July 4, 2018
“That is to say, I desire to be radiant. To radiate life”
All the planes have left Seattle. Tears have been shed. There is no denying it. With full hearts, watery eyes, blistered feet, and very smelly clothes, the crew of PNW 1C has all returned home to their families, comfortable beds, and normal lives. I’m sure they can attest that they are changed people with new friends and a new perspective on the world around them.
Our last full day was a fantastic one. We traveled back to Olympia where we set up camp for the last time. From there we had a lovely banquet of pizza at a local eatery, followed by the most epic ice cream dance party in the parking lot of Fred Meyers. Molly and I were talking later about how that 30 minute burst of energy and running around the van (aka “Large Marge“) belting out Moana, High School Musical, and Shawn Mendez was truly magical.
We said goodbye to the wonderful Fred Meyers one last time and headed back to camp for Moonup. Our last LODs lead us in the final Moonup by the lake, which proved to be a culminating time of emotions, love and support for the whole group.
The group slept outside, laughing and loving the night away. We woke up earllllly and drove to the airport. And just like that it was over.
21 days ago a group of 9 (mostly) strangers met Molly and I at SeaTac airport. They came together as a bunch of awkward 9th graders, but left as young men and women with new bonds, new found self confidence, incredible stories, and memories that they will surely carry with them for years.
The quote at the beginning comes from the end of a prayer that was found in France during WWI. I read it at the conclusion of the last Moonup. If there is one thing that this group of fantastic people taught Molly and myself it is how to radiate life. We challenged the group to take this feeling of pure and genuine joy and bring it home with them: take it with them as they enter high school and utilize the leadership skills they practiced and honed to better the world around them and to radiate life to those who need it most.
It has truly been a pleasure and a privilege adventuring with this group of people.
So incredibly thankful,
Lucas and Molly
July 4, 2018
“Live every day like it’s your last”
This quote has definitely fueled the group through the last few days of the trip. While we were spending our last few Moonups looking out over the deep blues and greens of the Pacific Ocean, it really started to sink in that our trip was almost over. Instead of letting that bring everyone down, the students were incredibly motivated to live in the moment and soak up every single second. It was incredible to watch.
We headed to the coast immediately after getting ice cream in the Cascades and were able to take 3 minute showers (quite possibly the best showers of everyone’s lives!!). While Bowen, Will and Brinton skipped rocks, the rest of the group collapsed on the beach at sunset, grateful for fresh (non-iodine) water and nourishing food. Julia M. and Brinton asked everyone to count their blessings and talk about what they are grateful for. This Moonup really emphasized how lucky we are to live comfortably and happily, and how grateful we are to be on this trip.
The next morning, we took the ferry to the San Juan Islands where we prepped for kayaking and met our incredible guides Molly (Yes, there were two Mollys) and Kienna! The group was exhausted, and took much needed naps on the bluffs along the coastline. Everyone brought out their sleeping bags to a little spot along the cliffs that night and we all snuggled together during Moonup. That was easily one of our favorite Moonups of the trip. Claire and Emmett asked us where we see the person to the left of us in ten years. The best one is when Brinton decided Ella was going to work at a fro-yo shop for 8 years until she became a super successful doctor, and she would be adored by all, of course. Some of these answers were super goofy, but most of them were incredibly insightful and a true testament of how close this group has gotten over the past few weeks. It really made Lucas and I want to be able to dip back into their lives in ten years and see what amazing things they have accomplished!!!
The next morning, we met up with our guides and took off into the deep ocean! Our sights were set on Stuart Island, a course that included two huge channel crossings through the San Juans. This first day was definitely challenging, but we only heard words of encouragement coming from the students. After about 6 miles of kayaking, we came across a small island of about 30 seals sun bathing and everyone went nuts! Cece claims it was “literally the cutest thing she has ever seen in her entire life”, and Brinton asked me almost every 2 minutes on the dot if we could take one home with us. The seals were definitely our guardian angels this weekend, and we were lucky enough to run into them several times throughout our kayaking trip! We took out at an awesome campsite overlooking the water, and immediately started helping the guides cook dinner. The food was INCREDIBLE!!! Probably the best food of the trip! We had chicken tacos that night with avocados and salsa, and the kids were incredibly happy.
