July 27, 2017
Reece and Anna here, checking in one last time from the beautiful Pacific Northwest! After finishing up a great three days at Smith Rock State Park, we’ve headed north with some incredible climbs under our belts and with heavy hearts as we spend our final days together.
Our first day on the rocks was absolutely incredible and ended with a perfect afternoon spent at Steelhead Falls jumping from the cliffs and enjoying the refreshing water. Gianluca, Will and Ben didn’t hesitate to tackle some of the toughest climbs of the day right off the bat. Caroline also showed determination and eagerness to get up the rocky routes, always with a shy smile concluding her impressively fast climbs. With Liza at his belay, Max also pushed through some hesitation and difficulty maneuvering up a climb that was much more suited for a climber with a smaller wingspan to make it to the top with a cry of achievement and big smile. We made our way up and down six different routes before shifting into rappel mode for the rest of the early afternoon. Liza and Will were the first to slide giggling down the ropes, admiring the awesome views of the park around us. After getting a feel for rappelling, which would meet us again at Monkey’s Face, we hopped in the van headed for Steelhead Falls, ready to cool off and soak our tired bodies. Everyone took a shot at jumping off the cliff into the water below, with Mollie, especially, climbing back up again and again to take another leap. We got our fill of the falls and headed back to camp for dinner and, most importantly, dirt pudding for dessert. At Moonup, LODs Liza and Hayes asked us to talk about someone who has had a positive influence on our lives, which not only led to some great reflection but also set the tone for an all-around great Moonup full of positivity and gratefulness for our group and our time together.
Climbing again in the shade on our second day, we enjoyed a more relaxed morning on the rocks, with almost everyone scaling up a handful of climbs with apparent ease and while having a fun time doing so. Going up separate climbs that met at the top of a boulder, Gianluca and Will hung out together at the top of their routes, sharing a snack to celebrate their climbs. Eagan and Celia also set out together to make it to the top of the hardest climb of the day, and their giggles and exaggerated grunts made watching their climbs even more enjoyable. Once everyone was satisfied with their climbs for the day, we once again hopped in the van, this time en route to Bend for some free time in town. In groups, the kids were granted our precious watches to keep track of time and set out to explore town in groups. The candy store, ice cream shop, and food truck lot were the biggest hits of the afternoon, and happy bellies filled the van on our ride back to camp.
Day three began with the sunrise as we woke early to begin our hike to Monkey’s Face with nervous excitement. We met our climbing guides, Sean, Matt and Taylor at the “diving board” start of the traverse into the mouth of the monkey to get harnessed in and ready to go. Reece headed out first to show everyone the ropes and Will followed after as the first student to go, shouting back about how cool the traverse and view were, reassuring everyone else watching. Liza swung out next, followed by Celia, Eagan, Mollie and Caroline, before the boys followed suit. Max, then Ben, then Hayes, and last but not least, Gianluca crossed the traverse over to the quick climb up and long, relaxing rappel down before I headed over myself. Gianluca crossed the traverse at an impressive speed, serenaded by Celia, Eagan and Liza, who had made their way back up to the “diving board” overhang and were cheerfully singing almost nonstop. The entire group completed the sections with such determination and motivation for and from one another, and it was energizing to both be a part of and to reflect upon how much growth these kids have experienced as a group. The hike back to camp ended on a sweet note, with ice cream cookie sandwiches for everyone to celebrate a morning of hard work and overcoming fear.
Our ride away from Smith Rock provided much needed nap time, and we arrived to our campground in time to split into two groups to compete in an Iron Chef style dinner. Will, Liza, Gianluca, Eagan and Celia prepared a sausage pasta dish with their ingredients, while Mollie, Max, Ben, Caroline and Hayes, the head chef of the group, prepared impressive potato pearl latkes with sautéed veggies. Planned for days, the long awaited talent show shook things up after dinner, with highly entertaining dance performances put on by Hayes and Will, and Max and the girls, respectively. It has been great to let loose and make the most of enjoying our final moments together, and, from the tarp upon which we’re all sleeping under the stars, I thank you all for sending your precious gifts to us for these three weeks. Reece and I have loved getting to watch them be shaped by each other and their experiences over the past days. Here’s to relishing the last drops of the magic of the Pacific Northwest!
