July 31, 2017
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
As we sit in the airport and reflect on these last two week, I dwell on this quote by Maya Angelou. It’s hard to believe that the trip is already over, and the end brings about overwhelming feelings of bittersweet joy and sadness. The friendships formed and memories made are ones that will last a lifetime for all of us.
We began our final full day yesterday at our campsite, nestled on the bank of the Arkansas River. Our leaders of the day, Sam and Hunter, got everyone going in the morning as we all prepared some chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. After eating, we all took some times to ourselves to write self-addressed letters that we will receive in the future. In these letters we reminisced on our adventures and transferred the thoughts and feelings brought about by the trip onto paper for future reflection.
After everyone had completed his or her letters, we packed up camp to begin our journey to our final night’s campsite. On the way to camp, we played some of our favorite trip songs, including Hank and some of the others’ favorite: “Tsunami”. During the ride there were many moments where it was hard to distinguish between a fifteen-passenger van and middle school dance club. With voices horse and fist pumping arms sore, we arrived at our campsite. By this time everyone was hungry again, and the beginning of our ceremonial iron chef competition kicked off for lunch.
Winslow and Avery led The Dabbers in a fierce three-course meal battle against Eleanor, Walton, and the rest of Team Patagucci. In round one, appetizers including fried rice and a roasted almond salad competed for an important first impression on us judges. Although they were both incredible, the fried rice won by a vote of 2 to 1. In the second round entrees consisted of ramen quesadillas and turkey sausage pasta that were masterfully whipped up by both teams. The creativity of both teams made up for lost flavor, and made for a tough decision for the judges. In the end however, Team Patagucci and their quesadillas won due to a touching story of the meals history given by Nick. With the competition tied, we headed into the final dessert round. All other rounds were memories of the past, and all energy was focused towards this round by both teams, and the results justly represented. The dabbers created a Nutella pudding with a side of graham crackers and fresh apple slices, while Team Patagucci created a dish consisting of fried Oreos and an original menu item of peanut butter, brown sugar, Nutella Oreos that were the brainchild of Sam. With taste buds arguing, we judges had a hard time picking a winner, but in the end Team Patagucci came out on top.
After the heated Iron Chef competition we cooled off by going to the car wash to clean the van that was kept sparkly clean throughout the two weeks. Aidan and William led the charge with the pressure washer and foaming brush while music blared from all the van’s speakers. The simple joys in life truly shined as we all laughed and sang while spraying the van clean, and maybe each other some…
Finally with a new sparkling van we drove to the store to furnish ourselves with final night banquet dinner clothes. Brennan and some of the other “swagged out” with some new matching pairs of off brand Jordan sneakers. King and some of the other boys decided to go with a more Top Gun approach consisting of aviator sunglasses and new flashy watches. Once we were all decked out in our new outfits we made our way to AJ’s Pizzeria where we feasted on pizza pie and bottomless soda, completed with fun conversations and reflections on the trip. After dinner the night’s feast continued with Wendy’s frostys that were the icing on the cake.
Once back at camp, everyone reluctantly packed their bags and got ready for our final Moonup. We laid out a giant tarp big enough for everyone and all laid under the stars, snuggled warm in our sleeping bags, while we talked about the unforgettable memories of the previous weeks, and enjoyed one last night of conversation with our new best friends. Eventually we all fell asleep for a short night’s sleep before this morning’s journey to the airport.
Saying goodbye this morning was tough because of the incredible time spent all together, but we were all reminded of the beauty of new beginnings that coincide with each end. Bren, Brantley, and myself would like to thank all of you back home for sharing these absolutely wonderful young men and women with us this summer. It has been a true pleasure experiencing a trip of a lifetime with each of them, and it is a trip we will all never forget. I hope that Maya Angelou’s words speak true to each of the kids as much as they will to us, and they never forget the feelings that only time spent in a beautiful place such as The Colorado Trail, with even more beautiful people, can bring. Thanks again from all of Moondance, and a happy rest of summer to everyone!
July 30, 2017
What an amazing last few days it has been out here in beautiful Colorado! We finished our four day backpacking trip and went straight into two days of climbing the walls of Taylor’s Cannon.
