June 27, 2017
To say the “icy-hots” left Iceland with fire would be an understatement! We can’t believe how fast these past 14 days have flown by, and we couldn’t be any more thankful to have had this time with them. Although we we’re challenged with a hard goodbye, let me tell you about some of the final activities we had going on!
We woke up to sunshine, blue skies, and breakfast sandwiches as we loaded up to the van to the famous Seljalandsfoss waterfall! Hannah and Sophia were our incredible LOD’s (leader of the days) for the last official day, and they did a great job keeping everyone laughing all day. Everyone immediately took on the adventure of exploring every aspect of the waterfall even if it meant getting soaked. This group of young adults never fails to seize the day! Jack and Carter were the first ones to walk up and around the volcano and then strongly encouraged the rest of the group to join. After we had enough fascination with the giant waterfall, we took on our next task of ice-climbing! A moment we had all been waiting for. Hugh and Ruby had their harness, helmet, crampons, and ice-ax in hand within minutes. We were very thankful for their contagious excitement about our last, but certainly not least, activity! After getting geared up, Chase and Brody spearheaded the hike on the glacier. I think they both discovered their new favorite activity: ice-chopping! Our arctic adventure guides taught us about the history of the breathtaking glacier and informed us about the documentary “Chasing ice” being filmed there! After an hour walk on the glacier of exploring caves, ash, and different glacier formations, we arrived at our climbing spot. The first thing we did was stick our faces in a small stream of glacier water for a little hydration! It was “the best water we’ve ever had,” according to the icy-hots. On the climb, we discovered Will and Livie’s natural talent for ice-climbing. We barely had even gotten the camera out before they were already calling commands to belay down! This is one athletic group of people! Everyone made it to the top of the climb and some even conquered their all-time fear of heights. Feeling accomplished, the icy-hots perched up on the glistening white glacier and enjoyed sandwiches with a view. The hike down was filled with endless laughter and reflection from the past two weeks. For the last time we loaded up the van and loudly sang our new favorite song known as “Reykavik” on full blast! On the way back to our home base, Hlemmur square hostel, we stopped at one last gorgeous waterfall referred to as Gljúfrabúi. We were all extremely excited about our next task; showers and shopping! The icy-hots are fully loaded with souvenirs anywhere from t-shirts, Icelandic slippers, cultural food, and souvenirs that embody a few inside jokes we had. Next stop was banquet dinner! After some fresh showers and everyone dressing head to toe in their new souvenir purchases from town, we walked to a family owned Thai-place down the street. Thai food in Iceland? Amazing! Bella dressed in a full wardrobe of Icelandic gear, and helped Thomas and I organize the menu for the amazing last dinner. The dinner consisted of hot pepper testing, stare-offs, laughing contests, and sharing our favorite memories from the trip. The night came to an end with chocolate cake and an emotional moon-up where the group became even closer than we thought was possible. We found ourselves caught up in conversation and singing Edward a loud happy birthday to welcome on the new day. We are so glad we got to share some of Edwards birthday with him!!
Words cannot describe how amazing these past 2 weeks have been for Thomas and I. This group truly embraced everything Moondance has to offer, conquered fears, challenged themselves, and became a family. We feel extremely confident about the future of this family and could not be more grateful to have had the opportunity to not only be their leader, but their friend. We hope to see everyone back next summer! Until next time.
Addy and Thomas
June 26, 2017
The last time we wrote to you all, the “Icey-Hots” had done nothing but impress us. Little did we know, the growth, maturation, and personal reflection experienced on the mighty Laugavegur Trail would only further cement this once in a lifetime experience – it has been truly special. But first, let us back track into how we began our expedition.
