June 27, 2017
Hello to all Colorado Trail 1A families,
Wow. These past two weeks have truly flown by. Although we are all sad that our time together has come to an end, I believe each of these kids will be able to channel the new energy for life they have found in Colorado into great things. Robby, Bren, and I cannot wait to see what they will accomplish in the coming years and hope they call on us if they ever need anything moving forward.
To close out our final full day together, we packed up our tents and enjoyed breakfast together before heading to our last campsite. As our LODs, Thomas and John kept everyone motivated throughout the day. Upon arrival at camp, we held an Iron Chef competition, which consisted of an appetizer, entree, and dessert round with all the left over food we had from our trip. Juanitas Taco Truck impressed us each round with mac and cheese quesadillas, black bean quesadillas, and an assorted chocolate covered platter. Helen won their team style points as she cut hearts out of tortillas to be toasted and added to their entree. Davis won hospitality points as he continuously offered to refill the judges’ water bottles and make them lemonade. We believe Greg may have found his calling behind the grill, and we all told him he might have to open his own food truck. On the other side, the Mean Green Lima Beans impressed with their rice noodle and tofu appetizer, game day pizza entree, and s’mores pizza dessert. Eliza called many of the shots in their kitchen, motivating everyone to boost their creativity. Although the teams were neck and neck throughout, Bridget ultimately tipped the scales in the Lima Beans’ favor as she continued to clean the Coleman stove even after the competition had ended. With full stomachs, we moved on to our next task for the day– finding outfits for our final banquet.
Our wardrobes needed an update for our final meal together, and our trip to Goodwill proved very successful for all members of our crew. Brooks found a collared shirt and brown sweater vest set that made him look older than his years. Lucky came out with a blazer, tie and dress shoes that he wore for the rest of the day, even to the outdoor carwash!
After much-needed showers, we donned our new outfits and headed to AJ’s pizzeria for our last sit down meal together. Kate led us in dance parties in the van both before and after dinner, which kept everyone’s spirits high. Everyone split pizzas, and Charlie and Davis shared a plate of wings during one of their first meals back in “civilization.”
During our final Moonup, we spent a lot of time talking about how this trip has changed us all for the better and makes us want to find more adventures in our everyday lives. Many of the kids set goals for themselves upon arrival at home to be on their phones less and be more present to their friends and family.
This morning we woke up while the stars were still overhead for our drive to the airport. Natalie was thrilled when we surprised the group with donuts. Lucky and Kate are our last LODs of the trip and have done a great job setting the tone for our return home.
Although Robby, Bren, I are sad to see everyone go, we cannot wait to see what they have in store for the future. We cannot say enough great things about this group. They are mature beyond their years and wonderful to be around. Thank you to everyone back home for sharing them with us. We already miss everyone immensely.
Bren, Robby, and Brantley
June 26, 2017
“Wherever you go, go with all of your heart” -Confucius
Brooks and Eliza, our Leaders of the day, shared this quote in our morning huddle. They inspired the whole group to take this day and this trip and fully put our whole heart into everything.
Today was our last day of activities. We finished how we started, rafting down the Arkansas river– a whole 19 miles in one day! As a group it was amazing to see the kids put their skills to the test and complete a more challenging part of the river.
Greg showed the guides what he had learned by being one of the strongest paddlers on the raft, the guide even had him demonstrate his stroke to the rest of the group. John and Charlie held strong in the front of one of the rafts, leading us all the way to the finish. Thomas and Natalie lead the other raft by being strong paddlers in the front of the boat. Natalie was scared to go in the front at first but then decided to challenge her fears and lead the group.
We all enjoyed a nice lunch on the river. Kate seemed to keep the energy high and make everyone feel loved by constantly leading group hugs. After lunch, Greg managed to join the Arkansas River swim club by falling of the raft. Helen did her best to try and catch him before he fell, but he still managed to make it in. As soon as he came up he had the biggest grin on his face and kept the boat laughing about his slow motion fall for the rest of the day.
Lucky and Bridget kept the energy high on the other boat. Lucky counted all the groups paddle strikes each time to make sure the group was on time and working together. Bridget lead the group in songs for the whole 19 miles!
After finishing our awesome day of rafting, we headed back to the campsite and enjoyed a relaxing evening. Davis showed off his frisbee skills as the sun went down over our campsite. Helen and Eliza made us all some amazing mac and cheese. Davis helped build our fire so we could roast hotdogs and s’mores for one of our last nights.
