June 27, 2018
As we watched the last plane take off, and all of our kids were in the air, we smiled at each other with tears in our eyes, in absolute appreciation for these past few weeks. As we sit and reminisce, we can’t help but be both awed and inspired by these amazing young men and women. Today, we would like to share with you, more than just a glimpse into all of our lives for the last two weeks. Today, we would like to share with you all that these kids have meant to us and what they offer and teach.
From day one, we were all able to see that every single one of these kids had something to offer us, something to teach us about life and the direction that the world is heading. We learned that love and friendship prevails and perhaps we need not worry so much. From the beginning Sam taught us that an open heart and a gentle soul offers more than just a shoulder to lean on but also offers a friend to have for life. Anders taught us that a thirst for life is key, and without questions we will never be able to learn. It’s funny what you can learn in such a short amount of time. Riley taught us the importance of taking chances and being oneself in all situations, which we sometimes forget. Eva Rose taught us the importance of love and friendship, of personal intimacy and the simple impact of a smile. Linley and Jane taught us the importance of having fun, of games and making fools of ourselves while laughter abounds, which sometimes slips our minds.
The whole group always was able to knock our socks off by the things they said and the things they did. Branch refuses to shy away and approaches everyone and everything with a certain, sweet, curiosity that will serve him well for life. Jack P comes into every situation with a smile and a willingness to create joy in those around him; whether that’s enjoying a joke or throwing the frisbee, he’s always able to make “more” out of any ordinary situation.
Ryder’s sense of adventure and self-confidence was contagious and an integral component to the group’s morale and overall outlook. Patrick’s instinct to make sure everyone had what they needed and ability to take control allowed him to be a key leader in the group throughout the trip, which everyone was grateful for. Grayson’s charm and “joie de vivre” rubbed off on everyone and we all were instantly comforted by his presence and gentle laughter. Throughout the whole experience, Olivia constantly stepped out of her comfort zone and became a rock in the group, someone that everyone looked up to and admired for her willingness to overcome any and all situations.
I wish that words were enough to explain all of the experiences and all of the emotions that were shared between our group over the past few weeks but I suppose that this will have to do. We will cherish these memories for the rest of our lives and allow them to continue to shape us into the men and women that we become. The three of us would really like to emphasize that this trip was a transformative experience and we will never be the same again, all thanks to these twelve students who allowed us the opportunity to share in their journey, the highs and the lows. We are beyond thankful and filled to the brim with love for these wonderful people. Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity.
Take care and have fun.
We know we will,
Until next time,
Emma, Connor, and Bill
June 26, 2018
It is with both a grateful and heavy heart that we write this. We are grateful almost beyond words for the past two weeks, sad to see these kids go away, but finally, super excited to forever be a part of their lives and them a part of ours. So, as our last hardcore adventure comes to a close, we would like to share with you our day.
We rose early to eat cereal and honey buns, drink chocolate milk, apple, orange, and grape juice to fuel up for our day on the Arkansas River in the beautiful Royal Gorge(eous). Upon arrival, we were all seasoned veterans and headed straight for the gear tent to don our helmets and our splash suits, and I could tell from the games and the chatter that this would turn out to be a magical day. Before we got on the bus to head up river, Linley was able to get everyone involved in a game of Pepsi-cola, which kept us laughing as the wheels on the bus spun round and round taking us to our destination. None of us really knew what to expect from the water, we’d heard this was a “big rapid city” and everyone was both nervous and excited. After we took off down the river, the guides were surprised by how well the group worked as a team and all got involved. Grayson and Branch had the hardest power strokes, churning the water and plowing through the rapids with ease while JP and Eva Rose had the loudest laughter and the biggest smiles on the river.
