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Yosemite : 1 • June 14-July 4, 2016

A Trip We Will Never Forget

July 5, 2016

Sadly Yosemite 1 has come to an end and this last update is coming to you from the San Francisco airport. But as sad as David and I are to see our crew depart, I’m sure you’re more than excited to hear the countless stories from your kids first hand.  The last three weeks exploring Nor-Cal have been unbelievable.– wildlife sightings, class IV rapids, alpine lakes, summiting a volcano. We’ve really done it all.

After Shasta we headed south to Mount Diablo State Park. On the way we stopped at the Cali classic In-and-Out (or Stop-and-Go if you asked this group).  We all ate way too much and then jammed out to some of our trip favorite songs on the way to our campsite. Once in the park, we had unbelievable views of bay area below as we drove the windy road to camp. Since we had some time to spare, we divided the group into boys vs. girls for a Moondance classic, Iron Chef.  Both teams absolutely went all out preparing dinner with our secret ingredient of pineapple. The boys were led by master chef Hayden and prepared pineapple and bell pepper lettuce wraps while the girls made a complete 3 course meal with guacamole, open-faced chicken tacos, and marshmallow sandwiches. Their presentations were even better than the actual food, and we were all laughing so hard as each team described their dishes in intense detail. It was a tough decision but the boys ultimately reigned supreme. That night Emily and Keirin led us in Moonup with the question of “what will the person next to you be like in 10 years”. The predictions were spot on and just showed how well we all know each other.

The next morning we hit the road to Pacifica where we met up with Warren, Matt, and Allen for an afternoon surf lesson. Being that we already had a day of lessons under our belt, the instructors let us paddle out to the next break to catch some bigger waves. Despite strong winds, Will caught a big wave for the first time and Bennett and Hayden continued their successes from our first lesson as they both caught multiple waves.  Carter was definitely most improved of the day as he stuck with surfing and ended up crushing the second half of the lesson. After we were all surfed out we headed back to San Fran for some showers and then off to Zorba’s Pizzeria decked out in our thrift store gems. One of the highlights from dinner was Carter reading the raps he wrote about each activity on the trip. They were all hysterical!

Thanks to each of you for sharing your fantastic kids with us this summer! I know it’s a trip I’ll never forget. More specifically:

Claire, thanks for your continuously positive attitude and for being such a team player!

Hayden, seriously I can’t thank you enough for how helpful you were throughout the trip.

You crushed it!

Frances, thanks for always bringing a smile to everyone’s faces and being an instigator of great pictures. Much appreciated 🙂

Alex, thanks for embracing Moondance to the fullest and for being so excited to try each activity! I can’t wait to see your amazing pictures!

Carter, mega tent was always lit thanks to you as was every interaction with a stranger.   You made us laugh more than we could have imagined.

Lily, thanks for the memories literally sliding down Shasta and for being a crucial member of team Lil-Rope. Good times.

Bennett, you literally rocked every portion of the trip, and it was so great to see how your embraced the outdoors to the fullest!

Gracie, thanks for being such a trooper and for never failing to make the group laugh at your absolutely hilarious stories…. they were unreal.

Emily, thanks for being such a strong leader and for always being willing to help with anything and everything!

Drew, no one loves Moondance more than you, and it was so great to have you share that love with everyone in the group.

Emma, you never failed to make the group laugh and truly were such a great sport. Hope you get as much Nutella (& Siracha) as your want at home.

Keirin, thanks for always being there to lift a hand and for being a rockstar at every activity.

Will, you seriously rocked the khaki joggers to the fullest and David and I can’t thank you enough for that. But really you were so fun to be around, and it was so great to watch you crush each activity on this trip!

Shasta Summit!

July 3, 2016

YO Trip Update #5


Shasta: check. We’re officially off the mountain and headed south to our last activity of the trip– surfing! How do we only have 2 1/2 days left?! Ok, back to Shasta. Wow, it was amazing– the mighty mountain exceeded our already extremely high expectations. From our first glimpse of Shasta towering over the surrounding terrain to the sunset at 9,500 ft in our snow covered camp to the view of the Konwakiton Glacier as we climbed Misery Hill, the entire experience was just incredible. David and I are so proud of the entire group for preserving through the altitude and for embracing their first mountaineering to the fullest whether they reached the summit or not. But we’re also happy to say that 10 out of our 13 rock stars reached the summit!!


