June 27, 2017
Future trips to visit each other and phone numbers have been exchanged. The girls exchange goodbye letters but hold confidence that this is certainly not the end of an incredible and lifelong friendship. There is no bond like the one formed in such a short time on a Moondance trip. It is one that is built upon overcoming challenges, rising up alongside others, and persevering through all that this unexpected world has to offer. The relationships are impossible to forget, and it is clear in the eyes of all that this journey will remain in everyone’s heart.
From George’s first day Leader of the Day responsibilities, and his endless poetry writing to Lane’s photography knowledge and knack for the Icelandic language the group has not held back. Kate’s contagious laugh as we hike what seems like a vertical uphill towards a waterfall inspired all to complete every challenge. Adon and Ford’s impressions and outlandish jokes kept minds away from the sometimes difficult tasks and focused on the uncontrollable laughter they caused. Susanna’s stamina on the trail made many jealous, but everyone (including the leaders) shot to better themselves in that category as they followed her effortless motion. Mary Thomas’ positivity was impossible to ignore, as she would often enlighten us with a great story or amazing fact as rain spit out of the sky and wind gusted across the mountains. Madison’s climbing skills may have been questionable at times, but her determination and strong will helped to bring the group together along with her gracious singing voice. From one of the first days, Mary had the biggest smile on her face, and it did not disappear as she didn’t let any experience or view pass her by. Wickie and Ainslee stayed close, but opened their incredible friendship to all as their previous bond created one amongst the entire group as they shared their wonderful ability to create friends in everybody. Tommy and Barrett may have eaten a combined 22 hotdogs one night for dinner, but their experience and peaceful natures helped to balance the group as they formed a rock beneath us all by being natural leaders.
Our group is incredibly and entirely unforgettable. These are memories that cannot and will not fade. Margaret and I look forward to hearing about all of these amazing men and womens’ accomplishments as they are sure to come. They are all a solidified part of the Moondance family, and always have a place here.
Blake and Margaret
June 24, 2017
Finally, a hot shower!
Bumping away from the Laugavegur trail and moving through rivers towards the South Coast of Iceland, the group anxiously awaits the slow reveal of the massive glacier that was in sight as we trekked. Prepping for ice climbing on the glacier, the group built up energy from the long days on the trail and powered out into the parking lot to receive helmets, harnesses, cramp-ons and the infamous and aesthetically pleasing pic axes.
The group convened and began to strap on sturdy ice boots and were fitted for their metal cramp ons for a safe grip into the glacier. When all gear was distributed, the crew headed towards the massive and dominating glacier. Hiking along ashy sand through jagged rocks, the group finally could dig their feet into the ice. We slowly ascended the ice mountain, finding our footing at each step. As we rounded the first bend, a crystal clear stream rushed through the ice and Ford was the first to take advantage of this new and natural hydration station. As Ford scooped up the crystal clean water and sipped it up, Madison and Kate immediately joined in but in a bigger fashion as they filled their Nalgenes with the pristine and icy water. With real glacier water, the group moved along the glacier towards the climbing wall.
Palmi and Josh (our two ice climbing guides) led us into a deep and icy canyon. They ascended the wall slowly and prepared our climbing ropes at the top. As the rope dropped from above and the carabiner was placed at the groups’ feet, Adon was the first to strap in. He eagerly gripped two ice axes and rapidly reached the top. His enthusiasm created a wild chase to reach the top on both of the two wall climbs. George was soon to follow as he stepped across the rushing river and tackled the second, and demanding, climb. The group took on the challenge with ease and enthusiasm as they all made the ice climbing look incredibly easy!
Back to Reykjavik! The group climbed back aboard the bus and we headed back toward civilization at the Hlemmur square hostel in the heart of downtown. The hot showers were calling our names. After a long trekking section, everybody threw their stuff on the comfy beds, took a hot shower, and sat down for a much-needed hot meal. Bed time was early for all, as Ainslee led our Moonup as our LOD, and provided us with the question: “what was the greatest thing you didn’t expect to get out of our trek, but ended up finding”. Barrett left all of us with a summarizing answer in that our trek was not about the destination, but rather the experiences during the journey that came to mean the most.
