July 13, 2017
Buongiorno Moondance Parents!
After many games of President, we finally went to bed and got some much needed sleep after traveling to the quaint Italian town Claut! Hotel Miramonti is right in the center of town, and the kids loved it! There were two llamas in the backyard we named Ronny and Linda! We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning surrounded by the greenest mountains as well as the low clouds that flooded the valley we were in. After breakfast, we met Enio, our awesome canyoning guide, who distributed wetsuits, helmets, and harnesses to ensure we were ready for an awesome morning of repelling down crystal clear waterfalls. LG, MD, and Raleigh all laughed hysterically during the process of putting on our wetsuits, it is certainly an interesting process in the heat of the morning. Once all suited up we naturally took our jumping and heel clicking pictures as a group, and then followed Enio to where our canyoning would begin! After a short walk, we repelled down a rope, and instantly started jumping in a natural pool formed in the canyon! Max took some awesome GoPro shots of the group swimming before we went down our repels! The group couldn’t stop talking about how awesome this activity was! It’s an incredible transition because we are hiking in the Dolomites at ~9000 feet and then we go down to ~800 feet and it felt as if we were in a tropical rainforest! Everything was so green and the water was so clear! You look up to a canopy of trees, with the sun rays finding their ways through the branches! We all had a blast, and once again conquered our fears of heights with the last rappel being the highest of them all! It was so refreshing to spend time in the water, and the group agreed it could have been their favorite activity so far! We got back to the hotel, took warm showers, had lunch and spent the afternoon throwing frisbee, and playing games! Anna, Lindsey, and Watson suggested to have Moonup in the town and grab gelato before, we all were on board! After an amazing dinner of pasta, chicken, and fries we all walked together to the gelato shop, and then circled up for our second to last Moonup. Lindsey and Watson asked two reflective questions “what have you learned about yourself” and “what is something you want to do before you’re 25”? We all sat around and talked for a little bit longer until we needed to go to bed! Tomorrow is VENICE! And we couldn’t be more stoked, this group deserves an awesome adventure in one of the most iconic cities in the world!
We let the group get a little more sleep this morning since we knew it was going to be a long and fun day, and we did not have leave Hotel Miramonti by 10! We all had a relaxing morning, and were all ready to go by 9:30! While waiting for the vans Robbie suggested banana grams, which we all agreed to! When the vans arrived, we grabbed our packs, put them in the trunks, and began our two-hour long jam sesh to Venice that consisted of countless 2000 and 80 pop hits! Olivia and Kate didn’t stop singing the whole way, what a duo! We had so much fun signing, and time flew by! Before we knew it, we were on water taxis winding their way through the canals of Venice (164 of them in total in Venice) to our Hostel for the night! We wandered around the island and gravitated towards pizza and gelato for lunch to celebrate our last day on the trip! We checked in, the boys played a quick game of pool and then we ventured to the public water taxi to head over to the historic San Marco square! Everyone was excited to explore the hidden streets of Venice! This is one of our favorite parts of the trip because the kids take the time to find the perfect gift for their families and loved ones! It’s incredible to witness, Hoke and I truly appreciate it! We went to the Rialto bridge (built in 1591 it is the oldest bridge that goes across the Grand Canal) and shopped around until we were ready to go for gondola rides! With the sunset approaching we decided to head back to the docks to go for the Gondola rides! Anna, LG, Wheat, and Lindsey were the first group to go, and they absolutely loved the experience! It was a perfect way to learn more of the history of Venice i.e. Casanova was the only person to ever have escaped out of the jail concerted to Palazzo Ducale! Then Kate, Olivia, Robbie, and Max for the next gondola ride! Finally, MD, Watson, Christian, and Robbie enjoyed the sights of Venice via boat! We all reminisced how awesome it was, and then found a water taxi to take us back to Generator Hostel for our Banquet dinner! We all had an amazing last dinner together, lots of laughs, memories, and coke colas! After Banquet it was a bittersweet moment knowing that we were headed to our final Moonup! Moonup is mine and Hoke’s favorite part of the day, but it’s always hard when it’s the last one. We have shared so much with each other over the past two weeks, and this tight family will have so many memories to last a lifetime for this Dolomite Moondance Adventure! Our last Moonup was led by our wonderful LODs, Olivia and Robbie who asked three questions!