July 24, 2017
Desert greetings from Oregon! From a rainy morning (notably our first and only!) on our first day out of the back country, to high heat and bold sun a little farther south, our transition into the second half of our Pacific Northwest excursion has been filled with plenty of giggles, a constant appreciation of fresh water, and an all-around grand time on the road and the river.
After a much appreciated van day, made especially fun by Celia’s eyes-closed belting of and dancing to songs in the back, we enjoyed an easy morning before making our way to Trout Creek, from where we would head out on our rafts. Fueled up on cinnamon rolls, sausage and eggs prepared by an enthusiastic cook crew of Will, Celia and Liza, we hit the road, stopping at Bridal Veil Falls for a quick stretch of the legs before passing through Mount Hood National Forest and making it to camp. Once there, everyone enjoyed checking out all the desert had to offer, and even more so enjoyed wading in the river before dinner. We met our river guides, Jacob, Mariah and Josh later that night, who got us to work prepping rafts and food for the next two days and sent us to bed excited to get going on the Deschutes in the morning. Closing the day with Moonup, thanks to LODs, Hayes and Liza, we all got to discuss an experience that we may not have favored at first, but ultimately appreciated. We even had a friendly neighborhood rattlesnake slither harmlessly onto the tarp in attempt to share his response…never fear, he promptly disappeared into the bushes and didn’t care to check us out again.
Waking to a beautiful desert sunrise, we enjoyed a quick name game to get Jacob, Mariah and Josh familiar with our lovely selves and to establish our boats: Ben, Max, Celia, Liza and Eagan with me in the sea lion raft/giggle boat revival, and Will, Gianluca, Hayes, Caroline and Mollie with Reece in the dolphin raft. Cool and refreshing, the river swept us swiftly along, splashing us with some rapids early on and also providing great calm spots for swimming and playing alongside and across rafts. Will, Caroline and Ben took a shot at rowing from the guide seat in the back of the raft, all doing an impressive job at maneuvering down the river. Gianluca also did a great job taking over the driver’s seat and impressively took over rowing the guide boat for a decent amount of the afternoon. In calmer water, all of us had a fun time boarding each other’s rafts, trying to push as many “enemy boat” members into the river as possible. The afternoon graced us with the opportunity to pull over and jump off a rock into a deep eddy, which everyone met with excitement. Hayes even managed to pull off a midair dab, while the girls chose to jump off together in groups. Hopping back in to continue on, we kept paddling until we made it to camp, where everyone enjoyed much needed time for relaxation in the shade. Strumming on Mariah’s guitar, Reece and Gianluca provided tunes for the rest hour and brought everyone together for our rendition of “Wagon Wheel” before dinner. Jacob led us in a tense two rounds of Mafia before Moonup, where Mollie, Caroline and Liza did an impressive job flying under the radar as mafia members. LODs, Max and Will led us in Moonup under the stars before we hit the tarp to sleep under the desert sky.
Day 2 on the river began with the opportunity to swim a class III rapid named Buckskin Mary, which all ten kiddos took advantage of with smiles and encouragement from one another. Max took a shot at rowing our boat, sending us smoothly through some ripple and class II white water. Eagan also kept spirits high with her enthusiasm for the word game, Contact, and constant giggles over squealing through the rapids with Liza and Celia. The short day ended with two great rapids, Mr. Snappy and Boxcar, before leaving us with a nice stretch of flat water for one of the most intense and incredibly fun sessions of raft shenanigans that I’ve ever been a part of, including splash wars, jumping ship from raft to raft, and tackling each other into the water. It was the BEST end to our short but sweet time on the Deschutes, and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect two days.
Over and out from Smith Rock! Here’s to a great couple days out on the ropes.
Anna and Reece
July 20, 2017
July 13, 2017
Our home for the last few days has been a beaut, rewarding our hard work paddling with some incredible sunsets and wildlife sightings. After making our way north from Sea-Tac, we began to settle into the Pacific Northwest, greeted by blue skies and cool sea spray. Taking our van and 10 pieces of precious cargo on the ferry to San Juan Island, we later met our sea kayaking guides, who would take us on our journey over the next days. The kids enjoyed an impressive volleyball game and a giggle-filled splash in the lake at our campsite before resting up for our first day on the way.
