August 1, 2018
Everyone eagerly filled the van ready to hear MUSIC! Caroline and I decided to mark down all the songs we overheard the group singing throughout backpacking and asked each person for one request to fuel our playlist. Car rides are a huge hit with this group. Parker always wants to know how long we will be in the car because he loves seeing views and jamming out with everyone. We pulled into Telluride screaming our lungs out to each song they played. Maggie’s singing stood out to me and cracked me up; she was really going all out and giving us a show. Upon our arrival to the quaint little town Caroline, Andrew, and I managed to keep our itinerary a secret. We absolutely love surprising the group and saw the gondola as a perfect opportunity. We hopped out of the van ignoring all the questions asking “what are we doing here”. The group quickly caught on that we were up to something and followed us eagerly through the town. We walked through the residential area where Sylvie and Alden picked out their dream houses. I must say they have exquisite taste. Our group was so impressed by the look of Telluride that we could hardly contain our excitement about the surprise. We guided them further and further into the city taking such a bizarre path so they wouldn’t be able to predict our next move. We couldn’t wait to show them their new favorite city from above. Finally we turned the corner and had the gondola entrance in our sights. We walked so fast that they couldn’t even process what was going on. I ran up to a gondola and jumped in urging the group to join. Soon we were zooming up the side of a mountain; it was so funny seeing everyone’s faces as they began to understand that they just jumped into a moving pod up a mountain. We rode all the way to the top and decided to get out and really enjoy the views. Down the trail we came across a beautiful strip of grass with a nice bench overlooking the entire area. Silence overcame the group as we soaked up this indescribable view. Soon the attention was swayed to lunch. Henry A. and Pope were so curious about what our first meal after the back country would be. Caroline and I being the pranksters that we are decided to continue our surprise streak. We told the group we would be eating some lovely homemade pbj tortillas, the same lunch we had been eating most the trip. You could say they were less than excited. Little did they know we planned on going to a local burger shop in town. Benji and Aiden just about lost it when they saw us enter Steamies “Best Burgers in Colorado”! Benji kept checking in with us making sure this was “real life”. After filling our belly’s to max capacity we hit the shops of Telluride. William was so excited to get some gifts for his family. I won’t ruin the surprise for his family, but I believe you will all enjoy what he found. Pope who decided he did not want to buy anything but wanted to come along for the ride ended up stocking up on some awesome stuff including a water proof notebook to preserve his masterpiece drawings on his next outdoor adventure. Madeline and I proceeded to check out the local thrift shop cracking up at some questionable items that filled the store. After a long afternoon exploring such a colorful city, helping support the local shops and petting as many dogs as possible we finally had to call it a day. We hopped back into the van in route to our next campsite. We said goodbye to the lovely town and pushed forward. Music filled our ears as we all jammed our little hearts out. We cruised through the mountains and slowly started dropping elevation as we got closer to our next destination, the Royal Gorge. The group was happy to find out that our campsite that night was their favorite from a couple nights before. Once we parked they all instantly took on the responsibility of setting up camp without even being told! It was amazing to see the same group just a couple days later at the same spot and how far they had come. By now the group is used to the swing of things and keeps making us so proud. Caroline, Pope, William, Aiden, Benji, and I decided to hike up the nearby mountain one last time. We raced to the top, hurrying to catch the full moon rise over the river. Once at the top we found a perfect rock to sit on and enjoyed our view from the top of the world. We shared stories about our families and talked about what it’s been like living outside. It was great to hear each perspective and learn more and more about each other. Aiden even showed us a song that his mom likes to play; ironically called “I got it from my momma”. We laughed at how silly the song was and headed down to join the others for Moonup. Alden and Sylvie led us into Moonup. Once over Mack, Parker, Henry H, William, Andrew, Madeline, Caroline, and I all decided to sleep under the stars on a tarp. The rest of the group enjoyed all the extra space in their tents. We ended yet another wonderful day together and fell asleep under the light of the full moon hitting the Arkansas River that floated alongside us.
