July 28, 2018
“All of us need to explore, go out there and see what’s beyond the next horizon. When you get there, your heart beats a little faster, you’re focused, you’re living in the moment. It’s those experiences that are the richest in life.” – Conrad Anker
These words by Conrad Anker perfectly articulate what PNW2B accomplished during our time spent together traveling across the Pacific Northwest. We came, we saw, we conquered. Once twelve strangers, our group is now a family. It is a unique and valuable experience when individuals with differing personalities, backgrounds, and goals can come together as a team, and we did just that. This group not only formed a lasting bond with one another, but thrived as a cohesive, unbreakable unit, a unit that could accomplish anything we set our minds to.
When I met your children for the first time in the airport nearly a month ago, I could immediately sense that our group would find success in any challenge that we faced. It was clear from the beginning that each of your children possesses certain characteristics that would strengthen our group dynamic. After having the privilege to spend an extended period of time with each child, I can confidently claim that all of my expectations were exceeded. They all displayed incredible maturity and unwavering personal strength despite challenge and adversity. What truly impressed me, however, was the genuine support that they provided each other over the course of our trip.
Casey and I are sad to say goodbye, but incredibly grateful that we were granted the time to get to know each of your children. We hope that they learned as much from us as we were able to learn from them, and that they stay in touch as they dominate every challenge that the real world presents them with the same steadfast determination that they displayed on this trip. We have the utmost confidence that each and every one of them will be successful in anything they choose to take on. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you so much for sharing your children with us.
Jane and Casey
July 24, 2018
Greetings from Smith Rock. PNW 2B out here surrounded by towers of Volcanic Tuft and clear blue skies in Oregon. Gravity is quietly waiting to challenge us in the coming days. Well rested from our time on the Deschutes River, the group is eager to tackle the challenges and soar to new heights. The last 2 days were a wonderful change of pace after the grueling challenge of backpacking in the mountains. Everyone was overjoyed to let the river do the work for us for a change.
We awoke bright and early to meet our guides at the put in for the Deschutes River. As the sun began to rise into the sky, temperatures quickly rose and the gang was eager to take a dip into the waters. The guides started our day with a Safety and Risk management talk, a name game, then off we went. The gang split into two rafts, the cougars and the grizzlies. Almost immediately the games began. Kate and Louisa were in the water before anyone could blink. Something was in the water that morning, because the girls could not stop singing. Kate, Louisa, and Pearl had a little gig worked out were one would go high, another low, and the final singing a tone right in the middle. I will admit, once they got it down the girls were kind of rocking. They serenaded us most of the first day with various songs, breathing energy into the group. As we drifted down the river, we played games all day.
The Grizzlies were composed of Nick, Davis, Jones, Pearl, Luke Phelps, and Jane. The Cougars was made up of Claire, Kate, Louisa, Luke, Mills, and myself. Naturally, a splashing war broke out anytime the boats neared each other. No one was spared the mercy of staying dry. At times we would even try to board each other’s boats for some shenanigans. Everyone turned against me at one point to get me in the water, but my defenses were up and they all came up short the first day. Davis boldly jumped on our boat for a raid, trying to dunk me in, but I had the last laugh as he splashed into the water. Luke Phelps spent more time in the river than on the boat. He would swim/float idly by the boat in calmer portions, enjoying the cool waters on a hot day.
As we came to White Horse, our first and largest rapid of day one everyone was alert, paddles at the ready. Our guide shot us right down the middle and we all laughed our way joyfully through the waves, drenched by the end of it. It was a blast. Mills and Luke, who had an alliance to stay in the boat, turned on each other and soon they were each floating in the river. We finished the first day swimming through a unique rapid that shot each of us right down the river to camp. Everyone swam through it multiple times, enjoying the ride. That afternoon Nick proposed a hike when we got to the camp so all the guys took off up the mountain side all the way to a nearby peak for a spectacular view of the river and valley. After stretching our legs, we made it back just in time for dinner, a delicious yellow curry with tofu. We even had grilled pineapple with homemade whip cream prepared by Kate and Louisa for desert. After dinner the gang played several rounds of Mafia to top off the evening before Moonup. Under a star-studded night sky we had a thought provoking Moonup then headed to bed to catch some sleep.