Our day of sun, blue skies, and beautifulness was much warranted, and even more of a blessing, because we woke up the following morning to weather a little less blue, sunny and delightful-but this brought no despair to our team! A warm breakfast was devoured, and thanks to the teamwork of the entire group, we braved the weather and boarded our warm, cozy deluxe van and headed to our new home-Landmannalaugur. Though the drive took some time, we all listened to our favorite songs with our favorite people all while having delightful conversations and taking in the absolutely breathtaking beauty that Iceland constantly has to offer. Glaciers, volcanos, mountains and rivers- Iceland is a land that offers it all! As we entered the volcanic, black sand desert created by the mighty snowcapped Hekla, we weren’t completely sure whether we were still in Iceland or had accidentally stumbled upon the moon. Either way, we were entranced by the unusual yet spectacular land around us. And fortunately for us, we were able to continue our glorious gazing drive a little longer, as our original path was overtaken by an overflowing glacial stream. This place is truly untamed-but that’s no problem for the expedition masters “the Icey-Hots”! Luckily, we had impressive, enthusiastic leadership from our LODs for the day, Carter and Edward, and these two radical guys kept the energy high and the moral even higher as we turned a travel day into a bonding experience. Thankfully, we capped off a slightly less eventful day with a very eventful and DELICIOUS burger-cookout dinner. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel, and this lesson would be a theme for the upcoming days on our incredible trek!
There are days where it is easy to wake up and pop out of the tent, but today wasn’t one of them. And did that even phase the Icey-Hots? Absolutely not! Howling wind and chilly rain didn’t stop this group of a lifetime for having a fantastic day. Weather is what you make it and that weather had us bundled together under our castle-esque group tent. With our stoves cooking up warm soup and hot cocoa, hilarious conversations, storytelling, games and all sorts of fun occupying/distracting us from the harsh climate, we loved the day and the time we spent together. And before we knew it, Sophia and Livie delightfully informed us of a relief in the intense weather by suggesting a day hike followed by hot springs and hotter showers. A day on the ropes was instantly saved! The Icey-Hots redefine resilience day in and day out, and right when we think we couldn’t have any more pride in this group, they immediately give us more reasons to be proud. It’s a beautiful pattern. The night came to an end by tucking into our warm, cozy sleeping bags and perfectly constructed tents and we began resting up for the biggest day of our trek.
We woke up with full eyes and clear hearts (with some warm sun, too) and we were ready to begin the biggest part of our amazing journey: our 4 day trek on the world famous Laugavegur trail. A combinations of river crossings, snow covered trails, mountain tops and low valleys paint the most picturesque yet diverse terrain, but this group wasn’t intimidated. Tell the “Icey-Hots” to run a mile, they ask “Can we run 2?!” I cannot overemphasize the unbelievable courage, teamwork and positivity constantly beaming from our team. So after saying goodbye to the delightful Landmannalaugar base camp, we were excited to get trekking. With the impressive and insightful leadership of Bella and Hugh, we started up the trail and began the hike. Within the first hour, the group was appreciating the black lava field basin with beautiful green moss covers, and basically running up hill, appreciating all the beauty this land has to offer. So appreciative, they didn’t even realize they had just trekked up a steep mountain side almost immediately into the trek. Wow! All Addy and I could do was bask in their glory, knowing the next 3 and a half days would only be more and more amazing. And as we climbed and climbed, the songs, games and conversations kept flowing on the trail, and before we knew it, we had climbed so high we reached snow! Absolutely amazing it was to see glistening white snow on a June morning, and the transition from black lava rock to snowy plateaus was more beautiful than one could imagine. But we didn’t have to imagine it, we lived it! As the hike progressed, the weather wanted to really test this unbelievably strong group of young adults, and it definitely did. But who knew hiking in the blowing snow on the tops of mountains in the middle of June could be as amazingly delightful as sitting on a beach? That’s what the energy and positivity radiating from the Icey-Hots does, gives us absolute peace and comfort in even the most intense conditions. Pushing through the wintery weather, the deep and intimate trail talk continued, and next thing we knew we were back on the magnificent red rock mountains, taking our last lunch break before hitting camp. When we mention the light at the end of the tunnel, our view as we reached our last peak of the day epitomized that. With Jack and Brody keeping a fantastic eagle eye on the comfort, safety and overall wellbeing of the group, we looked down on what was the perfect sight for well-trekked eyes: an immediate switch from red rock cliff sides to lush green valleys, centering, covering and climbing up blackish peaks, with a crystal blue lake sandwiching in our campsite, and an absolutely breathtaking mountain range topped by a magnificent glacier cap. Think of the most beautiful, diverse and gorgeous fantasy land, and then search the Icelandic Highlands. This was a jewel in the crown that is this fantastic island. We traveled for a little bit longer into the mossy valley and between these spattered green and black peaks, and arrived to our new, temporary home on the edge of a massive, shimmering blue lake. They refer to this site as Alftavatn, but I call it Eden! Either way, nothing was more appropriate, rewarding or deserved for a group of super tough travelers than fresh, hot lamb stew, waiting for us at camp. Quite the reward for a group right off of a 10 hour, 14 mile hike (yeah, and people think they are kids?). Warm stew put us to sleep full, happy and very accomplished, and the first yet longest day was in the books.