Let me give you the run down:


On Tuesday, we woke up at Lake Siskiyou to a fantastic view of Shasta and just couldn’t stop looking at it as we feasted on some breakfast burritos. We ventured into the quirky city of Mt. Shasta to pick up our ice axes, crampons, helmets and mountaineering boots. After exploring the town a bit, we decided to go pick out our banquet outfits at a local thrift store. We all had a blast trying on crazy outfits, and we can’t wait to wear them tomorrow night! Then it was off to the laundromat and back to camp to re pack our backpacks for Shasta. I made the crew some Brunswick stew (Keirin, Alex, and Lily all loved the southern recipe!) while they packed. That night, David surprised the group with s’mores and a campfire while Bennett and Emma prepped the group with our final Moonup before our climb.


Off the Shasta! We met up with our awesome guides Greg, Joey, Emily, and Aysha on Monday morning and headed straight to the Bunny Flat Trailhead at 6,950 ft.  There we unloaded our packs and hit the trail to Horse Camp at 8,000 ft. Our LODs, Frances and Will, alternated leading us up the trail and definitely impressed our guides with how little time it took us to reach camp.  Once at camp we went over how to use our gear (crampons and ice axes) with the guides and then went over the itinerary for the next 2 days. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the Horse Camp Hut, which has been a Shasta staple since 1922, playing chess and card games. One of the coolest parts about Horse Camp was being able to drink the “cleanest water west of the Mississippi” straight from a spring there. After dinner and some stargazing, we ventured off to or tents for one last full night of sleep before Shasta. But, Frances and Emma didn’t want to lose sight of the amazing view of the mountain so they sleep underneath the stars!


On day 2 of our Shasta adventure we moved from our camp at Horse Camp to 50/50 at about 9,500 ft. Within about 15 minutes on the trail, the rock switched to snow so we had the opportunity to test out some of the techniques the guides taught us the day prior. After a short 2 hour hike, we made it to camp and set up our tents on snow platforms– a first for all of us! We split into two groups for snow school where our guides taught us specific techniques for hot to walk in a rope teams and how to self-belay, self-arrest and glissade. After plenty of “practice” (or should we say playing in the snow), they guides all passed us and gave us the a-ok to continue up the mountain the next day. Hayden, Carter, and Bennett were a huge help melting snow (yes, we had to melt snow for water!), and then we made an early dinner on our “snow islands” the guides crafted for us. Due to our alpine state the next morning, Hayden and Drew led our first Moonup of the trip that occurred while it was still light outside! Drew told us the very fitting quote of “it’s kind of fun to do the impossible” by Walt Disney. Shasta might have seemed “impossible” then but this crew was ready it give it our best shot and most importantly to have fun while doing so.


Day 3 of our summit bid started with a 2 am wake up call. After a quick breakfast, we strapped our headlamps to our helmets and started up the mountain. The stars were absolutely incredible at this hour and Alex got some amazing pictures that I can’t wait to look at. For our climb, we took the Avalanche Gulch Route, which is the most popular climbing route up the mountain and goes mostly through the largest u-shaped glacial valley on the mountain. The first section of the climb was about 1,000 ft of vertical elevation gain to Lake Helen. After a quick break at Lake Helen, we reached the crux of the climb– the section from Lake Helen to the top of the Red Banks at 13,000 ft.  Unfortunately, Gracie, Drew, and Claire starting feeling the altitude at 12,000 ft and made the decision to head back to camp. But that was after we all enjoyed watching the sunrise as a group at 12,000 ft, which was unreal.


During the crux, we split into the rope teams that we would stay in until the summit.  The first was the girl power rope team, coined “Lil-Rope”, made up of Lily, Emily, Emma,  Aysha and myself. Keirin, Hayden, Frances, Will, and Emily (the guide) made up the next group while David, Carter, Alex, Bennett, and Joey made up “Mega-Rope”. During this ~1,500 ft steep section, our teamwork on the rope teams was critical and all around each team did such a great job working together while encouraging each other at the same time. “Mega-Rope” and guide Emily’s crew, headed towards Thumb Rock where they enjoyed an amazing view and the first glimpse of the other side of the mountain. The “Lil-Rope” team was lucky enough to climb through the Red Banks which is a little steeper and an awesome opportunity to be climbing between large volcanic outcrops. Next up was 700 ft of elevation gain going up Misery Hill but at that point everyone could taste the summit. After a quick transverse across the “Football Field”, we could see the summit and were there within minutes. In all, it took us just 6 hours and 20 minutes to reach the summit! For comparison, it commonly takes around hours. Basically, this crew absolutely crushed the climb. Once on the summit, we all enjoyed our Snickers bars, took a ton of pictures, and simply soaked in the view. The excitement level was so high we all just couldn’t stop smiling.  We descended from the summit to the Thumb in rope teams, and then we were in for a treat– about 3,500 ft of glissading back to 50/50. Lily even said this part was more fun than reaching the summit!  After packing up camp, we got to show Claire, Drew, and Gracie how much fun glissading was as we had about 1,500 ft of snow to play around in before we reached Horse Camp. This part was so fun as all of the girls hung out in the back of the group and savored our last bit of snow travel.


