July 29, 2018
Well, that’s a wrap. The final trip update is always a difficult one to write. There are far too many inside jokes, memories, views, laughs and tears to put into words. If your children have returned exhausted, I have included a country specific itinerary to break down why. It is as follows:
* denotes a country crossing by foot.
48 hours ago we rolled into Paris. A city that, until The Chainsmoker’s recent hit single, “Paris”, remained in relative obscurity. Since your child is likely home by now, they can explain that one to you. A brief excursion into the jungles of the metro, we arrived at our hostel, located equidistant from Sacre Couer and Moulin Rogue. Purgatory, if you will. After checking in, there was no time to spare. We needed to see the Mona Lisa, at all costs. Another descent into the belly of the beast, we were back on the metro, headed to the Louvre. The first museum of this brief sojourn to The City of Love provided a needed respite from the heat wave. After following the maze of the Louvre, wading through crowds of selfie sticks, Hard Rock Café t-shirts, and fanny packs, there it was, the most famous painting in the world. The group was in agreement. It was definitely worth the price of free admission.
Back out in the Paris heat, we began sweating from places we hadn’t accessed before. Shins and fingernails, in addition to every other part of our body, began dripping. After walking through the gardens surrounding the Louvre, it was time to descend back into the cool, fragrant Metro. Ricky remarked that this was the first time he had ever ridden a subway. He did so beautifully, never getting caught in closing doors or stabbed. With a full day of travel and new experiences under our belts, it was time to relax. Pizza helped in this endeavor. Cooper’s 34 on the ACT came in handy when we needed to figure out how many slices per person each student would receive. Mixed with Rob’s selflessness to eat one less slice of pizza, the meal was a success. After, we held a Moonup on the lawn before Sacre Couer. An immaculate view of the city filled our hearts as we reminisced on so many deep moments we shared over the previous twenty days.
Final day, final meal of bread, coffee, and bread. With that under our belts, we set off for another museum journey. Sure, the Louvre might have managed to be both overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time, but we weren’t going to let that stop us from accessing some art. Thankfully, Kate has both knowledge of art and a strong opinion of where we should go. Cut to the Musée D’Orrsay. Here we found everything we could want in an art museum. Every single member of the group was floored by the Van Gogh exhibition. Carter, who was our guide for the exhibit, impressed our leaders deeply by being their personal tour guide through the cosmos of Vincent Van Goghs life and work. Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, and many others provided a nice artistic compliment to all the natural beauty we saw in the days prior. The museum was a hit. Take that, Louvre!
After, we walked to the famous Luxembourg Gardens to have a picnic. A vibrant display of fruits, cheeses, sandwiches, drinks, cookies, chips, chocolate, breads and jellies mixed nicely with the still-raging heat wave to send us into a blissful lethargy after this memorable meal. No Nutella for LC though, who started to go into Nutella withdrawals and breaking into cold sweats. But there was no time to waste, for there was shopping to be done. First, Shakespeare and Company, one of the most famous bookstores in the world. Here, Sierra felt at home. Next, shopping, because why not? Lastly, Zara, for all the girls, but most specifically, Ellie. We settled into our final banquet meal of Fish and Chips and air conditioning. Except Oscar, who was jonesing for a steak, in order to prepare his body for a return to the states. Blake chose one final time to step outside of his comfort zone and eat every single person’s leftovers. It was a memorable last meal, breaking bread one final time.
Any final Moonup is perhaps the best definition of the term “bittersweet”. Ours was lucky enough to happen on the lawn of the Eiffel Tower. It had the effect of immediately drawing out hoots of excitement from Liv and a few tears of joy from Mary Lee. Whenever it would display its light show on the hour, we were reminded of how quickly time passed when deep laughs and well-earned compliments were shared. It was a somber mix of elation and exhaustion on our trip back to the hostel, but the final Moonup had confirmed what we had known from the first day: this was no ordinary Moondance group. This was something entirely special. Parents, we thank you for raising such memorable, thoughtful, intelligent, and all-around wonderful children. They have made our summer one we will never forget, and our lives are all the richer for getting to spend it with them.
