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Mountains to Sea 2 • July 1-July 14, 2017

Final Update

July 14, 2017

“But if adventure has a final and all-embracing motive it is surely this: we go out because it is in our nature to go out, to climb mountains and to sail the seas, to fly to the planets and plunge into the depths of the oceans. By doing these things we make touch with something outside or behind, which strangely seems to approve our doing them. We extend our horizon, we expand our being, we revel in the mastery of ourselves, which gives an impression, mainly illusory, that we are masters of the world. In a word, we are men, and when man ceases to do these things, he is no longer a man” – Wilfred Noyce 


These past couple of days have been filled with fun times beginning with our trip to the US National Whitewater Center. The US National Whitewater Center, which is an Olympic training site, was amazing to see and was definitely a highlight of our trip. At the center, we did zip lining across a manmade canyon and conquered a ropes course. Marissa faced her fear of heights and did an amazing job on the zip line. George tactfully went through the ropes course and Katie and Grace even did a forty-foot free jump (connected to a harness, of course). Katy got to rock climb over a pool of water which was amazing! The whitewater center proved itself to be an incredible final activity that bonded us all together.


 After the whitewater center, Adi bought everyone tacos to celebrate. We then headed to Goodwill to get ready for our final banquet! Adi and Katie wore amazing sparkly dresses and looked like they were going to prom in the 80s. Forrist wore camo overalls with a clown suit underneath. Sarah, Zoe, Katy, and Grace wore Hawaiian shirts and fuzzy pants even though it felt like it was a hundred degrees outside. Will wore a hilarious horse head which made everyone laugh so hard. After everyone took the time to find the most amazing outfits to wear, we headed to our banquet dinner, which was a meal to remember. The group walked into the restaurant in their crazy outfits with poise!


We had an incredible final Moonup complete with a bonfire and smores! We reflected together on how incredible these past fourteen days have been and the group expressed how much they would miss one another. Before leaving for the airport this morning, we celebrated Will’s birthday with Krispy Kreme donuts and hats! It was great to celebrate on of our amazing students on his special day. 


As of this afternoon, our journey together has come to a close. Your kids have accomplished so much in the past two weeks- backpacking, whitewater rafting, duckying, rock climbing, kayaking, surfing, and paddle boarding! We are so proud of each individual and we know you must be too. We are so grateful for this group of incredible kids and it has been an absolute pleasure to get to know them, laugh with them, teach them, and learn from them. We love you all so much!!!!! Remember, we’re all under the same moon!

Sea kayaking and surfing!

July 13, 2017

“All of us need to explore, go out there and see what’s beyond the next horizon. When you get there, your heart beats a little faster, you’re focused, you’re living in the moment. It’s those experiences that are the richest in life.” – Conrad Anker 

We have had a whirlwind couple of days in Charleston, SC! It’s been an incredible time in this city with your amazing kids! We began our time in Charleston with sea kayaking. We kayaked with a great company called Coastal Expeditions and our guides, Aaron and Geoff were awesome. Once we arrived at our departure site, they helped us load our stuff and ourselves into two-person kayaks and showed us proper paddling techniques once we got into the water. Our paddle consisted of kayaking through marshes and across some sections of open ocean. We even crossed the inter coastal waterway that runs all the way from Massachusetts to Texas! We were lucky to be able to paddle to Capers Island, where we got to camp out overnight on the beach. Everyone did an incredible job paddling and our conditions were impeccable – the water was glassy smooth. We arrived at Capers and everyone set up their tents before jumping into the water! We saw tons of wildlife including dolphins, bioluminescent plankton, ghost crabs, osprey, and two alligators! Your kids are ones with nature for sure. 

Our guides were nice enough to take us on a hike around Capers Island. Everyone got in the water on the other side of the island and Marissa even took a nap under an enormous tree. George and Forrist jumped in the water like fish and enjoyed swimming thoroughly. Everyone else followed suit and basked in the sun for the remainder of the day. Grace, Adi, Sarah, and Zoe covered themselves in mud from the island that is used in local spas in Charleston. What a luxury- a spa treatment for free! Capers Island was picturesque, complete with shining waters and rolling sand dunes.

