July 29, 2017
CIAO MOONDANCE PARENTS!
We awoke to a valley full of sun, blue skies, mountains, and warm weather in the tiny town of Claut! Everyone was so excited for canyoning because it was a new experience for everyone! Canyoning is where one is in a wetsuit, and repels down waterfalls! We scarfed down our chocolate croissants, yogurt, and mango juice in order to be ready for when our awesome guide Ewnio arrived! We waited patiently outside soaking in the sun, and then when Ewnio got to the hotel he passed out wetsuits, helmets, and harnesses! This is always a comical sight, and Lyles, Diana, and Patrick had us all cracking up to the point where we could hardly breathe. Katherine documented it all on the camera! When we were all ready, we followed Ewnio to our canyoning area, only a five minute walk which the group was thrilled about. Even our walk here was hilarious, this group can make us laugh more than anything and we love it! We turned off the road into a lush green forest, we felt more in a rain forest than the mountains! The canopy was a myriad of greens, and the sun was peeking through so we still were warm. We came up to the waterfall, and the yelling and endless excitement began! Alice was the first one to fearlessly jump in the water! And the group followed as quick as they could! Matt cannonballed creating huge waves in the water! Ewnio set up our first repel, and we individually repelled down our first waterfall of the day! It was a blast! Sarah kept everyone’s stoke levels high by yelling and singing pop songs, and we all joined in! Waterfall after waterfall, and waterslide after waterslide there were constant smiles on everyone’s faces, which warmed our hearts to see! They all had the best time, and we were sad when it came to an end. We all walked back to Miramonti, returned our gear, took warm showers, and then all sat down for a delicious lunch of rice and frittata! In the afternoon the group started some of their paperwork, and then explored the town! The whole group ventured to a soccer field and threw the frisbee there until dinner! They know how to stay active! Dinner was another wonderful meal, and then our LODs Lillian and Rand decided to have Moonup in the town square, which was perfect! The sun was setting and the Italian church bells went off as we were walking back! Hoke and I cannot believe that tomorrow is Venice day already, it’s certainly bittersweet, but we couldn’t have asked for a better group to explore one of the oldest cities in the world with! We cannot wait!
We were all up and ready to head to Venice an hour before the buses arrived! You could definitely say we were excited to explore Venice! The buses got to Claut, we packed up, said our goodbyes to the sweetest Italian family that owned the hotel, and were on our way. It was bittersweet leaving the mountains, everyone took in the views and we rolled down the windows to appreciate the fresh air along the way! The ride to Venice was about an hour and a half and our road trip was filled with classic sing along songs that we all thoroughly got into. Driving into Venice is always hectic and exciting! Once we were there we hopped in our water taxis, and navigated through the canals, amazed at all of the architecture and how old everything is! We all loved the boat ride over to our Hostel where we dropped our bags, and then decided to head over to San Marco Square to do some sightseeing, and shopping! We jumped on the public water taxi, and traveled back over the canal to the historic San Marco Square! It was so much to take in, and we could not believe we had finally made it! Palazzo Ducale, Basilica Di San Marco, the campanile, and the Torre dell’Orologio, it was all there! Our eyes were peeled to all of the sights around us. We continued walking down alley ways until we got to Rialto Bridge where the group did their shopping! Colton, Laney, and Leah all got their families sweet and thoughtful gifts. Diana convinced everyone to get these fruit smoothies that were delicious! We ate gelato and pizza on the way back to San Marco Square, and when we got back to the pier we all took turns taking gondola rides! We saw Marco Polos house and learned so much more about the history of Venice from our guide. It was a hot day in Venice, so having some time on the water was refreshing! The group was so appreciative of that opportunity, and when we all were done we all headed back to Generator Hostel for our banquet. The day went by so quickly, and days like this are as bittersweet as leaving the Dolomite mountains. We are all having an amazing time, but we also realize the trip is coming to a close, and it hurts our hearts so much to think about that! Banquet was hilarious as every single moment was with this group, and then our LODs Diana and Leah led an extremely powerful and sad Moonup! They asked us to go around and for each person discuss what they taught you individually. The answers were incredible and sincere, and brought me to tears by the end! Hoke and I love this group with our whole hearts, and we are not ready to see them go. When Moonup ended we all shared the best group hug ever, and then ran back to the Hostel as a group. We ran through the beautifully lit streets of Venice, and we laughed the whole way! It was one of the most memorable moments this summer! It was an awesome day overall, but tomorrow will certainly be difficult for us all. We don’t want to say goodbye!