After a quick hike from Horse Camp to the trailhead, we waved goodbye to Shasta and said goodbye to our guides. & then it was time to celebrate such a fantastic 3 days!! We picked up burger supplies in town and headed back to Lake Siskiyou for a celebration.


David and I just can’t say enough good things about this group, and we’re soaking up the last couple of days with them. We’ll be in touch again on Monday.


Until then, we’ll be surfin’ it up in Half Moon Bay.


Liz & David


The Amazing American River!

June 28, 2016

Hello all! We just got off the American River after two days of clear skies, huge rapids, and some absolutely amazing food. The Middle Fork of the American River is seriously such a special place– we rafted 7 Class IV rapids in just 18 miles!!

After a long drive to Lotus, we were happy to hop out of the vans, toss around the football, and then hit the showers! David treated the group to a delicious meal of stir fry and Keirin and Gracie led us in Moonup to close the night.

We woke up early on Sunday anxious to hit the river and drove to Foresthill, CA where we met up with our awesome rafting guides Gavin, Grace, Franny, and Carson. At the put-in of the Middle Fork, we split up into our three boats for the trip: Shakira (Gavin, Frances, Gracie, Emma, Emily, and Liz), Betsy Rueben (Franny, Keirin, Drew, Alex, Lily, and Claire), and Megaboat (Grace, David, Hayden, Bennett, Will, Carter). Within minutes of hoping in our boats, we were at our first rapid of the day, Cold Cup of Coffee, where we all got splashed by two huge waves. Definitely cold enough to wake us all up! Next, we paddled through the two craziest rapids of the trip– Last Chance and Tunnel Chute. Tunnel Chute is a man made, Class IV rapid that was unknowingly created in the 1800’s when gold miners blasted out the tunnel searching for gold. & only started being rafted in the past 40 years! It was so awesome to drop into hole and then shoot out into a dark tunnel. Almost everyone in the group said that it was their favorite rapid of the entire trip! But, thankfully, the day wasn’t over after Tunnel Chute. Two Class III rapids, Stick in the Eye and Bus Crash, followed and then we wrapped up the main whitewater portion of the day with Kanaka, a Class IV rapid. After lunch and an amazing side hike up a slot canyon (w/ a waterfall!), the dynamic duos of Bennett & Carter and Hayden & Alex piled into the inflatable kayaks to enjoy the Class II rapids. During this section, Gavin gave everyone in Shakira the opportunity to practice guiding the boat. Emily, with the encouragement of the entire boat, did a fantastic job navigating the rapids. As the afternoon went on, Keirin, Drew, and Will took over on the kayaks and everyone else was constantly jumping out of the rafts to enjoy the swimming pools between rapids. Once at camp, the group split up into teams for an intense game of land and river ultimate frisbee that was an absolute blast. Thanks to a pass from Bennett, Will scored the winning point for the team of Frances, Gracie, Bennett, Will, and Carter. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the river and playing Blaze-o, a game our guides introduced us to which is basically two person tug-a-war. It was so funny to watch!  We all ate an amazing dinner of chicken and steak pasta sitting around the rafts while watching the sunset…pretty ideal I must say!  Claire and Alex asked the group about their scariest moments in life during our Moonup around a beach campfire. The star views were amazing from the beach so the entire group slept outside! What a day on the river.
We all awoke on the river bank this morning  to the smell of a delicious breakfast the guides were cooking for us. So yummy! Then it was time for day 2 of rafting. After another hour of Class II fun (with 4 people piled into each of the kayaks), the river gradient increased and a chain of five IV-IV+ rapids resulted.  First up was Chunder– a 6 ft waterfall! After Chunder, we got out of the water and watched our empty rafts tumble down Ruck-a-Chunky Falls, a 30 ft waterfall.
It was so cool to watch but we were all glad to have taken the sideline for it. The day ended with three Class IV rapids in a row: Parallel Parking, Driver’s Ed, and Catapult. The Shakira boat even went down one of the rapids backwards! Once we completed the Class IV section, it was naturally time for some swimming to escape the 100 + degree heat. Luckily, our guides let us swim through one of the rapids, and I’m so glad every single person in the group decided to do it. It wasn’t great way to fed the day. Unfortunately, it was then time to say good bye to the American River so we waved goodbye to our guides and headed North to Shasta.  When we got our first glimpse of Shasta (100 miles away), the whole van literally erupted with excitement. We can’t wait to tackle this huge mountain that just towers above the surrounding region!

