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Yosemite : 2 • July 8-July 28, 2016

Time Flies When You're Having Fun!

July 28, 2016

How is our trip already over?! Wait, that cannot be right. The past three weeks absolutely flew by, and I don’t think I’ve grasped the fact that our adventure is over quite yet. The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” must really be true. I’ll try my best to recount the last couple of days below, but you’re kiddos will have to fill in the rest. Our stories could go on and on, and I know that our memories from our summer exploring Northern California will last forever.  We just had such an incredible time and amazing group!!

After Shasta, we truly drove from the mountain to the sea as we have been spending the last couple of days soaking up the sun along the California coast. Whale sightings, some perfect waves, beach football– we’ve been living it up. We wrapped up an awesome surfing section on Tuesday and got to explore San Francisco yesterday.

After a great night’s sleep right across the beach, we headed up Highway 1 to Pacifica, CA, where we met up with our surf instructors at Linda Mar Beach. We got outfitted with wetsuits that instantly made us all feel like pro surfers. We then grabbed our boards and headed down to the beach for our lesson.  Joey taught us about the currents, the parts of the longboards, and how to pop up on the board.  We then all grabbed our boards, and it was time to “shred some gnar”. Spencer and Michael headed to “the outside” and got to show off their surfing skills on larger sets of waves. They were both so so good! The rest of the crew hung out on “the inside” and all did a fantastic job battling all the pretty rough waves. Charlotte and Blake took to surfing right away and were catching their first waves within minutes. I was lucky enough to spend most of the day watching through the lens of my camera, and Jack’s face when he stood up for the first time was absolutely priceless. By the end of the lesson, the entire group had gotten up at least once! That was quite a feat considering the size of the waves. After we were all surfed out, we headed back to Half Moon Bay where Blake cooked an Italian feast for us.

The next morning we woke up and the cook crew of Kieran, Spencer, and Nicole whipped up some breakfast burritos. Could we really spend 3 weeks in California without breakfast burritos? We then headed to the beach out our campsite for some football, which was highlighted by an almost interception turned touchdown by Kieran. It was them time to head back up to Linda Mar where we met up with our surf instructors for Day 2 of our lessons. Kein led the lesson today and started off by discussing the highs and lows of the day before. Once he gave us some feedback, he taught us some surf etiquette. He felt that everyone was prepared enough to head out to “the outside” today for the opportunity to catch some sets of waves. This also meant that we got to hang out and wait for waves while whale watching! Yep, there were whales breaching right on the horizon. Unreal. Mariah, Margo, MG, and Nicole spent the entire lesson laughing and smiling but still managed to catch waves too. Also a special shoot-out to Arthur for his determination surfing– it definitely paid off. Everyone did a fantastic job tackling the larger waves, and the instructors even told us at the end of the lesson that it was the most successful Moondance group they’ve ever taught. Kudos to this crew!

After the sun-filled afternoon, we enjoyed lunch while watching some locals surf some huge waves. Then it was off to the Goodwill “Boutique by the Beach” for some thrift shopping. It’s a Moondance tradition to buy crazy outfits and wear them out to dinner on the last night. Trust me, we made some great finds!! Naturally we started playing more football when we got back to Half Moon Bay and then cook crew treated us to the group favorite meal of the trip– chicken and rice. Jack and MG led us in Moonup to close another amazing day with the question of “what is your dream job?”

For our last full day together, we figured we should explore the city of San Francisco. While we took a break from surfing this time, we didn’t take a break from the California beaches as we headed to Baker Beach. We spent the entire afternoon there gazing at the Golden Gate Bridge, napping in the sun, and tossing around the football. We also loved walking around the scenic neighborhoods around the beach and enjoying views of the bay. We took the scenic Great Highway back to Half Moon Bay where we suited up in our banquet apparel. From Jack’s onesie to Michael’s baseball pant/crop combo to Blake’s patriotic denim jumper, the crew looked great! We enjoyed some authentic Mexican food at Tres Amigos in HMB and David and Kieran even tried the hottest peppers they had to offer! While the pepper challenge left David with tears rolling down his face after one bite, Kieran powered through the entire pepper! It was such a fun dinner and our entire table was filled with laughter the entire time– pretty representative of our trip.  After a crazy amount of ice cream consumption at Baskin Robins, we headed back to camp and onto the beach for Moonup. Mariah and Spencer did a fantastic job making our last Moonup special when they asked everyone their favorite memory of the trip. I also asked the group what lessons they’ve learned that will apply to their everyday life at home and everyone just had such powerful answers. Our last Moonup was just a time to reflect on the challenging times, the hilarious times, and the good times. As Nicole said, “I’ve never laughed harder in my life as I have on this trip”.  I couldn’t agree more!