After one of the most physically testing days of the trail, we were ready to see how mentally sharp and sturdy our group was. And the weather we awoke to definitely began that test. A mix of wintery cold proportions and winds fast enough to send tents flying (though it did not happen because the Icey-Hots are tent-setting professionals now) was not enough to deter the minds of this group. But on Moondance, we stay flexible and stay smart, so when it is absolutely impossible to continue on in such gnarly weather, we adjust. And we adjusted in style. Stopping our day a little early and setting up our new, temporary home in a fantastic little bunk house for the evening, we were able to not only stay warm and dry, but were given more time to enjoy each other’s company in our group bunk house. Games of mafia, music, stories, and laughs were followed by a delicious spaghetti dinner, a special moon up in a barn, and a deep bunk bed sleep. Just when we thought we forgot what sun was, we awoke to it beaming us brightly in the morning, and we were off to our new destination along this magnificent trail, Emstrur. I dont know what was more uplifting during our day, the sun, blue skies, or Hannah’s constant smile. I’d say the sun and blue skies were great, but nothing in comparison to her brilliant attitude and ability to never voice a complaint. What could have seen like a lengthy day with a quick glacial river crossing flew by quicker than one could have driven, because all around us were gigantic green cliff sides with a sea of black sand sitting amongst them, and it was this black sand we traversed. Before we knew it, we had made it almost entirely to our campsite, but, because of this group’s icey, fiery spirit of adventure, we excitingly decided to take a quick detour. Boy was it worth it! Imagine the breathtaking beauty and magnificence of the Grand Canyon, but with bright green moss scaling the walls, and glacial rivers flowing within, and this was the beautiful image we were looking down into from our detoured stop.
We arrived to camp, quickly set up tents, and after spending moonup at the most incredible view point I have ever seen, we went to bed with our eyes set and hearts ready for our last day.
We could not believe how fast time flies. It seemed like just yesterday we were packing up at base camp and preparing for our long, first day. Now we were waking up on the last morning of our trek. Ruby’s constant sweet, peaceful and absolutely amazing demeanor alleviated these “last day of the trek” nerves, and combined with the sunlight shining and blue sky glowing, we were on our trusted way to the highly anticipated þordmörk campsite. The last day was as glorious as ever. We followed rivers into green valleys, had captivating games of 20 questions, and enjoyed reflection on what could not have been a more fabulous day to end our trek. We crossed our last river, climbed our last peak and before we knew it, we were surprised by a GLORIOUS site for well-traveled eyes: trees! Through the trees the path led to a beautiful grassy campsite, sitting in the shadow of giant mountains and a sweeping glacier. This final day was amazing, and could only be topped off appropriately with a fantastic dinner, and I think charcoal grilled lamb, garlic potatoes and a garden salad was overly sufficient for a reward to end such an incredible trek. Will and Chase hit the high notes around the dinner table while the high note of the trip had smoothly come to an end.
The Laugavegur trail is famous and highly traveled for a reason: it is intense, challenging yet absolutely beautiful and filled with not only unbelievable scenery and views but time of growth, maturation and relationships. We talked, laughed, engaged, struggled, smiled, cheered, and lived life to the fullest each and every single moment of the trek. When times seemed tough, this group pushed through and grew. When times seemed easy, this group enjoyed the time loving one another and appreciating the glory of the world around them. Proud is a vast understatement. This one of a kind group of young adults makes us want to joyfully scream from the mountain tops we passed while at the same time inspiring us to not only to be more adventurous, courageous people but better, kinder people. Every single second with this group is such a blessing, and the trek was the culmination of all the immensely great emotions and experiences each Icey-Hot member brings to the group. The thought of goodbye deeply saddens us, but the excitement of our final days (ice-climbing, water fall searching and BANQUET!) overwhelms any sadness as we can’t wait to live every single remaining minute to the max with our team. What is this life we get to live?!
