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Mountains to Sea 1 • June 13-June 26, 2018

Final Fun Times in Charleston!

June 27, 2018

Wow!! What a TRIP MTS1 had!!!! This is Nug the Bug, finishing my final report as an observer of the Mighty 15. Their fun in Charleston was far from being over. The next morning, the group headed to Folly Beach for surf lessons from Shaka Surf School. The instructors were SO fun and full of energy, led the group in a short yoga stretching session before they “shredded the gnar”. Alex and Ryder were catching waves left and right and decided to “up” the challenge by riding tandem on the surf board. Banks decided riding forwards was too traditional, so he turned around and had the instructors push him into the waves backwards. Ashley was a rockstar and caught some awesome waves, some of which were caught on the GoPro.


After the surfing session, the group had a quick lunch consisting of jelly sandwiches (@leaders who forgot the PB), carrots and hummus, fresh watermelon and bananas outside of the van before their stand up paddleboarding on Folly River. After learning the safety protocol, the group carried their boards and paddles onto the loading dock to begin their session! It was a WINDY day on the river, windy enough that if the paddler stopped for more than a few seconds, the board started to move backwards. Josie B and Lily worked so hard to get to one of the docks but ended up attaching their boards to the guides’ boards and swimming. Once the kids realized they could attach their boards to Big Jon or Al’s boards (the awesome SUP guides), most people “jumped ship” to swim in the marina. After the group’s long day of adventures, they decided to head back to their campsite to shower and get some R&R. The campsite had an air-conditioned recreation room, so foosball, ping pong and cards were ideal games.


The next morning, the group had another surfing lesson with Shaka Surf School. This time, the wind and waves were even bigger, challenging the surfers to swim hard on their boards to catch some awesome waves. Georgia and Josie S caught the same wave on different boards and surfed parallel to each other- boy was it a treat!! After a quick shower and final sweep of camp, the Mighty 15 headed to Charlotte for their final 2 days of their big adventure! The group needed a little pick me up for their long journey to Charlotte, so the obvious answer was to get pancakes. The kids squealed, the leaders got their coffee and sugar fix, and all was well with the world. The van ride was so quiet- I guess those kiddos were worn out from the sunshine and water and were put into a pancake coma.


The group arrived at their campsite outside of Charlotte as soon as it started to rain, so the kids had an opportunity to set up their tents and the tarp to provide a dry spot to cook and have Moonup. They were SO speedy and worked with their tent groups efficiently; some of the kids helped other tent groups once they were finished setting up their own tents. It was awesome teamwork and an incredibly efficient way of setting up camp. That night, the leaders surprised the kids with dinner. The kids were split into 2 teams- each team consisted of 3 boys and 3 girls. The leaders were hosting an Iron Chef competition, in which the losing team had dish and clean up duty. That was enough motivation for the kids to REALLY want to win. The two gourmet entrees were chicken Alfredo pasta and rafter thai (ramen noodles, peanut butter, soy sauce and sriracha with chicken) and BOY WERE THEY GOOD. I think the leaders liked this meal the best because the kids made the whole meal 🙂


The three leaders debated, gave each team the pros and cons of each dish and after a long, anticipated answer…..Rafter Thai won!!! Screams were screamed, tears were shed, arguments were had (joking about the last two), but both dishes were really tasty. It was awesome to see Kai and Sage show leadership through their delegation of tasks. Overall, Iron Chef was a huge success and the kids had a great time performing their cooking skills. Parents, I implore you to have your kids cook you dinner this week!


The next morning, our group headed to the National Whitewater Center to complete our last adventure together! They began with rock climbing and bouldering, a task Henry was determined to conquer. Henry tried practically every route on the rock wall and attempted each wall multiple times. He persevered when he was tired and ended up crushing so many routes! The group then transitioned to Hawk Island- home of the 100-foot free fall, 3 ziplines, and many ropes courses. Charlie and Sage tackled the ropes course and proved their arm strength, grit and determination on the course. The kids and leaders were pooped after their 13 days of adventures, but it didn’t stop them from the Ropes course! Ruth and Sage decided to do the 100-foot free fall, and convinced Josie B to join them. Josie B said she would not have normally done that jump, but was encouraged and supported by Ruth and Sage, so she did it!! Moondance is about challenging yourself and encouraging others to do the same- thanks Ruth and Sage for embodying the Moondance philosophy.


