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Northern Lights 1A • June 14-July 4, 2017

The Row Less Traveled

July 3, 2017

Greetings friends and family!

We’ve been thinking about you all lots, while enjoying the last of our time as a Moondance group. After our rafting section, we began to make our way southeast of Anchorage. Looping around the Chugach Mountains, we prepared for a new prospective of the now familiar range, this time from the Prince William Sound. Our drive to Whittier was full of sleepy grins, and stunning glacial views which created excitement for our upcoming sea kayaking adventure. As we arrived in the small fishing town we set up camp and began collecting our gear for the next four days.

We started our first day of sea kayaking off bright and early by singing happy birthday to Cal before ferrying out of the Whittier port, through passage canal and into Blackstone Bay.

The LOD’s were pulled aside and given the decision of setting paddling plans for the remainder of the day. Abigail impressed us all with her developing leadership skills as she immediately consulted the group. She returned with a decision to paddle a few miles further into the bay and explore a nearby glacier. After arriving at the glacier, we had a quick lunch and hiked up to explore the glacier. Though this wasn’t our first time seeing a glacier during our time in Alaska, it was no less amazing than our first steps on the Matanuska glacier on day 2 of our trip. We returned through our boats and pushed through some challenging winds back to camp. An activity which Abby later referenced as she voiced a thought we unanimously agreed with, “we have proven to ourselves that we are capable of much more than we ever thought.” That evening, Michael practiced his knot tying skills by helping set up a tarp for the group, and encouraging others to join in and learn the bowline knot. A little rain did nothing to stop us from having a birthday celebration complete with star wars masks and a triple (you got it, TRIPLE!) ‘happy birthday’ chorus.

The next day we set off to explore another glacier, and spend more time developing our paddle skills. Evan’s enthusiasm was contagious as we laughed and explored further reaches of this peaceful sound. After a long and rewarding day, hot coco and apple cider were the perfect accompaniment to a meaningful moon-up. Keirin led off the evening with a quote about finding the joy in difficulties, which we all agreed was applicable to the feeling of gratification we received from a long day of paddling and exploration.

Waking up the next morning was a real treat. The fog had cleared and we were presented with a full 360 degree view of the Chugach mountains and a handful of glaciers dancing along the Prince William. Sarah Elizabeth set a reflective tone for the day as she silently stood in appreciation of the newfound clarity and shared with us a lesson taught to her by her mother about expecting and appreciating the best in every situation. We took this lesson to heart as Erin effortlessly assumed her responsibilities as LOD and effectively set a pace, leading the way to our next campsite.

This particular evening began with time for silent reflection on the lessons we had learned thus far. After personal time, Ann Chapman initiated an exploratory walk of our mossy and exciting campground called squirrel cove (which, incidentally, was the home of quite a few squirrels!). Later we all pitched in by baking Sophie a backcountry style birthday cake while wearing a new set of lion king masks. We sang happy birthday and exchanged hugs on the beach in celebration of birthdays, new friendships and our final night in the backcountry for now.

Our paddle out of the sound this morning was relaxing and full of song and laughter. William set a strong pace for the group as he took the front and pointed out our final animal sightings of the trip. Two bald eagles, a few seals and even a salmon hatchery!

We learned a lot, grew a lot and shared in a wide spectrum of experiences in our 4 seemingly short days on the sound, and were excited for a warm slice of pizza before our drive back to anchorage for our Iast night together. As an exciting conclusion to our cooking lessons on whisper light and Coleman stoves, we split into two teams and had an ‘iron chef’ cook off. The leaders were pleased and impressed with the skills and creativity of the group’s meals, and everyone talked of their excitement for going home and showing off their newly acquired cooking skills. We are now heading to bed with tired eyes, full bellies and anticipation for our final day together and joyful reunions with our families and friends back home.

As we embrace each other with love in our hearts and new memories in our minds- we say- it’s not goodbye, rather see you later. 

Backpacking & rafting our way through the tundra!

June 29, 2017

Greetings from Alaska!