Tomorrow we have a prep day for Shasta, and then we’re off to start our summit bid. Send some good vibes our way the next couple of days. We’re all feeling great and can’t wait to give mountaineering our best shot!

Liz & David

Conquering backpacking!

June 25, 2016

Hello all! I know you’ve been patiently been waiting for a trip update, and I am SO excited to fill y’all in on what we’ve been up to the past week. Filled with stream crossings, clear blue skies, cascading waterfalls and multiple wildlife sightings, our backpacking section definitely left us feeling challenged but was an incredible way to experience the side of Yosemite that the majority of visitors don’t get to see. David and I are so proud of this group of novice backpackers; they stayed together as a group while hiking, had incredible expedition behavior and never complained, and simply just embraced the backcountry lifestyle to the fullest!
After a full day of prep, the group woke up on Sunday eager to fill their packs for the first time and hit the trail.  Everyone did a great job of getting packed quickly, and we all piled in the van for a 3 hour drive through the park. The second half of the drive brought a very different landscape and scenery than we’d seen yet so it only made us more excited to hit the trail and explore. Once at the Chilnualna Falls trailhead, David taught one last lesson on how to adjust our packs and boots, and then we were off! We knew the hike to the top of the falls was going to be a challenge as we had 4.2 miles to gain 2,300 ft, but Hayden (one of the LOD’s) set a great pace right from the start. Our other LOD, Gracie, encouraged the back of the group by telling the funniest stories that distracted us from the challenging terrain.  Within minutes, we were already getting our first taste of backcountry water at the bottom of the first in the set of the five waterfalls that make up Chilnualna Falls. After an afternoon filled with trail games while hiking, we made it to the top of the falls just in time to watch an amazing sunset.  The views were so expansive, and it was a great reminder of how much we had accomplished on our first day of backpacking!

After such a great first day, the group took the time to relax on day 2 by spending the entire day swimming and hanging out by the waterfall. The group eagerly bounced between swimming in different mini rapids and swimming holes. Towards the end of the day, everyone finally convinced Hayden and Carter to swim in the super chilly water and they loved it too! Definitely a day they’ll never forget.  That night, Frances and Claire absolutely crushed Italian style pizza bagels. Soooo good. Our LOD’s, Claire and Keirin, ended the night with Moonup while sitting on a rock overlooking an amazing sunset and the lights of Fresno over 50 miles away!

With Emma and Will leading the way, the group hit the trail again on day 3 for another uphill dominated day. But this group made the switchbacks look easy! Over the next 4 1/2 miles, Drew, Frances, and Emily impressed the group with their movie knowledge and continued to led the group in games all revolving around movies. We also encountered our first patch of snow on the trail! That night we camped in a beautiful alpine meadow and Emma, Emily, and Carter made some delicious chicken quesadillas for dinner. The sunset and stars were absolutely gorgeous at this campsite.

On day 4, we hiked from the meadow to Ostrander Lake, a beautiful alpine lake that sits at 8,500 ft. We experienced our first downhill section of the trail during first half of our hike but that quickly changed as we climbed over 1,500 ft in 3 miles towards the end of the day. As always, the group did great though!  Hayden and Frances did an amazing job navigating as LOD’s as this was the first day that we encountered multiple trail intersections. As we climbed Horizon Ridge, we had absolutely breathtaking views of the Clark Range to the north.  As our 6.4 mile day came to an end, we passed the Ostrander Lake Ski Hut that is a popular backcountry ski hut in Yosemite– we felt like we were bouncing between alpine huts in Europe and not in California! The water on the lake was totally still and crystal clear and the entire group instantly knew that we were just going to love this campsite!!

