July 29, 2017
Wow! What an amazing past 2 weeks we’ve had. All good things must come to an end, and unfortunately we are faced with that reality today. As our last session, Thomas and I couldn’t have been any more impressed with their ability to take leadership, embrace Iceland, and become a family. It’s crazy what 14 days can accomplish, and I think it’s safe to say this group accomplished quite a bit. Let me fill you in on our final 24 hours in Iceland!
A 37 mile hike in 3 days calls for a rest day! We woke up to blue skies at our campsite. This campsite is a favorite for Thomas and I, and the kids agreed! It felt nice to be surrounded by some green grass along with trees. We had a lazy morning while eating breakfast outside and enjoying some relaxing morning jams! After hearing requests from Harwell, the Red Hot Chili Peppers has become a theme in our song choice. I think they may come home with a few new favorite songs! Andrew and Julia were our leaders of the day and helped organize all of the group gear, along with motivated the group to keep our campsite clean! Will and Jacqueline organized a group game known as “death hack,” and it has become a crowd favorite. We learned that Trey and Addie have amazing dodging abilities, and we admire their ability to win the game numerous times! As the game came to an end, we decided to play iron chef. This involved dividing the group into two teams, allowing them to choose certain ingredients, and come up with a meal from the leftover food. To say the least, it was an absolute blast! We got to witness Mickeys’ inner chef as he started thinking of recipe ideas! Jacqueline made a crowd favorite that consisted of amazing mashed potatoes. I think there might be some culinary talent in this group’s future! We have now established Emma as the “chopping master” along with an overall great leader who maintains the group’s calmness. After both teams worked hard to prepare a meal in 40 minutes, Thomas, Helgi, and I made a judgment call on the winning team. Cole even prepared a special dance that went with the presentation of the food. It had us all hysterically laughing! It was a tough match, but the winning team won by 1 point due to impeccable team work! After lots of laughs, everyone feasted on their dishes they created. The next activity on the agenda was going to explore the elf church nearby. Aubrey spear headed this activity by encouraging others to come explore! The cave, or elf church, was amazing! After lots of exploration of our surroundings we enjoyed a BBQ dinner outside of some Icelandic lamb. With satisfied stomachs, we had moon-up and called it a night to prepare for our early morning the following day!
We woke up bright and early with ice-climbing in our future! First, we stopped at the famous Seljalandsfoss waterfall where the well known Justin Bieber filmed his music video. We were able to walk behind it, and we all got soaked! Totally worth it! From there our guide took us to an amazing volcano museum. The museum recently opened so we were some of the first to see the amazing museum. To say the least, we learned A TON about not only volcanos, but volcanos in Iceland. After spending some time at the museum and watching a short film on volcanos, we loaded up the van to go ice climbing! Anna could not be more excited about getting to climb, and we got to see firsthand how amazing she is at climbing. We also discovered Isabella’s natural talent with climbing! The group enjoyed getting suited up with all the proper gear such as crampons, ice-ax, helmets, and harnesses. Ice chopping was a crowd favorite! The entire group made it up the route in no time, and we were once again impressed with this group’s physical ability! The only complaint we heard about ice-climbing was that it wasn’t long enough. We will take this compliant! The day came an end with banquet dinner at an amazing pizzeria. We all enjoyed some delicious pizza while reminiscing on all the amazing times we’ve shared together the past few weeks. The final car ride back to the hostel consisted of jamming out to our favorite Icelandic songs, and of course, a dance party! Moon-up closed our night out, and it was amazing to hear some of the conversations we had during our final moon-up. To say the least, we will miss everyone very much!
Words cannot express how thankful we are for this amazing opportunity. We hope they learned from us, because I know we learned from them. Each and every person truly offered something unique to the group, and we feel so blessed to know them all so well now. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and we hope to see you back next summer!
Addy and Thomas
July 28, 2017
Hello again everybody!
