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Northern Lights : 2C • July 7-July 27, 2016

Final Goodbyes

July 27, 2016

And they’re off! All the kids have boarded their planes and taken off to head back home. We wrapped up our final day together with some much deserved rest, good food, and enjoying each other’s company for the final time. After setting up a quick camp at Ship Creek, we all got the shower we’d been waiting for so eagerly. Parker set a record for putting up her tent the fasted knowing that a shower was literally around the corner! Along with records being made Jack and Henry set a new one for how many pretzels they could throw in the air and catch in their mouths. An entertaining site for sure. The rain continued on and off, so we all caved and ordered some Papa John’s and scarfed down more than our fair share. Will Wellons and Rob decided to eat the peppers out of the box, which was hysterical to witness. We stayed up late, laughing and sharing great memories from our trip. Arlo brought out her camera and we had a little slide show of pictures, which only brought back more memories, jokes, and laughs. We woke to the sun popping through the clouds, a much deserved treat after several days of rain and clouds. Badger was so excited about the weather he started the day off with a prank. He decided to take out the piles of the girls tent, and we could not keep it together we were laughing so hard. Cami G was in the tent, and she may have not been thrilled but couldn’t help laughing either. We dried our gear, packed our duffels, and got all of our loose ends tied before taking the afternoon off. We perused the shops of downtown Anchorage, getting souvenirs for ourselves and family. Kate and Rae bought some big comfy sweatshirts that we were all jealous about. Then we all went off to our final banquet at Flattop Pizza & Pool. Simas and George chose some tunes on the jukebox and we jammed out. After stuffing ourselves, we meandered back to Ship Creek and began our final Moon Up. Abbey started us out with a beautiful quote from Robert Frost that emphasized living in the moment. We then talked about each individual, our first impression, how much we’ve each grown, and memories we’ll forever share. Many laughs were shared and tears were shed, it was amazing to look back on the last 20 days we had together and how it truly was a trip of a lifetime for us all. We are all excited to remember this Moondance trip for the rest of our lives!

Sea Kayaking Success

July 26, 2016

All aboard…your tandem kayak waits!  We woke to a bit of rain and fog, typical Whittier weather, and caught the first “Lazy Otter” charter out to Blackstone Bay.  Henry and Badger manned the front deck, bouncing around in the chop, while a few of us caught a quick nap on our 45 minute ride out. We hit the “Mile 17” beach and promptly fire-lined our gear ashore.  Our guide, Natalie, ran us all through a quick briefing on where we were our trip outlook, and a few quick pointers on sea kayaking and staying safe on the water. All prepared, we set sail to head further into the fjord, towards tidewater glaciers and mountains rising right out of the ocean.  Our LODs, Badger and Arlo, led us 4 miles across to the beach at Mile 13, our camp for the next two nights. A bit wet and cold, we promptly set up tents and tarps so Cammy, Kate, and William S. could whip us up some amazing chicken Caesar wraps for lunch. We took shelter in our cozy tents and the rain put most of us asleep for a mid-afternoon siesta. The rain continued, so we scarfed down a quick but delicious fried rice dinner before Moon Up and retreating back to our shelters.

The storm breaks! We woke to blue skies and light wind, which Rob and Will W. quickly found was perfect for drying out gear in the morning. Will C. made a hearty breakfast of eggs, hash browns, and sausage to fuel our glacier cruise, and then we packed our boats and hit the water. Blackstone Bay is completely surrounded by glaciers! Right out of the gates, we could see Ripon Glacier hovering above our camp and feeding a nearby stream. We made a quick pit stop at the toe of the Lawrence Glacier before paddling onward past the Marquette glacier and then getting up close and personal with the Beloit Glacier. Soon after, we stopped for a lunch break at “Mid-glacier Beach”, where George, Rae, and Rob made us an amazing hot lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup. The tide came in just as we were wrapping up, so we paddled on to an amazing and powerful waterfall fed by the Northland Glacier and sat in awe of the Blackstone Glacier in the distance. Midday had come and gone, so the crew saw fit to head back towards camp, but not without a little fun on the way. Our return trip was filled with some wild splash battles. Teams consisted of Rob, Will Wellons, Badger, and Parker versus everyone else. We did not stand a chance against them; it was battleship at its finest! We all could not stop laughing when we finally got back to camp. Before landing ship, Jack and Rae came out of nowhere and ended the battle with a win! We took a little break before putting together some mashed potato quesadillas. Rob and Will W. led us in a beautiful moon up where we talked about our role models and took in the beautiful area we were about to be leaving.

