Trip Updates

Yosemite 1 • June 13-July 3, 2018

See ya Later, Yosemite!

July 3, 2018

We are in complete disbelief that our trip has come to an end. While it feels we have known each other for ages our time together flew by. We finished on a high note in Point Reyes and with one last morning of surfing. In Point Reyes the crew set up a circle of tents that we called Tentville. We practiced our headstands and Josie surprised us all with a perfect execution after only two attempts. Ashe and Caroline barbecued some bacon rapped hotdogs, and we all feasted with sides of baked beans and a sautéed vegetable medley. Madison and Katherine then treated us with some camp style brownies which turned out quite well. Davis and Caroline lead us through a Moonup where we all shared our favorite family tradition and then we hit the hay.

Bruce and Madison woke us up and Charlotte cooked us all some divine banana, blueberry, and chocolate chip pancakes. We then spent the morning on a walk to the lighthouse through Point Reyes National Seashore. We went to Sea Lion overlook but could not spot any lions through Carl, the dense fog.

We spent our afternoon exploring the quaint coastal town of Point Reyes. We got ice cream, baked goods, and Patrick and Will got matching Baja Hoodies.

Our campsite was just South of San Francisco down a long and windy road in an awesome Redwood Forrest. The trees here made us feel like little fairy people dancing through a magical wonderland. Mary, Bruce, and Katherine worked together to grill up some fire beef and cheese quesadillas and we Mooned up; this time sharing what we all would take away from this trip. It was so rewarding to hear the students sharing all of their personal growth and how they would go back into the world a changed person. Less screen time, healthier diets, more independence, and more gratitude were some of the intentions that were discussed.

We woke up with the sun for our final full day and quickly headed to Pacifica Beach for an early surf lesson. The seas were not nearly as rough this time making for a much more relaxed day of surfing. Again, the student impressed both us and the outfitters with their ability to pick up skills, and more importantly their positive energy. We were told the best surfers are the ones who have the most fun, and by this measure we are all professionals.

After getting all packed and cleaned up we visited a local thrift store and purchased some crazy fun banquet attire. We had one last walk on the beach with a long game of 5000 in which Leighton showed up all the guys with her athleticism. Finally, we celebrated our last supper together at a taqueria in our new costumes; we definitely got some weird looks.

We ended our trip with a birthday celebration for Patrick, Caroline, and Bruce and then stayed up late with a 4 hour Moonup. This time sharing what we loved about each person. So many of the students opened up allowing such a powerful loving energy that brought tears to nearly everyone. We all slept together under our Redwood canopy watching shooting stars.

All the students have now been sent off at the airport and Annie and I are left alone with a deep sadness. This was without a doubt the most amazing group of people we’ve gotten to be a part of. We are left with nothing but a deep appreciation and love unique to each and every student. We saw every student go through such amazing transformation and just want to say thank you. Thank you to the students for being such open, curious, attentive, driven, enthusiastic, passionate, loving human beings. Thank you to the student for changing our lives and for allowing themselves to be changed. Thank you to Moondance for making this experience possible and giving our crew the framework to create the adventure of a lifetime. Thank you to the parents for supporting and pushing your children to partake in this great adventure. Thank you, parents, for gifting us the presence of your prize possessions for a whole 21 days. We are so proud of these young leaders and they have touched our lives so deeply that I can only imagine we will stay connected until the day we die. This truly was a family like no other, Annie and I have been sitting here in the airport for 2 hours now just talking about how special these people are. We have no doubt that these are the people who will go on to be leaders that our planet needs; we are beyond excited to see what the world has in store for them. Finally, we want to share the Yosemite Moonifesto which hopefully will give you a taste of who we are.