These last three weeks have been absolutely incredible and that’s due to how awesome this group was. It’s scary to jump into a trip like this when it’s so different than your everyday life, but everyone in this group dove straight into the experience and flourished together through it. From practicing new leadership skills to gaining the confidence in themselves to learning to work in a group of people with different personalities, this group did it all and David and I could not be more proud of this group. I could go on and on. Thank you for sharing your kids with Moondance this summer because they each made a significant impact on me and made this summer one of my best summers yet.

YO2, you crushed it. Stay in touch. David and I miss you already.

-Liz & David

We did it!

July 25, 2016

A HUGE congratulations is in order for this stellar crew who all conquered the mighty volcano of Mt. Shasta.  I’m still in awe that we all made it up 14,179 ft to the summit together. David and I are seriously so proud of each and every person in our group. Wow! But, reaching the summit wasn’t the only awesome part of these past couple of days. Sunset at 50/50, glissading down 2,000 ft, sunrise below the Red Banks. It was all an unbelievable experience.  Let me share some details with you!

After a night at Orland Buttes, we continued our trek north to the quirky city of Mt. Shasta, CA (with a view of Mt. Shasta looming over us the entire drive!). We then picked up all of our mountaineering gear and did some much needed laundry. Then it was off to Lake Siskiyou, a beautiful lake with a panoramic view of Mt.  Shasta. We all decided to head straight to the lake where we broke into a game of girls vs. boys football.  Blake led the girls with a killer cheer to start the game and Nicole showed off her QB skills for the girls team. But, after a 30 yard run by Spencer and some crazy catches by Kieran, the boys definitely took the victory.  We couldn’t not swim in this amazing lake and even played around in the inflatable “splash zone” that they had set up. It was such a blast! We had a thanksgiving feast for dinner as we packed our backpacks once again.  Our LODs, Blake and Michael, closed the day with Moonup, and then it was another night sleeping underneath the stars. Our fifth in a row actually– the weather here is just too perfect not to sleep outside!

Finally, the start of our Shasta adventure. With Kieran and Charlotte leading the way as LODs, we broke camp quickly and headed into town to meet our awesome guides– JC, TL, Towner and Emily. They gave us a briefing on our next couple of days, checked out our gear, and gave us sooo many Clif bars.  After, we headed it to the Bunny Flat trailhead where we unloaded our backpacks and to started our hike to Horse Camp. Over the next 1.7 miles, we gained 1,000 ft of elevation. Once at Horse Camp, we got to see the Shasta Alpine Hut, a Shasta staple since 1922, and taste the amazingly fresh water that is piped down from further up the mountain.  We were lucky enough to get the best campsite at Horse Camp, which meant that we had an amazing view of the entire mountain! We spent the afternoon acclimating and just hanging our together. Our guides gave us a lesson on all of our mountaineering gear and then the cook crew of Mariah, Charlotte, Blake, and Michael made us an awesome dinner of penne alfredo. Naturally, we had Moonup while gazing up as the sunset over Mt. Shasta.

The next day we headed from Horse Camp to camp at 50/50, which sits at about 9,500 ft. The hike was over pretty steep scree slope and gained over 2,000 vertical feet. We passed the time with some crowd favorite riddles and enjoyed the views of the mountain and surrounding area as we climbed. Once at 50/50, we split into 2 groups for snow school. David, Margo, Kieran, Michael, Spencer, Nicole, and Mariah headed out with Emily and JC while Blake, MG, Charlotte, Arthur, Jack and I did snow school with TL and Towner. During snow school, we learned techniques for walking on snow and how to self belay, self arrest, and glissade. My group absolutely crushed snow school so we finished with a glissading game. David’s group also did great job and ended with a group glissade train that was hilarious to watch. After snow school, our LODs (Arthur and Nicole) did an awesome job leading the group in melting snow for water. Trust me, this is no easy task when you’re melting snow for 13 people!! Special shoutout to Jack, MG, and the cook crew of Nicole, Kieran and Spencer for helping out! Since we had such a early wakeup call the next morning, we enjoyed an early dinner (courtesy of MG) and Moonup. Nicole and Arthur asked us the very fitting question of “what is the greatest challenge that you’ve ever experienced?” We all knew that Shasta was going to be a challenge so it was a great reminder of what other challenges in life we’ve been able to overcome. Then in was off to get a couple hours of sleep before the big summit day!