-Tyler Gabrielson and Joanie Davis
July 25, 2018
Saturday morning was an early one, such as to avoid “tunnel traffic”. With our passports in hand, we headed towards the 12-kilometer tunnel underneath Mont Blanc. The country-hopping in this trip continued, as when we emerged, we were in Italy. The low hanging clouds at the trail head and continuing up the glacial valley to the pass provided as perfect hiking weather as you can ask for. With a refined set of hiking legs and the attitude of a personal trainer, we were up the pass and conquered the elevation gain for the day before noon. A nice added surprise: we were now in Switzerland. An hour into the descent we broke for lunch. Fitting with the theme of surprises, the leaders of the day broke out McDonalds bags to reveal that we would indeed be returning to our American roots for this meal. See, the night before, we arrived at our hostel, immediately at dinner, and went into the town of Chamonix only to find that all the grocery stores were closed. Liv and LC, the leaders of this day, made the executive decision to grab kilos of McNuggets and Double Cheese burgers. They kept it a secret up until lunch. Though the meal was far from fresh, it kept well, and the group enjoyed it. Thoroughly. We arrived in the quiet mountain town of La Fouly and enjoyed a few free hours to read, journal, catch up on sleep, and decompress before a dinner and Moonup. Sunday brought another memorable day of walking. Today, we weren’t climbing a pass or peak. Our path would follow babbling brooks through the forest. When we would emerge, it would be to walk across farmland or through the streets of quiet, tiny Swiss villages. It was a respite from the elevation change which seemed to follow us on every previous day of hiking this trip. We approached the town of Champex to find quite the jubilee going down. This group has tremendous luck, for this town has a festival once a summer, and it just so happened to be the one day we would be staying there. THIS was Switzerland- raclette stands, accordion ensembles in laderhossens, and stunning lake backdrop to heighten the amusement. The kids had a ball exploring the festival and stands selling their food and trinkets. Mary Lee embraced Swiss culture and ordered up a raclette. Cheese was melted under a heater and right when it was crisping and bubbling it was scraped over boiled potatoes. Our bellies full of cheese, everyone squeezed in a nap before dinner. Ricky, the prankster himself, got a taste of his own medicine. The group, guide and leaders included, convinced him that he had slept through dinner, Moonup, and was now at breakfast. Despite being served a “breakfast salad”, pasta because “we had a big day ahead of us” and even a dessert “because it’s custom in Champex”, we had Ricky duped the whole meal. Thank you for being a good sport about the prank, Rickster. The group remained up for a bit more, playing various games and crushing their summer reading books. Nights before, Blake had taught Oscar how to play chess. This spawned a group wide chess competition throughout the days following.Day three. Our brief vacation from climbing hills was over. Though again, it was never as difficult as it was ten days prior in the Pyrenees. Our group was now a hiking machine. After a dozen or so switch backs and some song paradoxes to distract us, the ascent was over, and the rest of the day would be just down, down, down. We arrived reasonably early to our hostel in Trient. What a treat this lodging was, complete a view of the Trient Glacier behind a delightfully out-of-place pink church. The lodging also feature a sauna, which the group of already sweaty boys punished. The meal tonight was the zenith of the trip: vegetable soup decorated with edible flowers, rainbow salad, and either Swiss fondue or pork. A feast for the ages. Cooper was the smartest of all and took advantage of his new found friendships and went splitsies with Tyler. This strategy left him with both unlimited pork and melted cheese. Well done, Coop.Sadly, the last full day of hiking was upon us. Thinking the hardest was behind, we set out for the day with spirits high and bellies full. The high season of trekking in the Alps is in full swing, and this became abundantly clear with the amount of people on the trail. In Moondance