July 3, 2017
Greetings to all,
After getting off the river and hitting the road toward the rocks, we settled in to a beautiful cliff side camp and went to bed feeling excited to get our climb on the next day. On our first day, everyone got into the swing of climbing and belaying on a funky face named “Rope de Dope.” Cassidy immediately revealed her insane ability to scoot up a wall confidently, making it look like she didn’t even break a sweat before belaying down and jumping onto the next climb. Jonas also pushed himself to attempt some of the more difficult routes of the day, and refused to give up or doubt himself before reaching the final carabiner and flashing a well-earned smile as he belayed down to cheers below. That afternoon, we enjoyed a sweet visit from Hayes, who surprised us with warmly welcomed ice cream bars and took the time to get to know our kids and hear their PNW highlights so far. Only continuing the greatness of the day, we took an afternoon field trip to Steelhead Falls. All of us enjoyed cooling off in the pooling water beneath the waterfalls and taking a shot at jumping off of a rock face into the water. To cap off the night, we even had a visit from Will Law, our Domestic Program Director, who joined us for some dirt pudding after dinner and would join us for Moonup at the end of day 2. Falling asleep under the stars yet again, we drifted away to excited whispers of spotting shooting stars and admiring the vast night sky.
Our climb on day 2 was tucked away on a beautifully shaded boulder face on the north side of the park. The face offered both tougher and less complex climbs, so everyone found a route that was comfortable yet challenging. Carolyn set out to reach the top of the toughest route available and did so with incredible perseverance. Taking her time to plan her steps and hand grabs, she never gave up and reached the top with hard work and an unceasing can-do attitude. Carlo also set his own challenge, climbing one of the routes first normally, then again using only one arm and again with only one leg! Everyone, climbing guides and all, was fascinated and truly entertained during his good-hearted and successful attempts. After getting a lot of great climbs in, we shuffled over to a different side to practice rappelling in preparation for Monkey’s Face. Walker was a rock star and made everyone proud by overcoming his fear of heights and boldly stepping off of the edge to rappel down to the rest of the group waiting below. Hayden likewise pushed through her fears and made it down the rappel, and her confidence in herself not only got her through the rappel but was also evident in conquering Monkey’s Face without hesitation the next day. After scaling up and down all morning, we shed our harnesses and helmets and hit the road to visit Bend for the afternoon. Everyone enjoyed the free time to walk around town in groups, treating themselves to shirts, sweets and food truck bites before heading back to camp for the night.
Rising early on day 3 before the sun crested over the rocks beside us, we headed out along Misery Ridge to meet our climbing guides at the start of the traverse into Monkey’s Face. The blue sky and sweeping views fueled our excitement to use our practice from the past two days to conquer the traverse! After Reece led the way across the traverse, Hailey set out as our first student to step off the edge and confidently guided herself hand over hand across the rope, checking out the bottomless view below her feet. Lauren wasn’t far behind, hitting the traverse while encouraging Hailey as she roped in to climb up to the rappel point. Hayden scampered out next, followed by Cassidy, then Carolyn and Katherine. William’s shouts of support could be heard throughout the day as the group shimmied across, giving everyone an extra boost of good vibes to keep climbing. Walker also kept spirits high as others waited to hit the traverse, keeping a smile all day and enjoying hanging out with friends at the top of the rock. Singing the Mission Impossible theme as she traversed and later repelled, Katherine warmed me up with some laughs and pep talk before I followed the girls across the traverse to relieve Reece of his gear duties on the ground. Jonas and William followed after me, hanging out with me in the cave before I set out for the short climbing portion up to the rappel point. Both boys encouraged me with confidence boosts (heights are not exactly my thing), and their good vibes and support definitely helped push me to finish the elements. Back on the ground, I watched Jonas, then William and, last but not least, Carlo crush the climb and rappel, all proud to have conquered the highlight of the climbing section and ready to hike back up and celebrate with the group. Back at the campground, we treated ourselves to huckleberry ice cream sold right down the road before taking one last look at Monkey’s Face and hitting the road back to Washington. That night at Moonup, LODs Cassidy and Walker asked each of us to describe how the person to our left has changed or impacted us throughout the trip, sparking at times hilarious, at times sentimental, and always heartfelt responses. It has truly been a pleasure to be a part of this group, and the night’s Moonup gave us all a chance to acknowledge how great our time together has been.
