July 14, 2017
To say that these past two weeks have flown by would be an understatement. The twelve individuals that met us in the airport fourteen days ago have come together to form a tight knit family. All the kids have learned so much during their time in Colorado, and I am so proud of each of their growth.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
To begin our last full day together, Zander led our final morning huddle with these words that I felt perfectly suited the day. Each of these kids have made such a lasting impression on the entire group that makes leaving each other so difficult.
After a relaxed morning packing our bags and writing letters to our future selves, we were off to our final campsite for an intense competition of Moondance Iron Chef.
Our group split into two teams, The Slicers and Heaven’s Kitchen, to compete in the contest. Both groups chose to make three course meals for the judges and also provided continuous entertainment between courses. Jack continuously returned to the judging station to offer snacks and water bottle refills, hoping to tip the score in favor of his team. Trygve and Jay both won their teams points with their creative dance moves, while Jackson kept us all amused with his stories.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Luke worked his magic over the stove and inspired his team to work together to create a culinary masterpiece. Connor continuously brought the judges snacks that he had expertly seasoned. With the teams at a tie going into the dessert round, the pressure was on to create the most appetizing and creative dish. Leah and Morgan led their team in creating “s’more heaven,” which consisted of graham’s crackers, nutella, and oreos. On the other team, Sarah and Bella prepared French Toast for their team that revived rave reviews and ultimately gave the Slicers the win.
After an afternoon of fierce competition, our crew headed to the thrift store to gear up for our final banquet. Edward found a box of cologne that he bought to go along with his new sweater vest, while Morgan found a pair of bedroom slippers to complete her outfit.
Once we had all showered, we headed to our banquet dinner, dressed to the nines in our new thrift store finds. Our crew reveled in the funny looks we received while we enjoyed pizza together.
Following our final dinner together, we headed back to camp for our last moonup, led by our LODs, Zander and Trygve. We talked about how much we had learned over the course of these past two weeks and how we would cherish our new friends more than any of the experiences we had had.
Each of our twelve kids have made such an impact on us leaders. I am so glad that I was able to share this experience with them and know they all have great things ahead of them. Although I am sad to see them go, I know every one of them will do great things at home with their new skills. To everyone at home, thank you so much for sharing these incredible young people with us. We are so thankful that we were able to be a part of their lives, even for a short while. Although the details of our trip may become fuzzy as time goes on, we will never forget the feeling we had these two weeks together. Robby, Bren, and I already miss each of member of our little family more than words can describe.
July 14, 2017
“I believe courage is all too often mistakenly seen as the absence of fear. If you descend by ropes from a cliff and are not fearful to some degree, you are either crazy or unaware. Courage is seeing your fear, in a realistic perspective, defining it, considering alternatives, and choosing to function in spite of risks.”
On Monday, this quote from Leonard Zunin, was perfectly exemplified by Trygve as he courageously faced his fear of heights by reaching the top of one of our climbs in Taylor Canyon. With six different routes to choose from over two days of climbing, the students were faced with days full of exciting challenges. Jackson showed his experience climbing by completing all six walls with ease, including one monstrous 130-foot route on the second day. After the first day of climbing we went into Crested Butte where the kids were introduced to the magic of Third Bowl ice cream. Luke and Leah, our LODs (Leader Of the Day) on the second day of climbing, kept everyone motivated and enthusiastic even though the weather was a little gloomy. Luckily the rains held off just until we were done, allowing for everyone to get a full day of climbing in before the much-needed storm saturated the area.
After the completion of our climbing we drove away from the rain to our new campsite, just off the Arkansas River, upstream of the Royal Gorge. After setting up camp, Connor showed of his passion and skills for fine cuisine by assisting Bren in cooking chicken curry for dinner. Connor also found his future calling of being a rapper, writing Billboard hits in the kitchen, that were later performed for everyone at Moonup. While dinner was being made, others explored the area, and made themselves at home. Zander gave a lesson in knots, further sharing his passion and knowledge of outdoor survival and skills. After filling our bellies with an incredible dinner to close up our rock climbing, we crawled into our tents to get a good nights rest before our next day’s adventure of rafting the Royal Gorge.
