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Colorado Trail 2B • July 1-July 14, 2017

The Royal Gorge!

July 13, 2017

Our 12th day started off extra sweet with some donuts for breakfast! The sugar filled meal fueled us for our upcoming – and last – activity: whitewater rafting in the Royal Gorge! The morning portion of the rafting trip warmed us up with some class three rapids and proved Liza and Aiden as fearless lead paddlers in their raft. A lunch break gave us time to prepare for the daunting class four rapids that would shortly follow. While experience from the Arkansas headwaters gave us confidence for the gnarly water ahead, there were some butterflies too.

Sunshine falls introduced us to the highest level water we’d seen with two big drops! Thomas, unphased by the Gorge’s best, stood in the raft for the next couple rapids (with the guides approval of course). After we successfully made it through our first couple, the kids were paddling with excitement through the rapids known as sledge hammer, wall slammer, and boat eater!! Reaching a calm pool near the Gorge’s end, Celie was the first to cool off in the refreshing water, inspiring many laughs and a sense of accomplishment.

Our day on the water was not quite over, however. As the rafts pulled closer together at the pullout spot, we had a friendly competition: a paddle war between the left and right side! While one side (the left side) initially took the lead and began to turn the raft right, Jack West channeled his inner Hulk and swung the boat around to the left, securing the victory for his side! We finally said goodbye to the breathtaking Royal Gorge, wishing we could raft down it again – if only to take in the sheer rock faces on either side and the tranquility that they bring amongst the turbulent rapids.

The big day of rafting brought on a big appetite! And there was no better day for it, because dinner that night was…IRON CHEF!!! The secret ingredient? Burgers, of course! Our group split with two teams emerging ready to prove themselves as ultimate chefs. Team 1, later renamed to “The Frenchies,” made a twist on the classic bacon cheeseburger. Instead of slapping on bacon and cheese like it’s normally done, they elevated their ingredients. Addie and Maura were in charge of the delicious Mac n Cheese they would top their burger with. Jack Hodges and Celie aided with the bacon that was broken into bits and put in the middle of the patty, and Thomas manned the grill.

Like all great rivalries, the Frenchies needed a counterpart…..and they met their match against…. The Breakfast Club! If their name brought ideas of waffles, bacon, and eggs then you are right on track. Claudia ran between her team members overseeing the fruition of their ingenious burger; Patrick and Liza toasted waffles for buns and cooked hash browns. Aiden and Jack West cooked the bacon and caramelized the pieces in syrup, and Andrew grilled their burgers till they were just right. Both burgers blew the judges away and a heated debate took place over which would reign supreme! In the end, the creativity of the Breakfast Club won them the title, but strangely more of the Frenchies burgers were eaten, so rumors of a rematch have begun. We ended our day with full bellies in the moonup circle, feeling accomplishment of all the day’s activities!

Wishing we could do it all again!

Backpacking the San Juan National Forest!

July 11, 2017

Greetings Colorado Trail families,

We want to start off by telling you that we are so incredibly proud of each and every student on this wonderful adventure we are having. Often times students are anxious about the backpacking portions of our trips because of the unfamiliarity that they pose. We believe that anxieties were diminished shortly into the four-day trip because of the smiling faces and positive attitudes we experienced. Every one of our students blew us away with their backpacking skills!

Day one of backpacking started off with a scrumptious meal of cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs- the meal of champions! Students learned how to pack and fit their backpacks shortly after they filled their bellies up. After deciding what items were necessary to bring backpacking, everyone finished packing up and made our way to the bear creek trailhead. The first day of our hike consisted of six miles of hiking, and it proved to be a killer leg workout as well as an amazing series of mountain views. Liza impressed the leaders with her undeniable leadership skills as she led the way to our first campsite. Liza was vital to our group as she kept encouraging us to put one foot in front of the other. Everyone settled into camp as Aiden initiated a game of “mafia” and entertained the entire group with his humor – We seriously can’t get enough of this guy!

