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California 1A • June 13-June 26, 2018

California Dreamin'

June 27, 2018

Hello friends, family, and followers!


I am writing this last update with tears in my eyes, but watching our time together end I am feeling incredibly thankful for the amazing experiences we had and the amazing children we got to become friends with. I am truly amazed by the incredibly compassionate, smart, adventurous teens we got to know and love and am so grateful they chose to spend a portion of their summer with Moondance!


We packed a ton of fun activities into our last few days together! On our way to our campsite in Point Reyes, we stopped at the famous In N Out Burger and we all ate our weight in burgers and “animal fries”! Our girls were especially excited to take pictures in their In N Out hats at “golden hour” (the perfect photo lighting). With our bellies full, we loaded up in the van and finished our drive to the campsite. This was one of my favorite car rides of the trip as everyone was singing, playing games of MASH, and soaking in one of our last long car rides together! At the campsite, we set up camp and played some intense games of ultimate Frisbee. We ended the night with the kids acting out skits poking fun at the leaders, it was hilarious! Ward showed off his theatrical skills and proved that he belongs on a stage!


The next morning, we had a big breakfast of homemade hash browns and summer sausage. Once we were fueled up for the day, we broke down camp and drove to a lighthouse. Hiking down the mountain to the lighthouse was truly breathtaking. It was a super blustery day, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time soaking in the sights and admiring a lighthouse that has withstood winds for 100+ years. It was definitely a highlight of the trip! After our hike, we headed to the Golden Gate Bridge! Henry and Jack were especially excited to see Alcatraz and it certainly did not disappoint. I was impressed by all of the students’ manners in public and maturity walking calmly across the bridge. After the bridge, we split into groups for Iron Chef, Moondance edition! We gave each group a small budget and let them go to the grocery store and they got really creative with their meals! It was such a treat for us to watch the kids apply all the cooking skills they learned this trip. Janie, Luca, Baker, and Cole won with an amazing meal of chicken alfredo with asparagus! By the end of the night, we were stuffed and ready to sleep in preparation of our final day together!


The next morning, we met our guides at Half Moon Bay for our final day of surfing! Once again, Eliza and Cole were tearing up the waves. Our guides said our kids were the best they had ever had in 7 years of guiding, we were so proud to say the least! After surfing, we headed back to camp to clean up, take some much needed showers, and reminiscing on our trip. After our showers, we headed to the thrift shop to score some fun outfits for our banquet. Margaret and Addison and Rose got some especially funny outfits. Jack bought a hilarious white coat and glasses that made him look like Elvis and he kept us laughing with his impressions all night. We then ate a fabulous last meal at Los Tres Amigos with churros for dessert! On the way back to camp we sang to “Country Roads, Take Me Home” and it was one of the most special moments of the trip with everyone singing in unison. We ended the night hanging out on the beach where Mack pointed out a seal swimming around at sunset! We then had our last Moonup on the beach and began saying our goodbyes.


On behalf of Will, Matthew, and myself, thank you thank you thank you for sharing your children with us for the last few weeks. We have learned so much and had the best time getting to know them. You all have incredibly special children and we are so thankful to have gotten to know them. We hope to have made half as much impact on their lives as they have had on ours! We miss them all already!


Much Love,


Rafting Down The American River!

June 24, 2018

Hello from California!

We have had an action packed and fun few days rafting the American River and we are currently in a van full of exhausted campers as we head to our next campsite! Ward and Baker were our LODs on our first day of rafting and got the whole group fired up with a creative “sun-up” and dance party to “Thunderstruck!” We then met up with our guides and learned basic rafting skills and safety protocol. We then split into two rafts and began our adventure! We had a big day hitting class 2 and 3 rapids and even got to get out and swim for some of the trip! Henry was especially enthusiastic about swimming and says that rafting was the best day of his whole year! The two rafts had several splash fights and Mack was an especially impressive splasher! We had an amazing lunch with our guides and continued on to the more intense rapids of the day. That afternoon, the guides treated us to soft drinks on the bus home and we headed back to camp. At camp, we decided we hadn’t spent enough time in the water so we headed down to the river to relax and swim around. Luca, Cole, and Margaret found a smooth rock we used as a waterslide and the whole afternoon was full of laughs! Our rafting guides treated us to a delicious dinner of pasta, salad, chicken and steak with a scrumptious dessert of brownies which we all devoured! We ended the night with an especially giggly group at Moonup and Addison and Luca were chosen as the next day’s LODs. We woke up early for our second day of rafting and packed camp up before we left. Eliza was especially helpful and volunteered to assist the leaders taking down our tent which we appreciated so much! After another delicious meal with our rafting guides we were fueled up and ready to take on the South Fork of the American River! We were experts this time so the guides let our kids take turns guiding the rafts. Ward and Eliza were especially skilled and may even have a future in being a raft guide one day! As today’s section of the river was a little calmer the group got to play several games and swim around. Jack jumped in today and had a blast pulling me in as well! Janie and Rose impressed the whole group by doing flips into the water. Overall, the rafting trip was a total success and several of the students have said it was their favorite part of the whole trip. We are currently in the car headed to Point St Reyes and we are all so excited!