Just before 2 am, we crawled out our tents, were met by the crisp air, and all knew that it was time to climb. There’s really nothing like a true alpine start! Lit by the stars and our headlamps, we started climbing towards our first landmark of the day, Lake Helen. During the first two hours of the ascent, we climbed about 2,000 vertical feet through snowcups, a surface feature on the snow due to melting, which only made the climb more challenging. Shortly after Lake Helen we split into 4 rope teams that we stuck to for the rest of the day: JC, Kieran, Michael and Spencer; Towner, Charlotte, Blake and Jack; TL, Margo, MG, Arthur and Liz; and Emily, Nicole, Mariah, and David. The next section was the crux (i.e. hardest) part of the Avalanche Gulch route due to it being by far the steepest. During this section, we got to watch the most amazing sunrise ever. Shades of purple, pink, orange and blue scattered the sky along with the shadow of the cone of Mount Shasta. It was magnificent. We couldn’t quite see the summit yet, but we at least knew it was up there thanks to the majestic shadow cast! All of the rope teams climbed up one of the Red Bank chimneys, and we all met up at the Thumb, which sits at about 13,000 ft. At the Thumb, we were treated to amazing views of the north side of the mountain as well as a view of what stood between us and the summit. Finally! The next obstacles were Short Hill and Misery Hill, which were both a challenge for everyone due to their elevation. But of course they were nothing this crew couldn’t tackle! From there, everyone could taste the summit, and we continued to cruise through the Football Field and on to the summit. At the top, we all enjoyed the views 100’s of miles into the distance, took plenty of summit selfies, and snacked on our summit snickers bars. We didn’t spend very long together on the summit but even the couple of minutes together allowed us to truly celebrate our success as a group.  We didn’t want to leave the summit but ultimately had to start the descent. After countless plunge steps, we made it to the Thumb where we could start glissading. Shoutout to Margo for leading my group down– she literally couldn’t have done a better job and our guide was super impressed. MG, Nicole, and Mariah especially had a blast sliding down the mountain, and they were so fun to watch. In all, we were able to glissade about 2,000 feet. Once we were back at 50/50, we packed camp and continued to the van. We did it! After soaking in what we had just accomplished and taking so more pictures, we celebrated with some much deserved pizza and then this crew immediately went to sleep.

We slept in this morning before hitting the road to head south. We waved goodbye to Shasta in our rear view mirror and jammed out to music courtesy of DJ’s job Nicole, MG, and Blake all day. I can’t believe we were sleeping 10,000 ft up on a mountain yesterday, and now we’re listening to the waves crash on the beach as we sit in our tents in Half Moon Bay.

We can’t wait to hit the waves tomorrow and we’ll update you once we are surfing pros!

-Liz and David

The crew wanted to give you some shoutouts:

Nicole- Hi guys! I’m having the best time!  Mom, I made it to the summit of Shasta because of you. Buddy, I’m still looking for a sword! Dad and Nunu, how’s Oak? Love you guys!

Mary Grace- Hi Mom and Dad! I’m having so much fun & kiss y’all so much. Happy Birthday, Dad! Tell Ford, Mark, Max, and the B’s that I miss them 🙂 Can’t wait to see you all when I get home!

Blake- Fam! I miss you all, but I’m having the best time ever. This trip is literally sooooo cool. Also, happy birthday, Mama! I love you! Can’t wait to see everyone soon 🙂

Jack- Hey Mom and Dad! I’m having a great time and can’t wait to tell you about the trip. Tell Caroline that I hope she had a great time on her trip, and that I’m so proud of her for making it to the top of Kili.

Spencer- Hi Mom, Dad, Tommy, and Bella! I have been having the time of my life on Moondance. I just summited Mt. Shasta and don’t throw up at the top like Tommy. I am excited to come home and see everyone.

