June 26, 2018
We started off our last day together in the absolute best way, with pancakes! Caroline and Hilmar woke early to mix the batter and get cookin! Meanwhile, Jackson and Ava T, the days LODs, woke everyone with smiling faces. Before long, the group had full bellies and piled in the van in search of a hot spring. Once we arrived at a spring, we then searched for the best spot: a mixture of depth and heat. Griffin and Oliver were the first two in and prompted others to join, despite the cold, whipping wind. We enjoyed our time in the water, keeping everything but our faces submerged. Good conversation and laughter kept us company until we had to get out and run to our dry, warm clothes! Getting back to the van, we then took off for Reykjavík, where our journey all began.
Our first stop was downtown, for town day! High on everyone’s list was finding an Icelandic wool sweater, a prized possession of any Icelander, so we headed to a thrift store in the heart of town. Coleman was lucky enough to find an awesome one, Hilmar gave it the seal of approval and said it was a classic! Everyone else gathered goodies to take home to their family and picked up sweet treats. We then checked into our hostel for the night, took wonderful hot showers and put on our best outfits for banquet! Thanks to Hilmar, we were able to get an amazing local food suggestion of the group favorite, pizza! This family owned pizza place did not disappoint, but it comes as no surprise as the man who originally made the “za” is still cooking them up. Drew and Ronnie spearheaded table games as we waited for food and soon everyone was playing finger hockey. Still a little hungry and wanting to explore more of downtown, we visited the most renown restaurant in Reykjavík: a hot dog stand! Believe it or not, even Bill Clinton gave the place a visit when he visited Iceland as president. It is a must for any visitor and a true local favorite. Our food tour was almost over, but a sweet was missing. So, we stopped to get soft served ice cream! Most of the group got vanilla, but Gunnar showed us all how to do ice cream with style and had his dipped in chocolate – ya heard it here first! Returning to the hostel, we had our last moonup. The question posed was, “what have you learned from this trip?” The two of us were amazed at the answers we heard and our thankful to have spent the last two weeks with these wonderful kids. They are wise beyond their years and some of the most caring individuals we know. At the end, we handed out superlatives that highlighted comedic moments from our trip. Among them, Ava W got most likely to fall on flat ground and Brooks’ was will one day set a world record for eating the most baked beans. With full hearts and a touch of end-of-the-trip sadness we said goodnight knowing tomorrow would bring our last morning together.
This morning flew by in a flurry as we headed to the airport sleepy eyed and very blue. Katherine, as always, kept the group in high spirits, though, and helped through a long check-in process. Finally, it came time for our last goodbyes. We all exchanged hugs and departing words as Evan and Lillian took our group to security. Once they were through, the two of us reflected on all the wonderful moments that have occurred over the past two weeks. We are so honored and grateful for the opportunity to explore this amazing country with such bright and fun individuals. From the first day, this group came together as a family. Thank you to all the parents for entrusting us with your kids, they are near and dear to our hearts and will forever be friends.
Missing them already,
Creed and Harrison
June 25, 2018
What a whirlwind the past week has been!! We hopped into our new super Jeep and headed up to the Icelandic highlands over mountainous terrain and watched as the grass turned to volcanic rock. After a bumpy ride, we climbed our final hill to reveal a campsite filled with rainbow, snowcapped mountains. Immediately everyone jumped out of the van to explore our new paradise. Caroline and Griffin led the charge into the volcanic field, where a spontaneous game of hide and seek began. Not long after that, the group rejoined to conquer blue mountain – named after the blueish tint it gets from its clay composition. Around halfway up some of the group, with Harrison, turned around, Drew, Ava T, Caroline and Ronnie, however charged up the remainder of the mountain with Creed shortly behind. At the top, we got our first glimpse of the hike to come and the glaciers around us.
After our warm up hike most of the group headed into the natural hot spring at the edge of camp to ease our tired muscles and enjoy some much needed warmth! We had a tasty salmon pasta that night to prepare us for our big hike the following day. Brooks earned title of master chef when he began frying the salmon skin, which he declared tasted like bacon! We’re still a little speculative. It was a dinner filled with many laughs and excitement about what was to come. The next morning, we strapped our packs on and began our 5 mile walk! The LODs for the day, Brooks and Ava W., started off the group with a great pace and even better conversations. Quickly we were greeted with the first of our snow crossings for the day and began to familiarize ourselves with the idea of walking on such a different terrain! After ascending some steep parts of our climb, we began to see our terrain change into miles and miles of snow. Our lunch was on top of a beautiful snowy peak where we enjoyed lots of chocolate while surrounded by sunny skies! It was a moment to remember. From there the second leg of our 15 mile day began. Coleman, un-phased by the altitude or distance, set the pace and consistently was found in the front, convincing the rest of us he would be the first in the group to hike the Appalachian trail. Others in the group, like drew and Oliver, started “trail games” like guess the animal and 20 questions. These fun distractions let our minds focus on something other than our sore feet and burning thighs. Eventually we walked back down out of the snow where we caught a glimpse of lake Altafavotn, our campground for that night. Upon reaching camp, the group collapsed. We had finally made it! The two of us were so proud of the group. The treacherous day was rewarded with a hearty and authentic Icelandic meal…lamb stew!