We pick up right where we left off, and that is at the beginning of the amazing Laugavegur trail, and we woke up so excited to begin our trek. Landmanalaugar had treated us well as base camp, but we were ready to hit the trail! The morning of our first day greeted us with nice weather and sunshine, which was an awesome treat as we spent the majority of the time hiking uphill and into elevation. Not a single complaint from this group, though! As we climbed higher and higher, the moss began to fade away and soon we found ourselves not only on rock, but in snow too! Snow in July? Call me crazy but it was pretty “cool”! After pushing through the snow we arrived at our lunch spot which signified our halfway point for the first day. We had breezed through the hardest part, and everyone enjoyed some sandwiches and warm soup before getting back to it. We pushed onward through one last stretch of snow, which culminated in the free slide down the last snowy hill we passed. Who says you need a sled to sled? About two hours later, with only a couple easy, downhill miles left on the day, we arrived at the top of a ridge that offered the most spectacular view imaginable. Two glaciers, green moss covered black hills and rock faces surrounded the blue lake we’d be camping on, called Alfatavtn. It was truly breathtaking. We quickly scurried down the hill and across a river, soon arriving at camp, which ended both our first and longest (15 miles!) day of the trek. The group had done an amazing job and not a single complaint was whimpered. We were excited to continue hiking with this group.
Though the next day was not as long or as physically demanding, it did not go without any challenges. Within the first two hours of the trek, we had to cross two rivers, the second of which was above people’s knees! Thankfully, we implemented proper river crossing technique, and everyone safely crossed without any unnecessary wetness. We were so impressed, and the group was so punctual in their crossing you would’ve thought the river was a hot stream and not glacial run off! The rest of the day remained flat, and we carried on through a black sand desert, which I definitely had mistaken for the moon at some points. This flat, sandy stretch pushed everyone, though, as the terrain wasn’t the best for walking, nor did the scenery switch to dramatically. But once again, not a single complaint from the group! We diverted our path right before camp and stopped at what you could call the Grand Canyon of Iceland. Massive and spectacular, the kids seemed to envy the birds now more than ever, wanting to fly around this huge opening in the earth. We then headed to our second camp, Emstrur and fended off heavy wind that was blowing sand and enjoyed a salmon feast before going to bed, ready for our last day on the trail.
I’d be lying if I said the group wasn’t excited to leave the windy and sandy abyss of Emstrur, so after waking up and battling through some uncomfortable conditions, we got back on the trail and thus began our last day of the trek. We were excited to finish this amazing hike while appreciating all we had done up to this point. We were also excited about reaching our final campsite, Thorsmörk, which is the polar opposite of both comfort and delightful from our previous windy and sandy spot. After crossing a foot bridge over the beginning of the same canyon we saw the day before, we were full steam ahead and ready for camp. This final day offered much more diversity and beauty in the scenery, while we hiked on a plateau of sorts entering the valley we’d eventually be camping in. Soon we arrived at our final river crossing, and the whole group was sad knowing this would be the last time throwing on their river shoes! But the excitement of the finish kept them going, and before we knew it we were cruising through the birch tree forest as we entered our beautiful campsite. We couldn’t of been more proud of this group for not only completing, but conquering this incredible trek. They did it in style, too, and without ever getting down or complaining. Seldom does one find a group of young adults as enthusiastic, passionate and genuinely upbeat as this group, and they are the reason we love this job and opportunity. We aren’t looking forward to the trips conclusion, and are excited to live these last few days up with the squad!
We have to awards to hand out for the group following this fantastic hike:
Addie-Most Upbeat Person of All Time: we have never met someone who keeps a constant smile and never stops having fun. Even on the longest parts of our trek she stays positive and keeps the fun!
Cole-Most Likely to Lead the Way: whether it be in the front of the group on the trek, or at camp HAMMERING in the group tent, Cole always found himself in the middle of helping everyone along their way.
Will-Adversity Overcomer of the Year: even when his Achilles wasn’t feeling great and the days were tiring, Will never once complained and handled himself and the trip with the utmost enjoyment. He’s one tough cookie!
