June 27, 2017
After our speedy end to backpacking, we treated ourselves to our first showers at the Pinedale aquatic center! Once getting squeaky clean we headed back to Jackson Hole and made camp. After a thorough cleaning of the van and U-Haul we hopped back in to head to Jackson for some well deserved souvenir shopping. Before getting to town, we stopped at the picturesque Jackson Hole barn and snapped some award winning shots.
We all pigged out at Moe’s barbecue for banquet dinner and celebrated (again!) Douglas and Kaitlyn’s birthdays with some banana pudding and mud pies.
We headed back to camp both excited and sad for our final moon up. Douglas and Knox, our leaders of the day, led a very long and thoughtful final debrief, the perfect ending to a great two weeks.
We said our goodbyes in the wee hours of the morning surrounded by the beautiful Tetons.
Parents, we want to reiterate how grateful we are for this group of kids. Each one is incredibly polite, respectful, kind, and a whole bunch of fun. Isaac continuously wowed us with his technical skills in every aspect of our trip, but even more impressive were his leadership skills and willingness to help. Meg was a trooper throughout the whole trip, and never once had a complaint or negative thought. Patrick was consistently the life of the party, keeping us laughing in the early mornings and late at night. Knox was super positive and always encouraged the group. Although she had to leave early, Reese was incredibly kind and always looking out for others. Chris was a great leader and showed others the Moondance way right from the start. Kaitlyn impressed us each night with her wise answers to Moonup questions. Phillip was extremely helpful on the backpacking portion by picking up extra weight whenever anyone was feeling a bit tired. Lauren kept the group laughing all the time, and overcame her fear of heights while climbing. Douglas also constantly made the group laugh, and we loved when he taught us how to shot put rocks into the Salmon River. Anna, or as we like to call her “Sweet Anna” was exactly that, sweet as can be, always showing her big kind heart and being the first the help out.
These kids made this trip easy and fun, and we have truly become a close unit. We cannot wait to hear about all the wonderful things they do in the future and hope they know the Moondance family is always here for them.
Over and and out, Big Wild 1B!
June 26, 2017
Hello to all the Big Wild 1B parents!
First and foremost we would like to tell you all that it has been a pleasure leading your children around the western United States. It has been incredible to see them grow as individuals by making lasting friendships with the other students as well as facing similar fears such as rock climbing, rafting, and back country backpacking. Each one of them has embraced all the challenges of this trip with poise and maturity well beyond their age.
These trip updates cover the back country backpacking section: Let’s go!
After rafting the Salmon, we divided the drive back to the Jackson area in to two days. The first night we stayed at a campground at 3 Island Crossing State Park in Idaho. That evening we played some ultimate frisbee, hiked around, and ate a very delicious meal comprised of some chicken and healthy broccoli. After dinner we had s’mores and enjoyed the rest of our evening basking in the glow of a warm sunset with full stomachs ready to embark on the challenge that lay ahead of us. The leaders of the day, Isaac and Kaitlyn, decided to ask a more meaningful question for Moonup which was a nice change from the previous silly questions. Their question was, “what is a defining moment in your life?” This was a great question because everyone got to open up and share their emotions and allowed us to bond even more before we set off into the back country. It is safe to say we all laid our heads on our pillows that night with a stronger sense of family and it cemented to us leaders that we had a very special group of students.
We woke up early and got ready for our five and a half hour drive to Grow Ranch which is near Pinedale, Wyoming. Lauren and Douglass kept the positive energy flowing on our drive by creating a musical playlist that everyone enjoyed! I am proud to go back home at the end of the summer and have some more common ground with my younger friends and cousins in regards to their music taste. These students have definitely opened our eyes to the new hot music trends of 2017! *Billboard Top 100 is by far getting the most air time.
Before arriving at Grow, we stopped at the Great Outdoor fly shop in Pinedale and everyone got their fishing licenses. Some of the students got flies while others picked up some knick knacks to bring home with them at the culmination of our trip. It was enjoyable to watch these students navigate the store with better knowledge about all the gear that they had in stock after using some of it the past week on the earlier sections of our adventure. If your child comes home and asks for some money to head to their local camping store please know I do not take responsibility for their new-found love of gear.My buddy Chris didn’t just get fly fishing supplies, but he also got a pocket knife which has become his most prized possession and he has put it to great use helping us out with cook crew each night. We left the store and piled into our van and headed to Grow! When we arrived we quickly set up camp and got ready for our adventures into the back country. As the sky slowly turned from blue to black the students really started to understand how special these relationships they were fostering really were. Everywhere you looked you could see them helping one another with tents, engaging in meaningful conversation, practicing new handshakes, and my personal favorite just sitting and looking up in silence as the stars came out one by one. We finished the night with a thoughtful Moonup and headed off to sleep with thoughts of excitement as we knew we only had one more sleep before heading into the wild!
