June 24, 2018
We began our hiking endeavors by stuffing only our necessary belongings and food into backpacks and hit the trail. We were surrounded by jagged snowy mountain tops as we trekked through luscious, golden fields. With the help of our LODs (Helen and Zach), and their newfound map reading skills, we stumbled upon the perfect campsite with an open field, stream, and ideal view. At camp Zach magically created whistles and bird calls with his hands. The rest of the group just had to learn, so Zach seized this opportunity to create a bargaining system for more GORP. What is GORP you may ask? GORP is our word for trail mix and stands for Good Ole Raisins & Peanuts, but don’t worry, we left out the “P” for Eloise.
There quite literally isn’t anything that can dampen the positive attitudes of this group. Day two we quickly realized the biggest tasks of backpacking would be to avoid the sun and stay hydrated because the high elevation intensified the already powerful sun. To drink the water from the river we had to use the commonly unpopular iodine tablets. Prepared for complaints, my coleaders and I were once again pleasantly surprised to hear that everyone actually enjoyed the taste of iodine. This is just one small instance that exemplifies the unbreakable radiant attitude of these students. Every night at Moonup someone mentions how happy or proud they are to be apart of this “family” and I agree. “I’m going to remember this trip forever” is a reoccurring phrase I hear from Eloise that brings a smile to my face.
Surprisingly hiking was the best way to acquire shade and we made our way under the trees to an alpine lake. As we hiked the group shared their favorite riddles. These riddles continued for hours. Kate shared the “man with a wheelbarrow” riddle, which was followed by a series of yes or no questions resulting in frustration and eventual satisfaction. Using our collaborative detective skills we found the answer. Thomas introduced the “I can play the stick game” riddle and Collin showed the “Crecent Moon Club” riddle. Zach shared a riddle and, to no ones surprise, he revealed that he created it off of the top of his head. If you are ever bored, ask your son/daughter to tell you a riddle. We have accumulated enough to entertain for hours on end.
We sat on the trail by the lake, enjoying lunch and finished our fix of riddles. We began to pick up perfect skipping stones which led to flinging an artillery of pebbles across the lake. Andrew mentioned that he was a member of the US National Rock Skipping Team and the group wanted to know more. How do you train? How do they regulate the rocks? What if players genetically modify a superior skipping stone? Collin, Thomas, and Zach set out to beat the renown rock skipper, Andrew.
Back at camp we relaxed, cooked dinner, and had Moonup. Amongst the sometimes chaotic task of feeding fifteen mouths you can always find Helen dancing in the background to lighten the mood. While cook crew was doing their nightly duties you could find Helen teaching Ava a choreographed dance in preparation for the greatly anticipated “boys vs. girls dance battle” scheduled for banquet night.
The Moonup question that night was “what is your life goal?” asked by our LODs, Jack and Eva. Helen shared that she has a calling to help people and that maybe one day she will work for the Red Cross. Everyday I have learned something new about Helen and to put it simply, she is one tough cookie who is not afraid to be herself. Jacob wants to become someone that people look up to. Throughout this trip it has become apparent to me and my coleaders that he has already accomplished this goal. We have taught many lessons to your kids, but they have equally expanded our growth and learning.
The next morning we woke up and prepared grits. The group hung out in the shade and, per usual, played cards. We had a mellow morning before hiking and Haden brightened my day by saying, “Yeah we haven’t done that much today, but it’s been really fun”. The mellow start transitioned into a day of swift hiking. We asked the group if they wanted to pick up the pace and their response, of course, was yes. The hike began with a steep incline through aspens eventually emerging into fields of wildflowers surrounded by jagged snow capped mountains. We stopped for lunch to relish the scenery and found that the heat turned our peanut butter to soup. Of course the group, especially Kate, preferred the effortlessly spreadable peanut butter.
The day concluded with the most uplifting Moonup of the trip. Our leaders, Jacob and Eva, asked each person to describe the person to their left in three words. Collin: funny, outgoing, passionate. Josh: loving, hilarious, helpful. Ava: willing to try new things, fun to talk to, and always kind. As we shifted around the circle three words flowed into phrases and phrases into paragraphs. It was moving to hear each person struggle to contain one person to three words.
The following morning we woke up with the sun, packed up, and hiked back to the van. While we learned a lot of hard skills in the backcountry like how to read a map, purify water, and cook a hearty pack efficient meal, we cultivated even a tighter family and are beginning to fill heavy hearts to see the trip near its end.
June 20, 2018
Day 6 led us down a long windy dirt road. Zip lining took place right next to enormous mountains, insane canyons, and even an old mining shaft. Two quirky guides taught us their trade and before we knew it our time to ride the wires had begun.