Addy and Thomas
June 21, 2017
Today the group said goodbye to the wonderful kayaking adventure in the West Fjords and said hello to the breathtaking Glymur waterfall hike. We stopped by this hike on our drive back to Reykjavik, and it ended up being the perfect activity to break up the drive! Our LOD’s for the day were Ruby and Hannah and they did a wonderful job leading a morning huddle and debriefing everyone about the logistics of the hike. The group found an amazing cave about 30 minutes into the hike and they decided it was the perfect spot for lunch! Thomas, Fifa (our Arctic Adventures guide), and I completely agreed! Jack, Brody, and Carter were quick to climb into a small hole nestled into the cave. I think we might have a new catalog photo! We enjoyed some packed lunches before tackling our first river crossing of the trip. Sophia was the first one to take on the challenge and smiled her way through the icy-cold water! The rest of the group was quick to follow, and everyone made it across the river without any complaints. Fifa, along with Thomas and I, expressed our excitement for the future trek after seeing how well this group conquered the feat. We continued our climb to see the waterfall, and Will kept everyone laughing with high spirits the entire way up. When we arrived at the top, Edward voiced his imaginative thoughts on the idea of a whale coming over the waterfall and the whole group started laughing. Livie passed out some delicious snacks to the entire group, and we enjoyed those while listening to some Icelandic folk tales. We ventured down the mountain having some great trail talks, and everyone successfully crossed the river again! We arrived back in Reykavik and the group was very excited to be back at the hostel from the first night. Once again, they were all able to fit in one big room together! While everyone was settling into their rooms, Hugh and Ruby helped Thomas grocery shop for some dinner. Ruby and Hannah later helped cook an amazing dinner in the hostel and expressed their excitement about being able to make stir fry when they get home! The night came to an end with happy faces after some hot showers, an amazing dinner, warm socks, and moon-up where we shared stories about the best life lessons our parents have taught us. I think it’s safe to say, well done parents!
Our fantastic group quickly learned to appreciate a comfortable night’s sleep, and after catching up on our Zzzs we were ready to take on our new adventure. Our LOD’s for the day, Bella and Will, did an excellent job motivating the team and getting everyone filled up on an absolutely delicious buffet breakfast. We said goodbye to what has become our home away from home, Hlemmur Square hostel in Reykjavik. A total team effort allowed us to pack up our van quickly and hit the road for the next stop in our once in a lifetime journey, the heavenly Reykjadalur Valley. When I say out of this world, I truly mean a natural gem. White steam fuming from geothermal hot springs, beautiful jagged rock formations, and lush green grass and moss surrounded us as we began our hike up to the naturally warm stream up the valley. With the bluest skies around us, the greenest earth under us, and the absolute best company with us, we began the uphill journey to this mystical gem. After working our legs, whispering to bearded sheep, and devouring a fabulous lunch, we ventured through geothermal steam and arrived at our destination. Imagine the comfort of a hot tub, the beauty and grace of a mountain steam, and the joy of 12 of the best human beings we could ever ask for around us. It was a fantasy! We changed into our swim gear and gently entered the warm soothing waters of the warm river. Talk about relaxation! Sophia, Bella, and Livie were the first ones to test out the steamy water. Carter, Hugh, and Will were eager to find the warmest spot they could in the stream, and boy were they successful. Chase had an ear to ear grin beaming from his face that was contagious throughout the entire day. This was truly a blissful day, but then again, so is every minute with this spectacular group of young adults. We enjoyed some time lying down and sprawling out as the water and exfoliating mud covered us. To keep up our hydration, Edward and Ruby led us in a group cheers (with water) to keep up our hydration levels high! After, our brilliant LODs had the suggestion to take a new path on the way down: a little longer but much less traveled. We pushed up-hill for a tad bit longer, and after some delicious Icelandic cookies, we ventured to the other side of the ridge, led by the eager and adventurous Jack and Edward, and we were greeted by our very own sheep friends grazing in the field! With the hot springs bustling, streams flowing, and our new family beaming, this was an unbelievable setting. I