July 14, 2017
Wow! What an awesome 12 days packed full of activities. From backpacking to climbing to rafting, we’ve done it all and seen it all. Our steak dinner last night had everybody moving a little slower as we awoke in our Idaho campsite. We didn’t feel the need to sleep in tents that night because we have gotten so accustomed to it on the river, so we made a little hammock village in the trees. We had a 5-hour drive back to Jackson, but the wonderful scenery along the way grabbed our attention as we made the trek over the mountains and into the valley. Henry, Sam, and Lewis kept us bumping the whole way there with their amazing tune selections. They insisted they sit in the front so they could take control of the aux chord. After a lively and exciting ride, we arrived in Jackson, eager to make the most of our last moments together.
Upon arrival, we went straight to the thrift store to sift through old clothes, jackets, vests, pants, shirts, and in Max’s case, some socks. Tanner bought a zip up vest and a gold chain that he then wore around town and to our banquet dinner. He was shirtless underneath, mind you. The gang rapped up their thrift store shopping and we headed to our local campsite in Jackson. There, we would begin preparations for what we call Iron Chef! The boys and girls split up into teams and used the last of our ingredients to craft Lillian and I an appetizer, entree, and desert, in which they were judged based on creativity and flavor. Michael headed up the guys team and cooked up one heck of a desert. Chocolate covered pretzels with Cocoa Krispy drizzle. It was actually very good. The girls came in a close second, but Rainey was determined to beat the boys and gave a valiant effort to their dishes. It was nice getting to relax and enjoy our last lunch together, being that tomorrow was our departure day.
After a big cleanup of our gear, we packed up one last time and headed to downtown Jackson! Mackenzie and Rainey made an immediate dart for the shops as they strolled around in their new thrift store Pokémon shirts. Eleanor came back with a brand-new Patagonia hat that fits her perfectly! Hunter ran into the other group of Moondancers and chatted with them about their trip. Smith finally got to see his twin brother and we tried to get them to hug. As much as we all wanted to see it, they said they would save it for another occasion. After a walk around town, and some convincing from Lily, the group headed to our banquet meal at Pica’s Mexican Cantina. It was some of the best food we had had in a while, especially after the Mexican food we had for Iron Chef…
After our Last Supper, the group was eager to pull an all-nighter. Seeing as we only had a couple hours’ worth of sleep, they decided against it and we began our last Moonup. We talked about what we learned about ourselves throughout the trip and our favorite moments. It was pretty sad towards the end as it began to set in that this was actually happening. This has been an amazing group of kids and I am so proud of every single one of them. They have all bonded so well and I know they will all stay in touch after the trip ends. We are here at the Jackson Airport now, awaiting each other’s flights and maybe some tears. What a fantastic trip and I can’t believe it’s already over. Thank you for sending us your child. They were amazing.
Spencer and Lillian
July 12, 2017
Eighty-two miles of paddling later, we are back in civilization! It’s been an exciting, hard, and rewarding four days on the river.
Everybody was eager to get on the water the first day because our drive to the boat put-in was hot, and the cool water looked so refreshing. It didn’t take more than 10 minutes before Rainey was sitting on the front of the raft “riding the bull” while everyone else was trying to push her in. Max kept everyone entertained with his sport and music talk while we went through the first few rapids. Mackenzie set the pace for paddling for the entire trip by sitting in the front of the raft, padding hard, and taking all the big wave hits on the first day.
Everybody was introduced to the “Groover” on the first night which is a fancy word for the portable toilet. Max and Hunter were the lucky ones chosen to set it up. They said they got a good workout in from carrying the toilet and they learned to appreciate their flushing toilets at home! We fueled up on some spaghetti and meatballs before playing 3 hours of capture the flag. We did boat vs. boat and it ended up being super evenly matched teams, which made the game so much more fun. Everybody wanted Lewis on their team because he was the best at guarding the flag and extremely fast. If it weren’t for the sky getting dark, I’m convinced we would’ve kept playing all night. Before going to bed, Tanner got everybody in the river for an evening creek shower, which quickly became a nightly tradition.