West Coast Waves

June 21, 2018

Hey everyone! Monday, we left Yosemite and headed to Lake Tahoe. The drive was not long especially with everyone singing along to “Hooked on a Feeling” (the theme song of this trip) which made the drive go by fast. On the way, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Walker Burger. After ordering my lunch I had the owner approach me and tell me that the students were the most well-mannered and respectable kids she has ever encountered. Smiles on the leaders faces and chocolate ice cream in the student’s bellies, we were soon on the road but not before Jack had an ice cream cone that seemed to tower over him and he did not have a problem with eating it all.  Janie and Mack were LODs for the day and took initiative on setting up tents and making some delicious ravioli that the kids devoured. With so many trees around Ward, Baker, Margaret, and Addison used the opportunity to set up Enos (hammocks). Apparently the Enos were so comfortable some decided to sleep in them!

We woke the next morning to a beautiful view over Emerald Bay where we met our guides for Kayaking! The water was crystal clear with visibility reaching 75 feet for the day. We were in tandem kayaks and cruising through the water with the sight of the beautiful mountains surrounding lake Tahoe. Our guide was awesome and all the kids enjoyed learning a little about the history of Lake Tahoe. We even got to visit a historic tea house on an island in the lake. Although the day was warm, the water was ice cold. That didn’t deter Henry and Luca from jumping in at the beach during lunch. We finished the day with a hike and an early moonup so that we could be ready for the next day’s paddle boarding adventure.

Everyone was woken up by the new LODs Eliza and Cole who gave a great morning huddle which the kids have now started calling sunup. After a quick breakfast, we headed to the shore to start paddle boarding. While on the lake, the students held race in which Rose reached the finish line first and had a spectacular fall off the board into the lake. We paddled around and played games on the boards for most of the morning before having a relaxing beach picnic. After lunch, we hiked to balancing rock where the students loved taking pictures climbing through the rock! Rose was incredibly brave and crawled through a hole in the rock making for a pretty amazing picture! We are now cooking an amazing dinner of fajitas as we prepare to head to the American River tomorrow where we will begin our rafting section of the trip! The students all want to send shoutouts to their parents for sending them on this trip because “it’s the best trip ever!” So, a big thank you to all of our parents! We have absolutely loved getting to know all of your children and are so excited for the rest of the trip with them!

Living and Loving this Cali Life!

June 19, 2018

Hello friends, family, and followers! We apologize for the delayed post; we have been having so much fun practicing being unplugged and living in the moment we almost forgot about the web! We have been grooving from the start! We had a smooth travel day, and from the airport we made our way to our first campsite where we enjoyed local pizza! Next, we introduced the students to what Moondance is all about: friends, fun, and adventure! Everyone was exhausted from their travels so we went to sleep in our new tents with our new friends for the first time! Everyone slept soundly with the relaxing sound of the waves crashing on the coast nearby.  The next morning, we started our adventure off with a splash! Our group stormed the beaches of Pacifica and conquered the waves of the great Pacific. Our incredible guides taught us all the proper technique to catch the perfect wave. Little did we know we already had a group of pros! Everyone shredded the massive waves like they had done it hundreds of times. Eliza was incredible and even helped me get up on my first wave. After the beach we hit the road for our first big road trip. After jamming out in the van for many hours we eventually made it to the legendary Yosemite National Park. We were all in awe from the breath taking vistas surrounding us – it was truly incredible. Once we arrived we practiced some of the lessons we had discussed the day before which included putting up tents, having good expedition behavior, and leave no trace ethics.  After we established our camp site we proceeded to cook our first meal together! Our leaders of the day (LODs), Cole and Baker, designated the cook crew for the evening and choose to cook southwest mac (Velveeta of course because it’s liquid gold)! I must say it was delicious as well as a crowd favorite! We made an awesome music video about cook safety. I must say the kids are extremely enthusiastic about cleaning the dishes and often have to ask them to finish up more quickly because they enjoy doing it so much. That night after we cleaned up we all sat around the fire, and had our LODs lead us through our first real Moonup which was exceptionally beautiful under the stars of Yosemite. The entire sky was illuminated by the most beautiful display of the night sky I have ever seen. We closed our Moonup with a moment of silence to enjoy the spectacular site.