When we stopped for lunch, Riley and Jane (our go to gamers) started up a hand game that kept everyone on their toes and smiling through the wet and the cold. We feasted on chicken, turkey, ham, lettuce, tomato, cheese, chips, and cookies before heading back to the water. After lunch, we knew the big ones were coming and Ryder showed no fear, hopped up to the front of the boat, grabbed the rope and rode a few rapids like a bull rider, definitely going the distance and lasting well past eight seconds. Anders showed us how he is not only part mountain goat, but also part fish, jumping in the water any chance he could and loving it. Olivia never ceases to shock us with her abilities under pressure and really kept us all calm, cool, and collected when going down the big class four rapids, straight through the gorge which rises 1400 feet on both sides of the river. By the end of it, we were all super soaked and super happy, proud of ourselves and each other for a fantastic day on the river.
We got back to camp and all got ready for a big dinner. We threw the frisbee, played cards, and learned some new dance moves before we finally got down to business and let the boys fix us all the second feast of the day. Sam and Patrick headed the efforts of cooking burgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, and steaks for our group of fifteen and I must tell you that not one of us was disappointed. This turned out to be one of, if not the best, my favorite meals thus far.
So, as the days winds down and we all get ready for our last day together tomorrow, I would just again like to say how proud we are of this group, how excited we are to see where life takes them, and how grateful we are to know this gaggle of guys and girls. The past two weeks have honestly been one of the greatest pleasures of our lives, so we would like to thank you for sharing them with us.
Until next time,
Stay safe and have fun,
We know we will,
Connor, Emma, and Bill
June 24, 2018
Well hello again!
We’re coming up on the last few days of our trip, but this group is still craving more adventure! We have just finished the final ascent of our two day rock climbing section, and all of us can agree that our hands will be sore but we are so proud of our accomplishments. The trip began on a very energetic note as Sam voluntarily decided to take the first climbing challenge. Without hesitation, he fastened his knots and eagerly began his initial climb. This sparked an enthusiasm that seemed to resonate throughout the whole group. It was not long until we all saw Grayson and Anders vigorously making their way up the technical rock sections. The two of them made it to the top in just minutes, and as a result, the whole group was ready to jump in and climb for themselves. It’s clear that climbing is nothing new to Olivia as she was the first one to conquer the most technical route. (And we still don’t know how she made it look so easy).
After a full morning of climbing, we were all ready to make a town visit to check out Crested Butte. We stopped off at a local park where Branch was able to show off his extremely impressive soccer skills. We all played multiple, intense games of World Cup (a little throwback to day one of our trip). This pretty much took the rest of the energy out of the group, so we decided our action packed day should be rewarded with local ice cream in order to get ready for our second climbing day.
Day two of climbing had steeper rocks and more technical routes. However, it was no match for this group. Ryder was able to successfully complete every single route that was available for us, and she did most of them more than once. Eva Rose demonstrated some very skilled climbing maneuvers on the more technical sections that brought her to peak after peak. Meanwhile, Patrick and JP were jumping all over finding new routes that were available and scaling them with ease. Not to forget, Linley had effectively mastered how to belay! She’s a real pro!
The trip would not be the same without Riley and Jane. Aside from climbing, the two of them carried the moral of the group that sparked laughter and optimism. Their energy greatly contributed to the success of our Moondance family.
It is so hard to believe how fast this trip has been flying by. We are currently heading to one of our final camps where we will take on our grand finale rafting trip…
Till next time!
Emma, Bill, and Connor
June 21, 2018
Greetings yet again from beautiful Colorado! We have successfully completed our backpacking section and we could not be more proud of how well these kids handled the challenges of their first backpacking trip! We began in high spirits as Branch led us along the trail while singing “the middle” at the top of his lungs.
Our trek stretched about three miles on the first day. All the kids pushed themselves and helped each other as this was a new experience for most people. It took some time to get adjusted to the additional weight of our packs but everyone adapted quickly. Linley, our leader of the day, set our pace on the trail and helped keep us all motivated. By the time we reached our camp site we were all ready to shed our packs and sip on some warm apple cider as we waited for dinner. Patrick expertly prepared dinner that night. After Moonup we were all so exhausted from our hike we went to bed early to rest up for the next day.