The sun rising over the San Juans and the sounds of birds rushing to the nearby creek marked the start of day two. On this day, we had a fairly short hike to our next campsite, and spirits remained high because we reached our new campsite minutes before a gnarly hail storm. Our tents were wonderful shelters for the time being! Thomas, with a fly rod in hand, walked up and down the creek bank getting a few bites, but unfortunately never landed a fish. It was great seeing his natural fly fishing ability come into play. Later on in the day, one of the leaders of the day, Maura, proved that she has what it takes to be an effective leader by taking the reigns of moonup. It was great watching everyone begin to listen as she spoke to the group. Another day ended next to the rushing water, and we could not wait until the next day full of beautiful scenery.

Day three of backpacking began with the lingering smells of hash browns and summer sausage, which is always a backcountry favorite. We began to notice how helpful one particular group member was on this day. Claudia continually asks if she can help with meals, tent set up, cleaning, tarp set up, and many more tasks that she might not even be responsible for carrying out. We are so proud of this girl because of her willingness to always go out of her way to help others. We were also blown away by Jack West’s unbelievable progress as a backpacker at this point. Jack began to hike with ease by this point in time- he even jogged some of the trail with his pack on! The finish line for day three was a campsite only a mile from our trailhead, nestled as usual right beside bear creek. We believe that Jack Hodges should absolutely consider being a backpacking or mountaineering guide one day because of his astonishing ability to scale hills and rocks. We noticed this early on during the rock climbing section of our trip, but now we know that it is truly a gift that he has! A sweet soul that has not gone unnoticed is Addison. As leader of the day, Addie constantly reminded us of the right direction to go along the path, when to hydrate, and how important it is keep pushing on. We went to sleep with a wonderful meal of chicken pesto pasta in our stomachs, eager to hike the bear creek trail one last time in the morning.

Day four started off as a fly fishing trip for some of the boys. Andrew thought it would be a wonderful idea to wake up early and lead the rest of the boys along with a leader down to the creek to try their hand at catching a trout. We loved Andrew’s enthusiasm about making his plan come to fruition. July 11th also marks one of our very own’s birthday, Celie Sherrill!!! The rest of the group woke Celie up with balloons, hugs, and a long and drawn out singing of “happy birthday.” We cannot brag on this girl enough, because of her ability to bring the entire group together with her encouraging words and goofy stories. Another group member who continually makes everyone feel accepted and a vital part of the group is Patrick. We noticed that he has a welcoming way about him that seems to act as a magnet, making our group a family instead of just another group out in the wilderness. Day four marks the end of the backpacking section of Colorado Trail, but it most certainly does not mark the end of the incredible leaps and bounds this unique family will continue to make.

Until next time,

Will, Liz, Elizabeth, and Creed


Addie: Love you guys so much! I can’t wait to see you all! And I can’t wait to see Ally also. Love you!

Aiden: Hi guys. I can’t wait to see you! I have missed you! I have missed real beds. Love you!

Liza: Hey, I’m hanging in there with the medicine thing. You know what I’m taking about. Love you! See you soon.

Andrew: Hi, I am about to do level four rapids better than what we did!

Thomas: Hey mom. Hey dad. Can you bring Georgia to the airport?

Patrick: Dear mom and dad, I can’t wait to get back home to jump in the pool. Miss you lots! Love, Patrick

Jack Hodges: Hey mom and dad you guys are awesome. I love you. See you soon. Love, Jack

Maura: Hi mom and dad (and Dublin). I love you guys so much, and I can’t wait to see you soon!

Claudia: Hi mommy, daddy, Morgan

Ruby! I am having lots of fun. We went to Telluride today! I can’t wait to do level four rapids tomorrow! I love you and miss y’all. Love, Claudia

Jack West: Hello, I miss you! I am enjoying my time at camp!