I am so impressed with your kids. I watched them shine, make true friends, saw their personalities flourish and watched them mature into humans that are going to change the world. Mountains to Sea 1, I loved watching this group unfold into a phenomenal family. Your kids are absolute rockstars who are capable of so much- don’t forget to challenge your kids, ask them intentional questions and share responsibilities with them. They want responsibility, to push their limits and to be loved in their most vulnerable and honest self. Moondance gave this to them; now it’s their turn to change the world with their kindness, appreciation for nature, their ability to talk to people without technology, and their joy in the simplest of things.


This trip was a joy to observe and I am so proud of each and every one of your humans!


With so much love and gratitude,

Nug the Bug




To Ryder: Thank you for bringing your full self to Moondance. Your laughter and joy was magical and brought so much to our group when we needed motivation and a giggle. I especially appreciated your boldness in sharing personal stories with the group and for speaking so eloquently in Moonup and during group conversations. You handled yourself with such poise and grace and I know you will be well equipped in future situations. I hope you get quality time with brothers and encourage you to leave the city whenever you can to get some fresh air and look at the stars. You are capable of so much- don’t forget it.



To Alex: to the kindest and sneakiest card shark there is- you were a gift to our group. Your quiet and calm demeanor was so valuable to our group to remind us to slow down and think before we speak. I was absolutely floored by your rock climbing abilities on Looking Glass- it might be time for you to go rock climbing regularly, because you have a natural talent for scaling rocks. You were a joy to have on the trip and I hope you continue to challenge yourself by trying new hobbies. Also, don’t forget your hat!



To Charlie: Charlie, Charlie, Charlie- you brought SO much joy to our group and made me stop to laugh at myself more than once. Your quotes are famous and I am so impressed by your witty banter. I’m proud of you for doing the ropes course and challenging yourself when you were uncomfortable; this is where the growing happens! You are a kind soul who loves to stop and smell the roses- a trait I should practice more often. Your fascination with shells and rocks and trees helped me to appreciate all that is around me. I encourage you to continue to challenge yourself in ropes courses and zip lines and want you to know you were a valuable asset to our group.



To Banks: Even from just our first encounters I knew you were going to have a big impact on the group… now I didn’t know quite yet whether it would be positive or negative! But having reached the end, I can surely say that you were an essential piece to our group. Even when you didn’t have the best attitude about certain things or wished something was different, you still kept a smile on your face and were eager to help out where you could. I loved turning around and catching you in the middle of dancing a silly dance or making funny faces. I know you are going to do great things all throughout your 12th year and I wish you all the very best.


Ruth H Binkley


To Henry: I cannot tell you how proud of you I am for the growth that took place on this trip. Your intelligence and brightness is obvious when speaking to you because of your eagerness to understand and process every detail. You approach problems in a very logical fashion, a trait I find to be very rewarding in life. Your use of language in everyday conversations astounds me and is so impressive that you are at the ripe age of 12. I really appreciate the effort you put into every activity and everything the leaders asked of you. Your presence had such an impact on the group! Keep looking for answers and being content with life.


Ruth H Binkley


To Kai: After reading your student survey I knew that you would be an awesome addition to our group and I was right for sure! I am so glad you strengthened your friendship with Henry and were able to make so many other meaninful relationships. I was so excited and proud of you for being willing to be your own person and let yourself shine! Kai you are such a hard worker with everything you do and I really appreciated everything you did to help the group. I am so glad you were able to come on the trip, it wouldn’t have been the same without you!


Ruth H Binkley


To Ashley: Thank you so much for being your true self throughout the entire trip. I loved watching you flourish during difficult circumstances and see yourself through to the other side. Please never take this life and its people for granted. There is good and bad in all of us, it only matters which you choose to act upon. Your endurance and determination during hard times was especially inspiring and I applaud you for trying everything. You are truly an amazing person with a huge heart that cares for so many.



Ruth H Binkley


To Georgia: to the QUEEN of song lyrics, I am IMPRESSED with your knack for singing and dancing. To the girl who was always ready first, was so kind to every person she encountered and was appreciative of everything we did on our trip, you are the best! Your maturity and ability to talk to everyone was so impressive. Thank you for keeping our energy up the entire trip, especially in van rides and while hiking- singing Kesha with you while we hiked was when I knew you were going to be so full of life and entertainment. Keep on keeping on sista friend- you are valuable and so loved!



