July 14, 2018
Hello for the final time!!This is Nug the Bug, reporting for the final time on the second session of Mountains to Sea. WHAT A TRIP!! I had the pleasure of watching your phenomenal young boys become young men, and boy, was it a treat!! We grew to be a family, gained perspective about nature and people, and had a phenomenal time learning new skills as a team. After our second surfing session with Shaka Surf School, the group headed back to their campsite to shower quickly before departing to Charlotte for their final adventures of the trip. Once they arrived in Charlotte, the group set up camp and had an Iron Chef competition to ignite the boys’ creative culinary skills. One group made quesadillas while the other made ramen and chocolate and peanut butter covered marshmallows topped with crushed graham crackers. The leaders loved this last meal, because the kids really took the reins on dinner and prepared delicious meals for each other. Some of these students had never used a Coleman stove before this trip; now, they were completely in charge of the stove and ingredients, and were able to showcase their abilities while the leaders observed. The food was REALLY tasty, and the leaders could not praise the students’ hard work enough!! After dinner, clean up, and Moonup, the group headed to bed so they were rested for a full last day of adventures!
The next morning, the group headed to the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte. For those of you who do not know about this place, it is an adventurers DREAM. From ropes courses to ziplines to free falls to water activities to mountain biking, this place is an amusement park for the adventurer. They began rock climbing and bouldering, and then transitioned to Hawk Island, the location of many ziplines, free falls and ropes courses. The group tried many of the obstacles, including a 100 foot free fall. IT WAS AWESOME, and the students autonomously decided on the attractions they wanted to complete, which gave everyone the opportunity to challenge themselves however they saw fit.
After a tiring day, the group stopped for lunch, went to a carwash/vacuum center to clean the van and U Haul and then headed to banquet. Banquet was filled with lots of southern, soul food, chocolate milk, and even a little bit of ice cream. The drive home was filled with our favorite songs from the session, including Feels Like Summer and Kings of Summer (our two anthems that will always remind us of our incredible MTS2 trip), and finished with an awesome Moonup. The final questions asked at Moonup were: what was your favorite activity from this trip, what was the most challenging activity of this trip, and what have you learned from the person sitting to your left on this trip. So many honest and vulnerable anecdotes were shared during this Moonup, and it was so affirming to hear the ways these 7 superstars are changed for the better. I am so impressed with your world changers, and am even more grateful that you (yes, you parents reading this!!) trusted the leaders to care for your children for these 14 days. The kids learned so much, but the leaders may have arguably learned more from your kids. So thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for sharing your compassionate, adventurous, fun loving, tender hearted children with us. We are so grateful. With so much love and gratitude,Nug the Bug
To Hawk- You win the award for always filling a need that you see empty. Thank you for offering your two hands to cook, set up tents, and ensure every other student and leader’s need were taken care of before you focused on yourself. Your maturity was astounding, and your capacity to care about others exceeds other young men your age. I appreciated your positive attitude when accomplishing difficult tasks, your desire to know about other’s families and passions and your maturity to know when a need must be filled. You are remarkable, and I am so excited for your adventures to Spain!
To Alex- The guy who LOVED his pink hat and aviator sunglasses, you brought laughter to every situation. I remember meeting you and thinking you were reserved, but full of wisdom- and you exceeded those initial thoughts. I am so proud of you for tackling rock climbing with fervor, and for committing to surfing for two full sessions. You are a motivated young man who is continuing to work hard in soccer and school, and can’t wait to hear about your progress in soccer over the next few months. Thank you for bringing laughter to our group, for being flexible with crazy schedules and for entertaining those in ear reach with your shower opera. I want you to work hard in everything you do, because you are SO capable of accomplishing your goals.
