July 5, 2016
Hey folks! We are writing this last trip update on our way from Smith rock to one of our last camp sites with a great deal of excitement mixed with sleepy eyes. Our three days spent at the Smith Rock camp ground were packed with guided accomplishments. We began our first day on the rope-de-dope climbing section where we all were able to test out our climbing abilities on rock walls with varying difficulties and techniques. From the start, Stuart, Tom, Ellie, and Jackson showed off their inner spider monkeys as they scaled these walls with ease. Others (mostly me) spent this time learning from our awesome guides, Taylor and Sam, as we progressed as a group of solid climbers. Each camper showed a great deal of enthusiasm and determination as we outlasted the other groups around us in Oregon’s strongest desert heat. After climbing, Hayes popped in to surprise us and treated us to some delicious ice cream! Then we continued to cool off by jumping off the cliffs of steelhead falls! A very popular local spot with a waterfall to our left and a beautiful winding river to our right.
That night, Spence and Aidan picked an incredible spot for our moonup that overlooked a colorful sunset behind numerous mountain ranges in the distance. They set a great tone for the next two days with an encouraging quote that highlighted our ability to succeed with a proper mindset. In this moonup, we also discussed what drives us and what holds us back.
With these themes in mind, we woke up the next day and set out for some more climbing. Our entire group dominated one of the climbs this day which further excited us for the monkey’s face climb. Throughout this day, the whole valley could hear our “yip yip” calls that Caroline started. Each climbers’ summit was followed by a call that was quickly echoed by the group below and mountain range behind us. Afterwards, we tackled the repelling practice for the day as everyone successfully faced their ranging fears of heights. Emma and Aidan thoroughly encouraged each other over the edge which gave a great deal of inspiration to the rest of the group.
We ended this day of climbing with a trip to the lovely town of Bend, Oregon, which was situated just an hour down the road from us. Here, we experienced a full immersion into the extremely happy and outdoorsy culture of Oregon. Jackson gave us all a detailed tutorial about how to properly use chopsticks and showed off his skills by flicking popcorn into his mouth with him… Quite impressive. Meanwhile, Ellie, Stuart, and Anneliese led us in some waterside yoga while Tom showed off his fleet feet in races around the park. Next, Spence gave the group detailed lessons in waterfowl ecology. By the end of his wildlife presentation, we all appreciated our new mallard companions and scared off the intrusive Canada geese.
Caroline and Tom chose this park for our moonup. We shared smiles as the sun set over the lake then reluctantly left this awesome town.
The next day was one that we had all been looking forward to. We got an early start to our hike to the other side of misery ridge where the infamous monkey’s face awaited us. This solid rock column closely resembled the profile of a monkey facing us with a wide open mouth. This challenging climb began with a 40 foot traverse to the mouth with nothing but distance below. After getting situated, we would round the corner of the monkey’s mouth and begin a difficult climb to the nose. Here, we were greeted by a guide that then prepared us for our massive descent. We inched our way off the cliff to embark on a self-guided repel through open air. The repelling section was about 230 feet high and accompanied with an audience of strangers. After each kid conquered monkey’s face, they received high fives and a lot of praise. We all felt like celebrities out there as crowds gathered and took our pictures. We are so proud of everyone for conquering quite possibly the most challenging part of the trip. Our climbers absolutely crushed it. I was particularly inspired by Anneliese who climbed before me and made the monkey’s face seem like a piece of cake! This climb was truly the culmination of the trip. After getting back to camp, we thought it necessary to celebrate our great accomplishment with some “monkeys” from the local huckleberry ice cream shop.
Side note–when we were up on top of misery ridge, we participated and witnessed a proposal!! All the kids were in on it and helped assist in the proposal on top of the ridge by monkeys face. WHAT A DAY! We left Smith Rock feeling accomplished and fulfilled.
On our way to battle creek lake, we had the kids start planning iron chef for the evening! We split them in half and supplied a secret ingredient: sausage gravy! Each group prepared an entree and a dessert. The “Asian Invasion” group won best dessert with their coconut chocolate crepes and presentation. Jackson spoke to us in Japanese and lit chop sticks afire to add dramatic effect. Group “Le Bon Montreat” won best entree with their delicious tomato, summer sausage pasta and also won the consideration award for their gluten free option and customized spicy option for me!