It lasted awhile, and like every Moonup it was emotional! There was a red moon hanging in the distance, and we appreciated its uniqueness for our last Moonup! After we wrapped up, we all headed back to the hotel, and hung out playing more games and avoiding sleeping because we don’t want this adventure to end. It’s hard to believe we have to send this group home tomorrow! Hoke and I truly love each member of this group, and cannot wait to see how they grow as leaders this upcoming year!
And they are off! On their way home to see you all, and share their amazing stories from the Dolomites! Hoke and I want to personally say thank you for trusting us with your wonderful and inspiring kids the past 14 days. They are the reason Hoke and I come back to Moondance each summer. We know they learn a lot each summer with Moondance, but Hoke and I want to emphasize how much they teach us in return! They make us strive to be better leaders every day, and better people overall! We can’t thank you all enough for sending these amazing kids on this live changing Moondance Adventure and we hope to see them all next summer!
Arrivederci for the final time!
Abbey and Hoke
Describe The Dolomite’s Trip in One Word:
July 10, 2017
Ciao Moondance Parents!
What an amazing few days it has been climbing at the world renown Cinque Torri and our unbelievable Via Ferrata experience! We woke up Saturday morning at our beautiful Rifugio (for those who have Apple Computers the desktop background comes from this Rifugio!). We filled up on chocolate croissants, yogurt, and toast with Nutella ready to conquer the Via Ferrata. Raleigh and Max, our leaders of the day, had the group ready to go by 9am. The trek was about 20 minutes and we approached the Via Ferrata Averau. It was high and vertical! This specific Via Ferrata brings you up to a point where we saw some of the most notable peaks i.e. Monte Pelmo, Civetta, and Sorapis! Our guides safely led us to this incredible summit where Robby, Watson, Wheat, Max signed their names in the peak book to leave their own personal mark in the Dolomites. It was a clear day, and the views were unbelievable and seemed to go on for miles and miles. Everyone took time to take amazing pictures and take in this awesome moment that we had all been anticipating. We descended back to the trail, and walked back to the Rifugio for a delicious lunch of spaghetti with veggies and tiramisu for dessert, which was a crowd favorite!
It was hard to believe that the morning went by so quickly and we still had rock climbing in Cinque Torri for our afternoon activity. Around 2pm we all approached our climbing sight in awe of these beautiful rock faces! There were so many grays, oranges, browns, blacks! It kept changing colors on our way up the climbs. Robbie and Raleigh jumped on the rock face immediately, flying up all of the climbs. Watson, Wheat, Kate, Anna, Olivia, and Lily Grace quickly followed. There were three climbs and everyone gave them a shot, which Hoke and I were so impressed with because climbing isn’t easy and they had to push out their comfort zones to try it. Our guides were extremely encouraging, and taught our kids everything they needed to know about climbing safely. Lindsey, Max, Christian, and Mary Douglas even mentioned that even though they aren’t the biggest fans of heights they were so stoked that they gave it a shot and succeeded! It was an amazing day for Hoke and I to be able to witness.
We left the climbing sight pumped for another day of climbing in a different area on Cinque Torre! We got back to our Rifiguio and had lessons on the four different leadership roles: designated, active followership, peer, and self, and then played a game where the kids find out what type of leader they are: relationship master, architect analyst, driver, or spontaneous motivator. Hoke and I loved watching where people moved and it was spot on. Relationship masters were Mary Douglas, Lily Grace, and Wheat. Drivers were Raleigh, Anna, Watson, Christian, and Olivia. Architects were Kate, Max, Lindsey. And the Spontaneous Motivator was Robbie! It was an insightful learning experience, and Hoke and I are so excited to watch this whole group embrace their leadership styles. Once the game was completed we naturally played bananagrams until dinner time. Afterwards we had Moonup outside near Cinque Torri, and throughout watched the dark clouds roll in, knowing a storm was quickly approaching. We shared what our spirit animals were that night, and highs and lows for the day. The storm surrounded us at the Rifugio, and we were in a storm cloud since we were so high up. We all sat and listened to the thunder and watched some incredible lightning and fell asleep quickly to the rain. Hoke and I are loving this group more and more each day, and we are so stoked for how much they have pushed themselves on this trip so far.
