July 25, 2018
Dear Midnight Sun parents,
It is with a heavy heart that we send your kids back to the lower 48. The past two weeks have been full of laughs, sunshine, jokes, dancing, and views.
We spent our last day in Anchorage cleaning and organizing gear, then we hopped into town to do some shopping and eating! We enjoyed a hefty banquet meal at Alaska’s best Mexican restaurant- la cabaña. Liam, Spencer, and Owen amazed us by how fast they could drink a coke! They had a friendly competition on who could get the most refills (talk about bang for your buck!). We then indulged in some ice cream and finally got around to some souvenir shopping and exploring. The girls- Celeste, Allison, and Brenda all bought matching moose mood rings while the Lindsay boys (Alex and Charles) bought some funny boxers. We then headed back to camp for one last game of mafia. The airport was full of teary eyes as numbers and contact info were shared. Wes and Charlie even bought the group a cinnamon roll to share to represent the many “cinnamon roll hugs” we shared over the course of the trip. I am confident that this group will remain close throughout their high school years, and I hope they remember and cherish their Moondance memories in the land of the Midnight Sun. We are proud of each and every one of you. HOLLA BACK!!
-Cecilia and James
Hey Mom and Dad, I know it’s Alaska, but I got a lot of sun! See you soon!- Spencer
Hey Mom and Dad, cant wait to see u! Also, I saw a bear !
Hey Mom and Dad, I’m excited to see the dogs again. See you soon!
-your eldest child (Celeste)
Hi mommy and daddy! I can’t wait to see ya soon! I had such a great trip!
Hi mom. Hi dad. Don’t be surprised if I’m tan!
Hi mom and dad it’s Alex i am having fun-Alex
Hello parents it’s Charles I have had fun also on this trip-your son, Charles
Hi family members. It’s ya boi Charlie. I had fun- Charlie
Hi I missed you guys a lot. Can’t wait to see you soon. I had a blast. – Liam
Hey mom and dad and sista. Miss you love you and tell Sadie I say hey!
July 25, 2018
I’m writing to y’all from the ever faithful Ship Creek campsite as we wind down the remainder of our trip. As I look back on the past two weeks and the incredible journey we have experienced, all I can say is wow folks… that was one for the books. But I’m getting ahead of myself- we still have a big day in Anchorage tomorrow, so let me catch y’all up to speed of the last four incredible days!
I believe we left off in McCarthy, after just completing our backpacking section in the Donoho basin and feasting at the local Potato restaurant. In a quick turnaround, we swapped our backpacks for dry bags and pushed off into the Kennicot River as we began the next section of our expedition. Our fleet consisted of one large gear boat captained by Robin, and three rafts for the paddlers. As we left McCarthy behind and floated into the wilderness, the group was amazed by the stunning yet isolated landscape around us. Charles and Alex impressed everyone by managing to successfully throw and catch a football between our boats, even through the large waves. With the sun on our faces and wind on our backs, it was a great way to relax and decompress after the long days on the trail we had just accomplished. We soon came to the confluence of the Nazena River, which effectively doubled our waterway in size. We made camp on a sandy bar between the confluence of the Nazena and the Chitna river, by which point the river was almost a mile wide! Our raft guides made us a delicious dinner of enchiladas, with wilderness luxuries such as guacamole and fresh melon- we were all reminded of how thankful we were for not having to carry our food on our backs anymore! They also brought along a fire pan, which Spencer used to expertly build and light a nice, toasty fire. Of course this called for s’mores, which, of course…. the raft guides brought along. It seems like there’s nothing they didn’t pile in the boats for us!
The next day was a continuation of the relaxing floating we experienced on the Kennicot and Nazena rivers. Brenda kept her boat lively by spearheading favorite games such as Big Booty and an endless amount of riddles. Owen was able to stretch out in the sun and soon fell into a peaceful state of napping- hard not to do with the sound of the water gently lapping at the sides of our boats. We were able to make camp by lunch at a cove with the most curious mud on the beach- it was almost like walking on jello. This delighted the group, who spent the next two hours jumping and playing in it. Liam constructed a fairly sizable fort with a rather large arsenal of mud balls- perfect for the game of “rock rock” we like to play- ask your kids about it when they’re back! After the mud exhausted us, we lounged around the rest of the afternoon and were treated to hair wraps by Brenda, Allie and Celeste. Even Alex and Charles consented to a few braids in their locks. Owen picked up the knack of bracelet making, and soon we all adorned some new threads on our wrists. Dinner once again hit the spot, with pesto pasta and banana boats. Yum!