On our first day, we all learned the main techniques to climbing and belaying. All of the kids were excited and ready to learn what it takes to be an outdoor rock climber. Avery was the first to volunteer to climb, and she demonstrated how to climb like a pro. We were all impressed with her persistence and bravery on the rock. Nick showed his previously learned belaying skills by always being the first to volunteer to belay anyone that was ready to climb. William was the first one ready to send it on every route set up, and he successfully completed each challenge. After a few hours of climbing we decided to cool off with some yummy homemade Third Bowl ice cream in Crested Butte. Brennan described this ice cream as “the best ice cream she has ever had”, and the rest of the group had to agree. After our bellies were full and happy we decided to head back to our beautiful campsite that overlooked the Taylor Reservoir. This campsite was a favorite for the group.
Waking up to a beautiful sunrise overlooking the lake we were ready to take on another day of climbing. Winslow and Walton, as the leaders of the day, got us excited for the day with a belly full of cinnamon rolls and a positive attitude. We journeyed to a new climbing spot with a few more challenging climbs, and all of the kids were stoked to take on the new challenge. Eleanor impressed us all by being the only one to climb all of the routes on both days. Hunter also impressed us with his climbing skills by never giving up on any route no matter how hard and impossible it may have seemed. After the rain fell heavy we took off to head back to the Arkansas River. We enjoyed quesadillas for dinner, then we finished the night with a peaceful moonup lead by Walton and Winslow.
The next morning we all got up ready for a full on day of whitewater rafting in the breath taking Royal Gorge. King and Aidan, did an awesome job as Leaders of the Day, getting us ready to enjoy another day of rafting. They were the first two on the boat and they were ready to take on the class three and four rapids. Avery seemed to have the most fun taking over the front and riding the bull. Nick and Hunter were the first to brace the front two seats, even though they knew the chilly water was soon to come. Throughout the day we had some splash competitions between the two boats which ended in a battle between Nick and Hank, leading to them both taking each other down into the cold water. After a fun filled day of rafting we came back to our campsite to enjoy one of our last nights by sitting by the campfire roasting hotdogs and s’mores. The rain decided to join us, but that did not stop the fun. Instead we all decided to take it on by having a dance party in the pouring rain. Sam impressed us all by taking over the dance circle with his classic dance moves. After the dancing was over we finished our night with moonup lead by Aidan and King.
We are all sad this trip is coming to an end. Today we have our final day of surprises and fun before getting up early tomorrow morning and heading to the Denver airport. We are going to make the most of our last few moments all shared together out here in Colorado! Thank you, parents, for sending your amazing kids with us this summer! It has been a privilege exploring this great state alongside them and we will be so sad to see them go. Until next time!
July 27, 2017
“Hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work hard”
We have all emerged from the backcountry as mountain men and wilderness women! Being away from society for the past four days has brought us closer than before and introduced a deeper appreciation for nature in each of us. Each member of our crew has pushed themselves and had a great time while doing it.
William and Aidan were our LODs to start out our journey. They helped us all pack up our belongings at our campsite in the front country before we headed into the woods. From the trailhead, William took the lead, setting the pace for the crew up the switchbacks and into the valley. He continued to guide us until Aidan took the front and encouraged us all the way to our first campsite for the night. Once we arrived, we set up our tents and feasted on personal pizza bagels that Hank swore he was going to start making at home. We were all excited to get into our sleeping bags early to get ready for our next big day of hiking!
Day two of the backpacking section brought lots of rain and spectacular views. With yummy breakfast burritos filling our stomachs, our crew hit the trails again, keeping positive attitudes despite the weather and their heavy packs. Eleanor made sure to capture each moment of the trip with her video logs on her gopro, and Hunter continued to impress us with his photography skills. Our LODs, Winslow and King, facilitated the group decision to drop our packs and set up camp at our lunch spot and hike further down the trail without our backpacks on. By doing this, we were able to hike farther than we would have been able to otherwise and catch the best glimpses of the snowcapped mountains surrounding us and several waterfalls! On the way there, we passed through fields of wildflowers that grew up above our shoulders. Sam enjoyed hiding between the towering blooms, and Brennan was able to decorate her hair with the beautiful flowers. Walton loved taking in the view, as the clouds rolled in over the surrounding peaks.
Once we returned to camp, Nick practiced his knot tying skills and helped set up a tarp that allowed us to escape the rain. Later that night, we enjoyed fajita bowls prepared by our LODs. Surrounded by the sounds of the rushing river and a nearby waterfall, we all slept soundly through the night.
