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Pacific Northwest : 1A • June 14-July 4, 2016

We Have Climbed Mountains and Crossed The Sea

July 5, 2016

On our last day together we wanted to leave no stone left unturned. We awoke to our favorite breakfast (Happy’s famous scrambled pancakes) and wrote letters to our future selves on what 20 things we want to accomplish in our lives. It was hard to imagine we had already reached the end of our journey as we reached our final campsite. After a quick game of ninja sneak we packed up the van and headed into town for our final day of fun. After visiting the thrift shop to find our proper attire for the final banquet. PNW Team A marched proudly into The Emperors Palace (the restaurant of choice) in flowered sundresses (the girls) and Hawaiian tank tops with jean shorts (the boys). After having our fill of oriental cuisine we had our award ceremony for specific accomplishments over the course of our adventure. Everyone was a LOD the last day, because everyone in was a leader in their own unique way. Moonup was emotional but satisfying knowing everyone was so happy with the past experiences

PNW Team A was truly the A Team. After just a few short weeks we as leaders feel as close to these teenagers as we do our own families. After all we have endured together on our adventure we might as well be family. Over the course of one short month our pack of determined teenagers conquered some of the greatest feats the northwest has to offer. When one person struggled, our unified group of campers rallied around until our group was back on track. Everyone played a part and the students refused to leave anyone behind. It was wonderful to see these once strangers to each other care so much about their fellow traveler. We have climbed the mountain, we have crossed the sea, and we have seen some of the most beautiful sights this country has to offer. I am so proud of each and every one of our travelers and we where privileged to be part of this experience. Thank you so much for sharing your kids with us this summer. It was truly an honor and privilege


Rafting The Mighty Deschutes River

July 4, 2016

We have spent the past 2 days riding rapids on the Deschutes River into our final days together. Everyone was excited and ready for a few days of easy cruising down the river and cooling off in the icy water. We divided into teams of 6 with James and Turner as the leaders of their respective rafts as leaders of the day. Jordan didn’t waste a minute on the river before jumping in. She took on the balancing act of riding the bow of the raft while the rest of the team paddled in circles until she tumbled into the river. Joseph and Lizzie also tried their balance on the edges of the raft while Turner just bailed ship and jumped right in. At lunch we found a perfect little beach with a jumping rock and all took turns cannonballing into the natural pool below. James made the biggest splash with a flop into the water. After lunch we packed up and kept up speed down river. Browning, Lizzie, LG, and Joseph enjoyed the ride down the river in the front row of the raft really taking in all of the action in the splash zone. Just before getting to camp we banked on the side. Our river guides showed us how to safely swim through a deep water rapid and allowed us to dive in and float on down. Per usual, Jack stepped up to go down first with GoPro in hand to catch footage of each of us following behind him. After getting over the shock of the chilly water, everyone bobbed their heads back up and many proceeded to swim the Rapids multiple times. Jordan,  Ellie and Lizzie had fun floating on down the river into the campsite. Jack, Joseph, James, Turner and Happy all linked arms and teamed up as “the fatal five” and floated into camp as well. Browning, Cate, LG and I manned the rafts and paddled into home base.

After setting out camp along the river half the group relaxed while others cooked an amazing dinner.  Jack James and Jordan set off the beaten track up the hills stretching above to get the bird’s eye view of the river and landscape around. We concluded the day with desert of homemade whipped cream, whipped by Cate Turner and Joseph on top of angel food cake and local berries. The true icing on top was a great moonup together and then falling asleep outside under the stars. We could all agree that we saw the most stars we have ever seen last night in the Oregon sky.

Day two of rafting brought even more excitement as we hit multiple class 4 Rapids. In stretches of flat water we had fun with paddle and splash wars. Jack tried his hand at rowing in the stern of the raft and proved himself to be a natural captain. We were sad to get off the river especially because it means that our rafting venture has come to a close.

It’s hard to believe that our days of adventure are coming to an end. We are all still focused on living in the moment and relishing in our last movements together.

Paddling in the San Juans

June 26, 2016

Our past 4 days were spent in the San Juan Islands paddling through turquoise waters and soaking in the views closer to sea level. The excitement for sea kayaking built up as we took the ferry across to San Juan Island and got glimpses at all of the little islands that speckle the borders of Washington and Canada. We spent Wednesday at American Camp Historical Park learning about the history of the area and local plants and wildlife. Jordan and Joseph helped us find an awesome lunch spot at south beach which was piled high with driftwood. Two teams built fortresses out of piles of driftwood and stone and enjoyed time in the warm sun. We were joined on Wednesday afternoon by Hillary who came for a visit from Moondance headquarters to join us sea kayaking. It was so much fun to tell stories and fill her in on all of the excitement we have had so far. Thursday brought us two more members to our close knit group as we set off from dry land with our trusted guides Biscuit and Dominick who quickly stole our hearts and became the thirteenth and fourteenth members of our family.