Yosemite Moonifesto

We are the waterfall wanderers. The cliff jumpers. The pancake perfecters. When life gives us seaweed, we either jump rope or eat it. We walk the beaches and drive the windy roads hours away from the cities. 10 hours in the car just means a 10 hour jam sesh. We always sing along. Even to Juice World. And dance. Even in the Home Depot parking lot. We are a family. When we climb mountains, everyone reaches the peak. When we jump in the bone chilling water, we do it together. We are all for one and one for all. Our packs off breaks consist of alpine lake swims and yoga. We are riddlers. We like charcoal beards but liquid peanut butter… we’ve always hated it. Give us orange drink or give us death. We rise before the sun and fall asleep under shooting stars and UFOs but always try to get enough rest for the next adventure. For us the time is always now, so don’t bother asking. We ask questions. All of them. We contemplate this world and others. We feel we’re not alone. Odama walks with us on our quest for Lumeria. We are on the hero’s journey and will make it known. Quiet hours were made because of people like us. We unabashedly monkey around and unleash our battle cry. (UHLOOLOOLOOO) but equally appreciate a moment of silence, no matter how brief. It doesn’t take much to please us, a simple gas station will do. We have a love/hate relationship with veggies. We are comfortably dirty but our stench is overpowered by the barking spiders that follow us. We think nature’s pretty neat. We like rocks. We like rivers. We like Rubik’s cubes. For us, every moment is a lesson and every person is a teacher. We know there’s more than one way to get from point a to point b. Whether its climbing rocks, surfing waves, floating rapids, glissading, or walking on our hands, we’ve tried them all. We are waking up. We feel it in our bones. The tarot cards say so. As does sandy. As does our psychic Susan. We pay close attention so as to not miss the signs. There’s a light in our eyes, as we fall to the ground. We never pass up a milkshake. We push the limits. We leave our comfort zones and enter the splash zone. We really do love each other and in spirit are together forever, but because we are just visiting, now we must go. The world is waiting for us. The fire breathing dragon has been conquered. Now, hand in hand, we walk each other home.

 

With love,

Will and Annie


Rafting Down the American River!

July 1, 2018

The Yosemite crew just left the American River with another successful adventure under our belts. When we got to our base camp on Thursday night, Josie and Davis helped the group pack everything they would need for rafting in their daypacks, so we would be ready to roll in the morning. We dined on some spaghetti with meat sauce that Katherine and Ashe cooked and then star tripped till Moonup. Patrick still isn’t sure how exactly you become good at spinning. Maybe some people are just born with it. On Friday morning we loaded up the van and headed out to meet our raft guides. Skye, Otto, Garret, and Blake greeted us and got us suited up with helmets, life jackets, and dry bags for our stuff. As LODs, Patrick and Leighton divided the group into three different rafts and pumped everyone up to spend the next couple days on the river. We headed out on the Middle Fork of the American River which only has two access points from the road- put in and take out. Other than that, we had free range of the 17 mile stretch of river with little to no interaction with anyone else. No people, no telephone poles, no loud highways, just our group with the beautiful mountains and chilly water.

 

We started with some splashy class III rapids right off the bat. Everyone was honing their paddling skills on these first few rapids because our guides were emphasizing how important it was for our group to be dialed for Tunnel Chute, the class IV rapid that we were swiftly approaching. Before we reached this iconic whitewater section, we docked our rafts and hiked around to scout the chute. As we looked down at the river, we couldn’t help but laugh nervously at the rushing water below. It was going to be intense, but we were super excited to get back in our rafts and conquer Tunnel Chute, which is exactly what we did! There was nothing but laughter and excited yells as we exited the rapid and entered the tunnel. This tunnel was hand chiseled during the gold rush to excavate millions of dollars worth of gold and ended up altering the path of the river permanently. After one more class IV we beached our rafts for lunch. We felt spoiled as the raft guides set up a buffet lunch for us and we didn’t have to lift a finger with the preparation. The first course? A unique salsa and cream cheese combo accompanied with tortilla chips and a fruit platter. We washed that down with ice cold lemonade and then put together some delicious sandwiches and finished off the meal with a few cookies. We were beyond content finishing up lunch and were so thankful for our guides for pampering us.