We got up and started organizing our big backpacks for our adventures into the back country. Our trail guide, Zack, lead us on a bumpy road about an hour away from Grow, which would be our entry point into the Wind River Range. As we approached our entry point the energy of our students shifted from telling jokes and messing around to more a quiet respect for the landscape they saw rising up above them. Even us leaders were in awe of what we were about to embark and we could not have been more ready!
As we exited the van and put our packs on it all became real! Each student helped one another put their packs on as we distributed final group gear and food. It was rewarding to watch each student step up and ask for more responsibility in regards to holding more gear from the group. The selflessness of this group is something I have not ever seen before in a group of children and it has been so revitalizing to see this and has definitely impacted myself, Cecilia, and Will for the better. Your children are without a doubt teaching us as well.
The hike was not without its trials and tribulations but not one student complained as we hiked 5 miles with everything we owned strapped to our backs! Meg and Phillip did an incredible job motivating others (me included) and lead the group to the trail head where we set up camp for the night. We cooked an incredible dinner which consisted of meats and veggies to replenish the energy we lost on our hike. No student went to bed hungry to say the least! As the students reminisced about the day it was easy to feel the sense of accomplishment in their voices and the tenacity to embrace the challenge of the next day! I know this trait will carry with them far past their time with Moondance. As a Moondance leader that is something we all wanted to instill in these students and I am proud to say we are doing it!
As the night came to a close Knox and Patrick came up with several fun and thoughtful questions for Moonup. The laughs shared in that circle will be remembered for a lifetime. My stomach still hurts as I am writing this from all the laughing.
We woke up with the sun and ate some delicious back country chocolate chip pancakes. We also did some water purifying lessons by filling up our water bottles with snow melt stream water, then putting iodine in the bottles to purify the water. It took a little coercing to get everyone to drink all the water after it was purified as the taste did not sit well with most students. However, Anna did enjoy the taste and did her best job lobbying to the group that it didn’t taste that bad. Her enthusiasm could not be shaken. She and some of the other students also practiced their fly fishing skills and had fun casting in brookie water. To see them light up when we told them they could practice was something us leaders will remember forever, seeing them take ownership of their free time in a productive way is something we could all take a lesson from.
The hike this day was challenging but everyone had the same mindset of supporting each other and completing the trek together! The sense of accomplishment would overcome all their soreness and any negative thoughts they might have had during our 8 mile excursion. Our team was ready to eat after our hike and Knox, Issac, and Meg whipped up some hearty quesadillas that pleased everybody! As we stuffed our faces night slowly crept in on us and we called it a night after a heartfelt Moonup.
We slept in a little bit and after everybody was awake we decided that we wanted to finish up the route! Phillip took charge and was in the lead position on the trail and with his constant motivation and humor we crushed the final 6 miles and finished up the route in just a few hours. We made it back to Grow in plenty of time to set up camp in a beautiful meadow filled with dandelions, Lupine, and Indian paintbrush. We also had a chance to fly fish in the Grow Ranch stocked ponds. Chris, Anna, Issac, and Patrick couldn’t get enough of the fly fishing! Patrick caught a sucker fish which was kind of humorous, but we were all proud of him! We decided to cook pita bread pizzas for dinner and load up on calories as our legs definitely needed it! After dinner we had a great Moonup consisting of laughter and admiration for each person in the group.
With full stomachs and a sense of sadness that this trip will soon be over we are headed to the Grow Venture campsite to set up camp. Once camp is set up we will then indulge in a town day in Jackson! The students are ecstatic and we promise to keep them in line!
We are very sad that the students will be leaving us soon but please know we are so grateful for the time we got to spend with each and every one of them. We know that they have truly had a trip of a lifetime. They have definitely impacted us leaders in a profound way and if any of them ever need anything in the future we hope you let us know.
With great sincerity,
Ben, Cecilia, Will
June 21, 2017
Greetings to all the Big Wild 1B parents!
