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California 1B • June 13-June 26, 2018

Final Goodbyes from the West Coast

June 26, 2018

Hello all! We are writing this final trip update with tear-filled eyes and a joy-filled heart as we sit in the SFO airport. It really is an indescribable feeling saying goodbye to a new family. A family that was formed within a couple of hours. A family that has shared our true selves with each other from our past experiences, to our funny habits. A family who has laughed until our bellies ache, and that shed tears as we embraced each other for one last time today. Although we are sad to depart, it is not hard to feel an abundance of happiness as we reflect on the past three days. We definitely made the last ones some of the best!

We arrived Saturday evening at Half Moon Bay where we set up camp right at the beach – not too shabby! On Sunday, we hit the waves and began our surfing activities. There is no doubt that we have some future professionals on our hands! Houston, Harper, Jacob, and Austin E. immediately dove into the new sport and quickly became a pro at “shredding the gnar”. Saturday night we put on our own version of Iron Chef, in which the girls and boys competed against each other by cooking a meal with an assortment of ingredients. Ian’s cooking skills really showed through as he led his group in creating a delicious pesto pasta with chicken and zucchini. The girls got creative and made chocolate crepes with a homemade raspberry spread on top, made by Ella herself! You could say us as judges were not disappointed, as we were served a five star meal! We were lucky enough to have Moonup on the beach for all three nights at Half Moon Bay. On our second night, we had a dance party after Moonup on the beach with glow sticks, which Maddie enjoyed a little too much when the glow stick juice started flying out of hers while breaking it down on the dance floor!

Our second day of surfing was even better than the first. Even though the wind was stronger, Holland and Maddox popped up on the surfboard like it was nothing! Melissa, Lucy and I decided to take on our own form of the sport by body surfing the big waves, which was followed by all of us having salt water in our hair still today. After surfing, we headed to the local thrift store to find our snazziest outfits for banquet night. Austin H. won the award for best attire as he showed up with an assortment of patterns, topped off with a jacket he decided to cut the sleeves off of, because THAT is true fashion! Once we got dressed in our best thrift store finds, we headed to our banquet dinner filled with pizza, fellowship, and our very own award show. It was too easy coming up with everyone’s awards as the group knows each other so well by now. After a nice banquet dinner, we headed back to camp for one final Moonup.

This Moonup was quite special as it was our last one. We reflected on some of our favorite memories and what we will miss most about the trip. We talked about how we couldn’t believe it went so fast and the close bonds that have been formed over the past two weeks, which are unlike any other. To end our final Moonup, Cooper gave us all a laugh as he jumped into the water! This morning was an early one, as we packed up our things and headed to where we are sitting right now. The place where we said our final goodbyes, and were sure to get everyone’s phone numbers to immediately text and Snapchat as we sit at our separate gates at SFO. It is hard to know how to end this update as there are so many things we want to say, but we will leave it at this. Thank you, parents, for raising such caring, fun, compassionate, and respectful children, and allowing us to lead and share time with them over the past few weeks. Kids, thank you for giving up part of your summer to spend it with us crazy leaders. Thank you for opening up and being your true selves. We cherish each and every one of you and know you are going to do great things. Watching you transform over the past two weeks has been an incredible experience, and we hope you will take home with you what you learned, the relationships you’ve formed, and the experiences you’ve endeavored. We love each and every one of you and you will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Almost Closing Time on this California Adventure!

June 25, 2018

Hello to all from the road to our final destination! It is pretty surreal that our two weeks together are coming to an end. Time is moving way too fast! We left Yosemite Thursday afternoon after a great hike and began our road trip to Point Reyes. As always our car ride was filled with lots of group jam sessions and plenty of laughs, we even had a chance to stop and enjoy dinner at the famous In-N-Out burger. Austin E and Austin H even went as far to say it as the best burger they have ever had. It certainly deserves all the hype, our entire group gave it their stamp of approval!

We arrived in Point Reyes on Thursday night. After a long day of traveling we set up camp, shared a Moonup led by our LOD’S Ian & Harper and hit the hay. Maddox started the day off with some daily inspiration before we spent the day Friday exploring the beaches at Point Reyes. We relaxed the rest of the day on the beach and soaked up the Cali sun. The water temperature was certainly an adjustment for all of our southern folks in the group but Houston, Melissa, Holland, Maddie, Ella, Jacob, and Cooper were up to the challenge! After a nice and relaxing day we played our new favorite game “Ships and Sailors” until dinner time. After our spaghetti we cleaned up and had Moonup and went to sleep. It is safe to say that Friday was a dream day! We packed up camp on this morning, Saturday, and hit the road to San Fran! After our journey over the Golden Gate Bridge, we headed to the land down under (just south of where we camped) and enjoyed lunch and some sock shopping in Sausalito. We are currently en route to Half Moon Bay where we will conclude our adventure together. We are all so confused on how the time went so fast!