The next morning we awoke to grub on some yogurt and cereal, which was wonderful to eat after no fresh food on backpacking. A series of four rapids gave our day a quick and exciting start, with everyone sufficiently drenched 15 minutes in. Once again, a plot began to form to get me into the water. Several people charged me but I got low and fended off the would be attackers. It was Claire who got the last laugh though. As she walked from the front of the boat along the side, I reached out to give her a hand for support, then suddenly she turned on me and flung me right into the river. Quite the clever move. Jones jumped in our raft for a short bit, betraying the Grizzlies to become a Cougar, a decision the Cougars very much approved. We finished the day going through three exciting rapids, with everyone taking turns sitting on the front of the raft ‘riding the bull’. As we arrived to the take out down river, we organized ourselves, derigged the boats, and settled down for a nice picnic lunch. Feeling recharged, we reluctantly said goodbye to our guides and headed south. As we begin to climb, everyone is in great spirits with high energy. Some butterflies fill our stomachs about climbing, but that’s ok as long as we keep them flying in formation. We’re all ready to rock it (pardon my pun) at Smith the next couple of days. Until next time, take care.
Casey and Jane
Shoutouts from the Gang:
Hi Mom and Dr. Dave, I hope you all are having some much needed relaxation without me. I’m having a great time in Washington and Oregon. The views are incredible and breathtaking. Mom, while we were white water rafting we got the chance to swim down a rapid and it was amazing. I think you would’ve loved it. Backpacking and sea kayaking were definitely difficult, yet also extremely rewarding. Tell Mikey and Andre that they are the cutest boys in the whole wide world. Helena, I miss you and can’t wait to catch up. Gus, Sol and Bebe, I miss you all so much. Infinite X’s and O’s, Weezy.
Hey Mom, Dad, H & W; I’m having a fun time at Moondance! We started with kayaking in the San Juans which was very hard (we kayaked 24 miles in all). We then backpacked in the Cascades which was even more challenging especially Desolation Peak. (we backpacked 38 miles in all). Mom you would have loved all the hikes and you would be proud of all the miles we did. ???? We then drove to Oregon and white water rafted. We are climbing Monkey’s Face soon which is a really high and hard climb. Every activity we have done are all very difficult but I’m glad I did PNW in the end. I’ve made a lot of best friends and I miss y’all a lot. I can’t wait to see you on Thursday!! I love you!!
Hey guys I’m having fun on PNW. How is Biscuit doing? See you soon!
Hey family!! I’m having so much fun on PNW! It’s been super cool but challenging. So far backpacking has been my favorite activity (even though it was super hard). Soon we are climbing Monkey’s Face, and I am really nervous but also excited. I miss y’all so much and can’t wait to see y’all! Love you guys!!!!
Hey guys! I am having so much fun on PNW! Even though I have been challenged many times on this trip, I’m very happy I chose to do it and I’m so sad I’m leaving soon. I miss you guys so much and I can’t wait to see you soon!
Hey Family! I am having a lot of fun on PNW! Backpacking has been my favorite activity so far, but I miss you all very much. Tell Sammie and Skye I say hello!
Hey Mom and Dad, I’m having a great time at this camp. Everyone is very nice and friendly.
Hey family its mills! Camp is kool! Everyb0dy is very nice! Soon we’re doing monkey face. I’m nervous but I know that it will be fun. I miss home and want to be there.
-Love mills Robert Williams
This is Nicholas. Just want to say that everything is going fine over here. I’m having a good time and trying new things.
Hi guys I have been having a great time everyone is really nice tell the dogs I’m coming home see you soon.
July 24, 2018
A Walk in the Woods
Hey There Folks,
PNW 2B here making our way south down to the heat of the Oregon desert, hoping all is well. Fresh off our journey through the Cascades, we are both excited for some well-deserved R&R on the Deschutes River and sad to see the last of the marvelous North Cascades. Backpacking has been both an exploration of rugged wilderness and one of self-discovery. The only limitations in life are the ones we set for ourselves, and this was a central theme to our Backpacking trip and a lesson we taught to each other. After six days in the mountains, Jane and I are overwhelmed with pride and joy from seeing the grit with which everyone stepped out of their comfort zones and grew as strong young leaders. Let me give you a glimpse into our story in this beautiful land.
Driving up to the North Cascade National Park, jagged snow-covered peaks towered over us on either side and awaited our arrival as far as the eye could see into the distance. It was a daunting sight and humbling moment for everyone as we mentally prepared ourselves for the week to come in this land. After a quick stop at the ranger station for bear canisters, a lesson on the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles, and some last-minute info on how the conditions had been, the gang piled back into the van and off we went. There was a sense of excitement and anxiety about the miles to come. Ready as we’d ever be, we arrived at the parking lot and said goodbye to air conditioning, music, and all the luxuries of the front country. After making the mile hike down to the Ross Lake Dam on a rather hot afternoon, we boarded our water taxi and made our way to the trail. Being the first day, our packs were heavy with food, and the group was just beginning to adjust to the load, so we took frequent breaks.