After a tough couple of days backpacking, David and I gave the group the option of either staying at camp to relax or to do a day hike up an adjacent ridge. Emma, Lily, Drew, Claire, Carter, and Alex took a rest day at camp to take full advantage of swimming in the crystal clear waters of Ostrander Lake. Claire was the first to jump in the water and pretty much spent the entire day in the lake. With a little encouragement from Alex, Drew was the next in! Frances, Emily, Gracie, Keirin, Hayden, Bennett, Will opted for the hike, and David led them to the top of Horse Ridge. They said the views were absolutely incredible (the pics I’ve seen are awesome!), and they were also happy to get in a little snowball fight at the top.  The lake crew loved watching their pals reach the summit. After another fun-filled day, Carter and Drew asked the group what their happiest moment was during Moonup.  Lily even said sitting at Ostrander Lake with this group and the amazing stars was one of hers!

Sad to leave the backcountry and part ways with Ostrander Lake, we slowly enjoyed one last breakfast, packed our packs one last time and hit the trail. Bennett and Lily led us out of the backcountry and the 6.2 miles to the trailhead absolutely flew by. It just showed how strong the group has gotten over the past couple of days. I think it’s safe to say we’re ready for Shasta! But before we made it to the vans, we got one last treat– a black bear sighting! It crossed the trail a ways in front of us, and the group handled it perfectly. Now we feel like we’ve really been to Yosemite. After we got to the trailhead, we loaded up the van to grab some burgers in Yosemite Valley to celebrate. The drive into the valley and the views of El Cap, Yosemite Falls, and Bridalveil Falls were truly jaw-dropping.  After exploring the valley (and getting some incredible views of Half Dome), we sadly said goodbye to Yosemite and headed to our campsite in Mammoth Lakes, CA.

Today, we’re headed to the American River right now and absolutely can’t wait to hit the water. Due to a wildfire blocking our drive to Lotus, we’re currently in Nevada. Yes, Nevada! Everyone is enjoying the couple of extra hours in the van and checking another state off our list (only Keirin and Alex had ever been to Nevada before).

We’ll be in touch once we’re off the river! The crew also wanted to give y’all some shoutouts:

Hayden- Hey Mom, Jimmy, and Murphy. We just got done backpacking, and it was so much fun.

Alex- Hey Mom and Dad, having a GREAT time. We are about to go rafting! So excited! See you soon!

Keirin- Hey Kaitlin and Mom, hope everything is going well. I’m having lots of fun. Miss you guys!

Gracie- Hey Mommy and Daddy! I’m having a great time! Love and miss y’all so much, give Rudy a hug for me!

Claire- Hey Mom, Dad, and Bean! Miss and love y’all so much, but I’m having so much fun!

Drew- Hey Mom, Dad, Jack, Hampton, and Caroline! I’m having a great time and I miss you. See ya soon.

Emily- Hey Mommy, Daddy, William and Lilly. I had an amazing time backpacking and rock climbing in Yosemite. I can’t wait to tell y’all about it! I love and miss y’all! See you soon!

Frances- Hey fam, I’m having a blast! Can’t wait to tell y’all about it. Miss y’all so much. See y’all soon. Love y’all.

Emma Clark- Hi Mom, Dad, & Davis! I’m having a great one out here. Backpacking was kind of hard, but it was really fun. I miss y’all so much, and can’t wait to see y’all soon!

Carter- Hey Mom and Dad! I love the west coast. I’m about to go rafting!

Will- Hey Mom, Dad, and John. I’m having a great time. Say hey to the fellas for me and tell Dad I say “what’s up”. Go cavs!

Bennett- Hey Mom, Dad, Cally, and Mercer. I’m having a great time. Tell everyone at home I say hey. See you soon!

Lily- Hey Mom, Dad, Taylor and Margot. Yosemite is amazing and I’m doing some pretty cool things! I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Miss you and see you back in the 908 soon!

David- Mom and Avery, I hope Iceland and Sweden have been cool. Dad, I hope you’ve been hitting the links… maybe you’ll be able to beat me when I get back.

Liz- Hey Mom and Dad, I hope Thomasville is great, and that y’all did something fun for Father’s Day! Maria and Anna Price, y’all have fun in DC!! Our whole group is jealous you are seeing the Dixie Chicks tonight— we’ve been listening to Goodbye Earl on repeat. Miss y’all and talk soon!

Belay on? Climb on, Yosemite!

