July 5, 2017
After so much time spent in the mountains over these the past several weeks it was amazing to finally make it back to the California coast. Our first stop on our way back to San Francisco was Point Reyes National Seashore. We spent our day exploring the beautiful coastline on Limantour beach. We brought along a picnic lunch and found a nice alcove among the dunes to hang out for lunch. One of our favorite moments from the beach was when we noticed that a herd of seals was following and watching us as we walked down the beach. We also played a group game of “blind man” where we all closed our eyes and walked for as long as we could before opening our eyes. We went to a bakery in the small town of Point Reyes that afternoon where we shared hot drinks and pastries. After the quick and relaxing town visit we hopped back in the car as we made our way south along the coast, over the Golden Gate Bridge down to Half Moon Bay where we spent our last two nights.
After a busy night of chasing raccoons out of our campsite, we awoke to the dampness of the early morning dew. Our final activity was surfing at Pacifica State Beach once again. Our trip felt that it was coming full circle. We were all a bit apprehensive as we ate breakfast in the cold cloudy morning, but everything changed when we emerged from the tunnel that spits you out at Pacifica coming from Half Moon Bay. It went from cloudy and cold to sunny and warm in less than 1 minute. We were stoked once again as we pulled up to our surfing lesson ready to catch some serious waves. It was amazing to watch the improvement after only 2 days of surfing. Everyone was standing up and riding wave after wave, blending in with the experienced surfers.
We finished up our time in the cold Pacific waters and with an itinerary of taking care of some business before our final night’s banquet. We spent the afternoon cleaning all of our gear, snacking on what was left of our food supply, and packing up our personal items. All the while blasting tunes from the van. With the motivation of having fun afterwards, we finished the job with haste. We made our way towards the Goodwill “beach boutique” and thrifted some valuable finds. If we weren’t standing out before, we definitely were now. Clad in the strangest outfits, we made our last stop for business and vacuumed our dirty van. We then strut our way into Tres Amigos Taqueria, prepared for the looks we planned, and did indeed, receive. Bellies full of Mexican food, feeling silly as ever, we took a group photo and made our way to Baskin Robins because we simply couldn’t resist.
It was a banquet for the books and we’ll never forget the woman at the restaurant singing “happy birthday” to Corley or Maya almost dying from the amount of ice cream she ate. Back at camp, we put on (normal) warm clothes and went down to the beach for our final moonup. With the sound of waves crashing in the background, we spoke loudly as we went around the circle one last time answering the moonup questions. We ended it with two songs performed on the guitar and a poem to remind us of what all of this means. We had a difficult time leaving the beach as tears rolled down our eyes. Of course laughter was in the midst of it as some of us happen to be ugly criers. We dog piled in the sand and headed towards bed. In one big mess of sleeping bags, we laid our heads down for one last night under the stars together.
Although saying goodbye was more difficult than climbing Mt. Shasta, our hearts are full of joy. This group exceeded our expectations of a Moondance group and we cannot thank you, parents, enough for raising the best group of kids. We will forever cherish this trip as the most fun three weeks of our lives. Yosemite group, keep being the best versions of yourselves and thank you for making this trip what it was! It would not have happened without you.
Thanks for all of the memories.
Mimi & Jonas
Becoming some River Rats!
July 1, 2017
Greetings from California!
After a much needed night of sleep and one last swim in the lake, we loaded up the van and made our way south towards the American River. With Mt. Shasta in our rear view mirror, fading with the distance, we continued to marvel at our recent accomplishments with amazement and slight disbelief. Every few minutes someone would randomly burst out, “I cannot BELIEVE we did that yesterday!” Or, “we just climbed a freakin’ mountain, guys”, etc. Most of us were still phased by our exhaustion during the van ride, but others, like Maya, kept the excitement rollin’ with entertaining conversations and requests for “hype” music. After a few hours of scenic highways passing through various orchards and farms (wishing we could stop at every single fruit stand), we arrived at our home for the next two nights: Camp Lotus. The campsite was bustling with river rats who looked as if they’ve been camping here for years. Once we settled into our new space, the cook crew got it moving with dinner. Feddy (Federico) took charge with the pasta meal, given no one wanted to try to compete with his Italian pasta magic. He whipped up a dish better than any of us could have attempted, leaving us wishing for third servings. Following a meaningful Moonup, Kate played the song Landslide on the guitar, shocking us all with her beautiful voice.