Celie: Hi mom and dad, I had my best birthday here with my friends and I can’t wait to tell you guys all about it. Love you and miss you. Can’t wait to see you!

Rafting Extravaganza!

July 8, 2017

Greetings Colorado Trail 2B families, 

Day 4 and Day 5 were nothing but wet, wild, and fun! We woke up with excitement and pride on the 4th of July, ate a quick oatmeal breakfast, packed up our campsite at Hecla Junction then drove towards River Runners for our rafting section. Once we got to RR, we stuffed our clothes in dry sacks, put on our wet suits, and met our guides, Nate and Nikki, who were dressed for the holiday! Crash drove us on a bus to the beginning of “Miracle Mile” where we put in our rafts and had a lesson on river safety. In our two rafts, we all conquered several class three rapids, such as Silver Bullet and House Rock. Well… of the rafts didn’t exactly conquer House Rock, meaning everyone fell out, but all were ok! For lunch, we ate deli sandwiches and played Moon Society, Liza and Addy were the first to figure it out. We filled up our bottles then got back on the river for another three or four miles. Our campsite was located right on the river. We had ample space for so many activities! Aiden and Jack H were out exploring and experiencing wildlife, some others walked to hang out on the old railroad tracks, and more people went fishing- Andrew even caught a fish on his fist cast! It was an afternoon of adventure! We then gathered up around our campfire for our 4th of July dinner – spaghetti!!!! It was so delicious and our stomachs were full, but not full enough for no s’mores! We ate many golden and burned marshmallows and lots of chocolate. Then we lit our sparklers and listened to the sound of firework; however, we could not quite see them. Afterwards, our long day began to catch up with us so we hit the sheets, more like sleeping pads, to rest up for our second day rafting. 

Around 8:30am the students were woken with the fresh smells of French toast and sausage! After a hearty breakfast, we packed our packs, got dressed, and played evolution! There were many Buddha’s; however, Creed, Oakes, Andrew, and Jack H all had a veggie off, where Creed and Andrew won. After everything was packed, we hopped on our rafts and paddled towards one of our many rapids. The morning consisted of lots of class 3 rapids, such as Pinball and Widow Maker. We then stopped for lunch at Hecla Junction and ate wraps. During lunch Claudia shared one of her many jokes about the interrupting cow. It was great. After lunch we paddled towards Sidell’s, which is a tough class 3 rapid. We all got out to scout and witnessed one raft flipping and two others having people fall or. Although some may have been intimidated, no one backed down. Both rafts tackled Sidell’s successfully! As we continued down river, we eventually pulled to the side so everyone could jump off a rock. Patrick, Celie, Maura couldn’t wait! We paddle some more and eventually made it to the end. After lots of riddles and captain leaders, we completed rafting. We drove back to RR where we unpacked our dry sacks and threw everything into the U-Haul, thanked Nikki and Nate as well as Eric, our chef, and drove back to Hecla Junction. We all hung out for a while at the campsite where tea-time and southern twang all came out, shortly after we began cooking our delicious quesadilla dinner, led by our fearless LODS, Thomas and Addy. We celebrated July 5th with our festive table cloth and plates, cleaned up, and got ready for Moonup, after a long “nug-jug”, many going to Jack W for sharing his knowledge and classic jokes! For that Moonup we all answered the question, “what is your spirit animal?” Creed shared how he would want to be a sponge, a metaphor for life and learning. LT and Oakes later sang Live Forever by Drew Holcomb and Neighbors, then we all said our good nights for our early morning tomorrow! 


Stay tuned for more updates,


Liz, Creed, and Elizabeth


Sand Dune Success!

July 8, 2017

Hello from a long drive to Ridgway State Park in Colorado!! We just finished our sunrise hike to Star Dune in the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and yesterday we had a full day of ziplining in Royal Gorge followed by the best jambalaya any Moondance trip has ever had. 