We pulled up to river runners with heavy hearts and nervous tummy’s for our last, most exhilarating activity of the trip. A full day of rafting lay ahead of us, many rapids ranking as high as class 4’s. Our guides loaded us down with the appropriate gear and proceeded to give us a safety talk that included the perfect amount of jokes. They led us into a school bus that carried probably around 10 rafts and sent us up the river. For those who are unfamiliar of the Royal Gorge, allow me to explain. Imagine yourself on a raft, floating over crystal clear water filled by local snow melt. Each side of you is surrounded by beautiful stacks of granite rock, some parts as high as 1,000 feet. It is just you, the river and its natural beauty. We split up into three rafts. Andrew, Henry A., Benji, and Madeline made up the first one. Next Caroline, William, Henry H., Pope, and Aiden. Mine was filled with Mack, Maggie, Sylvie, Alden, and Parker.
Within the first five minutes our raft was cruising through our first rapid of the day. This class three was quite exhilarating and gained our attention. It is very important to live in the moment while rafting, you must constantly be aware of your surroundings and commands from the raft guide. The sun was shining bright as we continued to raft down the Arkansas. Finally our guides let us all jump in to cool off in the icy water. We dragged our boat onto the bank and sat down at some large picnic tables in the shade. We ate delicious wraps and sandwiches with homemade cookies as a dessert. We thanked our raft guides, cleaned up our food, and headed back towards the rafts.
After being cooled down by the water and filled with food, we had our first fourth class approaching. It was given an innocent name of Sunshine falls, but it was actually a very challenging rapid. The first boat slid and bounced between rocks, emerging from the rapid unharmed. With the group safely away from the massive rapids, we headed further downstream to tackle more rapids. Passing through a few more rapids that went a lot smoother, we passed under an enormous suspension bridge, which was suspended more than a thousand feet above us. Amazed by the surroundings, we kept floating and marveled at the huge walls surrounding us. The gorge started stepping down and becoming shorter and shorter, indicating to us that we were getting close to the end of our rafting trip. With the rapids now behind us we had a chance to jump into the water and float alongside the boat. This offer was taken up by almost everyone.
After swimming in the last stretch of flat water, we arrived at the beach where we would pull our rafts out of the river. We were met by the same old school bus and friendly driver that had brought us to the drop in point. After the trailer had been filled with paddles and rafts, we hopped in and were brought back to our van with Mack, Sylvie, Parker, and Maggie singing the whole way.
We piled into the van, with fresh clothes from the Uhaul and headed toward the nearby Walmart where the kids would buy fresh food. This food was to supplement our existing food supplies during the legendary night referred to as IRON CHEF! This night is where the group divides into two random teams and competes to cook and serve the best three course meal possible. We divided the group and then divided the food evenly. With an hour and a half of time, we started the competition and the teams started planning around piles of food. While Caroline, and Andrew organized the Uhaul, the two teams cooked in a huddle, sending delicious smells floating over us. After some time, the dishes were served to both the leaders and the cookers. After a Moonup that made us reflect on what we would miss and how we would transition from Moondance into the real world, we hit the hay.
The day we have all been dreading was finally here… the last full day of Colorado trail. For the first time we did not have an alarm to wake us up, we allowed everyone to sleep in. To my surprise most of the group woke up early, it was a nice slow morning together. As we neared the departure of our beloved campsite I asked the group to join me for one last walk alongside the river. We all headed to see the water one last time, together as a group. Once down there we all decided we must jump in. The water was freezing cold but that couldn’t stop our group. We reflected on our two weeks together and all that led us to the present moment. It was strange to think just a couple days prior we were all strangers and now we felt comfortable enough to submerge ourselves into ice cold water and sit on a rock together. As we each jumped from the rock to the water it felt as if we had truly accomplished and conquered these last two weeks.