To Josie B: to the girl with the cutest giggle and the ability to nap in the car no matter the noise, you are so fun!! I loved sharing the first row with you and Sage practically every car ride. You are kind and gentle but also courageous and eager to stand up for who and what you believe in. Don’t lose this courage, darling. The world will want you to do what is normal and popular; it is up to you to do what is right. I am so proud of you, and love being your friend.



To Josie S: Josie S, you are a treat and hilarious after your car naps. Thank you for volunteering to be on cook crew when no one else wanted to. This was a sure sign of your leadership abilities because you saw a need, and took action with your own two hands to fix the problem. You are powerful and capable of loving and helping people no matter the situation; I want you to continue to love people in hard places. You embody joy and fun, and we’re entirely too convincing that Moondance would NOT be complete without s’mores.



To Lily: I am so happy you were a part of our group for the duration of our trip. Everyday I felt like I got to know you a little better through singing in the van to playing in the beach mud. Your hyped up energy is so contagious and I over when you got into one of your dancing moods. Watching you jump around with a smile on your face gave me pure joy. The leaders and I were so grateful for you being so helpful and quick to act when asked to do something, even though you didn’t really want to do it. I hope you will now never take a shower for granted and will be able to look back on this trip and be proud of everything you accomplished. We are so proud of you and wish you the very best!

With love,

Ruth H Binkley


To Sage: It is still hard to believe the trip has come to an end, but I am so appreciative for the 2 awesome weeks I was able to spend with you. From the moment I met you I knew you were a strong individual with a great story to tell, one of which I couldn’t wait to hear. You have an incredible heart and adventurous spirit which I adore. The rest of the group loved interacting with you because of your silly humor and hilarious statements. I am so proud of how brave you were white water rafting and going on the advanced ropes course. You really challenged yourself and I could see the growth in you almost instantly. I hope you have an amazing rest of your summer. Never lose sight of what is important: being kind to others and living life to its fullest.

All my love,

Ruth H Binkley

Fun Adventures on the Coast!

June 24, 2018

This is Nug the bug from Moondance MTS! Wow, it has been an amazing 10 days with these kids exploring the Carolinas and boy, are we pumped for the last few days of the trip. We left the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains on Thursday and began our journey south towards the beaches of South Carolina. Ruth drove for a whopping 4 hours then let Graham bring us home to our amazing campsite at James Island Park! The car ride was long, but time was spent playing cards, resting, and jamming to good music! Josie S. and Georgia always impress me because they know pretty much every word to every song that comes on. We are still adding everyone’s favorite songs to a playlist that we listen to in the van, I really enjoy the different types of music everyone likes! We stopped for lunch at a local barbecue restaurant in Clinton, SC- it was SO good. Ashley was the first to order a hot fudge sundae, which led to many more orders placed. These kids are so kind for letting me try some of theirs because I could not finish my own!

After our delicious meal, we were all ready to get back on the road towards Charleston. We all enjoyed listening to Henry rap an entire Eminem song (the clean version), not missing a beat! We were all super impressed by his skills. Another happening activity in the van is playing card games. Graham taught everyone the game ‘Gum ball’ which has quickly taken over at every down moment throughout the trip. It has been super cool to see the kids become so efficient with helping break down camp and packing everything away for the day and night. When we finally pulled into our campsite on James Island, the group jumped out to explore the camp store. Everyone picked out postcards to share with their families and eyed what treats they would get at a later time. Moonup was great that night but everyone was pretty tired from the long travel day.

The next morning Banks and Alex jumped out of bed excited for the day ahead. Instead of sea kayaking to Capers Island, our guides from Coastal Expeditions took us on a lovely boat ride to Bulls Island. The ferry dropped us off on the uninhabited island and we started walking along the hot sand to find the perfect spot to drop our packs. We spent half of the day running up the beach and letting the tide pull everyone back to our day packs. Everyone deplored the beach and there were a few discoveries too. First we found mud. The good kind. This particular mud is the same you can find in a spa anywhere, so everyone covered themselves head to toe and soaked in the nutrients from the black mud. After a couple hours of wandering down the beach we found four horseshoe crabs. They were huge and creepy looking, but the guide showed us they were harmless. They had been stranded on the beach by the low tide. Sage and Josie B picked the crabs and helped set them in the water so they could breathe. Not long after, the boat came to pick us up off the island to take us to eat lunch.