It was a tough morning for us all! We all woke up to watch the beautiful sunrise in Venice, and then had to say goodbye to two amazing members of our group, Rand and Matt! We had ample group hugs and lots of tears were involved! This was such a hard goodbye/see you later! They were both pivotal parts of this family and we miss them like crazy all ready. After our goodbyes, we took the water taxis back to P. Roma one last time, remembering the beautiful views and history of Venice! We got to the airport and we are all checked in ready to board in an hour! Hoke and I are so lucky to fly back with the rest of the group, we aren’t ready to say bye. We know it will be so difficult to do when we get to Atlanta. Until then we are going to soak in every last moment we can with each other! Can’t wait to see all the parents at the airport!
It’s been an amazing adventure in the Dolomite Mountains with this Moondance group, and Hoke and I would like to thank all the parents one last time for sharing your kids for the last bit of the summer! We couldn’t have come to a close with a better group, and we truly are grateful for this opportunity that we experienced in Italy! We hope they all return next summer, and continue to grow as leaders during their school year! Have an amazing rest of your summer, thank you again!
For the last time!
A la proxima!
Abbey and Hoke
Describe Moondance in a few words:
Inspiring and life changing
Long lasting friendships
Coming out of your shell
The best moonups
Exploring new places with new people
July 27, 2017
Piacere Moondance Parents!
We woke up to a huge thunder storm Sunday morning so we let the group sleep in a little longer knowing that the rain was here for the day. The Marcos and Francesco, our guides, mentioned that we would have to wait for a gap in the rain to attempt the Via Ferrata so we had a relaxing mornings, awesome breakfast full of Nutella and croissants, and finally when the rain subsided for a couple hours, the group got ready in 10 minutes and began following our guides up the mountain. With our helmets, harnesses, and carabiners, we reached the base of Via Ferrata Averau and began our climb up into the clouds. Each group made it successfully to the top and got to spend time soaking in the gorgeous 360 view from the peak. The clouds split up for just enough time to get some amazing pictures of our group up there and we could not have been more stoked about it. Lillian made sure to document it all, and the group couldn’t stop laughing because we could hear Katherine yelling of excitement from the top of the mountain while everyone was still climbing up. We even got to sign the summit book at the top and left our Moondance mark on this beautiful mountain. After everyone safely descended, we made our way back to Rifugio Scoiattoli for a delicious lunch of pork sausage and polenta. During lunch the rain and chilly weather returned, so we all hung out inside playing cards and bananagrams until Hoke and I taught our big Leadership Lesson, a defining moment in this trip. We were out in a covered porch, listening to the rain on the tin roof, and taught about the Four Leadership Roles, and then played our leadership grid game where you are separated in your own respective and awesome Leader style. We had our Relationship masters: Katherine, Rand, and Lillian, Analysts: Colton, Patrick, Lyles, Laney, and Alice, Drivers: Matt, Leah, and Sarah and finally we have our loan and great spontaneous motivator: Diana! It’s such a fun lesson, and afterwards we had another incredible dinner at Scoiattoli, finishing it off with some Italian cookie dough for dessert that everyone couldn’t get enough of! The group all got ice cream after dinner, and had great conversations until we all went to sleep pumped for our next day of climbing Cinque Torri.
WHAT AN AWESOME DAY!