In the morning, we took down camp and packed up to kayak back to the mainland. Everyone powered through and got ready to go in record time. Katy and Zoe demonstrated beautiful teamwork as they paddled in tandem on the return trip. Marissa and Will also paddled with purpose! We were so proud of Katie and Grace’s unwavering determination to take first place in the kayak race. They were both rewarded with the first shower back at our campground on James Island! 

Everyone was so excited for our town day! We took a couple hours to eat, shop, and see the historic city of Charleston. Marissa’s knowledge of the city definitely came in handy! It was an awesome day that was thoroughly enjoyed by all. We returned to our campsite that night feeling happy and tired, but ready to conquer surfing and paddle boarding the next day!

Everyone was thrilled for our morning surfing at Folly Beach! The kids took the day by storm. They have truly come together as a group and their ability to support and encourage one another is beautiful and heartwarming. It’s been a privilege to witness the relationships that have formed over our time together. We slathered sunscreen on and then headed to the beach to meet our surfing instructors! Our instructor, Jenny, who has a true passion for the sport, started our day off with some yoga poses in the sand. After some sun salutation and downward dog poses, we drew surfboards in the sand and practiced how to stand up and ride waves! We finally got out into the water and quickly became surfers. George was an absolute pro being from California and encouraged everyone to give it their all. Will took advantage of every wave that came his way and smiled the entire time! Grace should definitely pursue surfing because she did a fantastic job and stood up on many waves. Everyone did a great job, and we were proud of each individual for trying something new and absolutely blowing it out of the water. 

Later in the day, after we ended our surfing lesson, we went paddle boarding in the Folly River! This was a huge hit and no one wanted to get off of his or her paddle board at the end of the activity. Katie excelled at paddle boarding and got to see a dolphin come out of the water right next to her board! Her enthusiasm is contagious! Forrist paddled so fast he left a Wake behind him. Katy and Zoe found more spa mud and gave themselves facials during the activity! It was so cool to be in the Folly River, which is the second most biodiverse ecosystem in the world! They even filmed a National Geographic episode about dolphins exactly where we were paddling. 

The next day, we had another surfing lesson where everyone got to solidify their new skills once more! We drove back to Charlotte, NC later in the day and today we are headed to the whitewater center for an incredible last day together. We cannot believe that this trip is coming to a close. It has flown by and we are so proud of this fabulous team. I will sign off now to enjoy every last second with your kids. We want to sincerely thank you for sharing your children with us- they are amazing human beings. I will be back tomorrow with a final update, so stay tuned!

We've got mountains to see!

July 8, 2017

“Too much caution is bad for you. By avoiding things you fear, you may let yourself in for unhappy consequences. It is usually wiser to stand up to a scary-seeming experience and walk right into it, risking the bruises and hard knocks. You are likely to find it is not as tough as you had thought. Or you may find it plenty tough, but also discover you have what it takes to handle it”. – Norman Vincent Peale


We are back in the front country after our brilliant backcountry adventure! Tuesday morning we woke up and did the “duffle shuffle”, where we transferred essential items from our duffle bags to our backpacking bags. The students were incredible about packing the proper layers, socks, etc. for our hike up to Mt. Mitchell. We separated group gear and everyone split up tents and food items to put into their bags and Forrist was insanely helpful in showing his peers how to properly pack their bags. We left from Curtis Creek campground feeling confident in the students’ ability to crush it on our backpacking section. We listened to some good music in the van and laced up our shoes to get ready to go. Once we arrived at the Mt. Mitchell trailhead, everyone took the time to properly adjust his or her large backpack and then we began our hike to our backcountry campsite, Commissary Ridge! We definitely had some mountains to see, as the hike provided us with incredible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from all angles. It was absolutely beautiful and we were lucky to have sunny, beautiful weather. The entire group stayed together during the hike and our LOD’s Zoe and Will helped keep the group at a steady pace, which is important in hiking. We arrived at Commissary Ridge and set up our tents in no time at all. We hung a tarp in our kitchen area and gathered around under the tarp to have some DMC’s (deep meaningful conversations). We cooked dinner and showed the students how to cook on a whisperlite, which is the stove we use in the backcountry. They are always full of curiosity and interested to learn how things work. We also hiked to a creek, which served as our water source for our time in the backcountry. In addition, we were so, so proud of everyone for self-sumping, which you can ask your kids about when they get home. It’s amazing to see the kids recognize their own ability to be self-sufficient in the backcountry. Will led a great Moonup with the question, “What is your pet peeve”? Zoe and Will elected Forrist and Grace as the LOD’s for the following day. We slept in our warm tents and even pulled off the rain fly for a while to look at the moon and stars.