One of our guides from Coastal Expeditions gave a lesson on bones that they had collected from the islands over the years. Charlie and Lily were very excited to see and the alligator skulls and dolphin skulls! Later on in the day after lunch, the guides led us out to a campsite on a river. We spent the last hours of daylight fresh water kayaking around the river. Kai and Ryder were throwing the Wodoba ball back and forth between everyone’s kayaks. A Wodoba ball is a special ball that skips across water better than anything you’ve ever seen. Later that night we ate dinner and shared Moonup with our guides.

The next morning we headed back to our campsite from two nights ago. Everyone took showers and got settled back in. We were exhausted from the sun, so everyone relaxed the first half of the day. Later on in the afternoon we went to Charleston to do some shopping. There were a lot of awesome and hilarious purchases. We ended our shopping spree near a park where all the kids played for a few hours. There was a big game of capture the flag and everyone was having so much fun. After leaving downtown, we got dinner at a BBQ place and headed back to camp. Luckily for us, there was a big concert that night at the campground. Everyone was dancing and laughing, and having a great time. It has been such an amazing week and a half. I’m so excited for what we are doing in the next few days. Do not worry, we will keep you updated. Signing off.


Nug the Bug

Mountains to Sea Hits the Rivers!

June 20, 2018


Hi everyone, it is Nug the Bug here again! It has been an amazing few days. The group started this section of the trip traveling from Mt. Mitchell to their new campsite in Tennessee. Everyone was tired from the hiking section, so Graham, Haleigh, and Ruth surprised the kids with lunch at Chic Fil a! Arriving at the campsite, Josie S and Josie B were ecstatic to hear they would be having their first showers of the trip.


The next morning was the first taste of some white water. The leaders and kids spread across three boats and were guided by some amazing and hilarious guides. This was the most anticipated section of the course and it did not disappoint. Everyone rafted a couple of hours down the Ocoee river and tackled the Olympic section of the river. Part of the Ocoee river was engineered to be the canoe slalom venue for 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Ashley and Alex paddled hard and got drenched, but everyone stayed in the boat! Everyone stopped after 5 miles to have a great lunch provided by the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and shared stories of the first section of the river. Banks shared about his favorite rapids and the combination of excitement and nervousness he was feeling for the next section of the trip. After lunch, the kids swapped seats and headed down the last 5 miles. Once the group paddled through the first few rapids, one of the men from another boat fell out. Lily and Kai paddled hard over to him and helped the guides pull the man up into their boat. He was so grateful! Once they got off the river, the kids headed back to the Adventure Center. Henry and Sage went through the photos that NOC took of the group. They laughed as they zoomed in on everyone’s goofy faces as they went down the rapids. Everyone packed into the van and started towards the next campsite a couple hours away!


They traveled to a new campsite in Almond, NC and cooked a fabulous chicken curry with sautéed vegetables, rice and Graham’s famous chicken. Josie S volunteered to be on cook crew, which is a monumental step in her leadership abilities; she saw a need, and managed to meet it by volunteering herself, to which I give major nugs.  The group had an awesome Moon Up that night where the kids and leaders shared personal stories, which required a community of trust to share and feel safe. After Moon Up, the Mighty 15 shared their favorite quotes from the entertainer of their group, Charlie. The group giggled and reminisced about the hilarious situations that caused Charlie to say his famous quotes.


The next morning, the group traveled to the NOC on the Nantahala river to raft in “Duckies”- which are similar to personal inflatable kayaks. Haleigh managed to fall in twice, but was quickly scooped up by the guides. Josie B also managed to fall in, but had a great attitude and continued her rafting experience in the raft with one of the Duckies guides. After a quick lunch of pizza English muffins (cream cheese and pepperonis on an English muffin) introduced by Ruth, a meal that positively surprised and fueled Banks, they headed to the NOC adventure course and zip line in dry clothes and sneakers. Sage and Ryder were adventurous and took the ropes course by storm with a fun and competitive spirit. Ashley accomplished so much because she pushed her limits and challenged herself to complete the course, and was absolutely glowing when she finished! Georgia was both encouraging and excited, and was eager to guide her friends on difficult sections of the ropes course.