To Gavin- To the encyclopedia of all things plants and animals related, you were an absolute joy to lead these past 2 weeks. You taught me to be content in simple moments and gave me an appreciation for creeks, salamanders, crawfish and so much more. I watched your perspective expand immensely and saw you grasp new concepts and skills throughout this trip that improved your self-confidence. I am proud of your determination in all activities, especially the 100 foot free fall you completed 5 times in one day. Your fearlessness and compassion for others are beyond your years and I am proud of the way you volunteered to help others, and loved when you were on cook crew because of your lighthearted and fun attitude. You are so special and are going to change lives by the way you love others.
To Thomas- To the equally sassy and tender hearted “brethren”, you kept us on our toes! I knew from the moment we met in the airport that we would be buds, and I’m so glad we became friends so quickly! You brought a hilarious spin to our group dynamic with your immediate confession of your love for Cardi B and your hometown in Mississippi. I loved watching you interact with our 6 other rockstars and watched as you scaled Looking Glass as the first volunteer. Your fearlessness and motivation were unmatched, which aided in your expansion of self-confidence. You brought a fresh dynamic to our group and were so eager to be on cook crew and give Ruth and I hugs- which we absolutely ADORED. You are kind and wise and were such a fabulous car buddy.
To George- To the entertainer of the group, Georgey, you were a BLAST to hang out with for 2 weeks. I knew the moment I met you that you would be the group entertainer, but was surprised by your knowledge and passion for cooking. You were always so eager to dance while chopping onions and peppers and volunteered to be on cook crew, which made this task so fun and satisfying. You experienced so many incredible adventures that I know you are itching to share with your family! Over the 14 days, I know you wanted to tell them these things often; now is your opportunity to communicate with them how much you appreciate them! You are SO passionate and fun loving, and I am so grateful for your hilarious bits that kept our group entertained and light hearted. Go change the world with your joy, because it is truly contagious!
To Hudson- To the shoeless guy who was always up for a nature walk, what a treat it was to spend the last 14 days with you! You are compassionate and full of energy (especially when playing tag and infection) and were concerned with others’ well beings throughout our entire trip. I watched you challenge yourself white water rafting and while paddling the duckies, and saw you overcome challenges with a smile and a positive attitude. You were constantly entertaining the group, whether it was races around the campsite or singing opera with Alex, I loved the way you positively impacted our group. I hope your trip to Spain is incredible and can’t wait to hear about your incredible adventures! Continue to spread love and laughter, because it does make others feel loved!
To Trane- WOW, what incredible growth you had throughout this trip. I loved watching your eyes expand when we told you exciting information and watched you encourage others while challenging yourself on this trip. You were concerned with others well beings, were incredibly helpful and were full of joy in all things! I loved watching you conquer your fears and saw you radiate joy when you stood up on the surfboard! You brought a mature and incredibly positive perspective to our group, and truly impacted our group by encouraging others to see the good in all situations. You are a special young man who was such a joy to be around and want you to continue to see the good in all situations.
To the parents- thank you, thank you, thank you for trusting us leaders to take care of your children. They transitioned from young boys to young men throughout the course of this trip, will forever appreciate a bed and delicious food, and learned about each other in intimate circumstances that transitioned our group of 10 from a group of friends to a family. They are going to change the world, and we can’t wait to watch them do it with kind hearts, positive attitudes and an appreciation for the little things.
With so much love and appreciation,Ruth, Connor and Haleigh
July 12, 2018
Nug the bug here just outside of Charlotte, NC with some exciting 48 hours to report on. Last time we were in this location everyone had just met, and now the group is already spending our second to last night together! How weird is that?? The past two activities seemed to have tripled the speed of time. After a phenomenal sea kayaking adventure and Charleston visit, the group decided to give surfing a try. It was an early wake up, but the group did not waste any time to grab their rash guards and head straight to Folly Beach to catch some insanely gnarly waves.
Upon arrival, nobody could resist the temptation of the ocean. Before they even grabbed a board, everybody bolted straight for the water. (But not before applying layers on sunscreen!!) After all, how else do you warm up for surfing if you don’t do a few rounds of body surfing before hand? Within minutes, Hudson and Alex were dashing into the shoreline seeing how long they could keep running before plunging into the water. Gavin and George were loosening up by swimming tirelessly into waves that would eventually rocket them forward.