The next day we were able to sleep in a little, but an icy river crossing 5 minutes into our hike woke us right up! It was one of four that day. Despite the good weather we had our first day, this day brought wind and rain. The less than ideal conditions gave the group an opportunity to practice one of the NOLS principles we learned days before: tolerance for adversity and uncertainty. Now off the mountains, we trekked across a black sand desert before reaching, what Hilmar calls, “the Grand Canyon of Iceland,” and our camp. Hot chocolate and tea warmed the group up and rose our spirits! An epic assembly line of students helped prepare salmon for grilling: Coleman and Ronnie precisely measured out and ripped tinfoil for each fillet; Jackson, with quick hands, placed each piece of fish on tinfoil and sent it down the line; Caroline then sprinkled garlic and added lemon slices; finally, Brooks, our master chef, seasoned each piece with the perfect amount of salt and pepper! It was a meal to behold and filled everyone’s stomachs. Ava T was even enticed and had a piece or two!
Waking up the next day we packed up and headed out of camp to our final campsite, Thorsmork. We had heard all trip about the amazing things we would find there, so with renewed energy we walked with zest! The landscape around us further changed from rocky lava formations to green forest. It’s been amazing to watch! With better weather today, we were able to enjoy a wonderful lunch on a hillside with views of the cliffs below. The boys were able to enjoy lots of frisbee while the girls finished off everyone’s chocolate. We arrived at Thorsmork and were so pleased to find our group kitchen tent already set up! We all lounged in the grass and reminisced about the past few days of hiking. Our campsite was nothing short of amazing; views of the glacier, a wonderful stream flowing through, and lots of grass for games! Gunnar and Jackson chose the best tent site, over a bridge on their own island. They quickly established their kingdom, with guards and everything! That didn’t stop the two of us from planning a secret revolt…after crawling through the woods we jumped out and attempted to drag the “king” away. It was short lived as we were tackled to the ground and everyone was consumed with laughter. For the first time all trip, we were able to enjoy dinner outside and peered at the lower ends of glaciers as pasta and meat sauce kept us warm. We then were lulled to sleep by the babbling brook that ran through camp.
Today we rose to hike between the Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull glaciers. After a quarter of the hike, though, we were forced to turn around due to high winds and an incoming storm. We talked to the group about the importance of safety even if it means not reaching our end goal. Instead, we took a short day hike around the area and still got some great views! We could then enjoy some free time around camp exploring and playing the group favorite, frisbee. Ava T. and Oliver made the group grilled cheese, impressing us all with their tricks of the perfect cheese melting to bread toasting ratio. For dinner we had another Icelandic tradition, leg of lamb! Everyone tried a bit and we enjoyed a wonderful meal under the glacier. Katherine and Caroline made everyone pudding for dessert capping off a great day.
In order to leave Thorsmork we were greeted with a special super Jeep with the biggest tires any of us had seen! We traversed the 15 rivers with ease and watched the place we have been calling home fade in the distance. Upon reentering the world we made a stop at a local bakery and loaded up on yummy homemade treats! From there we made a stop at a pool in town to participate in an Icelandic tradition of a good hot tub soak! We swam for a few hours in the heated pools, made some Icelandic friends, and finally got a nice hot shower! Tonight, we are headed into the mountains again to stay in a wonderful hut! Looking forward to the last few days with everyone but with heavy hearts knowing our time in Iceland is coming to an end.
Harrison & Creed
June 20, 2018
WOW, what a blast we’ve had these past couple days. Just when it seems we’ve reached a peak, the group finds a way to have more fun with wider smiles! To start off yesterday, Gunnar, one of the days LODS, woke everyone in a boisterous and fun manner, setting the tone for the energy we’d need. The big day we had planned required another warm breakfast of oatmeal, tea, and lots of bread. We packed into our van and headed for Thingvellir, a National Park steeped in geological history. Heading up a path we were greeted by the Geysir!! The boys immediately huddled up and waited in the line of fire of the falling water. No matter how many times we were expecting the burst of water it still made the group shriek and scatter! We then visited Gullfoss, a monstrous waterfall. Soon afterwards, the group was geared up and heading to the river for some rafting! Voluntarily and with style, Brooks participated in the safety demonstration. Despite their best efforts, Ronnie and Coleman got their first taste of glacier water as the first rapid got everyone wet. As we floated down the river many laughs were had and the rest of us jumped into the icy water! The group was able to stop at a beautiful canyon and try our hand at some cliff jumping. Griffin impressed us all with his jumping style. After seeing him, Ava W. and Ava T., though hesitant at first, decided to take the plunge! And several cheers followed! The rest of our river float was filled with smiles and shenanigans. Back at camp we made dinner and Hilmar surprised us with yummy pudding and pears!