We awoke to a light and short lived pitter-patter on our tents on our third day of sea kayaking. We knew some more weather was headed our way, so we packed our dry bags, had a few bagels with cream cheese, and loaded the boats for what we expected to be a long day on the water. The morning went swimmingly. Bits of light drizzle here and there and calm seas made for a quiet relaxing time on the water. Our heavy duty rain gear scoffed at the weather and kept us dry as a bone. As the group approached Decision Point, we got a taste of what high seas really meant! We paddled through 3-4 foot swells which kept everyone on their toes feeling a bit of adrenaline as the boats crested each wave.  As we turned the corner into Passage Canal, the waves calmed and we glided with the tide right into our next camp at Squirrel Cove. Here, a long, meandering boardwalk takes us back to our tent pads. The forest surely looks like a picture out of National Geographic! We had a quick lunch before retreating to our tents as a big rain cloud approached and socked us in for the afternoon. We played cards in our tents, took naps, and relaxed until Rae took it upon herself to start dinner for everyone. It was an incredible demonstration of leadership given the harsh weather conditions. We all had as many servings of southwest mac and cheese we could get to keep ourselves warm. Rae and Simas led Moon Up, asking us if we could go back to any time in history where would we go and why? Cammy G. had the clever answer of going back in time to see what her parents were like, and that sparked a hilarious conversation. We retire to our tents afterwards mentally prepared for the rainy day awaiting us.

Although the rain was coming down we all had positive attitudes about day four of sea kayaking. Natalie, our guide, told us good news that the wind and the current would be at our backs pushing us back to Whittier, so we broke down our final camp, filled up on some warm oatmeal and grits, and set out to sea. The group was excited to get back to Whittier, and murmurs of ice cream and Chinese food crossed between boats. Kate and George took the lead and navigated our group through coves and across points, and the group glided quickly through the water as our view of Whittier became more and more defined.  As we pulled in, a few fellow guides met us at the beach and helped us get the boats out of the water and unload our gear. Soon we reunited with our duffels and all got into dry clothes. The crew scattered across the harbor strip of Whittier to indulge in the treats that the few shops had to offer while we waited on our Magic Bus to arrive. We are off to Ships Creek where we are going to enjoy our last night together as a family!

-Morgan, Abbey, and Will

Climbing Ice

July 21, 2016

With our crampons on our feet and our harnesses strapped tight, we headed out onto the Matanuska Glacier for our first day of ice climbing! We started the off the morning with a meet and greet with the guides Alma, Jake, and Robin. They went over some ground rules and then transported us via van to the glacier!
We had a short hike over to our climbing site, and everyone was excited to try this awesome sport. First up, Rob, Arlo, and Rae each tried a different climb and flashed to the top, no problem. Quickly, everyone followed the trend and took a wack at the ice. Will W., Badger, and Rob didn’t waste any time to make this a competition by seeing how fast each of them could climb up. Parker made it up the ice with lots of hoots and hollers and words of encouragement. Jack and William were naturals at climbing, as they demonstrated as they climbed up each route with almost slips at all! After climbing, we headed back to Hicks Creek where learned a few lessons about leadership. But before heading back we made a surprise stop at the famous Long Rifle Lodge for some ice cream and soda! It was a well deserved treat after an awesome new experience! When we returned we played a game in which we learned about our leadership styles and how we can thrive with our individual personality traits. Shortly after, we enjoyed a great dinner and had yet another Moon Up led by George and Kate down by the Mighty Matanuska River.

Day two on the ice was challenging as we completed a 7.5 mile ice trek. In the morning our LODs Henry and Cam made sure everyone was ready to head out to the glacier at ten o’clock sharp! Kate is a natural with crampons and led the group some of the way today making sure everyone was stoked on the activity. The guides made up some hand ropes to get down into this beautiful canyon in the Matunuska. To get out of the canyon, we got the opportunity to climb up this beautiful waterfall! We all took pictures and made sure we got some awesome GoPro shots.  It was a long day of climbing, and after we were super exhausted and ready for some chill time at camp! We whipped up some pancakes and had a relaxing Moon Up, and hit the hay ready to start a new adventure tomorrow!

You will hear back from us after sea kayaking!

-Morgan, Abbey, and Will

Backpacks and Rafts!