Kieran- Hey Mom, Dad, and Lily! I’m having so much fun here and can’t wait to tell you all about the amazing adventures. I made it to the summit of Mt. Shasta, and that is just one of the most amazing parts of the trip. I can’t wait to see you all again!

Mariah- Hello family! I’m having the greatest time on this trip. Y’all can’t even imagine everything we’ve been able to do! This has been a wonderful experience. I miss y’all and cannot wait to tell y’all about it! Oh, and see you soon too Marn.

Charlotte- Hi Mom and Dad! I’m having such a fantastic time and cannot wait to tell you about it. Happy belated birthday, Dad! I hope you had an awesome day. See you guys soon!

Michael- Hey guys! This trip and everything we’ve done has been amazing. I’m having so much fun and can’t wait to tell everyone about it. Make sure to tell Dory and Dixie that I miss them!

Arthur- Hey Mom! This trip has opened the door to a brand new world for me. Everything we’ve done has been absolutely amazing. Remember to cherish your showers! I’ll see you soon!

Margo- Hi Mom, Dad, and Char! I miss you all a bunch, but I’ve been having an outstanding time out here that I can’t imagine being in Chicago for the past 3 weeks. All 13 of us summited Mt. Shasta– SO amazing! I love you each bunches. Love, Margo

David- Hey Mom, I put coconut oil in my coffee and pasta now. Can’t wait to see you guys!

Liz- Hey Mom, Dad, Anna Price, and Maria! I am so excited to see y’all in the mountains soon. Maria, we need to go back and do Shasta together.  It was amazing!

Yosemite Backpacking!

July 20, 2016

Hello again!

What has the Yosemite crew been up to for the past week? Well, let me fill you in!

We just left Yosemite after an amazing 6 days exploring the backcountry– something only a small percentage of visitors to Yosemite get to experience each year. Our backpacking section was filled with fields of wildflower, starry skies, and stunning views of the glacial carved landscape. David and I are so proud of our group for persevering through the challenging uphill sections and embracing the backcountry experience to the fullest. This group continues to grow closer and work as a team so seamlessly, which is going to be a huge asset for us on Shasta. Wow, they just continue to amaze us!

On Thursday, with Mariah and Michael leading the way as LODs, we packed our backpacks for the first time and parted ways with June Lake. We then enjoyed a very scenic drive through the park where we were able to get our first glimpse of El Capitan and Half Dome.  Once at the Chilnualna Falls trailhead, we buckeled our backpack straps, pulled out our trekking poles, and hit the trail for a 4.2 mile hike (& 2,300 ft of elevation gain!) to the top of Chilnualna Falls.  The views were incredible and amazingly only continued to get better as we climbed towards our campsite.  When we weren’t hiking, we were enjoying breaks next to sections of the 5-tiered waterfall.  At our last rest stop of the day, David, Spencer, and Michael opted to take a quick swim in an “infinity pool” swimming hole. Seriously it didn’t look real it was so beautiful! Special shoutout to Mariah for her fantastic leadership keeping the back of the group entertained and motivated by her hilariously unreal stories that she shared the entire 5 hours it took to reach camp. Once at the top of the falls, we set up our tents straight on the granite so our view wasn’t blocked by the tree line. What a great first day and night  in the backcountry!

Since we didn’t reach the top of the falls until almost dark on day 1, we had to explore the area the next morning.  It was not hard to find a swimming hole (with a cascading waterfall flowing into it) that was large enough for all of us and everyone instantly jumped in. We even used our sleeping pads as floats and spent the afternoon swimming and soaking up the sun, which was much needed when you exited the chilly water. After getting our fill of the lower swimming hole, we decide to explore a little more further up the falls. Thankfully we found an amazing spot and made a group decision to name the spot, Moonpool. Naturally. Later we even found out that this spot was usually a secret reserved just for the locals! At Moonpool, we all took turns jumping into the deep pothole after David tested the waters. Jack was the first to hop in and everyone else followed suite. Potentially the coolest part of Moonpool was the waterfall (complete with a mini rainbow) and sliding rock, which we all took turns playing in also. Just wait until you see the pictures!!   That night, cook crew treated the group to chicken stir fry. After, the group enjoyed Moonup overlooking the lights of Fresno and went to sleep eager for a big next day.