On our third day on the river, we floated into a broad expanse full of braided river channels. Wes was able to spot and point out a bald eagle pair on shore which added to the collection of wildlife we had seen throughout the trip. The raft guides could not stop talking about how unusually sunny the weather had been and how lucky we were, because it was another blissful day of floating along lazily while swapping stories and telling jokes. We reached camp once again at lunch, which was a large green meadow this time. After fueling up with sandwiches, the group mustered up the courage to swim in the frigid waters, mostly led by Celeste. What a leader, folks! With PFDs and wetsuits on, we were led by our rafting guides out into the middle of a smaller braid of river, and one by one dropped in and floated down to camp below. Laughter and screams of surprise at the low temperature of the water pierced the air as the group braved the frigid waters. As a bystander myself, I was very impressed by the bravery of the group, especially Liam, who walked back up for a second go afterwards! Evening arrived, and we ate a delicious chicken curry and played a few rounds of mafia led by Wes- a natural born story teller. Tired and full, we hit the sack once again under the beautiful midnight sun.
The next day was sadly our last on the river. We began with a silent float and reflection along a beautiful portion of river and soon joined back in with the main channel. To our delight, a bush plane raced around the corner and buzzed a few circles over our heads! Soon came the confluence with the mighty Copper River, rich with deep brown waters. Unfortunately, the confluence also came with a strong headwind, and our guides worked hard to row us downriver. Charlie was a great team player and quickly grabbed a paddle to help our guide Daniel out. Working together, we were able to quickly reach our takeout, and the end of our journey. We unloaded the boats one last time, hugged our guides goodbye and loaded up into a van for our long drive back to Anchorage. Allie spearheaded creating a playlist of favorite songs that complimented the beautiful scenery perfectly. Seven hours seemed to fly by, as most of us took some well-deserved naps after our hard work of the morning.
Which brings us back to this moment, at the place where it all started, Ship Creek. We have a big day tomorrow so I’m going to sign off, but thanks again for staying tuned and sending your children to join us on this epic adventure!
James and Cece
July 20, 2018
Greetings from McCarthy, AK!
We have made it back from our backpacking section stronger than ever. Our past five days have been action packed, and it is bittersweet to be out of the backcountry.
Our adventure started with a tour of the old copper mine in the small Alaskan town of Kennecott. In the early 1900s, the town was a hot bed for copper mining. However, the town was abandoned in 1938 leaving all buildings in tact with former milling and mining equipment. Our guide, Daniel, led a wonderful tour, keeping us all engaged and excited to learn more about this unique Alaskan landmark. All the kids were particularly interested, perhaps because Daniel told us there would be trivia with a prize later in the evening.. After the tour, we loaded up our packs with gear, food, crampons, harnesses, and mountaineering boots, and headed on our way. We soon arrived at our campsite, a beautiful spot with wonderful views of the Root glacier and icefall. As we feasted on southwest Mac and cheese, our guides Robin and Daniel began what would become an intense and competitive Kennecott Mill trivia game! The “Spaghetti Noodles” team of Brenda, Charlie, and Owen won a highly contested game and would claim their prize later in the trip.
The next day, we woke up to blue skies and hiked the short distance to the Root glacier. After getting comfortable with our crampons on the ice, we headed to “Daddy’s Wall”, an enormous wall of ice where we would do most of our ice climbing. Owen amazed everyone when he easily completed all three climbs. He was the only one to complete the hardest climb! Allison used purely her arm strength to get herself up one climb, wowing even the climbing guides. We then headed to a large moulin- a giant hole in the glacier. There we rappeled deep down the blue ice and climbed back up. This was truly a unique and amazing experience. We were all smiling from ear to ear after this day. Back at camp while hanging out, Liam found a quarter sized chunk of copper rock! This was extra exciting considering all the knowledge we gained from our tour regarding the history of copper in the area. He plans to get it polished once back in the lower 48.
The following morning we loaded up our packs again and hit the trail. At this point, Spencer had become known as the go- to guy to grab an extra piece of group gear to throw into his pack, to the benefit of the rest of the group. We couldn’t have done it without him! Our destination was a campsite 8 miles away. However, two of those miles were across the Root glacier! The morning was slow but wonderful as we made our way across the ice, stopping to check out amazing features such as crevasses and more moulins. Once across the ice we began a challenging uphill bushwhack. Our leader of the day (LOD), Celeste, was incredibly encouraging to everyone, and made sure to keep the group safe. Once we finally made it to our campsite everyone couldn’t stop talking about the view! We set up our tents by a beautifully blue alpine lake, backed up against an enormous glacier, with views of the magnificent Mt. Blackburn in the distance.
The following morning we slept in and treated ourselves to well deserved chocolate chip pancakes. After some digestion and lounging in the sun we packed up light day packs and headed West to check out the Gates and Kennicott glaciers. After finding the best route we finally made it to a wonderful spot on the Gates glacier and decided to rest our feet and eat lunch. After filling up we headed back down to our campsite and on the way stopped at another alpine lake, where a few brave souls decided to take a dip! Charles and Alex had us all laughing as they took turns throwing the football into the chilly water and diving after it. We finally moseyed our way back to camp, enjoying a silent walk back to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings. As our last meal in the backcountry, cook crew whipped up “Thanksgiving dinner”- complete with mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and turkey! The leader of the day, Wes, ended the evening with a thoughtful Moonup and we went to bed knowing a big day lay ahead.