We woke up to another beautiful morning in the Dolomites and an amazing sunrise on Cinque Torri. Our group made sure to eat as much of the chocolate croissants as they could and got ready for our climbing day. We met up with the Marcos and Francesco once again and made our way into the towers, in awe of how tall they all are. Once the group was taught some basic climbing knots such as the figure-8 and our guides had set up some routes, they started scrambling up the walls with huge smiles on their faces. Nearly everyone in our group made it to the top of each of the four climbs, and we could not have been prouder of the way everyone challenged themselves and got out of their comfort zones. After crushing the single pitch climbs for a couple of hours, everyone split up into groups of 2 and made their way up a tough but rewarding two-pitch climb. We all made it to the top of this almost 200ft climb and got to see the most incredible view of our surroundings. It was truly beautiful to witness! After a full morning of climbing, we took our tired hands and feet back to Rifugio Scoiattoli for another delicious lunch of homemade pasta! Everyone was exhausted after lunch, they had all pushed themselves and gave climbing their all, so naps were much deserved. The group napped, and woke up to a windy clear afternoon! A group of us went for a gorgeous run. Matt, Rand, Leah, Patrick, and Lills all ran around the fields and meadows of Scoiattoli. It was so refreshing and we all returned just in time for our last meal at Scoiattoli. We had a native Italian meal of veal, which everyone enjoyed and wanted more of. After dinner we realized one of the most mesmerizing sunsets was occurring outside, so we all ran outside to take it in. Pictures were a must, and the sun hitting the mountains was one of the most incredible views we have seen all trip. It was the perfect way to end the day, and Katherine and Colton led an awesome Moonup! We all realized tomorrow was our last day of hiking, which was bittersweet.
It ’twas a success! The group cruised through the Dolomites, enjoying the last incredible mountainous views, and looking at all the adel vies along the way! Ivan and Marco our guides taught our group about the geology of the Dolomites, and also about all the flowers. Our LODs Lyles and Matt made sure the group stayed together, and did not stop at all going up the highest climb, which was quite the accomplishment. We saw a herd of sheep with a shepherd on the way, and then a herd of donkeys that everyone got selfies with. We all enjoyed Coke Colas at the Rifugio before our last downhill where we would all be picked up. This trip has been unbelievable, they aren’t kidding when they say these mountains are friendly. They took us in, and gave us the most incredible experience we could have asked for! We all ran to the finish, where hugs and high fives were shared. Hoke and I couldn’t have been prouder of this group for starting strong and finishing even stronger. They all were an amazing team, and each one played a pivotal role amongst the group. We sadly loaded up into our taxis, said goodbye to our amazing hiking guides, and began our journey to one of our final destinations, the tiny mountain town of Claut. To soften the blow of our drive away from the Dolomites, we surprised the group with some delicious gelato! It was well deserved after they did such an incredible job over the past week and a half. We are honored to have watched them thrive in the mountains and are sad to see our trip coming to a close. But we are looking forward to our next couple of days of canyoning and exploring Venice! We can’t wait to tell y’all all about it!!!
Abbey and Hoke
July 23, 2017
Caio Moondance Parents!
The epic trek in the Dolomite Mountains has begun! Whoot whoot! Sarah and Colton made sure we were up early in order to meet our hiking guides Peter and Marco promptly at 8:30! Packs packed, boots tied, and sunscreen applied we were all stoked for the hike ahead of us! Our hike begins in a gorgeous valley full of trees and rivers! When we began walking we approached some donkeys, horses, and cows and Katherine quickly assumed the title of “Cow Whisperer”, she went up to every cow she was near and it would lick her hand every time! We took a rest break before our first big climb. Diana made sure all of the cow encounters were documented, and that we all got a group picture before we continued! We put on our packs and were on our way! Sarah and Matt cruised up the mountain learning native Ladin phrases from Marco, while Patrick shared all his flag, historic, and WWII trivia with all of us! It took a little over 45 min but at last we made it to a plateau where we were surrounded by boulders and mountains! Leah and Lillianne inspired everyone to spontaneously climb up this random hill to take in another amazing view! After the plateau we hiked until Lago P, where we all took off our shoes and relaxed for lunch! The lake was so clear and watching the wind gently glide through the grass was mesmerizing! We scarfed down our two Italian sandwiches, fruit, and pound cake, and Rand ate everyone else’s leftovers! Once all finished we continued on our journey to our first Rifugio, Rifugio Fodara! As we were hiking we watched a thunderstorm roll through the mountains, and luckily it never reached us because as we know it never rains on a Moondance trip! The riddles, stories, and jokes continued all the way till the Rifugio where we dropped our packs off in the room and then decided to spend the afternoon in the sun on the grassy fields playing cards and exploring! Katherine and Alice got a big group of people to adventure to the cave up on the hill, and with headlamps in hand they hiked there and had an awesome conversation! The group also introduced the laughing game, and Lyles proved to have the most contagious laugh! Hoke and I are so impressed with how this group constantly takes the initiative to get to know one another more and more, we absolutely love it! We all hung out until dinner, where we had a traditional German meal and then tiramisu for desert! We then had Moonup outside at dusk, where we saw the mountains transition from massive green and grey figures to black silhouettes among the stars! Sarah asked a moving question of “what do you want to accomplish from this trip?” The answers were all sincere and wonderful! The first day of hiking is always the toughest, but given how this group supports one another tomorrow will be a piece of cake! On to the next one!