As we head closer and closer to the airport, I want to thank you all again for sharing your beautiful, spunky, incredible, confident, hilarious and compassionate children with us. We’ve had an unforgettable three weeks together, and I look forward to relishing our fond memories together in our short time left.
Anna and Reece
June 30, 2017
Hiya from Oregon! Fresh off the Deschutes River, we’ve had an awesome few short but sweet days on the river. After making our way southeast through Mount Hood National Forest on a gorgeous blue-sky day, we settled deep in the desert to rest up before hitting the rapids. There at Trout Creek Camp, everyone was pleasantly surprised by the Snickers bars William had bought for everyone during our travels from Washington to its southern neighbor. I’ve honestly never tasted a better Snickers, and his thoughtfulness made the evening even better. While waiting to meet our raft guides after dinner, Katherine outwitted almost everyone with her card magic tricks, Jonas showed off some impressive skateboard moves (creatively using a flat piece of driftwood as a makeshift skateboard), William bounced around using the campsite as a parkour course, and a handful of the girls led a session of sunset Pilates in our desert home. To end the night, we met our raft guides, Molly, Matt, and Jacob, who got us pumped up for the next two days and sent us off to sleep under the stars with nothing but excitement running through our minds.
Our first morning on the river began with a few fun games to get our blood moving and get us organized into boat groups. In one boat were Jonas, William, Hailey, Lauren, Carolyn and Reece, and in the other were Walker, Carlo, Hayden, Katherine, Cassidy and Anna. We hit the water early and got our first tastes of the Deschutes with some crisp splashes of white water. Carolyn didn’t hesitate to be the first in the water (voluntarily!) and enjoyed hopping in throughout the trip, always inspiring a few others to follow shortly in her footsteps. Walker also didn’t take long to step up and take a seat at guide Jacob’s oars in the back of the raft, showing off his rowing abilities once again and treating his boat to a lovely backwards raft, crew style. Cassidy, Carolyn, Jonas, and Hayden also took a crack at sitting in the guide seat to get a feel for how much work they really do at the back of the boat. In between hitting a few class 2-3 rapids, both boats enjoyed games of duck, duck, goose played by running along the edge of the raft and tapping the helmets of those of us squatting down on the raft floor. Plenty of laughs and splashes were had as everyone took turns trying their best to make it one lap around the raft without falling into the river, and Cassidy took the prize for being the nimblest river duck, able to make it around the most without falling in. Before making it to our riverside campsite for the night, everyone was given the chance to swim a rapid that we first conquered in our rafts. Carlo, Walker, Lauren, Hailey, Hayden, Cassidy, Katherine, and Reece all hopped out of their rafts to make the quick hike back to the top of the rapid before heading down safely in their helmets and life jackets. Carlo led the pack, bravely being the first to swim the rapid, and the others followed suit with admirable success. With everyone back in the rafts, we made the quick trip to our campsite and settled in for the night. Molly, Matt and Jacob, along with the help of cook crew, prepared a delicious taco bar for dinner, followed by well received strawberry shortcake for dessert. Before bed, Jacob led us in a few rounds of Mafia, in which Carolyn, Katherine and Hayden got the award for being the stealthiest Mafia members. For Moonup, LODs Lauren and Hailey asked everyone about a defining moment in their lives, prompting thoughtful responses from each of us and growing us even closer yet under the desert stars. Among others, Hailey showed courage to discuss one of her defining moments and made our PNW family even more thankful to have each and every one of us here making incredible memories together.
Day 2 on the Deschutes was short but oh so sweet, showing us some of the best rapids of the trip and continuing to make our time in Oregon memorable. In her boat, Lauren took lead on keeping everyone paddling together based on guide Jacob’s commands. In the other raft, Hayden held tight to the nose of the boat, riding a few of the softer rapids both facing forward downstream and backward toward the rest of us in her boat, always with a bright smile amidst the splashes. We hit a decent stretch of rapids to start off the morning, followed by a bit of calm water on which we had a few splash battles and some voluntary swimming. Our short day on the water ended after Boxcar rapid, named after the site of an old train crash that derailed a set of boxcars into the river. We enjoyed our last bit of calm water following Boxcar by having the most fun time of raft piracy I’ve ever experienced. These kids were hopping and splashing from raft to raft without fear and with some of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. It was such a sight to see, and though I may have found myself the victim of a few friendly shoves into the nippy river, I think it’s safe to say that it was one of the craziest, happiest, most rambunctious days the Deschutes has ever seen, and I am proud to know the kids who made that happen.