The final morning of backpacking our LODs Brenda and Charlie kept the group on task and motivated as we packed up. The walk back to the Root glacier was incredibly fast, the kids have definitely become adjusted to their boots and packs! We enjoyed our last trek across the glacier, and again zoomed our way back to the town of Kennicott where we gladly put our packs in the back of a van to be driven to McCarthy. Once back at camp in McCarthy, we surprised the kids by telling them we were going out to eat! We feasted at The Potato (the one real restaurant in McCarthy) and took up about half the space! The “spaghetti noodles” team finally claimed their prize- a heaping basket of garlic fries. We were all thrilled with our meals and are now headed to bed both full and feeling accomplished. We begin our last section of rafting tomorrow, and I cannot believe how fast this trip has flown by. Each and every student has gone above and beyond to help each other out and shown exemplary expedition behavior. Thank you all for sending your kids on this trip, we feel lucky to get to know them and share this experience with them.
Until next time!!
Cecilia and James
July 15, 2018
I’m writing to you from a small slice of paradise known as McCarthy, Alaska, as we have FINALLY completed our travels in the first leg of our expedition! It took several commercial airlines, a bus, two rafts, a van, and three bush planes, but here we are- safe, sound, and eager to begin backpacking. We have experienced what feels like a full week of adventure in the few days we’ve been together so far, so listen up as I tell you the story of MID3 as it has unfolded thus far!
Our trip began with an extended initial bonding session in the Anchorage airport as thunderstorms down south delayed a few of our group members, but no worries- Spencer and Liam’s improv sessions immediately broke the ice and had us rolling with laughter- and to think they had just met a mere hour beforehand! As the group finally became complete, we hopped onto Magic Bus and scooted to our campsite, where we capped off the night with our first Moonup and snuggled gratefully into our sleeping bags despite the midnight sun glowing overhead.
Morning came early as we loaded up once again on our bus, and off we went towards the mighty Matanuska River. After about a two hour bus ride through jaw-dropping scenery, we unloaded at NOVA and quickly learned to set up our tents in a meadow with a riverside view. Brenda’s past experience coupled with her position as our Leader of the Day (LOD) served the group invaluably as she passed on pro-tips such as camp setup and Leave No Trace principles. After a fresh lunch of deli sandwiches, it was time for our first adventure- rafting the famous Lion’s Head of the Matanuska! We moseyed to the NOVA headquarters and threw on some dry suits, which look like a cross between a star trek uniform and a wearable Whoopie cushion- make sure to check out the pictures, folks. We hopped on yet another bus and drove to the put in at Caribou creek. In no time, 33 degree water was in our faces and the laughter and smiles were uncontrollable. Owen bravely met waves as big as our boat head on while holding down the front seat, and I honestly don’t know how our boat would have fared in rapids such as The Entrance Exam and Kramer’s Crunch without Charles and Alex’s steady rowing. The Pittsburg crew, Charlie and Wes, made sure morale was high in each boat with their jokes and banter. All in all, it was a wild, wet and unbelievably wonderful section of whitewater shenanigans, and I think we have at least ten new future raft guides on our hands.
Back at camp, Celeste, Liam and Charlie whipped up our first “home cooked” meal of enchiladas, chips and salsa. We feasted by the river and circled up for our second Moonup, where LODs Wes and Brenda asked thought provoking questions that were complimented by the beautiful glacier-sculpted peaks surrounding us. Not bad for our first full day!
The next day, we were picked up by Harrison, an ice climbing guide at St. Elias Alpine Guides- our outfitters for the next leg of our journey. We drove for about four hours through lush taiga until we arrived at the Chitna Regional Airport…. aka a gravel strip with a sign. After about five minutes, we heard a faint buzzing as our new mode of transportation closed in- bush planes! We loaded up into three separate planes, and off we went! We cruised over jagged peaks complete with fresh mountain goat tracks in the recent dusting of snow and soared over stretching glaciers and abandoned copper mines. Allie’s eyes were glued to the window and her mouth stuck in a permanent position of awe while Spencer filled in as copilot in his plane. We were able to get an aerial tour of the Donoho Basin, our future destination and playground, and catch a glimpse of the famous Kennicott mine. Wow, what an experience folks.
When we touched back down to earth we met Robin, our cheerful guide for the next few days. During our intro circle which involved telling our favorite fruit and name, Celeste mistakenly introduced herself as Mango, which I’m sure will stick for the remaining two weeks. Robin gave us a quick tour of McCarthy and the St. Elias Alpine Guide headquarters, built in an old powerhouse on a lush meadow. Our van soon arrived with our gear and we set up camp and began prepping our personal pan pizzas for dinner. Allison, Charles and Spencer expertly sliced, diced and spiced our masterpieces, which we wolfed down in the safety of our bug net shelter. Well, even though the sun is high, it sure does feel late, so that’s all for now!
James and Cece