July 28, 2016
Hey there, folks!
Stew and I, sadly, just shipped off the last of the kiddos. It’s crazy to think that our 21 days in the Pacific Northwest have come to an end. We feel so lucky that we got to lead these 10 incredible, smart, adventurous, hilarious, and unique kids. To all the parents out there–we can’t thank you enough for sending them on this trip. We are both better leaders for it, and I can surely speak for Stew when I say that we have 10 new friends.
I couldn’t have asked for a better final moonup last night with the crew. We reflected on the entire trip sharing memories and insight. We cried a little. And we laughed the most. Each young man and woman left today with an amazing perspective that I know they will use as they continue on to high school and beyond! Almost everyone said they learned how to really live in the moment and appreciate the little things in life. Each of them was grateful to have this experience. Even though they were sad to leave, they are so thankful to have parents that sent them to Moondance. The support you give them is inspiring, and I hope you hear all the stories, look through all the pictures, and see the transformations your kids made after just 21 days.
There is a special place in our hearts for these 10. Please stay in touch and have an amazing year!!
With much gratitude,
Ellie and Stewart
July 27, 2016
Hey there everyone! This is Stewart and Ellie checking in for our last trip update! I can’t believe it’s true but looking back on it, these kids have accomplished so much and these past two weeks have been absolutely jam packed. After discussing the trip, we agreed that ending with climbing is as rewarding as possible. We had fantastic weather and attitudes throughout which contributed to a great amount of fun times. Our climbing experience was stretched out over the course of three days, which allowed us to fine tune our climbing and repelling skills by the time we were challenged with the monkey’s face climb. We had a great mixture of 4 guides this time that really helped us grow as climbers and enjoy ourselves even more. Throughout the entirety of this portion of the trip, we got to stay at the Smith rock bivouac camp area which was remarkable. Each night, we slept under a beautiful blanket of stars as a group- so cool!
Our first day began at the rope-de-dope wall where everyone discovered and showcased their climbing abilities through various routes up the rocks. I made celebrations mandatory, so the valley was constantly filled with triumphant cries. I think Liv put the most effort into her celebrations and therefore takes the cake for most spirited (how fitting). That is a hard accomplishment for this group due to the overwhelming enthusiasm we possessed. For instance, on the day of monkey’s face, Virginia shocked the valley with an ear piercing scream of accomplishment after completing the climb and repel. Jack was sure to proclaim his appreciation for UNC athletics for all of Oregon to hear on numerous occasions while others, such as Layton and Robert, screamed inside jokes from the top.
Grady regularly served as a concrete member of the group, as he climbed most of the routes first so that others could identify the proper route and holds that it required. He was usually joined by Layton, Charlotte, and Ben who were also very eager to belay others, which made the logistics of climbing very smooth.
On the second day, we climbed on the northern point which was a different type of climb all together, but our group attacked these walls with pure confidence. Ben in particular showed a great deal of resolve after not reaching the top on one of the harder climbs in his first attempt after getting caught up in an overhang. He then came back down and reassessed the climb. To our delight, he cruised through this difficult zone and seamlessly reached the top. Similarly, Layton and Charlotte got caught on this portion of the wall but were all inspired by each other’s success and determination which was very cool to see.
We also practiced repelling off of this cliff face in preparation for the monke’s face climb, which was a very intimidating task. Despite this challenge, our group took it in stride with a puff of confidence. In particular, Liv, Maggy, Virginia, and Robert showed a great deal of determination in overcoming their hesitations with heights by beating the repel with ease.
After repelling, Ellie and I surprised the group with our town day visit to Bend, a personal favorite of ours. Here, the kids were able to experience the laid back, beautiful community of Oregon. They discovered local eateries and apparel shops that captured the essence of happy Oregon living. Ellie and I were giddy with excitement and I was finally able to purchase a massive water bottle that is able to house my extensive collection of stickers. After a few hours of free time, we collectively ate at “the lot” which was a delicious collection of food trucks. We finished this meal by the water in Drake park with a soccer ball and frisbee. We did our moon up in the beautiful park then headed back to our temporary home Smith Rock to rest up before Monkey Face!