The next night was banquet night. We all hit the thrift store for funky outfits. Cam won best dressed with his beautiful purple dress! He wore it with confidence and poise. We enjoyed an interesting and entertaining meal at the Cascadian Grill.
After wrapping up our meals, we collected at our final camp site. Here, the group enjoyed a pumped up dance party on some picnic tables and some final laughs before we joined up in a sleeping circle. Here, we shared a very meaningful and drawn out moonup. We discussed the highs and lows of the trip and what may lay ahead in our lives. As promised, I shared my infamous black ping pong ball story before we fell asleep with exhaustion.
I am writing this final portion of the trip update from the airport with a bittersweet feeling. I’m so happy about the fantastic memories that we’ve created together and the wonderful adventures that we triumphed. At the same time, I’m thinking about how quiet and boring my days will be without this incredible group of kids. I wish everyone an awesome summer and look forward to crossing paths down the road. Thanks for the good times, kiddos. We will miss you more than you know 🙂
July 1, 2016
We just had an AMAZING two days on the Deschutes River! It was perfect summer weather. We were under a cloudless sky with plenty of opportunities to play in the chilly water. Our guides Xander, Danielle, and Amanda took excellent care of us. Our leaders of the day yesterday were Aidan and Jackson. Both of them worked with our guides to keep everyone very well informed about the river and all of our rapids and planned stops along the way. We ate very well along the banks of the river thanks to them and our cook crew–Anneliese, Caroline, and Stuart helped–who helped them prepare fresh chicken burritos with all the fixings last night. THEN a delicious dessert and hot coco. We felt spoiled. Anyhow, we played games all day long on the river. Tom was particularly difficult to knock off the raft when he “rode the bull” as the others tried their best to spin the raft round and round. Caroline challenged me to the balance game, and I quickly ended up out of the boat.
When it came time to buckle down and paddle through some class 3 and 4 rapids, both boats did very well! Stuart was typically in bow position (at the front) taking the brunt of the waves and loving it! At the end of the day we went through “Buckskin Mary”, the last rapid of the day and a class 3. After scouting out the rapid in a boat and parking to strategize, we all swam the rapid. Yes, SWAM it. It was so much fun! Every single kid ended up swimming the rapid at least one time. Caroline probably would have gone for round 5 if there was time before setting up camp for the night.
We camped at the “Buckskin Mary” campground across from the railroad tracks and infamous Buckskin Mary Cave. After unloading the gear together and setting up camp for the night, Xander took us on a short hike up to the top of a bluff where we could really get a good view of the river and beyond. Jackson, as always, started looking for the best shot. He headed to the top of the hill for even more grander views. Cam, Tom, and Spence did the same. When we got back, the guides taught us some really fun new games. We all can say that we definitely walked away from rafting with a pocket full of riddles and games!
It was so fun getting to relax after our full day on the river. Emma was keeping is all entertained and laughing while we decompressed after our fabulous meal. Aidan picked up the travel guitar that Xander had with him and showed us her musical talents. Very, very impressive!
The sun started going down for the evening, so we enjoyed a moonup with our guides before bed. We all slept outside under the stars! It was so beautiful and clear. Definitely a night to remember.
Our last day of rafting was a blast. We hit the river after eating an energizing breakfast. There were several super fun class 3 rapids that knocked us around. In between rapids we would hop out and enjoy the cooling water again. One of the most fun skills we learned was the “dunk and giggle”. My boat had a hilarious time with this. Essentially it’s just getting each other back in the boat, which requires a small dunk and a big giggle always follows. I watched as Anneliese, on the other boat, tried getting up without help–quite a challenge. Her boat was cheering her on all the way!
We soaked up all we could of the Deschutes River. The day came to an end right after a super fun wave, Mr. Snappy, followed by our last rapid. Our trip down the river was quickly named one of the favorite sections of the trip. Thanks again to our guides and wonderful attitudes the whole way!! Now off to Smith Rock for some climbing!