Climbing day two was met with smiles and high stoke levels! We were all ready to head back out to the rock face at 9 with our guides Marco, Michele, and Evaristo! Watson, Raleigh, Olivia, and Robbie went to go crush a three pitch climb with Marco, while everyone else decided to hop on some harder top rope climbs! Once again they all were much stronger than they thought, and crushed. We were all cheering each other on, and the positivity helped tremendously. We overcame our fear of heights, and pushed ourselves once again and reaped the benefits. We climbed until lunch, where we went back to the Rifugio, sat outside, and ate pasta carbonara and had ice cream for dessert. The weather took a turn for the rainy, so we had to stay in and hang out for the afternoon. But we made the most of it by playing games, and when the storm blew over we went outside and played Frisbee. Christian made us all crack up but sliding down the hill to retrieve the frisbee when we thought we lost it. Wheat took the time to teach us all how to swing dance… Lindsey, Lily Grace, Kate all played bananagrams, and Raleigh, Anna, Mary Douglas played this intense card game named “president”! It was a blast to hangout as a group seeing as the trip is starting to wind down, and we all have become so close. So many laughs and jokes, Hoke and I are constantly laughing with this group and we love it. The evening ended with dinner, Moonup, and a great game of Mafia/Godfather narrated wonderfully by Max. We all packed our packs for the final day and got some needed sleep to be ready for our last day of hiking in the Dolomites.
Our last day of hiking flew by. The guides even commented on how much faster we have gotten over the past week. We couldn’t believe it was last day of our hiking section. We made the most of it by taking lots of pictures, eating lunch in a beautiful green saddle in the mountain after our biggest climb of the day! We all stuck together and had awesome conversations until we finally arrived at our final destination and pickup point, ran to the end of the driveway and gave “dammi cinques” (high fives in Italian) to everyone! Hugs and smiles filled the group. They accomplished something huge, and after this they knew they can do anything. We piled into our taxis to begin our journey to our final location, Claut. Everyone belted the lyrics to some great songs, including Taylor swift’s “shake it off,” Dixie chicks, and the infamous song “take on me”! Needless to say, the car ride was a fun way for the group to get even closer, having accomplished so much together. As a surprise and trophy for the group’s hard work, we stopped for some delicious gelato in a nearby town, then continued our drive with full bellies and happy hearts. Our fearless Dolomites crew arrived at the hotel and got settled into their rooms. We then explored the small and quiet town of Claut, picking up some snacks along the way to energize us for our riveting game of mafia! With almost everybody taking turns as narrator, we shared some big laughs and gasps as some phenomenal stories were told about the deeds of the mafia. After laughing until our stomachs hurt, we enjoyed another fantastic homemade Italian meal of pasta, pork, and potatoes. We had some great table conversation that involved assigning each group member a historical figure they are most similar to. This amazing dinner was followed by yet another moving Moonup. Our LODs, Christian and Kate, asked one of our favorite questions that always leads to thought provoking answers from the kids, “what is something that you’ve learned about yourself on this trip?” The answers were well rounded and extremely insightful as we discovered just how much of an impact a Moondance trip can have in just 14 days. We are shocked at how quickly the trip went by but could not be more excited for canyoning tomorrow and Venice the day after. Hoke and I are so proud of how far this group has come over the past two weeks and are sad we are coming to the end of this adventure! But these next few days will be amazing, and we are so stoked to spend them with this awesome group of kids.
Abbey and Hoke
Wheat – “Moondance has shown me that a group of strangers can come together and, no matter the personality differences, can become best friends.”
Robbie – “I learned that people can have differing views, beliefs, and opinions, but that we’re all just people and can get along well.”
Anna – “I have learned that I shouldn’t give up easily because I am capable of so much more than I thought.”
Mary Douglas – “I know that if I put my mind to it, I can accomplish anything.”
Olivia – “On Moondance trips, I lose sight of the small, insignificant problems of school and other things and focus on the bigger picture and myself.”
Lindsey – “I’ve really pushed myself on this trip and have learned to go out of my comfort zone more.”
Max – “I’ve learned to approach situations and activities that I would not normally attempt with an open mind.”
Kate – “I’ve learned that I need to stop overthinking the small things, and be present and live in the moment”
Raleigh – “This trip has helped me realize my strong personality and how to balance that in a group setting and to work well with others.”