The leaders decided to for the group to stop at the nearby local town on the way to our final campsite. Our first stop was a local coffee shop where half the group ordered chai tea lattes and the other hot chocolate. We indulged in our decedent drinks and homemade pastries. This small town consisted of one main strip, a park with bouldering, a pleasant view of the mountains and river, and to our surprise- live music and a farmers market. Together as a group we explored the street together enjoying all the art and culture of this town. Caroline, Maggie, Sylvie, Aiden, and Alden met the local kettle corn maker and treated themselves to some delicious popcorn. The girls also found some beaded friendship bracelets from the farmers market. Meanwhile the boys were tackling the bouldering park and showing off their moves. Benji and Henry H were doing some pretty cool trick moves. Madeline found the perfect gift for her best friend aka her brother Hayes. All around the group was smiling, laughing and satisfied. It was nice to have a distraction from knowing the trip was ending. We loaded up the van sharing all our new goodies and headed to our campsite.
We pulled up to the campsite and it started to sink in that tonight was the last night. After setting up tents and finishing some last day duties, we headed towards the quaint little pizzeria called AJ’s. We ordered and feasted on breadsticks and multiple pizzas. The group laughed together and pigged our for a couple hours, enjoying our last slice of time together. We wrapped up our conversations, thanked the wonderful staff at AJ’s pizzeria, and headed out for the night, happy and stuffed.
The leaders feel so lucky to have spent the last 2 weeks exploring Colorado with this group. We made so many fabulous memories in such a short amount of time. The only thing we wish we could change is the time we had together. I wish we had all summer to get to know one another. Till next time friends.
Molly Caroline Andrew
July 28, 2018
Hello from the beautiful Colorado backcountry! The morning before backpacking started early as we tried to beat the afternoon rain that was fast approaching. We got to the trailhead after packing up our campsite, driving to the national forest, and prepping our backpacks. Our Leaders of the Day, Mack and Madeline led the group through the first portion of our route with no problems. When we arrived, we put up our tents and the kitchen tarp as fast as possible.
After the slight bit of rain passed, a group took a hike to the nearby water source. After refilling at a small waterfall, William, Aiden, Benji, and Madeline began cooking a delicious dinner of chicken, rice, and mixed vegetables. The group returned from their conversations and games and filled up on dinner, thanking the cook crew. With a little bit of daylight left, some groups got some exploring done, finding animal bones, strange plants, and bear tracks! At Moonup, the Leaders of the Day asked the question “If it was a Freaky Friday and you woke up in someone else’s body, who would that be?”. After going around the circle and answering the question, Parker and Alden were applauded for their hard work during the day and chosen as the Leaders of the Day for the next day.
After a well-deserved sleep, everyone awoke and ate some hardy oatmeal. Everyone packed their backpacks and we set off up the trail before the afternoon sun was too hot. With a mile and a half behind us, we found a flat, shady spot to eat lunch. After refueling on sausage and PBJ, the group made quick work of the remaining trail. We arrived at a good spot to camp after a hike through long stretches of aspen and pine trees. We set up our tents and before long, Henry H had started a card game with Benji, Aiden, and Parker. Pretty soon, the group started to get hungry and Caroline and Molly started cooking macaroni and cheese. While they were cooking, the rest of the group sat in the shade and laughed at Henry A and Parker’s hilarity. Mack amazed the group with a sturdy chair, made only from a rock and three sticks! When everyone was full from dinner, Moonup started with Parker and Alden reading a quote, “There is more to be learned in one day of discomfort, poverty, and anxiety than in a lifetime of apparent happiness, security, riches, and power.” They asked the group if they could go into the past who would they meet?