June 28, 2016
Howdy, everyone! I cannot believe how fast our backpacking section went. The Northern Cascades were an incredible home for the past 6 days. I think I speak for the whole crew in saying that we left with a bucket full of memories. Nothing like the backcountry to bring everyone together.
June 20, 2016
The trip so far has been absolutely incredible!!! We are writing this trip update from the ferry back to the Anacortes port after a strong three days of ocean kayaking. Ellie and I are sure that the group is super prepared for the backpacking portion of our trip after bonding so much over the past five days. We are really beginning to feel like a complete family and there are certainly no dull moments between us.
After just five days, this trip has had a number of awesome highlights. We discussed some of them last night in our Moonup debrief with a great deal of enthusiasm. From the start, we had a pleasant bus ride from the airport with some ice breaking games that were spearheaded by Caroline and Stuart. They did an awesome job of getting our group in motion with their constant enthusiasm and humor that has lasted until today. They always feed off of each other for positive energy and I am excited for more to come in the future. Caroline’s bright smile and Stuart’s goofy humor will go a long ways in the weeks to come.
Cam explained a more recent highlight when he described how cool it was to look around from his kayak and see bald eagles flying overhead while seals were diving beneath our boats. He described this with his usual enthusiasm and aptly outlined how he was able to witness the ongoing bonding of our group. This culminated when everyone was smiling and participating in a goofy celebrity name game in the middle of the harbor that we were crossing during sea kayaking.
After landing on Stuart Island, the other Stuart and I were extra excited to be exploring one of the coolest islands (definitely the best named) in the states. In fact, we were standing on the summit of the northwestern-most point in the continental United States. From here, we watched a glowing sunset over the Canadian Rockies that were situated just miles across the water from us in plain sight. Here, Jackson claimed his own mini summit from which he snapped some great GoPro shots and kept the group entertained as per usual. His ongoing intelligent humor and endless bank of stories keep us all on our toes as he constantly entertains us with a smile always painted across his face.
Still talking about the island, Tom and Spence plotted hunting plans as a wild herd of mountain goats galloped past. They have been sure to appreciate the plethora of wildlife and ecology that we paddled through. Spence was able to lure in and befriend two curious seals on the beach of Stuart Island which the campers named Gary and Mary. There was also a Cary and a Larry but those might have just been the same two seals. Spence has contributed a calm smile to the group that always adds to our overall wellbeing.
Similarly, Tom has been a smiling face at all times as he constantly provides encouragement and humor to our conversations. He and Cam have been extremely helpful in our campsite set up and take down as they are always asking to help. However, that is not a hard trait to come by
as each member of our group is always eager to contribute. Emma, for instance, always presents herself with a bubbling happiness and positivity that lightens any mood as she does everything she can to help our group out. Her laughter can be heard throughout each campsite we stay at and is truly refreshing.
Anneliese, or Khaleisse as I like to call her (the name of the most awesome character in the Game of Thrones series), has made a great effort to bond with each member of our group. Being such a friendly person, she hasn’t had any trouble whatsoever doing so. It was particularly entertaining watching the dynamic between Jackson and Annaliese during the last two days of paddling in the San Juans. They may not have been the fastest boat, but they were the most entertained!
The kids have all been doing a great job with their roles of leader of the day (or LODs or LOD SQUAD as I like to call them). Aidan and Emma really stepped up on Friday, our second day of paddling, to lead the group. Aidan presented some great ideas for the health and well-being of the group including water breaks where we toast together and rehydrate every 30 minutes. It’s truly evident that Aidan is as funny as she is wise. She contributes so many thoughtful tidbits to our conversations. Emma helped the group stay positive during a long day on the water with her competitive spirit and sense of humor. I actually got the pleasure of partnering up with Emma. At the end of the paddle on day 2, we all raced to the distant finish. This ended up being a battle between one of our outfitters (Ryder) and our boat (me and Emma). Even though he beat us by a boat length, we certainly gave an experienced paddler a run for his money!