July 19, 2016

And we are off after thorough preparation for this incredible backpacking section in the Talkeetna Mountains! Prior to hitting the trail we had a busy day at Nova, where we learned a lot and played a lot! Between lessons we played birdie on a perch, tried to knock Morgan out of her famous Big Booty role, and introduced a new game of slack jaw that constantly keeps us laughing! Henry, Jack, and Will Wellons took no time to embrace the water as they all took polar plunges in the glacial waters of the Matunuska River. From all of the lessons we all now have a firm grasp of Leave No Trace, expedition behavior, lightning drill, hygiene, etc. After a long day we all sat down and enjoyed shepard’s pie that was prepared by Arlo, Badger, and Will. It was delicious, and dinner was followed by an awesome Moonup led by our first LODs of our trip, Badger and Cameron! The day went by so fast, and we were all ready to hit the trail the next morning!
We are off! We were met with blue skies and beautiful views, and couldn’t have been more stoked to be in the backcountry! Our LODs Arlo and Henry made sure our group stayed together and kept moral high! Rae appreciated all of the views and took picture any chance she could. We did have a pretty intense climb to make, and Parker made sure we stayed motivated by singing Miley Cyrus’s “It’s the Climb.” We had an unbelievable view of the Chugach Mountain range behind us that had us turning around constantly while being in complete awe of Alaska! The hike was so much fun, and we cruised into camp in late afternoon near Hicks Creek! They did not waist any time setting up their tents, finding a kitchen, and filling up water bottles for everyone. Cook crew of the night was Jack, Kate, and Will Simas. They were an awesome team who adapted to backcountry cooking quickly! They made us burritos, and it was the perfect meal after a 6 miles trek! With our bellies full we fell asleep soon after Moon Up in order to be ready for another long and fun day in the Talkeetnas.
Day two of hiking was a little on the muddy side. We were all appreciative of our gaiters from keeping our boots somewhat clean! We hiked a long seven miles that was accompanied by a couple stream crossings, lunch with a beautiful view at Hick’s lake, and the rain finally met up with us towards the end of our hike! We all realized that George was a trail whisperer because he always would choose the driest trail and soon everyone was following him throughout the day! At our lunch break at Hick’s Lake Will Wellons, Henry, and Jack did not take anytime to jump into the lake before summer sausage and cheese tortillas! They love the water, and always encourage others to jump in as well! Our rain gear proved to work flawlessly, as we all got to change into our rain gear to finish out our trek to camp! When we finally got to camp that was along Caribou Creek the boys jumped in the water, while others decided to clean some of their clothes in the creek. After having some chill time William Simas, Kate, and Cameron made delicious trail pizzas that we devoured! LODs, Parker and George led an awesome Moonup asking what our spirit food was, and what our favorite songs were! It was another incredible day despite the rain!
To start the third day, we woke up to some slight sprinkling on our tents. However, that did not keep us from making breakfast, breaking down tents, and hitting the trail. We saw our first bear prints today so we kept our voices loud and heard so that we did not unpleasantly encounter this incredible beast. The pace was nicely set by Rae, who kept us motivated the entire day, and we made it to our most intense creek crossing, Chitna Creek, by lunchtime. This crossing went very smoothly and then we headed to the famous Jeep camp for our third night in the backcountry.  Dinner was swell (despite the rain), and we slept like babies as it drizzled on our tents all night. What an awesome day we had!
The fourth day of our backpacking can be classified as our bush pushing tundra day. We woke up to blue skies and white fluffy clouds, which was a wonderful transition in weather. Badger, Arlo, and Will Wellons made some great hashbrowns that we scarfed down before hitting the trail for another hard day! We were along the ATV trail for a couple miles, and then we approached the bush push. We prepared by putting on pants and pack covers in order to be protected from thorns, branches, and twigs. Our team remained loud for the duration of the day to keep the bears away, and with the combination of Rob keeping us laughing the entire time there was no way they would come close! Jack and Kate, our LODs for the day, once again made sure the group stayed together! After the bush push we hiked down a drainage, crossed glass creek, and then finally looked ahead the tundra! The last part of our hike consisted of a 900 ft elevation gain in a little over a mile and a half, so it was extremely steep to say the least! They all crushed it! As we approached camp everyone was already talking about swimming in the two alpine lakes we would be camping next to. They didn’t waste anytime setting up camp in order to have some free time. As they were getting out of the lakes a storm approached and we all got in our tents for the time being, until Will Wellons and Rob starting yelling “RAINBOW, GUYS LOOK AT THE RAINBOW!”  As we got out of our tents, our jaws dropped at the sight! Everyone just started running towards the DOUBLE rainbow because it was so close to us. We saw where it started and where it ended. The pictures we got were amazing, but we were so lucky to see it in person. That rainbow had to be one of the most beautiful sights to ever be seen in the backcountry! The rainbow eventually faded away, and when we returned to camp we made fried rice, had Moon Up, and hung out and all talked for awhile in the Alaskan sun until we all got tired and went to bed, stoked to see what the next day would bring.
Taking it slow on day five! We slept in and made some funfetti pancakes to welcome our first morning in the tundra. After a slow morning, we got all packed up and our LODs guided us on our first day completely off trail. George set the perfect pace. He was always looking back to make sure everyone was together. Game trails on rolling hills took us through beautiful landscapes, alpine streams, and remnants of snow. Will Wellons and Rob took the opportunity to take a better look at our map with Will to make sure we took the route that would benefit the group, which made everyone’s legs happy! Our short day of hiking had us into camp early, letting us rest, relax, and enjoy our unbelievable setting and the company we keep. Rob learned the truckers hitch, and with the Rae’s help they were able to set up the tarp on their own! While Parker, Jack, and Henry made jambalaya for our dinner, the rest of the group took pictures and threw frisbee! After dinner we had Moonup and partook in an intense game of werewolves, where Kate prevailed to be the last standing werewolf! Knowing that tomorrow was going to be long day going over the pass we decided that going to bed somewhat early was the best decision!
Pass day was such a success! We woke up early to a blue bird sky and took advantage of it as soon as we finished grits and oatmeal for breakfast. Parker and Simas as LODs made sure we stuck together on what Rob called UCE (unconsolidated earth). We communicated throughout the trek up, and Rae and Kate took the opportunity to look back see how far we had come on our backpacking trip, which was such an achievement. We cruised on up, and the pass was met with high fives, hugs, smiles, “wahoos,” and lots of pictures! It was a huge success for the group, they worked hard to get to that point. At the top we took some time to soak in the beautiful views. Arlo, Parker, and Rae took great pictures of everyone. After a good break we began the trek down into the valley. There were snow patches all the way down and Will Wellons, Simas, and Jack took it as a live in the moment to ski in their boots and with their trekking poles, we could not stop laughing it was hilarious. Kate, Rob, Badger, and George on the other hand encouraged an intense snow ball fight. A snow ball fight in July, crazy! We all had so much fun getting to camp, and once we got there it sadly began to rain so we all retreated to our tents for that time being. The rain finally passed and then we began the Backpacking Olympics, which was Henry’s awesome idea. Since the Olympics takes place over several weeks, ours was going to be over the course three final days of backpacking with one or two events a day. The teams were the cook crews, which we gave house names from Harry Potter: Slytherin, Griffendor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff. We started with the Nalgene relay race. It was close for sure, but Slytherin came out on top with Jack, Parker, and Henry! Unfortunately, the rain started up again so the group played cards under the tarp they set up until dinner began, which was southwest Mac and cheese. Everyone was stoked for this dinner. We had Moonup and went to bed after an eventful day!