We woke up early to beat the sun for our hike up to Monkey Face, one of the most anticipated activities of the trip! The group was in a great mindset for this obstacle. The two previous days of climbing really instilled confidence in the group. In order to complete the Monkey, we traverse into the “mouth”, climb up to the “nose”, then rappel about 300 feet to the bottom. Grady led the way and breezed through the Monkey! His determination and confidence really set the tone for the group. The others followed and we all soaked in as much of the beautiful view as possible. Beyond the Monkey Face lie the north, middle, and south sister mountains, Mt. Washington, and Three Finger Jack to name a few. Hayley definitely soaked in the view during the hike up Misery Ridge and made sure to take as many pictures as possible! Before we knew it our time was up at the Monkey and it was time to cool off with some famous Huckleberry ice cream. Ellie and I were truly impressed with how the kids overcame fear and appreciated their experience at Monkey Face. We heard lots of “That was the coolest thing I’ve ever done” and “THAT WAS AWESOME” and other words of encouragement and enthusiasm throughout the day. Such a great group!
After packing up our favorite camp site–the Smith Rock Bivy–we headed back up to Washington. Nearing the end of the drive to our campsite, we introduced the activity for the night…..IRON CHEF. Funny story–we had this night planned all along where the kids would split into two teams and cook us dinner for the night, competing for kitchen glory. About a week ago, however, a couple of the kids suggested that we have a cook off! Ellie and I played along while they formulated their idea for a camping version of “Chopped”. Little did they know, this plan was already in the works. Back to iron chef–we split the group up into Boys v. Girls and presented a secret ingredient, sweet and spicy chili Doritos!
Both teams did extremely well in originality, presentation, taste, and use of secret ingredient. The girls created our favorite entree, spaghetti tacos and presented it with a remix of the iCarly theme song. The boys made us some sloppy joes with crunchy ramen. They presented as a band with instruments like the sugar shaker, chip bag crinkle, and the tin can drum among others. The tie breaker had to be dessert. The boys knocked our socks off with their grilled Nutella tortillas, so the girls were doomed with dish duty. The boys, however, hopped in to help them clean–so awesome. It was another very successful iron chef, and we all ate way too much
Today we are getting prepared for airport day and psyched for our final banquet. We also have a thrift store visit in the works for today (but we are trying to keep it a secret). It’s hard to believe we picked up this crew three weeks ago. Time absolutely flies when you’re on Moondance. We are soaking up every moment we have left together! See y’all soon!
July 26, 2016
Hey everyone from Oregon!!
Here is our awesome recap on our rafting segment on our trip. We were so relieved to be able to enjoy the heat and lack of rain in the desert which is hard to believe. This trip occurred on the Deschutes River after we launched off from trout creek. Ellie and I were so excited to have Xander and Danielle as our guides again after having such an awesome experience with them the first go round. After hyping up the kids some on our drive down from Washington, we realized that they were as excited as we were. This river excursion consisted of white water rapids ranging from class 2-4 mixed with still water, so there was plenty of crazy fun as well as relaxation filled with funny conversations.
We also spent our time in between rapids battling between rafts. Currently, I have a standing grudge with Charlotte after being knocked in by her. Don’t let her small stature and happy smile fool you- she’s ruthless. Grady and Layton also thought that they had me beat. They were greatly mistaken. Ellie and I used numerous sneak attacks to drag them back into the river. Keep in mind that this was a two day battle. As I mentioned before, this raft battle was group wide and kept us on our toes and very entertained throughout the whole trip. After some contemplation, I would have to say that Hayley came out on top in this ongoing battle after stiff arming Robert back into the river with ice in her veins during one of his attacks.
After a few rapids on the first day, we stopped at jumping rock where-you guessed it-we were able to leap into the river. The group had a blast jumping off different parts of the rock into the ice cold water as an escape from the blaring heat. I think that every boat on the river could hear Robert’s shrieks that were followed by laughter- turns out he loves river jumps more than our whole group.
Later on, we reached the buckskin Mary Rapid that is a class 3 with a massive splash in the end. The best part about this rapid is that it is swimmable! So, we parked our boats and walked back up the bank of the river and hopped in one by one. The river would pull us through the rapid and every camper finished with a beaming smile as they swam towards the shore. Liv, Virginia, and Maggie had some previous hesitations but were able to muster up enough courage to take on the rapid and they definitely were happy to have done so. Charlotte successfully completed probably the first 360 on this rapid which was fun to watch. Jack in particular couldn’t stop smiling as he ran back up the bank of the river over and over again. I think I counted him going 4 times before we finally convinced him to get back in the boat to head to our camp site for the night. Here, we slept under a clear sea of stars after an awesome Moonup on a nearby cliff top, which was led by Maggie and Grady. Afterwards, we climbed a higher hill (named one tree hill by Virginia and Maggie) to catch an awesome view of the sunset over the Deschutes river valley.