On our third and longest day of hiking, Eleanor and William led the way as our LODs. The two of them kept everyone motivated as we walked downhill through towering aspen trees, patches of wildflowers, and rolling fields. Avery impressed us all by being such a strong hiker and continuously being at the front of the pack. At every rest break, Hunter was quick to share his snacks and candy with the rest of the group, making sure that everyone was feeling good every step of the way.
Upon arrival at our last backcountry campsite, our wilderness pros quickly set up camp and put together the stoves to start cooking “the best meal of our trip” ramen noodles. Sam was very enthusiastic about our dinner and helped in every step. While our pasta cooked, Eleanor and Nick kept us entertained by playing along with a game and creating an elaborate story for the group.
After filling our stomachs with ramen and having a fun Moonup, William, King, Aidan, and Winslow formed a rap group and entertained us all with their sick rhymes. We were all happy to crawl in our tents to sleep before our last day in the backcountry.
Nick and Brennan got us up and moving the next morning for our last bit of hiking. Everyone moved quickly, as they knew the town of Telluride awaited them. Once we descended the final switchbacks, everyone was thankful to arrive back at the van and change into some fresh clothes before hitting the town.
Our first meal back in civilization was at Steamies where we all enjoyed feasting on burgers and fries. Next, everyone explored the town of Telluride where we all geared up with new shirts and stickers.
Next, we made our way to Elk Creek campsite where we were able to swim in the Blue Mesa Reservoir and enjoy nacho bowls for dinner.
After a full four days of adventuring, we have all learned so much about each other and the wilderness. Bren, Robby, and I loved watching each kid embrace the challenges they met while backpacking and thriving in the backcountry. I am so proud of our hardworking group. They have all shined in new experiences, and I cannot wait to see them take on new activities over the next few days!
Below are some messages to everyone back home!
Nick- If you are reading this, it is too late. Just kidding – Love you fam!
Brennan – Hi mom!
Eleanor- Hey fam! I have the best leaders and group.
Hank- Love y’all! Can’t wait to see you guys.
Avery- Love you Mom and Dad! Tell the dogs that I miss them a lot!!
Walton- Don’t worry I love and miss y’all.
Winslow- What’s cracking in CLT? I love you Mom and Dad.
Aidan- Can I get some In-N-Out when I get back. I love you guys! Tell everyone I say hi! Cool beans.
William- Hi guys! What’s popping? This trip is superb and I’m having a blast! I just finished backpacking, which was really fun! Can’t wait to see you soon. Love, William
King- I got avocado socks. This trip is awesome, and I miss you. Can you get me a Taco Bell Baja Blast Freeze and a Quesalupa. Remember to tell Justus and Colt hi and bring my drone. See you in 5 days.
Sam- Hope you’re having a fun time in Glacier. When you get back tell fufu I love him and I’m having a great time.
Brennan- Wassup Mom and Dad!! Miss y’all so much. I’m not dead… yet, but I’m having the time of my life! Love y’all, and I know how much you’re missing your favorite child
Brantley- Hey fam! If y’all are still reading these updates, I know you really love me. xoxo
July 23, 2017
“Live like you’ll die tomorrow; learn like you’ll live forever”
This quote by Confucius was read to us on our fourth morning by our Leaders of the Day, Sam and Brennan, to get us mentally prepared for a day of zip lining. With nine towers of breathtaking views, and exhilarating speed we all exemplified the first half of our mornings quote. Avery blew everyone away with her perfect canon ball form, impressing not only our group with her speed, but even the guides. On the final tower, the double race zip line, this canon ball form won her bragging rights. Hank also learned a secret to speed, and blew away his competition on the racing lines by kicking off the polls at the start. Up until now, this was the guides secret, but Hank uncovered it for us all.
After a day full of zipping through the Royal Gorge, we made our way to The Great Sand Dunes for our fourth night’s campsite. Once at camp, Sam helped prepare handmade burgers over the fire, wowing his peers with his culinary skills. While eating Winslow noticed a sly chipmunk sneaking some lettuce scraps off the ground, the group later named our new friend Darrell, and determined that he was Winslow’s spirit animal. After dinner we were treated with a surprise dessert from Hunter. He prepared an apple cobbler he had brought with him that was to die for, and shared it with everyone. After eating until our stomachs couldn’t handle anymore, we all got ourselves ready for bed to get rested for the next days early morning.