Since it is June 25th, half Christmas, we had to make sure we honored the day by celebrating. We surprised the group with stockings filled with candy, party poppers and glow sticks. We all enjoyed one of our last evenings together huddled around the fire singing Christmas songs and laughing until tears came to our eyes.
We are all sad that it has come to our last day. We do not want it to ever end. Robby, Brantley and I are truly going to miss spending time with each of these amazing kids!
Brantley, Robby, and Bren
June 24, 2017
Wow! What an amazing few days we have had out here rock climbing in Taylor’s Canon! Us three leaders were extremely impressed by all the kids adventurous spirits while climbing.
We started off the first day with our Leaders of the Day, Helen and Charlie, leading us to have a fun and exciting time on the rock by constantly keeping the energy high. We not only were able to learn how to climb but our guides also taught us belay skills. Lucky seemed to be the shining star both days by being the first one to complete every climb and then help give the beta to everyone else as they made their way up the rock. Greg was our expert belayer; he always volunteered to help anyone wanting to take on the climb. Helen showed off her skills that she learned climbing at camp by taking on every route. It was so amazing to see Natalie overcome her fear of heights by trying every climb with a positive attitude.
After our first day of climbing we all enjoyed a refreshing ice cream in Crested Butte at a local homemade ice cream shop called Third Bowl. Davis was extremely excited that he could finally get dairy free mint chocolate chip ice cream. That night Lucky, Natalie, and Brooks all helped cook Chicken Pad Thai. Everyone in the group was very impressed and pleased with this delicious meal. Charlie and Helen led a meaningful Moonup by asking the group what makes them the happiest in the world.
The next morning we woke up to another exciting day of climbing in the beautiful Taylors Canyon. Greg and Bridget, our new Leaders of the Day, got everyone up and excited for a big day of climbing. As soon as we got to the rock all of the kids were ready to climb and belay. Kate was one of the first to climb. She pushed herself to finish a route that a lot of others really struggled on. After Kate finished climbing she continued using her new rock skills by helping Eliza also make her way up the rock. After a few hours of climbing Davis, Charlie, John and Thomas decided to make their own adventure by creating forts through tunnels in the boulder field. Bridget was the last one on the rock and did not want to leave; it seems as though she might have found a new hobby!
After our rock climbing section of the trip we are now heading back to the Arkansas River to have one more day of rafting and we all cannot wait! This group has really come together as one big family. Robby, Brantley and I are very proud to see each person grow a little more every single day. We are going to make sure these last few days are ones to never forget!
Here are some shout outs from the kids:
Helen- “Today I rock climbed outside for the first time and has so much fun. Can me and Natalie go to Jalisco’s when we get back? Love and miss you.”
Natalie- “I went rock climbing today and I belayed people up while they were rock climbing. Can me and Helen go to Jalisco’s when we get back? I am having the best time and I miss y’all so much.”
Eliza- “A couple days ago we finished our backpacking trip which was a ton of fun. Today we rock climbed which was kind of hard but really fun. We also went into Telluride and Crested Butte which were really fun, and I want our family to go back. I’m having so much fun, and I can’t wait to see y’all! Love y’all!
Kate-“Rock climbing was so fun! My knee hurt a little, but I still made it to the top of two hard ones! Backpacking was so much fun but very tiring. My eye is also looking a lot better. I can’t wait to see you guys! Love you so much!”
Charlie-“This trip has been so much fun. I have conquered many challenges like backpacking and rock climbing. We went to Telluride and Crested Butte and I bought USA socks, a hat, and a shirt. I am excited to see you guys. See you soon. I love you guys.”
John-“I have had a lot of fun on this trip, and I am so glad you sent me. I would tell you everything that happened but it would be way more fun to tell you in person.”
Thomas- “I’ve had so much fun on this trip. Backpacking was fun and rock climbing was fantastic. I can’t wait to see y’all at home.”
Lucky-“Today we did something really fun that I was really good at. Knowing that is day 11 and I only have three more days is sad, but I can’t wait to see you guys!”
Greg- “I will keep saying this but I would rather tell you this in person and I love you guys. Thank you for the opportunities you have given to me.”
Brooks-“So far, this trip has been amazing. Rock climbing was a lot of fun. The weather has been really nice. I wish I didn’t have to leave but I’m excited to see y’all.”
Davis- “I have loved all of this trip so far and I am looking forward to telling you about it when I get home.”
Bridget-” I can’t wait to see you guys again and spend summer at home. I’ll be home soon and I’ll talk to you guys then!”
