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Dolomites 1 • June 14-June 27, 2017

Final Farewell

June 27, 2017

Oy Moondance Parents!

Hoke and I cannot believe it’s already our last update! This trip has flown by, and we are so sad it’s coming to a close!

We arrived in Claut yesterday afternoon, and it’s a charming little Italian town with amazing gelato! This morning we all got to sleep in a little bit longer before heading down to breakfast and begin our canyoning adventure! We woke up to a thunder storm and rain, which we all agreed to be soothing! Martin once again made sure to try all the croissants the breakfast offered! Once our bellies were filled with Nutella, yogurt, and mango juice we realized the storm had passed right on time to begin canyoning! We met up with Renzo, our guide, and he distributed helmets, wetsuits, and harnesses! We all rode the struggle bus trying to put our wetsuits on. Sydney and Johnny had an hilarious time putting on their two piece suits including the bootie socks! It took some time, but we finally got all our ducks in a row and followed Renzo to the waterfall/canyoning sight! We went from being in the high Dolomite mountains to feeling like we were in a jungle in Costa Rica! It was so green and lush! Cole flipped into the first pool, which got everyone stoked for the activity! We repelled waterfall after waterfall! It was so slippery that Anna, Isabel, and Sierra all decided there was no graceful way to descend down a waterfall. Paden, Brooks, and Parker decided to attempt WWE wrestling in the pools, which proved to be extremely entertaining! Hoke got some incredible GoPro footage! I don’t think we stopped yelling from excitement the entire time! We slid down natural waterfalls, and couldn’t believe that canyoning could be this much fun! The final repel was the biggest and best, Carson and Grace did their classic reverse whip for us before going down! We were all sad for it to end, and didn’t stop reminiscing about canyoning the rest of the day! We got back to the hotel and played the Story Game (ask Johnny about the rock star energy loving alien space cowboys tale), naturally played mafia, and then went outside to throw the frisbee! Isabel recommended playing Jackpot, and we were all on board! We played until dinner, where we had a delicious meal of different kinds of Italian pizza! We all couldn’t have asked for anything better! We had Moonup in a field across the hotel, where we shared who we would want to be if we could be anyone in history! The moon came up, and we all went to bed after another unbelievable experience in Italy! Everyone could barely sleep though because the next day was VENICE!

We were promptly ready to hit the road at 10am when Bruno and Marco picked us up! We jammed for a solid 2 hours to oldies like September, Born in the USA, Dancing in the Moonlight, and of course Van Morrison’s Moondance! Martin and I had choreographed every song we listened to! Sierra, Sydney, Isabel had crested a great playlist before the drive so we had an awesome time! The drive went by quickly, and before we knew it we were by the water taking a water taxi to our Generator Hostel! We all felt like we were in a James Bond/Italian Mafia movie, it was awesome! Venice is a remarkably special city with hundreds of years of history and culture. We explored the Piazza San Marco as well as the Palazza Ducale, and then meandered through the numerous ally ways stopping in little shops along the way to buy gifts for family members! On the way back to the main square we all stopped to enjoy the world renowned Italian gelato! Hazelnut, mint, chocolate, and strawberry were among the more popular flavors we tried! We walked, talked, and ate until we reached the water where we all took turns taking historical gondola rides throughout Venice! We marveled over the the homes that Vivaldi and Marco Polo had lived in, and saw the jail that infamous Casanova had escaped from! We were filled with Italian knowledge once we all went, but had food and banquet on our minds! We took the water taxi back to our hotel, where we had a fun last banquet meal filled with jokes, laughs, spontaneous dancing (thanks for initiating that Martin and Cole), and hard rock for the music choice. After dinner it sunk in that we were about to have our final Moonup led by our AMAZING LODs Sierra and Martin! They decided we should go to a pier we randomly came upon earlier that day, and it was truly the perfect spot! We all listened to the water, looked up at the clear sky filled with stars, and began sharing what we appreciated most about this experience, how we’ve grown into better leaders over the past two weeks, and fondly acknowledged how each individual positively impacted our group! We sat around asking more questions after because we didn’t want this to end. Once it got late, we decided to head back to the hotel, where the kids stayed up talking and figuring out ways to meet up this upcoming year! Our hearts were so happy to hear them all talk about how appreciative and grateful they were to have met one another on this Moondance Adventure. We aren’t sure they got much sleep because they talked all night, but we are sure they will sleep on the plane today!

