July 26, 2017
We are back in Anchorage after an incredible four days in Prince William Sound. Our sea kayaking section began when we arrived in the town of Whittier to sunshine and completely clear blue skies, a great sign considering Whittier is known for consistent low cloud cover. That afternoon, we got to meet our kayaking guide and she introduced us to the basics of sea kayaking and our new Helly Hansen rain gear that immediately made our group look more like a crew of Alaskan crab fisherman than a Moondance trip! Before we headed back to camp, we were lucky enough to be given a fresh Alaskan salmon which was an amazing addition to our dinner. Max used his fish filleting skills from Mobile Bay to cut the group two beautiful pieces of salmon, and Lilly and Kate Z pan seared the fish on our Whisperlite backpacking stove. It was a special introduction to cooking your own fresh fish!
The next morning we headed out into the sound in two water taxis with all of our gear loaded up. It was another beautiful day and everyone enjoyed getting to see the towering mountains and glaciers that we would be paddling in for the next 4 days. When we got dropped off at the beach and unloaded our gear, we were amazed to find a tidal pool only inches deep full of salmon. We stood in awe watching the fish darting around the pool. Some of us like Hawkins and Charlotte were even more adventurous and stood in the water as the fish swam around their feet. On the same beach, Kate S discovered a bush of ripe Salmon Berries, an Alaskan delicacy that everyone enjoyed trying.
We spent the rest of the day kayaking to our first campsite, where we settled into some very cool campsites nestled under mossy pine trees.
The next morning we paddled out to two massive glaciers. This was one of the highlights of the entire trip as we sat in our boats in wonder of the massive ice walls. With the help of the current, we paddled back to camp along the shore of the remote Willard Island.
That day we packed up our camp and began another paddle, headed for Decision Point. Everyone benefited from Gillian and David realizing their shared love for Taylor Swift’s first album as they sang almost the whole way. When we got to camp, Will spearheaded the initiative to set up “tent city”, so all of the tents were close together under one big tarp. It was a great way to spend our last night in the backcountry together. That night at Moonup, Anouk continued her streak of not having a “low” moment of the day, further demonstrating her positive attitude and amazing contribution to the group morale.
Finally, it was time to paddle back to Whittier, and Joel and Kate S led us the whole way at a brisk and efficient pace. We were all dialed in from our previous three days of practice, but to keep the mood light-hearted, we could always look to Nick for some comic relief, whether it be a quick joke or the entire plot of a movie.
We are currently enjoying a town day in Anchorage, dreading everyone’s flights home tonight and the end of an incredible summer! It has been a blast! We can’t wait for your kids to share even more stories from our Alaskan adventures.
July 22, 2017
We have just finished up our ice climbing section and are headed down to Whittier to prep for our last section of the trip, sea kayaking. Our time ice climbing was a truly incredible experience. We got to spend two beautiful sunny days on the breathtaking Matanuska Glacier learning the ropes of ice climbing and exploring the geology of the glacier.
The first day was spent ice climbing the Rescue Wall at the foot of the glacier. Here, we learned the basic techniques of ice climbing and how to properly use our crampons and ice tools to scale the bare ice walls. Immediately, the group showed great enthusiasm for climbing, and everyone excitedly attempted whatever climbs were available. To increase the challenge even more, the climbing guides recommending trying to climb without ice tools (but of course still with the harness and helmet!) or with just one ice tool and one crampon! Hawkins, Will, and Kate Z were some of the first to attempt this method, using strong balance and technique to continue to climb successfully even without all of the proper tools. Hawkins was so committed he didn’t even mind sacrificing a little skin on his knuckles and continued to climb all day.
While all of the awesome climbing was going on, we had the added luxury of music! The ice climbing guides had decided to bring a speaker and iPod all the way out to the ice climbing area, so the entire day was a dance party. If you weren’t climbing, you were dancing! Kate S added to the fun by teaching us all a new dance move as well.
After we were done climbing for the day, we had a surprise stop and the Long Rifle Lodge for ice cream! The local Moose Tracks flavor was the most popular choice, but Caramel Caribou was a close second. We enjoyed the treat in the quaint lodge surrounded by stuffed bears and caribou.
For dinner that night, Charlotte, Anouk, and Joel cooked up a delicious Thanksgiving Meal for everyone with the highlights being the stuffing and mashed potatoes. After dinner, we spent some time exploring our natural leadership styles through and interactive activity. While our group is composed of many “Spontaneous Motivators”, a couple of students fell into other categories, with Max leading the charge in the “Drivers” category and Kate Z holding down the fort as the only “Architect Analyst.”