Morning came quickly, and we were bound for Glymur waterfall, the tallest waterfall in Iceland. Boots were strapped back on, and we hit the steep incline towards the viewpoint. Mary led the way as we shuffled through puddles, and she kept us motivated by her endless “wow- ing”. We took a quick turn and ended up at a rushing river with one log running across as our path. Susanna and Tommy quickly chimed in that this river crossing was a piece of cake compared to some on our recent trek. They quickly stripped off socks and boots, rolled up hiking pants and strapped on water shoes. They led the group through the mighty current and across the log so we could continue our ascent.
A steep and rocky climb up was well worth the view that came along with it. Lane was the first to reach the top, and he pointed as we all approached the 650ft water drop. Birds circled the algae covered rock faces and the group stood in amazement. Wickie and Mary Thomas quickly suggested the group try for a better view. Wickie and Mary Thomas led the mighty march up to the highest view-point where we could feel the mist from the falling water against our faces. Lane remained the groups most accomplished photographer as he found the right photo opportunities and camera angles at the top. We covered every inch of the massive waterfall today, and all eyes and minds look eagerly towards the commencement of our kayaking overnight trip.
Blake and Margaret
June 23, 2017
Greetings from the lush Icelandic countryside of the Laugavegur trail! We packed up camp on the 17th and began driving east in our all- terrain van towards Landmannalauger. Adon and Susanna were appointed as our Leaders of the Day (LODs), who helped get us going. We stopped along the way to stretch our legs at a gushing waterfall engulfed with lavender Lupin. Upon arrival to the Landmannalauger base camp, we discussed the principles of Leave No Trace and its importance on the trail. Our guide, Pálmi, cooked a comforting hamburger feast in our cozy kitchen tent. Ford wrote a charming rap song about Pálmi and presented it at dinner. After dinner everyone explored the surrounding volcanic rock before Adon and Susanna led the second Moonup, our nightly ritual for reflection, mutual appreciation, and search for meaning.
The next morning we awoke with the same continuous sun glowing through our tents and snagged a quick breakfast before beginning our warm-up hike to a volcano. Even with the treacherous downhill slopes and surprise river crossing towards the end of the hike, the morale of the group was very high. Wickie managed to take an epic bathroom break at the top in a perfect crevasse, the first of many to come. We ate our sandwiches atop the gusty peak, gazing out at the colorful green canyon and colorful sandstone formations around us. We were thoroughly impressed with the stamina and pace of the group and felt prepared to take on the 46km trail over the following three days. We returned to camp to tell stories, play cards, and enjoy a delicious hearty soup to fuel up for the trek. Mary Thomas and Lane led our Moonup with a creative question about what three things everyone would want to have in their secret lair. After dinner, some found a patch of snow perfect for a snowball fight and sliding on until an unknown time under a forever glowing midnight sun.
The 19th marked the first and longest day of our trek, a mentally and physically challenging task for all. Ainslee and Tommy led us 12km to our lunch break spot through snow patches and rocky tundra. We continued on another 12km through lush green hills, past small hot springs, and rocky ridges. The snowball fights continued as Barrett and Tommy kept sniping their new friends. Our second river crossing through the glacial runoff proved much easier than the first since we were prepared with our water shoes. We finally set up camp outside the Alftavatn hut and settled down after a demanding day. Ainslee and Tommy set the tone for the evening at Moonup and we got some well- deserved rest.
The next morning we woke up on the mossy creekside bank to a light rain and blistering wind howling at the sides of our tents. After breakfast Blake helped shove the big kitchen tent into the bag and we were on our way. Water shoes were essential for our first intense river crossing, where the cloudy water was rushing, but it was a great success! The weather cleared up and attitudes lightened as we hit the trail with many cookie and chocolate breaks along the way. For dinner we chowed down on some delicious Icelandic grilled salmon and rice and George charmed us with his latest poetry. We laid down to rest on the windy hilltop by the Emstur hut.
We fueled up for our final day of trekking with warm oatmeal and fruit. We had our final river crossing and emerged into a grove of birch trees for the first time in days. Many nutella sandwiches satisfied hungry stomachs as we powered through the last few miles of our trek to þórsmörk. We settled into a lush campsite that we could call our own. We finally heard Madison share her enchanting singing voice with us and enjoyed some music for the first time in days. We tossed the frisbee and Kate whipped out her journal to draw a beautiful picture of the scenery surrounding us. Wickie and Barrett led an entertaining Moonup where we learned about everyone’s most embarrassing moment.