First of all, we want to brag about all of the students with us on this incredible trip. Each and every one of them has expressed copious amounts of courage, and a willingness to overcome their fears and anxieties during this leg of the trip. We could not be prouder of them!
We started our journey to the Salmon River fairly early. The drive was lengthy; however it was much needed in order for everyone to rest from the previous two days of climbing rocks! We finally rolled into our beautiful, lakeside campsite located in Ponderosa State Park around dinner time. The campsite was very accommodating considering it was equipped with bathrooms and showers (woohoo!). Douglas, Philip, and Anna were in charge of “cook crew” this night, cooking and serving the rest of the group an amazing fried rice meal with lots of fresh vegetables. As one of the leaders of the day, Lauren blew us away with her ability to lead a group of people she has only known for a few days with ease. She mostly proved her leadership skills during moonup by conducting a debrief of the day with the group.
We drove to the boat launch to begin our four-day rafting adventure the next morning. The day started off a little wet, as one of the rafts turned over into the water, waking up a few members of our group. The beautiful nature about this event was that it brought our entire group together. It actually turned out to be Reese’s favorite part about the entire day, which made the whole experience worthwhile. She was able to overcome her fears of whitewater and learn to love and respect a river’s strength and beauty all within the same day! After rafting for a few hours, the rafting guides seemed completely stunned at the amount of knowledge Isaac held within his head about kayaking, rafting, and rivers in general. It was very impressive to say the least. It was finally time to wind down our day of rafting as we parked our rafts on a sandy, beach campsite for the night. The guides, along with our unbeatable cook crew for the day, cooked a delectable meal of spaghetti & meatballs, garlic bread, and salad. We even had peach cobbler cooked the right way…..in a Dutch oven!
We woke up in our tents, still dreaming about the sky littered with millions of stars the night before. The day started off with a hearty breakfast of pancakes, eggs, yogurt, and fruit. As you can tell, food is not scarce on these rafting trips! The temperature outside contrasted against the chilly water by rising up to almost ninety degrees! Several of us, as well as a few guides, went on a challenging hike up to a system of caves on the side of a mountain that was next to one of our break spots on the river. Two girls that really stood out to us on this hike were Kaitlyn and Anna. They both looked like seasoned veterans as they made their way up the steep slope to discover a few caves filled with extremely chilly, natural pools that looked like they should be in a National Geographic magazine. The rest of our time on the water consisted of big rapids that the guides expertly led us through. Everyone seemed to love getting splashed and testing out their paddling skills. The day was coming to an end as we pulled up to our campsite-a beautiful beach right beside a very still stretch of water so everyone could get their swimming in! Philip and Meg blew us away with their willingness as leaders of the day to continuously play games in the cold water, which proved to bring our entire group together as one.
The next day was a very relaxing float, with not too many rapids. We played fun raft games like “chicken” and “riding the bull” as we floated through the easy-flowing water. Patrick quickly became Luke’s, one of the guides, favorite member of his raft as Patrick told incredibly funny jokes and set the pace for the other members of his group as they paddled. Another strong member of the Moondance family today was Knox. We noticed that she only had words of encouragement to say. She proved to be one of our most valuable group members as she called out the numbers of our paddle strokes and acted as a solid leader when she repeatedly encouraged the group. The campsite on this night was very nice, as well as the food. Dinner consisted of chicken fajitas with rice, beans, salad, and scrumptious brownies for dessert. Our moonups continue to get better and better, and we believe one of the contributing factors to that is Douglas’s wise, composed nature. He maturely, and sometimes comically, contributes his thoughts to the group.
The last day of rafting was off to an early start, as our cook crew for the day along with a handful of guides helped prepare breakfast for the group. Today was possibly our shortest day of rafting, but we soaked up (literally) every last bit of the rush we got from paddling and playing in the water as it came time to head on to our next section of Big Wild. One of the guides, Jono, offered his oars and guide seat up to Chris towards the later part of our float. He impressed everyone on our boat as he perfected his rowing and guiding skills on the back of the boat. We reached our take-out ramp as we saw the top of our shiny, white van and U-haul trailer come into view. After a great deal of hugs, goodbyes, and thank-you’s our group took off to our next campsite for the night.
We have now truly become a family, and I can tell that our final days on Big Wild 1B will only get sweeter.
Until next time,
Will, Cecilia, and Ben
June 17, 2017
Greetings Big Wild B Parents!!