The next morning we loaded up our boats and pushed off into the rapids of the Arkansas’ prestigious Royal Gorge. As we went through the wild class four rapids, Bella captured the footage of our boats dropping through famous rapids such as Sunshine Falls, Sledgehammer Falls, and Wall Slammer. To celebrate surviving the rapids, we pulled over into an eddy on a deep part of the river where Jay and Edward led the group in some cliff jumping. The views and activities of the day led to non-stop smiles and laughter, and when paired with Jack’s continuous jokes and positivity as the day’s LOD, it led to an almost final day that is hard to top. However, the impossible was done. That night back at camp, we returned to an empty campsite, with no one to disturb. With such an opportunity presented, the moment had to be seized. A giant party was thrown, complete with cake, sodas, sparklers, party hats, and music. We spent the night not worrying about disturbing camp neighbors and celebrating the unparalleled friendships that had formed over the last two weeks. Morgan and Sarah kept the party alive with a spontaneous dance session where new dance moves were created and life in that moment was all about the beat drop. After a night of celebration the storm clouds again rolled in to shut down the party. Retreating to our tents to stay dry, we all went to bed with full hearts and a slight sugar high. As the raindrops hitting our tents sang us to sleep, we closed our eyes to get rested for our final day. As the end is just on the horizon line, we each are desperately trying to live in the moment as we have all learned to do this trip, hoping it will delay the end’s approach. These last two weeks have been truly incredible, and Bren, Brantley, and myself could not be more proud of all the kids. We look forward to savoring our last day and enjoying every last second we have together. To all of you back home, thank you for this opportunity, and see you soon!
July 10, 2017
What an amazing four days we have had in the beautiful San Juan National Forest. We hiked, we swam, we fished, we camped and we sure did laugh. We all loved it so much none of us wanted to leave!
Day one started off with a morning of packing our packs and getting ready for our adventure to come. While everyone munched on yummy cinnamon rolls, Jay and Zander led us in an inspirational morning huddle before we headed to the backcountry. As soon as we got to the trail Zander took lead and showed us all of his outdoor skills and gear system. Half way through, after a quick rest, Jay jumped in front to lead the group with a new energy while Zander hung out in the back encouraging everyone to keep going. Luke kept the group distracted and entertained by providing us with riddles to solve. With impressive speed, Sarah and Trygve were always the first to solve each riddle, showing their cleverness. We were all relieved and excited when we made it to our first campsite right by the river. Leah helped all the girls out by becoming our backcountry hair stylist and braiding everyones hair to hide the dirt and outdoor tangles. We finished the night with some backpacking pasta carbonara cooked by our LODs, Jay and Zander.
Day two of the trip we woke up to the sunshine and the birds chirping. Jack and Luke were our leaders for the day, they got us all up and ready for another fun filled day of backpacking. Everyone found the second day to be easier since our backs and legs were getting used to the weight of our packs. During our big hike for the day, we were surprised by a hail shower right after we finished our lunch. This did not bring the group down one bit. Everyone loved having a cool shower to wipe away some of our sweat. Conner, Zander, Leah, Luke, Jack and Morgan danced in the hail while Conner managed to go pro the whole hail storm to keep the memories close. After the storm passed we continued our search for the best campsite. Jack found a hidden gem tucked away in the trees. This campsite was perfect for our group. We had access to the river, a view of a waterfall and a big open field to play in. Other campers had left homemade benches that made a perfect spot for our moon up.
Day three we had to test our strength and hike a far way to get back close to where we started. Jackson and Sarah made for the perfect leaders of the day to keep us moving and motivated to get us to our campsite. We got an early start and followed our steps back. Since we hiked so quickly we were able to take an extra long lunch break by the river. Edward, Jack and Jay all showed us their top fishing skills and helped to catch a Colorado Rainbow Trout. Jackson and Luke jumped in the refreshingly cold river to cool off and body surfed down the rapids, dodging all of the rocks. After taking a long lunch break we continued our hike. During the second stretch of the hike, we came across a Great Dane that brought Bella to tears of joy. She couldn’t stop talk about how cute the dog was for the rest of the day. We reached our goal that day, and when we made it to the campsite we all took a break to rest our feet and enjoy each other’s company. During Moonup that night Leah was able to conquer her fears of bats by keeping a brave face while a friendly bat flew over our heads. We all enjoyed our last night spent away from civilization and in the quiet backcountry under a full moon.