Although hot out, we said goodbye to the taxi under beautifully clear skies at Rainbow Point. On the shore of Ross Lake, we had a lovely brunch of muffins and sausage to fuel us up before we began the days mileage. The wildlife quickly taught the first backcountry lesson: Always keep an eye on your food. Chipmunks pick pocketed some homemade trail snacks from an unsuspecting victim’s bag that had been left out. Meanwhile some deer crept up rather close for a quick look around. It was an unlucky, but valuable reminder that the group was in their home now. After digesting, we meandered our way down the trail to the night’s campsite, set up everything, then promptly made our way to the nearby shore for some fun in the water. Led by Davis, who was always quick to suggest some time in the water, everyone went to cool off in the lake. Davis was great about always promoting spontaneous adventure into the water and side hikes, even when the group was tired. His sense of adventure brought the group many of our favorite moments, especially when we least expected it, something that really helped lift spirits on the hard days out there. The first day is always tough, not because of the mileage though. It is tough because everyone’s adjusting to the trails. It is so easy to sink into a slump. Luke Phelps’ light hearted, fun-loving attitude made all the difference through-out the trip, but especially on the first day. He always served as our reminder to enjoy the moment and not take things too seriously and let it get you down. As the sun began to set, we made our way back to camp, had our first backcountry Moonup, and slumped into our sleeping bags for some much-needed rest.
The next morning began with breakfast burritos, a group favorite. It was Nick’s Birthday! Everyone wished him a Happy one and off we went down the trail to the next camp to celebrate. With a little more pep in our step, the group was already showing signs of improvement along the trail. We arrived at Lightening Creek with plenty of sunshine to celebrate with, and again we immediately b-lined it for the water. As we distracted Nick, Jane hung all the party decorations and threw together a backcountry cookie cake topped with peanut butter for the B-day boy. We had ourselves a good ole fashion birthday celebration at dinner then got to bed early in order to rest for the night hike up to Desolation awaiting us the in a few hours.
Desolation was an incredible challenge for the group. It was also the biggest opportunity for growth. With 7 miles of uphill climb waiting for us, everyone had to dig deep and step out of their comfort zones to conquer this mountain. The journey up Desolation was a very real metaphor for life. Life is a struggle at times. It can wear you out with its ups and downs. But we all have so much more strength and spirit inside of us than we can ever know, and if we just push ourselves through the hard times a beautiful reward waits on the other side. We began at midnight walking by the lights of our headlamps. After two miles of gradual uphill, we began making our way up steep switchbacks for the remainder of the climb. They group was getting very winded and doubt began to creep into people’s minds that they couldn’t make it. Nick and Luke, who were more experienced hikers, constantly kept a conversation throughout the hike, something invaluable on our way up. With 4 to 5 hours of hiking, just talking to stay positive was huge and they kept engaging everyone as they struggled up the mountain and helped the group along. Their positive encouragement was amazing for the group.
Kate, who expressed her doubts at one point, looked over at me at our last water stop, and silently nodded her head. She turned a corner and began to believe that she could in fact conquer this mountain. Jane and I live for moments of growth like this. It was so special to see Kate dig deep the last 1/3 of the hike and push all the way up to the summit. Seeing her spirit was contagious for the group and helped everyone else overcome the last bit, even through the fatigue. The group made it up to the peak in record time, right as the first light of dawn began to creep over the horizon. It was a beautiful pallet of colors as the sun rose, something everyone truly earned and will certainly remember. We danced to music and celebrated our accomplishment. As the group napped for an hour atop Desolation, Jane and I chatted with Jim, the fire lookout, over the best cup of coffee we’ll ever have. We made our descent and enjoyed the views on the way down. To top of the days excitement, right before we arrived at camp the group stumbled into a black bear! Standing our ground, the bear scampered off and everyone laughed. Louisa, who was always quick to volunteer to help however she could, helped whip up some diner for the group. She is always such a team player, helping carry more than her weight of the workload.
The next morning, everyone was aching and quite sore. A few people were feeling sick, so we decided to rest in the heat while the group recovered and hike later in the evening/night. We took off around sunset on a cool evening as the moon began to rise and the stars began to shine. Mills and Pearl, the leaders of the day, supported the group up a grueling start uphill to our 6-mile night hike. Constantly checking on the group and encouraging everyone, they showed incredible leadership as the group made our way around to the backside of the mountain by moonlight. Everyone began to drag towards the end, but Pearl and Mills constantly pushed the pace and kept us chugging along with support. We stopped on the trail for a rest break, turned off our headlamps, and all reveled in the dark about how unique it was that we were in the mountains hiking at night. How lucky we were. We arrived at Nightmare camp to grab some much-needed slumber, falling asleep to the sound of the creek.