The fun keep on rolling here in California!!

We’ll talk to ya soon!

Here are some shout-outs from your amazing kids:

Hey mom & Dad, California has been really fun! Can’t wait to see y’all! Love Austin E.

Hi mom & Dad, this trip has been awesome and even though I want to see you, I don’t want to leave! Love, Jacob

Dear mom & Dad I never want to come home, camp is so fun! I want to do one next year. I’ve made lots of friends too. Dearest, Mr. Cooper Patrick David Illes

Hola mom & Dad, this trip has been pretty rad if I say so myself. California people are off the chain! Peace, Spartanburg boy (Houston)

Hey mom & Dad, I’m having so much fun & cant wait to see you soon. Tell Maddie, Claire, Lilly, and CC I say hello! Love, Melissa

Hey mom & dan, Im having a lot of fun, can’t wait to see you soon. Love, Ian

Hey parents! I’m having a ton of fun & I can’t wait to see you! Love Holland

Hey mom & Dad I’m having so much fun! Tell tanner I’m going to buy him a present. Love &miss you- Harper

Hey y’all! I’m having so much fun! I got you all presents! I can’t wait to see you! We just went to Sausalito & it was so cute! Love you guys, Maddox

Hey mom & Dad, I’m still having a great time in California! Can’t wait to see you guys in a few days! -Austin

Hi mom & Dad, I’m having a lot of fun & I got shark socks. Love you, Maddie

Hi family, I’m enjoying myself. I like it. Life is swell. Miss y’all. Love you, Ella

Rockin' Yosemite

June 22, 2018

Words cannot begin to describe the tranquil beauty of Yosemite Valley. California 1B has been living and growing in the moment with Yosemite’s deep luscious valleys and jarring granite domes as our back drop.

Our first day in Yosemite was one of spontaneous adventure and exploration. LODs Austin Edwards and Maddox led the charge on our hike from Tuolumne Meadows towards Dog Lake. After lunch, Austin H., Ella, Holland, Harper, and myself braved the cold mountain waters and took a refreshing swim! With Camp Lotus as our home for the four days in Yosemite, lacking showers, it also doubled as a quick rinse! Later, the students were overjoyed when a Yosemite Park Ranger greeted us on his horse named King. We all took a break from our hike to pet King and learn more about the surrounding trails from the knowledgeable Ranger.

Day 2 in Yosemite was one of immense magnitude. It was our group’s first day trying their hand at rock climbing! What better place to learn and practice climbing than Yosemite, the birthplace of modern rock climbing? Our guides from Yosemite Mountaineering School proved extremely proficient, aptly pitching lines and interactively demonstrating the necessity of proper techniques, knots, and safe guards used to safely climb as a unit.

We quickly discovered that we were in the presence of some natural climbers! Houston and Cooper tackled the hardest pitches immediately, with Ian and Jacob following right after! After an amazing day of climbing, the group traveled to the nearby lake where Maddie led the group in a game of Mafia. Melissa, who yesterday was reluctant to get into the Lake, was one of the first in the water, with the entire group following suit.

The next day of climbing provided new challenges. Whereas the mountain the day prior was smooth, day 3 in Yosemite dealt with crack climbing. It required a different approach and technique compared to the leg driven climb yesterday. Harper and Melissa quickly picked up on this, fitting their hands and thumbs into the tiny cracks and ascending their climbs with lightning speed!

Our final day in Yosemite was spent venturing into the famous Valley. The group was in awe as the sprawling view of El Cap, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome opened up before us. LODs Ian and Harper led our hike up to the breathtaking Nevada Falls, where the group stopped to admire the view and enjoy lunch. The descending loop proved challenging to find, but the group persevered and made it back down!

California 1B leaves Yosemite with full hearts. I have a feeling it will forever hold a special place in all of us with memories of friendship, triumph, and fun! On to Point Reyes Beach we go!

West Coast Vibes at Lake Tahoe!