Smiles we’re wide and packs were heavy as we entered our backpacking section of the Talkeetna Mountains. The first day was long, but our LOD’s William and Abigail helped us navigate and forge on as we arrived at our first campsite. The next morning, after a pancake and bacon breakfast, we hiked to a beautiful lake, where we ate lunch and pondered in silence. After this period of reflection, Evan’s interest in maps inspired a class on topography and navigation. The following day’s hike entailed multiple Moose sightings, the first of which, Michael spotted as he led the group through 4 miles of rolling hills and lush vegetation. Later that evening at camp, Abby’s introduction of the Moonup question, “who inspires you the most in life”, lead to a provocative and insightful discussion about our friends and family back home, who we loved and cherish, all while remaining in the moment.

The next few days we made our way through the tundra, and Keirin took the initiative, asking to learn how to shoot a bearing (an advanced mapping technique). On a day of bushwacking through the lower mountain, Erin lead the group courageously, with a huge grin highlighting her face. While camping along the rarely seen Chickaloon River, our Italian leader, Pietro, lead a class on making fresh pizza in the backcountry. Cal’s natural culinary abilities stunned even the native Italian, as he whipped up pizza after pizza for his fellow peers. On our most challenging day of the backpacking section, the fog was heavy but it could not dim the shining light of our Moondance family. As we traversed our most difficult piece of the hike, Ann Chapman’s smiles, laughter, and stories kept everyone inspired and motivated.

We concluded backpacking on the banks of the Chickaloon River, where we met our raft guides.  They swooped in the following morning by bush plane with rafts, food and guides in tow.  Our backpacking section led to a 2-day rafting excursion of the mighty Chickaloon waters.  Sophie shined as she made her way to the front of the boat and set the example of how to properly paddle on a fast-moving river. Upon our arrival to NOVA Basecamp, Sarah Elizabeth maintained her ever-positive presence by engaging the group in fun and spontaneous activity, such as storytelling and filming a Moondance music video.

Now we are off for 4 days of kayaking on the awe-inspiring Prince William Sound. Until next time!

Hey Mom and Dad
Alaska is great, I’m so glad I’m here. Thanks for sending me and I’ll see you in 7 days.
Thanks, Cal

Dear Mom and Dad,
Alaska is great and I am having lots of fun. I hope everything is well back home with Katlin & Bandit.

Alaska has been pretty sweet. I’m making good friends and learning a lot. Our seven-day hike was hard at times, but really awesome. The views have been nothing short of gorgeous
Love, Evan

Dear Mom and Dad,
I can’t wait to be home, but also thanks for sending me on this awesome trip. It’s been fun and I saw 4 Moose today as we rafted. I’m running low on underwear, but don’t fret, I’ll make it just fine. Thanks

Dear Mom and Dad,
I just got back from our 10 day trip through the Alaskan backcountry. It was amazing! I am having such a great time. We are leaving to go sea kayaking tomorrow. See you soon!
Love, Michael

Dear Mom and Dad,
I’m having an amazing time in Alaska! We finished hiking, ice climbing and rafting, which were all awesome! Love you all and see you soon.
Love, Abby

Dear Mom and Pops,
Saw a Moose today. Enjoying Alaska.
Love, Peanut

Dear family,
Alaska is awesome! Backpacking was challenging but so rewarding. We had some amazing views! Our weather rafting couldn’t have been better. See y’all in a week! Love you.
<3 Sarah Elizabeth

Dear Family,
Alaska is so amazing! The trip has been really fun and backpacking was so cool. I loved it. Can’t wait to see you guys soon.
Miss you,

Dear Mom and Dad,
I miss you guys and can’t wait to see you in a week! It’s so pretty here and can’t wait to show you all the amazing pictures of the places I’ve been and all the things I’ve seen. See you guys soon, love and miss you so much!

Hey fam,
Alaska is beautiful. I’m loving it out here. I hope everything/everyone is okay back home. Can’t wait to see y’all soon.
With luv!

The Midnight Sun Shines Bright!