Waking up the next morning we broke down camp and headed to the South Coast for some sightseeing. First, we went to the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, an impressive glacier fed waterfall you can walk behind! Caroline, wanting to experience it in all its beauty, walked to its base. The wind whipped up just as she reached the waters edge and for a moment she was under its torrential downpour – luckily she was wearing her rain gear. Next, we visited a black sand beach. Jackson found his inner rock climber here and scaled some of the basalt columns, leading the way for others in the group! At our last stop of the day, the Skogafoss waterfall, the group raced up the 400 steps to the top to see the wondrous landscape from a birds eye view!! On the way down, Oliver took off on a mad dash, jumping over small streams and breaking through the tall grass. We all laughed and caught our breath at the bottom for a much needed break. Later at camp, Katherine brought the group together with a variety of card games in the big kitchen tent, which provided us with hours of entertainment as dinner was being cooked. The day ended on a reflective note as Drew posed the question, “what have you gotten from Moondance so far and what do you hope to get out of the rest of the trip?” It was awesome to hear the kids answers and made all of us appreciate the time we have spent together so far and look forward to the last half of the trip!
Off to the Icelandic Highlands we go!
Harrison & Creed
June 17, 2018
We have arrived in Iceland after an exciting day meeting our fellow group members in New York. We got our first taste of the endless sun as we received eye masks on the plane ride. A few of us have even held on to them through our camping. Once getting through customs Creed met us with yummy muffins and doughnuts, which were the perfect fuel to begin our journey. We immediately visited a natural hot spring where we learned how Iceland gets much of its electricity and hot water. The sight was beautiful, however, as Ava W. pointed out, it smelled like rotten eggs!! Next we saw one of Iceland’s coolest geologic attractions: the divergent tectonic plates of North America and Europe. We finished off the exhausting day in style at the blue lagoon, where we got to soak in a natural hot spring until our feet and hands were pruned. The boys held breath holding competitions and Ronnie reigned champion in the end!!Oh and did I mention the mineral mud masks?! We capped off the day with pizza and an Icelandic streusel for Drew on his 15th birthday – it was a day to remember!
We woke the next day at the hostel to a hot breakfast, it was the perfect meal for our first big day. We ate egg and ham sandwiches while discussing the day’s plan. Griffin demonstrated great EB (expedition behavior) by helping us clean the kitchen so that it was cleaner than we found it. Hilmar, our Icelandic guide, picked us up and drove us to our first hike of the trip, the Glymur waterfall. Jackson and Ava T. the LODs kept spirits high while conquering the 192 meter climb. The views were spectacular, and the weather was great, the river crossing at the top, however… was freeeeeeeezing! Coleman, Jackson, Gunnar, Brooks, and Griffin showed how best to cross the river. They showed true bravery, though we couldn’t help but laugh at their squeals. Finishing the day, we arrived at our idyllic campsite along the shores of a fjord. Greeted by dogs, goats, and sheep we all jumped for joy, but perhaps no one jumped higher than Caroline, who immediately ran to give all the animals hugs. Each animal was given a name by our group; among the best: double stuff, oreo, spike, and rocko.
Today we woke up to the natural alarm clock on our campsite, some early rising roosters. A quick breakfast of oatmeal and hot teas warmed us right up to begin our day of sea kayaking. From there we met our guides for the day who showed us the ropes and graciously provided dry suits. A little rain didn’t keep us from having a good time. After finding our paddles we left the shore line and snuck up on a seal island! The curious creatures swam around us and bobbed in and out of the water watching our group as we paddled along. Katherine kept the group in the moment throughout the activity, she has automatically been a friend to everyone and always has us smiling! Once finishing up we huddled together for a filling and well deserved lunch before breaking down camp. Oliver was a HUGE help in getting camp broken down, especially our big kitchen tent. He relentlessly pulled stakes out of the ground and made sure everything was picked up before he got in the van. We finished the day with some sightseeing at the Parliament Field, an important and historical Icelandic location. It also is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are dividing! The group is already a family and all our days have been full of laughter! We’re off to rafting tomorrow, we’ll check back in in a couple days!
June 14, 2018
Hello Iceland Families!
The group has arrived safe and sound in Reykjavik, Iceland. Stay tuned for more updates about their adventures!