Eloise and Kate eagerly shot their hands ups to volunteer to be the first zip liners and the whole group followed fearlessly zipping down every single line offered, despite how high or fast they were. The guides tested our newfound zip lining skills on lines like “Cotton Candy” and “Fluffy Bunny”, which were Jack’s favorite. As the day progressed the height, speed, and views of the wires progressed as well. Josh, Collin, and Kate took turns mounting the GoPro on their helmet to catch some sweet shots as they flew through and above the canyons. On the final speediest line Thomas, Jacob, and Andrew gave their loudest and most fierce warrior cry on the way down to wrap up our day of zipping.
We winded down from zip lining by enjoying lunch before the start of our next adventure, the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The drive consisted of a long straight road that cut through some of the largest mountains we had ever seen. Finally after the long trek we could see into the distance the National Parks sign. We all cheered with excitement for finally arriving to the much anticipated portion of our trip. The gang instantly set up camp upon our arrival, racing to get the “best tent location” aka closest to the U-Haul. The boys set up by a bunch of low trees that they soon realized were perfect for hanging out in. The girls had a front row view of the sand dunes from their spot which came in handy for the beautiful sunset we witnessed later that night. We were so lucky to get to this site around 2 o’clock leaving lots of time for exploring, games, and relaxing. During an intense game of hide and seek one of the Leaders secretly snuck off to the nearest town to surprise everyone on the sunrise hike with sand boards. The campsite quickly became another home and everyone seemed to be having the time of their lives. Ava kept us smiling and laughing by telling us so many stories and sharing fun memories she’s had. Preparation was another big part of our campsite, we were determined to make it to the highest sand dune during our sunrise hike. Hydration became our biggest priority. Eloise challenged Molly to a water chugging contest and was victorious. Haden, Eva, and Helen went to fill up as many water bottles as they could and even had a run in with a deer. They were very amazed by the wildlife. As the sun started to get lower in the sky our excitement grew knowing that in just a few hours we would be navigating by the stars through the magical dunes. Molly, Thomas, Jack, Jacob, Colin and Josh were kicking around the ball, Ava, Eloise, Kate, Caroline, Helen, Eva, and Haden were in the midst of an intense card game, and Andrew and Zach were lost in conversation. Haden, Eva, Josh, and Zach blew us away with their cook crew skills. Zach instantly showed off his mad cooking skills and made sure all of us were fed and full before he even served himself. Before we knew it an impromptu all girls dance party broke out by the van as we finished packing for our hike. Kate and Ava impressed us with some, funky dance moves. Out of nowhere the boys popped up dancing in sync and we all fell to the ground in laughter. Eloise told us that she would always remember this moment and I think we all agreed.
As the night started to wind down our LODs, Eva and Josh, led us into Moonup. The question for the night was “what’s your favorite memory” and it was so cool getting to hear everyone’s answers. We said good night early and the leaders set their alarms to 3:00 am. The next morning came fast and the group moved even faster. It is a rare sight to see so many smiling and exciting faces that early but we were all eager to hit the dunes. We arrived at the trail head and everyone was amazed by the stars, we quickly started identifying familiar constellations and even saw the Milky Way. Within 5 mins of the hike we approached our first wildlife run in, a cute little deer came up by us on the trail and I think it really sunk in with the group how special the Great Sand Dunes are. As the ground changed from solid dirt to soft sand the pressure to beat the sun was on. Kate really brought her A game and was hyping the rest of the group up the challenging hike. We walked along the ridges with our headlamps glowing. The whole gang had a positive attitude and the determination kept us moving forward. Jack really had the groups back too making sure everyone was drinking water and taking well deserved breaks. Finally after a tiring hike up the massive dunes we made it to the top- just in time. We had a few minutes to catch our breath before the sun joined us. Thomas and Colin were the first to slide down the dune on the sleds, and Zach on the board. We spent hours playing in the sand and watching the sun slowly creep above the mountains. Jacob even ran down a dune just to write “Moondance” in the sand for everyone to see. Molly surprised the gang with hot chocolate that she and Andrew has secretly hiked up with them and Caroline with a speaker so we could enjoy another dance party. We agreed we never wanted to leave. We were truly on top of the world. From the dune we could see for miles and miles and were surrounded by more dunes on one side and enormous 14ers on the other. Such a precious and breath-taking moment to get to experience, especially with this newly formed family. Unfortunately our time had come and we were off back down the dunes and to our campsite. To reward the gang for being so awesome throughout the very early day the leaders decided to treat everyone to a huge brunch consisting of eggs, bacon, and m&m pancakes. The crowd went wild. With tummy’s and hearts full we headed to the next campsite to get ready for our backpacking section. We drove through the beautiful Rio Grande National Forest and even passed the largest lake in Colorado that spans 100 miles long. The water was bluer than any water we had ever witnessed. As we approached our campsite we instantly knew it was one for the books. We were lucky to have a walk out site that over looked snow covered mountains and the bright blue reservoir. To make things even better the site even had showers and a laundry facility. No better way to celebrate backpacking eve. Andrew cooked up some amazing burgers for the gang as the sun came down over the reservoir. The perfect ending to a long and busy day. Thomas and Kate, our LOD’s, led us in a game as we shifted into Moonup. Kate asked us, “who inspires and motivates you in life?”. We ended with some group compliments otherwise known as the “nug jug”. We’ll never forget Jacks nug to the group, “today was the best day by far that we’ve had and I had so much fun with everyone”.