Lily Grace – “I love Moondance because I don’t have to worry about what other people think of me since it brings out the best version of myself.”
Christian – “I used to think hiking was just walking to places, and now I realize that it is an avenue to take you to amazing places”
Watson – “I’ve learned to worry less about the tiny details, and just take everything in as comes”
July 7, 2017
Piacere Moondance Family!
We have begun our hiking section in the awe-inspiring Dolomite Mountains. We woke up to a chilly morning, blue skies, and a warm sun in Cortina. We had an incredible breakfast full of croissants, Nutella, and yogurt and made sure we had our packs ready for our trek! Raleigh and Robbie were the LODs for today, and made sure we were all downstairs ready to be transported to the trail by 9! The group met Andreas, our incredible hiking guide, and we were off! At the trailhead we were met by a herd of cows, donkeys, and horses. It turned into a photo shoot, and Anna made sure she got pictures with all the animals! The group was amazed by all the views of these ginormous mountain peaks! Lily Grace still could not believe that she was hiking in the Dolomites, she is so appreciative of this trip and it’s so evident! We completed our first big climb up the mountain, and took a snack break in this lush green field. Wheat had run over to the grocery store to buy extra snacks, and he pulled out a box of Italian Coco Puffs to share which was so sweet! We continued going up until we hit a plateau and walked down to this beautiful blue lake for our lunch break! Everyone enjoyed their delicious lunches being surrounded by the friendly Dolomite Mountains. It was the PERFECT day for hiking, the sun was out the whole time and Hoke and I got to hear some awesome trail conversations! This group is so close already, and we love to watch them get closer every day! We hiked another three miles after lunch and arrived at Rifugio Fedora in the late afternoon. There were cows happily grazing in the meadow surrounding the Rifugio as we arrived. We put our packs in our rooms and then all hung outside in the sun reading, napping, and talking until dinner! Dinner again was amazing! We had Moonup in a field full of cows that also came to join in! We shared either our proudest moment or a hard time we had to get through, and it was an incredible conversation! We learned so much more about one another! It was an unbelievable day, and we are stoked to see what tomorrow’s hike has in store!
IT’S DAY TWO OF HIKING! AND FOURTH OF JULY! Our LODs Anna and Max made sure everyone was ready to hit the trail by 8:45! Everyone was decked out in red, white, and blue and Max even rocked an American flag bandana! Before we got going we played a killer game of Big Booty with Raleigh, Watson, Lily Grace, Kate, Mary Douglas, Christian and Robbie! Those who weren’t playing heckled us throughout the game. It got intense and Robbie and I had to duel for the Big Booty title via Moo Off! Robbie won, and is now Big Booty! We couldn’t be prouder! It was a great way to get everyone’s levels up before a big day of hiking. Day two consists of a steep descent into a valley where there are sheep, bunnies, and chickens! It’s right out of a fairytale! When we were down there Olivia led the way over to the chickens and bunnies, and we all wanted to take one with us as our trail pet. We played “balance the trekking pole” which Max turned out to be a pro at! After a solid break, we were finally ready for our big climb! We pushed ourselves to get to the top! Mary Douglas, Lindsey and I sang some inspirational tunes by Miley Cyrus on the way up to keep spirits high! After an hour, we finally had completed the hill and took a break for lunch! Our guides Andres and Andres were extremely impressed with our group! After lunch we hiked the rest of the way to our next lovely Rifugio, Rifugio Lavarella! We quickly got settled, put on our bathing suits, and ran over to the lake to relax in the sun and cool off! Robbie took no time at all to jump in! Raleigh and Hoke did back flips! We all were impressed! It was the perfect afternoon, we all explored around the Rifugio and found this small waterfall and bridge to another part of the property! Time flew, and it was dinner time! The kids experienced wienerschntzel for the first time, and loved it! Moonup was beautiful with another half moon above us – we have loved watching the phases of the moon this trip! Today was amazing, and we are stoked to see what tomorrow has in store!