Sadly, our paddle came to an end and we said goodbye to Molly, Matt, and Jacob Moondance style with a big cinnamon roll group hug in the Maupin city park boat pullout before heading east. We’ve made it to Smith Rock State Park with great fun had on the river and with great excitement for what lies in store for us on the rocks! Stay tuned!
June 27, 2017
We’re out of the Cascades and better than ever! The past 6 days spent in the Washington wilderness have been incredible, humbling, and developmental in so many ways. Reece and I couldn’t be prouder of these kids, and we can’t wait to see what more is in store for us as we head south on I-5 to Oregon!
On day 1 of backpacking, we enjoyed a foggy mountain drive to the Ross Lake Dam trail head, where we double checked that our packs were ready to go and hit the trail to the water taxi. After a relaxing and beautiful boat ride up Ross Lake to the trail at Rainbow Point, our journey north began. The day’s hike involved a trek of just over 3 miles skirting along the lake edge, crossing a few suspension bridges, and heading into the forest to settle in at our first campsite, all while surrounded by a bright blue sky, glistening water and majestic mountains – truly starting off our backpacking section on a good foot! We ended the first day with a lesson on water purification at the creek running by our home for the night, stir fry for dinner, and a great Moonup led by Jonas and Katherine, where we learned that Katherine’s dream job is to be a professional water slide tester. Her sense of humor and constant good attitude absolutely made our entire backpacking section more lighthearted and enjoyable.
Day 2 hosted our travel to Lightning Creek, where we would stay for two nights. There, Ross Lake provided a cleansing polar plunge, and a wide and wondrous pebble beach warmed our hard-worked bodies. We had an early dinner and Moonup in order to get to bed before our midnight wake up in anticipation of summiting Desolation Peak! LODs Lauren and Cassidy got each of us to share a fact about ourselves that we hadn’t yet shared, and we all went to bed knowing just a bit more about our Moondance family.
Waking up to a crisp, dark early morning, we ate our hot cereal in the glow of our headlamps and set out for our 13.6 mile day just after 1 AM! Easing into the night, we walked under the stars before hitting the long section of switchbacks that would take us up high above our lakeside camp below and slowly but surely lead us closer to the peak. Hailey and Reece headed up the troop and confidently lead us up the dark steep trail ahead. The tough terrain led us first through the forest before hitting a less treed, alpine section lush with colorful wildflowers and glowing slowly brighter as the sun rose low behind the mountains across Ross Lake. The cold morning and challenging terrain were undoubtedly hard on our bodies and spirits, but everyone did a remarkable job motivating each other. It was heartwarming to be a part of such a genuinely caring, encouraging, and hardworking pack. After a long and exhausting morning of uphill climbing, Desolation Camp welcomed our arrival and signaled that we were finally just one mile from the peak. There, we had our first taste of the breathtaking views and of Washington snow that surrounded us in patches. Having risen above the mountain range beside us, the sun fueled our last push to Desolation Peak, and all 12 of us finally reached the top! It was so gratifying to have the entire family at the top, surrounded by 360 degree views and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride. We took a well-deserved rest at the top, enjoying hot chocolate and Twix bars along with infectious smiles. With snow covering about a third of the peak, Desolation gifted us with a brief snowball fight and gorgeous scenery. It was truly unforgettable and words cannot do it justice, but these kids showed remarkable resilience and peer leadership in climbing to the top and safely returning to camp at Lightning Creek. Carlo did a great job pacing the pack back down the trail, and both he and Cassidy helped pass the time by entertaining the group with creative stories. Back at camp, we treated ourselves to a late lunch of pancakes. Walker dominated the pancake game by adding brown sugar and bacon bits to his stack. Shortly after pancakes, we had an early dinner of mashed potatoes before ending the long day with a Moonup led by Walker and Hailey.
Day 4 began with a much needed massage and stretch circle on the beach before leaving Lightning Creek Camp en route to Nightmare Camp. With an over 6 mile day ahead of us and a tough day behind us, we headed out slowly and enjoyed the trail as it skirted along Lightning Creek and into a more forested section of the trail running east of Desolation Peak. Once to Nightmare Camp, we settled into our spooky creekside home with some backcountry pizza and surprise brownie mash as a reward for such hard work over the past days. In our down time, Lauren continued to offer her hair braiding services to various members of the group, that night including William, who rocked his new French braid proudly. William continued to keep us holding our sides laughing all night with a barrage of jokes. His unceasing positive attitude has been contagious throughout the highs and lows of our trek. As LODs, William and Hayden took charge of the evening, helping run dinner and campsite setup, and concluding the night with Moonup on our sleeping pad island where we slept under the stars with the creek as our natural sound machine.