 

We didn’t have any more large rapids in front of us for the day so the guides whipped out an inflatable two person kayak that we could take turns using. Leighton and Charlotte hopped in first and were faced head on with a class III rapid. We were sure that they wouldn’t make it through without flipping and going for a swim but they proved us wrong and were unphased by the rapid. We pulled over to the side of the river again because the guides had told us about an awesome slot canyon they wanted us to check out. We scurried up rocks shaped and smoothed by a dried up waterfall then we waded through knee deep water up to the slot canyon. We waded into the slot between two rock slabs as a light waterfall fell on top of our heads and we walked further into the canyon to let the water really rush over us. After our hike, we boarded our rafts and got back on the river but the water was so calm that the guides let us get out and swim whenever we pleased. We welcomed the chilly water after roasting in the sun all morning and jumped at the opportunity to float the rest of the way to our camp. Ashe caught some z’s on the raft on the way to camp which looked like one of the most relaxing naps in history. We pitched our tents on the sandy beach but left our rain flies off so we could have the experience of sleeping under the stars without the sand in our sleeping bags. As usual, we played a round of signs while waiting for dinner to be ready. The guides showed off their culinary skills by grilling up steak, chicken, veggies, and cooking pasta and garlic bread for our large appetites. After dinner they even surprised us with a cookie/brownie/icing combo that was fye. Low key it was lit. With the daylight that we had left Madison and Annie successfully taught Katherine, Caroline, Leighton, and Charlotte how to do headstands on their own. Mary and Leighton played a game of hand slap and their competitiveness acted to their detriment as they ended a thirty minute long game in a tie with swollen hands. Ashe, Bruce, Davis, Patrick and Will created a game of wilderness skeet shooting where they’d yell PULL, throw a rock in the air above the river, and then try to hit it with another rock midair. At Moonup we discussed how facing fears and taking risks can lead to a rich and fulfilling life and talked about different experiences we’ve each had that has changed our perspective on life. This group has such insightful discussions and Will and I have learned so much from each of them over the past couple weeks.

 

We woke with the sun on Saturday morning and waded around the river until the guides called us over for breakfast. Toasted bagels, eggs, sausage, veggies, bacon, fruit, danishes and coffee. We’re not kidding when we say they spoil us! We hit the river and started the day with an easy paddle up to another waterfall where we stopped to hike up and explore. Mary is always the first one to jump in the cold, cold water and we all feel so lucky to have gotten to explore all of these hidden lakes and waterfalls throughout the whole trip. Everyone took a shower under the falls then headed back to the rafts where our guides had set up a delicious burrito buffet. After lunch we had six class IV rapids ahead of us which had us pumped to get back on the water. We successfully tackled Chunder, an 8 for drop off and then pulled to the side of the river. We were coming up on Ruck-a-Chucky Falls, a class VI rapid that we couldn’t raft because it’s actually a thirty foot waterfall. The guides “ghosted” the rafts through the falls meaning they let them float through on their own. On the other side of Ruck-a-chucky our guides were waiting to jump off the rocks onto the raft as it floated by. They skillfully jumped on and maneuvered the rafts to us down shore which blew us all away. We got splashed and knocked around by a few more class IVs before nearing the take out. During the last stretch of river Bruce skillfully played the part of our guide over the last few class II rapids. The American River and our guides did not leave us disappointed. We are currently in the van jamming to our playlist and everyone is on cloud nine. On to Point Reyes!


SHASTAAAA!

June 29, 2018

Since the students got here Annie and I have had the sense that this is a special group. Our Shasta experience proved that these are indeed extra ordinary young adults.

 

We begun by settling into our Northern California campsite on Lake Siskiyou  (watch out for beaver sharks) with a daunting view of the snow capped mountain. At this point in the trip the kids can set up camp quickly and efficiently; Annie and I don’t even have to say a word. Our campsite had showers, our first since being in Cali! The students definitely had a new appreciation for warm running water. BEAVER SHARK

 

After a good night sleep Leighton and Mary woke us up and we ate a delicious breakfast of banana pancakes and watermelon. We spent the day exploring the hippy mountain town of Shasta. The group was thrilled to be back in civilization and we all spent some much needed time at the laundry mat. We picked up all our cool mountaineering gear: humongous boots, crampons, helmets, and ice axes. The boys all went to the pizza joint to carb up on a second lunch where Bruce set the high score on the Hot Shot Basketball game and Patrick nearly won me a Rubik’s cube. He has now successfully taught be how to solve one, something we are both very proud of.

