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Pacific Northwest : 2A • July 8-July 28, 2016

Rafting Down The River!

July 28, 2016

Whitewater rafting came too soon as the group realized this was the last adventure on our epic quest. Excitement overcame our lingering emotions as the fierce Deshutes River begged our full attention. The first day of rafting the boys and girls split into gender specific rafts in order to pirate each other and have splash wars galore. Edwin, Will and Jacob were the honorary pirates of the boy’s boat and dragged the girls out of their inflatable perch more than once. Brooke then came out of nowhere and showed us she was a fierce rafter dragging the biggest of males to the cold depths of the Deschutes. Olivia did anything and everything possible to keep dry but Kate W and Katie would not allow it teaming up on her multiple times. Yani and Harris planned surprise attacks more than once. Each time I ended up in the water. Forces were combined to take me under, but the “dunk and giggle” was a ragging success. Each rapid provided its own unique thrill. Undoubtedly “The guide ejector” took us all by surprise as both Kate M and Edwin found themselves on their backs in the middle of the boat after a large surge of water took them down. At times we would stop on the little islands of the river and watch other guides take their clients down the same stretch as us. We witnessed a boat flip and all the kids were so helpful when it came to rescuing the lost shoes of the rafters. We laughed really hard that day and we were unsure if it was the paddling or laughter that made our abs ache so much at the end of the day. Orion outfitters fed us well as Xander and his crew served up a fabulous meal on the river for our group. Kids were licking their bowls from the burritos and the hand-whipped whipped cream from the kids made desert that much more satisfying. That night our Moonup was held under the stars next to the river as we replayed the day’s events. Katie, Kate M, and Kate W were curious as to if their arms would be as big as the raft guides if they continued their love of raft paddling. We retreated to bed excited to wake up and attack the river once more. The next day we awoke to a breakfast fit for kings and quickly set off to our next run of the river. Mixing up the raft teams took time getting in paddling sync. Our guides whipped us into shape until we resorted to pirating once again instead of worrying ourselves about the rapids we knew we could handle. Saying goodbye to our raft guides was almost as hard as facing the short last few days of our trip.

Little did the kids know that Iron Chef would take place that night! The past weeks of culinary training had finally led to this moment. Each team of three selected their country’s finest delicacies to prepare (Jacob, Kate M, and Kate W representing China with their own interpretation on Chinese noodles. Will, Olivia, and Yani representing Thailand with Red Curry. Harris, Katie, Brooke representing Greece with their own interpretation of the Gyro). The kitchen was hot and full of tension as tempers flared and a mix-up of cooking gear had the teams competing at maximum levels of skill. In the end each meal was judged by the culinary master himself and host of Iron Chef, Edwin Fan. Edwin knew had to push the teams and challenged them to their limits as his commentary brought both laughter and screams of anger. In the end the teams presented their meals and although each meal was spectacular in its own way their could only be one winner. Greece took home the gold! After clean up Moonup was held under the stars once again but this time in our sleeping bags as we all slept in a group that night. Each one of us not wanting tomorrow to be the last full day together.

After a short drive in the morning the next day we spent the afternoon preparing to depart. That night we had our final banquet clad in our random yet colorful attire acquired from our trip to the local thrift shop. We had pizza and soda in the party practicing our dance moves and stuffing our face. That night we asked the group to give a shout out to their family and friends back home during Moonup. As a group the only shout out they wanted to give me and Emily was “We are not coming home! The Pacific Northwest is our home now! We are destined to roam these lands forever!” So there you have it. Each and every one of these little buggers has a place and Emily and our hearts as we watched them grow and become a family. Had an absolute blast leading these students of ours. We hope that our lessons and teachings provide them with the skills and confidence to take on future challenges in their lives. What an adventure! As we drive them to the airport we hope that this is not a goodbye but a see you later. PNW 2A over and out.

Monkey Face: Check!

July 25, 2016

Going into the third and final week of our trip the group transitioned from sea to rock. Oregon is a dramatic change of scenery and weather from the chilly water and mountains of Washington. We have all loved soaking up some sun and sleeping under the clear starry sky. On the first day of exploring smith rock we discovered the value of teamwork in making it to the top. Katie and Edwin got everyone pumped as the leaders of the day. Everyone excelled at climbing and our guides Nick and Taylor were impressed by our first climbers Harris and Edwin who pushed all the way to the top of the routes. There was lots of support from everyone below. After seeing the joy that they got from reaching the top to kiss the rock and repel down everyone quickly lined up to give climbing a go. Jacob and Brooke were next to show off their spider monkey climbing skills. Kate M. was their supportive climbing coach, giving tips and pointers for good hand holds while belaying from below. Kate W. took us all by surprise making every single route look like a breeze; she reached the top in the blink of an eye with a huge smile on her face.