June 19, 2016

We just finished up an awesome two days of rock climbing with Yosemite Mountaineering School!  Climbing on the granite, glacier- carved domes in one of the world’s greatest climbing areas has been such a treat.

Day 1 of our time in Yosemite was everything we anticipated and more.  Fueled by a delicious breakfast of yogurt and granola, we headed back into the park and met up with our guides (Aaron, Mark, and Nate) at Tuolumne Meadows. Armed with our climbing shoes, harnesses and helmets, we made the short hike up to Puppy Dome, which had an amazing view of Cathedral Peak and Lembert Dome.  Once at the crag, Nate led us on a “smearing traverse” where he told us how to look for holds and how to make the most of our climbing shoes.  It was our first taste of how challenging climbing on the granite was going to be– the holds are tiny feldspar knobs!  It was obvious how excited the group was for climbing when we split into groups on the 4 routes the guides set up. Bennett, Carter, Frances, and Emily literally couldn’t have rushed quicker to one of the routes when Nate said is was going to be the most challenging! Carter was the first to hook in and climb the route and absolutely crushed it. On the next route down, Hayden and Alex were instantly ready to help belay and this trend continued throughout the day; these guys are such team players!  Keirin was a little hesitant to climb but never once looked like he would give up. His determination radiated as he completed the “smear traverse” and later in the day when he completed his first pitch!

After we were all climbed out, we had the first of many photo shoots with a backdrop of Cathedral Peak. Seriously we just can’t get enough of these views!! After a full day in the park, we headed back to our campground at June Lake. We spent the rest of the day hanging out on the beach and even taking a dip in the chilly water! Bennett, Will, and David led the charge and they each jumped in multiple times to our amazement.  Somehow Claire and Frances convinced me to give it a shot too so we all three tumbled into the water shortly after the boys. After soaking up the sun a little longer, the cook crew of Alex, Gracie, and Carter made an amazing dinner of spaghetti with meat sauce that was enjoyed by all. Our awesome  LOD’s, Emily and Alex, closed another great day with Moonup and chose Frances and Carter as the next LOD’s.

On day 2 of our climbing adventure, we headed to DAF (Dome Across Fairfield) for a different of climbing–crack climbing! To start the day, David introduced the group to some rock climbing terms and our guides explained the Yosemite Decimal Scale, which is used to rate the difficulty of climbs. It was just another reminder how special Yosemite is to the sport of rock climbing! According the scale, our climbs on day 2 were a step up from the climbs the day before because we, of course, were ready for a challenge. We had two 5.9 routes and two 5.7 routes to conquer as opposed 5.6’s the day before. Drew, Emma, and Will impressed us all when they climbed a route that required them to do some very athletic moves up one of the cracks. Bennett, Emily, Frances,  and Gracie all completed The Great Circle, a 5.9 route that ran up a crack and then moved over glacier polished granite where the holds were SO hard to find. David and I were so impressed. The Great Circle crew along with Lily successfully completed the other 5.9 also! It was so fun to see Lily and Gracie realize their climbing abilities and push themselves to accomplish their goals of finishing the routes. Our entire group made it up at least one of the routes and was able to enjoy the spectacular views from the tops of the routes. Everyone also enjoyed watching David climb a 5.11 route towards the end of the day. We still don’t know how he did it– the route was over all glacial polished rock!

After climbing, we sat and enjoyed the view of Lembert Dome and got some amazing pictures. I don’t think the pictures will ever do the view justice though! The cook crew of Emma, Keirin, and Will had way too much fun experimenting in the kitchen with a southern classic– chicken and rice. It turned out great thanks to their Food Network level seasoning skills, and it definitely upped the competition for best meal (although everyone is partial to the meal they cooked themselves). Frances and Carter chose Will and Lily as the LODs for today due to their positive attitudes throughout the trip so far.

Today has been a prep day to get ready for backpacking, which we start tomorrow!! We drove back into the park this morning to convert our backcountry reservation to a permit. Our friend Ranger Ruben greeted us at the entrance, which made all of our days! At the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center, the group met Ranger Greg who told us all about backpacking ethic and what Yosemite meant to him. That, plus the lessons we taught while back at camp, just have us so excited to get started with our 6 -day backpacking section tomorrow!!

President Obama is in Yosemite this weekend but sadly no POTUS or secret service sightings yet. Maybe tomorrow when we drive closer to the valley.  We’ll talk to y’all next week when we’re out of the backcountry!

