, Alma, Jake, and Mitch set up a climbing station for the next few hours and everyone crushed the climbs! We came to a collective decision that it was time to say farewell to the ice wall and explore the glacier a bit more. We summited the highest point of the glacier, saw a super cool crevasse, and passed by a crystal blue glacial lake. Have no fear ‘rents, we snapped quite a few shots! As the day came to a close, we looked back at the “Mighty Mat” and bid adieu to the glacier and our guides.

Now we are off to Prince William Sound to begin our sea kayaking section!

Coo Coo Ca Choo Chickaloo

June 27, 2016

Paddle faster, I hear banjos! Our first morning on the river started off with a rainy bang but our spirits remained high. Around 8 am, the bush plane gracefully landed on the airstrip and the Nova guides, Jesse, Johnny, Sean, and Jodie arrived. We wasted no time getting on the river. The guides went over some basic river safety protocol and how to have a successful river rafting trip! The water moved swiftly, and with each splash we were woken up a little more each time.
At one point, we had to port onto the shore and walk around Hotel Rocks as it was a class 4.5 rapid. Julia, Blake, Rachel, JD, Morgan, Hadley and Gigi had a Taylor Swift/ Dixie Chicks concert down by the river while Abbey, Will R., Will C., Sam, Ruff, and Ollie observed the guides bear the brunt of this gnarly rapid. Once all bags were packed on the rafts and we were back on the river, there was only a short distance until we reached our campsite. The guides cooked us an amazing warm meal of chips and salsa, enchiladas, and brownies. Our bellies were filled to the brim with joy, courage, valor, and of course food. We ended this incredible day with Moon Up by a fire built by none other than Rachel and Luke. We couldn’t have asked for a better day!

Day two on the river was a complete 180 in terms of weather. We had sun, blue sky, and even the water felt a little warmer. We even spotted a porcupine along the bank of the river. It was so big that it was almost mistaken for a bear cub! The excitement of rafting only continued along Eight Mile Canyon and through the confluence with Matanuska River. Rafting came to a close and the guides prepared another yummy meal of chicken caesar wraps, cookies, and chips. It was bittersweet when the bus pulled up to take us back to Hicks Creek. The sadness of leaving the wilderness behind blended with the excitement of being reunited with our belongings in the front country. Once we got back to camp, we cleaned and dried our camping gear and enjoyed a glorious afternoon of chill time! Until next time folks!

-Morgan, Will, and Abbey

Talkeetna Time!

June 26, 2016

WAHOOOO!! Is the only word I can think of that would accurately describe the last ten days in the Talkeetna Mountains. With the backpacking as our first section, there are so many stories to tell! First, I’ll start by saying that this crew is stellar. When it comes to working together, this group of students get an A+.

On the first day, we were dropped off at the trailhead and ready to get groovin’! Though our packs were fairly heavy, the group seemed to be pretty comfortable hiking with them right of the bat! We hiked about six miles, gradually gaining some elevation. Our LODs, also known as Leaders of the Day, Gigi and Ollie, did a spectacular job making sure to keep people motivated and encouraged throughout the day. After a day of blue skies and muddy trails, we finally reached out first campsite- Hicks Creek. Upon arrival, Luke, Blake, Hadley, and Ruff whipped us up an awesome dinner of pita pizzas. We had a moving Moonup under the midnight sun and then hit the hay!
As we embarked on our second day of hiking along Hicks Creek, we were awoken by the sound of our kiddos  “ooohs” and “aaahhs” over the sights of caribou and moose. We had a very relaxing morning by the creek, enjoying some breakfast prepared by Julia, Ollie, and JD and getting to know each other a little bit more with lots of laughs. Once we hit the trail, we realized we had a long day ahead of us as we gained elevation and more mountainous terrain. The scenic mountains of Alaska made it all worthwhile! Sam led the pack as we were steadily approaching our next break. We stopped for a lengthy lunch by Hicks Lake and let our feet rest for a bit.
As we continued hiking, we realized Rachel has a calling for Broadway as she sang almost every Disney song known to mankind. We were thoroughly entertained! Julia continued to impress us with her vast vocabulary that brought different meanings to each and every conversation. Even though we are not in school, we are still learning something new every day.
We rolled into camp around 9 PM and were eager to get our boots off, tents up, and dinner rolling. We quickly realized that we were not alone, there were many mosquitos among us. Bites were plentiful but the bug spray was just as abundant. Cook Crew whipped up some burritos ‘real quick-like’ to compensate for our hunger levels. Shortly after, we had Moonup and went to sleep as we were preparing ourselves for another big day tomorrow!
On to day three of backpacking, and we began our hike with bear paw prints running parallel to us, but no encounters were had! This day can be known as “The Day of River Crossings and Wildlife Sightings”. We discussed river crossing protocol at length to ensure safety during a high risk task! The kids were stoked to put on their wet shoes and get going! We unbuckled our packs, linked arms, and communicated beautifully through all three of the river crossings! While hiking we were able to spot a couple of eagles and another moose! We have been incredibly lucky thus far seeing all the wildlife that we have. At last we made it to camp, which was indicated by an old WWII Jeep along Caribou Creek! It was a cool night by the river eating mac and cheese, but the warmth of the food warmed us up significantly for a good night of well-deserved sleep!
Day four: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JULIA!!!!” Julia turned 16 on June 19th, and we couldn’t be happier that she was able to spend her birthday on an awesome Moondance trip! We had a “Happy Birthday” banner and balloons hung between two trekking poles, and our voices echoed throughout the Talkeetna Mountains with jovial birthday tunes! We had a long day ahead of us because we had to make it to the Alaskan tundra that day, which meant close to 2,500 ft of elevation gain in a couple of miles! After morning celebrations, we started our trek that soon went off the trail and bush pushing began to be our main mode of transportation! Ruff and Julia were motivational leaders of the day and kept the group in high spirits, while J.D. also was also keeping us laughing at riddles on the hike.  We encountered some very fresh bear scat and kept our voices up and the team stuck together as we pushed to our final major creek crossing that afternoon. The final uphill to the tundra was taxing, but rewarding for everyone as we reached a high plateau and two alpine lakes. We spotted a mother moose and her calf on the landscape and stood in awe at the top among snow patches and incredible waterfalls in the distance. Blake, Luke, Hadley, and Ruff whipped up a well-deserved dinner of fried rice before we hunkered down through light rain showers in the evening.
Dayfive: We enjoyed a much deserved slow morning in the Alaskan tundra with chocolate chip pancakes as a belated birthday breakfast. Ollie, Julia, and JD manned the skillet and filled us to the gills with golden hot cakes. We proceeded with a long, slow afternoon through rolling tundra and stunning landscapes before getting to camp on Glass Creek and setting up our tents before a torrential downpour. Our brave cook crew persevered through and fed us all heaping bowls of chicken pesto pasta before we got into our warm sleeping bags for the evening as a hard day lay ahead of us. Will left us with lasting words at Moonup as the clouds broke across the sunset. What an amazing day!