And so they are at their gate now waiting for their plane, and it was an emotional goodbye, and we didn’t want them to leave. We will forever be grateful to this amazing and patient group for experiencing Italy with us for the first time. They have a huge space in our hearts and we love them all dearly! We really did become a little family, and we couldn’t be happier about it!

Hoke and I would truly like to thank you all for trusting us to watch over your amazing kids the past fourteen days. The Moondance Office made sure we were prepared for this incredible adventure in the Dolomites, and we thank your kids for always remaining positive and patient while we figured out all the little kinks that popped up along the way! We got to experience the Dolomite mountains and Venice together for the first time, so every aw inspiring moment, each gasp of amazement, and each step we all took together meant the world to us! Hoke and I couldn’t have put together a better group of pioneer Moondance kids to start this trip with! We truly thank you all again! We hope you all have great summers, and hope to see you next year!

For the final time


Abbey and Hoke


“Send it” – Cole Hubbard


June 24, 2017


We have spent more time off the ground then we have on the ground the past day! We woke up to another gorgeous sunrise in the Dolomite Mountain range, and switched up our usual breakfast of yogurt and granola to croissants with Nutella! With our bellies full and energy levels high we followed our guides Marco, Marco, and Marco (the Marcos) to our second Via Ferrata! This one was much more vertical than our last Via Ferrata and much more exposure. The encouraging comments being made on our hike up, gave everyone the courage and strength to give it their all. Sydney, Sierra, and Isabel were laughing and capturing the moments on their go pros all the way up with one of the Marcos! Martin and Cole made sure to throw snowballs at the people in their groups from the left over winter snow patches. The time flew by, and before we knew it we were on top of another mountain surrounded by a sublime 360 degree view of the mountains. We could see the King and Queen mountains, the valley towns, and the Rifugio that we hike from the day prior. Johnny borrowed my camera and took beautiful landscape photos! We took a break for a snack, (Italian Nutella wafers) so amazing, and after taking it all in for about 20 minutes, Sydney and Anna signed the book at the top saying “WE UP HERE!” – Moondance Adventures. We all split into our groups and then headed back down the Via Ferrata for lunch. What is amazing is that the Via Ferrata was just half of our day, up next we had climbing on the world renown Cinque Torri on the English Tower! Martin didn’t waste anytime getting on the rock! He flew up all three climbs, and then went with Cole and Marco to crush a three pitch sport climb! Anna and Isabel were right behind them, both said it was one of the most rewarding experiences they had ever had! Parker gave it his all, and was taught how to belay and he was a pro at it by the end of the day! Everyone was exhausted by the 5 pm, it was a long day filled with activity! They snacked on Bueno chocolate bars, and then headed down for dinner at 7! A stormed rolled in, and one again we were surrounded by monstrous black clouds, watching the lightning storm! After Moonup where everyone shared what their spirit animal was, the sound of the rain on the roof put us all to sleep very quickly!

We fell asleep to the rain, but woke up to the brightness of the sun! CLIMBING DAY AT CINQUE TORRI! We played a quick game of ninja with one of the Marcos before making our approach to the climbs! The Marcos took the people who didn’t have a chance to do the three pitch climb the day before through the climb that morning. Myself and Carson were a team with the oldest Marco, and made each other laugh over the silliest stuff on the way up. Carson flew up the climb like a natural! Paden and Brooks also took on the climb together, and even though Brooks mentioned how scary it was, he was positive that it was all worth it! There were a few more climbs that morning before we took a break for lunch back at the Rifugio! Johnny ate his pasta in less than one minute, had ice cream, two croissants, and tiramisu, so he was hungry to say the least! Grace, Carson, Sierra, Anna, Isabel, and Sydney all took a power nap before heading back outside for another round of climbing! The Marcos took us to the South Face this for more difficult single pitch climbs! Even with the challenge of the climbs being a little bit harder, everyone took them on! Everyone took turns belaying and climbing! The rock was absolutely beautiful, and while some climbed others basked in the sun! Isabel worked through the toughest climb, and everyone was stoked for her when she reached the top! After another long afternoon, we watched the clouds roll back in realizing that there was a storm in our midst yet again. We had to say goodbye to the Marcos, and the kids were sad because they liked them so much. They were so great with the kids, and made sure to be goofy yet serious when they needed to be! Back at the Rifugio intense games of Gin occurred between Sierra, Sydney, and Anna. Anna won all four times! While we ate our dinner the clouds rolled by, and left behind a gorgeous sunset! We all ran outside to admire it, take pictures with it, and just sit to take the sunset in! It was another awesome day in the Dolomites, and tomorrow we are back to trekking to our next Rifugio!