As if body surfing wasn’t enough, the group also took ten minutes aside to do yoga (in order to maximize their full surf potential). It was here where Ruth and Connor were able to practice their warrior one pose. The water was glassy and the waves were perfect. It was now officially time to shred.
It had almost been a year since they had surfed, but within the first few minutes of hitting the waves, Hawk and Hudson had already perfected their technique. Whenever big waves hit, they stood up and dropped in effortlessly. It did not take long for everyone else to grasp this strategy too. Before long, George was zipping to the shoreline just to finish with a beautiful front flip off his board in a miraculous finale. Trane was a little uncertain about surfing to begin with. However, by the end of the day, he could not have been more content. I watched as he would ride a wave, pick up his board, and sprint right back in so that he wouldn’t miss another one. Covered in sand with minimal rashes, the group agreed it had been a perfect day of surfing. They couldn’t wait to go back again for the next day.
After a quick lunch, it was time to head back in the water. Although this time, it was time for stand up paddle boarding (SUP). The group set off on a relaxing journey down the Folly River. Along the way everybody had spotted two dolphins (the first one was right in front of Thomas he could almost reach it with his paddle!) There were tons of spots where the group jumped off their boards and had a little water fun to cool down. It was during this time when Alex performed an amazing front flip off his board coupled with a very graceful splash. The group continued their paddle boarding voyage (passing a very cool abandoned ship) and in no time it was already time to head back. Amongst all of the splash fights and racing, Haleigh enjoyed a very soothing tow ride on her board to recover from all of the waves she dominated early in the day. By the time we got back to shore, there was only one thing left to do – a human pyramid. The group took one minute to figure out positions and was able to piece together the perfect pyramid with George standing proudly on top with his hands raised to the sky.
Day two of surfing was just as thrilling as the first. The group was immediately ready to go and the waves were twice as big as before! Alex had to adjust himself to a different board, but handled the transition flawlessly. Meanwhile, Trane, Gavin, and George would throw themselves into “party waves”. These were massive waves that multiple people could all surf together. Thomas captured some amazing Go-Pro footage and the Bacon brothers helped everyone around them catch the perfect wave.
It was extremely hard to leave the beach. However, a little Chipotle seemed to lift everyone’s spirits dramatically. Our next adventure is the National Whitewater Center! It’s the group’s last full day of the trip so I better get going.Talk to ya soon!
Nug the bug
July 11, 2018
Hello again, my faithful readers!!It’s Nug the Bug, updating you on the fabulous adventures that the clan has experienced in Charleston! The group traveled to South Carolina and slept a majority of the van ride. I guess these adventures are tiring out the crew:) They stopped at a little barbecue and hamburger joint on the way, which lifted the kids energy. Once the group arrived in Charleston, they set up camp, played tag, went for walks, and had Moonup.