In the morning, we met our guides bright and early at Friday Harbor, loaded our kayaks full with gear and food, and headed out from the harbor. Throughout the day, we paddled around 12 miles, making our way across a tough channel crossing and along some beautiful shoreline before pulling up to Jones Island, our home for the next two nights. Along the way, we got lucky enough to see an awesome bald eagle pop into flight, seemingly out of nowhere, about 25 yards away from our pod of kayaks. We also got to pass around some giant purple sea stars and spot bright orange sea anemones below the surface of the water. Hayes, Will and Gianluca even tried a salty (and harmless!) bite of jellyfish, fresh from the sea. Once to camp, we enjoyed an afternoon of riddles, laughter and continued bonding in the warm Pacific sun. Reece and I thoroughly enjoyed spending some time chatting with Mollie and Caroline as we talked about their summers and planned future Moondance trips (Canada, we’re looking to you!). For dinner, our guides, prepared a delicious spread of fish tacos, made even tastier by the excellent guacamole Max took lead to mash up. Ben got to try guac for the first time, too, and gave it a thumbs up! Afterward, everyone set out for the quick hike across the island to catch the sunset spread golden and gleaming across the pastel blue islands of Canada to the west. Returning to camp, we huddled around the campfire and laughed over sticky smiles and fingers over s’mores before closing with Moonup, where Leaders of the Day, Liza and Will, sparked everyone’s creativity by asking what B level superpower each of us would like to have.
Waking up to our second day of sea kayaking, we enjoyed morning to sleep in before hitting the water once again. We were lucky enough to have Aubry, our staffing director from the Moondance office, joining us on our San Juan adventure, and he led us in some rejuvenating yoga to get our bodies ready to paddle. Our day’s route involved a complete circumnavigation of Jones Island, made so lighthearted and enjoyable by the “giggle boat,” womanned by Eagan and Liza, and by a lively rendition of Katy Perry’s “Firework” by the boys. Reece and Mollie led the pack pretty much all day, encouraging the rest of us to keep paddling and stick together. We paddled over to Orcas Island for lunch before making our way back to home on Jones. Will and Max were lucky to spot a Lions Mane Jellyfish along the way. Caroline took the lead of the triple person boat, steering with ease, and Celia graced the front of my boat, paddling so well and without ever dropping her smile. Back to camp, everyone enjoyed a little down time before Gianluca started a movement to get a fire going, using his impressive outdoor skills to get it started and maintained all on his own. Hayes, a big fan of chopping, offered to prep veggies for dinner (a delicious pesto pasta with sausage and sautéed veggies!), and Max, as always, offered a helping hand around the kitchen. With full bellies, we headed off to check out the sunset yet again, this one even more beautiful than the last, with lingering cotton candy clouds capturing our attention long after the last drop of golden fire dropped below the horizon. We returned to camp for another round of roasted marshmallows and conversation around the fire before transitioning into Moonup, led by Ben and Mollie. The two LODs asked each of us to name something or someone we are thankful for, creating a sentiment of gratitude around the fire and leaving us all feeling grateful to be with each other in such a beautiful place. As Mollie finished her quote to close out Moonup, the last flame of the campfire surrendered into glowing embers, seemingly synced with our closing of the night.
Our last morning in the San Juans was fueled by hearty oatmeal and sun kissed faces as we made our way back to Friday Harbor. All of us paddled hard and strong through challenging swells and headwinds across the channel. Once we hit the shoreline of San Juan Island, we embraced the slightly slackened texture of the water, and enjoyed the uplifting energy of songs belted from Eagan, Celia and Gianluca in the triple, and from Liza at the front of my boat. Gianluca got extremely lucky and had a seal poke its head out of the water about an arm’s length from his paddle, a final goodbye from the wildlife of the islands. Spirits were high as we stopped for our last lunch on the water, taking the chance to look back at the islands from which we came. We hit the water one last time, paddling smoothly into Friday Harbor, before saying goodbye to our guides and heading into our last night on the islands. Gianluca and Max led our final Moonup on the San Juans, asking everyone to speak about their biggest role model and closing our first section on a beautifully thoughtful note.
From Highway 20 en route to the North Cascades, we send our well wishes and thanks for sharing your kids with us for the next weeks! We’ve had a great first few days and expect only better days and more memories made over the ones to come!
Anna and Reece