Happy 17th birthday to Mariah! The crew woke up and surprised Mariah with balloons, a birthday banner and even some backcountry cupcakes. After the birthday fun, the group hit the trail with Kieran and the birthday girl leading the way. After about 2 miles of hiking, David gave the group the option to continue 4 miles to our intended campsite or to head all the way to Ostrander Lake, which was about 10 miles away. This group of go-getters naturally went for option #2 and absolutely crushed it. They were rewarded with wildflower-filled meadows, scenic rest stops, and sunset on Horizon Ridge. Once at Ostrander, the cook crew of Spencer, Mariah, Charlotte, and Arthur made some much needed mac and cheese after a very long day of hiking.  At Moonup, everyone reflected on how rewarding the 12 mile day was. As MG said, if we can hike 12 miles in one day, we can do anything! That night, eveyone opted to slept underneath the stars and enjoy the view of Ostrander Lake that was illuminated thanks to an almost full moon. What a spot!

A little tired from the day before, the group slept in before the cook crew of MG, Jack, and Michael made some delicious M&M pancakes for breakfast. The rest of the morning was spent swimming in the lake and laying out on the huge granite boulders. After some relaxing, David, Charlotte, Blake, Arthur, Jack, Kieran, Michael, and Spencer decided to hike up Horse Ridge, which sits at about 9,000 feet and towers over Ostrander Lake. Jack took one for the team and carried everyone’s stuff without anyone even asking him– what a team player! Based on the stories when they returned, it was an awesome experience filled with some rock scrambling and killer views of the surrounding area (including the southeast side of Half Dome!). Our LOD’s, Nicole and Arthur, led us in Moonup in a sleeping bag circle, which soon became our staple for the next couple of nights.

With Jack and MG leading the way, we woke up to another sunny day ready to explore more of the Ostrander Lake area. But first, we enjoyed a little riddle time, which Blake and Arthur solved in no time at all. Then we all headed out on a hike to explore the eastern side of Horse Ridge in hopes of seeing more of the amazing views the day hike crew had seen the day before. It was also an awesome opportunity to hike at altitude to better prepare us for Shasta. Once we were above the tree like, the views were jaw dropping. Don’t worry, we took lots of pictures!! The cook crew of Margo, Kieran, Nicole, and Blake made some delicious jambalaya that made me feel like I was back at school in Louisiana. At Moonup, it was obvious to me how close this group has become. We do this thing called the “nug jug” each night where group members have the opportunity to give little shout outs for special things that an individual does during the day. Everyone had SO many nugs to give which is just a huge reflection on how great this group is! David also led a reading about re-entering the “more harsh” environment of the front country where we were able to pinpoint what tangible lessons we can bring back from the backcountry.

On our last morning in the backcountry, we woke up early in order to make the most of our day. Spencer and Margo led the way for the speedy 6.5 mile descent back to our van.
It felt weird to wave goodbye to our backcountry home, but we weren’t done exploring Yosemite yet. Once we were reunited with Marge & Todd (our van and uhaul), we headed up the road to Glacier Point where we were able to get a closer look at the granite domes we’d been staring at from the distance for the past couple of days. The views of Yosemite Valley truly surpassed our extremely high expectations. It was incredible, and you can’t really comprehend the scale of the valley features without seeing it from this vantage point. But, we still wanted the group to experience the culture of Yosemite Valley so we headed down to feast on some much deserved burgers in Curry Village.  We were able to get closer looks at Half Dome and point out some of the famous climbing routes in the valley. Sadly it was then time to part ways with the park and head north to Orland Buttes, where we camped next to Blake Butte Lake.

I think it’s safe to say we truly experienced Yosemite National Park to the fullest!

On the road this morning, we already have views of snow covered Mt. Shasta towering over the landscape! We absolutely can’t wait to start our attempt tomorrow morning after a day of prep today. We’ll update you once we’re off the mountain!

Talk soon,
Liz and David

Conquering the slabs of Yosemite

July 14, 2016

Our past two days rock climbing in Tuolumne Meadows have been an absolute blast. Climbing on glacially polished granite has also been a challenge but there is no better way to learn how to climb! This group definitely made the most of rock climbing and impressed our guides with both their climbing skills and overall excitement for climbing; our guides even said that our group was the best large group they’ve ever worked with! Today we’ve been prepping for backpacking and can’t wait to head a little deeper into the park.

