Field Notes

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

Goodbye from Alaska

July 4, 2017

Dear Northern Light 1C families, 

Well, all of our loving students departed yesterday evening from Anchorage. It was very difficult to say goodbye, but that just shows how meaningful the relationships that we created are. We are so thankful to have met these wonderful kids and shared these amazing experiences with them. Our minds are full of incredible memories that we will surely remember forever!
To the parents, thank you so much for allowing your kids to come to Alaska this summer!

To our amazing kids, we miss you so much already! We hope that your Fourth of July is full of sleeping, Chick-fil-A, fireworks, hot dogs, couscous and lentils, and plenty of maple brown sugar oatmeal!!! We love y’all!

Stay wild, 

Lorna, Stuart, and David


Onward from the Prince William Sound to Anchorage!

July 3, 2017

Wow!  What an amazing trip it has been!  We are back in Anchorage after four incredible days of sea kayaking, preparing for our final banquet dinner and return flights home.

Our sea kayaking trip began in the quaint town of Whittier where met up with our guide, Jeff, for a quick briefing on the basics of sea kayaking, and we finished the day with a great cookout dinner prepared by Lucy, Gisele, and Charlotte. It may have been their first time cooking hamburgers, but we sure couldn’t tell.

The next morning we loaded all of our kayaking gear onto a charter boat and had a 45 minute ride out of the Whittier harbor into the Prince William Sound.  The boat ride was an unexpected highlight of the trip!  We all enjoyed cruising along at 25 mph in awe of the amazing environment we’d be kayaking in for the next 4 days. 

When the ride was over, Lucy and Ben, the leaders of the day, coordinated the unloading of all of the boats and gear onto a black rock beach while a bald eagle watched us from his perch above in a tree. We then kayaked to a beautiful peninsula called Eagle’s Nest where we set up our tents nestled in a forest of tall trees and dense ferns. That night, John, Powell, and Gabby cooked up an incredible stir fry dinner with peppers, broccoli, onions, and carrots. It was the perfect end to a big first day of kayaking.

The next morning we got back in our kayaks and headed back out into Prince William Sound to explore a tidal glacier.  Led by Al and Wyatt in the Leader of the day boat, we approached the glacier and were immediately impressed. We sat in our kayaks in awe as we watched the intermittent calving’s from the massive ice wall and waited to hear their roaring boom seconds later.  It was a truly powerful experience.  The paddle back to camp was just as enjoyable. We cruised by sea cliffs and Evergreen trees with the occasional seal popping up next to our boats to check us out. This paddle was a little more eventful for Henry and Ben had to steer their boat with only their paddles because their rudder wasn’t working properly, but they still made it back in style. 

The next morning we had an early wake up call to make sure we got to our next campsite in the early afternoon.  As we loaded up the kayaks, we noticed Marion offering to help in whatever way she could, which was a common occurrence over the course of the trip.  Half way through our day of paddling, we stopped for lunch on another rocky beach. We would’ve had to eat in the rain but Henry helped Jeff set up a tarp for all of us to eat under which was greatly appreciated. After another couple hours of paddling, we made it to our campsite at Decision Point.  That afternoon, we had hot tea on a beach overlooking a vast area of the Prince William Sound and got to witness two bald eagles circling in the sky, protecting their nest from seagulls. Dinner that night was a delicious meal of back country burritos, cooked up by Wyatt, Anna Louise, and Lucy; it was one of the best meals of the trip. 

The next morning it was finally time to paddle back to Whittier.  Needing to make good time, the whole group looked to Kate and Gisele to set the pace. They led the way, getting us into Whittier right on time. Not to mention, they spoke in Spanish the whole way! 

Now it’s time to explore Anchorage before everyone heads home tonight! More to come later!

Stay wild, 

Lorna, Stuart, and David


More Ice Please!

June 29, 2017

A warm hello to all Northern Lights 1C families, 

After a challenging yet fun-filled backpacking section, and the roller coaster ride of rafting back down the Chickaloon, we found ourselves back at the same campsite from where we departed for backpacking to rest for an afternoon before ice climbing! The group took advantage of the afternoon sunlight to dry out any socks still wet from rafting and finally put on that fresh set of clothes from their duffel bags that they had been looking forward to for so long! After such a relaxing afternoon, an incredible tortellini and marinara sauce dinner, and a small fire made in the fire pit by Wyatt and John, we woke up well-rested and ready to ice climb! Kate, Gabby, and Powell mixed up some delicious chocolate chip pancakes to fuel us through the day before we packed up our day packs with snacks and layers. 