One of our favorite moments of the entire trip came right after dinner when Emmett, Will, Cece, and I started playing a game where we held water in our mouths and tried to make each other laugh until we couldn’t hold it in anymore. Pretty soon, the entire group joined in and was jumping around, dancing, tickling each other, and singing in different accents, desperately trying to make each other laugh. We all ended up in the most impromptu (and best) water fight I’ve ever been a part of, and I’m still laughing to myself as I remember that moment now. That same night, we took a night hike to the other end of the island, which is the furthest northwestern point of the lower 48 United States! It had been cloudy all day, and the sun finally came out just in time for sunset and Moonup, as we overlooked the Canadian islands in front of us. Cece and Ella were our LODs of the day, and had declared that day “Girl Power Day” (so cool), and one of our Moonup questions was, ”Who is a woman that has inspired you?” The responses we got were incredible and insightful, and I am constantly impressed by these students. We hiked back to camp in the dark that night, and Lucas has said over and over that walking with Julia K. and Ella was one of his favorite moments of the trip, full of laughter and conversations that he won’t ever forget!
Our second day faced some strong winds, tough currents, and nonstop rain, making it extremely difficult to paddle. We made it about a mile out before stopping for lunch when our guides decided that it wasn’t safe enough for us to cross the main channel and go to another island. While the goal had always been to make the 11 mile trek across the channel, the entire group came together and kept a positive attitude. As soon as we turned back to Stuart Island, we saw a group of seals come up right next to our kayaks and everybody instantly forgot about the rain was and instead started singing and laughing and racing each other in the kayaks! It was awesome to see how they made a decision as a group to turn the day into another day of adventure, even when the plans shifted. Moonup that night was interrupted by a pair of seals that swam right up to shore and did a little dance before sending off on their way (seriously, they were our guardian angels).
Overall, sea kayaking was a huge blast and we loved having that as our last activity. We are now off to pack and soak up our last few moments together before heading home!
With so much love,
Molly and Lucas
June 28, 2018
“Lunch never tasted so good. I am awash with a sense of well-being, a joy in living, of being here, at this time, this place—a quart of water, some protein, a little fat, and a lot of salt, and my body responds greatly and my spirits soar right into euphoria.
For most of the time, one disciplines oneself to ignore the discomfort of being hot or tired or having sore hip bones or swollen hands or being hungry, thirsty, or all together all at once. I may write about them later, but at the time they are simply set aside, and it is probably this ignoring of basic misery that makes a backpacker. Someone once characterized backpacking as the most miserable way he could think of getting from point A to point B. I wouldn’t go that far, but I do know that if you stopped to inventory where you hurt, you likely would not continue, having discovered that you are not only a masochist but a fool as well. But when salt restores the electrolytic balance, when water cools the insides as well as the brow, when food refurbishes the body’s cells, when time has been spent off one’s feet and a heavy pack is a mile down-canyon, then there follows a tremendous rush of well-being, a physical sense of buoyancy, all out of proportion to the time and place”. –Ann Zwinger
**chosen by our LODs as our daily quote for Moonup on our last night of backpacking
With sore hips, dirty clothes and stinky bodies PNW C has come off the trail and left North Cascade National park. I can honestly say that these past 6-7 days have been some of the most genuine, beautiful and joyful days I have experienced. From jumping into the refreshingly chilly water of Ross lake to climbing 4400 vertical feet to summit Desolation peak at 5am. It’s been a wild time.
After leaving Smith Rock, we had a long drive north filled with a mixture of karaoke jam sessions and hours of quiet slumber. We finally made it safely to northern Washington and spent an entire day packing food and learning everything to prepare us for our 40 plus mile trek into the backcountry. Julia M and Emmett served as LODs for this crucial day and helped make everyone feel comfortable and prepared. We ate a delicious stir fry that night and got a good night’s sleep.
After waking up early, we had a quick breakfast and drove a half hour into north cascade national park. It was there where we strapped on our packs and began! Ella and Will were LODs with the day’s motto of “Press On!!” They were the rock of enthusiasm and encouragement as we took a water taxi across the lake and hiked around 5 miles to an awesome campsite high on a cliff with 270 degree views of the lake and snowy peaks high above. We ate ramen pad Thai and most everyone slept under the stars until a brief rain storm forced folks inside the comfort of our tents in the middle of the night. Overall it was a spectacular day; Will and Ella set the tone for leadership on this particular section. Molly and myself made it very clear that backpacking was the time where we expected most of the leadership to come from the group and not us. As the days went on, new leaders stepped up everyday and we were able to witness some amazing personal and group growth.