use the word “family” earnestly, because it’s days like today where a team becomes an intimate family. Brody accidently got her boots wet as she bravely jumped across a small stream but she reacted with pure laughter! The group practiced not only looking out for themselves, but stretching farther and looking out for everyone’s needs. A few of these examples were filling up water bottles, waiting for the hikers taking their time, and sharing stories from their past. This is why we do what we do! We traveled down the valley with laughter and delight and the glorious sun was still shining down when we arrived at our car. It’s impossible to have more pride in a group than we had after this detoured path. There wasn’t a single complaint all day, but that’s a given with the “Icy-Hots” at this point. We buckled up for one last little drive and headed down the open road with the magnificent, snowcapped Heklar Volcano overlooking us. Surreal! When we arrived at our campsite, I truly thought we had arrived in Eden. The greenest grass under the bluest sky, bordering the glassy lake under us all while the breathtaking Iceland sun warmed and beamed the land around us left us in nothing but awe and appreciation. Before we knew it, Jack was leading a group movement to set up the large community tent as Hannah ensured everyone had their group tents set up appropriately. The group also started game of soccer shortly after. We enjoyed a hot meal and after Ruby led the cleanup, we gathered in a circle to enjoy our nightly moon-up. Later that night, we reflected on these 12 faces of the most impressive, adventurous and genuinely incredible young adults we had ever met! The sun crested over the mountains on the horizon as we yawned and tucked away into our tents, ending what was one of the best days of my entire life. A day like today leaves me with a heart full of excitement as we prepare to take on our out-of-this-world trek. We are so grateful to get to experience Iceland with this amazing group of people! We will touch base again after we complete the Laugavegur trail! – Addy and Thomas
June 17, 2017
Day 2: Halooo! The “Icy-hots” (yes, we already have a team name) have touched down in Iceland! We were greeted by our amazing Arctic Adventures guide, Fifa, who was quick to grow a part of the Icy-hot family. The group came off the plane ready to explore, and we all headed straight to the famous Blue Lagoon Hot Springs! Can you think of a better activity to do after a long travel night? We put on our suits and went to treat ourselves in the gorgeous baby blue hot spring. We even found some Silica face masks that the entire group lathered all over their face. It was quite the scene! After discovering the secret nooks of the hot spring (aka the warmest parts of it) the group morale, along with their skin, was feeling rejuvenated! We loaded up the van and headed towards the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik, where we found a gorgeous lunch spot overlooking the water. We all agreed that peanut butter simply tastes better on Moondance! The hostels exceeded our expectations with their accommodation of fitting the entire group in one room. Talk about bonding!! The day ended with our first Moonup (a nightly ritual of Moondance) where we all got to know each other better and expressed how excited we were for the rest of the trip. I think it’s safe to say we are all pretty thankful to be here (quote of the day: “What is this life we get to live?”)
Day 3: To the West fjords! The LODs (leaders of the day) woke the group up, helped everyone pack up, and had everyone down at breakfast right in time! For those of you who don’t know what an “LOD” is, it is 2 people who take the reins for the day and help guide the day! We drove through some gorgeous terrain and met our kayaking guides to prep for the next two days. Everyone helped pack the kayaks with group tents, sleeping bags, food, and their own personal gear. We also made some new horse friends who were wandering around close to our departure point! The group took on the currents with an amazing attitude, and laughter (not anger) broke out when it started to rain. That’s what we like to see! We were accompanied by some seals on our journey and everyone was very amused. Also, great leadership skills were shown by this group when they helped navigate the team safely through an extremely strong current. We kayaked up to a beautiful island where we camped for the night. The group was quick to set up tents and then start the exploration aspect of the majestic island. Arctic Adventures made us a hot meal for dinner along with some good ole’ Swiss miss hot coco. What a nice treat after a cold day! The night came to an end with Moonup looking over the gorgeous West Fjord territory and sharing some truly incredible moments.