The guides outfitted us with ice climbing boots, crampons, a harness, and a helmet, and loaded down with gear, we boarded the vans, eager to get on the ice. Kate especially loved her teal boots, memorizing the brand and style so she could buy them to outfit her for those New Orleans winters once back at home. After a safety talk and history lesson about the Matanuska glacier, we strapped on our crampons and crunched towards our first climbing site. Henry regaled us with stories of his previous glacial experience in Chile as the guides set up ice anchors and gave us tips on how to ice climb. Everyone tried the first two routes, mastering the climbs with ease as we got used to the motion of swinging the ice axes into the wall, and keeping our heels down as the front spikes of our crampons supported our weight. The guides then proceeded to set up a harder climb with a slight overhang for anyone adventurous enough to take it on. Although many gave it a valiant effort, Charlotte, Lucy, and Marion truly impressed everyone by using their natural athleticism to reach the top! 

Before heading back to camp, the guides showed us a small natural spring in the glacier, where we proceeded to fill up our water bottles and enjoy the coldest and purest water any of us have ever tasted! We went back to camp tired, and ate our own Moondance version of “Thanksgiving Dinner” with stuffing, mashed potatoes, chicken and green beans expertly prepared by Lucy, Ben, and Marion. A competitive game of ultimate frisbee wore out the group before Moonup, with the girls bringing home the win. Although there may have been some debate about who real winning team was, the real was everybody on our trip and the amazing night of sleep we all had that night!

The next morning everyone woke up excited to get back on the glacier and climb! Confident in our new-found experience, the guides took us to a new spot with much taller walls father into the glacier. The hike in was almost as fun as the actual climbing, but once we got to the wall all the kids had their eyes on the prize. John led the group on the longest wall after a repel down to the bottom, climbing back up with ease. Giselle used the day well to further translate her rock climbing skills onto the ice, climbing gracefully up the same wall as John. Lucy impressed us all, including the guides, by rappelling down farther than anyone before climbing back up. Kate, not to be outdone, repelled down in Lucy’s crampon steps, even going so far as to dip a spike in the glacial lake at the bottom! Ben was at first hesitant to climb the second day, but stepped boldly up to the plate and did an amazing job on his second climb, emerging back up at the top victoriously! Lorna, David and I were so proud of everyone for climbing both days, and impressed with the athleticism and adventurous spirit of the entire group. 

Before heading back to the vans, we walked around the glacier for a while, gaining some elevation in order to see the beautiful view from a high peak. On the way back, we stopped for ice cream at a local restaurant, with the majority of the kids enjoying either Moose Tracks or Caramel Caribou. 

After our sweet treat we headed back to camp for the last time to turn in our gear, and hang out before making dinner. Tired from the long day, Wyatt, John, and Al whipped up some mac & cheese that no one could get enough of. After deciding that we needed a little something extra to top of the night, Charlotte, Marion, and Wyatt popped some popcorn for us, resulting in the group laughing uncontrollably when Wyatt’s batch exploded from the pot in a shower of golden kernels mid-pop. Moonup turned into somewhat of a talent show, with Powell showing off his stomach-rolling skills, Al mysteriously disconnecting her pinkie finger from her hand, Gabby scaring us a little bit with a deep voice, and Henry amazing us with his extensive knowledge of world flags! We all went to bed tired and full, sad to be finished with ice climbing but ready and excited to spend the next day preparing for sea kayaking! All is well here in the Last Frontier! 

More updates to come,

Lorna, David, and Stuart


Talkeetna Mountains: We Came, We Saw, We Conquered!

June 26, 2017

We’ve made it to Alaska! After nine long hours of games and icebreakers in the airport, we finally embarked on our 3 week expedition as a new family. With our bellies full of pizza and our hearts full of excitement, we slept soundly just below the bustling metropolis that is Anchorage. 

On our first day, we traveled to Hicks Creek to prepare for our backpacking section. The day was filled with fundamentals of living in the outdoors along with some fun river crossing scenarios on the braided Matanuska River. Powell told us that he would sit on the river for 10 minutes for a prize of his choice. Once we dipped our toes into the freezing water, he quickly changed his mind. The afternoon consisted of a quick game of ultimate frisbee and an extremely informative lesson on how to pack a pack from Stuart. All the students eagerly laid out their backpacking essentials and packed their packs for the first time. Needless to say, we all slept well after our jam-packed day. 
 