Julia K and Brinton woke us up and served as LODs for our first full day in the backcountry. The motto they chose for the day was “radiate positivity”. We broke camp quickly and got into a groove hiking around 4 miles past magnificent vistas along Ross lake. Emmett and CeCe quickly became conductors, leading the group in call and respond songs as we hiked. Will and Brinton said they saw a bear cub in the distance but without any other witnesses it remains a highly debated declaration. Either way, we made it to our beach front camp early in the afternoon. With a sunny sky and not a worry in the world we took advantage of the water to cool us off and clean off the dusty grime from a few days of hiking. I believe Emmett, Claire and Bowen were the first to brave the chilly snowmelt water, but the rest of the crew followed their lead almost immediately. A pasta and chicken dinner was served early, we had moonup and went to bed with the sun still up in order to get enough rest for our 12:30am start up Desolation peak the next morning!!
Bowen and Claire were chosen to serve as LODs for this very long and demanding day. There words were pure inspiration in the morning huddle when they informed us of the day’s motto:
“There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb” -Miley Cyrus
Their leadership, optimism and awareness were crucial to our successful summit. We cranked out nearly 5 miles using headlamps and a full moon as our guide. The sun began to rise as we popped out of the dense trees to witness an amazing sight. Below us was a lake of clouds with a few snowy peaks poking through and above us the goal ahead of us: Desolation Peak! CeCe and Julia K took over lead and paced the whole group for the last mile to the summit. Packs came off and we stood in awe of a 360 degree view of the vast and mighty North Cascades. Emmett was especially excited to see snow and made a snowman at the peak. Before Molly and I could catch our breath, most everyone was asleep on their own rock. We spent hours on top reaping in the bounty of the work it took to get there. Bowen even found his brother’s signature in the visitor book at the lookout tower on top and that was a pretty special moment. We sat in silence, napped, talked with the forest ranger, and some even took the opportunity to use the most scenic outdoor pit toilet I’ve ever experienced. Eventually we gathered our gear and began the hike down. Will, Brinton, Bowen, Emmett and Claire took this as an opportunity to nearly run down the mountain. Granola bars, snickers, the idea of pancakes, a swim, and a nap motivated us on the long descent.
By 2 in the afternoon we had hiked 14 miles round trip and climbed nearly a mile into the sky. Molly and myself made pancakes for the crew to celebrate and we lounged around for the better part of the afternoon. It was wonderful and some well deserved rest and renewal. Overall this day was a peak (pun intended) of our experience. Despite its difficulty both physically and emotionally, the group was constantly radiating positive vibes, encouraging each other and utilizing whatever it took to get us to the top. Cece even mentioned that climb was the hardest thing she has ever done and she absolutely crushed it!! Such an awesome day and one I’m sure many will remember for years to come! This sentiment was spoken and reinforced with a great Moonup on the beach that night.
CeCe and Emmett took over reigns as LODs. We had 5 miles with a good bit of uphill to contend with on day 4. In addition, we experienced our only real extended spell of rain thus far. After napping away the afternoon, we ate Beans, Rice and frito tacos for dinner and huddled under a tarp for a soggy yet meaningful moonup.
Julia K and Will were elected LODs for our final full day of hiking. 8 miles stood in between us and our final campsite by Hozomeen Lake. The motto of the day declared by the LODs was “deal with it”. They encouraged us to dig deep and get gritty as we cruised nearly 5 miles by lunchtime. After a quick trail lunch, Molly and I elected to have everyone walk about 50 feet apart from each other for the remaining 3 miles. Everyone was asked guiding questions to ponder and reflect on during some time of introspection. Questions like “who are you/what motivates you/what do you want with your life” stirred some wonderful thought that we revisited at Moonup later. Camp was absolutely stunning. A quiet high alpine lake surrounded by rugged peaks made us question if we had stumbled into the Swiss alps. CeCe was quick to sing a bit of the Sound of Music soundtrack which fit the mood quite well. We used some extra pancake mix and fashioned up some Oreo snack pancakes to fill our bellies. Some swam, some read and some chatted the afternoon away. After a thanksgiving dinner of potatoes, chicken and stuffing we sipped hot cocoa and cider during moonup on the rocky lake shore.