The group woke up early with big plans for the day! The mountain that had been in the background throughout the whole backpacking trip was now in our sights. We ate a fast breakfast of potatoes and sausage, gathered as much water and snacks as we could carry, and hit the trail toward the base of the mountain. With Pope and William at the front of the pack, we trucked forward at a quick pace. We were ascending up switchback after switchback and observed that the pine trees were shrinking. From a distance we viewed an opening and rushed towards it. We made it to the Rock of Ages trailhead and were surrounded by jagged mountains. Henry A said it looked like an Apple background. Our trail for the rest of the hike was on rocks that were remnants of the mountain once upon a time. The hike was getting tough as the air thinned, so Caroline surprised the group with her speaker and played their favorite “yams” (what we call jams that are better than jams). Parker held the speaker over his head for everyone to hear and sing along to these said yams like we were in the 1980s movie Say Anything. We ran into a small patch of trees and used their shade for a lunch break. We refueled on PBJ and/or sausage wraps and finished off every single snack Molly and Caroline brought. In the distance we saw a mom carrying a toddler on her back up the mountain. We were widely impressed, but also reassured that we would be able to make it up. We made it through the second tree line and began to see snow. That was our next waypoint. We made it and everyone was so excited to see snow in July, especially Alden. Pope and William began sliding down the snow and Mack and Henry A initiated a snowball fight. We moved on from the snow and made it to the steepest portion. It was hard for sure, but not a single person complained. The views kept getting better and better. On the final stretch to the top we found ruins of an old stone cottage and we felt like explorers discovering never before seen artifacts. We let our imaginations run wild. We ran scenarios through our head of why this was here, who built it, how long it had been destroyed, etc, but we will never know for sure. We think it might have been a house for miners because we had seen many abandoned mines on our way to the top. Alden pretended she was a real estate agent and gave us a tour of the house. William envisioned the layout of the house room by room. We parted ways with our discovery and finally made it to where the trail ends. We celebrated our triumph with pictures and singing. We learned that the hike was only possible with high spirits, not physical fitness. Molly and Caroline were immensely proud.
Maggie, Henry H, Benji, and Madeline decided to hang back at the campsite while the rest of the group tackled the Rock of Ages hike. Andrew made a hearty meal of sausage, rice, and lentils for lunch and then proceeded to chill in the shade and play some cards.
After the two groups reunited at the campsite, stories and high-fives were shared. We packed up our tents and food and strapped our backpacks on. We hit the trail with a great feeling of accomplishment. Most of the trail was downhill and shady now, so the time flew by.
We set up camp once we found a nice and flat spot alongside a stream. Everyone laid out on the grass as Andrew cooked up Jambalaya. As soon as the dinner was ready, everyone filled up on the spicy rice with Moonup starting immediately afterwards. Moonup was led by Pope and William who asked, “Why do you like Moondance?”. Many moving answers were given about how we have become a family in no time at all. After everyone had spoken, Alden and Sylvie were chosen as the Leaders of the Day because of their strength, persistence, and attitude on the Rock of Ages hike that day. With teeth brushed and food stored, we all said goodnight and hit the hay.
The sun woke us up the next morning. After packing our backpacks full of our tents and clothes for the last time, we started our final hike toward the trailhead. We said goodbye to the forests we had lived in and headed up towards the van.
Madeline says “I miss you a lot little bro!” Also she gives a shoutout to Ms. Joyce. “I need a haircut.”
Henry H gives a shoutout to Turnage for turning 13!
Parker gives a shoutout for turning 16 last Thursday!
Mack give a shoutout to his sister for turning 16 last Thursday also!
Alden gives a shoutout to his sister for turning sixteen and “hopefully passing her driver test” and a shoutout to Beu serving without him.
Maggie gives a shoutout to her sister because they haven’t seen each other all summer and Maggie misses her.
Henry gives a shoutout to his sister Daisy.
Sylvie gives a shoutout to her brother Wylie! “I miss you so much and haven’t seen you in so long!”
Pope gives a shoutout to his Mom. “I’m excited for Norway”.
William gives a shoutout to “Lamy because he is so nice and to Mommy and Daddy for being the best parents!”
Aiden gives a shoutout to “my brother Crosby. I hope you aren’t having too much fun! :)”
Benji gives a shoutout, ” Hey mom, miss you so much. Can’t wait to see you soon. Tell the whole family I love them!”