It was another awesome day on the trail! Laney and Patrick worked seamlessly together as LODs, making sure the group stayed together and was drinking water! This hike has a very steep initial downhill into a beautiful valley where the walls of the mountains are on either side of us, and it’s truly sublime how huge they are! At the bottom we all went over to the little farm area where there were baby bunnies all jumping around. We all wished to take them with us as trail pets! During the break Leah, Sarah, Matt, and I all had an intense game of balance the trekking pole! After about 15 minutes we were ready to conquer our uphill climb for the day! Katherine yelled encouraging words the whole way up! It is not an easy climb at all, and the group did a flawless job getting to the top as difficult as it might have been! We celebrated the hill being over with our packed Coke Colas at the top, and then continued hiking along a babbling brook all the way to our next Rifugio, Rifugio Lavarella! This Rifugio has water, streams, and lakes surrounding it, and as soon as we got there, the plan was concrete to go jump in the freezing cold lake! We all changed into our bathing suits, and walked through all the cows in the field to get there! Everyone had jumped in except Rand, Alice, and Lyles who were rightfully nervous about the temperature of the water, but then after some group encouragement the rest of the group all jumped with them! Lillianne documented it all on her camera, and has some awesome pictures! Colton also took this time to clean his socks in the river, and we all probably should have done the same! We all ran back to the Rifugio to take hot showers, and then Diana gathered the group for game time before dinner! Dinner filled us up with energy for our day hike tomorrow, and then we had an extremely special Moonup. The question that was asked gave people the opportunity to open up in a safe space, and Hoke and I could not believe how much closer the group felt after everyone took their time to answer! It was such a memorable night, and we are excited to keep moving forward and growing closer and closer along the way!
Our rest day was perfect! We all got to sleep in a little extra, and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast, where Patrick consumed all the pound cake he could! We drank cappuccinos, and then finally went to go get changed for our day hike! We met Peter at 9 and began our trek with the bright sun making it a little warmer on the chilly morning! The group stayed together the whole way to the saddle! Lyles led the group the whole way at the best pace, she made sure no one was left behind! Lillian and Rand our LODs kept spirits high, and made sure the group stopped for breaks along the way! When we made it to the saddle we were in awe of the snowcapped Austrian Alps off in the distance! Matt, Sarah, Katherine, Lillian, and Patrick all took to their power poses for some hilarious pictures! While Leah, Alice, Colton, Lyles, Rand, and Diana all explored the hut nearby! We were all having a blast, and during the group photo shoot we were privileged to watch these monstrous grey, black, and blue storm clouds roll over all the mountains around us! We all decided that it was time to get down the mountain to a safer elevation! On our walk down, we got caught in a refreshing rain storm and all of us were full of smiles to experience a spontaneous rain storm! It only lasted 10 minutes and then the sun was back out again drying us off and offering its warmth! We hiked back to Lavarella where we had a delicious lunch of green pasta and meat sauce! The afternoon was spent playing a ping pong tournament, listening to 70s/80s music, and going for runs and walks during the short moments the rain would subside! It was the most beautiful rainy afternoon, the group all hung out together until dinner, and then had Moonup in the small chapel on the hill to stay out of the rain, but not have it in the Rifugio! Lills and Rand asked the group “where do you see the person to the right of you in 15 years!?” Hoke and I love this question, and everyone gave such sincere answers! We had the best day, and are fully rested for our biggest hike tomorrow!