The next day we spent more time on the Matanuska Glacier, this time doing some more exploring than climbing. We walked around the glacier in our crampons, looking at different crevasses and moulins. It was a special day, and we capped it off by getting to the highest point of the glacier that we could see and taking in the fantastic views. Lilly took some awesome photos, as has become the norm on the trip.
That night we had a spirited game of ultimate frisbee back at camp. Everyone was impressed with Gillian’s competitive nature as she darted around the field, and Nick had the juke of the day when he faked out Lorna so hard she fell down.
It’s hard to say goodbye to our ice climbing guides, but we can’t wait for sea kayaking!
July 19, 2017
Greetings from Alaska! Having just completed both our backpacking and rafting sections, the group is currently setting up tents and unpacking our backpacks from the last nine days at our base camp while we ice climb! The past nine days have been stuffed full of group bonding, laughs on the trail, and paddling the chilly Chickaloon waters!
The group bonding began even at the airport as we ate pizza and waited for everyone to arrive. After a few rounds of cards, some get to know you games, and two lost bags we headed to our first campground, Ship’s Creek, in Anchorage to conduct our very first Moonup. We all went around and voiced the reasons we had chosen to come to Alaska, getting to know each other better as well as internalizing some goals for the trip. Everyone went to bed exhausted from the long trip but excited for what was to come! We awakened in the morning to Nick and Hawkins’ bags, just delivered from the airport, to the relief of everyone in the group, and we celebrated with some breakfast sandwiches! We then boarded the Magic Bus for Hick’s Creek campground, about two hours away, but as we drove it started to rain harder and harder and didn’t seem to let up. Despite the pouring rain all throughout the very first day in Alaska, the entire group soldiered on with great attitudes, especially after a hot fajita dinner. When we woke up we were so thankful to see clear skies, and we were able to prepare for backpacking without the worry of getting all of our gear wet. David taught a great packing lesson, and a few hours later we were ready to hit the trail! The first day proved to be tough with heavy packs, a long and muddy trail, and some serious elevation gain. However, there was not a single complaint to be heard as our first Leaders of the Day, Kate S and Max, set a comfortable pace for the group! Cook Crew made a delicious Jambalaya with summer sausage that was the perfect ending to a great day.
We started off Day 2 of backpacking well with cheesy bagels and a lesson on lightning protocol. Luckily we never had to use it, but it did begin to drizzle near the end of our descent through the valley. Despite the rain, the hike was beautiful, and Lilly especially was so excited to see some ice by the creek along which we hiked! Nick regaled us with hilarious stories and songs, keeping everyone in a good mood on a tough day. Our campsite near Caribou Creek was slightly muddy, but we practiced our tarp- making skills while Cook Crew prepared for us some delicious pesto pasta! Nick and Lilly really set the standard for LODs on the first full day of hiking. Day Three, however, turned out to be our best day yet as we were lucky enough to experience only clear skies and cooling breezes! Anouk and Joel led us up and down the hilly trail, completing several river crossings as we traveled. The highlight of everyone’s day was for sure our lunch break up on a hillside with an old tractor used for mining. As we were finishing up eating, we noticed the buzz of a far off helicopter growing closer and closer, and we all stood to watch as it neared and swung around to head straight towards us. We cleared a safe distance as the helicopter proceeded to land on the flat ground, and a paramedic jumped out! He approached us and asked if our group had a member with a broken leg, and we were luckily able to say he had spotted the wrong group. They took off again quickly, and we all watched him circle the valley, hoping that whoever was injured would be okay. Will ran and picked up a folding chair that he spotted near where the helicopter had landed, and vowed to carry it the rest of the trek. Our day was filled with old equipment, as we ended up camping near an abandoned and rusted military Jeep. Hawkins found an old box spring and a cushion and made a seat to rival Will’s, and they ate their chili in comfort and style.