PS Happy Father’s Day from all of us to our dads!

-Liz and David




Hello from the Golden State!

June 16, 2016

Hello from the Golden State!! Even in just one full day, we’re already embracing the Cali lifestyle and are quickly becoming a tight knit group in the process. From airport intros/games to an unbelievable beach sunset to hanging ten in Pacifica, this group is making the most of every moment and has been an absolute blast to be around thus far. David and I can only imagine how great the next three weeks are going to be, but if the first day is any indication, we’re in for a treat. Let me fill you in on what we’ve been up to!

Yesterday, this savvy group of travelers successfully conquered the hectic SFO airport.  After much of the morning was spent getting to know each other while waiting on the entire group to arrive, we loaded up our van and headed on a very scenic drive to Half Moon Bay, our first night’s campsite.  As soon as we walked outside, everyone was instantly shocked with how great the weather was– sunny with a fantastic breeze– as it was a welcomed change to weather in the southeast where most of the group traveled from.  Once at camp, we learned how to set up our tents (our lovely homes for the trip) and then headed straight to the beach. The views from our campsite were breathtaking, and Alex even said that it was on one of the most beautiful campsites he’d ever been to. Bennett and Will instantly ran to the water to dip their feet in the Pacific and most of the group followed suite. We then played a game of look-up, look-down where the winners competed in a  Moondance-favorite  “Veggie Off”. Keirin, Hayden, Carter , Will, Claire and Drew all displayed their best versions of either sizzling squash, spastic cucumbers, or  clumsy carrots. They were all such great sports and absolutely hilarious to watch. Gracie then took the lead and introduced us to the game “Frogger” after we played a couple of rounds of telephone. David surprised the group with pizza from a local pizzeria for dinner, which was enjoyed by all. After dinner, we headed back to the beach to celebrate Frances’ 15th birthday!! She fought with the coastal breeze but ultimately won and was able to blow out her birthday candles on some yummy cupcakes! It was so fun to have a birthday to celebrate with new friends on our very first night. We finished the night with Moonup, a nightly tradition we close every day with here on Moondance, where David and I asked the question of “what is one  personal and group goal that you have for the trip?”. As leaders, it was so great to see that everyone’s group goals revolved around the themes of group inclusiveness and encouragement. David and I chose Drew and Bennett as the first Leaders of the Day (LODs), which is another daily Moondance tradition, based on their ability to make everyone feel so comfortable in a new environment.

On day 2 of our Yosemite trip, we woke up bright and early to make the most of our time on the coast. Ok, time to brag. This group got camp broken down so quickly that we even had time to play Birdie on a Perch, which was highlighted by the creativity of Will and Bennett, before leaving camp. We headed north up Highway 1 and met up with our surf instructors near Pacifica. Not even 5 minutes after unloading the van, we were lucky enough to see whales!! Grey whales are fairly common to the area during this time of the year (especially this year), and we even saw one whale breach directly in front of us!!

We suited up in some super cool wetsuits and were then ready to go. Our instructors briefed us on the 4 “P’s” of surfing, and Lily impressed everyone with her quick answers to all of their questions. They just couldn’t stump her!!  We all practiced how to pop up on the beach and Emma, Emily, Frances all practiced their coolest surfer poses too.  Priorities. The entire group did such a great job battling the Pacific and catching waves.  Bennett and Alex were up on waves before I even got out there!  I especially enjoyed watching Drew, Hayden, Carter and Keirin as they were all so determined to perfect their form. & they all four did just that! Claire and Lily even went body surfing after they were surfed out.

Sadly we had to say goodbye to the coast for now but are so happy to be in our trip’s namesake– Yosemite National Park. Carter even said  that he couldn’t decide if he liked the beach or mountain views better! But, man, we were awestruck by Yosemite’s natural beauty. The light grey, polished granite. The snow covered peaks. The way the sun was falling behind the peaks. I wish I could have counted the number of “wows” as we made every turn through the park. We even got our first glimpse of Yosemite Valley to the south and can’t wait to see it up close in a couple of days. We drove right by Lambert Dome and over Tioga Pass down to our campsite at June Lake. There, Hayden and Drew prepared us a beef burrito feast! Drew and Bennett closed out the day with Moonup and passed the LOD title to Emily and Alex for our first day of rock climbing.

We’ll be in touch again after getting a taste of what makes this climbing mecca so unique!!

-Liz & David