Emma-Biggest Helper to Everyone: we can’t imagine how we would’ve functioned without Emma. She epitomizes leading by example, as she constantly keeps a smile while ALWAYS offering to help. She might’ve well been our third leader!
Jacqueline-Adventurer of the Year: if there’s a hike to do, she’s there. If there’s a view she can climb too, she’s going. If there’s a joke to tell or a funny story to relay, she’s on it! Jacqueline is the type of girl that inspires us to continue exploring the world and ourselves.
Harwell-Most Likely to Keep Having Fun: If there was a game to be played or a fun idea presented, look to Harwell to be in the center of the activity. We’ve never met someone with more passion for pure fun and joy like Harwell, and it kept the group moral constantly lifted!
Anna- Sweetest Girl on the Trail: everyone needs a nice thing said to them once in a while, and Anna offers kindness literally all the time. Never have we heard a sound out of her mouth that isn’t of the utmost sincerity, and this was absolutely necessary for the group to have!
Mickey-Teammate of the Century: Mickey embodies leadership like a second nature, while appreciating not only the beauty of the land around us but the people in our group, and the way he cared for everything and everyone was very special to witness and experience. He is both a fantastic leader and a great active follower.
Andrew-Funniest Guy in Iceland award: he keeps the laughter rolling, which is both difficult to do at times on a long hike and absolutely essential to enjoying a long hike. From being a groove dog to talking to the wind, he was the most hilarious guy around.
Julia-Most Likely to Capture and Embody Iceland: from being a professional photographer throughout the trip to constantly wanting to see or experience something new, Julia truly made the most of her time in this glorious and beautiful country.
Trey-Most Likely to Live in the Moment: Trey loved the world around him and truly spent his time here invested in every single moment. From sitting on ridges in his sleeping bag to admiring fantastic views for as long as he could, he appreciated every single moment and memory that was spent on the trip.
Isabella-Most Likely to Maintain Energy After a Long Day: even after the longest, most exhausting parts of the trek, we could always count on Isabella to come alive at night and to have fun with everyone. This constant source of energy ensured not a single moment of our time in Iceland succumbed to exhaustion!
Aubrey- Most Likely to Be a Leader One Day: not by voice, but through her constant demonstration of how to run, function and lead on a Moondance trip it became obvious to us all she had experience, and she soon became one of the best leaders and all around rocks for the group.
July 22, 2017
Half way through the trip already? No chance! The past few days have been filled with amazing waterfall hikes, bathing in hot springs, learning some Icelandic culture, and enjoying our gorgeous campsites. To say the least, we are happy! Let me fill you in on some stories from the past few days!
On Thursday we woke up with the Glymur waterfall hike in our future! Our leaders of the day, Jacqueline and Trey, helped facilitate getting the group tent down all by themselves. Let me tell you, this is not an easy task! Meanwhile, Will and Cole took the reins and offered to do the group dishes for the morning. We are truly impressed by this group’s eagerness to take the initiative! With an amazing start to the day, we loaded up the van to head to our amazing waterfall hike. On the way we listened to a few of our favorite Icelandic songs. Andrew even said “If it’s not an Icelandic song I don’t want to hear it,” which made the entire group laugh. We agree! We quickly discovered the group’s incredible hiking ability, and we made it to the top in no time! On the way we had our first river crossing and Addie took the lead. Although everyone had extremely cold feet afterwards, they all had huge smiles across their faces! The hike continued on with great conversations, no rain, and an amazing packed lunch for the top. We quickly learned about Anna’s talent with climbing as she scurried up some ropes on the trail. We gazed in awe at the second largest waterfall in Iceland as we snacked on some Icelandic chocolate and sandwiches. The group is on a mission to learn as much Icelandic language as possible, and I think we are off to a great start (thanks to Helgi). We took a detour to get down the mountain and found ourselves in a field full of purple flowers (lupines). It was absolutely magical! Julia was able to capture some breath taking photos of the entire hike, and we have established her as the group photographer for the trip. She might be National Geographic bound! After completing the 4 hour hike, we set our sights on Reykjavik! The group expressed their excitement about getting to shower, along with having a comfortable bed for the night. We truly could not be any more thankful for the kindness and openness this hostel has shown towards us. After getting settled, we had some town time where everyone purchased a few souvenirs, and the night came to an end with some pizza and moonup.