Day 4 of backpacking consisted of our long awaited ascent to the tundra! Fittingly, we also had our first fully sunny day, and we all soaked in the Vitamin D as the LODs, Gillian and Hawkins, found great paths on our first day of off-trail bushwhacking. Everyone wore their hiking pants, keeping the scratches from low scrub at a minimum. No one in the group had ever been on tundra before, so the novelty and beautiful views made the difficult hike up more than worth it. We camped in between two small lakes, and Joel, Kate S, and Lilly made us a rockin’ Pad Thai! We slept well, knowing the best was yet to come. As Day 5 consisted of a shorter hike than we had previously been doing we slept in and treated ourselves to some hash browns before setting off. We decided shortly into the hike to drop our packs and climb a high hill just to get a better view of the valley we had just walked through, and I think as we reached the top we all realized what an amazing place we were lucky enough to be in. Charlotte and Max led the rest of the hike to our campsite close to the mountain pass we had been hiking towards, and Gillian, Hawkins, and Will had a blast making quesadillas and telling scary stories. We got into our sleeping bags excited to conquer the pass the next day!
We fueled up in the morning with some breakfast burritos, packed our packs and hit the trail! Nick led the group to just under the pass, where we ate our lunch in preparation, and Kate finished out leading the hike to the top. Seeing everyone’s faces as they saw the view from the top for the first time was definitely the highlight of my day, and everyone eating Snickers together, looking out at the incredible view, was just the cherry on top! We stayed for a while, simply enjoying our surroundings and being together before a rocky descent to our nearby campsite. Mac & cheese filled us up after a day of high elevation gain, and we went to sleep satisfied and proud of our accomplishment.
We woke up in such a beautiful campsite, with jagged mountains and bowls surrounding us on every side, that we decided we had to spend a rest day there! After sleeping in, we had a slow breakfast of blueberry muffins made by Anouk, Max, and Charlotte, then proceeded to immediately eat lunch, as we had slept almost into the afternoon! We spent the rest of the day lounging in our sleeping bags, writing in the group journal, and going on a short hike up to a rocky outcropping appropriately dubbed “Pride Rock” by Nick and Hawkins. When we decided it was again time to eat, Cook Crew whipped us up a fantastic curry with chicken, peppers, and onions! Needless to say there were no leftovers to be found. The LODS, Will and Lilly, decided to run up to the top of a huge mound for Moonup, and by the time we all got up there the whole hill was in a cloud! It was everyone’s favorite Moonup spot so far, even though we had a tough time finding our tents on the way down through all the fog!
We woke up on Day 8, our last day of backpacking, knowing it was going to be long and hard. The kids exceeded our expectations in the morning by cooking delicious grits and packing up quicker than they ever had before! Hawkins set a strong pace right off the bat, shooting the route just right. It was a tough day full of sore feet and crossing lots of drainages, but we all cheered as Anouk led us down the final descent to the Chickaloon River! We trekked the last few miles on mercifully flat ground before making it to our final campsite and pickup location for rafting. David, Lorna and I made a quick rice pilaf for dinner to give the kids a break from cooking, and we all began celebrating Charlotte’s 17th birthday a little early with a Reese’s cake and a match as a candle!
The next morning we woke up early to meet the raft guides, however as the clouds reached nearly to the ground, the visibility was too low for them to fly in right away. We all ate breakfast and wished Charlotte a happy birthday before readying our belongings for the arrival of the guides. Everyone took a nap as we waited, and were awakened by the sound of a plane overhead! We jumped up and ran down to the river to watch the bush plane land, then helped the guides carry the gear down to the river. After a few plane shuttles, a dry-suit fitting, and delicious lunch of fresh foods, we were ready to start rafting! Everyone had huge smiles on their faces as we floated swiftly down the rapidly moving Chickaloon waters. The route included a portage, and much of the group climbed a small boulder to watch the guides run the boats through the technical rapid as we waited on the other side with the gear. Although the last boat had some difficulty getting through and lost a paddle, we were able to happily reboard the boats and continue on a short distance to camp. The raft guides cooked us enchiladas that were simply to die for, and we went to sleep so excited to raft again the next day!
The next morning, although we thought the food couldn’t have gotten any better from last night, the guides wowed us with breakfast burritos! Gillian and Max, the day’s LODs, kept everyone on track in the morning, and we began rafting right on time! We donned our dry suits and set off to finish our our river route. The second day was just had fun as the first, and the rapids only got better as we went along. Kate Z recorded some great videos on her GoPro, and everyone paddled hard and followed the guides’ commands perfectly! We even found the lost paddle halfway through the day, and stopped to pick it up and take a short break. Anouk won the award for funniest faces whenever the boat would approach a big wave, and Lilly emerged from every splash with a smile on her face! We ended our rafting journey back at the base from which we departed for backpacking, and ate a delicious lunch of chicken salad, Pringles, and cherries before heading to grab our duffels and get ready for ice climbing tomorrow!
Until next time,
Stuart, Lorna, and David