Colorado Trail is off to start the backpacking section, this crazy little family wants to let everyone reading to know we miss and you love so much! For now the ‘forest’ is calling we must go.
June 18, 2018
Wow, where to even begin…. we have just finished a two day and one night rafting trip down the scenic Arkansas river with stellar views of Mount Princeton and countless mountains in the background, everyone acknowledged how lucky we felt to be in the presence of such beauty. The last few incredible days went something like this…
After dividing into two rafts, led by our amazing guides Nicky and Dalton, we hit the water. Within the first five minutes on the powerful Arkansas we approached the first rapid. Eloise and Ava jumped to the front of Nicky’s raft (team elephant, as named by the group), while Thomas and Kate led the charge at the front of Dalton’s. We were instantly splashed by the freshly melted snow runoff that fills the river making us feel more alive than ever. The route to lunch involved a 14 mile trek down the river and the gang was accepting of the challenge. Slightly overcast weather didn’t stop us from having a blast and Eloise did an incredible job keeping the group’s morale high. We started getting a little cold and she led us as the LOD with strong paddles and constant encouragement. To distract from the chill we all pretended that it was scorching out and that the cold water was the most refreshing thing we’ve ever felt. Helens smile could be seen from miles away, even after falling out of the raft and being pulled back by Josh. She was simply having the time of her life and it was contagious.
After cruising through countless rapids it was finally time for lunch. Our rocking raft guides treated us to a buffalo chicken wraps along side of the river. Before we knew it we were back on the Arkansas in route to our campsite for the night. Little did we know that we had an amazing night in store for us as we pulled up to camp. Carlos greeted us and became our chief for the evening who graciously brought all our bags down the river in a separate boat and set up what felt like a “five-star resort” for our campsite. Andrew, Thomas, Zach, Eloise, Kate, Ava, Collin, Jack, and Thomas went on a hike near our campsite. Meanwhile the rest of the crew hung out beach-side while our guides treated us to some yummy appetizers. Before dinner we all had a chance to relax in comfy chairs and laugh about anything and everything. Every time Zach speaks the whole group listens, he keeps us on our toes and laughing constantly. Kate even mentioned that Zach is her “spirit animal”. Eva, Haden, Eloise, Molly, and Ava all agreed with that statement. After having time to wind down and enjoying being out of wet suites it was finally time to eat some dinner.
Carlos, Dalton, and Nicky treated us to a homemade Alfredo pasta with chicken and broccoli. The sauce blew us away. Later we found out that Carlos had spent the whole day making it perfect for us and were extremely thankful. If we weren’t lucky enough already, the guides then surprised us with cheesecake and strawberries for dessert. There were smiles all around. Haden really felt like we were glamping and was loving every minute of it. Nicky treated us to some music before moonup. He played guitar and captivated us with his voice. Jacob, our other LOD led us into moonup with a quote he read in Molly’s book earlier that day. He shared “ to be a warrior is to learn to be genuine in every moment of your life” the whole circle silently nodded in agreement as we truly felt that captured the mood of the day. Eloise next introduced the question for the night and it blew us leaders away. She asked the group “what does living in the moment mean to you” each and every answer gave us chills. We included the guides in our moonup and they could not believe the profound responses coming from our group. The LOD’s did a rocking job and passed on the responsibility to Helen and Jack for the next day. The whole group was in perfect harmony and truly felt like a close family.
Light up bocce ball was next introduced to us by Carlos and the group went wild. Teams were instantly formed and each round had us on the edge of our seat with suspense. Ava quickly showed us she was a natural at the game. Colin, Jack, Thomas, and Josh kept us entertained by their unique bocce techniques. We ended the night with a group hug and found our way to our tents not wanting this perfect day to end. The next morning was relaxing and filled with more hiking while our guides prepared an amazing warm breakfast for us. While Caroline, Molly, Ava, Zach, Helen, Jack, Josh, Jacob, and Thomas hiked to the top of the trail. Eva, Kate, Haden, and Andrew made a Rube Goldberg with the bocce balls and sand. After about an hour of work the long series of balls rolling and knocking the next one in the sequence finally worked, just in time to head out of camp.