Friday funday started out with a hot buffet breakfast from our favorite hostel. Mickey and Aubrey bravely tried some Icelandic pickled fish, and they had some mixed review about it. We were proud of them for embracing the Icelandic culture. From the hostel we set out for the hot springs hunt! Emma helped us load the luggage into the van, and did a sweep of the hostel before we left. Considering we won’t be back to the hostel until the last night, we were thankful for her doing one last sweep! Once again, the group flew up the hour long hike and continued to impress up throughout the entirety of it. Everyone quickly changed into their bathing suits, and went searching for the perfect temperature spot to bath in. We found a spot where 2 rivers met (one was hot and the other cold) and it was the perfect combination. In the river we had some in depth conversations about our favorite Disney movies. It brought back a lot of memories and laughs! Our campsite that night was a crowd favorite because of the soccer field and basketball court it had. Plus, we had the space to ourselves. The group was trying to make a shot from very far away with the basketball, and Isabella was the only one to do so! Everyone was in awe that the ball went into the hoop. Our leaders of the day, Will and Anna, cooked salmon pasta for the group and it was devoured. The wonderful day came to a closing with one final great conversation during moonup and a game of mafia.
We are currently en route to our base camp for the upcoming trek, Landmannalaugar camp. Our bus is driving through volcanic ash, so you can imagine the beauty of this drive! Tomorrow the group will take on the challenging, yet rewarding volcano hike. Afterwards, we hope to treat them to a natural hot spring close by to our campsite. Day one of the trek starts on Monday, and we truly could not be any more excited to start this special trek with this special group of people. We will be in touch after completing the trek. Below are some shout outs from the group! Until next time!!
Addy and Thomas
Addie- Hi Brooks, Mom, and Dad, Iceland is absolutely beautiful and I’m having so much fun so you don’t need to worry! I love you all and hope Nash is great!
Mickey- Hi everyone! How are you guys? Iceland is absolutely fantastic. My group is pretty fun and my trip leaders are amazing. I’ll see you soon.
Isabella- Hi Mom, Dad, Abi, Johnny, Chester, and H-bear. Iceland is really cold but a lot of fun! Enjoy the warmth!
Jacqueline- Hi Mom and Dad! I’m having so much fun in Iceland and I love the trip! I miss everyone at home and all of the dogs. Tell Walker and Sophia I said hi, love you guys!
Anna- Hi Mom and Dad! I miss you guys lots and Roxy. I am having lots of fun here! Give Roxy a hug for me. Love you all.
Cole- This is cole (aka Rickey). Hi family. I am having lots of fun.
Aubrey- Hey y’all everything’s good up here in the land of fire and ice. We’re about to go backpacking! Can’t wait to see you!
Emma- Hey Mom and Dad! Iceland is so pretty and I’m having so much fun! So far my part is sea kayaking. Thanks for letting me come here!
Will- Mom and Dad, in having an awesome time in Iceland. Tell Mary Henley and Sarah I say hi.
Harwell- Mom, Dad, and Mckelvey, Iceland is so cool and I’m having a great time. I love y’all!
Trey- Dear Fam, Iceland is really cool and cold! Tell Bo I said hello.
Andrew- Dear Andrew, this is you from the past. Ricky says hi. I like cake. I am having fun Mom and Dad!
Julia- Hey Mom and Dad! Iceland is gorgeous and I’ve taken a lot of really cool pictures. See you guys soon.
July 19, 2017
Gódan daginn everybody! (Good day)
We can’t put into words how excited we are that the whole team has arrived in Iceland, but we’re going to try to anyway!