Day six: What an eventful day this was. With map and compass in hand, we had to figure out the correct pass to go through between three different passes. We shot a bearing, trusted our gut, and started hiking that way. It took about an hour and a half to get to the top of the pass. This hike included hiking through snow and a slight scree field, which is basically a hill of rocks. Although the trek was difficult, the smiles that accompanied getting to the top were insurmountable. High fives and hugs all around! Ollie and Hadley led the descent into the valley where we set up camp in one of our most beautiful campsites. The descent was technical and tough but everyone finished like champs! A delectable dinner was prepared by Will, Sam, Julia, and Rachel and we were happy as clams with our bowls of jambalaya! This night, the sunset was the most spectacular that it had been all trip!

Day seven: “Scream for the Scree” The scree field was interesting to say the least. We trekked 4 miles on the rocky hills of the Talkneeta Mountains with boulders and drainages galore. Luke spotted a black bear from across the ridge a healthy distance away from where we were and we stood in awe. At last we finished the scree and continued on a game trail until we made it to the mighty Chickaloon River! Over the next two miles we walked along the rocky banks of the river reminiscing the past days of our expedition, and we could not believe it was about to end! Tired and aloof, we arrived to camp, cooked some dinner and passed right out. This was a WELL deserved slumber.

Day eight: Finally, we had a rest day. Ollie, Sam, JD, and Hadley relaxed in their Eno hammocks while the rest of the crew hung out by the river and gorged on leftover food. This was a delightful afternoon filled with laughs, hair braiding, massages, and naps. Hallelujah!

-Morgan, Abbey, and Will

All Arrived in Anchorage!

June 16, 2016

Why, hello friends and family!

We are pleased to inform you that your loved ones have arrived safely to the one and only state of Alaska. We are so excited to begin our adventures with such an awesome crew! First to arrive were good ole Sam and Ollie followed by Hadley, JD, and Will R. These kids did not hesitate to jump right into playing some card games and chatting each other’s ears off. Around 9 PM, the rest of the crew (Ruff, Julia, Gigi, Blake, Rachel, and Luke) arrived with big smiles and eager minds!

Once all of the kiddo’s baggage arrived, we hopped onto the Magic Bus and headed to our first campsite, Ship’s Creek! Once we arrived, we unloaded out gear, had a short Moonup, which is a wonderful time to reflect on the day and talk about our goals and aspirations for the trip. Shortly thereafter, we finally hit the hay! Though this ist he land of the midnight sun, this crew fell asleep rather quickly.

The next morning, Will C. prepared a delicious meal of bacon and eggs! The crew was very pleased with this delectable meal. Around 9, the Magic Bus scooped is up and drove us through the scenic mountains of Alaska with the Chugach range on our right, the Alaskan Range on our left, and the Talkeetna Range straight ahead! As the mountains seemed to get closer, we could tell that the excitement for our backpacking was growing stronger! We can’t wait for the next 8 days in the Talkeetna Mountains! Stay tuned, ladies and gents, we will have an update to you all after we complete our backpacking section.

Morgan, Will, and Abbey