July 24, 2018
Our rafting adventure was about to set off! But first we had to pack our possessions into air tight dry bags. Caroline lead a lesson on efficiently packing and only bringing the bare necessities while on an overnight trip since a gear boat would be carrying our things all the way down the river. Once packed we geared up with helmets and snug life jackets and hopped into vans that took us to the boat ramp where the adventure would begin. It was go time at the ramp, we all grabbed handles and carried two 15 foot boats down to the water. Our guides instructed us on the proper techniques to paddle, which was crucial to our success and non-flipping down the river. The guides wanted to test our newfound knowledge and used their river commands to lead us directly into a surf wave. They asked us if we wanted to surf and we all said yes, not exactly even knowing how you could possibly surf in a 15 foot, eight person raft. We followed the guides commands, “FORWARD TWO”, “BACK PADDLE”, and “RIGHT SIDE FORWARD, LEFT SIDE BACK”, which resulted in balancing and spinning on top of the wave. It was time to call it quits when one side of the boat would start to dip into the wave resulting in a virtually underwater boat. With our paddling arms and roller coaster yells warmed up we began to float down the river. We perfected our techniques before the much-anticipated class III rapids we would encounter. We saw the sign on the side of the river, “dam ahead, boats take boat chute”. We went silent to attentively listen to the guides commands and swiftly zoomed down the three big drops in the boat chute. We celebrated our success with a paddle high five at the bottom and floated to lunch.
We saw a sandy shore with picnic tables and pulled over. Madeline, Henry A, Mack, and Benji volunteered to help our guides prepare the lunch. They helped prepare a spread of salsa, guac, deli meats, wraps, veggies, and lemonade. Once our bellies were full we sat by the shore in the warm sun soaked sand to digest. Parker found some toys in the sand and proceeded to involve everyone to play and build sand castles. The sand made William feel like he was back at home on the beach and he shared stories about his shark tooth collection, especially the megladon tooth. Once the guides were ready we followed their lead back to the boat and set off for our campsite on the river. The afternoon contained mild class II and III rapids which allowed us to be goofy on the river. Maggie lead the boat in singing any song she knew, 22 by Taylor Swift, Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani, or Lift Yourself by Kanye West and all followed in harmonious collective serenading. Our raft guide threw in a song he knew, Proud Mary by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Our boat was unsure what song our guide, Ryan, was trying to imitate until we heard, “rollin, rollin, rollin on the river” and we all joined in. Slyvie thought the boat could use a change in pace and started chanting her favorite vines and the rest of the boat laughed and joined. We turned around a bend and saw a rock that looked like a hippopotamus and there it was, our campsite (also known as the zoo). Our gear boatman, Carlos, was awaiting our arrival and had camp set up for us. We were grateful for Carlos and got to simply hang out at camp. We began to play tug of war on top of the beached rafts. A small, informal tournament began as eager competitors waited in line to play the successors. Benji, Mack, and William were the reigning players and got to show off their strength and balance. Once we had our fill of tug of war another one of our river guides, Jake, lead us on a hike up the mountain we were camping on. We got to put use to our newfound rock climbing skills on small boulders, which Pope (the king of rock climbing) was especially excited about. We made it to the top and were humbled by how vast the scene was. We were overlooking the, now small, Arkansas River which was so large and powerful when we were in it previously that day. Carlos grabbed our attention in a serious manner as he spotted something off in the distance. “Guys, there’s a mountain lion”. We immediately clumped together in fear, aware of how dangerous these creatures are. “Yeah, guys, there’s a mountain lying. It’s been lying there for about a million years” as Carlos pointed in the distance. On the horizon rested about five 14,000-foot snowcapped mountains. We were relieved and laughed at our gullibility and well-orchestrated joke.
We descended the mountain and stopped towards the bottom to sit and admire the sunset, close enough to hear the call for dinner. Bison and bean burgers were served with a side of sweet potato fries and salad. The river guides always feed us like royalty. Madeline and Parker tried their first veggie burger and loved it, and the rest of the crew was pleasantly surprised when trying their first bison burger. For dessert we feasted on strawberries, Oreos, nutter butters, and whipped cream. Another surprised emerged, the fire ban had been lifted! The guides set up a fire and we gathered around. We sang songs, shared stories, and were goofy until it was time for Moonup. Our LODs, Henry A and Madeline, lead Moonup with the question, “what is a difference from Moondance and home?” and we all reflected on the good qualities Moondance brings out of us that we want to carry on when we return home. Alden appreciates every moment on Moondance because she can’t do things like this every day, Aiden loves getting pushed out of his comfort zone, and Sylvie likes meeting people with no preconceived opinion of them since we come on trips not knowing each other. After Moonup we relished in the warmth of the fire for a bit longer until we turned into our tents for the night.