The next morning our LODs, Eliza and Ward, got everyone up and moving bright and early. Then, they cooked a scrumptious Moondance classic that consisted of moon bagels and fruit. Everyone was fueled up and ready to go! We drove to our trail head where we had a map reading lesson, and then the LODs took charge and we began blazing the trail! Our LODs did a great job navigating the trails, keeping everyone hydrated, and checking everyone’s feet for blisters, so we quickly made it to the top where we discovered a beautiful lake! Once we got there we all enthusiastically charged into the lake to cool off and go for a swim! After spending some time refueling on the beach and laying out in the sun we decided to begin our descent down. We made it down in record time and began to drive away when we saw a patch of snow on the side of the road, so we spontaneously pulled over and had an epic snow ball fight! This was Margaret’s first time touching snow, so it was a memorable moment to say the least. The group also quickly realized they should watch out for Mack because he has a snowball cannon for an arm! The gang then went back to base where we played group games for a while. We also made our first GORP bags (good ole raisins and peanuts)  which we consumed soon after! By then it had started getting late so our LODs designated the cook crew for the night, but the whole group wanted to help cook so we had more than enough helping hands. The LODs choose to make pad thai that night, and I must say it was my favorite dinner so far. That night we packed our day packs, and prepared to climb in Yosemite.

That morning our LODs, Luca and Addison, got everyone up bright and early. They got the whole group fired up during our morning huddle, and we kept that energy going in the van ride to meet the guides by listening to some of our favorite van jams. Once we met the guides we hiked to the top of a rock with all of our gear for the day. The guides then began teaching us how to properly tie knots and use our equipment. After we all practiced and we were confident we knew how to do everything to Yosemite climbing standards we prepared to rappel down to our climbing site. We all had butterflies in our stomach, but the whole group went over the edge without hesitation, and did everything flawlessly looking like a scene from mission impossible! The whole group was extremely impressive; everyone climbed back up to the top on several different routes up the rock face! Addison made my day when she was on an especially hard route and kept saying, “I can’t” as she continued to put one hand and foot after another until she made it to the top with encouragement from the whole group. The smile on her face when she got back down was ear to ear. After climbing from early morning into the afternoon we decided to celebrate our victories by getting ice cream and milk shakes! We took our sweet treats to the lake next to our campground where we relaxed in the sun and enjoyed our own rewards. It had been a long day, and was time to head back home so we went back to camp. Once again everyone in the group was dying to be on cook crew, but to keep the kitchen safe we could only have a few of us in the kitchen. That night Luca and Addison decided to cook chili which turned out to be all the girl’s favorite dinner we have had so far. After dinner the leaders decided to reward the group with s’mores because they were so impressive practicing the skills we had taught them such as expedition behavior, leave no trace, hydration, personal care, tent care, and many others. Following that we Mooned-up under another awesome starry night sky, and hit the hay early knowing we had another big day of climbing ahead of us.

The next day, Jack and Rose prepared breakfast for everyone, and reminded everyone what we needed in our day packs for the day. They also recited a fantastic quote and gave us a pep talk during morning huddle to get everyone motivated for the day. It was like the scene in the movie Miracle! We hit the road, once again jamming out. Everyone was in great spirits excited for another big day of climbing. We met our guides at their base, and then followed them on a short hike to the climbing spot. It was a challenging hike, but was well worth it to be surrounded by incredible views. That day we were practicing a different style of rock climbing called crack climbing which the students really enjoyed. We learned how to use some new equipment, and then paired our new knowledge with what we had learned the day before. Once again, everyone scaled the face like spider monkeys! It was a great day with beautiful California weather and lots of smiles all around. Henry impressed all the guides with his expert belaying skills and helped out the whole group by belaying them all. After climbing all morning and into the afternoon we decided to change up the scenery a little. The leaders and LODs discussed what the group should do for the rest of the day. The consensus was to drive into Yosemite Valley. We journeyed up to a breath-taking look out spot. From the top of the valley, we could see all the icons, El Captain, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. After spending some time absorbing the view, we decided it was time to head back to camp. We got back late, but all the students were still enthusiastic about preparing dinner and offering a helping hand any way they could! The LODs decided to cook spaghetti for the night and it was the best back country spaghetti I have ever had! After a long day everyone was pretty tired, so we all crashed hard. We did stop to enjoy our last night under the stars of Yosemite.

The next morning, we decided it would be a good idea to let everyone sleep-in because the group has been working hard. The LODs, Mack and Janie decided to treat the group to the works for breakfast; they made us bacon, eggs, raisin bread toast, avocados, and oatmeal! It was a great nutritious way to start the day! After, we packed up camp and made sure to do a thorough LNT sweep. Janie and Mack got our energy going by circling up and bouncing side to side like the Ohio State Buckeyes. We all loaded up in the van, and said our last farewells to the incredible landscape of Yosemite we were so thankful to call home for a few days. Our sadness quickly subsided when we began talking about our next destination, Lake Tahoe! 

We are just getting started and the best is yet to come! We are signing off, but will be in touch! Until next time friends, family, and followers!

Arrived in California!

June 13, 2018

Hello California Families!

We heard from our leaders, and the group has arrived safely in California. We cannot wait to hear about their amazing adventures in the Golden State!


  • John
  • Rose
  • Luca
  • Edward
  • Eliza
  • Janie
  • Cole
  • Addison
  • Henry
  • Mack
  • Margaret
  • Baker