On Thursday, our leaders of the day, Celie and Andrew, woke everyone up bright and early and we hit the road to our ziplining location in Cañon City. Our course spanned several acres of land overlooking the Sangre de Cristo mountains, where we reached speeds of up to 40 mph!! Aiden challenged Elizabeth, one of the leaders, to a final zip competition on the double race line, and after a lot of friendly back-and-forth, Aiden crushed Elizabeth! 
After a quick drive we all arrived at our campground near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Creed, Elizabeth, Will and I took everyone to watch the sunset over the Sand Dunes. Creed and Will put Andrew and Claudia on their backs for a piggyback race, while Patrick acted as the finish line – Will and Claudia won! The leaders had everyone take 10 seconds of silence to appreciate the beauty of the sunset, and right when we fell silent, a bugle player in the campsite began playing TAPS – a special moment to say the least. We headed back for a delicious dinner of jambalaya and an early night in preparation for a big morning!! 
We woke up far before the sun this morning, and left camp for the sand dunes. With cold sand under our feet we began the long hike to Star Dune, the highest dune in North America at almost 800 ft. After a calf-burning up-and-down workout over the Dunes (there are no trails), we made it to the top about 20 minutes before sunrise. Many people struggled to make it all the way up, but I was especially impressed with Thomas for cheering on his fellow students and being incredibly encouraging even when he himself was tired. As we watched the sun rise over the other side of the Sangre De Cristos, we couldn’t have been prouder of the group for conquering a tough climb as a team. After sunrise we spent an hour sledding and sliding – I’ve never seen anyone fly faster down a dune than Jack Hodges! Liza, Addie and Maura wrote Moondance in massive letters in the sand, which made for some great photos. 
We all headed off the dunes and back to our campsite, where Jack West and Claudia (our leaders of the day) cooked up some pancakes and bacon for a well-deserved breakfast. We loaded up the van and started our long drive to Ridgway in preparation for our four-day backpacking section in the stunning San Juan Mountains. We’re so excited for backpacking – it’s a great group bonding time and a gorgeous hike. 
Stay tuned for more updates, 
Creed, Elizabeth, Will, and Liz
Liza: Hey Mom and Dad! I’m having lots of fun, haven’t showered in a week but I shower tonight. Miss you and love you! I know you’re having fun without me! Enjoy it! 
Patrick: Hey Mom and Dad, Moondance is so fun! I am learning lots of new things. Hope to see you soon. 
Claudia: Hi Mom, Dad, Morgan and Bubbi! I am having a blast at Moondnace! I really like all the people and activities we have done! I sent y’all a letter today. I miss y’all, I hope y’all are good! Love y’all 
Celie: Hi Mom and Dad, I really miss you guys  but I am having the time of my life here. The other kids are really fun to be around and the leaders are really funny and also nice to be around. Love you guys see you soon. 
Maura: Hi everyone! I’m having a great time and I love and miss you. See you soon. Say hi to Dublin for me! 
Addie: Hi Mom and Dad, I love you guys so much and can’t wait to see you soon. Say hi to Ryan and Danny for me, love you. 
Andrew: Hey Mom and Dad I miss you and Moondance is awesome. Learning lots and so far we have gone rock climbing, rafting, and sand dunes. For the next 4 days we hike. Love you!
Jack Hodges: Hey Mom and Dad I am having a ton of fun at Moondance I miss you guys, can’t wait to see you, you are awesome
Jack West: Hello, Mom and Dad! 
Aiden: Hi fam I miss you guys so much. Today we hiked the Great Sand Dunes and it was a blast. 
Thomas: Hey Mom and Dad we are about to go hiking and I can’t wait to see you. Love 

Rockin' Out

July 4, 2017

Hoorah! Our trip has finally started and Liz, Oakes, Will and I could not be more stoked! Airport day was a blur of excitement as students poured in from all over and met each other for the first time. Claudia, our only Moondance alum on the trip, immediately broke the ice with some fun card games like Egyptian rat screw, refrigerator and spoons. We were in a hurry to get on the road to our first campsite, Lake View Gunnison, but had enough time to stop at the top of Monarch Pass for pizza with a view!  We pulled into our campsite as the sun was setting and taught a quick lesson of how to set up tents before having our first Moonup! The question posed: why are you here? It was awesome to hear the variety of answers from all the kids and really made me appreciate each person’s own perspective. 