On day seven of our backpacking section, we arose with our spirits high and minds and bodies eager to get going on this exciting “scree day” as we have been referring to it. In case you’re wondering, a scree field is essentially a field of rocks. The crew quickly broke down camp and hit the trail in an impressive time. However, before we got going, we had our packing the pack section of Backpacking Olympics. Our victors included Parker, Badger, Will W., Arlo, and George. As we started hiking, each member of the group mention how lucky we were to have had such great weather on our backpacking section. A blue sky day makes for a less difficult “scree day.” Everything went smoothly as we glided across the scree field and down to our lunch spot.
The Chickaloon River was finally in sight and we couldn’t be more excited about it! We started our bush pushing section that led us straight down to the banks of the Chickaloon. Badger impressed us all with his terrific bear call as we made enough noise to keep those creatures away. Parker, Arlo, and Cammy G. held up the back of the line as they sang lots and lots of throwback songs such as Backstreet Boys, Miley Cyrus, N*sync, Taylor Swift, and musicals. These girls surely did keep the crew encouraged as the hike seemed to be coming to a close. Soon enough, we were on flat, rocky ground and nearing our campsite.Our group was so excited when we spotted the air strip and found our campsite for the next two nights. George, Rob, and Rae whipped us up a nice din of Southwest mac and cheese, which is always a hit on Moondance trips. Finally, Henry and Arlo led an awesome Moon Up as they asked the group, “what did you enjoy most about backpacking?” All answers were a joy to hear and we are so grateful that it ran so smoothly for these awesome folks!