We woke up at 7:30am for our last Rifugio breakfast, and Johnny along with Martin made sure to get there first to grab all the chocolate chip croissants! It was a beautiful morning, and we met Ivan and Pietro for our last trek in the Dolomites! It was a long morning, and while we were hiking our trail merged with a 120K North Face ultra race! So we cheered on all the runners throughout our 10 mile hike. After getting to the top of a saddle, we stopped for lunch with an insane view of green fields, rocky mountains, a lake, and wildflowers everywhere! We all relaxed in the sun and enjoyed our prosciutto sandwiches. After stuffing our faces with our last mountain lunch, we made our way out of the beautiful valley and began our descent back towards Cortina d’Ampezzo. We returned to the forested part of the mountain and soaked in our final steps of our trekking adventures. While waiting for our transport to the next hotel, we all dipped our feet in a cold spring and laughed at the sounds of the donkeys next to us (it was quite strange). After hopping into our taxis and saying a fond farewell to our hiking guides, our group began our journey to Belluno. On the way, we made a surprise pit stop to an Italian bakery and got some delicious gelato.
We arrived to our next resting place, Hotel Miramonti, got settled in with a game of Mafia, and ate some more amazing, homemade Italian cuisine. After a delicious dessert of tiramisu, everybody succumbed to their exhaustion and decided it was time to rest up for our big day of canyoning tomorrow. We can’t believe the time has gone by so quickly and our last day in Venice is just around the corner. But we are very excited to tell you all about our experience in the canyons and our last days together in Venice.

Abbey and Hoke

Trekking for 360-degree Views

June 21, 2017

Ciao Moondance Parents,

Our trek in the Molto Belle Dolomite Mountain range has begun! We met our guides Andreas and Pietro bright and early after breakfast and took buses to the trailhead! It was the perfect day to start hiking! Blue skies, green valleys, and the sun was keeping us warm at 5,809 ft. Isabel and Johnny were our LODs and made sure the group stayed together, stayed hydrated, and kept spirits high throughout our climb up to Lago di Fosses at 7,093 ft.! We stopped for lunch at the lake, and Brooks and Hoke made the most of it by taking off their boots and resting their feet in the water during lunch! Right before our first stop at the hut, we noticed this hill right off the trail that looked like it would have an amazing view at the top, so we dropped our packs and ran to the top! We were in awe of the 360-degree view! These mountains are incredible! We stopped at the hut for a short break and then kept on trekking. Sierra kept us laughing the whole time with her hilarious stories we couldn’t get enough of! After a few more miles we arrived at last to our stop for the night, Rifugio Fodara Vedla. We took some time to change into comfy clothes and headed back outside where Cole narrated the game “the mafia” (a group favorite). While playing the game, Grace made the sweetest flower crown that everyone wanted a picture with! We all hung out and talked before dinner, where we experienced weinerschnizel for the first time, and for dessert the most amazing tiramisu. Moonup was in the greenest field near the hostel, and afterwards Sydney and Brooks started the trend of ordering hot chocolate! Everyone ordered some, and went outside to gaze at the stars, there wasn’t any light pollution and the sky was clear! Parker amazed us with his guitar playing before we went to bed. It was the perfect way to end an amazing day!