 

Meanwhile, Leighton, Josie, Caroline, and Madison met a psychic named Sandy at a local crystal shop who shared Mt. Shasta Legends about the lost civilization of Lumeria; as if the town and Mountain were not already mysterious enough. She told us of the beautiful Castle Lake which we drove to for a quick afternoon dip. We then returned to our campsite and swam yet again, this time in Siskiyou where Leighton, Patrick, Madison, and Bruce all bounced around the  giant blowup slide. Bruce took a gnarly fall off the backside which gave us all a good laugh.

 

We finished the day with s’mores around a beautiful campfire built by Patrick, Katherine, and Leighton with a very special visit from Claire who would join us for our climb. Claire helps make up the heart of Moondance from the office in Nashville. Every summer she gets to choose one trip to visit. Of all the amazing worldwide trips that Moondance offers she decided to spend her time climbing Shasta with us showing us just how epic this adventure is. As a past leader her passion and experience was a great addition to our family. For Moonup Mary and Leighton created a very deep conversation by asking “what is the hardest thing you’ve ever been through.

 

The next day was the beginning of our climb. We packed up camp and headed out to meet our fearless Shasta Mountain Guides; Emily, Jeff, Casey, Lesha, and Dave, who would all be spending the next 3 days with us. They double checked all our gear and handed out our harnesses and ropes, then we headed to the trail head. We drove to the base of the mountain in complete silence. This 14,179 foot, stand-alone mountain was an absolute giant and there was no hiding our nerves.

 

We loaded up our heavy packs, strapped up our mountaineering boots, and hit the trail. We learned and practiced our rest step as we gained 1000 feet of elevation to Horse Camp where we settled in for the night. Before dinner the guides taught us a very in depth map and compass lesson as well as a lesson on our harness and crampons (metal spikes that clip to the bottom of your boot).

 

Horse camp was a super cool spot, known for its mountain spring coming straight out of Shasta. We saw some hikers climb up just to get the water. There was also a cozy little stone hut where Madison and Mary played a game of chess. We then ate burrito bowls for dinner and Madison and Bruce led us through a Moonup where we all shared our chosen B+ super powers.

 

At this point the guides shared more about what it takes to make it up the mountain. To summit is a very dangerous endeavor. Freezing temperatures, snow blindness, falling rock, altitude sickness, hurricane force winds, dehydration, and pure exhaustion are some of the risks we were going to surely face. We would be waking up at 1am and climbing straight up for 8 hours with very minimal breaks in order to make the peak. I began to realize that there would likely be some or many of us who did not make the summit, this is just a part of mountaineering; you don’t always make it to the top.

 

The next day was snow school. We started the morning with a 1500 foot climb to base camp. The guides then spent a couple hours teaching us how to climb through the snow; skills that were imperative for both our success and safety on this mountain. We learned how to use our ice axes, proper foot placement while climbing, self-arrest, and glissading.

 

We then prepared ourselves mentally and physically with a discussion about packing and the plan for tomorrow: summit day. The guides shared that only 70% of guided climbers make the summit. The chances of all of us getting to the top was less than 1% (.7^14 including Claire, Annie and I), and there was a possibility that the snow would not be iced over meaning none of us would be able to make the climb. We looked around nervously wondering who of us, if any, would summit our first 14er. There was a big group of JH Ranch campers who were making their way down from the summit. They gave us the scoop saying things like “hardest thing in the world” and most of them did not make the summit. We ate a big rice, beans, and chicken dinner, had a quick Moonup, and were in bed by 6pm.

 

Few of us were able to sleep that night before getting up at 1am to start our climb. The temperature was around 32 degrees. With low winds the mountain seemed completely still, there was an eerie feeling in the air. The bright light from a full moon reflected off the snow covered volcano that towered over our heads. Caroline shared that her heart was beating through her chest. I’ve never seen our group so quiet. We put on our boots, packed lots of snacks and water (we had to get by melting snow), and began our ascent through the darkness.

 

We climbed for an hour and then took 10 minutes of break. Our guides were very strict about this schedule, saying we must keep summit pace. As we gained elevation the winds picked up and the temperature dropped. The snow crunched with every stepped as we climbed in a uniform line. After about 2 hours of climbing we reached a very steep section, forcing us to tie into rope teams of 3 to 5 so that if one were to fall the others would catch them. “Don’t look down” we told each other.