On day eight, we finally got to enjoy the longed after rest day! Each of us slept in pretty late, which was perfectly fine since we all surely deserved it! Badger, Will W., and Arlo whipped us up some hashbrowns, and then we all headed to the river to hangout for the day and enjoy each other’s company. Parents, you may be surprised but some of your kids even did their laundry in the river!
Unsurprisingly, it began to drizzle/rain so we retired to the tarps where we enjoyed cards and games galore. Cook crew cooked some pesto pasta and then we had a DOUBLE Reese’s no bake, which satisfied all of our hearts’ desires. We ended the day with a fantastic Moon Up led by Will W. And Rae. They asked the group “What is something that you did not expect that you could do but then overcame in the end” followed by “where is your favorite place that you have been?” Our rest day came to a close, and we are so pumped about rafting tomorrow!
Splish splash, rafting is a go! It was a gorgeous morning to start off the rafting section of our trip. We got up early, packed the essentials, and awaited the bush planes by the airstrip. Rob and Rae were our LODs, and they made sure everyone had the right gear for our two days on the Chickaloon. The planes arrived and we all firelined the gear to the river as fast as we could as we were more than excited to paddle down the river! The NOVA guides (Jodhi, John, Sean, and Colin) brought an incredible lunch comprised of cold cuts, veggies, Pringles, Oreos, and peanut butter and jelly! Cami and Parker were beyond stoked that avocados were apart of the meal!
Post lunch, we finished loading up the boats and headed down the Chickaloon in style. One of the amazing things about this river is that each time that it is run, it is always a little bit (or a lot) different than the time before. The water was at a good level and seemed to gladly welcome our crew of fifteen members! Each time we looked back, there were smiles and laughs beaming from these kids faces. As leaders, we couldn’t ask for much more! Around the end of today’s stretch of river, we approached the infamous “Hotel Rocks” that is too dangerous to raft. We helped the NOVA guides unload be boats and portage all of our belongings around this rapid. It was an awesome sight to watch these talented rafting guides maneuver their way through this intricate rapid. About ten minutes downstream, our campsite awaits and we hopped off the river and into warm clothes.The guides whipped us up a stellar meal of enchiladas and German chocolate cake. We surely felt pampered after being in the backcountry for eight days! We ended the day with Moonup where we discussed our greatest strengths. We couldn’t wait to fall asleep listening to the river by our sides!

Our second day of rafting is a success! Our guides woke us up with an amazing spread of eggs, potatoes, sausage, and yogurt. Such an amazing morning treat after a week of backpacking! Our backcountry adventure started out with a bang with big rapids and cold water right off the beach. The second half of the Chickaloon seems to be a never ending stretch of wave trains and rapids. So much fun! We took a stop at “8 Mile Canyon” to scout it out before we all ran this technical section of the river. We were soaking wet and full of smiles after successful running of 8 mile, and we continued down plenty of more whitewater downriver. We reached our take out around noon and were treated to yet again another delicious lunch. We bid adieu to our rafting guides and headed back to our home base of Hicks Creek for an afternoon of chill time. Tomorrow, we start ice climbing and are so pumped! Until next time, folks!

-Abbey, Will, and Morgan

Greetings from Alaska!

July 8, 2016

Greetings friends and family from the wonderful campground of Ships Creek right outside of Anchorage, Alaska. All of your loved ones have safely arrived and are already having a blast! Although most came on this trip knowing a few people, these all stars didn’t waste time getting to know each and every member of the group. First to arrive were our Atlanta crew, Badger, George, Kate, Rae, and Arlo. Shortly after, Rob, Henry, Jack, Will W., William, and Cameron waltzed in with style. We thoroughly enjoyed some pizza outside of Delta baggage claim as we awaited our last arrival, Parker! She arrived around 9pm and we hopped on the Magic Bus to our first campground.

Today, we head to the Nova base where we will learn some valuable lessons (expedition behavior, leave no trace, cooking, tarp set up, how to pack a pack) prep for backpacking, and get to know each other a little better. We are so excited for this crew as many are alumni and can help spread the Moondance spirit! You will hear from us in ten days, after we finish our awesome backpacking and rafting sessions! Stay tuned!

-Morgan, Abbey, and Will C.