The second day of rafting we awoke to breakfast burritos and were fueled for the rapids ahead of us. We broke down camp and Madeline lead the group in packing all of the groups gear and belongings into the dry bags. We split into two rafts and each boat wanted to be in the company of Henry A, who constantly makes everyone laugh and feel loved. We made our way into the mouth of the canyon meaning class III rapids were on the horizon. The first class III we conquered was called Zoom Flume and left our whole boat drenched. Maggie and Parker led one boat while William and Henry H led the other meaning their leadership determined our success down the rapids for the day. The second rapid was called the Seven Staircases, which was technically seven rapids in one small portion. We maneuvered down with our now perfected technique and decided the fifth stair was our favorite. Our guides rewarded us with a break after that series of rapids to a shore with two jumping rocks. To no surprise every single person jumped into the river from the shorter rock. We have quite the courageous group that spares no opportunity to expand their comfort zone. Most of the group jumped off the taller cliff with no hesitation and Henry H decided to use this opportunity to push past his fear of heights. The whole group supported and encouraged Henry H and he leaped off the rock. After he emerged from the water he could see the whole group dancing and cheering for him. We ended the rock jumping session on a good note and got back on the water. We took down more rapids and the guides were so impressed that they pulled over to show us a waterfall hike. We hiked and climbed up boulders and found evidence of a once heavy flowing waterfall. There was less snowfall this past winter resulting in lower levels of snow melt that provide flow to the river. We hung out at the top and admired the beauty while our river guides and Pope found some fun rocks to climb. Afterwards we climbed down and made our way to our lunch spot. Once again, our guides treated us to quite the spread: smoked salmon, Hawaiian rolls, deli meats, hummus, veggies, chips, and crackers. We were very much content and floated down the rest of the day, swimming at every chance our guides allowed. We arrived at another boat ramp where a school bus and trailer awaited us. We carried the boats on the trailer and closed our rafting adventure.
We made it back to our campsite with our van and uhaul, set up camp, and began cooking dinner. Slyvie, Henry A, Parker, and William were on cook crew and helped prepare fried rice, noodles, broth, and veggies. The dinner for tonight was make your own ramen. Slyvie and Henry A perfectly prepared veggie fried rice, while William and Parker chopped all of the toppings like fresh cilantro, green onions, jalepenos, onions, and radishes. It was by far one of our favorite dinners. Post dinner Benji proposed that we take a hike to watch the sunset. Maggie, Alden, William, Henry H, Mack, Molly, and Caroline joined. From a different perspective we viewed the 14,000 foot mountains and Arkansas River and were humbled again. We hiked down and had moonup before bed. William and Slyvie were LODs and asked what people were looking forward to doing once they returned home. After we listened to everyone’s response William told the most creative and elaborate story of how he found the nug jug. We are still waiting to hear a story that tops his, but I don’t think that’s possible.
The next morning, we set off to zip line through the canyons. Our guides fit us for harnesses and helmets and taught us the proper zipping techniques. Everyone wanted to be the first to go down the first line, but Maggie put the go pro on her head and took the lead. We hiked to the next line and Henry H went first this time. Each line the group made warrior calls, battle cries, or poses each time the zipped providing endless entertainment. The first three lines were warmup for the following zip-lines named Death One, Death Two, and Zippity-Do-Die. Everyone fearlessly conquered these lines. Our zip lining concluded and we thanked our guides.