The third morning started with a short paddle until we found the perfect cliff jumping spot. Everybody was nervous of the height, but Lily was fearless. She jumped off three times before most of the guys jumped off once. One of the coolest parts of the rafting section on the third day was when we hit the confluence of the Salmon River and the Snake River. The two rivers mixed to make a crazy water color. Shortly after, we got to experience a state border crossing in the boat. There was a split second where our boat was in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington all at once!!
For the entirety of the trip, the guides kept hyping up one of the rapids of the third day called Slide Rapid. We were the first group to be able to go down the section with the rapid because the water level had been too high for it to even be considered runnable before now. We pulled off onto a beach right before Slide for one last safety talk and to get in the right mindset to paddle hard. Sam cooked up some taco salad for everyone to give us energy and it was delicious! Eleanor was my boat’s personal cheerleader and motivated us safely through the rapid. Our guide said the wave we saw the gear boat hit was the biggest he’s ever seen a boat hit without flipping!
Once we arrived at our campsite and unpacked the boats, the guides showed us a public conservation orchard right up the hill from where our beach was for the night. It was full of all kinds of organic fruit trees that are open to the public, but only accessible by boat. There were over 40 deer grazing the orchard eating the fallen fruit and Smith was captivated by the deer saying they reminded him of his farm at home. Henry, Hunter, and I took advantage of the apricot trees and picked every ripe one we could find. We probably ate around ten each! Michael went straight for the blackberries and said he wanted to pick some to eat later, but they were so good he had to eat them as soon as he picked them. That was just an appetizer before our main dinner that Michael cooked. He was always in the rafting kitchen volunteering to help cook, especially on burger night. Everybody wanted him to cook burger night because he did so well earlier in the trip when he cooked burgers too.
The last morning was a short morning, but a good morning. We hooked both paddle boats up to the gear boat to create one big “party barge” as everyone liked to call it. Lewis sat on the very front and chilled while keeping watch for hidden rocks we could hit. We got to our take-out, said goodbye to our awesome guides, and now we’re headed to our campsite for the night. We have one more night under the amazing Idaho stars before we get back to Jackson Hole for our banquet night. We’re doing it big tonight by grilling up a big steak dinner for everyone to celebrate our hard work during rafting. We only have two more days together before we part ways so we’re trying to take advantage of every moment together we have!!
Lillian & Spencer
July 7, 2017
The group has just finished their second day of climbing school with Exum Mountain Guides and everyone is exhausted! We started the first day with some basic bouldering and scrambling around on some smaller rocks without ropes and began talking through the basic knots and foot hold positions. The group was quick to grasp the basics and after a light lunch, we headed to the slabs!
We started with more advanced climbing on some 45 degree slopes in Teton Village and climbed up 9 pitches to the top of the “Toilet Bowl” as they call it. As we scurried up the mountain, we kept seeing marmots all along the way, which are very cute, but will eat your entire lunch if it’s left out. Luckily, no one fell victim to these furry bandits. After climbing, we shopped around Teton Village for a bit and topped off the day with some well-deserved ice cream!
After we got back from Teton Village, we visited the T.A. Moulton Barn, which is the most photographed barn in America. Rainy took too many pictures to count with her GoPro and we ended up staying there for Moonup, where our Leaders of the Day, Henry and Lilly, asked thought provoking and insightful questions in hopes to learn more about their fellow peers. Lewis, once again, kept us laughing at the barn with his hilarious pranks and funny jokes. He never fails to make anyone in the group laugh or smile.