It was a bittersweet last day but we woke up early to catch our water taxi and leave room to cross international borders. Julia M and Brinton led the way on our last 4 miles to the shore of Ross Lake. We took a quick detour down a 1/2 mile gravel road to hike into Canada!!! We split some snickers bars, took a few pictures and returned to the US as work travelers with new perspectives on life. The water taxi took us back to the van, and after some messy organizing in the parking lot, we were on our way west towards the coast for our next adventure. Molly and I treated everyone to some organic ice-cream as we were leaving the national park. It was a perfect ending to a fantastic adventure.
There were certainly rough moments (as one might expect with a group of 14 year old backpacking greenhorns), but Molly and I were so impressed with the ways in which leadership was assumed and how the group really took ownership of their trip in the most marvelous of ways. It is a sad reality to know that we are over 2/3 done with this grand journey across the Pacific Northwest. These kids constantly are laughing, sharing in each other’s joys and even in each other’s vulnerabilities and woes. There has been so much joy thus far and Molly and I look forward to a week more of those same vibes with such a quality group of youth.
Off to the San Juan Islands for Kayaking!!!
Lucas and Molly
June 20, 2018
“The best climber is the one having the most fun” – Alex Lowe
The past three days of climbing have been truly unforgettable! We are so incredibly proud of each and every one of these kids for pushing themselves physically and mentally these past few days. Our climbing adventure started when we pulled into the Smith Rock State Park and set up our tents amongst climbers that had come from all over the world. The campsite had incredible views of the Deschutes River below, and the top of Smith Rock above. Our favorite reading spot was along the bluff overlooking the entire park, right next to a Bald Eagle’s nest. Needless to say, this campsite was truly mesmerizing. The kids especially liked staying here for three nights because they didn’t have to pack up their tents every morning and they got to take their long-awaited first showers of the trip!
Our first day of climbing started with several top rope climbs at the Basalt Rimrock area of the park. Emmett and Claire were our Leaders of the Day, and they did a really great job getting the group hyped up and excited about climbing! Our guides were incredible and taught the group so many skills within that first hour. We learned how to belay each other, tie figure-8 knots, and harness themselves into the rope. After learning how to belay, the kids got into teams and belayed for each other as the other climbed. We loved seeing how quickly they were able to trust each other while on belay, and we saw incredible communication between the teams. While Julia K. was conquering her fear of heights while climbing up the wall, it was super encouraging to see Cece and Ella cheering her on and coaching her through the climb. Not even ten minutes later, Ella found herself on the wall, facing one of the harder routes of the day. While there were several times that she considered coming down and taking the loss, she found it in herself to push through and keep climbing as Julia K. and Emmett cheered her on. I had stayed back with one of our guides while Lucas went forward with the group, and I was able to watch Ella master that route and make it all the way to the top! I will never forget the smile on her face when she came down. It was the perfect moment of perseverance combined with positivity and encouragement from her friends. This moment was the epitome of a perfect climbing experience!
We moved to a new section of Basalt rock after a few hours of climbing and tried out some more difficult routes. Bowen absolutely mastered one of the harder routes set up for us, and he was the only one that made it to the top of that one! The entire group was motivated by his excitement and positivity throughout the entire day. This definitely won’t be the last time he climbs! We spent about seven hours on the wall that day, and the kids were absolutely exhausted. We left the park pretty hungry, a little cold, and definitely tired. For a second, Lucas and I thought we were just going to head back to camp and take naps/chill for a little while. I’m not entirely sure what caused the second wind, but as soon as we suggested going to a water hole to go swimming, every single one of the students wanted to go. It blew my mind! I am constantly impressed by their positive attitudes and their love for adventure. We spent the afternoon jumping off of a cliff (a very safe cliff, might I add) into the lower section of the Deschutes River. I loved it when Claire said she was pretty nervous to jump, but she knew she had to or else she would regret it. She has faced her fears so many throughout this trip and she always has a smile on her face even when she does things that might scare her! Julia M. also dominated her fears when she jumped off the cliff into the cold snowmelt water! She definitely inspired me to jump because of her bravery and curiosity for adventure. Steelhead Falls was truly a beautiful spot, and a lot of the kids said that jumping off that cliff was one of their favorite moments of the trip so far. Emmett, Cece, and Claire made Jambalaya for dinner that night, and we got to taste a little bit of Emmett’s hometown!