Pesto Pasta for Breakfast! We loaded up on carbs the next morning and hiked excitedly to our last and prettiest campsite for the trip. By this point the group was cruising. They had come so far from day one it was like a new group of hikers. With smiles on everyone’s faces we made quick work of the first half of the days hike and stopped at Willow Lake for a nice waterside picnic in the meadow. We had a big conversation about how powerful mindset can be on our ability to overcome challenges in life. Jones, who ALWAYS had a positive and can-do attitude, brought up and recognized that their attitude about things is sometimes the only thing they can truly control and was crucial to success. It made us proud to hear them talk so wisely. A brisk 2 miles later, we were all hooting and hollering as we swam in Hozomeen Lake. It was wonderful afternoon. That night we had one last memorable Moonup in the backcountry. It had been such a special and rewarding journey for us all. Claire asked everyone a wonderful and thoughtful question at Moonup about what they would take from this challenging trip into their everyday lives and how it changed them. It was the perfect question!
Our last morning, we slept in a bit then boogied on down to the lake for our taxi. We all reflected on how much we had grown and accomplished on the ride back, passing all the mountains we had covered by foot on the way. After piling back into the car, we cruised over to Cascadian Farms for some ice cream. It never tasted to good!
Jane and I truly treasured watching the group grow so much closer together through the challenges. Everyone stepped out of their comfort zone, proving to themselves they were stronger than they thought. It was so inspiring and rewarding to be a part of.
Casey and Jane
July 12, 2018
Salutations from the Northern Cascades!
From all of PNW 2B — we hope that friends and families are doing well back at home, wherever that may be. It is crazy to believe that I am already writing this update and that the first chapter of this crazy adventure has come to a conclusion, but what a time was had by all. Sea kayaking throughout the San Juan Islands is truly an experience of a lifetime, made all the better by a group of positive, adventurous individuals. They say that it’s not your surroundings that make the experience, but instead the people. As I reflect on the first couple of days spent with this group, I am confident that the bonds that have formed and the lasting memories that have been shared have truly made our team develop into a miniature family. Each and every one of your kids was immediately engaged, enthusiastic, and open to new friendships. Casey and I are incredibly impressed by how quickly this group has become comfortable and open with one another, and cannot wait to see how traversing throughout the backcountry will bring us even closer.
As we left the airport on our first day, the van was soon abuzz with lively conversation and laughter. The apprehension typical when meeting new people quickly eroded, giving way to budding friendships. This process was certainly accelerated with the help of Davis; his outgoing and comedic nature made the group very comfortable early on which was appreciated by both Casey and I. On the way to our first campsite for the night, we enjoyed a delicious pizza dinner in the quaint town of Mount Vernon. Full as can be, we then traveled a short distance to our home for the night which was nestled against a beautiful inland bay. The kids were in awe of the campsite’s beauty, the first of many breathtaking destinations that we will experience together.
The group headed down to the water after learning how to set up tents and discussing expectations for the trip. The black pebble beach gave way into sparkling blue water, with a multicolored sunset dominating the sky. Despite the time being near 7 o’clock, Davis already had his swimsuit on, determined to take his first swim of the trip. Though the water was unfortunately too cold, the group was inspired by his eagerness and adventurous spirit. We had our first Moonup after skipping rocks and playing along the beach, discussing living in the moment, being present and open with one another, and what we would like to personally accomplish over the next three weeks. Looking around at one another, I think we all knew that we were about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Mere strangers at the beginning of the day, we were now a unit, ready to take on anything.
Early the next morning the group caught a ferry from Anacortes to San Juan Island. Once there, we explored the little harbor town, peeking into shops and admiring the boat-filled skyline. It could not have been a more spectacular day; the sky was a crystal- clear blue, and the water was calm and pristine. Soon, we all knew, we would be traversing that very water via kayak. The anticipation was immense and palpable.
We met our guides in nearby park to talk risk management and receive our dry bags. Kevin and Sam were incredibly friendly and answered all the kids’ questions on what to pack and expect while sea kayaking. They even joined us for a name game, in which everyone had to declare their name, followed by a food of the same beginning letter. We had played this game on the ride from the airport, and the food names had stuck. We warned both Sam and Kevin that they should choose their food wisely, as this is probably what they would be called for the duration of our sea kayaking excursion. Luke P. had learned this the hard way, as the group now commonly refers to him as Lobster. Kevin soon became Kombucha, and Sam Salami.