Lavarella’s cows were the perfect natural alarm to wake up to this morning. We all got to sleep in a little longer on our rest day and enjoyed a delicious breakfast. We had a pleasant day hike today, and Kate and Watson, our amazing LODs, had everyone outside ready to go at 9:30! It was a steady uphill, but Lilly Grace and Anna kept the conversation so positive and light hearted that it went by quickly! We arrived at the saddle to a gorgeous and clear view of Austrian alps! The group agreed this was their favorite photo shoot so far! They all soaked in the views, and then headed back down to the Rifugio for an amazing lunch of green pasta and meat sauce! Christian literally sprinted down to lunch and had us all cracking up! Everyone was so hungry, and cleaned their plates! The afternoon was spent jumping into the lake, having a yoga sesh, having a ping pong championship, and hanging out outside! We had an early dinner and Moonup so we could have a solid nights sleep before the biggest hike of our trekking section! We are in high spirits for tomorrow and we can’t wait to tell y’all all about it!
We all woke up mentally and physically prepared for our big day of hiking to Rifugio Lagazuoi! We left by 8:30am and the sun was shining and blue skies surrounded us! The first three hills were conquered with enthusiasm and amazing support throughout the group! We took a quick break in the valley, and spelled out MOONDANCE with the rocks to leave our stamp in the Dolomite Mountain Range! Our LODs Christian and Lindsey made sure everyone had a snack and some water before our big ascent to the saddle. Hoke and I were so impressed with how the group stayed together the entire time! We all told stories, sang songs, and made sure to keep our minds off of hiking uphill for quite some time! When we at last got to the top we all yelled and there were many high fives and hugs going around! We ate part of our lunch before our next big descent down to the crystal blue mountain lake where we would have some time to swim and relax eating our lunches! We all stuck together once more, hiking down the side of a mountain. Once we arrived at the lake Wheat, Christian, Watson, Robbie, Max, Lily Grace, Raleigh, Mary Douglas, and Lindsey took no time at all to switch out of their boots into their Chaco’s and start jumping off the rocks into the refreshing cool water! Kate, Olivia, and Anna tanned by the water and took pics of everyone swimming! It was the perfect hour of down time before our last climb up to R. Lagazuoi! It took an hour and a half to reach the peak, but we all did it! We celebrated with cokes, pastries, and lots of jumping pictures! It was an extremely rewarding experience for the group! They all felt so accomplished and we were so stoked for them! After some good group hang out time it was time yet again for another delicious Italian meal! It was wonderful! After dinner, we hiked 10 minutes to the cross, which in the Dolomites means the highest point of the mountain, for Moonup! We sat in awe of the most beautiful sunset we had ever seen! The sky was filled with vibrant oranges, yellows, pinks, reds and then the mountains transitioned into this gorgeous purple tint! We couldn’t get enough of this view, and we made the comment countless how we didn’t want this end. Given the sunset and the half moon hanging in the twilight sky it was our best Moonup yet! What an incredible day overall! Tomorrow we have the WWI tunnels and our hike up to Rifugio Scoiattoli, WE CANNOT WAIT!
What a day! The WWI tunnel adventure was extremely insightful. The fact that we were walking through tunnels that protected 18-year-old Italian soldiers during the First World War had our mind boggled. The kids thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the experience! Once we made it down to the valley, we stopped and had lunch in this green field! We devoured our sandwiches to fuel up for our hike to Rifugio Scoiattoli! The beginning of the hike was along a pleasant creek in a field of wildflower and the views were unbelievable! We ascended for an hour up to R. Scoiattoli, and when we all got there we relaxed in the sun and played a hilarious game of Fishbowl, and watched a storm roll through the mountain range!
This group has truly become a family, and Hoke and I couldn’t be happier! They bring out the goofy and great in each other, and we are so grateful to be a part of it! Moonup was led by Olivia and MD, and they crushed it! We sat underneath a waxing gibbous moon, and watched the mountains turn to silhouettes! The past few days have been the best, and it’s hard to believe we are half way done! We love this group, and are stoked for climbing and the via Ferrata! Can’t wait to tell y’all all about it!