Day two everyone got up excited to continue pushing themselves and pulling each other up the rock. We spent the morning climbing more challenging routes. Kate M. and Will were nominated as the new LODs because of the great leadership and encouragement that they showed the first day of climbing. Many people made it up the wall thanks to Kate’s positive encouragement and Will’s master belaying skills. Not to mention they proved themselves as strong climbers as well by trying out the more challenging courses set up. Olivia climbed up a giant boulder while waiting her turn to climb and discovered the perfect perch for lunch. Soon Yani, Harris and Jacob joined her. We were able to see views of the river below and numerous bald eagles soaring through the canyon area. We spent a leisurely afternoon exploring the charming town of Bend where we got to see the exciting start to a local bike road race through downtown. After a bit of souvenir shopping we relaxed in the local park and played frisbee and wandered around the paths of the duck pond. We finished the day with Moonup on boulders overlooking Smith Rock and began to prepare ourselves for our final climb and repel from monkeys face the following morning.


We got started bright and early with a hike up Misery Ridge Trail which really got our blood pumping and built up lots of anticipation for our destination at the Monkeys Face. Finally as we rounded the bend and our traverse and climb was in plain view. Happy showed us the ropes as he bravely traversed into the mouth of the face first and He was followed by Jacob and Kate. Their bravery and cheers from down below after getting two feet back on the ground or everyone more at ease. The rest of the group made their way through the three phases of the trek first traversing across the gap then climbing onto the head of the monkey and repelling down to the group 200 feet below. We all spent the afternoon celebrating together at steelhead falls. Thrill seekers Olivia, Edwin, Kate, Jacob and Will all jumped off the falls together Katie also took the plunge into the icy water getting GoPro footage of the group swimming and laughing together. Today was one of our best so far. We are all proud of our accomplishments and even happier to have done it together.


We’re rolling off to raft down the Deschutes River now, trying to savor our final days in Oregon!

San Juan Sites!

July 20, 2016

Building off the momentum of backpacking The PNW A team packed up our trusty Uhaul and headed to beautiful islands of San Juan for some sea kayaking.  The ferry ride inland was one of wonder as some of the kids have never been on a ferry ride before. So well behaved, we made sure everyone was able to get a treat or two as we boated along. Upon arriving to the island first and foremost we wanted to see some sights before venturing the salty waters, so we spent our first day exploring the beaches and lighthouse our little island had to offer. After our exploring, we met our guides Molly and Julia from San Juan outfitters to prepare for our upcoming day. Supplies and drybags were dished out and after the logistics we spent the rest of our afternoon exploring Roche Harbor. After getting to our campsite an intense game of beach volleyball was played while dinner was prepared. Amazing shots on both sides and by the end of the game both teams were claiming victory. Moonup was held on the dock overlooking our little private Lakedale lake. The impending sea kayaking adventure awaited us in the morning.
We awoke early to meet with our guides at Roche harbor then took “The Hulk” over to Friday Harbor where we would cast off into the ocean. After experiencing the culinary expertise of our last San Juan adventure we had high hopes our food would be just as delicious. We were not disappointed! Lunch on a pebble beach followed by on dinner on Jones island proved to be a massive hit with the kids. During meal prep the campers had a blast throwing frisbee and lounging in their Enos. We ventured around the island and found a beautiful overlook to have our Moonup to witch Molly and Julia joined us for. In fear of bear raccoons we hurried to the safety of our tents for a goodnights rest knowing we would be up early to catch the tide out to our next destination.
Our second day we awoke expecting some weather but on Moondance it never rains! The beautiful day ahead of us would have us finding our sea legs. With our teams finalized and kayaks named (Happy and Katie on the Burrito Supreme, Emily and Harris on the Bikini Bottom, Jacob and Olivia on the Bahama Mama, Yani and Kate M on the Greece Lightning, Edwin and Kate W on the S.S Edwino, and Brooke and Will on the Wooki) we paddled hard through the jelly fish fields and to the border shores of the private island of Spiden where many exotic animals still live today. After many jelly fish battles and pushing ourselves to the limits we crossed a serious channel to cactus islands for lunch where we found Juan Snowy Carlos, a seal pup that quickly became the highlight of the day. He was so cute it hurt to leave him there, but we had to press on to Stewart Island where we would make camp. Upon arriving at Stewart we ventured inland to find the abandoned school the islands inhabitants use to attend. After running around the hollowed playground and visiting the deserted library we rejoined our guides to have dinner. Our meal was a musical one with one of the yachts in Stewart harbor rocked some smooth jazz and serenaded our camp site. Dinner was followed with s’mores and Moonup under the full moon. It was a bitter sweet night knowing the next day would be our last one on the water but the campers had enjoyed the expedition to the fullest and Roche harbor was right around the corner. The next morning was a breakfast buffet with a side of whitecaps as we entered our most challenging stretch of kayaking. The painful stretch was difficult but just like desolation peak rewarding at the end. We had lunch on the second smallest state camp site this nation has to offer and smoothly cruised ourselves into the final destination of Roche Harbor where our ride awaited. We camped on the cliffs of the San Juans and enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets we had ever witnessed to put the cherry on top of our second section of the Pacific Northwest. Our PNW family grows closer and closer each day and now as we ride the ferry out to our next destination of Smith Rock rock climbing we look forward to our next adventure! PNW group A checkin’ in and checkin’ out, much love to the friends and family out there cheering us on.