The next day included my favorite grouping of rapids and we collectively agreed that this day was our favorite. This day included numerous attempts at “riding the bull” where a camper stood on the front of the boat as the rest of the crew paddled in an attempt to swing them off. Layton set the record for the longest ride with an absurd amount of effort and determination. Close behind were Liv, Maggie, Virginia and Ben. Without their crippling laughter, I think that they would have given Layton a run for his money. Later on, our group all found it hard to paddle due to our own uncontrollable laughter as Grady and Layton got knocked from their seats mid-rapid. They both took it like a champ and popped up with beaming smiles on their faces. We also enjoyed some heated battles with other rafting groups that were decked out in USA gear. Overall, it was a fantastic trip with no complaints and great attitudes throughout. It’s hard to believe that this trip is so close to ending- it feels just like yesterday that we started!!!!
Ps. we have continued to celebrate Ben’s birthday every day of the trip- I think that that makes him around 40 years old at this point. He’s smiled through every celebration.
July 20, 2016
July 13, 2016
Hey everyone! This is Stewart and Ellie reporting after the conclusion of our first segment of our trip! Sea kayaking was such a blast and every Moondancer has a plethora of wonderful stories and memories to hold onto from it. It’s amazing how close a group can become after just three short days on the water! On our first day, we departed from Friday harbor towards Jones Island with a lunch break on a beach in between. We stayed on Jones that first night and enjoyed a very prolonged celebration of Ben’s birthday that included endless laughter, which was usually caused by Ben’s great sense of humor. This celebration included s’mores and an overwhelming amount of candles.
We woke up the next day to an unfortunate head wind combined with unfavorable tides which prevented us from making it to Stuart Island. Instead, we remained on Jones Island and claimed the ultimate camp spot on a rocky peninsula. Next, we explored the island with a group nature walk. When we returned, another group challenged us to a game of capture the flag which we eagerly accepted. After 7 sweaty games of intensity, we fell just short but had an absolute blast. It was here that Grady revealed to the group that he is in fact a wizard as he disappeared behind the prison guards of the other team.
Afterwards, Robert discovered a hidden rocky cove where he lead us in some rock skipping competitions. Here, Charlotte also revealed her prowess in riddles as she twisted our brains with confusion while our group yelled one by one in triumph as we gradually conquered these challenges. She gained a great deal of enjoyment through this mental torture of the group.
We returned from this mini excursion to find Liv, Maggie, and Virginia nearly peeing their pants with laughter (no surprise there) as they attempted to commandeer Layton’s well placed eno while he filmed the whole thing on his GoPro. So far, Layton and Robert’s Eno skills have provided a great deal of entertainment for the group due to our shared affinity for “hammock city”. In fact, some of our greatest conversations have taken place in this grouping of 7 hammocks.
Afterwards, we had arm wrestling competitions that were filled with screams from Liv as we eagerly awaited our dinner of southwest mac and cheese. Next, Layton and Charlotte concluded our day with a quality moonup (our daily debrief) followed by some story swapping around the camp fire. On our way to bed, Jack discovered some bioluminescent bacteria in the water that sparkled in the darkness when the water was disturbed. Jack, Grady, and I observed this under a light night sky and Grady and I decided to explore this phenomenon further. While doing so, we stumbled upon an incredible amount of wildlife, some of which I was able to photograph. This wildlife included mysterious sea worms, shrimp, fish, crabs, fish, and two dog sharks! It was indescribable and I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited.
The next day’s leaders of the day, Hayley and Jack, lead us through a skilled sound crossing. Hayley’s rowing skills soared as she dominated this paddling. She held a contagious smile this whole time that our group constantly fed off of. We later landed on an island many miles away where we shared lunch and then set out to dock our boats in Roche harbor. Here, we reluctantly said goodbye to our AWESOME kayak outfitters and headed to our last camp site on the island.
Our night here began as per usual; however, as I was serving myself my plate of spaghetti, Ellie came running through the woods with a panicked look on her face. THERES AN ORCA SIGHTING!!!! She exclaimed and we instinctively chased her back towards the water. Here, we watched for an hour as 3 or 4 orca breached throughout the horizon as the sun set over the Olympia mountain range in the distance. This was by far the coolest moment of our trip and I can’t overstate how fascinated the group was. I got a few pictures of our viewing party but none of them do it justice- you’ll have to hear from them for yourselves!
Until next time,
Stew and (sm)Ellie