We woke up to a bluebird sky surrounded by some of the most beautiful snowcapped mountains in the distance! We learned from Pietro that the mountains in the far distance were the Alps and Austria began on the other side. Sydney and Cole made sure everyone was ready to head out at 9! We began our hike down a steep hill to a hut filled with cows! We took a quick break, played a balancing game with our trekking poles led by Andres, and we made a water toast to the friendly Dolomite mountains before our big climb! We hiked uphill for about an hour and a half and finally hit the jeep trail which took us to our next Rifugio Lavarella! We arrived around two, so we all decided to head over to the crystal blue lake where Johnny, Parker, Isabel, Sierra, Martin, Cole all took a polar plunge! The water was extremely cold, so Carson, Anna, and Sydney decided to soak in some rays on the shore. After a long afternoon of swimming and sitting in the sun, we enjoyed another homemade Italian dinner! Andres joined the group for Moonup where we all shared something silly about ourselves! It was another clear night filled with stars, hot chocolate, laughs, and games! On to day six!

We have come to find that yogurt, granola, honey, and jelly are very common breakfast items in Italy, so we have all mastered our combinations! We had a relaxing breakfast before we started our day hike from the Rifugio to Santa Croce! Andres led us to another lake for a quick polar plunge and eat a snack. Our hike resembled the atmosphere of being in the moon, the geography changed drastically from green forests to huge angled slab mountains with some snow! Grace and Paden the LODs made sure the group’s attitude remained strong and positive! When the group made it to Santa Croce the view was awe inspiring. It was a cliff face overlooking a valley, Marmolada Massif “Queen of the Dolomites”, Austrian Alps, and a part of Switzerland! It was sublime, and we all sat and appreciated where we were in the world! We made it back in time for lunch which was homemade pasta with meat sauce! The perfect meal to finish an 8-mile hike on! The rest of the day we played Animal Concentration, Big Booty, and had Slack Jaw competitions. Hoke and I are beyond amazed about how close our group has become over the past few days in the mountains. Their bond makes our hearts so happy. They have fully embraced the challenges that have been presented in front of them, and are growing as leaders because of it!

Our biggest day in terms of hiking came fast! We were all packed and ready to hit the trail by 9am! We began going uphill for two miles, and even though it was tough, Sierra and Brooks, the LODs, made sure spirits were high! We at last came into the greenest valley filled with wild flowers! We took a second to eat our snack before heading towards the pass another two miles up! It was a difficult trek, but we made it and celebrated with lots of water and yelling at the top! We had a steep decent down to another clear blue lake where we stopped for lunch and a swim! Sydney, Isabel, Anna, and Martin all went for a swim, while Cole, Carson, Paden, and Parker took turns doing flips and jumping off the rocks! It was the perfect break before we climbed our last two miles to our Rifugio that we could see from the lake! Our guides Pietro and the third Marco made sure we got there safely, and we couldn’t have been more stoked to have completed that trek. It was a long day and rewarding day! The entire group could not believe what they had just accomplished, and we were certainly impressed! Our hard work payed off with Cokes that Brooks bought everyone as a congratulations gift! Great EB! After such a long day, dinner was delicious, and everyone was ready for a good night’s sleep so they could be ready to explore the WWI tunnels the next day!

WE MADE IT TO RIFUGIO SCOIATTOLI (The Squirrel Refuge)! The day began with a sunrise dance party at 5 am on balcony of Rifugio Lagazoui! Martin, Syd, Sierra, Parker, and Cole jammed out as we watched the sun come up behind the Dolomites! We all had an awesome breakfast then met our guides – “the Marcos” – to begin our exploration of the WWI tunnels from the Italian/Austrian front. We put on our helmets, harnesses, and headlamps and began our adventure! Along the way down the tunnels, Marco told us all about the war, how the tunnels were made, and how the soldiers lived throughout the war! It was an eye-opening experience that we all appreciated learning about! We made it down to a beautiful, lush valley where we stopped for lunch before heading up another mountain to our Rifugio! It was an arduous hike, but was totally worth it when we saw Cinque Torri and all ran to our new home for the next couple nights! Martin led the way yelling, and we all followed stoked to be there! It’s been a long day, so we all are eating tiramisu and relaxing before dinner! This trip has been extremely physically demanding, and we are so impressed that everyone continues to work so hard!

We cannot thank y’all enough for sending your kids on this amazing adventure!