fashion, we took the alternate trail which led along a different side of the mountain. Due to its difficulty, there wasn’t a soul on the path except for a few daring locals. This trail was steep. And uphill, very uphill. Blake led the group up the mountain and kept spirits high as the terrain got steeper and steeper. With the France/Swiss border in sight, Kate fueled our family with animal crackers. Who would have thought small vanilla cardboard flavored parrots and horse crackers would be so tasty. The last twenty minutes LC and Liv busted out in some and sands with classics such as The Climb, Don’t Stop Believing, and Bohemian Rhapsody. Steps before France our guide Maud has everyone close their eyes and grab the backpack of the person in front of them. Blind leading the blind everyone stepped up the last bit to the pass. On the count of three the group opened their eyes; right there, in the flesh, was the beautiful Mont Blanc. Our first glimpse of her the entire trip and everyone went crazy. Sierra’s emotions peaked and stray tears rolled down at the sight of one of the most known mountains in the world. The rest of the afternoon was a breeze as we walked downhill to the base of the Chamonix valley. Our hostel for the night had delicious food. Carter was a true team player, helping to clean up the dinner plates from our extravagant feast. Moonup wrapped up an amazing day as thunder rolled in the distance.Say it ain’t so; it’s the last day of hiking. Ricky led the group off in our classic morning stretches and unsurprisingly befriended fellow hikers. Our hike was a mellow walk in the trees. The rain from the night before left a fresh pine smell wafting through the forest. We walked silently for 15 minutes as we reflected on an incredible trip and the challenges we overcame as a group. Bounding down the last hour, everyone made plans to visit each other; Oscar especially excited for a rare occasion to visit the south. And finally! We made it to Chamonix! The group enjoyed well deserved free time in the home of the first 1924 Winter Olympics. Rob wandered the small roads and got a new hat that had his name written all over it – a grey fleece Chamonix baseball cap with ear flaps hanging down. Just Rob being Rob. Resting before dinner, Ellie queued up all the songs we’d been singing on the trail and struggling to remember the lyrics. All in one room, we sang along to everything from Elton John to Justin Bieber to Eminem. Tomorrow we’ll get on a speed train to end our trip in Paris.
Carter: I have eaten too much Nutella but it’s okay because I’m 2 days sober from sour cream and onion Pringles and I’m a pringaholic and I’ve accepted that. #sorrynotsorry xo
Kate: Hey Mom and Dad! I am having such an incredible time and cannot wait to tell you all about the trip. I love and miss you both but I REALLY REALLY DON’T WANT TO LEAVE.
Sierra: hey parents! Im having such a great time. Four Nutella jars later, and I’m still not tired of it. Love you guys. Make sure Carmen doesn’t forget to pick me up.
LC: heyo family, I am having the greatest time ever here! I miss you all so much and can’t wait to tell you all about the trip. Make sure you give daisy and Finn lots of love from me. love y’all so much, xoxo
Mary Lee: hey mama, daddy, and laney!! I’ve had the greatest time ever, and I have so many stories to tell y’all when I get home!! (can y’all both pick me up from the airport please?? I don’t want to tell everything twice haha) Tell Lexie girl that I love her so much! I’m so thankful for this opportunity and I can’t wait to see y’all!
Liv: hey family and friends. I miss you all so much. Can’t wait to tell you all about it. Please give Prince and Molly a huge hug for me. Please keep tracking my money that I spend and happy late birthday mama. Mae, go eat some pinkberry :)))
Ellie: hey family!!! I am having the best time ever! can’t wait to see y’all and tell you all about it! Hope all is well at home, thanks for sending me on this amazing trip! Give belle and lib a hug!Love and miss you lots!!! sleep loose xoxo
Cooper: hey family. I love you guys so much, and I’m having a great time. I can’t wait to see y’all in a few days. Also, please return my overdue library books. I owe thousands to Fulton county because of those. It’s a real problem, so good luck with those. Love y’all lots.