 

Ashe, Bruce, and myself tied in with Jeff who immediately set a literally blistering pace. At around 12,500 feet we hit Thumb rock and were treated to a sunrise to the east and a moon set to the west along with a giant triangular shadow of Shasta. This was easily the coolest view I have ever witnessed. At this point the winds were so strong it was hard to hear yourself talk, and so cold that by the end of any 10 minute break we had no choice but to keep moving.

 

About 4 hours into our climb the rope teams had separated. In our small groups we all climbed up “misery hill” before laying eyes on the final 500 feet of mountain. We walked across a 100 yard ice field and began our final climb, which at over 14,000 feet was the most challenging yet.

 

The first group made it to the top in an incredible pace of 5 hours and 45 minutes without any idea of who was behind and who had turned back. Then the next group arrived, and then the next, and then finally the rest. Every single person made it to the summit! And, they did it with style, in just over 6 hours. The guides assured us that this was completely unheard of. Huge props to Charlotte for submitting a 14er after just having recovered from a serious surgery on both ankles, AND for pushing through mild altitude sickness.

 

After a nice break of taking it all in we began to descend and were reminded that after reaching the top we were only half way there. Going down was much quicker but equally, if not more painful. We glissaded our way down the mountain packed up camp and then continued down to our van.

 

We celebrated our huge accomplishment with a big Mexican dinner and then fell quickly asleep. This morning Josie and Davis got us up and going, reminded us of our new sense of confidence as we prepare for our next adventure; an overnight white water rafting trip down the middle fork of the American River.

 

We are now entering the final leg of our great adventure; Annie and I are clinging on to every moment we get with these wonderful young leaders. Shasta was the climax of our journey, the peak of our experience, the boss stage of our challenging adventure. We will now flow though our final week, a self-sufficient organism. The students have become masters of not only the hard skills, but also the Moondance way of life. We are truly living in the moment and making sure each member of our family is happy and healthy. I cherish these moments and understand that each and every one of these humans has left an impact on Annie and I.


Backpacking Bliss

June 24, 2018

We’re alive! I don’t know how we can possibly begin to describe all the amazing experiences we’ve had on our backpacking section but here goes nothing…. To begin we are now truly a family; for the past six days we have been living out of backpacks in what felt like another planet. Away from cars, roads, cell signals, houses, stores, and medical help we put our skills and trust to the test. It was certainly not easy; but these students proved that not only could they overcome hardships but they did it with style and without complaints. We had the highest of highs and the a few lows; every new experience seemed to concrete our deepening bond.

As we arrived at our trailhead Davis and Caroline went over our backpacking route with the group and gave us a lesson on how to use a map and compass. With six days of food our packs were anything but light. I must admit I was worried as I watched the students struggle to lift their loads off ground.

It was a hot day with not a cloud in the sky as we took the first steps into Yosemite Wilderness, beginning with a steep climb beside a majestic waterfall. There is something about walking in the woods that allows people to open up. Immediately conversations began to hold more meaning as it seemed as each student was truly curious to hear about the lives of one another. As we continued uphill we sang chants and played games. Bruce, Davis, and Patrick went back and forth in a sports name game for miles. As we climbed higher we began to see incredible mountain vistas of the High Sierra range. After a hard and heavy climb we made it to our designated spot next to Chilnualna Falls.

Without any sign of another person in any direction it truly felt as this granite mountain was ours as we watched the sun fall behind the range of light. Madison, Katherine, and Patrick enjoyed this view with a moment of silent reflection while Charlotte, Josie, Ashe and Mary all cooked up some Pad Thai which the students were unwilling to add peanut butter to. At Moonup we shared our Rose, Bud, Thorn and then fell right to sleep.

Our new LOD’s, Josie and Mary woke us up the next morning and got us all packed and ready for our first full day of backpacking. This turned out to be our hardest day of the trip yet. From the start the groups navigating skills were put to the test with many forks and not so helpful signage. Josie and Mary really stepped up and scouted out each trail talking us though each decision and did a fantastic job at keeping us on the right path. With sore muscles from the day before and many miles of uphill we moved slow but steady on this hot day, but we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of complaints. Then, as if nature was trying to break us down she sent in the mosquitos. We hiked faster trying to outrun them and told riddles to distract ourselves from what Patrick called “Mosquito Nation”.