The next day we finally ventured into the back country of the Talkeetna Mountains! The first day consisted of many riddles and muddy shoes. Gisele managed to get stuck in the mud all the way up to her thigh. We pulled and shimmied but her foot would not budge. Finally, after a big yank, she was released from the mud. We were all so relieved until we realized that her boot was still in the mud. Eventually we got it out. Gisele kept a positive attitude and was laughing the whole time! 
 
That night, John volunteered to be on cook crew and continued to volunteer for the job every night after that. In fact, John is eager to volunteer for just about anything to help the group! 
The next day, we continued along the ATV trail down to Caribou Creek. It was a long exhausting day and once we got to the campsite, Kate was so tired that she sat down under a tree and fell asleep! We were so impressed with her sleeping abilities that we all followed her lead and took a well needed nap. 
 
In the morning, we set off into some rolling hills. Charlotte took charge of the group and mastered map reading in an extremely short amount of time. Stuart, David and I were incredibly amazed and admittedly jealous. We had lunch up on a hill next to an old backhoe that seemed very out-of-place, but made for a very picturesque lunch. That night we bundled up and slept super well! 
 
Off trail day finally arrived!! The hike up to the tundra was definitely not easy, but our leader of the day Ben encouraged us all to keep pushing. He motivated us to the top of the saddle and we were all incredulous when we saw the tundra. As we were scouting for camp spots, Wyatt noticed something moving off in the distance. After a split second, he realized it was a grizzly bear. Luckily, we were all trained with the proper protocol to mitigate this situation. The bear saw us, we yelled, and he ran away so quickly. It was quite mesmerizing to watch this massive animal barrel up such a steep hill so swiftly. Our bear calls while hiking definitely became more frequent and louder after that encounter. 
 
The students deserved a longer lie in the morning, so we slept in before our short hike for the day. Marion and John decided to do a reflection hike and told us all to think about our expectations for the trip and how they differed from the actualities. Marion impressed us with her long legs and endurance; we could barely keep up with her! She must have gotten all her power from the entire jar of peanut butter that she finished during the section! That night we all stuffed our bellies full of jambalaya and slept so well. The next day, we went over THE PASS! All of the students were a little worried about this day, but with Lucy as their fearless leader, they felt so comfortable.  Lucy led us through the snow and mud to the top of the pass where we could see jagged, snowy peaks and low clouds surrounding them in the distance. Definitely a view for the books. We descended from the pass to an incredible campsite, so we decided to have a rest day. We all slept in late and ate food all day long. Wyatt entertained us with witty Mafia scenarios. 
 
Well rested, and we descended to the Chickaloon River. It was the toughest day of the trip, but the students mustered up all their remaining energy and crushed it! We were so relieved to get to our final campsite before the plane flew in for rafting the next morning. We all waited on the bank of the river and watched the bush plane land in front of us. It was a sight to see!! We unloaded gear and put on our dry suits. After the safety speech, some of the students were a little nervous, but Gabby calmed them down by telling her experiences from her last Moondance trip. Many of the students look up to her for advice and help because of her expertise. 
 
We got on the river and floated through some class III rapids. Henry took a swim on one, but popped back up in the boat with a huge smile on his face. He couldn’t have done it without Anna Louise to pull him back in! We were all so impressed with her strength to pull a dude twice her size back in the boat! 
 
That night the raft guides made us delicious enchiladas and chocolate cake, which put us all right to sleep. For breakfast, we had breakfast burritos before hitting the river. The sun was shining and we were all so happy to soak it all up. The rapids were bigger and more technical but everyone managed to stay in the boats and perform the raft guide’s commands with force! 
We made it back to civilization and unpacked our gear at our new campsite in the woods by the Matanuska River. Tomorrow, we start our ice climbing section and all the students are stoked to dig their crampons and ice axes into the glacier!
 
Until next time, 
David, Stuart, and Lorna 

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 


Students

  • John
  • Henry
  • Gisele
  • Gabby
  • Marion
  • Anna Louise
  • Powell
  • Wyatt
  • Lucy
  • Ben
  • Kate
  • Charlotte

Staff