Our last full day in the backcountry, Day 5 saw our travel from Nightmare Camp through the gently sloping forest to Hozemeen Lake Camp. As fellow Camp Illahee girls, Hayden and I shouted camp songs back and forth along the trail to keep spirits high. Once to camp, we soaked in the blue sky and clear mountain lake water. As the night settled in, we filled up on couscous, veggies and tea before holding Moonup under a clear sky slowly filling with stars. Jonas has showed his passion for cooking and looking out for the group at mealtime by always offering help with good prep and cleanup. LODs Carlo and Carolyn asked each of us what meal we would have with any person in the world and why, sparking some creative and heartfelt responses. To end our last night in the Cascades, we took some quiet time to stare up at the mountains we’d called home for nearly a week. Reece and I even spotted a shooting star – a simple signoff from Mother Nature for our time spent in one of her most beautiful spots.
On Day 6, we enjoyed our last mountain morning as the fog cleared over the mountains, and made good time on the trail to the trailhead on Ross Lake. Reece, Carolyn, Hailey, Hayden, Lauren, Katherine, William and Walker took advantage of the extra time we had before our water taxi was scheduled to pick us up to make the quick 2 mile round trip to the Canadian border! Once on the water taxi back to Ross Lake Dam, we all took the time to look back at the east bank, home to the camps we called home and peaks we conquered. It was a great time to reflect on our accomplishments and realize the incredible power of our own bodies, minds and spirits stripped raw and pure in the wilderness. Once back to Doug, our long awaited van home, we hit the road toward the ranger station to return our bear canisters and receive congratulations from the rangers before treating ourselves to roadside ice cream! At camp for the night, the kids took charge of spaghetti dinner and served us a wonderful long awaited frontcountry meal. Needless to say, we were quite dirty after backpacking, and our belongings were in considerable disarray. Carolyn took charge of unpacking and organizing gear. She has shown selfless helpfulness over these past few days. That night, LODs Jonas and Cassidy sparked great reflection in asking how each of us has grown for the better since coming to Moondance. Giggles and good vibes floated into the night as we camped again on sleeping pad island under the stars.
As we head to Oregon, we can’t wait to see how the river and rocks will continue to shape us and grow us closer. Our hearts are filled with joy and fulfillment from our time in the Cascades and with excitement for what is to come!
Peace and blessings,
Anna, Reece and our 10 fantastic Moondancers
June 19, 2017
What a time we’ve had! The San Juan Islands have treated us oh so well and gifted us with an incredible start to our time together. After getting first day jitters out of our systems during the car ride from the airport to the northwest corner of Washington, the group has bonded so well over the past days and is becoming a fantastically supportive, curious, and hilarious family. Taking Doug (our van fondly named after the airport park-and-ride lot where it awaited our arrival) across the ferry to the San Juan Islands, we met Mollie and Larry, our kayaking guides who would lead us for the next days. Jonas and Katherine, our Leaders of the Day, rounded out our first full day together with a great Moonup question, asking about our goals for the trip, and we got to reflect on our reasons for taking on this great adventure before heading to the water.
On Friday, we packed up and drove to meet Mollie and Larry to load our gear into our boats, review kayak safety and technique, and set out from Friday Harbor. Two per kayak, we paddled strong from the start, enjoying an absolutely gorgeous bluebird sky day (a bit of a rarity out here and quite the blessing – we LOVED it!). Walker, the state champion rower he is, led the pack throughout the day and trip, keeping the pace and the energy up, and always provoking laughs with each request for a race. Lauren and Hayden, while not as enthusiastic about racing, powered through the day in a kayak with one of the heaviest loads and without dropping their smiles to complain at all. Carlo also helped keep spirits high by serenading us in Spanish and coming up with great conversation starters throughout the day. We stopped for lunch on a beautiful pebble beach and got to explore some rock tidal pools home to several tumbling hermit crabs before continuing on to our home on Jones Island for the night. Overall, we paddled about 8 miles on our first day and enjoyed a well-deserved lay in the sun after unloading our gear and setting up camp. Mollie and Larry prepared a yummy taco spread for dinner, followed by hot chocolate. Out here in the PNW, the sun sets each night around 9:15, so we were able to soak in a mesmerizing clear sky sunset that was just a quick hike away from our camp, which was a fitting end to our first day of paddling. At Moonup, our Leaders of the Day, Carlo and Cassidy, got our creative juices and plenty of laughs going by asking what our B+ super power would be, and we headed off to bed after securing our food and gear out of the way of pesky deer and raccoons for the night.