The group consensus was to have a boy raft and a girl raft for our second day. The girl raft quickly came up with a chant and handshake while the boys recreated a scene from their favorite movie Blank Panther. As we departed with the sun began shining and everyone had an eager smile on their face. Today everyone quickly found their groove and each raft was working together harmoniously. The synchronization of our rafts came in handy for the demanding rapids of the day. During the first pit stop Caroline and Andrew taught everyone the 7 principals of leave no trace (LNT) followed by the introduction of the groups latest obsession- “whaa” (an awesome group game). We hopped back in the boats to tackle more of the Arkansas. The rafts hit some epic rapids before our next stop for lunch at a riverside beach. After feasting on delicious chips, hummus, and wraps, we jumped back in the boats for the final section of rapids. Josh sat on the very front of the raft for a few of the rapids and a little later traded places with Jacob. After making it through some of the most exciting rapids and beautiful valleys of the trip, we were in the final stretch. The two rafts started an intense splash battle and enjoyed the flat water stretch before we had to leave the gorgeous river. We were all sad our river trip was over but the excitement of zip-lines, sand dunes, and backpacking kept us moving forward.
After arriving and hopping on the bus, we returned to the van, where we unloaded our gear and put on our much anticipated dry clothes. We hugged our guides and thanked them for the amazing experience and headed out to our next campsite with the group reminiscing and laughing the whole way.
June 16, 2018
Our journey together began on Wednesday in the Denver Airport, where we met the group that we would be sharing the next two weeks with. After playing soccer and getting to know each other until the last of the group arrived, we began the long hike to the van. The next stop was a delicious local pizza place which was on our way to the campsite where we spent the next two nights. That night we discovered that Eloise was going to be a constant source of laughter throughout the trip. That night at moon-up Haden and Zach were given the important role of the upcoming Leaders of The Day, after working very hard and being very open with all.
After an awesome first day, the next morning was one filled with excitement as we ate and prepared to go rock climbing. After meeting our rock climbing guides and learning the climbing and belaying techniques, we started up the sheer rock face. Ava showed her strong spirit when she attacked the hardest route of the day first and refused to give up. Thomas was immediately spider-monkeying up different routes and helping his fellow climbers learn his techniques! Soon after, we noticed that Jacob had a very determined and controlled climbing style that allowed him to finish challenging routes. Kate proved herself early on as a true rock climbing talent, flying up every route offered to her! After a quick lunch the group went back to the wall, ready for more. Josh had a wonderful moment when he was trying to figure out a difficult move after a long day and was totally pushing his limits. Despite his shaking legs he pushed through and made it to the top of the route!
After packing up the gear we took a short trip to Crested Butte, where everyone bought snacks and ate at the local ice cream shop. We headed back to our campsite where we began to cook our first real meal! With Thomas as the group noodle master and a very helpful cook crew, we had a delicious meal of pasta and pesto in no time! While dinner was cooking there was group game of cards where Eva showed everyone up. After enjoying our well-deserved meal we sat down for the second Moonup which was led by Zach and Haden who chose to start off with one of their favorite songs. Country roads by John Denver was their choice and the whole gang sang along. They chose Collin and Ava, who had both been consistently positive as the next Leaders of the Day.
The next morning, we started early and had our first real breakfast with Jack and Josh as the “bacon boys” and Kate and Eloise cooking all the eggs. After eating and cleaning up Collin started the day off right by reading a quote about how we have the power and ability to live an amazing life. Next Collin and Ava led our morning huddle by going over how the day was going to look and motivating us by reminding us of some highlights from the day before. We met up and followed our climbing guides to the remote and beautiful climbing spot of the day. We went down a dirt road following along side a rushing creek. The views were breathtaking. We couldn’t help but stop and stare in awe for a moment. Kate instantly challenged herself by doing the tallest route we had seen so far and crushed it. Haden was very eager to belay whoever was in need. The guides were blown away by our group and how natural they were. The day continued on with everyone finding the groove and climbing much more confidently than the day before. Every single group member concurred a route. Helen really showed up and climbed through the rocks with ease and steady speed. Everyone worked very hard and enjoyed themselves, with a lot less nerves than the day before. We entered our campsite for the night a few hours before nightfall. Everyone agreed that this campsite was unforgettable. As cook crew prepared a yummy meal while the rest of the gang got into an intense card game of golf, suggested by Jack who said his family loves to play. We ended a successful third day full, happy, and eager for the rafting trip ahead of us. We’ll talk to y’all soon!
-Molly, Caroline, and Andrew
June 13, 2018
Hello Moondance Families,
All students have arrived safely. Time to let the good times roll!
Looking forward to hearing from this trip soon.