Our second day of climbing was at the North Rim of the park, higher up on Smith Rock. This time, we climbed on tuff, which gave us a lot of really great foot holds and a more technical climb! Cece absolutely crushed that day and made it to the top of all three climbs that were put up. She was easily the most entertaining climber of the day, cracking jokes the entire way up the wall! Brinton really stepped up as a leader that day, cheering every single person on while they were on the wall, and psyching them up before they started climbing. He was so encouraging and positive, and we are so lucky to have him on the trip with us. (He also crushed the harder routes on the wall that day!) We spent almost 8 hours climbing that day, and then went into Bend, Oregon to get burritos and gelato! It was a great town outing, but we were eager to get away from the noise and the people and get back to our campsite oasis at Smith Rock! Moonup last night was one of our best, led by Julia M. and Will, who prompted the question “What is the proudest moment you’ve had in your life?” The two of them set such a good tone for the group and it was awesome to see the kids open up and be vulnerable with each other.
Our last day of climbing was at Monkey’s Face, which is an incredible famous spot known by climbers from all over the world. The climb started off with a 15-foot traverse on a rope, dangling 200 feet above the ground into the “Monkey’s Mouth”. From there, we climbed out of the mouth and up the face of the monkey. Once at the top, we repelled down the 200 feet on our own belay device! Will was the first one of the students to go, and he absolutely dominated. It’s a pretty difficult climb to achieve and it was impressive that he volunteered to go first! I was so proud of this group for conquering the Monkey’s Face climb. It encompassed everything they had learned in the last few days, and all of their hard work finally came to fruition. Through the dance parties in the van, on top of Smith Rock, and even in the grocery store, Lucas and I feel continually blessed to have this group of students with us for three weeks! Off to backpacking!!!
P.S. We had a moment of silence for our dads on Father’s Day! Even though no one could be in contact, just know that we were all thinking of you, and we love you all very, very much!
Molly and Lucas
June 16, 2018
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” -Mary Oliver
Greetings from Oregon!! The crew just got off the Deschutes River after nearly 40 miles of paddling and cruising over the last two days. We spent the night next to the river with magnificent rocky cliffs on either side.
Before rafting, Julia M and Will were our first Leaders of the Day (LOD) as we traveled south from where we camped the first night near Olympia. They kept us on schedule and led games in the van as everyone got to know each other.
Julia K and Bowen served as our LODs for the first day of paddling and did an awesome job pumping everyone up for the first part of our journey. Emmett was bold and brave when he jumped off the raft into the brisk water first (within the first 5 minutes). CeCe, Bowen, Emmett, and Will all took turns steering the raft with the guide oars in the back. Will might have even discovered a future career as a raft guide with his newfound skills. Halfway through the first day the entire crew jumped off “jump rock” into the river, conquering a few of the group members’ fear of heights!
We camped by the river, ate burritos, and had Moonup under a calm starry sky. Ella, Brinton, and Julia M acted as cook crew and assisted our stellar guides in prepping all the delicious grub that kept us fueled and full.
Brinton and CeCe took the reins next as LODs for our second day of rafting. A few gnarly Class III and IV rapids took up most of the morning. Different folks got the opportunity to “ride the bull” and sit on the front of the raft through certain rapids which was awesome! Claire rode the bull through a massive wave train and despite her efforts to hang on, she was our first swimmer of the day; but she took it like a champ and hopped right back into the raft pumped to do it again!
We are safely off the river and headed to Smith Rock for 3 days of climbing. The raft guides asked Molly and I how long this group of “old friends” had known each other. They were quite surprised by my answer of “ehh like three days.”
Life is good out here, everyone is having a blast, and we are so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to adventure with such an awesome bunch of young people.
Lucas & Molly
June 13, 2018
Hello Pacific Northwest Families!
We’ve heard from our leaders and the group has arrived safely in Seattle. They are headed to their first campsite! Stay tuned for more news from their adventures.