Thank you for sharing your wonderful kiddos with us for the next two weeks. We have had a fun and busy first few days of our trip. After we gathered everyone in the Jackson airport we headed to camp to set up. We then popped over to Dornan’s for pizza and a beautiful view of the Tetons. All the kids wowed us with their appetites and we crushed 8 pizzas! With our bellies full we headed to the rodeo where Knox was the most knowledgeable about the ins and outs of a real rodeo. Philip, Reese, and Meg even seized the opportunity to jump in the rodeo ring and attempt to snatch a bandana off of a sheep! It made us all laugh because the other kids in the ring were all 12 and under. We then had our first moon up back at camp under a beautiful full night of stars.
The next morning we got an early start and drove to Jenny Lake in the Grand Teton National Park. There we met up with some professional Exum Mountain Guides and began a 2 mile hike equipped with ropes, harnesses, and helmets. After a long but rewarding hike we arrived at a stunning overlook. There we practiced knots, belay technique, and climbing terms. Isaac won the competition for tying the fastest figure 8 follow through knot! 22 seconds was nearly impossible to beat. After we all got comfortable with our new climbing shoes and belays we embarked on an epic multi pitch climb up a tall rock structure. We were rewarded with our hard work by ending the day with a 40 foot rappel. We hiked back with newly sore legs and muscles ready for the next day. Cook crew that night whipped us up some scrumptious chicken fajitas. Kaitlyn sliced the peppers and avocados in the most artistic way possible!
The second day of climbing was extra special because we were also celebrating Douglas’s 15th birthday! We all got up before him, signed a card, put on birthday hats, and woke him up with a happy birthday serenade and bombarded his tent with candy bars. We ate a hearty eggs and bacon breakfast and set off for our second day of climbing. We all felt incredibly lucky when we found out the boat was running across Jenny Lake so we could cut out the 2 mile hike! The view was stunning and we only got sprayed by water a few times. Once there, we split into 5 groups to do more focused climbing. We all started on some shorter bouldering routes then embarked on some tougher, epic climbs. Knox and Lauren both overcame their fear of heights and made it to the top of a huge climb impressing even the guides! Douglas got a birthday treat by rappelling down two cliffs, and demonstrated his excellent belaying skills all day. We all headed back to camp tired yet feeling extremely accomplished.
Cook crew made us a warm meal of beef chili to keep us warm in the rain. Even though it was a colder night Patrick kept us all entertained with endless rounds of mafia, a never-failing, crowd pleasing game. Our leaders of the day, Chris and Anna, were super supportive of the group the entire day, and lead a thoughtful, kind, and hilarious Moon up for the group.
We are now headed to Idaho to begin our rafting portion on the Salmon River. We cannot wait for what is in store.
Until next time!
-Cecilia, Ben, and Will
Here are some specific shout outs..
Reese: “Hi Mom and Dad were going rafting now but just went climbing. It was fun. I can’t wait to see you! I love and miss y’all. Happy Father’s Day! I love the dogs too! Love, Reese”
Meg: “Hey Family. We just finished climbing now on to rafting! Miss and love y’all and happy Father’s Day! Love, Meg”
Kaitlyn: “Hey! I am having so much fun! I love you guys so much!”
Lauren: “Love and miss you guys! Having so much fun w/ all my people! So excited to see you guys, pet the dogs for me!”
Knox: “Hi Madre and Padre! I’m having so much fun I miss and love y’all! Tell sister and Nellie hi. Love, Knox”
Anna: “Hey everyone! I miss y’all and love y’all! I’m having so much fun! I can’t wait to tell y’all about it! Xoxo”
Patrick: “Dear parents, I miss you and am having fun, can’t wait to see you. HAPPY FATHERS DAY POPS”
Chris: “Hi family! I miss y’all so much although it’s super fun. Happy Father’s Day!”
Isaac: “Hey fam! This trip is AMAZING but I’m missing you a lot. Give peanut butter to Surrey”
Douglas: “Happy Father’s Day! I hope work is tolerable for all 3 of you. I’m having fun.”
Philip: “Hi guys! I’m having a lot of fun, rock climbing was really cool and fun. Happy Father’s Day!”
June 15, 2017
Hello Big Wild Families,
We heard from the Big Wild leaders that all students made it to Jackson Hole and this Big Wild trip is in motion. Check back in for updates to come along the way!
-Moondance Administrative Team