Blake: hey Ronga fam! So much has happened in these past 20 days that I will never forget. I have met some awesome people and been to some incredible places. Can’t wait to tell you all about it.
Oscar: Hey ma and pop. Y’all won’t believe the incredible suppers and fixings I’ve had. Nah but for real it’s been cool. Can’t wait to come back up north. Thanks for sending me here!Rob: hello family. I’m having a lot of fun. I miss yall. I still have not started my book and at this point it’s just a waste of space. Thanks for sending me on this trip. It’s so much fun.
Ricky: what’s up wit it. so this trip is awesome! I miss the land. I miss my truck. But most of all Cole Bonner. Also tell Wesley Williamson were mud wrestling and I will destroy him this time. Let me see them thumbs. I’ll see y’all when I see y’all I miss y’all a ton
July 20, 2018
We write to you from the road, once again. Our two fulls days in Costa Brava have felt like two full weeks. So much laughter, sunshine, and food packed into a brief 48 hours. Let us recap:
The bus ride from Lourdes to the Spanish seaside of L’Escala was more exciting than we could’ve fathomed. Why? Because our veins were coursing with a small bakery’s worth of sugar, allowing us to sing non-stop for close for nearly an hour. It was hit after hit as we made our own music and mashups. I do feel for the bus driver though. Bless him. Lucy Claire certainly won the non-existent award for singing the loudest. She knew every word to every song and belted it out disregarding tone or pitch. We should’ve been drained by the long travel day and concerning levels of sugar, but arriving in the Mediterranean seemed to have given the group a second wind. After dinner and a Moonup on the beach, we wandered back to our campsite to find the most bizarre sight of the trip. Fitting, because our morning quote by Mark Twain several hours prior had come to fruition; “Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today.” There it was before us, in all its glory: a popup DJ stand with two dozen raving and dancing pre-teens. American music. Lighting. Fog machines. Of course, we obliged. Before too long, it was like we were at that first school dance. You know the feeling. It’s like learning to walk again. Ricky took center stage and showed off his dance moves that he had been inconspicuously hiding until that point. Exhausted after this impromptu dance party, we showered off and went to bed with smiles on our faces.
The next morning brought us another day fresh with new experiences. A brief walk to the beach from our bungalows brought us to our kayaking outfitters. Many took to the activity like long time veterans of the paddle. Ellie’s years behind the helm of a kayak shone brightest, impressing the guides and outfitters with her ability to nail an Eskimo Roll with such style and grace. She even took it upon herself to teach the rest of the group and encourage everyone to safely roll their kayaks. We steered through tiny inlets wide enough for only one boat, explored caves teeming with bats, and finally made it to lunch. Here the day took a new hold. The group was ready for some adrenaline. It was time to find a good spot to jump into the sea. With some diligent scouting of the water depth, Cooper found the spot. He took us up over the hill and traversed the rocks to a perfect area and view of the Mediterranean. Carter had the most courage pumping in her heart. Maybe it was the Nutella, but she set the example and was the first one to jump in the water. Soon nearly everyone was hooting and hollering in the water below, feeling a rush that we had long forgotten.
It’s not uncommon for a Moondance group to have a few awkward moments at the beginning of the trip – this group was a glaring exception, bonded as a single unit from the first day. Our leaders believed it best, therefore, to split the groups for an “iron chef” competition. We split the teams in a classic girls vs. boys fashion. Tonight, the girls would step up and cook for our esteemed panel of judges. This was the first time the group had the chance to cook on the trip, and what a hoot it was! It was a meal that reminded us of home, a respite from the daily barrage of decadent cheeses and breads. An oldie, but a goodie: burritos. Mary Lee took control of the appetizer, which was a delightful quesadilla that teased our tastebuds for the Mexican meal to come. Sierra was thoughtful and spearheaded the buffet and laid out ingredients, which had both vegetarian and non-veggie options. Meat eaters chowed down of some much needed ground beef while veg-lovers went crazy over sizzled peppers and onions. Ladies, well done. The boys would have to bring their A-game the following evening if they wanted to keep it a tight race.