For the rest of the day, our schedule was free. Instead of lounging around and complaining of boredom, the kids took advantage of the beautiful campgrounds, playing frisbee and exploring. Louisa and Kate, master of friendship bracelet making, pulled out their supplies and taught all willing how to create cool patterns. We were all impressed by their skills, and appreciated their willingness to share their string and other supplies. The girls made awesome bracelets with beads that spell out “PNW”, and have been sporting them ever since.
After cook crew (Jones, Davis, and Pearl) assisted in making a delicious stir-fry dinner, the group took a little hike up a nearby trail to watch the sunset. When we returned, our trip’s first Leaders of the Day, Davis and Claire, led another memorable Moonup. Before it began, we all took a couple of minutes to sit in silence and look out at our surroundings. We could see Canada in the distance, and the water reflected the vast sky above. Casey and I believe that taking time to have moments of reflection and mindfulness such as this one are incredibly important, and allow each student to be truly present.
We rose early the next day. Dry bags packed and ready to be stuffed in kayaks, the group departed from San Juan Island County Park eager to meet our guides and get on the water. After receiving a safety talk from Kombucha and Salami, we pushed our boats from the dock and were off! For about two miles, we traversed alongside the coast of San Juan. Purple starfish spotted the rocky coastline, and the colorful coral could be seen beneath our boats. We stopped for lunch at Caution Point, enjoying Thai chicken wraps and lounging by the sea. With arms rested and ready to tackle another paddle, we made our way across the channel to Jones Island. I had the pleasure of being paired with Louisa for our trek to Jones. As we paddled, I had a blast getting to know her better. Throughout our journey so far, Louisa has constantly offered her assistance in whatever task the group is undertaking, which is testament to her maturity and helpfulness.
An hour and a half later the group was steering their kayaks onto shore. We had made it! Finally! The group was ready to depart and explore the island. We set up camp under the guidance of Kombucha and Salami, ate a hearty meal of chicken tacos, and then made our way on a little excursion around the island to catch the most gorgeous sunset. The sky was ablaze with more colors than ay of us could count. The go-pro gurus (Pearl, Claire, Kate, and Louisa) worked their magic, capturing the moment with ease. Our black silhouettes against the sorbet-colored sky definitely made for a great picture. We made our way back to camp and had s’mores and Moonup by the fire, and fell asleep, ready for what the next day would bring. More specifically, we all wanted to get a good rest so that we could have a lot of energy to celebrate Mills’ 14th birthday!
We slept in, and surprised Mills with his favorite candy as soon as he departed his tent. We gathered around a map of the San Juan Islands, planning out our route for the day. We would be traveling to Blind Island, a small island about 6 miles south of Jones. On Blind, we planned to enjoy a nice lunch while lounging by the water.
Little did we know it, the paddle was a long one. We rounded corner after corner, but for what seemed like an eternity, Blind was not in sight. Arms were tired and moral was low, but Nick L. was as mentally and physically strong as an ox. He kept the group positive. We eventually made it, and ended up having an awesome time. Though the day was challenging, the group all agreed that it made us stronger as a group.
That night, the party planning committee (Pearl, Kate, Claire, Jones and Louisa) and I hiked out to a small place along the shore to set up a surprise party for Mills. We set up candy and blew up balloons. When Mills hiked up with the rest of the group, we burst into song and he blew out candles on a couple of hostess cakes. The night was filled with joy and laughter, and we were all happy that Mills had had a great 14th birthday. Buddha (Luke L.) helped lead a great moonup, enticing the group with the question “if you were a car, what car would you be and why?” This question led to some interesting conversation, and we were all grateful for the humor.
For our last day of sea kayaking, we rose early to meet a favorable current on our way back to San Juan. We had lunch on a tiny island (one of the smallest state parks in the whole country!), and then headed back into Roche Harbor. The day was a lot easier than the one before, and we felt re-energized.
Waving goodbye to our guides, we were sad our days of kayaking amongst seals, bald eagles, and porpoises were over, but excited to meet our next challenge. The group is strong heading into the backcountry, and we can’t wait to tell you about all of our adventures to come.
Ta ta for now!
Jane and Casey
July 6, 2018
Hello Pacific Northwest Families!
We have heard from Jane and Casey – All students arrived safely in Seattle and the group is headed to their first campsite. Stay tuned for more news from their adventures.