Abbey and Hoke
“This may be the most accomplished I’ve felt in my entire life” – Mary Douglas after finishing our huge hike to R. Lagazuoi
“Mom you’re the best, and thank to you and dad for the greatest experience I could ask for! Love you” – Olivia
“HI FAMILY! I’m having the best time and everyone is awesome! And miss you Helen” – xo Kate
“Hello mom and dad hope everything is awesome at home, having a great time can’t wait to see y’all, I love you” – Watson
“Hey family I’m having an amazing time. Miss you flea” – LG
“Hey Fam! I’m loving it in the Dolomites, thanks for sending me here, see you soon!” – MD
“Heyyy Mom, Keke, and Lizzie! I’m having so much fun thank you for sending me, so excited to meet y’all in Venice! Much love” – Anna
“Hey guys, living it up in Italy! So glad I’m not biking here! Love y’all lots, ps can’t wait to hang out when I get home Carter” – Raleigh
“Hii!! Love it here in Italy, I’ve met so many amazing people…and the food is incredible. Love you guys” – Lindsey
“Trip is so fun, food is great!” – Max
“Everything is awesome and I’m having the greatest time” – Christian
“Thanks mom and dad!” – Wheat
“Hey! I’m having a great time in Italy! Cool views, wonderful people, and awesome leaders” – Robbie
July 5, 2017
Ciao dalle Dolomiti!
We have begun our adventures through the beautiful Dolomite mountain range, and it’s stunning how quickly this group has come together.
After everyone arrived safely at the Venice airport, Abbey and I met up with this amazing group of young people and we were blown away by how close they had already become. I guess traveling half way across the world is enough to lead to some group bonding!
We made our way to the Cortina Express and began the gorgeous drive to our first hotel in Cortina D’Ampezzo. Before getting too far into the drive, we made a pit stop at a gas station to pick up some snacks and drinks for the winding ride. Wheat and Max decided to dive right into the Italian culinary world and got sandwiches with delicious Italian meats and cheeses. Raleigh, Lindsey, and Mary Douglas gave Italian candy a chance and bought Bueno bars – think of it as an Italian Kit Kat with Nutella inside. After stocking up for the drive our group hit the road once more. Instead of sleeping we all took time to get to know one another and have great conversations. Everyone soaked in the insane views around us as we snaked our way through the tunnels and up into the mountains. We arrived at Hotel Triste even closer than before, and so excited for all the activities ahead of us. The afternoon was spent playing games like Birdie on a Perch in a lush field behind the hotel, and Abbey and I taught some lessons that would help the group succeed together over the coming weeks. Afterwards we made our way inside to wait for dinner, and played some fun card games like Kemps and Nive, a game Robbie taught everyone and we are sure it will become a hit. Kate also showed off some wicked shuffling skills above her head that amazed all of us. Dinnertime had finally come and the group enjoyed their first multi course Italian meal, which really hit the spot. Super tired after a long day of traveling we all retreated to our rooms for some shut eye, ready to tackle our first activity tomorrow.
After sleeping like rocks the group got up bright and early for a delicious breakfast buffet which included yogurt, granola, breakfast meats, and other delicacies. Our leaders of the day Lily Grace and Wheat were on top of things and made sure everyone knew what to pack for our first activity the Via Ferrata. The Via Ferrata which means ‘iron way’ in Italian is a system of cables bolted into the mountain to provide safety on some mountains in this area. Once we met our guides for the day Marco and Evaristeo, we got our helmets, harnesses, and carabiners and hiked to where our Via Ferrata was. After a short climb up we all made our way along the cable and were able to walk behind a powerful waterfall. It was extremely awesome and everyone had huge smiles on their faces as the mist bounced off the rocks around us. After unclipping from the cable and taking off our gear we took our lunch break overlooking the breath-taking valleys surrounding us. We then made our way back to the quaint hotel Triste and during this hike Abbey and I were so happy to hear our group have the best trail conversations! Watson and Christian discussed the ins and outs of the NBA, European Futbol, and the NFL, among others. Anna brought in some hilarious comments into the mix and kept us all laughing with some great jokes and stories. After a great little hike, we made it back to Hotel Triste with some time to hangout and relax before dinner. Olivia introduced the card game Spades, and are going to implement a trip long score card of the game. We played and talked about our bucket lists until dinner, and after we ate we had Moonup around twilight and under a half moon which was fitting! We are all stoked for backpacking and cannot wait to tell y’all about it in a few days!
Hoke and Abbey
July 1, 2017
Hi Dolomites Families,
We just heard from the group and everyone safely arrived in Italy! Stay tuned for more posts about the adventures ahead!
-The Moondance Team