The last day we decided as a group that we loved being in the backcountry so much we would spend most of our morning hanging out at our campsite. Our leaders Morgan and Jay entertained us by setting up a boat race down the river. Jay started by test small pieces of dead trees he found and sending them down to see how far they could make it. Everyone joined in on the fun and made their own larger team boats. Each boat was successful in making it down the rapids as far as we could see. After the race Morgan got the group moving to head out to the trailhead. We made it back in perfect timing to head to Telluride for a much deserved lunch. We all went as a group to a delicious burger place called Steamies, where most people went all out and got the double bacon and cheese burger. With full stomachs and happy faces we made our way to our campsite, surrounded by the crystal clear Blue Mesa lake. As soon as we got there we all took a dip in the lake to clean ourselves off.
After four days of backpacking the group has truly come together as a big family. We are getting ready for a big few days of rock climbing in Taylor’s Canyon. Robby, Brantley and I are impressed everyday with all of the kids and we are excited to see what the future holds for them!
Sarah- Mom and Dad I’m having lots of fun and I am being safe! Love you!
Leah- I SURVIVED BACKPACKING! Four days in the wilderness and I’m alive! I am having tons of fun! Love y’all!
Morgan- Mom and Dad, I guess I miss y’all, sort of. Don’t worry I didn’t eat the sand at the sand dunes. I know you were worried about that. And don’t worry I didn’t kill myself rafting and I’m still alive after backpacking. Love y’all.
Jackson- Hello, what’s up family. There are tons of dogs here so it’s making me really miss Ellie, tell her that I love her. I’m having the best time of my life. I can’t wait to tell you all about it. I miss you all a lot. When I get home all I really want is angel food cake, so work on that.
Jack- Dear Mom and Dad I am having a great time in Colorado, the counselors are super nice and funny. The food is great. One day we all woke up at 3am to climb the tallest sand dune in North America. I can’t wait to tell you all my awesome stories when I come home. Love you.
Trygve- Hey mom, hey dad! I’ve been having a great time on the trip so far. My favorite things have been me rafting and zip lining. I’ve made a lot of new friends and bought some cool stuff in Telluride. I miss you guys and am also excited to come home. I hope you have been taking good care of Amber, and say hi to Almen and Beck for me! Love Trygve
Zander- I’m still alive after everything. I miss you guys and want you to know I’m having fun.
Jay- I am having a ton of fun and I miss you guys but I will be home soon.
Edward- I miss you guys, but I am having a TON of fun. I miss the dog and cat.
Luke- What’s good in the hood! I miss you guys a lot but I am still having the time of my life! I’ll make sure to tell you all about it! Peace
Conner- I am having the time of my life in Colorado. I loved hiking and zip lining and rafting so far and what is yet to come. Miss you and I’ll see you guys soon!
Bella- Mom and Dad, hey! I miss you guys so much! I am having so much fun in Colorado. I survived backpacking, it was so much fun! I didn’t fall off any rapids while rafting, had an awesome time zipping in, and am being very safe. I have so many new and awesome friends, and love Bren, Robby and Brantley. I miss you so much! Stay safe! Give Lilly, Claudia and everyone my love! Love you guys! Can’t wait to see you!
July 5, 2017
As we make our way to the San Juan mountain range for three nights of backpacking, the van is in rare form as everyone sleeps silently and rests from our last two days. Two days ago Jack lead the way on zip lining, flawlessly demonstrating the proper technique on the practice course. After mastering the basics we made our way through nine different towers with views of the Royal Gorge and surrounding mountains that Bella described that night at Moonup as breathtaking.
That night our LODs Edward and Leah helped us set up for our Fourth of July cookout complete with hot dogs, watermelon, Mac and Cheese, s’mores, American flags, and patriotic jewelry. We spent the afternoon celebrating our Independence while growing our friendships, laughing until our stomachs hurt, and taking in the beautiful view of the Great Sand Dunes. Zander introduced me and others the pine needle tea as well as many other backcountry recipes that he has acquired through his passion for the outdoors. Luke helped others roast their hot dogs over the campfire after many failed attempts resulting in dirt covered Oscar Meyers. Morgan and Brantley found the perfect marshmallow roasting sticks and lead the creation of America’s greatest dessert. Everyone interacted with their perfect uniqueness, while still sharing a common love for community and a passion for the outdoors was enjoyable to watch.
Once the sun went down we settled down for a short sleep before waking for our sunrise hike to the top of the country’s tallest sand dune, Star Dune. Before the birds began to sing, our trek began through the vast hills of sand. Trygve and Sarah, the days LODs, led our zig zag path up the ridges lit by the moon and stars. Just as the the sky illuminated we made it to the top of Star Dune, where Jackson, Connor, and Jay began capturing footage of a series of front flips over the ridges. After some action shots with a rare and picturesque background, we turned our view to the East and watched as the sun gently rose above the mountain painted horizon.