It was a long day, but we all made it! We started our hike early at 8am to make sure we would make it to Lagazuoi in a comfortable time! Lyles and Alice our LODs set the perfect pace, and we cruised up our first hill of three! At the top we took a water break and then took some time to pet all of the miniature horses and donkeys before our second hill. It was much more difficult, but the clouds flooded in around us and it looked as if we were walking in the sky! After many riddles, and encouraging words we made it to the saddle with an unbelievable view, and ate one of our sandwiches before our steep decent! Marco safely led us down the hill, and we all took pictures of the view on the way down! When we made it to the bottom we took a relaxing lunch in this huge boulder field, and picked bouquets of wildflowers to decorate our packs with! We began our last uphill hike, and for some motivation we cruised up the hill to some 2000 Pop Hit Sing Alongs! We sang Kelly Clarkson, Outcast, Usher, Taylor Swift, and Justin Bieber! Spirits were high when we at last reached our destination of Rifugio Lagazuoi! Hugs, high fives, and coke colas were spread around in celebration of completing our longest and most difficult trek! We all relaxed, ate pastries, and introduced Gin the card game to everyone! We all put on warmies and thoroughly enjoyed the surroundings! Much like our hike up to Lagazuoi, we were sitting in a huge cloud that made us all feel were floating in the sky! Dinner was a smorgasbord of pastas and ravioli! We all were stuffed by the end, and then finished the day with an awesome Moonup outside in the clouds! We were all ready for bed by the end of the day, and looking forward to exploring the WWI Tunnels the next day!
Today started with the most jaw dropping sunrise! Earlier than other days but well worth it! Bundled up in blankets we watched the sun slowly peek over the mountains, and we witnessed the Dolomites change into each and every color of the rainbow, we couldn’t believe our eyes! After the sunrise Katherine and Diana made sure the group was packed, and outside ready to meet the two climbing guides The Marcos, as we call them, by 9! When they arrived they gave us our gear, a brief history of the war that occurred in these mountains only a hundred years ago! We were all intrigued at the history, and appreciated the opportunity to go through these tunnels where soldiers fought for such a long time! People saw bullets, and the quarters where the Italian soldiers slept. It was an eye opening morning, we all reflected at the end and were so grateful to have experienced walking through the WWI Tunnels! We ate a quick lunch in a field of flowers and trees, and then began our hike to Rifugio Scoiattoli! Given our past days of hiking, this one was a breeze in comparison, and the group crushed it! We sang all the way to the Rifugio! We settled into our rooms, took showers, went on runs, played outside, and had a wonderful afternoon! Dinner was incredible as usual, and an awesome Moonup was led by Diana and Katherine! We played a game of the famous mafia before heading to bed, and getting some rest before our big days ahead of the Via Ferrata, and rock climbing! Hoke and I cannot believe we are at our half way point already! This summer and this group has been incredible this far, and we cannot wait to tell you about the next few adventures!
Arrivederci for now!
Abbey and Hoke
“My personality is as big as these mountains” – Diana
” I was not expecting the views to be as incredible as they are!” – Matt
“This may be the only place in the world I would voluntarily hike” – Rand
“I have to come back and ski here!” – Laney
“I don’t want to leave!” – Lills
“I have to run through this field, it’s basically from the Sound of Music” – Leah
“I’m really starting to believe in myself so much more” – Lyles
“I’m getting a bacon, cheese, pickle, and mayo sandwich as soon as I get to the Rifugio” – Katherine
“Easy, breezy, beautiful Dolomite Mountains” – Sarah
“The views are absolutely amazing”- Alice
“Thanks Mom and Dad for sending me on this trip, I love the new trip grind” – Patrick
“Amazing and once in a lifetime opportunity that I’m soaking in each day” – Colton
July 18, 2017
Piacere Moondance Parents!!!