The next day, the group met up with Coastal Expeditions, who privately ferried them to an uninhabited island off the coast of South Carolina. Their awesome guides, Katie and Kevin, shared knowledge about the birds, fish, blue and horseshoe crabs, and dolphins that inhabited the island. The group was fascinated with the puddles of water that were created by the changes in tides that housed dozens of king crabs and a blue fin. George and Hudson were fascinated with the horseshoe crabs and returned the deceased crabs back into the ocean so they could “return home”. Gavin even caught a fish with his bare hands before releasing it back into the water!! After exploring the beach and receiving a brief marine biology lesson, the group headed back to an area in which they could swim. Chicken fights were had between Connor + Haleigh and Katie + Kevin, tag was played in the water and mud masks were created. Hawk and Trane loved the plough mud and convinced the group to give themselves a mud bath (everyone rubbed mud on their exposed arms, stomachs and faces to exfoliate their skin).After lunch, the group headed to Coastal Expedition’s headquarters on Shem Creek and sea kayaked in the late afternoon. Thomas spotted a couple of dolphins and had two awesome sea kayak rides with Haleigh! George and Gavin were 10 feet from a bottle nose dolphin and could not contain their joy- they were flabbergasted and couldn’t wait for the dolphin to surface for another breath! Alex and Trane were in a splash fight and claimed they won, although it was difficult to determine the winner when both were soaking wet! Due to George’s suggestion, our group had delicious tacos topped with guacamole and hot queso. Ruth knew the group would need to satisfy their sweets craving, so she made gooey oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for the group. Boy, were they crumbly and warm and oh so tasty!The next day, the group met their awesome guides, Katie + Kevin, for an early morning kayak to the outside of the harbor. Our group visualized Fort Sumter, the official location of the Civil War from our kayaks. In the low tide, a few boats were “beached” on the sandbars, but the group’s strength and wit freed the kayaks. After our beautiful morning kayak, the group went back to the campsite to shower and eat lunch and then made their way to downtown Charleston! Ice cream was an absolute must, so we went to a shop for delicious and unique flavors. The group headed to the Charleston City Market to admire vendors’ art, food, and handmade gifts. Next, they headed to Battery Park to watch sailboats cross the water.
The group fueled up so they had energy to surf and stand up paddle board the next day!! Thanks for reading!!
Nug the Bug Shout outs from the kids:
George- I’m having so much fun! Surfing is one of my favorite activities. Shout out to Quinn, hope you’re feeling better. Mom and dad, I can’t wait to hug you in the airport.
Thomas- hey fam! I love Moondance and my counselors!
Gavin- hey mom and dad! I’m having a great time backpacking and surfing. Tell spencer and Riley I miss them and the whole crew. P.s. tell Ryder that the food is really good
Hudson- hey dad! I can’t wait to have a heart to heart with you when I get back! Can’t wait to see you!
Trane- hey mom, surfing was really fun. I can’t wait to get off the plane and see you!
Hawk- hey mom, I love you! The trip has been really cool, we’re doing a lot of fun stuff!
Alex- hey mom, I almost stood up on the surf board and can’t wait to try again tomorrow! I really liked white water rafting as well. I hope Lita is there when I get back!
July 8, 2018
Greetings from Charleston!
Nug the Bug here again to update you on the last couple days of the group’s adventure! After a very eventful three day backpacking trip, the group showed no hesitation to get up early and start their new climbing expedition. George and Thomas helped kick things off on the right note by cooking the perfect, cheesy eggs for the whole group. With the help of a little protein, everyone had primed their muscles extra well to take on the first climbing challenge of the day at Looking Glass.
After all of the backpacking, everyone handled the fairly intense 1 mile hike to the rock with ease. Despite having a mix of rock climbing experience among the group, each person demonstrated remarkable climbing skills and got to experience some of North Carolina’s granite rock! Thomas did not waste a second as he was the first one to grab a rope and begin his assent up. His “just do it” attitude proved to be contagious and really seemed to spark an energy among the group. Meanwhile, Gavin and Alex took a chance and decided to give the more technical route a try. Alex wasn’t so sure he could do it at first, however, he proved himself wrong as the two of them busted some impressive moves and made it up. Haleigh also showed some advanced climbing techniques as she was able to make it up every climb. Thanks to Ruth, each person was able to get excellent action shots as she scaled up to the highest ledge and captured all the best moments with her camera.
I can honestly say that the overall attitude of this group was so remarkable today. Alex pushed himself to a new limit, Gavin and George were constantly exploring, the Bacon brothers developed their climbing skills, Thomas set the spark, and Trane created such an optimistic dynamic that truly made the rock climbing experience unforgettable. All in all, Looking Glass was a pretty big success today.