We eagerly set off to the Great Sand Dunes. During the drive we transitioned to a flat dessert environment with green lush mountains in the backdrop. Once we got to camp we set up a plethora of appetizers, so we would be very fueled for our sunrise hike of the dunes. The plethora included French bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, hummus, cheese and crackers, salsa, and seven-layer dip. We worked off some of the food with light hikes around camp and soccer. Benji, Parker, Aiden, and Caroline made a juggling circle and tried to keep the soccer ball up for as long as they could. Andrew prepared a dinner of lentil soup and salad that warmed our bellies in preparation for the cold desert night. Henry H and Alden were the days LODs and asked the group to describe the person to left of them in the Moonup circle. Parker described Slyvie as a kind and understanding person that you could confide in and be comforted. Maggie described Mack as someone that is always fun to be around, joke with, and doesn’t take life too seriously, but can also be that person you come to when you need real life advice or help. Henry A described Pope as a lifelong friend who has the perfect balance of being a talker and good listener. Compliments and smiles were exchanged, and it left our group feeling closer than before.
We woke at 3:30 am and hit the dunes with the stars over us. We found the best sand ridge to begin our ascent to the tallest dune in the US. We quickly discovered that the hike was not going to be easy. We pushed ourselves and got our heart rates really going. We saw light beginning to peak over the mountain range and knew we had to dig to make it to Star Dune to see the sunrise. Mack lead the pack with Benji, Parker, and Caroline. The tallest dune was in sight and Mack was determined to be the first one to reach it. The last stretch was the hardest, but Mack pushed himself and his peers and summited the tallest dune in the United States. We set up a base at the top and cheered everyone else on as they climbed the steep sand. Once we were together at the top we took pictures to commemorate and celebrate, then we waxed the sand sleds and boards and tore it up. Mack mastered the ways of sand boarding down the dunes and demonstrated for everyone else. Benji and Aiden rode down a dune together on the sand board. Henry A and Pope did cartwheels down the dunes. Everyone found a way to make the top a fun playground. We left when the sun was fully peaked over the mountains. We ran and slid and laughed all the way down and had a big breakfast of avocado toast and eggs to refuel at camp. We left camp and said our goodbyes to the Great Sand Dunes to prepare for our next adventure. Backpacking!
July 21, 2018
It was a hot sunny day here in Denver as Caroline, Andrew, and I awaited the group of 12 different individuals that had traveled from all around to see what this “Moondance” thing is all about. Caroline and I raced around the airport picking up students from many different gates while Andrew held down the fort at baggage entertaining the mass. Finally the last couple flights pulled in and we were free to leave. Our first journey started instantly, the “hike” to the van with all your belongings. While everyone was figuring out how to hold two bags at once to help out their new friends, Benji and Aiden were on the midst of a new discovery. They pitched in to share an airport cart that would lug their bags anywhere they could push it. Instantly we became aware of how intelligent these two from opposite sides of the country are. We loaded into the 15 passenger van and left the airport without turning back.
The drive took us up mountains, through small old western towns, and alongside breathtaking views. We headed to a quaint little town to feast on our first dinner together. Pizza was the move and the crowd went wild. I’m not sure there is a meal more satisfying after a long day. The new faces stood around each other slowly showing more and more of who they are.
We continued on to our first campsite of the trip. Once arrived we showed each group how to set up and care for their new home for the next 14 days, their tent. We gathered the group around and explained to them our favorite Moondance tradition-Moonup. Moonup is a time each night when we all come together and sit in a circle. It is a safe, loving place where we share how we feel, what made us laugh today, what challenged, what surprised us, etc. Each day an “LOD” aka Leader of the Day is chosen and a question is asked by the two LOD’s for each person in the group to answer. We end Moonup with a silly story of how we found the “nug jug”. A nug jug is simply a time when we all throw out complements. Some great example are, “nugs to the first ever Moonup, nugs to pizza, nugs to the campsite” Once the nug jug is shut Moonup is over and we go to bed. The very first Moonup LODs posed the question why they decided to come on this trip. Each person went around our circle and gave a great thoughtful answer. Next we picked the two LODs for our first full day. Aiden and Sylvie were selected because we loved how positive and friendly they were on just day one.