We awoke early the next morning, fueling up with some huevos rancheros to energize us for our first day of rafting. Corley was especially ready for the day after being stepped on by a line of geese walking through our campsite while he was sleeping. We frosted ourselves with sunscreen, buckled up our helmets and life jackets and followed our raft guides down to the river. Splitting ourselves onto three different rafts, we went over the basics of paddling and raft safety before following the current downstream. Meg bravely took the bow of the raft, not realizing that she was soon to be dumped with more water through the rapids than the rest of the boat. She screamed her way through the rapids though, giggling at just how soaked she was. Gray took on another form of bravery as she got sunscreen in her eyes and had to squint majority of the day while paddling. There were some sunscreen tears followed by lots of laughter.
We stopped along the river and our guides prepared a beautiful lunch spread for the group. We chowed down with amazement, possibly because the food was just that good, or maybe because we were just extremely hungry. Once the watermelon was gone, Meg and Hadley followed one of the guides off a small rock, into a circular eddy that moved them around like a whirlpool, causing shouts of excitement with each turn they made. After lunch we hit multiple class III rapids that turned our full bellies with excitement. We paddled hard and held on tight in efforts to not fall out of our rafts. Once we reached a mellow spot of the river, Tommy and John started a battle of the rafts with splash wars and attempted trust falls. Olivia gracefully stood at the front of her raft, with Hannah behind her, reenacting the romantic scene from the Titanic, arms spread wide to the river (followed by her falling off of the raft). Grace, as always, entered the cold water without a flinch, riding the current down like a little river otter.
Our day of rafting ended with cold drinks provided by our guides and a bumpy bus ride back to our campsite. Tired from a full day of trying new things, paddling hard, and being in the sun, we chilled hard once we returned to camp. Owen and Hannah both played around on the guitar, surprising us with their hidden talents. Our guides prepared an amazing dinner of steak, chicken, pasta, garlic bread and a fresh salad, causing us all to eat more than we should have. Hadley, Gray, Kate and Hannah volunteered to clean the dishes while jamming out to some classic boogie tunes.
Meanwhile, the group continued the legacy of Tommy’s wiffle ball and started a game out in the parking lot. The game was quickly ended once they saw that we had picked up some supplies for s’mores and a campfire was waiting on them. We ended the night with roasting marshmallows and Moonup around the fire.
Our second day of rafting got off to a great start as our guides provided breakfast for us. We’re talkin’ fresh coffee, hot chocolate, chopped fruit, scones, potatoes, bacon, sausage, and scrambled eggs. Talk about a breakfast of champions! We hit the river an hour earlier today, prepared for a day full of even more rapids. The runs today were a bit more technical to maneuver, pushing us to improve our paddling skills. One rapid in particular, called “Trouble Maker” held most of the excitement for the day as it tried to toss us all out of our rafts. We rolled down the river with big smiles and made it back to our campsite for one last delicious meal provided by our raft guides. We said goodbye to our new friends and thanked them for inspiring us to be awesome and for keeping us safe on the river. Loaded up one more time, we are back in our van (“Ole Bessy”) en route to Pt. Reyes National Seashore! We’re savoring every minute of our last few days together!
Until next time,
Mimi, Jonas & the River Rats
SHASTA! WE MADE IT!
June 30, 2017
Good morning friends and family,
First things first, the answer to the question I know you are all wondering is, yes we all made it safely off Mt. Shasta yesterday after an incredible and memorable day on one of the worlds most beautiful mountains ever. This morning as we peeled our still weary bones off the dirt of our campsite we all realized what we had just accomplished. It still feels like a dream being so high up on the snowy peak as we now sit here on the shore of Lake Siskyou swimming and looking up at the summit.