Since we cruised through the 42km trek, we had spare time to go on an easy day hike on Thursday to a quaint cave and waterfall. After sleeping in and taking a leisurely morning, Madison and Lane were our designated LODs. We had more time to relax so Blake and I had a mid-trip check-in with everyone, an individual conversation with everyone to see how they’re doing. We made cheesy potatoes and Pálmi barbequed some lamb for dinner.
Next we are heading for the Sólheimajökull glacier for some ice climbing!
-Margaret and Blake
June 16, 2017
After a long travel day, the Moondance team has touched down in Iceland!
Powering through the mighty highlands and weaving through magnificent rock formations, the group quickly found solace at the steaming Blue Lagoon geothermal hot springs. After hours of travel, the group slid into their swim gear and relaxed in the naturally heated blue water. The group took their time to enjoy the healing benefits of the surrounding “mud stations” by lathering themselves up with the cleansing mineral mud masks. The group waded through the heated pools until weary eyes suggested to us leaders that the heat may be proving too relaxing. We scooped up the group, hopped in the bus, and rolled out towards the bustling coast city of Reykjavik!
We arrived at Hlemmur Square Hostel smack in the middle of downtown. A clean bed, hot shower, and the conventional first night meal on Moondance (pizza) all helped to provide a much needed night of rest and preparation for the numerous activities that lied ahead. The group hit the coast following dinner, and walked along the paved city path and rocks that surround the city. For hours, the group gawked at the surrounding snow-covered mountains and lingering clouds. After spotting our first glimpse of wildlife in a sweet seal that approached us as we talked beside the water, we headed back towards the hostel for a good and much needed night of sleep!
Waking up early in the hostel, and enjoying a traditional Icelandic breakfast with various meats, cheeses, and skyr (the Icelandic yogurt) we were picked up in a massive, four-wheel drive car that set out to drive us deep into the backlands for our first hike. Piling in, everybody was well-rested and ready to explore a less-touristy and incredibly hidden natural hot spring high in the mountains.
On our hot spring hunt to Reykjadalur, we ascended a steep and rocky path passed mighty waterfalls and numerous sheep set free for the summer to graze and enjoy the natural beauty in peace. After about two hours, the group reached a steamy stream and we knew we had reached our destination. After a rather challenging, but rewarding hike we hopped into swim gear and laid amongst the moss and rocks enjoying a heated soak before returning to the van. Walking back, we passed beautiful Icelandic horses and a few boiling and steamy patches of water that were heated by geothermal activity beneath. We reached the van, and set out for our first night of camping.
The group has had an incredible transition into this beautiful countryside, as they experienced the relaxing Blue Lagoon, and then were challenged with a magnificent hike and then rewarded with the wonderful heated pools that hid behind the mighty snow-covered peaks. All are in incredibly high spirits, and cannot wait to hit the trail for our trekking section! They wanted to leave all their parents with one more thing before they head out:
Barrett: I’m having a great time and everything is awesome!
Tommy: Hey guys, I’m having so much fun!
Ford: I love you Jim and Tammy, I miss you I’m having a good time!
George: Hey having a great time! Miss y’all!
Adon: Hi world- Iceland is a beautiful place and no one should visit it. Hi family- I am very thankful that you sent me here and I’m having a really really good time and I love all of you!
Lane: Hey to everyone except Morgan, I’m having a great time in Iceland and I don’t miss any of you whatsoever.
Wickie: Hello everyone, I am having an awesome time and I can’t wait to see you again! I love you and miss you
Susanna: I’m having so much fun and can’t wait to tell you all about it! Love you
Madison: Hey my dudes! Hope you’re not too depressed that I’m not home and Mom- do not watch all of the Supernaturals or Fear of Walking Dead without me! I love you!
Ainslee: Hey Dad I haven’t eaten whale yet…
Kate: Hey Mom and Dad I’m having so much fun I miss you!
Mary Thomas: Hi this is Mary Thomas I’m having a great time I hope you will have fun at the beach. I love you bye
Mary: Thank you so much Mom and Dad I miss y’all and love you!
June 15, 2017
Hey Iceland A families!
We heard from Blake & Margaret this morning, and they said the group arrived safe and sound in Iceland! They were off to enjoy the hot springs near Reykjavik. Stay tuned for more updates.
-Moondance Administrative Team