The next morning we woke up ready to summit Mt. Mitchell! While getting ready to leave, Zoe and Katy saw a black bear, which was so cool! They are truly ones with nature! After an exciting morning, we headed out on our hike to the summit. Everyone powered through the steeper areas of incline like pros, especially Marissa who pushed through the hike with tenacity. We happily made it to the Mt. Mitchell summit, which is the highest peak east of the Mississippi! Everyone had huge smiles on their faces and high fived everyone when we reached the top. Witnessing the kids realize what they accomplished was an incredible moment that we will never forget. Before hiking back down to our campsite, we took the time to celebrate with hot chocolate at the summit! Adi and Grace entertained us the whole way down with their riveting stories! Their ability to bring everyone together in conversation has been the glue for our positive group dynamic. We arrived at the campsite just before a huge rainstorm. We all hunkered down underneath our tarp and played games and whittled sticks. George is our number one whittler by far and has created incredible designs in sticks. His dedication is amazing! We fell asleep in our tents on our final backcountry night with bright spirits. The next day, our LOD’s, Adi and George led us back to our van! We celebrated our accomplishment with Chick-Fil-A! Everyone was thrilled, to say the least. Our celebration did not end at Chick-Fil-A, as everyone was also rewarded with showers later in the day at our campsite.

            We were thrilled to rock climb at the famous Looking Glass rock the next day. Our LOD’s Katie and Will were fabulous leaders for our rock climbing section, as they were incredibly helpful and cheered every single one of their peers on. We are so proud of their ability to lead on one of our more difficult days! Sarah did an amazing job traversing the difficult runs on the rock and demonstrated incredible skill. Later in the day we went to Dolly’s dairy bar, where we had ice cream. Afterwards, we went to an impeccable swimming hole that was complete with waterfalls and incredible views. Today, we are on our way to Charleston and our LOD’s, Sarah and Forrist, are keeping us on time. We can’t believe our trip is halfway over and we are so looking forward to our time in Charleston, SC. Many more fun times await us and we can’t wait to follow up in a couple days after sea kayaking!



Zoe: I’m still doing great love you guys hope the 4th of July went well and I miss y’all!


Katy: Hi Mom and Dad I miss you both also happy early birthday mom and Cate I love you both!


Will: Hey guys I’m having fun see y’all in like a week!


Forrist: Hello… again….. Happy birthday, Charlie!


Katie: Hi mom and dad! I miss you and I’m having a lot of fun I love you J


Sarah: Hi guys! I miss y’all so much tell Carly I hope she has fun on her Moondance trip and tell Tatum that I say hi!


Marissa: were going to Charleston soon so im happy about that, I wish I could tell ya were where going but I can’t sorry. Love ya still don’t miss ya!


Grace: I am still having a lot of fun at camp. Love and miss yall!


Adi: hey!!! Love and miss you sooo much!!! I’m having so much fun and good thing I got a brazilion blowout because I don’t know what I would do without it. Love you


George: Happy birthday Mom!

The Mountains are Calling!

July 3, 2017



Dear all Mountains to Sea families, 

It is day three and we could not be happier with this extraordinary group and our trip thus far! On Saturday, Mitch, Grace, and I awoke excited and ready to welcome your kids at the airport. Forrist arrived first and joined our welcome crew! The rest of the kids followed suit and touched down in Charlotte by the afternoon, when we began our drive to our first campsite, Parksville Lake Campground! We had a lengthy, but fun van ride, where everyone got to know each other. This is the exact reason we unplug on Moondance from our technology- people actually talk with one another! Grace and Adi were fantastic DJ’s during the ride and demonstrated their creativity in making some Moondance playlists.