The first morning I was awakened by some noise around the campsite. I got up to check things out and to my surprise saw Pope, Parker, and Benji hanging out by our tent. We decided to go for an early morning walk to the nearby reservoir. It was a still, peaceful morning perfect for a little exploring. When we returned to camp everyone was up and moving ready to go rock climbing. We met up with our climbing guides on the side of a huge canyon rock face. They went over all the rules and safety and we began to gear up. Most of us were new to rock climbing and a little nervous. Our guides really walked us through everything and made us feel a lot better. They even played a fun game with us and learned our names really quickly. Finally it was time to “send it” as the group likes to say. Benji instantly volunteered to belay since he previously learned at a climbing gym back home. Belaying is what the person on the bottom portion of the rope does to pull slack from the climbers rope. An atc device is used that applies friction to the rope and puts it at a certain angle so the climbers weight isn’t felt and all you need to do is keep your break hand applied and pull the slack as they climb. Everyone picked up easily on this lesson. Our guides watched each of us and held on the rope as our back up belayers. Mack stepped up to the hardest route. It took a lot of endurance and strategy but he crushed it and made it to the very top. Madeline climbed up the wall with such ease and precision, we were fascinated. William did another difficult route and impressed us by not giving up and making it to the top. Maggie was a little hesitant about climbing but Sylvie, Alden, and Caroline motivated her to give it a try and she flew up that wall. Sylvie and Alden quickly showed us that they were rockstar belayers, they were helping out anyone who wanted to climb. Henry A. was next up to the difficult route. I have never heard so many jokes from one person as they climbed a wall. Henry is hilarious. Beans and despactio have become our inside jokes, I don’t quite understand but it makes us all laugh. I believe that Mack and Henry H. may be the creators. After a morning spent rock climbing it was time to devour some lunch. After fueling up we returned to the walls. Pope, William, Aiden, and Maggie were first up and fresh after our break. We continued climbing until our little arms gave out. After a day filled with climbing we headed to the nearby town called Crested Butte. We set our aims for ice cream and we were not disappointed. The ice cream cooled us off and satisfied our sweet tooth’s. Next we wandered the main strip of the town in search of cool T-shirts. Maggie and Sylvie were successful in finding some new Colorado gear. Madeline even bought herself some hot sauce!
Back at camp the gang was dying to check out the lake that surrounded us. We all put our swimsuits on and headed to the water. We played catch, frisbee and swam our hearts out. We built up a big appetite just in time for dinner. Cook crew consisted of Aiden, Sylvie, Henry H., and William. They treated us to pasta with veggies and rolls. It was delicious and just want we needed after a long day of activities. We transitioned into Moonup and ended with Benji and Maggie. Our next day’s schedule allowed us to sleep a little later and have time for a big breakfast. Benji, Maggie, and I made everyone some scrambled eggs with toasted English muffins. It was delicious and we finished it off with some fresh orange juice. We headed to our new site for rock climbing. The guides set up some challenging routes for us after seeing how well we did the first day. William and Pope were first up today and did not disappoint. Next up was Sylvie who tried out rock climbing, and she was a natural! She was cheered on by Alden the whole way up who belayed her like a champ. Parker and Mack also cheered on Sylvie, I loved watching everyone support each other. As the day progressed so did the achievements. Madeline climbed so fast that once she made it to the top she was really confused how she was so high up. I happened to be on the route next to her and couldn’t help but laugh at how awesome that was. We high-fived as I climbed up and she lowered down victoriously. Meanwhile a sing along broke out while some of us were climbing. Aiden, Henry H., Henry A., Sylvie, Parker, Alden, Maggie, and I sang our hearts out to whatever song popped into our head. Anything from Taylor Swift to “call me maybe”. It was hilarious, even the guides couldn’t resist laughing. We broke for lunch and relaxed our sore muscles under a nice shady tree. While we were taking a break Pope gave the day’s hardest route a try. No one had been able to conquer the crack until Pope crushed it. We all screamed our heads off with disbelief as many had tried to beat the wall prior too. Pope was so excited that he started climbing another route as soon as he returned to the ground. We climbed until we physically couldn’t, we thanked our guides for all their hospitality and guidance and were off to our new site.
Molly, Andrew, and Caroline
July 17, 2018
Hello Colorado Trail Families!
We have heard from our leaders, and the trip is off to a great start! Stay tuned for more updates. We cannot wait to share stories from their adventures.