The second day of climbing was where the real fun began. We got an early start to the day as Michael and Smith woke us all up and helped cook a filling breakfast. The energy was high and the group was geared up and ready for a more advanced day of climbing school. We broke into smaller groups on the second day so the students could have more one on one time with the guides. Tanner and Max were paired together on what was the hardest route on the mountain. They climbed right besides Hidden Falls, so it was incredibly hard to hear mountain commands, but they both got the job done. Mackenzie and Sam were our master repellers. They repelled down a 100 foot cliff overhang and were the fastest of their groups. Henry was a close second to Sam though. Both were racing down the mountain as we overlooked Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park. Eleanor was the only one you could hear over the sound of the rushing waterfall because her voice carried across the whole rock face! Everyone knew when Eleanor was climbing because of her incredibly loud presence on the mountain. She wanted to make sure her belayer was alert!! It was an incredible day for the group and I am proud of everything they accomplished these past two days. Each of them accomplished more than they thought possible and even when they were skeptical about a certain pitch; each of them did it without hesitation. The spirits were kept high due to Hunter’s constant laughter and smiling and good, positive attitude. He is always quick to provide vocal support for every member of our group and we love him for that.
Tonight, we will be cooking out and having burgers and mac and cheese, per request. I am so proud of this group and very pleased to say that every single one of them is always asking if there is anything they can do to help. That must come from their parents! Anyways, we are looking forward to our 8 hour drive tomorrow morning. It’s going to be well worth the trip for 4 days of rafting on the Salmon. Everyone is so excited! Can’t wait for Sunday!
Best Wishes and until next time,
Spencer and Lillian
July 5, 2017
We just spent an incredible four days backpacking through the Wind River Range and we’ve already created some lifelong memories. We are a little tired and smelly, but we are out of the backcountry!
Our first day of backpacking led us straight uphill, carrying packs filled with our tents, food, and personal gear. We were all so excited when our lakeside campsite was finally in sight. We fueled back up with some spaghetti and meatballs before our first night of sleep in the Winds.
We all woke up early the next morning eager to get the day started. We filled our bellies with hash browns and sausage before we hiked to a big lake to spend the day fishing, swimming, and relaxing. Mackenzie led a group over to what they called “Rock Island” which was a big boulder out in the middle of the lake that required a cold swim to get to. Lily dropped a GoPro off “Rock Island” into the water, and we all cheered her on as she had to spend a little extra time swimming until she found it. The lake ended up being the first big opportunity for everybody to try out their new fishing skills. Hunter is basically an Olympic pro at fly fishing and had everybody in awe and he caught about eight fish the first day while everybody else watched and learned. Henry was determined to catch a fish but decided he doesn’t have beginners luck and said he’s not leaving Wyoming until he’s caught one. After our day of rest and relaxation, we hiked back to our campsite for a big Thanksgiving dinner. Eleanor headed up cook crew and whipped up turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and even green beans. Everyone went to bed full and happy before going to bed under a sky of stars. Sam and Max decided to sleep in their hammocks to get the best experience under the stars.
Day three in the backcountry was our summit day. It was also the 4th Of July!! We had a long day ahead of us. We woke up super early and headed toward The Cirque Of The Towers. After a two-mile hike in the woods, we headed up steep switchbacks before we encountered our first snow crossing. Because Wyoming got more snow this year than it has in over 100 years, there was still a ton of snow in the mountains. We trekked our way across the snow, all while passing beautiful and remote glacier lakes. Rainey was the Leader of the Day and set a perfect pace to get us across the snow. We eventually summited a peak and spent a long time taking pictures with everyone and one big group picture with an American flag banner to celebrate America’s birthday. We decided to take an alternate way down the peak when Lewis suggest we body sled all the way down. Sledding in July? Absolutely a great idea. It was some of the best sledding I’ve ever done and Smith said it was one of the most fun and cool things he’s ever done. We started our journey back to our campsite but decided to first stop at one of the little lakes we passed to do some fishing. Once again, Hunter was catching too many fish to count. Henry gave fishing another good go, but he was still left with an empty hook. Spencer took Tanner and Smith to go bouldering while everyone fished and they said they found a rock with the best view of the mountains. We headed back late afternoon for our 4th of July cookout! Michael ate more hotdogs than I even knew was possible.
We eventually headed out of the backcountry at an incredibly fast pace. Mackenzie was leading the pack and she said the thought of a shower was motivating her through our last stretch back to the van. We all made it back and were sad to be leaving the incredible mountains, but also happy to be away from the bugs. Now we’re headed back to Jackson to shower and prep for our first day of climbing tomorrow!
Lillian & Spencer