Our second day of sea kayaking brought us an hour away to another beautiful section of coast, to the Spanish seaside village of Timaru. The coastline here was even more spectacular than the previous day. We were gliding through tiny slots, so narrow we had to push with our hands on the rock, and forget our paddles. Wildlife, too, was abundant, as we took turns gently holding a sea urchin and found many sea tomatoes.
Now was the time the boys had to step up to the plate for their turn at Iron Chef. Big game was talked all day. Rumors of a nine course meal or a guest appearance by Super Chef Bobby Flay floated around. The meal’s theme: Trailer Park Thursday. An out of place but refreshing, delicious fruit salad was followed by barely toasted hamburger buns, pasta covered in cold tomato sauce (though fresh from the jar), all finished with a melted puddle of ice cream. Oscar preceded to make 3 trips to the grocery store after the boys forgot some pretty crucial ingredients: salt and pepper. Rob spearheaded the “legendary” garlic bread and learned a valuable lesson: microwaved hamburger buns covered in garlic may not be a crowd favorite, though we do love Rob! Any meal tastes great when mixed with an absurd amount of laughter, which was in no short supply. Out of nowhere, Kate impressed the group with hysterical tricks she could preform with a single piece of spaghetti. We laughed, some cried, and we all had a night we’ll never forget. The judges did not make a decision based off of food alone; there was a crucial entertainment component that could tip the scale either way. On the beach, Liv’s show choir and cheerleading talents came into play with an out-of-this-world performance of song and dance. Let’s not forget her ability to also say the alphabet backwards from Z to A in one breath. The boys continued their theme and incorporated it in an improv comedy skit. Laughs were shared throughout as Blake committed to his character and couldn’t shake his accent for a good time after. The winner, however, was abundantly clear. Congratulations ladies.
We are now en route to our final portion of our trip: five days of hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc. Soon we will arrive in Chamonix, the legendary mountain town and namesake of this even more legendary Moondance trip. We’ll be eating in three different countries and trekking across some of the most pristine landscape. Parents- know that your children have formed a group so tight knit and close that it has blown their leaders away. There is never a dull moment. The energy and passion of this group is remarkable, and we cannot wait to see what the magical Alps have in store.
July 18, 2018
Bonjour from Lourdes, France!
After two countries, 8 days of walking, 80+ kilometers later, and more blisters than we can count, our Moondance group has finished our section trekking in the Pyrenees. It’s been a while since they’ve left the good ole States, but we are fully immersed in Europe now. Our diet is entirely bread, saving room only for some coffee and cheese. We have our hiking legs underneath us, a positive spirit to brave the weather conditions these mountains throw at us, and are fully feeling the “Moondance Magic”.
Our first day in Europe, when we picked the students up from the airport in Geneva, was relatively uneventful. We scooped them up from the airport and explored downtown Geneva for a bit. The energy was understandably in short supply, after all, Delta airlines doesn’t exactly provide the best sleeping arrangements. Without much more to add, we ate dinner at our hostel, and had our first “Moonup”: a nightly meeting to reflect on the day just spent amongst one another, to share answers to a common, sometimes deep question, and to go over the next days plans.
Speaking of the next day, it was thankfully more eventful than the previous. We travelled entirely across the country of France by way of three trains, passing by scenery that immaculately blended the most picturesque landscapes of Kansas, Alabama, and North Dakota, before arriving to the foothills of the Pyrenees in Lourdes. The tedium of this travel day would soon payoff immensely. The group took this time to get to know one another and teach each other card games. Liv met two French speaking people traveling, and she spent some time exchanging vocabulary as they pointed out items. We even introduced them to peanut butter and explained, “no I swear, it really is delicious with bread and jam.” You would expect this group to have been at the end of their Moondance trip, not the very beginning. After our meal and Moonup, we retired early to bed to fully vanquish our jetlag and get ready for our foray into the Pyrenees.