Day 4: Finish kayaking and holy hike! Today we woke up to sunshine. Success! The group is still getting used to the idea that the sun doesn’t set until extremely late, but we are starting to love the extra hours of daylight. After fueling up with breakfast, the group broke down tents, and we had an inspiring morning huddle to motivate ourselves for the day. Let’s go icy-hots! The group moved with the currents today which was nice change of pace. We kayaked to an old ship wreck and had the opportunity to get out of our kayaks and explore the ship. Once we reached our destination, the group worked together to lift all of the kayaks out of the water and onto the back of the car and thanked our guides for everything they did for us. Next stop…the holy hike! Fifa took us to a hike nearby called “Helgafell” literally meaning holy hike. It is said that if you start from a certain grave and hike up to the top without talking or looking back you will be blessed with good luck. The group managed to make it all the way up without doing either, and it ended up being a very cool experience for everyone to enjoy the peacefulness of the outdoors. Some even said the hike was their favorite part thus far! Saying this trip started off great is an understatement. We are so proud of everyone and can’t wait for all the adventures ahead! Tomorrow we head to take on the Glymur waterfall hike and then will we will be doing a hot springs hunt to Reykjadulr! What is this life we get to live?!
Below are some shout outs from the group! Until next time!
Hugh- Mom, Dad, and George,
I am having so much fun! Iceland is amazing, and we have seen so many seals and puffins. Today is a national holiday, so we are doing something fun tonight. Miss you and love you. Love Hugh
Sophia- Family, it’s Sophia and I went to Blue Lagoon, and kayaked a lot. The views are dope. Happy Father’s Day!
Livie- Family, it’s so pretty and cool here! We went to the blue lagoon and see kayaked and saw a shipwreck. Love you! Happy Father’s Day!
Bella- Hey! How’s Eddie? I’m having fun and I love you all! Happy Dad’s Day!
Hannah- Family, I miss all of you so much! Iceland is incredible! We visited the blue lagoon and kayak around 10 miles in the ocean which was extremely difficult with my limited to no arm muscle…Love you guys. Happy Father’s Day
Ruby- Hey family I miss you guys so much! Iceland is so much fun! We kayaked and went to the blue Lagoon. It’s great! Love you guys. btw HAPPY FATHERS DAY
Will- Hey weird Eric haven’t seen you in two years and it’s been a struggle. I miss you every day. I wanted to let you know I’ve been having a great time in Iceland! Kayaking is lots of fun and you would have a great time doing it. We practice our card tricks that you taught us at camp. I miss you. Love Will… -p.s- dear family I love you happy Father’s Day dad… love Will
Chase- Dear mom and dad, thank you so much for sending me on this trip! I’m having so much fun. It is definitely cold windy and rainy but the views make up for it. We just came from a kayak ride. We kayaked to an island and spent the night there! We are going to camp out and go on lots of fun hikes. I miss you and hope to see you soon. Can’t wait for the warm!! Love, Chase
Jack- Hello mom and dad! Iceland has been very fun and interesting thus far. Our activities so far have included swimming in salt hot springs at the blue Lagoon, sea kayaking in Iceland West fjords, George, camping on an island, taking a secret hike, and camping on land, as you can see, we have tackled many endeavors and participated in many beautiful and wonderful activities, and I cannot wait for the next ones in the days to come. Have a great day; I will see you soon!
Brody- Hey famliero 🙂 Words cannot even begin to describe how amazing this trip has been! I’ll spare you the in-depth description, because you would be reading for hours, but, to summarize: cold, exciting, bright, fun and eye opening. Mom, if you’re reading this give yourself a high five because I feel #cultured! Dad I hope all is well in Greenville :). Happy early Father’s Day! Anna keep cranking out those excel sheets! I’m sure you are doing great! Sophie please win the photo contest so you can sport an Apple Watch! Oh, and the other Exeter kid here, Jack, is awesome be it is making so so hype to be an exie freshie 🙂 Summer I know you are skating away at your wild volleyball camp, and I’m sure you cooked some killer NYC food! Best of wishes to the animals. Love all of you guys like CRAZY!! I am having the time of my life! Brody out
Edward- Hey mom and dad, having fun! Seeing sights! Doing stuff! Happy Father’s Day!
Carter- Hey mom, I am having a good time. Happy Father’s Day! Carter
June 15, 2017
Hey Iceland 1B families!
We heard from Thomas & Addy 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