June 23, 2017
Four days ago, Brooks led us as we began our trek into the back woods of Bear Creek trails. The first day was full of steep vertical ascent and a fast pace to reach camp before sun down. Just before the setting of the sun, we reached our first campsite about four miles in. With tired legs and relieved shoulders, the kids all crawled into their tents to get rested for the next day’s backpacking.
On the second morning, everyone enjoyed a bowl of oatmeal before Greg led the way back onto the trail. Eliza and the girls got ready by decorating each other’s braids with the beautiful flowers that were everywhere in the picturesque landscape. We thought the views could not get any better but with every turn came a new breathtaking sight of pine meadows, mountains, and the rushing waters of bear creek. However, none of these views could top the beauty of the cove of trees pocketed a couple hundred yards off trails that Greg pointed out as a possible campsite. Although we did not cover the full distance we planned, we decided to call an audible and check this site out. It turns out we had discovered a hidden gem; a camp that sat in the trees that had clearly been set up by some fishermen that came to the area regularly, fully furnished with horseshoes, log seats, and even a branch for hanging clothes on.
With an early camp setup at this new home, the free time activities and exploring began. Thomas and John led the setting up of fly gear to try and catch some of the numerous trout we saw swimming in the creek eddies. Helen gathered the girls and shared her bracelet making skills in the wildflower filled meadow. Greg and Davis headed the exploring of the new area, crossing the creek and finding patches of snow that had still not melted in June! They made sure to bring Lucky over because he had never seen snow before. Bridget braved the cold waters to go for quick and refreshing swim. At the end of the night Charlie used his new skills using a Whisperlite stove to help us cook up some quesadillas for dinner. After full stomachs, fun conversations, and laughing until our stomachs hurt, everyone set in for the night to get ready for the long haul of day three.
Kate and Lucky got our third morning started early with a morning huddle and began the march for our third and longest day of hiking. After nearly four miles of hard morning hiking, a much-needed lunch break was taken at the top of Grindstone Loop, where a view of the whole valley and Sharkstooth Peak helped lift some tired spirits. However, with almost six miles left to hike that afternoon, the kids needed something more than a view to motivate them. Lucky for us, we had Lucky. After lunch Lucky was able to dig deep and find a second wind that motivated the whole group and brought about a new life to everyone. He constantly stayed positive and stopped regularly to check on everyone. Even when we encountered an evening shower he was able to keep the group moving and was even able to look at this weather change as a fun change of scenery and motivation.
After ten miles of hiking, a handful of blisters, and a whole lot of perseverance, we reached a final campsite with great relief. That night at Moonup, Kate opened with the quote, “You can either look at a rose bush and curse it for its thorns, or look at the thorn bush and admire it for its roses.” She could not have picked a better quote for the day. Although the hiking was extremely hard at times and everyone wanted to quit, the incredible scenery and fellowship it created made it more than worth it. In fact, that night when the question was asked, “What has been your favorite part of the trip?” nearly half of the group answered with the backpacking.
With only two miles left on the last day, we packed up our gear and made our way back to the trailhead. Packing into the van and smelling wonderful from our past four days, the air conditioning and Billboard Top 100 hits on the radio were greatly enjoyed by everyone. We celebrated our days in the backcountry by heading to the town of Telluride to eat a nice meal and spend some time exploring the shops and stores. The guys enjoyed some burgers for lunch while the girls ate at a local Mexican restaurant. Natalie added to her donut wardrobe by getting some of the best donut socks I have ever seen.
It was a perfect way to end our four days of backcountry backpacking. All of the kids pushed their limits and truly amazed Bren, Brantley, and me. I could not be prouder of the young men and women they are and are becoming. Last night we camped out by Blue Mesa Lake right outside Gunnison, Colorado where we enjoyed nachos, showers, and a breathtaking sunset. Today we are headed to the Taylor canyon to start our rock-climbing.
With the end of our trip getting closer, the saying that time flies when you are having fun is proving to be more and more true. We are looking forward to the final stretch of our trip filled with some incredible activities, but to those of you back home, we will see you soon!
June 19, 2017
“It is not the mountains we conquer, but ourselves.”
In the predawn hours of this morning, Natalie led our morning huddle on the sand dunes with this quote by Sir Edmund Hillary, which was fitting for our journey for the day. After such an incredible time rafting Brown’s Canyon, we were excited to see what else Colorado had in store for us. After these past few days, it is safe to say that this trip has surpassed all of our expectations.