On day 1 of rock climbing, we met up with our guides, Mark and Jeff, at Puppy Dome, which offered amazing views of Lembert Dome and Cathedral Peak. Sporting our sticky rubber climbing shoes, we hit the rock where we were taught how to smear and edge while traversing a small section of the wall. Charlotte impressed the group right away with her climbing techniques and used her previous climbing experience to help out the group throughout the rock climbing section. With the basic techniques under our belts, we split up into teams of four to attempt the four different routes our guides set up for us. Charlotte, Michael, and Spencer raced to the hardest route and all climbed it with ease. Next down the line were Blake, Mariah, and MG. All three girls were constantly encouraging the other climbers, while also doing some great belaying and climbing themselves. Arthur, who had never been climbing before, was very excited but nervous to give climbing a shot. With the encouragement of Jack and Claire, he was cruising up the granite slab in no time at all.

After everyone in the group was all climbed out, we waved goodbye to the park and headed back to June Lake. We headed straight down to the beach to learn a little about different types of leadership and then broke into teams for a little football. After a pretty intense game with this athletic crew, the girls ultimately won. To celebrate, they all ran into the chilly water of June Lake.

That night the cook crew of Claire, Michael, Jack, and MG  made us a delicious dinner of Brunswick Stew. Or LODs, Nicole and Arthur, led us in Moonup to close the night and picked Jack and Charlotte as our next LODs.

We woke up early on day 2 of rock climbing, excited to head into the park. We met up with our guides and headed a little farther into the park to Dome Across Fairfield (DAF). The group conquered a challenging uphill hike to the crag, which was made even more difficult by the elevation of about 8,500 ft. Nonetheless, this group was ready to try a different kind of climbing– crack climbing as opposed to slab climbing the day before. We mixed up the groups a little today, and Claire was the first to attempt one of the hardest routes of the day. The hardest move is at the base of the climb and Claire demonstrated some serious determination before ultimately conquering the move. The group of Charlotte, Spencer and Jack were the first trio to complete The Great Circle, a 5.9 rated climb that follows a crack before becoming a completely smooth section with extremely limited hand and foot holds. After seeing the first group love The Great Circle, Jack and Kieran wanted to give it a shot. They flew up the route and demonstrated to everyone how they’d mastered their rock climbing techniques in just 2 days.

Continuing the trend of using our rock climbing time to the fullest, Charlotte even climbed through our lunch break! We all ate lunch at probably the most beautiful lunch spot known to man– a flat granite bench to sit on, panoramic views of Fairfield Dome, and a glimpse at the back of Cathedral Peak. It just looked like a painting! After lunch, it was back to more crack climbing. The Tri-Squad of Margo, Mariah, and MG decided to tackle a challenging 5.7 route that required some very technical moves to get over a large protruding slab. Their encouragement to each other was amazing, and they took the phrase “the best climber is the one having the most fun” to the fullest.

After a photoshoot in front of our panoramic lunch spot, we headed back down Tioga Pass to June Lake. Once at camp, Blake taught us all some of her killer dance moves, and it was hilarious to watch us all attempt them. That night the cook crew of Kieran, Margo, Nicole and Blake made some delicious mac and cheese that we all enjoyed fireside. Another great day in Yosemite!

Today was a prep day for backpacking so we slept in and then made a big front country breakfast prepared by Mariah, Charlotte, Arthur and Spencer. After breakfast, we headed into Yosemite once more to obtain our backcountry permit. At the ranger station, we were also able to speak to Ranger Heather as a group, and it was great to hear her tell us how we can do our own part in preserving the park. Then, it was back to camp to learn everything we needed to know for backpacking. This crew rocked the duffel shuffle, and packing our backpacks for the first time made everyone so excited for the next 6 days ahead of us.

We’ll touch base with you again after an awesome six days exploring the alpine lakes of the Yosemite backcountry.  I know this crew is going to do great!

Talk soon,

Liz and David

Splashing Down the American River

July 11, 2016

Hello all! We just got off the American River after two full days of rafting filled with sunny skies, huge whitewater, and the best blackberries of our lives. As we are driving towards Yosemite, I can’t help but forget this group has only known each other for 3 days… it feels like we’ve all known each other for years!! I guess there is nothing like bonding while cruising down a river! David and I are already so impressed by each and every person in the group and can only imagine how great the next 2 1/2 weeks are going to be. We literally can’t wait!  Let me rewind to Day 1 to fill y’all in on what we’ve been up to.