Day 2 began with smiles all around! Claudia and Patrick, our first leaders of the day, helped facilitate a quick breakfast and motivated people for rock climbing. As we rolled into the parking lot that leads to Mike and Annie’s, our first climbing spot, energy – and music – was bursting from the van. Off the bat, the kids got into it! The lines proved no match for Andrew, who quickly ascended his first route. Jack H. also found an innate ability for climbing and even though he slipped a couple times on one of the hardest lines, persevered and made it to the top! Maura, with some awesome girl power, went above and beyond, completing all four routes offered. Dark clouds caused us to wrap up rock climbing a little early, but sent us towards the one logical thing to do next: ice cream in Crested Butte! The treat was a sweet reward after an exhausting day. After walking around for a bit we loaded back in the van and said bye to, as the kids call it, Crusty Butt. Back at camp we had chicken fajitas for dinner! I thought I was a good cook, but the LODS, with the help of Liza, went all out. We feasted on sautéed peppers and onions, brown rice, and perfectly seasoned chicken. Lessons on the seven LNT principles, bear protocol, and expedition behavior came soon after. Moonup shortly followed; the night’s question – most likely brought on by dinner – if you could be one food, what would you be and why? 


Day 3 started my favorite way, with eggs and sausage! A fog wall greeted us that morning, blocking everything beyond our campground. As Aiden and Maura, the day’s LODs, finished cooking breakfast, the fog slowly burned off and unveiled a shimmering lake with snowcapped mountains in the backdrop. It was a beautiful sight, but adventure was calling and so we packed up camp and headed to cement creek. On this last day of rock climbing, Thomas was on a mission and made several ascents of the routes, even returning to the tallest and hardest line that was set up! Addison also pushed herself, challenging her fear of heights on the wall! While it was a hot day and the climbs were a little harder than yesterday, Celie was a constant source of positivity and laughter. Jack W. also kept group spirits high by captivating us with odd ball facts! Our rock climbing day had to end and as we said goodbye to Irwin Guides, we turned our sights on Hecla Junction, the night’s campsite. Taking advantage of the nice weather, a couple kids got their first taste of the Arkansas River! 


Shout outs 

Liza – Hi everyone! Love you and miss you ️ Having a great time. Love Liza 


Claudia – Hi mom, dad, Morgan and ruby. I am having an awesome time! I love and miss y’all!  – Love Claudia 


Addie – Love you guys, miss you all so much! I am having so much fun! Love you!!


Jack H. – Hey mom and dad I really appreciate you doing this for me, I’m having so much fun and I’ve made a lot of friends. 


Aiden – Hi family I assure you that I am having a great time. I don’t know if you knew that. Jack H. Was coming. I love you so much!!!


Jack W. – Hello, I miss you. So far we have only climbed but I have realized that Colorado is a beautiful place. I have also gotten you gifts: mom I got you oven mitts, dad I got you a shirt and I haven’t found something for Henry. 


Maura – Hi everyone! I love and miss y’all ️ I’m having a great time!


Celie – Hi mom and dad I miss and love you so so much, can’t wait to see you ️- Love Celie 


Andrew – Hi family, love you 


Thomas – Hi mom and dad, I am having fun. 


Patrick – Hi mom and dad, camp is really fun. I have lots of friends!


  • Aiden
  • Andrew
  • Jack
  • Liza
  • Claudia
  • Patrick
  • Maura
  • Thomas
  • Celie
  • Addison
  • Jack