Our first day in the city of Mt. Shasta we quickly realized that we had arrived in a very special and eclectic place. We spent that first day walking around town in and out of the five or six different crystal shops in the small town. Local shop owners shared the town legend of the mystical Lemurian people who live inside Mt. Shasta. Some of us even bought some of the “magical” Lemurian crystals. In one of our favorite shops we found a room filled with native America flutes, drums, singing bowls and xylophones, where we proceeded to make a small band that entertained the entire store. Before we finished up our business in town Owen was inspired to get everyone in the group a power pendant necklace to give each of us superpowers when we got on to Shasta the next day. Our final task of the day was to gear up for Shasta. We rented our crampons, boots, ice axes, and helmets, and then headed back to camp where we packed up all of our food and gear. Tommy decided to pack a little extra by bringing a wiffle ball and bat in hopes to be the first to make a hit off the summit of Shasta.
The next morning we set out from the parking lot with our guides and made our way up to horse camp. The amount of snow on the trail was shocking! We set up camp in a beautiful grove of pine trees and learned how to anchor our tents in the deep snow to protect them from the mountain winds. After a week of purifying our water with iodine, we were pleasantly surprised to find a fresh flow of crisp spring water flowing from the ground. The next day we filled up all of our bottles again and started up towards high camp. We began to truly test our stamina as we made the 2000 foot trek up to our camp, which sat below the steepest section of our summit climb. Finally we arrived to a semi-flat section of snow that the guide called high camp. We quickly realized that if we were going to sleep on flat ground we would have to dig a flat platform for our tents. Our snow shoveling efforts also included an amazing multilayered snow kitchen, fully equipped with shelves, stairs, and a counter top. After we transformed the blank snow canvas into an orderly high mountain camp, we joined our knowledgeable guides for snow school. We learned all of the snow climbing techniques we would need to know for the upcoming summit, including how to use our crampons and ice axe. The most fun part of school was the end when we learned how to glacade, or more simply put, slide down the mountain on our butts. That evening Meg took ownership of our snow kitchen and set up a made to order quesadilla station. It was so delicious! After our early dinner, the guides gathered us for a briefing on what to expect for tomorrow’s climb. They filled us with nervous excitement and confidence as they pointed out our route up the snow field to the steep and rocky “red banks” and then up the dreaded “misery hill” to the flats before the summit pinnacle. Then after a very brief and chilly Moonup we crawled into our tents excited and anxious for the coming day.
At 1 am our alarms sounded. We sprang out of our tents into the crisp night air. The Milky Way lit up the sky above us with a spectacular show as we laced our boots, dawned our crampons, and lit up headlamps. Everyone was very nervous and excited as we anticipated the strange newness of everything we were doing. Everyone exemplified bravery as we fought through the early morning shivering in the freezing morning temperatures. Soon we all were ready and we began the slow march to the top. The next three hours were slow and rhythmic. The only lights were our headlamps and the stars and the only sound was the cold metal of our crampons clashing against the ice. As the incline began to steepen, we broke up into rope teams with a guide at the front of each group to ensure our safety. We crossed over a slope so steep you could almost reach your arm straight out and be touching the ice. During this section the sun slowly rose and we finally began to see beyond the narrow focus of our head lamps. Until this point we were only in our own worlds of light but when the sun began to rise our perspective shifted to a grander scale. We realized just how high and exposed we were. Corley faced his fear of heights in these first moments of light as we down climbed to the intended route on the steepest section of the climb. We made our way up to the red banks where we pushed up through a small slot between two huge red cliffs. As we kicked our steps upward, an incredible view of the sunrise formed behind us. The sun cast an unforgettable early morning shadow of the entire mountain on the horizon. After we pushed up through the steep section we took a quick break drank some water and grabbed a snack as we continued to watch the sun rise. After our break, we untied from the rope on the more mellow slopes and started up “misery hill”. Hadley encouraged the group with her overflowing excitement to reach the top. We were at 13,000 feet and we were beginning to feel the altitude. Amidst the struggle, Federico kept pushing through the pain he was having in his knee and Maya fought her hardest against the dizzying effects of the altitude. As we approached the summit, John spontaneously decided to run up the hill to catch up with the guide in front, being the first to reach it. Speechless and full of disbelief, we sat atop Mt. Shasta, taking in the glory beneath it. With an espresso goo gel, Kate and Mary Margaret came back to life on the summit. Grace stood on the highest point, capturing a photo with her medal for her friends. Due to the rising temperatures with the rising sun, we only had a few minutes to take in the reality of our journey while on the top of the mountain. We applied our 20th layer of sunscreen and scrambled our way back down the mountain with an extra bounce in our step.