We have another Via Ferrata, and then climbing, so we tell y’all all about that in a few days!

Until then, arrivederci!
-Abbey and Hoke

Learning the Italian Way

June 16, 2017

Buongiorno Moondance Parents,

            WE HAVE MADE IT! After our 9-hour plane ride, and two and a half hour bus ride to Cortina D’Ampezzo we are finally in the Dolomites. It has only been 24 hours, and we already feel like a big Italian family! Hoke and I are beyond lucky to have such an amazing group of kids on our trip! Yesterday we landed in Venice, and took a scenic bus ride into Cortina to our first hotel. Cortina is the sweetest little mountain town. It is known for its pizza, as well being the home of where gelato was created (according to our guide Marco!).  Once quickly settling into our adorable hotel, we all decided we needed to immerse ourselves into the Italian culture via pizza. Carson and Parker impressed us all by eating their entire pizza within 10 minutes, while the rest of could barely finish two slices. With our bellies full we explored the precious mountain town, and Martin delved into some of the famous gelato (chocolate and strawberry). 

            After wandering around the village, we meandered back to the hotel for games and riddles on our balcony. Bananagrams quickly became a hit, especially for Johnny and Sydney, who we learned are word masters. While the heated games of bananagrams occurred, Isabel led a game called Black magic that certainly stumped Anna, Grace and Cole, and Sierra initiated one of the most frustrating riddles about a being in the middle of a triangle, and Hoke still has not figured it out, but it is hilarious watching him try. Games had to be postponed once dinner was ready. We all finally got to experience the Italian pasta we had heard so much about, and it lived up to everyone’s expectations! We got to know everyone a little better with silly questions being asked, and then when dinner ended we had our first Moonup. Everyone was able to express why they chose the Dolomites trip, and it certainly brought us closer! The day went by so fast, and everyone went to bed excited to experience the Via Ferrata “The Iron Way” the next day!

            Our energy levels had fully recovered after a goodnight’s sleep, and we all woke up stoked to go hiking and take on the Via Ferrata with our guides Marco and Marco! The LOD’s Carson and Martin told everyone what they needed in their daypacks, so we could all be prepared for the day’s adventures. The guides handed out our gear, and were on our way. Trail talk was flowing super well! Riddles were still being told, and Brooks and Paden enlightened us with their extensive knowledge of the Grateful Dead and Widespread Panic. Along the way we stopped to take pictures in front of massive waterfalls and listen to the tales of the Dolomite Mountains that the Marcos told us! We hiked along a crystal blue river, and then started gaining elevation when we entered the woods. After an hour or so we finally approached the Via Ferrata Giovanni Barbara! With our Helmets, Harnesses, and carabineers good to go we clipped on the iron cable and went our way down the trail! As we rounded the rock face we began to hear a giant waterfall that we were going to be able to walk under! Yells of excitement echoed all around us as we soaked in this incredible moment. We climbed out of the valley, and hiked to a beautiful green meadow surrounded by the friendliest of cows to eat our delicious lunch. Anna, Sierra, Johnny, Brooks, and Paden all proved to be cow whispers. It was hilarious to witness, all of us could not stop laughing.

            We wrapped up lunch, trekked back to the hotel, and all of us celebrated our first full day of activities with gelato! It was an amazing day overall, and it was only the second day!

We are getting up into the Dolomite Range tomorrow, and are looking forward to telling y’all all about it in a few days!


Abbey and Hoke

In Italy!

June 15, 2017

Hi Dolomites Families!

We’ve heard from the group and they are safely in Cortina d’Ampezzo, eating a large, filling dinner, and are ready to climb on the via ferrata tomorrow. You can expect an update from the group within the next few days.

-The Moondance Administrative Team

Up, up and away!

June 14, 2017

Hi Dolomites Families!

We’ve spoken with Abbey and Hoke and the group is about to take off. Venice, here they come! We can’t wait for the adventure to begin!

-The Moondance Administrative Team


  • Anna
  • Sydney
  • Grace
  • Carson
  • Isabel
  • Cole
  • Parker
  • Sierra
  • Johnny
  • Brooks
  • Paden
  • Martin