After congregating in the JFK airport and planting the seeds of friendship and camaraderie at gate B32, the group grabbed their bags and headed to the marvelous piece of aviation technology that brought us to this incredible country. We arrived to the fresh, cool Icelandic air and met our fantastic native outfitter, Helgi, and next thing we knew we were on our bus headed to the Blue Lagoon. I can’t imagine a better activity for a group of well-traveled, yet a little jet-lagged individuals. The blue, geothermal heated water of the lagoon did a fantastic job of bringing energy back to the group. Led by Harwell and Addie, the white silica mud mask covered everyone’s faces and rejuvenated the team. The warm water was a perfect transition into this adventure filled place and after drying off; we headed to the most northern capital in the world, Reykjavik. We strolled through the quaint yet beautiful streets on the way to a park in the center of town where we enjoyed a picnic together. Julia showed us how best to make a picnic dessert with a PB and Oreo tortilla. Delicious! After Trey brought the group to the playground for a little silliness, we made our way back to the hostel, where the team relaxed and unpacked. Because the group was so great and were such troopers, we ended the evening with a delicious pizza party dinner, and after a great first Moonup, where we talked about the day and everyone shared a tidbit about themselves and why they were excited to be on this great trip, we hit the hay after a long, yet great day.
Our first leaders of the day, Mickey and Emma, were ready to take the reins on our first full day of real Icelandic action and adventure. After packing our trailer and hitting the road, we drove to the beautiful coastal fishing town of Stykkishólmur. The biggest theme of today was flexibility, though, as we learned and felt Mother Nature’s force. The rain and wind picked up that we found ourselves unable to Kayak, but because this group is so great at keeping an open mind we were able to find a backup plan that was not only suitable but incredibly enjoyable. Our first stop was a hike up the holy mountain of Helgafell. Legend has it that when one walks up this mountain in complete silence, without turning back, and makes 3 wishes at the top, they’ll come true if made with a good heart. So Anna led us to the top and after wishes were made, we enjoyed an impressive view in the less impressive weather, and headed to our next stop: the local swimming pool. What a nice rainy, cold and windy day activity though, and Will showed us how fun it can be, immediately hopping in the hot tub. With some relaxation in us, we headed back to the campsite and prepared ourselves for the best meal imaginable on a rainy day: a warm and hearty meat stew. It was so delicious; we were able to get dinner cleaned up with time for some fun afterwards. That fun consisted of a big game of capture the flag versus the Overland group next door. With the help of Andrew, Moondance became the capture the flag champions of the campsite. So much fun! We gathered for Moonup and talked all about how great the day off plan was, told funny stories, and tuckered into our warm, cozy sleeping bags.
We woke up with nice weather and even nicer attitudes heading into our third day of the trip. Cole and Aubrey were quick to get to work as LODs, helping out with the set up and clean-up of our delicious oatmeal and yogurt breakfast. And before we knew it, we were finally ready for kayaking! It didn’t take long for us to quickly pack up our boats because this group is so awesome, and soon we were out in the West Fjords in our kayaks. Jacqueline’s fantastic sense of adventure only matched her comfort on the water, as she was a pro out there! After exploring a cave, admiring puffins, and stopping for a cookie break on an isolated island, we paddled back to our home base. But not before we stopped at an incredibly cool shipwreck though! Isabella really seemed like quite the explorer, immediately checking out all nooks and crevasses of the sunken vessel. It was so interesting, and we all vastly enjoyed this unique playground.
We returned to Stykkholshmur with a new sense of wonder and achievement after exploring the beautiful water of the West Fjords, and we were ready to take on the next challenge. So we packed into our van, played some fun Icelandic music and headed to Borgarnes, where we will continue our magnificent adventure, hiking the mighty Glymur waterfall!
This group has only been together for a few days but it’s felt as though they’ve known each other for years. They’ve only impressed us so far, and we are very delighted for the fun and adventure to be had in the upcoming days. But for now, we bid farewell!
Until next time,
Thomas and Addy
July 17, 2017
Hi Iceland Families,
We’ve spoken with the leaders, and the group has arrived safely. We’re excited for the adventure to begin! Stay tuned!
-The Moondance Administrative Team