Despite being pretty tired by early wake-up calls, the entire group was pumped to get to know each other right away, and we spent the entire time at the airport chatting it up before we hit the road north to Camp Lotus. On the way out of town, we even got a sight of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Once at camp, we feasted on pizza and learned how to set up our tents, our lovely homes for the next three weeks. David and I gave the group an introduction to the nightly tradition of Moonup and passed the torch of Leaders of the Day (another Moondance classic) to Margo and Michael based on their energy and overall positivity throughout the first day.

After a fantastic first night’s sleep and a quick breakfast, we hit the road to Foresthill, CA (which included a drive through the town of Cool, California!) where we met up with our rafting guides Kenny, Stephen, and Wyatt. We suited up in our life jackets and headed to our put-in at Oxbow. There we split into our three boats: Quad Squad (Wyatt, Mariah, Claire, Spencer, and Kieran), Calibung Squad (Stephen, David, Jack, Blake, Nicole, and Margo) and The Bomb Squad (Kenny, Arthur, Michael, Charlotte, MG, and Liz). Within minutes of getting on the water, we were already testing our paddling skills with the first Class III rapid of the trip, Cold Cup of Coffee. All of the boats passed the test with flying colors and were ready for the most intense rapids of the day– Last Chance and Tunnel Chute. The water flow was really high (the American is a dam released river), which made these rapids even more fun than usual! Tunnel Chute is a man-made rapid that was created on accident for gold miners back in the 1800’s.  All the boats hit the rapid perfectly: three huge waves, two narrow turns with rushing water, and then popping out into the tunnel. It was a crowd favorite to say the least! Next up we had three Class III rapids: Stick In The Eye, Three Kings, and Bus Crash. In The Bomb Squad, MG and Michael rocked the front of the raft, set the paddling pace, and definitely got the most water splashed their way. After such a jam-packed morning, we pulled our rafts over for a riverside lunch and then some Class II floating. We also had the opportunity to hike up this beautiful slot canyon, which is pretty unusual for the area. With Spencer leading the way, it felt like we were hiking through the jungle as we trekked over rock and water with tree cover all above us.  At the end we reached a beautiful waterfall! After some more floating down the river, we reached camp where we competed in some fierce games of Blazo, which is basically tug of war! Jack was the champion within the Moondancers, but our guide Kenny ultimately reigned supreme. We enjoyed dinner while sitting on the rafts, which was a first for everyone in the group. That night, Margo and Michael led us in Moonup before the entire group slept underneath the stars (another first for half of the group!)

With Spencer and MG as LODs, we were pumped for another day of whitewater! We were in the same boats as the previous day and spent the morning going through another Class II section. It was very windy going through the flat water but our group and their strong paddle skills still cruised down the river. At our lunch spot of Canyon Creek we got to go on another sweet side hike! Claire and Michael guided us up the trail and we ended up at a huge swimming hole and waterfall! After lunch we headed into one of the best continuous Class IV sections in the country. First up was a 6-foot waterfall, Chunder! After portaging around a 30 ft waterfall, Ruck-a-Chucky Falls, we cruised through Parallel Parking, Driver’s Ed, and Catapult. Calibung Squad and The Bomb Squad got to surf our boats in Driver’s Ed! It was so fun! Catapult was another crowd favorite rapid. There is one huge wave which, as the name suggests, catapults you into a deep hole, where water just swamps you. So fun!! After the Class IV section, everyone in the group jumped into the chilly water to swim a rapid together! Not wanting the day to end, we pulled over to the side of the river for some blackberry picking. Blake even said they were the best blackberries she’s ever had! A special shout-out goes to Arthur and Charlotte for jumping off the boats and picking loads of blackberries for everyone. Another shout-out goes to the Quad Squad for paddling a man down the entire trip– not an easy task on these huge rapids. Nicole then led group across the river to hang out on a rocky beach and bask in the sun a little longer.

What a great start to our trip! Next up, we’re headed to our trip’s namesake, Yosemite, and rock climbing in the famous Tuolumne Meadows. We’ll update you again after we’ve learned the ropes of rock climbing!

Liz and David