Yesterday, we started off our morning with grilled bagels and delicious sausage cooked by our early riser Greg, who received raving reviews. With full stomachs, we drove to the Royal Gorge to begin our ziplining adventure. The whole crew loved the views of the snowcapped mountains and the rush of flying through the air. Eliza kept cracking our guide up when she yelled, “I’m so stoked!” as she jumped of each zip platform. She was so enthusiastic about the experience, and her positive attitude was contagious to the entire group. During our time there, Kate found some of the largest dandelions any of us had ever seen and blew enough seeds into the air for all of us to make many wishes.
One of the most exciting parts of the course was the side-by-side zip lines that allowed us the race each other. All of the girls placed bets on who would win each race. When Bridget beat me in our race she got to pick dessert for the group, so we ended our night with mini donuts and donut holes from Krispy Kreme.
After our morning of zip lining, we drove to Great Sand Dunes National Park to prepare for the following day of climbing the dunes. Upon arrival, Lucky immediately felt at home surrounded by sand and spent much of the afternoon on the banks of the stream at the base of the dunes running his hands through the sand. All of the girls enjoyed running through water and making drip castles in the shadows of the dunes and mountains.
When the group down by the river walked back to the campsite, we were met by hamburgers and salad prepared by Charlie, Davis, and Robby, which we all agreed was the best dinner we had had so far this trip, thanks to the effort these three guys put in to preparing our meal. We all sat around in a circle enjoying our burgers and discussing our big plans for the next morning. Our LODs Helen and Lucky led us in great Moonup, where they asked the question, “What mythological creature would you be?” Believe it or not, this question produced some hilarious responses, including one by Greg saying that he would be a giant chipmunk that could eat cars and another by Helen saying that she would be a Pegasus.
With full stomachs and happy hearts, we crawled into our tents just after sunset so we could get enough sleep before our 3AM wake-up call. Our whole crew were champs this morning as they hopped into the van in the pitch-black dark. Their drowsiness was soon replaced with anticipation for our sunrise adventures on the dunes. Our LODs for today, Natalie and Charlie, kept everyone’s spirits up as we climbed the steep dunes that left us with burning calves and heavy breathing.
Although the climb was challenging, every moment was worth it once we summited the highest dune in the park, which allowed us to watch the sun creep up over the surrounding mountains. Natalie was excited to see her first sunrise, and I think the one she saw today will be difficult to beat. John entertained us all as he kept running and sliding down the tallest dune and climbing back up to us and then doing it all over again, which was no small feat.
Once the sun finally found the top of the dunes, we began our journey back down to the van. Rather than continue our pace from the ascent, the whole group ran down the slopes together. We slipped, slid, and rolled through sand. The highlight of the descent might have been when Brooks wiped out while trying to make a cool GoPro video. His smile was still wide even though his face was covered with sand.
We returned to camp having completed a day’s worth of activity just as the rest of the world was waking up. Thomas single-handedly made scrambled eggs for all fifteen of us, and Bren made everyone’s favorite breakfast: chocolate chip pancakes.
While driving from Great Sand Dunes National Park to the San Juan Mountains to begin our backpacking section tomorrow, we have all been reflecting on how close we have become in less than a week. These amazing kids have been challenging themselves every day and have already grown so much.
Below are some shout outs to all of you back home! To all of the dads, we love and miss you this Father’s Day!
Helen- We are having the best time doing things like rafting, zip lining, and hiking. We have seen so many beautiful sites. Love and miss you so much and Happy Father’s Day!
Davis- Dear Mom and Dad, I am having so much fun here in Colorado. I have made so many new friends. I also think my favorite part was when our raft hit some amazing rapids. See you soon.
John- Hey Mom and Dad, I’m doing just fine *awkwardly pauses* How are you? Today we climbed the tallest sand dune in NA. I ended up doing it 3 times because I kept sliding down. When we went to a waterfall a dog licked my leg and reminded me of porkbelly.
Eliza- Hey mom and dad! I’m having so much fun!! We’ve done a bunch of really cool activities, and I’ve learned a lot about camping and living outdoors. Happy father’s day dad!! I love and miss y’all so much! See you soon!
Thomas- Dear Mom and Dad, I am having so much fun out here in Colorado. Rafting and zip lining were both awesome. I miss you so much and can’t wait to get home. Can we please go to West Chop earlier than July 2nd?
Lucky- Hey Mom and Dad, Happy Father’s Day from me. How has it been at home? For your gift Dad, I tried 4 types of food already. And for mom? The warmth of my love in a letter. I am having fun, but will keep what I did a surprise.
Natalie- Dear Mom and Dad, I am having the best time. We have been rafting, zip lining, and hiking up the sand dunes. Happy Father’s Day! I love and miss y’all so much.