Day two of our trek started with more apple cider as we prepared our packs and started on our way. Eva Rose and Anders, our new leaders of the day, motivated us with a hilarious quote, “Be a pineapple. Stand tall, wear a crown, and be sweet on the inside.” The morning section of our hike was mostly uphill but the views from this stretch of the trail were truly breathtaking, so we barely noticed. We stopped to take in the views and eat lunch before finding our campsite for the evening. Luckily, our campsite wasn’t too far from our lunch spot. Olivia, Anders, and Connor decided they wanted to explore the area more and hiked up to a beautiful sunset overlook.
Back at camp, Jane taught the girls how to play “Pepsi-Cola” and eventually got the boys involved, which gave us all a good laugh. While cook crew was busy making mini pizzas for dinner, Sam, JP and Grayson were busy waging a prank war against the girls by swapping all the stuff in their tents. Full of pizza and giggles after a round of Pepsi-Cola, we all bundled up in our tents to get a good nights sleep.
Day three’s hike was filled with some much appreciated downhill, which kept the group’s spirits high even though, mileage wise, this was our longest day. Again, we were lucky to be hiking with spectacular views. As we hiked, Ryder kept us all laughing as she took video montages for a vlog. Once we reached camp, we set up our tents for the evening then Riley suggested we have boys versus girls riff off, from the movie Pitch Perfect. This was easily the most entertaining game we’ve played all session and the boys really held their own against the girls who seem to know every word to every song. We enjoyed some bbq chicken quesadillas for dinner and ended our Moonup with a dance party! We woke up this morning and had a short hike to the van before heading out on the next leg of our adventure. We still can’t believe how well these kids handled backpacking and we are so excited to see what they’re bringing to the table for rock climbing!
Talk to y’all soon!
Bill, Connor, and Emma
June 17, 2018
Hello again from all of us here in Colorado.
We still can’t believe the beauty of this state and we all were able to experience it firsthand as we zip lined through the mountains above the Arkansas River today. After enjoying a wonderful breakfast of champions, prepared by Ryder, Patrick, and Eva Rose, we all piled in the van and headed to Captain Zip lines. Along the way, Sam, as always, was keeping everyone entertained, allowing Jane and Linley to put pony tails in his hair. After patiently sitting through our safety instructions, we were all ready to rock and roll so Olivia stepped up and bravely decided to be the first of us to ride the line. Anders ended up showing off his skills by being our photographer for the trip and took some great shots of everyone as we flew through the air. Grayson and JP constantly kept us all energized and cheered the group on, which no trip is complete without. We did a total of six different lines and on the final one, Branch and Riley let loose with their most terrifying warrior yells, easily taking the cake as the best warriors for the day. Upon completion of the zip line, the clouds opened, and we rode in high spirits to our next adventure.
You wouldn’t believe where we spent our morning, and these guys and girls continue to amaze us. We all woke up around three o clock, grabbed some pop tarts and granola bars, then headed out of camp so that we could hit the dunes in time for a spectacular sunrise. We really wish you all could have seen it, we had such a good time. JP and Olivia led us on the journey as our leaders of the day and did a wonderful job of checking on everyone and making sure morale was tip top. On the way up the dunes, we saw numerous critters and enjoyed Patrick and Branch spotting coyotes in the distance and mice right at our feet, always reminding us that the “coyotes are our ancestors and we need always be kind and welcoming to them.” Not everyone agreed with them but we all remained in high spirits trudging over the sand due to Sam’s jokes and Grayson’s contagious laughter. It was really a tough hike, but Ryder, Jane, and Eva Rose blew us all away and got to the top well before the rest of us; well, all except Anders who has the adventurous spirit of a pioneer and the skill of a mountain goat. When we got to the top of one of the tallest dunes in North America, Connor and Bill fixed up some hot chocolate for everyone and we sipped as the sun came over the mountains to the east, a wonderful way to wrap up the hike.
But, our day wasn’t over yet (morning had just broken).