June 18, 2017

From the moment we met at the airport spirits were high and laughter was flowing. As the first few new friends began trickling into Anchorage, the Delta baggage claim came alive with a fun group game called “yee-haw”, and already it was as if we’d known each other for years. Sarah Elizabeth’s welcoming energy was contagious as she taught us all how to play a fun new game called “Signs.” During our first Moon-up, Ann Chapman and Keirin were handed the reins as our first leaders of the day (LOD’s). The following morning they lead along side our leadership team through our first day as a group by facilitating activities, planning lunches and keeping spirits high (and oh boy, were spirits high!). We prepared ourselves for an exciting day on the Matanuska glacier, as Michael insightfully asked the question at Moon-up (our evening closing circle) of “Where would you like to be in 10 years.” The next morning on the glacier, William’s eagerness to climb the first ice wall sparked enthusiasm throughout the rest of the group. Abigail followed close behind and scurried up the wall leaving everyone in awe of her natural talent for ice climbing. When we had finished climbing for the day, Evan led the group in an impromptu dance party on the glacier which had us doubling over in laughter. 

When we got back to camp that night, Abby’s interest in knots, sparked by belaying her new friends on the wall that day, led into a class on tying knots and setting up tarps. Later, Sophie led the charge down to the river for some much-needed polar plunging fun. 
Our second day on the glacier consisted of a 6 hour exploratory hike through the breathtaking crevasses and mulans of the Matanuska. Cal impressed us all with his competence walking with “Crampons” on the ice, and was always there to lend a hand to any group members who needed some stability walking down the ice waves. 
This morning, while packing our packs to hit the trail in the Talkeetnas, Erin was the first to properly pack her pack and rather than sitting and waiting for others she took the initiative to step up and help her peers, all with a smile on her face.
This is Northern Lights A, signing off for now with love and gratitude to all those who have taken a part in allowing us to be here and create this absolutely shining and inspiring community of adventurers. 
With the midnight sun on our side,
Kacie, Evan and Pietro
Shout outs:
“Hey guys! Hope you’re having a great time back home! Loving Alaska and the 24 hour sunlight! We start backpacking tomorrow, can’t wait! Happy Father’s Day, and Barry, have fun at camp! 
Sarah Elizabeth
“Hey Mom and Dad! I miss you guys and I’m having a great time. Happy Father’s Day and I love you guys!”
“Hey family! I hope everyone is having fun at home! I’m having an awesome time glacier climbing/exploring!! Have fun at the Knights game! Miss y’all! Love you all! Happy Father’s Day Dad (read my note) 
-Love, Abby <3
“Hey Mom and Pops, enjoying Alaska, Happy Father’s Day.”
-Love, Peanut! (Anne Chapman)
“Hey Mom+Dad (and Jake + Casey), Alaska is super cool! We went ice climbing and are going into the backcountry tomorrow. Happy Father’s Day, miss you.”
“Hi Mom and Dad, having fun in Alaska, it has been quite fun so far. I hope that Bandit is behaving well while I’m gone.”
“Hey dudes! Miss y’all tons! I’m not hating it at all so far, lol. I’m actually starting to enjoy the outdoors. Crazy right?! Okay bye now. Love y’all tons!”
“Hey fam, I’m having a great time in Alaska and am in a rather awesome group, surprisingly. The leaders are funny and the one from Italy is hilarious.”
“Hey Dad, things are going great here in Alaska! I am having an awesome time getting to know everyone while learning and doing awesome things. The glacier was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen, wish I could be with you on Father’s Day! Hope everything is going well.”
“Hello Mom and Dad, I’m having great fun out in Alaska. My feet hurt but I like everyone here. Have a fantastic Father’s Day!”
“Dear Mom and Dad, today was our last day on the glacier and tomorrow we finish backpacking. I’m having so much fun and I love my group. Hope everything is going well in Atlanta. Happy fathers day day!”

Here we come AK!

June 15, 2017

Hello Northern Lights families,

We wanted to let you know all students have arrived safely in Anchorage and are preparing for their first transfer this morning. Their Alaskan Adventure is underway! Stay tuned for updates!

-Moondance Administrative Team 


  • Evan
  • Keirin
  • Ann Chapman
  • Abby
  • Abigail
  • Cal
  • Sophie
  • William
  • Michael
  • Erin
  • Sarah Elizabeth