Charlie- Hey Mom and Dad. How are you guys? My trip is so much fun, and I have made lots of friends. So far I have been rafting, zip lining, and to the sand dunes. I miss you guys, but I am having tons of fun.
Brooks- Happy Father’s Day from Montrose, Colorado. It’s been tons of fun so far. We have a great group of kids and leaders. Yesterday, we hiked up the great sand dunes at 3 am. The view was incredible. We got to the top at sunrise. Rafting was also a highlight. Love, Brooks
Greg- Sorry about leaving for camp on father’s day but I am having fun out here in Colorado. You wouldn’t believe the view. I didn’t get all the pictures I wanted but I got some. I miss y’all.
Kate- hey mom, dad, and Max! I’m having so much fun rafting, zip lining, and hiking sand dunes. My knee hurts sometimes, but it’s gotten so much better. Dad, I hope you’re having a great Father’s Day. I love and miss y’all!
Bridget- Dear Family, I want to thank you all for using the money you could have used for yourself to give me the chance to experience new stuff. I know the last few weeks have been stressful with Buttercup and the kitchen, but I’m glad you let me come on this trip. This is definitely one of the best birthday present ever, and I can’t wait to see everyone.
June 17, 2017
“You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”
Last night as one of the first Leaders of the Day, Davis began our Moonup by reading this quote, which he felt described our experience so far in Colorado. All of our kids have already had so many new adventures just in our first 48 hours in Colorado.
Once everyone arrived in Denver, we were off to our first campsite. Lucky kept us all laughing in the car as he commented on how this was his first time to ever see the mountains or snow and wasn’t quite sure if he was ready to leave city life. Once we arrived at our camp, we ate delicious pizza as the sun went down and prepared for our overnight rafting trip! Many of the boys chose to sleep under the bright stars, where they were able to spot several constellations, and Davis saw his first shooting star!
We woke up early the next morning to pancakes and sausage made by Lucky and Natalie on our cook crew. No one minded our early start because they knew we would soon be rafting the Arkansas River. Once we arrived and suited up in our wetsuits and splash jackets, we began racing through large Class III rapids. Our guides Kelsey and Nate were impressed with how well our kids worked together and were shocked that we had only known each other for a day. Charlie was one of our best paddlers and impressed Kelsey with how well he listened to all of the stories she told about the landmarks we were passing.
We stopped at our riverside campsite early enough in the afternoon that we were able to hike up to the top of a nearby mountain and catch some beautiful views of Mount Princeton and the surrounding landscape. Natalie conquered her fear of heights by hiking all the way to the top and only turning back once she had accomplished her goal. Greg and Bridget led a smaller group to push further on to reach an even higher point a little farther. Robby and I were so impressed by this group’s determination to soak in all the adventures they possibly could.
Once back at camp, our guides introduced us to a game of raft wars that involved more strategy than strength to beat ones’ opponent. Thomas was crowned champion after defeating our guide Natalie. We were all so excited that one of our own was able to beat a guide at her own game! As it got darker, our guides served us tacos and taught us how to roast Starbursts over the fire for dessert. John showed us the best way to do this by roasting all four color Starbursts at once, which he insisted tasted the best.
Because we were without a guitar on this section of our trip, Kate led Eliza, Brooks, Robby, and me in an a capella performance to begin and end Moonup. None of us were able to finish either of the songs we tried to sing because we were laughing too hard. As the other LOD, Bridget helped close out the day by naming Kate and Thomas to be the LODs for the following day. We all fell asleep early, many of us under the stars, because we’d had such an eventful and exciting day.
On our second day of rafting, Helen woke up early to sit and drink a cup of hot chocolate with all of the leaders and raft guides. We were soon joined by the rest of the crew, except for Brooks who joined later and impressed us with his ability to sleep long after the sun was up, to eat breakfast burritos that many of the kids claimed were better than anything they had had at home. After a relaxed morning, we were all ready to hit the rapids again! Eliza made sure to sit at the front of the raft so she could catch the best footage on her Go Pro! By the end of the day, we were all soaked from the class III and IV rapids we had braved.
After a great first section of our trip, we have settled in to our current campsite home where the kids are trying their hands at fly fishing. This whole group has come together seamlessly and they are not afraid to seek the summit even if they must come down again. They all take hold of life and live for experiences. Bren, Robby, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the trip holds for this amazing group of kids!
June 14, 2017
Hello Colorado Trail families,
We wanted to let you all know that all students have safely landed in Denver and this Colorado Trail trip is on its way! We can’t wait to read all about it, so follow along as updates are posted.
-Moondance Administrative Team