Glacading thousands of feet back down to high camp felt like such a reward after all of our hard work. We arrived back to high camp and packed our belongings before our final departure from Shasta. Olivia melted snow before we left to ensure that everyone was plenty hydrated. Gray led the pack glacading down the next slope like a champ. Eager to remove our heavy mountaineering boots, we finally arrived to our beloved white van, realizing just how exhausted we were.
We arrived back in town with a surprise visit from Hayes, with coolers full of Gatorade and treats! We told tales of our long day with a bit of confusion on how the time had already passed. A bit loopy, we all turned a little silly once back at our campsite. Hannah out-goofed us all as she wore a trash bag around camp for the night.
Although not everyone in the group made it to the summit of Mt. Shasta, every single person tried their absolute hardest and gave the mountain every effort they had. Faced with challenges beyond our comfort zone, each one of us realized the potential that lies behind our strongest efforts. This long day was full of victorious tears and waves of proud emotion. We are all excited to return home with tales of our journey up Mt. Shasta.
We are now camped out at Camp Lotus gearing up for our rafting section down the American River! Leta just say we’re excited to give our legs a rest. Until next time!
Jonas, Mimi & the crew.
The Wardrobe to Narnia
June 24, 2017
We have emerged from the Yosemite Wilderness! Yes, we are dirtier than ever, have more mosquito bites than we can count, and smell like we should just stay in the wilderness, but we’ve also come out of this backpacking trip with experiences so meaningful they’re difficult to put to words. We’ve formed closer friendships, learned new things about ourselves and have been challenged in ways that have made us believe in our own strengths more so than we thought we could.
Before hitting the trailhead, we loaded our packs heavy with personal gear, tents, cookware and all of the food for the week. We laced up our boots, tightened our waist straps and began our uphill journey into the Yosemite Wilderness. Passing through this trailhead felt as though we were entering the wardrobe through to Narnia. Our eyes grew wide as we could feel an immediate shift in the environment. The air became calm and quiet, the light made the greens of the earth shine brighter, the trees rose taller and the birds and bugs became more and more specific, as if we were now in their world instead of our own.
We were humbled that first day of hiking as we all took a short ride on the struggle bus, forming a strong tolerance for adversity. Some were faced with a steep learning curve on day one as it was their first time backpacking. Olivia proved herself starting on day one and through to the end to be just as Shakespeare once wrote, “though she be but little, she is fierce!” Although she had more difficulty acclimating to the new elevation, weight of her pack, and heat of the sun, she did not complain once and gave it everything she had to keep up with the rest of the group, setting the attitude of perseverance that set the perfect tone for the beginning of our trek.
Along the trail we witnessed the aftermath of a wildfire, ponderosa pine trees so tall they swayed in the wind, and three rattlesnakes that we cautiously kept our space from but curiously watched as they rattled away into the brush. Our first campsite sat high on a flat rock. Cook crew whipped up some green chicken curry for the group as we watched the clouds creep toward the fading orange and lavender horizon. We awoke the next morning with a bit more confidence as we became more comfortable with the backcountry lifestyle. Hot and sunny, we hit the trail underneath the cooling shade of the trees. We were greeted this morning by the rushing waters of Alder Creek Falls, raising our excitement for more beautiful views to come. We encountered our first creek crossing today, which involved removing our boots, putting on water shoes and rock hopping to the other side. Here we filled up our water bottles, with a goal of drinking at least four liters a day, still not quite used to the taste of iodine. We kept the pace slow again on day two, hiking around 4 miles, still adjusting to the feeling of backpacking. That night at camp, Tommy showed off his natural and passionate skills in the kitchen, creating a Pad Thai dish with his very own “Tommy Sauce” invention. Needless to say, it was to die for and it was requested of him to write down the recipe for all of us. Hannah, who must have the sweetest blood in the group, kept the mosquitos away from the rest of us as they were more interested in biting her. Before she exploded in a scratching mania, her rational yet goofy personality created the “mosquito suit”. Pants tucked into socks, full zip on the rain jacket with the mosquito head net tucked in, she created her nightly ritual of the Hannah armor. Before we ended the night with star gazing and conversations about space (obviously guided by Tommy), Kate and Owen lead us in our most meaningful moonup yet. With their thoughtful questions for the group, we grew to know each other better and better. Meg spread the love after moonup, starting her own tradition of giving everyone a big hug before bed.