June 18, 2018

Hello from all of us at Lake Tahoe! The past few days have been busy, filled with lots of belly laughs, delicious meals, and growing friendships. Our group has taken on all of our adventures like champs, and we’re excited to see what the rest of the trip has in store. We arrived at Lake Tahoe on Friday evening and our cook crew Austin E., Harper, Melissa and Maddox made some yummy barbecue chicken and mashed potatoes. The group decided they wanted to sleep in their hammocks, even with all the wildlife that our campsite had to offer! Yesterday was an early morning when our LOD’S, Ian and Maddie woke up the group, everyone had a quick breakfast, and we hit the road to kayaking. We took on the cold water in our kayaks and learned the ins and outs of Lake Tahoe. We quickly realized the wildlife in California have no fear, when we set up for lunch at Emerald Bay and had some nice furry friends join us! We ended the day at the National Forest Center where we found an amphitheater and decided to show off our talents with our very own talent show! Austin H. kicked it off as our host when Melissa, Holland and Harper showed off their dance skills and Ian impressed us with his opera ability! Our judges Houston, Jacob, Cooper and Ian gave the contestants the “golden buzzer” for doing so well. We ended the night with cookies and Moonup filled with some more friendly bear sightings! Today we conquered the hills of the Sierra as our LOD’S, Ella and Cooper led the hike up to see the incredible views of Granite Lake and Cascade Falls. When we got to the top we had a dance party in which we jammed to some throwbacks before we made the hike back down. The group did so great today that we decided to stop by a local ice cream shop for a treat. With full bellies and a packed van, we hit the road to Yosemite and are continuously reflecting on how amazing our time has been so far… how can it get better than this?! Stay tuned, next stop: Yosemite!!

Best regards, Allie

Splashin' through the American River!

June 16, 2018

Greetings from the beautiful mountains of Northern California!


California 1B is off to an incredible start as our days have been full of rafting & lots of laughter. After our day of traveling, our first leaders of the day (LODs) Melissa & Austin H really set the tone for our trip as we went into our first day of rafting the American River. Upon arrival at the put-in, there was zero hesitation from the group as we sized up our life jackets & had our safety talks before loading up the boats and hitting the water. Harper, Cooper, Maddox, & Holland really embraced the waves from the rapids as they sat up front on the first day & Ian certainly kept the spirits high with his commentary!


At lunch, we enjoyed a nice meal provided by our outfitter & some lunchtime entertainment provided by Cooper as he attempted to summit the hill by the lunch site. Our river adventure continued and by dinner we had all worked up quite the appetite. We enjoyed a delicious pasta dinner prepared by our outfitter where the kids got to show off their impressive cleaning skills as they helped our guides clean up afterwards. Dinner was followed by Moonup where Holland & Jacob were chosen as our second LODs!


During our second day of rafting we had more courageous souls, Jacob, Austin E, Houston, Ella & Maddie brave the waves in the front of the boat. We also discovered that Houston was born to be a rafting guide as he effortlessly guided us when our guide Blake asked if anyone was up to the challenge of rowing the boat. All in all, we had a blast of the American River!


Now we are en route to Lake Tahoe, and as the elevation increases so does the beauty. We are surrounded by so many breath-taking sights and are in the presence of some pretty amazing people. Next stop Tahoe, to conquer kayaking & paddle boarding on the lake!


The Warmest Wishes,

Lucy, Brandon, and Allie


We also have some shout outs to share…Hey mother I love you! -Ian

Yo yo yo! I’m having a great time! Thank you for the pics, love y’all lots- Maddox

Hey parents! We’ve been spreading the gnar butter on the shred bread! Miss & love you guys!- Harper & Holland

Hey Mom, Dad, Kate & Grant! I’m having a great time in Cali! Making new friends & trying new things! Love y’all-Austin H.

Hi mother, father, and brother I have been having a blast on this trip and have already made lots of friends-Jacob

Mom & Dad Moondance is really fun! Rafting is the best I’ve done, ever. I’m super excited for kayaking! I’m making lots of friends here also. -Cooper

Dear mom & dad I’m having lots of fun! Miss you! – Austin E.

What’s up family! Things are going well. Love you so much-Ella

Hi Kristeene, I’m having a ton of fun and everyone is already really close. Love you! Maddie

Salutations parents, I have missed the presence of you in my life. I have acquired many new friendships and possess the emotion called joy. Sincerely, your son Houston.

Hey Mom & Dad, I had a great time being the first leader of the day. I miss and love you all a lot. Love, Melissa

Happy Father’s Day to all of our fathers. We love you & are thankful!

Safe and Sound in California

June 13, 2018

Hello California Families,

All students have arrived in California and the trip is on its way! More updates to come, so be on the lookout.

-Moondance HQ


  • Harper
  • Jacob
  • Austin
  • Austin
  • Cooper
  • Houston
  • Maddox
  • Maddie
  • Holland
  • Melissa
  • Ella
  • Ian