At 3AM in the morning we all woke up to an excited shout of “BOOYA!!” from Nick. The birds were not even awake, but Nick was, and his energy was the perfect start for our sunrise hike to the top of Star Dune, North America’s tallest sand dune. Our new Leaders of the day, Avery and Hank, led the way onto the dunes guided only by the sky full of stars complete with a view of the Milky Way. After a long hike up the steep mountains of sand, we finally reached the top of Star Dune just in time for the sunrise, overflowing with feelings of accomplishment. As the rising sun painted the skies clouds a radiant pink, we all tried our best to capture the mental image forever. Aidan and Walton described the view as one of the most beautiful sites they had ever seen, and said they never wanted to leave. Once the sun had fully illuminated the massive hills of sand, everyone began enjoying the steep runs down. King would start his descent with impressive backflips which paired well with the scenic backdrop making for some “Instagram worthy photos”. Eleanor displayed her own form of back flipping, entertaining everyone by rolling down the massive hills in a reverse summersault fashion.
With nearly six hours of adventure already under our belt, we headed back to camp for a pancake breakfast. While breakfast was prepared William led group games such as Murder and Mafia that kept bellies sore from laughing, and minds distracted from the mouthwatering smell of Brantley’s chocolate chip flapjacks.
Now we find ourselves at Ridgeway State Park, and are currently eating some spaghetti while preparing for our four days of backpacking that starts tomorrow. Bren, Brantley, and I have been so impressed by every one of these incredible young men and women, and the past five days have been such a blast. We excitedly anticipate what the days to come have to offer, and look forward to bringing the new adventures and stories your way once we are out of the beautiful trails of Bear Creek. From all of us here on The Colorado Trail, thanks to everyone back home for this opportunity and talk to you soon!
Robby, Bren, and Brantley
July 21, 2017
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
The first morning Eleanor and Hunter, our first Leaders of the Day, led us in the morning huddle by reading this inspirational quote. They felt as though it was important to remind everyone to have courage during our whole trip: the courage to be yourself and the courage to listen and accept others. Eleanor and Hunter set the bar high as LOD’s for the rest of the group.
We started the trip with an overnight rafting trip in Browns Canyon. We were all excited to get out on the water and enjoy a beautiful day of boating. Nick was ready to get in the refreshingly cold water from the start and got the raft guide to surf the raft on as many river waves that he could find. Avery, Nick, and Winslow managed to become a part of the Arkansas River swim team by taking a little morning swim in the river before lunch.
We stopped back at the river runners headquarters for lunch. While our yummy lunch was being prepared by the raft guides we all played a group game of nuke volleyball. Hank saved his whole team and led them to a victory when he was the last one left but slowly got his team back in by catching the ball with one hand. After our bellies were full we decided to hang out and play some hacky sack. Sam seemed to be an expert and impressed us all with his hacky sack skills.
In the afternoon we had a short raft trip down the river to our campground. We had the perfect spot right on river with the beautiful canyon surrounding us. Hunter and King were quick to get their rods out and go fishing as soon as we got off the boat. Although the rain fell heavily that night, this did not stop our fun. Nick and Walton led the group into a dance off, where we all showed our funniest dance moves. After the groovin was over, we all enjoyed a delicious meal of baked tortellini. Then the hunt for the best s’more stick was on. We all enjoyed s’mores and cheesecake around the fire as the sun went down behind the mountains.
Nothing is better than waking up to the sound of water pumping down the river. We enjoyed our early morning with some homemade French toast and berries. As soon as we finished breakfast, we were all ready to get back on the river and hit the big rapids. Avery and Brennan were the first two to brave the front of the raft even though they knew they would be the first to get wet. Soon after starting on the river we stopped and got to get out to a jump rock. Aidan was the first to make the leap and show us all how it’s done. After we all got a wakeup call from the cold water, we continued on our journey. Eleanor and Robby challenged everyone’s minds with their tricky riddles. William was the first one to solve the riddles with his clever questions and determination.
After another awesome day of rafting we all headed to our campsite. We had some time so we decided to take a hike/climb to see the view at the top of the rocks. Avery helped lead the group and was the first one to the top. After an adventurous day we all needed some extra fuel to keep us going. Brennan, Walton, Winslow and Aidan all helped make a Thai inspired chicken stir fry. I was impressed with their chopping and sautéing skills. After dinner Nick and Walton led the group in moonup. We were all exhausted and ready to get in our sleeping bags and enjoy a night under the stars together.
After a great first few days we are all coming together as one big family. We are looking forward to what the rest of the trip holds for this great group of kids. Robby, Brantley and I are impressed with everyone in the group and know we are all going to have the absolute best time these next two weeks!