The next day remains our most adventurous day yet. As we reached a higher elevation on day three, we climbed over countless trees that had fallen across the trail and encountered snow on the trail for the first time (of course some snowballs were thrown). The trail eventually opened into a vast and luscious meadow that was encircled by trees and traced by small and slow moving streams. We fully committed to the ankle deep water and mud as we trudged through the meadow. With no sign of a trail, Hadley, and Corley helped problem solve our loss of direction with careful studying of the map with the guidance of the compass. We were stopped in our tracks as we spotted a large and beautiful cinnamon black bear grazing in the meadow in the distance. He looked up at us for a moment, fully nonplused by our presence. We gawked at the beautiful creature for another moment before we continued to trudge through the final stretch of the swampy meadow. Our campground that evening was just up the hill from bridal veil creek where we spent our entire afternoon swimming and lounging in the sun on the banks of the creek. Grace and John were the first to brave the cold snow melt waters. They urged the group to follow suit and swim across to the sunny rocks on the other side.
The fourth day we rose before dawn in hopes of watching the sun rise over Yosemite Valley at Taft point. As we packed all of our belongings with only the light from our head lamps, the excitement began to build in the group, and as we finally got the first glimpses of the valleys edge the sun began to rise. That morning we spent out on the edge of Yosemite Valley was certainly a highlight of the trip for us all. Having looked up at the sheer granite faces days before while climbing, we were stunned when we got to look down on the valley 3000ft below in the early morning light. We sat in silence taking it all in as the sun continued to rise. After our time at Taft point day wasn’t close to over. All in all we hiked 12.5 miles. During the long day we fully transitioned from a landscape filled with huge mossy trees and boggy meadows to one with huge sweeping views of the entire valley with all of its giant cliffs, granite domes, and gushing waterfalls. With high spirits and a sigh of relief we pushed on to Little Yosemite valley, where we stayed the next two nights.
The next morning we woke up late to a relaxing and well deserved rest day filled with pancakes and games by the flooded river. Maya and Grayson led the group tumbling on the sandy beach by the river.
Our final morning Federico led us out on the amazing mist trail by Nevada and Vernal falls. We were awestruck by the drenching mist that showered us as we climbed down the steep wet steps cut into the rock on the side of the river. We finally stepped back into the forest away from the river drenched by the waterfalls mist, as we approached the trailhead and the end of our trip. We treated ourselves that evening to a hot shower and a big juicy burger, followed by a memorable starlit moonup underneath El Capitan about the lessons we’ve learned on this incredible trip. I know that what we’ve all have experienced the past week has changed us in some ways. Weather we are more comfortable making friends, more confident pushing our physical and mental limits, or more equipped to tackle our next challenge, Mt. Shasta. We are all now riding in the van headed north to new mountains with a view of snowcapped Shasta in the distance.
Sending love to all our friends and family out there.