Since the group had worked up a pretty big sweat on the rock, everyone agreed it was time to cool off for a while. They all piled in the van and set off to Sliding Rock (a giant, all natural rock-water slide that shoots each person into a freezing pool of water). Hudson was extra careful in picking his line for the slide in order to maximize the most speed. He flew straight down the left flank and finished with an impressive plunge. Alex followed him right after with a spectacular 360 spin move. The water was numbing cold, but that did not stop everyone from coming down. After each run, Hawk was always so eager to bounce back up and go for more rounds. At one point Gavin, Trane and George all slid together and tried to race down the rock. Towards the end of our sliding rock adventure, Thomas was able to practice his photography and took some pretty amazing pictures of people sliding. He captured an awesome moment of Ruth, Connor, and Haleigh sliding down and finishing strong all together at the bottom.
As if the water wasn’t cold enough, the group decided it would be a good idea to make their final stop for the day at Dolly’s Dairy Bar. After all, what would a cold day be like without ice cream?! There were some pretty difficult choices to make in the waiting line, but in the end everyone couldn’t be happier with the flavor they chose. (Trane even lucked out and was accidentally given three scoops!). As everyone polished off every last drop from their cone, George continued to put smiles on everyone’s faces with his hilarious jokes and impressive dance moves.
After an extremely eventful day, the group took a much needed rest and then hit the road to Charleston. They have a big day on the beach tomorrow so I gotta run!
‘Til next time!
Nug the Bug
July 6, 2018
Hello my fellow readers,
Our adventures have become more challenging, and have helped build strong young men- both physically and mentally. Our trip preparation began the night before backpacking when Connor and Ruth led the “duffel shuffle”. This means the students gathered all of their clothing, toiletries and gear necessary for the trip in a bag. To prevent bears and raccoons from being attracted to our campsite, the students needed to leave unnecessary smellies- including deodorant and soap.
The next morning, our group awakened early to prepare for our trip. Hawk was incredibly helpful, was quick to ask others how they were doing and always answered with an eager “yes” when the leaders or other students asked him for help. Gavin practically woke up wearing his bucket hat and hiking boots and was so eager to spend time in the backcountry. After packing and eating breakfast, the gang and I headed to Mount Mitchell to begin our hike to base camp. Thomas, who had never backpacked before, absolutely crushed his first hike with a full pack on! He was nervous before our ascent, but chose to conquer this new task with a joyful spirit. After making the 2 mile trek to our basecamp, the gang set up tents and then found an awesome creek to play in. George and Hudson made friends with a few salamanders and crawfish, named Beast, lil guy, and big guy. The students played in the creek for a few hours, built a dam with rocks and spent quality time in nature. Next, the group played Manhunt and tag while the leaders cooked yummy pasta with onions and peppers, and let the boys get some energy out. The group was tired and needed to prepare for their big day ahead, so they finished Moonup and headed to bed.
The next morning, the group awakened and had a hearty breakfast of oatmeal with brown sugar, walnuts and cranberries or granola with powdered milk. Moondance values food that is nutritious and delicious, so the group was fueled for their big hike up the mountain! Once lunch and bags were packed, the group began their hike up the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi! Trane had an awesome attitude while hiking, and even said he would want to hike again- SCORE! Someone’s first experience hiking can make or break their future with this challenging yet fulfilling activity, so it is a huge deal when a new backpacker decides they love it enough to continue! Once the students summited Mount Mitchell, the leaders surprised the kids with patriotic leis and necklaces, red and blue gatorades and hot apple cider for the Fourth of July. To our troops and military families, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for allowing us to live in a safe and free country.
After a long lunch, we descended the mountain, and took a break from physical activity… for about 20 minutes. Some students played cards with Haleigh and Ruth, others played in the creek, and Hawk laid on the grass and took a long nap. Then, spirits and energy arose and the game “infection” began. The group continued to play while Trane and George helped make a fabulous dinner consisting of chicken Alfredo and mashed potatoes. They were absolutely devoured by our group of hungry young men and leaders.
The next day, the group hiked out from their campsite and drove to Brevard, NC for their next day’s activities. At our campsite, everyone showered and boy did it feel good. Alex sang opera while Hudson showered to provide entertainment and unknowingly provided the rest of the campsite with a good chuckle. After their showers, Hudson, Hawk and Alex raced around the campsite and finished very close to each other. Thomas, Gavin, George and Trane were cheerleaders and referees, and had a good laugh calling the shots on the race. The group then had a make-your-own burrito bowl consisting of rice, beans, corn, bell peppers, onions and chicken and was one of their favorite meals to date!