After a quick stop in the general store for snacks and drinks, the group admired the kayakers paddling through the slalom course on the Nantahala- boy were they good!! They began their drive to Brevard to their next campsite to prepare for the next day’s adventure!


These kids and leaders are surprising me with their friendships, their leadership skills and their joy in the small things. These Mighty 15 are remarkable and have a special bond that can only come from a place like Moondance.



Nug the Bug

Greetings from Nug the Bug!

June 17, 2018


Hello my fellow readers! My name is Nug the Bug and I have been observing your children’s Mountains to Sea trip. Nugs are a Moondance tradition, and are compliments or affirmations given to another member of the trip during Moonup, our nightly huddle. I have been observing your children closely and have seen them overcome challenges, be introduced to new food and heard them eagerly cheer when they got to the top of Mount Mitchell. I can’t wait for you to meet my 12 new amigos!

Their Mountains to Sea trip has been exciting, eventful and full of laughter! They began their trip in the Charlotte airport and celebrated Banks’ birthday with party hats, kazoos and cookies. Georgia and Josie were the first friends I met, and boy are they the best!! They eagerly met new friends and were immediately inclusive in their game of cards. After meeting all 12 new friends, they drove to a campsite in Pisgah National Forest to spend the night. They traveled along the Blue Ridge

parkway to their hiking destination, called the Old Alice Trailhead, and began a 2 mike walk to the campsite. The kids were super energetic, learned the 7 Leave No Trace Principles and practiced threading their water bottles after dropping iodine tablets in their stream water. Some kids loved the taste of iodine water; others said they didn’t like the taste, but after our fast paced hike, they quickly drank a bunch to quench their thirst. They camped under an incredible star show and talked about the importance of leaving home to experience nature and all it has to offer. Ryder was awestruck by the stars and was so appreciative of the picturesque mountains.

The next morning, I watched the Mighty 15 become energized and motivated to climb to the peak of Mount Mitchell. For those of you that don’t know, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi. I knew those kids were strong, especially Banks and Charlie who were leading the way up the mountain and were keeping the conversation entertaining. It was Sage’s birthday that morning, so we woke her up by singing her happy birthday. Sage was such a trooper and worked hard on her birthday, and was rewarded by being elected Leader of the Day by her peers. Two Leaders of the Day (LODS) are selected to help the trip leaders plan the day, navigate trails in the backcountry, encourage and motivate the group, ensure each person is drinking 4 water bottles per day and are tasked with leading morning huddle and Moonup. Along the hike to Mount Mitchell, Henry and Kai told their trip leaders incredible stories about their families and discussed super hero movies to keep up conversation on our hike down from the summit. Their leaders really loved hearing about their siblings and parents because it is evident how much they love and care about their families! Sweet Alex has been so helpful with setting up and breaking down our campsites and is always the first to bring his “smellies” and snack bag to the bear bagging site. “Smellies” are any hygiene product that could attract bears (toothbrush, soap, face wipes etc.) in the middle of the night.

After our descent from Mount Mitchell, the kids and leaders played card games and rested from their descent. Ashley told awesome stories about her history bowl competitions and amazed her listeners with her captivating knowledge. The group named her the “encyclopedia” because she knows facts spanning many topics!

Every morning, the students are awakened by their leaders. Lily is their favorite to wake up because she always shoots right up from her sleeping bag and actually wakes up smiling.

After hiking, the Mighty 15 traveled the 4 hours to their next campsite in Tennessee. Upon arrival, the group decided they must swim in the lake. Josie was so fun to swim with in the lake because she giggled every time she swam in a cold spot.

These Mighty 15 are so full of life and wonder, and I can’t wait to tell you about the other activities!


Signing off,

Nug the Bug

All Aboard!

June 13, 2018

Hey everyone! Mountains to Sea is officially underway after every student landed safe and sound in North Carolina. We are so excited for the adventures that lie ahead of this wonderful group!


  • Kai
  • Josie
  • Ryder
  • Ashley
  • Sage
  • Charlie
  • Henry
  • Lily
  • Alex
  • Georgia
  • Josie
  • Banks