Until next time,
Mimi and Jonas
June 18, 2017
Hello from Yosemite,
We all just finished up rock climbing in Yosemite valley, and we are now hanging out at camp before our fajita dinner. Kate and Federico are playing soccer with two Swedish kids, while Owen and Grace are mesmerizing the group with their creative riddles. The past two days have been incredible to say the least. Yosemite shocked us all with its grand beauty when we drove in through the famous tunnel view road on our way into the park. As we drove through the historic valley for the first time that morning, we all looked up at the impressive waterfall and granite faces that makes Yosemite one of a kind. On that first day we met up with our rock climbing guides near Yosemite falls. We learned how to be safe and have fun on the rock as we practiced our belaying and footwork in the morning. As leader of the day John did a great job encouraging us all as we started climbing the granite faces. Olivia, Hadley, and Mary Margaret wasted no time on the ground and spent most of the day pulling themselves high in the air eager to go higher and higher! Tommy was brave enough to pull out his camera on top of a climb to snap a shot of half dome high in the sky. We finished our day of climbing by walking out to a beautiful meadow that sits right below the 3,000 foot El Capitan. Luckily we had the entire next day to get our hands and feet back on the granite. The second day of climbing involved taller and more challenging climbs, but this group made them look easy as everyone fearlessly climbed to the top of each route. Today we learned some more advanced techniques, such as how to set up a climbing route and how to crack climb. Corley proved his skills with his hat on sideways under his helmet, climbing up tiny cracks using just his fingertips. On the other side of the wall, Maya pushed through her fears and made it to the top of a difficult crack climb, even when she wanted to come down. Meanwhile, Gray showed off her back flipping skills, still full of energy. To say the least, this group proved themselves as amazing, adventurous and ambitious individuals during our rock climbing section. It was amazing to see each student pull for one another through out their climbs and the relationships that are being formed here are genuine and strong. As we close with our climbing section of this trip we have backpacking coming up next! We have a lot of preparing to do before we enter the back country and our group is up for the challenge. Meg’s positive attitude and organization skills were such a help as she made sandwiches for people and distributed gear for our departure tomorrow. With Hannah as Leader of the Day, we know we’re in for a great start to the next activity! Our packs are heavy but we’ve got eager attitudes, ready to be off the grid for 6 days! We will be coming back with great tales of adventure, the forest is calling!
Surfin' the Pacific Coast
June 16, 2017
Hello from California! One day in and we are already having a blast.
We posted up in the airport for a few hours yesterday with lots of snacks and entertaining riddles provided by Owen. Once Federico (Feddy) arrived, we welcomed him to America with pizza drawings and “Welcome to America” signs handmade by Grayson. We caught the sunset just as we were driving along the coast to our campsite at Half Moon Bay. No one realized they were too hungry due to the delirium from traveling all day. Once the pizza came out for dinner, you’d think we hadn’t eaten in days! We then settled in underneath the stars for our first Moonup and Jonas ended it with a song on his tiny guitar (“This Must Be the Place”).
We rose early with the sun, covered in early morning dew. As we cooked eggs and bacon for breakfast, some took a stroll on the beach and John spotted a gray whale! We then explored a small little cove that was spotted with beautiful rocks to climb on and lined by rolling green hills covered in lavender flowers. Following our small beach picnic, we made our way to Pacifica State Beach for our surf lesson! Geared up with full body wetsuits, booties, and large yellow surfboards, we bravely ran into the cold Pacific Ocean! We laughed the entire time as the waves took us down. Everyone in the group crushed the surfing! Grace and Hadley could have passed as professionals. And now we are off to Yosemite National Park, ready to climb!
But first, just a few more hellos:
To mom, friends, and mainly Tilly: I love and miss you – Olivia
Hi mom and dad. Hope you’re having fun in Hawaii. Went surfing today and failed. Love you and miss you. -Hannah
Hey mom and dad, I’m alive and having much fun. Miss you guys and Tucker a lot -Hadley
Ciao mamma, mi sto divertendo molto,oggi abbiamo fatto surf è stato molto bello, appena posso ti scrivo, baci -Fede
Hi mom, dad, and Mia! We went surfing today, which was super fun. Miss you all. Hope all is well back in NJ. Love you, Tommy
What’s up boss woman and diva dad, It’s Gray!!I Went surfing today and let’s just say ehhhh but anywho I’m having a lot of fun!! Miss ya lots, love y’all!! – Gray
Hey mom and dad! I’m having a great time! I’m really bad at surfing.. Love you, Maya
Hey fam jam!! I’ve already fallen, but who’s surprised! We surfed today and I shredded the waves:) Having an awesome time XOXO- Meg
Hey! I’m having a lot of fun. We explored a beach that had a great view and we surfed. I somehow didn’t fall every time. Say hi to Greer and fields for me – Owen
Hey June!! I miss you doggie! I want you to know that I’ve been eating some good food and shredding some major gnar. Tell Buckypoo and Mama butt that I love and miss them! -Kate
Hey dad!! Love and miss you! The trip is going good so far. We spent the first night at half moon bay and went surfing today!! Having fun, love you -Grace
Hey mom and dad, Moondance is great so far, and California is very cool. miss y’all and love y’all. -Corley
Hey to my family and friends. Having fun in Yosemite, love ya and miss ya! – John