After the hike to the top and some good cocoa at the summit, we were all hungry and excited for the breakfast we knew was waiting. Everyone ran, slid, rolled, and jumped our way down the dunes, pockets and shoes quickly filling with sand, then headed back to camp for some downtime and the ultimate breakfast. We feasted. Riley, Linley, and Branch had everyone coming back for seconds and thirds on the spread of pancakes, bacon, hash browns, grits, fruit and cheese. We’re all getting around pretty slowly after that one but the laughs keep coming. And we’re now on our way to the camping spot for tonight before heading out on our backpacking trip tomorrow.
Time is really flying by but we are making the most of it and loving every minute. We’ll check back in soon.
Happy Father’s Day!
-Bill, Connor, Emma
June 16, 2018
Greetings from Colorado! It is so hard to believe that we are only on day three of our trip considering how much has happened since our group met in Denver. After an extremely smooth airport day, it seemed like it did not take long at all for this group of kids to bond with each other. Our three hour drive to Hecla Junction campsite went by in a flash as everyone played and jammed out to their favorite songs in the van. While all of us were so excited to see where we were going to spend our first night, we could not resist the urge for some local, delicious pizza.
Sam set the tone of the group right off the bat by suggesting we order mystery pizza… but of course any pizza with black olives would have been fine. Sam continued to spread his fun-loving, enthusiastic personality when we stopped off in a local park in Salida, CO to eat. Meanwhile, Ryder broke the ice by suggesting to play a game of World Cup soccer, which allowed everyone to show off their awesome soccer skills. Branch, JP, and Grayson’s team of Spain emerged victorious, but that didn’t seem to stop the whole group from having a great time.
Even though a good portion of our group has never camped outside before, that did not seem to play a major factor during our first night under the enormous star filled sky. Eva Rose especially helped to bring the group together with her optimistic personalty. (We’re pretty certain she hasn’t stopped smiling since landing in the airport). After a successful moonup, we were able to start the next day bright and early for our 2-day rafting trip. Riley and Patrick, the first leaders of the day for our group, were able to get the morning energy off to a great start. Meanwhile, Grayson, Jane, and Branch prepared us a delicious breakfast of eggs, hash browns, and oatmeal that fully fueled the group and got us ready to hit the water.
The first day, we managed to cover about 15 miles of the Arkansas River. Our guides led us through various technical and exhilarating rapids that the whole group handled beautifully. Olivia and Linley especially contributed to the success of their own raft by providing insanely powerful forward strokes that got us off to a great start! After an exhausting day on the river, we stopped for a well-deserved lunch that consisted of chips, salsa, wraps, and chocolate chip cookies. In the afternoon, we discovered our campsite and spent the rest of the day playing games, exploring, and watching the sunset. During an intense game of “look down look up”, JP came out on top. Ever since, he has continued to reach out and involve everyone in games and activities. Anders proved himself to be quite the mountain man as he led the group to the ultimate sunset-viewing lookout. In this spot, Riley was able to practice her artsy side by taking cool pictures of the scenic, mountain horizon. Afterwards, the group enjoyed an amazing meal of burgers, macaroni and cheese, and potato salad followed by fresh fruit for dessert.
We ended the night with a very special moonup that consisted of some interesting spirit animals. Grayson claimed that his spirit animal would be a polar bear (because he likes cold weather) and Branch claimed that he was a dog because it’s his favorite animal. The two of them did awesome impressions of their animal noises when we concluded our moonup ceremony.
While the first day of rafting was a blast, we all decided that the second day was even better. We hit faster rapids and exciting rock sections that got everyone’s adrenaline fired up. Jane took the front seat in her raft and swiftly helped our team maneuver some intense sections. Even though each wave always soaked us in water, Jane was able to overcome the challenge and keep everyone laughing. The nine mile journey on our second day would definitely not be easy without her!
All in all, it’s been a pretty action packed first three days into our Colorado adventure. As our first section winds down we are all eagerly waiting until we can go ziplining tomorrow. Can’t wait to share more with y’all soon!
-Connor, Emma, Bill
June 13, 2018
Hi Colorado Trail Families,
All students have arrived in Denver and the trip is on its way! Be on the lookout for more updates to come.