After our morning on the Dunes we returned to camp to pack up and head to our next journey. Up to now we have had a series of unforgettable adventures that will last a lifetime. Knowing that more lies ahead is exciting and leaves us all anxious in anticipation. Bren, Brantley, and I have loved getting to watch this new family form and have enjoyed every second with these incredible young men and women. Now off to backpacking! Next you hear from us everyone will have unleashed our inner Bear Grylls in the backcountry. Talk to you soon!
July 5, 2017
“I believe that courage is all too often mistakenly seen as the absence of fear. If you descend by ropes from a cliff and are not fearful to some degree, you are either crazy or unaware. Courage is seeing your fear, in a realistic perspective, defining it, considering alternatives, and choosing to function in spite of risks.”
After our first full day together, Bella and Connor, our first leaders of the day, shared these words with us to open moonup. All 12 of our kids have truly taken these words to heart, choosing to immerse themselves in the activity at hand and overcoming each obstacle that comes their way.
Once everyone arrived at the Denver airport, we made our way to our first campsite on the banks of the Arkansas River. We enjoyed pizza together and started getting to know our family for the next two weeks. Leah helped make the long van ride more enjoyable by leading us in stretches at our gas station pit stops. When we arrived at camp, many in the group chose to sleep outside so they could fall asleep while looking up at the twinkling stars and bright moon.
The next morning, we headed to our rafting put in, where all the kids suited up in wet suits and splash jackets. Everyone felt prepared and excited for the cold rapids awaiting us. Our guides Justin and Andy led our two rafting teams, the Drifters and the Odd Otters, to work together and paddle our way through the waves. When we pulled off the river for a lunch break, everyone was in great spirits and eager to return to rafting, especially Trygve who loved his first rafting experience.
After lunch, we floated through some calmer rapids, where many of our crew decided to ride the bull at the very front of the raft. Morgan fearlessly sat at the bow, even as a Zander took over the guide position from Andy. He called all the strokes for his boat, expertly avoiding all the rocks and shallow areas of the river.
Upon arrival at camp, Morgan and Sarah taught the rest of the group how to set up their tents and then assisted everyone in building their tents for the very first time!
As soon as everyone was ready, the whole crew climbed up the mountain neighboring our camp. Connor continuously turned back to show everyone the way up and hold back branches for all his new friends. Sarah encouraged all the other girls to climb higher and was all smiles when she found the best view on top of a boulder overlooking the Collegiate Peaks. Jack also enjoyed the view and commented on how content he felt with life when he reached the mountain peak. With a feeling of satisfaction and appreciation for the beautiful landscape surrounding us, we returned to camp for the afternoon. Jay made himself right at home, setting up a fold out chair and watching the ducks paddle down the river as our raft guides prepared hamburgers and homemade french fries. After a riverside dinner, with full stomachs, we crawled into our tents for a long night of sleep.
The next morning, we woke up on the later side and were greeted with omelets and bagels to give us energy for a full day of rafting. Once on the river, Bella made sure to capture to the best moments of the river on the GoPro and made us all laugh by continuously asking everyone in the boat, “Is this thing on?” At one point, we pulled off the river to scout a rapid, and Luke found a makeshift lazy river to float down. The rest of the group soon joined him, and we all took a quick swim in the swift water.
Back on the river, we faced the biggest rapids of the trip. We all paddled hard and remained in our rafts. We were even able to assist some whitewater kayakers who had fallen out of their boats. All the kids were proud of their abilities to navigate the rushing waters of the Arkansas, and our guides were very impressed with their enthusiasm and teamwork throughout the trip.
During the final stretch of flatter water, Edward and Luke decided to ride the bull with no hands, and ended up swimming! Everyone was cracking up that they had fallen out on smooth water, especially so close to the end of our trip.
We were all sad to leave the river, but we had such a great experience with this activity that we cannot wait to see what the rest of the trip holds. Jackson and Morgan closed out the day as our LODs, and Jackson impressed us all with his guitar skills and serenaded us with Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” to open moonup.
Bren, Robby, I are so impressed with all these kids’ ability to stretch themselves. They all have pushed themselves out of their comfort zones, just in the first 48 hours of being together. They have been courageous enough to be fully themselves in an unfamiliar setting and try intimidating activities for the first time. I am so excited to see how each of these kids grows over the next two weeks, as they have already accomplished so much.