Backpacking in the North Cascades

July 16, 2016

We spent our first 8 days together backpacking through the beautiful North Cascade mountains. After our group all came together in Seattle we headed north towards the mountains. Everyone was excited in anticipation for all the adventure ahead of us and there were few quiet moments during the first days as our group was all getting to know each other. Kate M. and Yani were nominated as our first leaders of the day because of their genuine excitement for the trip and their helpful nature. The two of them took responsibility during our day of planning and preparing for backpacking by leading the group in games and helping everyone decide what we can and can’t leave behind before packing off into the backcountry. At the end of the day our bags were full and everyone was ready to finally set foot into our first challenge together.

Our first two days of hiking proved to be no hard task for this strong and resilient group. Everyone was all laughter and chatter on the trail and from the moment that we hit the trail.  No one would guess that we had the weight of all of our food and gear for the next 5 days from the fast pace that we moved down the trail. Everyone’s hard work to push forward to our campsites paid off and we had the luxury of enjoying along lunch by the lake. Katie and Olivia took on Yani and Harris in a series of heated card games of kemps. We all ended up joining in the fun of the competition by either cheering them on or attempting to break their winning streak as competitors.  Jacob, Edwin, and Will found their fun taking a plunge off the dock into the icy water of Ross lake. Kate W. Has kept everyone’s spirits high with her endless funny stories and her genuine excitement for everything ahead.

Our following two nights were spent at our favorite campsite of the trip situated just along the coastline of the lake. Tuesday morning came with a very early wakeup call and we all strapped on our boots to hike up to desolation peak in the moonlight in order to summit the mountain for sunrise. It was a group effort to cheer everyone on all the way up the mountain but Jacob and Edwin led the way for us as leaders of the day. We are all proud to say that we reached the peak for sunrise and celebrated while we ate breakfast and took in the incredible scenery of the North Cascades Mountains and Ross Lake far below us.  Everyone agreed at the end of the day that the feeling of accomplishment  was so worth the climb. Brooke said that she has already reached her goal for the trip and is continuing to set the bar higher and higher for herself. We have watched everyone discover the physical and metal limits and develop more trust in themselves and others.

The following days of backpacking flew by.    Just when we thought we had seen the best of the Cascade Mountains we arrived at our final campsite at Lake Hozomeen. After a warm day of hiking we were eager to jump in the water. Happy and Edwin were the first to dive in followed by the rest of the boys. Brooke bravely ran into the chilly water and soon after both Kate’s mustered up the courage to join her. We all had fun relaxing in the sun in the water or on the shore and stretching out our sore legs.  Backpacking was the perfect way to start our trip together because we have all come out a lot stronger and ready to take on any challenge. It has been a joy to watch everyone get to know each other and form into a close group of friends. We are on the way to San Juan island now and excited to begin sea kayaking this weekend!

Sending love home!