James and Lizzie started us off strong as the leaders of the day on the first day of paddling. After a lesson from Biscuit about currents and tidal changes, they taught the rest of us about navigating the changing waters during our lunch break on a remote grey pebble beach. We set off again and headed for our final destination for the day on Johns Island where we set up camp. James, Jack, Turner and Joseph were excited to find another driftwood beach and spent their afternoon constructing another man cave. James has named himself lead designer and the three others make a great crew for their fortress building team. The girls set out to find an adventure of their own and took a hike around the coastline of the island. Lily Grace pointed out harbor seals basking in the rocks just off the shoreline. We all marveled at the beautiful trees and vegetation all throughout the island and enjoyed the opportunity to stretch out our sea legs. The group came together again for dinner followed by the most beautiful sunset we have seen yet this summer and Moonup and s’mores over a campfire. Just when we think we have seen the best views possible, the Pacific Northwest scenery keeps getting more and more spectacular.

On Friday, we were able to cover even more ground since we had all graduated from novice paddlers. Before setting off, Ellie and Browning briefed us for the day as our LODs, and they taught us about nautical map reading. Everyone became rather attached to their respective kayaks, giving them names like the “green machine” (Lizzie and Joseph), “Brittany” (Jack and Ellie) and “Whitney” (Happy and Browning), just to name a few.  Biscuit and Dominick remarked that our group made record time with channel crossings because we used great teamwork and communication in order to effectively steer and paddle. We enjoyed lunch on a beautiful cliff side on the island of little McConnell. On the way back to camp we paddled through shallow coastline waters and learned about the ecosystems. Everyone passed around a slimy Moon Jellyfish, and had a taste of seaweed straight from the water. We are all becoming more adventurous in every aspect, even trying new foods! At Moonup on Friday night, Jordan was recognized as “beast mode” paddler, and we all reflected on what was remarked again as the best day yet.

Saturday morning we were all sad to leave beautiful Johns Island behind, but we were excited to wake up to sunny blue skies and calm clear waters. Turner and Jack were the leaders of the day and got everyone motivated to finish strong on our last day of paddling.  Cate took on the responsibility of steering her and Turner’s boat and they led us as we conquered our largest channel crossing once again, in record time. This group has proven that the bigger the challenge, the harder we all want to work for it together. We enjoyed our final lunch on a little spit of land called Posey Island, which is the second smallest national park during high tide. Thankfully the tide was low leaving us with room to stretch out and explore the rocks, which were home to little creatures and more edible sea plants. The paddle back to Roche harbor ended with a final burst of energy. All the boats sprinted to the finish line in a race that ended up more like bumper boats. Joseph and Lizzie’s kayak escaped the bottle neck and finished first, yay Green Machine! Our goodbye with Biscuit and Dominick felt like it came far too soon, as we couldn’t have asked for better guides.

Today we are in transit to Oregon and celebrating Happy’s birthday. We can’t wait to for more and more breathtaking views. Sending love back home!

Emily & Happy

Adventures in the Cascades

June 22, 2016

The first day of true backpacking came on a beautiful Thursday afternoon. The back seat was abuzz with the expectations of our upcoming 6 day adventure. Jack and Ellie were a huge help getting everyone settled and ready as the trip leaders organized the Uhaul and van before departure. Turner and Joe were ecstatic to get going on the hike but preparation required a second check on everything. We said goodbye to our trusty white van and set off down the Ross Dam trail to find our water taxi that took us to our first trail head. The boat took two trips to haul our entire company but the thirty minute boat ride across Ross Lake was truly spectacular. Snowy peaks over looked our lake as we slid into Devils Junction where James discovered a Luna Moth witch our group took as a good omen when entering the back country. Once our entire company was on shore we triple checked our map and compass to secure our location and bearings. Once we had a unanimous decision on direction we set off on the trail to find our campsite not but a few turns away. Ellie, Cate, Joseph, and James secured our campsite while Turner, Jack, Jordan, Lilly Grace, Lizzie and Browning accompanied their leader back down to the lake to do some lounging on the dock and dip their feet in the crisp lake water. Once it was dinner time the water crew headed back up to camp and prepared dinner. After a hearty meal of burrito bowls the LODs sat everyone down around the fire and had moonup. Moonup revealed that each member was bonding well with each other and our next group of LODs (Turner and Jordan) were selected on their enthusiasm and readiness for the upcoming trial. The hike to lightning creek was much anticipated. During the night the camp was visited by a herd of friendly (almost friendly to the point of annoying) deer which we would soon find would be a recurring visit at the next site.