Everyone has made it safely to the Venice Airport! Hoke and I can’t believe it’s already third session! The group is already amazing, and we can’t wait to make memories in the Dolomites with them! Our bus ride went by so quickly, we all talked about movies, music, traveling, and so many other topics! Before we knew it we were up winding through the gorgeous and massive Dolomite mountains! The mountains hugged us on the road all the way till Cortina. When we arrived Katherine made sure everyone put their packs up in their rooms in record time so we could go into town and enjoy our first Italian meal of brick-oven pizza! We all walked into town on an absolutely perfect day. Blue skies and green trees and mountains were all around us. Lillian made so many comments on how she loved the sweet little mountain town, and is making plans to move here in ten years! We made it to our lunch spot Ristorante Il Ponte, and devoured 12 pizzas. Margarita, prosciutto, pepperoni, and Hawaiian pizzas were gone in seconds! Colton and Matt took the cake on most slices eaten which was up around 8/9. We all were stuffed, but not too stuffed to grab some gelato on the way back to the hotel. Everyone needs to experience gelato when they are in Italy. With cones in hand we walked around the town of Cortina and then to this field of wildflowers above our hotel for some quick lessons and play our favorite Birdie on a Pirch! This group was hilarious playing, and Rand and Patrick reigned champions of today’s rounds, but there will be more to come! Hoke and I went over cultural sensitivity, and then the group had the opportunity to stay and play games at the hotel with Hoke or head back into town with me. Leah headed up the group to go back into town and grab gifts for family and some fun stickers to decorate water bottles. So Leah, Sarah, Laney, Lillian, and I went back to explore more of the village. We went into a church that was built in 1773, and then went to some stores around the town. Their water bottles will be looking great when they return home :)! We decided to head back to the hotel, and when we returned Diana was teaching a new card game to the group. Everyone was having a great and relaxing afternoon after all the traveling. I brought Bananagrams down and played with Lyles, Matt, and Alice. The games have begun, and things are already getting competitive. We love it! Dinner was at 7:30 and had a conversation about our favorite things (concerts, places, dream jobs). It was awesome and needless to say our first Moonup was a success. Everyone explained why they were here in the Dolomites, and we heard some moving answers. This group is incredible already. Hoke and I love how Moondance brings strangers together, and within 24 hours it’s as if they have known each other for years, and it’s only day 2! We are all going to bed to make sure we are ready to go tomorrow for the Via Ferrata.
What an AMAZING day: Day 3 was a success! We all were up around 7:30 for a breakfast of a lot of yogurt and granola. Our Leaders of the Day, Matt and Leah, made sure everyone had their daypacks ready with water bottles, rain jackets, lunch, and sunscreen. The whole group was outside waiting stoked for what the day had in store. Our guides Marco and Marco (the Marcos!) arrived around 8:45, and we began our hike to the Via Ferrata. Our hike was filled with riddles thanks to Matt and Patrick, stories, and endless heel clicks, which we have concluded is our favorite mode of transportation. Laney, Lillian, Diana, and I heel clicked every chance we could. Colton could figure out every riddle in less than five minutes, which impressed us all. It was a beautiful day for our adventure. We all were taking it these incredible Dolomite Mountain views, and could not believe where we were in the world. After five miles we arrived to the start of the Via Ferrata. A Via Ferrata “The Iron Way” is a system of iron cables bolted into the mountain that assists hikers on more exposed hikes. This technique was inspired by the way WWI Soldiers navigated through the mountains during the war. The group was all smiles from beginning to end. This Via Ferrata entails walking behind a massive and powerful waterfall. The group could not get enough of it. We took so many pictures and GoPro videos along the way. Hoke and I were so excited to see how enthusiastic everyone was for this first activity. We continued up the Via Ferrata, and then made it to our lunch spot where we could still here the faint sound of the waterfall in the distance! We all sat, ate, and kept talking about how awesome the waterfall was. Before we set out on our hike back, a water toast was made to the Via Ferrata for being amazing! The hike back went fast, the group stayed together, and within a couple hours we were back at our hotel. The kids all thanked the guys for the best first day they could have asked for, and the Marcos were extremely happy about it. Once back and settled the group headed down into the village. Katherine, Rand, Alice, and Lyles all got Cortina bracelets. Sarah got a comfy tshirt for sleeping and the rest got some more stickers. Hoke and I loved seeing them all hanging out with each other. When it started to rain so we all returned back to the hotel for games but time flew by, and within no time we were all at dinner enjoying pasta with meat sauce and gelato for desert. It was getting late so Matt and Leah decided to have Moonup soon after dinner where they asked two questions 1. What is your spirit vegetable? 2. What are you looking to get out of this trip? The answers were touching, and Hoke and I cannot wait to see this group crush the hiking section of this trip. We are all headed to bed to get a good solid nights sleep before our first big hiking day tomorrow! It’s been a blast so far, and it’s only going to get better from here on out 🙂
Talk to you all soon!
Abbey and Hoke
July 17, 2017
Hi Dolomites Families!
We just heard from Abbey and Hoke and the group arrived safely in Cortina! We’re excited for the adventure ahead. Stay tuned!
-The Moondance Admissions Team