With the weather on our side, we were picked up by our outfitters and headed an hour west into the mountains by vans. Having used planes, trains, and (now) automobiles, the only thing left to do was walk. If some members of the group had minimal hiking experience before this trip, they did not show it. Truly. The group absolutely crushed the first day of hiking, which featured an immediate 800 meter ascent to above tree line. Morale and energy was high enough the group to swim in the first alpine lake, despite overcast and non-optimal weather. We had no one to thank more for this than Spartanburg’s finest, Rob. Thank you for jumping in the water and therefore encouraging the rest of the group to also join in on the fun. After a long day of hiking, the group was ready to rest at the first mountain Refugio on the trip. Intrigued by the mountains surrounding the Refugio, the group reflected on the day’s events during our Moonup time, which was lead excellently by Cooper “Coop-daddy” and Ellie “Beastmode” Williams. The LODs challenged the group in a thoughtful discussion as we chatted about our fears while 5 waterfalls poured down in the distance. Following Moonup the group decided to star gaze and truly take in the mountain air and change of scenery. The Pyrenees is one of few places in the world where the night sky is protected by law and lights turned off by a certain time; a magical place to spend a week.
The following day brought excitement and a newfound energy as we continued to embark around the France portion of the Pyrenees. To keep the group motivated and on their feet, Rob and Blake continuously placed rocks in others bags. This joke soon turned into a competitive game between everyone as the group grew cautious of the weight of their backpacks. Many other games were incorporated during the hike including riddles, 20 questions, and the groups all time favorite, the animal game. Each student picks an animal sign and one person stands in the middle while the circle conspicuously passes the sign trying not to get tagged. The game was dependent on speed and ability to think on their feet. Blake thrived, although his strategy included changing his sign midway through. Although most members thrived during the activity, Liv and Carter continually struggled to play the game due to laughing fits and friendly distractions. Upon arrival to the hostel the group was fascinated by the surrounding “exotic” animals including donkeys, horses, and the well-liked marmot. This new hostel was filled with World Cup excitement, as tired hikers sat down ready to watch their team thrive. Sierra took a special interest in watching the game and anxiously cheering her team on alongside the French hikers. The French vs Belgium game was streamed on a small laptop in the dinning area and all hikers despite their nationality cheered on France with whoops and hollars.
Day three of hiking started off with a pleasant surprise, oatmeal! We savored this treat and used our faithful bread to help transport it to our mouths. Today’s hike took us through the trees and along the ridge to the famous Cirque de Gavernie. The tallest waterfall in Europe is the backdrop for this picturesque town in the valley of the mountains. The group grinned ear to ear as we walked past creperies and mountain stores with hot showers in our future. We scrubbed the sweat and dirt off before indulging in a home cooked meal of fresh trout and blueberry pie.
Well rested and freshly bathed, we said our “au revoirs” to France and headed straight uphill, climbing all the way up to the Spanish-France boarder. It is an experience to walk into another country. Here, the boarder was made even more special by being the placed on a mountain pass. This was the beginning of two days we would spend on El Camino de Santiago – a famous pilgrimage through Spain for devout Catholics. Ellie weeks before had hiked about half the trail and was teaching everyone about the ins and outs of El Camino. With yet another difficult morning under our belts, the rest of the day was a smooth downhill to our abode for the evening. This group hikes at a really remarkable pace, leaving enough time for us to bathe in the waters of the river that runs near the Refugio. This quaint, old monastery by the river had our first dorm room where we all slept as a unit. Thankfully, none of us are that loud of snorers.