It was raining when we arrived at our campsite, but that did not stop this group, who was ready to learn how to set up tents. We were incredibly impressed to see these kids soak up new information like sponges and set up their tents perfectly the first time. For dinner, we had pizza, which everyone was excited for after a long travel day. Everyone was tired, but happy to join around in a circle for our first Moonup, which is something we do on Moondance every night to reflect on the day together. During Moonup, there is a question of the day and tonight’s question was, “Why are you here”? Mitch, Grace, and I listened closely to the hopes of each student and we promise to do everything in our power to make sure he or she achieves them during our time together. We chose Forrist and Katy R. as the LOD’s, leaders of the day, for our first full day together!

On Sunday morning, we geared up for our first activity, whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River! We arrived at the Nantahala Outdoor Center to meet our guides and review safety procedures for the river. All of us got into our boats with confidence ready to paddle. We rafted down the middle and upper sections of the Ocoee River, which are filled with class four rapids. Additionally, we all rafted down the section of the Ocoee where a whitewater event for the 1996 Olympics was held. Marissa and Forrist guided one of our boats with poise and paddled together the whole time, demonstrating excellent teamwork and communication skills. On certain parts of the river, we were able to get into the water! Will was the first one to enthusiastically jump in the water and encouraged everyone else to join in the fun! Grace used her cheer skills to do an awesome backflip off the side of the raft- we were all wowed. George, Katie K., and Zoe among others laughed in the water and swam alongside the boats until we pulled them back into the raft! We wore huge smiles on our faces the entire day and no one wanted to pull the boats out of the water at the end of the route.

After rafting ended, we traveled to our next campsite, Turkey Creek. We were once again wowed by the tent setup skills, especially Zoe’s knot knowledge! Yesterday night our Moonup was awesome and the question was, “What is your favorite childhood memory”? Katy R. and Forrist elected George and Marissa as the LOD’s for today because of their incredible leadership on the Ocoee! Today, Monday, we paddled duckies, which are inflatable kayak-like boats, down the Nantahala River! It was a beautiful day and everyone excelled paddling down the Nantahala. Everyone made it down a seven foot rapid, Nantahala Falls, at the end of our route, which is a huge accomplishment!

We’ve conquered two rivers and now we have a mountain to see! We will be backpacking and summiting Mount Mitchell over the next three days and will be back with an update afterwards. In the meantime, please know how thrilled Mitch, Grace, and I are to be here with your kids. They are truly awesome and we’re impressed with their ability to come together as a great team in just three days’ time. Thank you for sharing them with us. We are so proud of each and every one of them, as we know you must be too! Stay tuned!


Shout Outs:

Zoe- I miss you and Moondance is really fun but I hope you guys are also having fun! And Rhys be nice to the Estes. I love y’all

Katie: I miss y’all a lot but I’m having a lot of fun so don’t worry about me, I love you! Say hi to Phoebe and Jordan and tell them that I miss them

Sarah: Hi! I’m having a lot of fun love you!

Katy: I miss you and love you and don’t worry I haven’t fallen yet. And yes mom I am eating enough don’t worry.

Will: I’m having fun I’ll see you at Pawley’s! Heads up, bug spray does not taste good.

Forrist: Hello!

Grace: Hey mom I’m having so much fun on Moondance and really want to come back next year and go to Costa Rica!!!!!! Tell dad I love and miss him and Caroline too. Love and miss you!

Adi: Hey mom I’m having so much fun and I want to come back to Moondance every year. I miss you and I love you. Tell B hey and I miss her. Tell Charlotte that I love her and to have fun in Montana and I miss her!

George: Miss you!

Marissa: I am having a great time! Mitch, Emily, and Grace are super fun!



  • George
  • Marissa
  • Katie
  • Grace
  • Will
  • Zoe
  • Adi
  • Forrist
  • Sarah
  • Katy