Our hike to lightning creek the next day was full of song and a steady pace provided by Turner and Jordan. The kids worked the trail and Jack quizzed the crew with random trail trivia. The Cascade Mountains loomed over us as we moved south towards lightning creek. After a few hours of hard trail work we arrive at our campsite. After setting up camp the kids rushed the beach Jack and Turner took no mind to the freezing cold water as they plunged into the lake while others found it difficult to move further than the waist. The day was spent lounging the beach. All campers seemed to be preparing ourselves mentally for the Desolation Peak hike we would embark on at the stroke of midnight. The Moonup was accompanied by an almost full moon in the same sky as beautiful sunset over the snowy mountains. Words cannot express the beauty of this sight. The campers reminded each other to take in the moment and embrace this in nature. After our moonup the newly elected LODs Browning and Lily Grace were hell bound to lead the charge on desolation peak and the group got a few hours of much needed shuteye

At midnight on Saturday morning The PNW crew woke up to take on the big nasty…DESOLATION PEAK a grueling 6 mile hike up one of the Cascades steepest trails. Browning and LG being the leaders of the day kept spirits high as the path grew increasingly difficult. Not only did the campers make the hike in the middle of the night they reached its summit just in time for sunrise. After celebrating our victory on the top with a quick breakfast we made the return trip back to home base in lightning creek before noon. After the hike everyone was exhausted and took a much deserved rest. Waking up to the smell of Happy’s famous “scrambled pancakes” the weary hikers crawled out of their tents one by one disoriented. Ellie and Jack worried it was the next morning and they had slept through the entire day. Everyone was relieved to find themselves still looking at a goodnights rest before the next day’s hike to Nightmare camp. After the hike that night the sense of accomplishment seemed to bring the already tight knit crew even closer together as they had shared a challenge and victory together. Night came and after dinner the Moonup was filled with congratulations knowing everyone had conquered one of the main voyages in our adventures. The campers embraced their spirit animals knowing they could do anything together as a pack. The next day’s leaders were unanimous as James and Lizzie had shown great courage on the trail. Even though the campers had had a rewarding nap they were still thankful for the night to come and sleep to follow.

Our hike to Nightmare camp the next morning was a breeze compared to the night hike and Lizzie and James had a blast leading the crew through our “movie themed forest”. We all made up characters we would play and upcoming sequels with new adventures. Nightmare was dreamlike but nowhere near a nightmare with its luminescent surroundings. Mashed potato bowls filled bellies and before Moonup where we all continued to detail our fantastic voyage. Newly elected LODs Cate and Turner encouraged an early sleep in order to be ready for the next stop at Hoseman Lake.

With a new day ahead the crew began its new hike to Hoseman Lake. When arriving it was hard to believe that we could find a camping site more beautiful than the last but this was by far the group’s favorite. With a big blue lake and the call of the loon echoing off the mountain face it was truly a site to see and hear. After a day of fun and games the campers were thrilled to have s’mores sandwiches by the fire. Moonup was bitter sweet knowing this was their last one in the back country but everyone was thrilled knowing this new found family had much more to see.

It is amazing how quickly our group has become so close. It seems like the past 6 days of hiking have taught us all so much about each other and the great outdoors. We are ecstatic about the direction we are headed, and look forward to our next stop on the agenda. Sea kayaking the San Juan islands!


Welcome to The Pacific Northwest!

June 22, 2016

We have had non-stop chatter and laughs from the moment everyone united in Seattle. I have never been a part of a group that immediately clicked together so well. Once we were settled into our first campsite, which was situated along a river at the foothills of the North Cascades Mountains, the group set out to explore the area with Happy and Lizzie leading everyone on a short hike by the river.

After learning about our new home for the next few weeks, we threw a surprise pizza party in celebration of Ellie’s birthday. Everyone cheered Ellie on as she swung away at her giant pizza slice pinyata and then dove in as candy started flying out. We all challenged each other to a bubble gum blowing contest, Turner claimed first place with Jack as his main competitor who just learned to blow a bubble. The encouragement and high spirits of everyone in the group makes happy and I so excited for all that is ahead. This new family is bound to achieve amazing things over the next 3 weeks.

Cate and Joseph were our first leaders of the day on Wednesday and they fell into the role of leadership and teamwork seamlessly. They kept everyone both entertained and on task throughout the day while we prepared for our backpacking section. Jordan stepped in and taught everyone games that have kept us entertained in the few quiet moments. Lily Grace has also kept the group laughing with her endless stories and light hearted spirit. We spent the afternoon learning lessons about how to pack a pack. Then finally after lots of stuffing and deciding what we can leave behind, we all hoisted our backpacks over our shoulders and reveled in the excitement of heading off into the backcountry together.  James was ready to hit the trail right away with his pack which is the largest of them all. Browning is a constant source of positivity in the group which is an invaluable asset when setting out for a new challenge. Lizzie and Jack put a cherry on top at the end of a great day as they claimed their titles as BBQ and beans grill masters. Everyone licked their bowls clean after their home cooked meal.  We are so excited to head off into the woods tomorrow and continue to get to know each other during our 6 day backpacking journey. Sending love back home, we will update you when we are back!

More to come very shortly about our backpacking section that we just finished!