On day 2, we made it all the way to Canada! Well…almost. Paddling 12 miles throughout the day, we set out Northwest, hooking around Spieden Island and camping on Stuart Island for the night. Along the way, we spotted a cell tower across the water, identifying a Canadian island while technically paddling through international waters. We also got to see some porpoises surfacing and bald eagles flying overhead. At one point, we took a break in a crop of bull kelp, using the heavy kelp bulbs to keep our boats from drifting. We learned about the aloe vera-like properties of the liquid inside the kelp pods and even tried a bite of the salty strips! While a little more overcast than the day before, the sky didn’t keep paddle partners Katherine and Hailey from paddling hard, smiles unceasing. Lauren taught the group a great game to play on the water, involving all of us to collectively count to 14 (the number of people in our paddle pod), without anyone saying more than one number or saying a number at the same time. Once to camp, we enjoyed a campfire throughout the evening, sharing stories and riddles across the fire before enjoying a praised pasta dinner prepared by Mollie and Larry, followed by even more highly praised s’mores toasted over the fire. Cassidy never failed to come up with a great conversation topic, riddle or game, and continues to keep a positive attitude that is infectious for the entire fam. William’s attitude is also continuously positive and encouraging, and his natural tendency for leadership has served to motivate his new friends and us as leaders. Carolyn’s curiosity in learning all she can about our trip and all there is to learn in a camping setting has also spread, and all ten students are truly invested in making the most of this trip.
Day 3, our final day on the water, started with a chance to sleep in and enjoy a warm breakfast of oatmeal with toppings galore. We paddled out into the foggy morning after watching some river otters and seals play around in the bay of Stuart Island, and stopped on Gossip Island for lunch and a long break while the fog cleared and visibility improved. We all enjoyed exploring the island with its variety of wildflowers, even finding some starfish on the outer rock edges of the island. After setting back out to our final take our point, we took our final crossing as a chance to reflect on our accomplishments and memories from the past days, and brought our paddle to a close with a group-wide serenade of Disney tunes. Sadly, we said final goodbyes to Mollie and Larry, and headed to our campground for a night of well-deserved rest.
Writing to you from the road to the North Cascades, I want to thank you for sharing your children with us for these precious weeks, and assuredly shout from the mountaintops that (we’ll soon reach) that this trip is going to be fantastic because of them. We’ve conquered piddle paddling the San Juans and are itching to master the Cascades.
-Anna and Reece
Father of thou,
Thank you for always being there whenever I need you.
Thank you for being a great dad and always being loving and caring. Happy Father’s Day.
Thanks for being a great dad. I’m missing the days when you were here to carry all the weight.
Happy Father’s Day Dad!
Miss you so much and I love you! I’m sorry I couldn’t be there but I will see you soon!
Miss you and say hi to Pearl when you see her. Also, I am having so much fun! Very wet.
I am having so much fun! Happy Father’s Day Dad! I can’t wait to tell y’all all about it!
Sorry I missed your day. All I want to say is I love you and wherever I am I’m always next to you asking annoying questions.
Happy Father’s Day dad!
I am so blessed to have you in my life! I miss and love you and mom! I am having so much fun!
Happy late Father’s Day dad!
I love you and miss both of you guys and can’t wait to tell you all about my trip. Tell Hayden good luck at baseball!
Happy (late) Father’s Day dad!
I miss all of you so much! Mom I’m giving everyone hugs :). I’m having so much fun so far and it is beautiful here!! Tell Kai and Max I say hi! Hope they aren’t killing each other! Love and miss y’all!
Hey Mom and Dad!
Happy Father’s Day and I’m so sad to miss it! It’s so beautiful here and I’m having a great time. Miss you all so much. Can’t wait to see you in two weeks.
June 14, 2017
We have been notified by the leaders that all have arrived in Seattle safe and sound and the trip has officially kicked off! Be on the lookout for updates to come along the way as they explore the Pacific Northwest!
-Moondance Administrative Team