On our fifth day of walking, we took a much needed break of elevation gain. In fact, there was almost no uphill, but rather, a walk in the woods following the river. The group took advantage of the morning by practicing a silent, near meditative hike. It was a good moment to reflect on the sounds of nature, which became so much louder and vibrant when given their time to speak. The group found the experience to be a beneficial one, to finally relax and see what thoughts rose to the forefront of their minds when not having to focus on anything by trail in front of them. Mary Lee had an interesting experience where she noticed the smells of the forest and how they changed as we got closer and farther from the river. After our meditative hike, it was time for everyone’s favorite group game: death sack. Played with a hacky sack and a reckless abandon, this adrenaline inducing game brings out the cutthroat competitor in even the most meek Moondancer. Lucy’s soccer skills and competitive drive came out as she became the reigning champion (and still has yet to lose). Our final destination was Torla, a Pyrenean mountain town frozen in time. Narrow cobblestone roads brought us to our hostel for the evening, which thankfully was only 500 years old on the outside. Everyone took their time exploring the village cobblestone streets and local craft stores. Dinner tonight was quite the treat as we were presented with a foreign concept, a menu! Numerous choices including trout, lamb, chicken and pork were listed out and soon a delicious three course meal was at our fingertips. A good meal for a difficult day ahead…
Day six of walking. Early in the morning we took a bus to bring us to the mouth of the largest canyon in Europe. Three hours later, we were in the belly of the beast. Putting in the work early in the day to climb near the rim, we walked a pleasant afternoon, looking down upon those hikers who chose to walk the easier, but less rewarding path. This day proved the most challenging of our journey thus far. Thankfully, we had our leader-turned-troublesome student, Tyler, to complain, saving the kids their valuable energy to focus on the path ahead. His constant negativity united the group in a common cause: get to the top so we don’t have to listen to him anymore. The weird leadership style did the trick, as their minds were redirected from the most difficult hiking of arguably the entire trip. The location of our Refugio made the long, grueling hours of sweating out all our Nutella totally worth it. The evening’s Moonup was deserved of its capital ‘M’; a postcard-esque view, a deep question, and plenty of stars in the sky.
On to the penultimate day of walking. One week on the trail, which has felt like a month. In the best way, of course. Our quads are barely recognizable, and our socks smell downright offensive. The camaraderie is that of a sports team at the end of a winning season. Our hearts are full and our minds are clear. Riley took his place leading the morning stretches and has become an honorary LOD every day as he yells to check everyone’s thumbs to make sure we’re good to go. We abided by the age old saying “never come back the way you came.” Instead of reverting to the same path on the side of the canyon, we walked along the river floor looking up at the high red rock towering above us. The new perspective was a friendly reminder of the beautiful place we’ve been lucky to hike through. We stopped at a perfect grass clearing in the sun for the group favorite activity, death sack. Lucy still holds the W, but Kate’s expertise from her time in Alaska proved to be good competition. She perfected her lunge kick and is known for diving full body to get he ball. We ended our hike at our favorite bridge that we had visited before, and the majority of the group cooled down in the river. Blake was the first to rip off his T-shirt and jump in the icy water. Cooper was the hero of the day when he jumped in and dove to the bottom of the river bed to retrieve a bracelet that was lost days earlier by another student.
Our last day in the Pyrenees started with an early morning and yoga session. Our guide advised us we had a half day walk to the parking lot where we would be picked up and driven to Lourdes. Little did we know this “half day walk” was a steep uphill hike up over the pass from Spain into France. Winds were blowing, rain falling, and fog so thick we could barely see 10 meters in front of us. Oscar kept spirits high as he sang classic rock tunes so catchy that everyone couldn’t help but sing along. We ate lunch in an abandoned Sheppard’s house minutes from the top. Here, Carter practiced her photography skills with Rickey as her model, which produced many laughs among the group. This gave us new found energy as we pushed up the final steps and ended the hike arm in arm. It was a symbolic ending – crossing the Spain/France border back over the pass we’d already climbed days before, but so much closer as a group. Everyone is excited to give our hiking legs a break as we head south to the Mediterranean for some sunshine and kayaking!
July 7, 2018
Hello Chamonix Families!
We have heard from our leaders, and the group has arrived safely in Geneva. The trip is off to a great start! Stay tuned for more news from their adventures.