Tomorrow we rock climb and go to Sliding rock, so we need to get some sleep before our big day!
To the parents of these kids, well done. They are compassionate and full of joy, have unhindered spirits and are going to change the world. Moondance is so lucky to have these rockstars be a part of this trip. Their leaders see them growing exponentially as they are challenged and can’t wait to watch them during the second half of the trip!
With so much love and gratitude,
Connor, Haleigh and Ruth
July 5, 2018
Our trip has been off to an amazing start and we have some of the coolest kids EVER. Everyone had the biggest smiles on their faces on airport day and were ready to get to adventuring! After gathering our small but strong group of 7, we loaded our gear into the U-Haul and climbed into the BWV (big white van). Once everyone got into their seats and buckled up, we began our adventure with driving to our first destination…. Tennessee! All the boys were very talkative and excited to meet their new best friends. The “DJ” (leader riding shotgun who controls the music) was getting lots of song requests!
After our drive, we picked up pizza from a local restaurant for dinner! Thomas said it was the best pizza he had ever had! Everyone was so excited when we got to our campsite. Hawk was so quick to help Connor with unpacking the U-Haul and organize duffel bags. Hudson was so excited about setting up a tent for the first time and paid extra close attention to Connor and Ruth. Once the tents were set up, the group sat in a circle to partake in our first Moonup. Even though it lasted a long time, it ended on a good question: “why are you here?” The Moondance leaders really stress the importance of a community of trust and encourage the students to choose words to lift up others, especially during Moonup.
Our first activity of the trip was white water rafting on the Ocoee River. Everyone was so excited! When we got there our guides gave us all the gear we needed and went over the safety talk. The weather was perfect- blue skies with a few clouds and not too sunny. One guide, Hank, was amazing and knew so much about the history and archaeology of the area and taught us so much while on some of the calmer parts of the river. The kids were having so much fun. Alex was in the front of the raft where all the waves crashed, and boy did he got soaked! When we got back to the van, everybody was so exhausted. Gavin was asleep in the funniest position, I have no idea how he was comfortable. We were headed to Almond, NC to go to the Nantahala Outdoor Center to do duckies and the high ropes course. That night, the leaders surprised the group with a fire and s’mores in an established fire ring. They were so amazing, and we all feasted on the delicious treat.
The next morning we headed to the NOC to begin our fun filled day. All the kids had so many questions about how big the rapids were going to be compared to the ones on the Ocoee River. We got our gear, learned river safety protocol, and then hopped onto the school bus! We got in our duckies and then headed downstream! George was leading the group in the front with one of the guides and was paddling super hard. Connor had the GoPro on his helmet and recorded some awesome videos of the rapids we went through. While paddling, I was talking to Trane about the trip and all of a sudden, a passenger car train passed by. We were laughing so hard because of the obvious pun. At the end of the river, we went down the biggest rapid, Nantahala Falls. Thomas and Trane were sure to cheer everyone on as they went down the rapid. It was so fun to have a cheering section!
After the duckies, we had pizza bagels for lunch and headed to the ropes course. The first thing we did was go on the zip line into the ropes course. It was so much fun, it felt like we were flying! It was so cool to see everyone challenging themselves doing the harder course right off the bat. The favorite element was the “skateboard” where you stand on a board and pull yourself across with a rope while still attached to the tether. After everyone did the course multiple times, and the zip line one final time, the leaders surprised the kids with eating ice cream by the river! It was so beautiful, and everyone chose such yummy treats.
Stay tuned to hear about our backpacking adventure next!
Ruth, Connor and Haleigh
July 2, 2018
We heard from Haleigh, Ruth, and Connor, and the trip is off to a great start! Stay tuned for more updates from the leaders over the next few days.