We found an awesome rocky outcropping away from the bugs where we took a long and much needed lunch break. Here Davis showed off his new rock-climbing skills and scurrying up a Boulder which he then helped the rest of the group up. After another couple hard miles we got to Johnson Lake; a beautiful alpine pool which the bugs seemed to like even more than us. Thankfully, Josie and Mary explored the area and were able to find a less-buggy spot behind giant granite boulders which we called home for the night. We cooked up some burrito bowls; a new favorite meal, and then mooned-up. Josie read us a Shel Silverstein poem and then we shared experiences where we’ve had to prove the doubters wrong.

Day 3 of backpacking was lead by Ashe and Leighton. After enduring a day of great challenge, nature seemed to reward us with unimaginable beauty. Our packs were lighter and our legs stronger as we did a few miles before coming across an even more picturesque lake with an enormous granite mountain on the back end and clear water that mirrored this giant slab. What was supposed to be a quick pack-on break turned into a spontaneous swim and yoga lunch break. The freezing cold water was refreshing after backpacking in the heat. As we swam we watched a hawk fly overhead and Leighton witnessed it pull a fish out of the lake.

We flew through another two miles while sharing more riddles, before reaching Buena Vista Pass which surprised us with both snow and our most amazing view yet, overlooking Yosemite Valley in the distance. We had snowball fights and “sent it” sledding down a steep snowy hillside. With such an amazing vista we captured the moment in a mountain-top photo shoot.

From the pass we were overlooking Buena Vista Lake where we spotted what is undoubtedly one of this planets greatest campsites. We walked down there, set up camp and ate a late lunch. Then Leighton came up with the idea of The Solo. The Solo is a very common practice in the outdoor education circle where you spend time completely alone and reflect on your adventure, your life, and whatever else is on your mind. We found our own spot around the lake and spent over an hour in quiet solitude. This seemed to have a strong effect on the students as they shared their experiences that night at Moonup.  Bruce, Patrick, and Davis cooked a chicken pesto pasta for dinner. They were surprised by how well it turned out, apparently teenage boys are less than confident in their cooking abilities. As the sun fell behind the jagged peak opposite our lake front camp Kathrine, Mary, Madison, Annie, and I all decided we would sleep out under the stars and fell asleep to a deep and meaningful conversation (DMC) about finding your purpose in life.

Madison, Mary, Patrick, Charlotte, Katherine, Leighton, Annie, and I all woke up the next morning before the sun and climbed to the very top of Buena Vista Peak and enjoyed a 360 degree panoramic sunrise. There are simply no words that will ever come close to touching the magic of this moment. With a newfound peace of mind we returned to camp and cooked a huge batch of hash browns.

With no trail to cover today our LODs Madison and Caroline explained that today would be a day of relaxation and recovery. We then found a great jumping rock and swam in the icy blue alpine lake of snow melt. Mary was the first to brave the polar bear plunge. Madison and Caroline shared a great conversation with Annie and I about education, leadership, and the things and places that bring them the most life.

For lunch we had pepperoni pitas and then did the NOLS leadership grid activity where each student learned what kind of leader they were. Our group consisted of mostly Architect Analysts. We then played the groups favorite game called signs. It’s so pleasing to see teenagers engaged in such healthy and enjoyable activities; something that isn’t terribly common in this plugged-in day and age. We all came up with trail names for each other which I’ll include below.

Josie, Charlotte, and Ashe cooked us a delicious Shepard’s Pie dinner where the kids all tried lentils and seemed to really like them: even Bruce. For Moonup we shared what in life that makes us feel the most alive. Madison and Mary decided to sleep under the stars yet again. As we counted shooting stars we saw two slow-moving, zig-zagging lights in the sky. They weren’t planes, we don’t think they were satellites, they were too slow to be shooting stars…. We don’t know what we saw; all we can call them is Unidentified Flying Objects.

The next morning Bruce and Katherine rallied the troops for our biggest hiking day yet: 9 miles. By this time we were experts. We flew through the miles while making a Moondance Parody to the song 7 years and of course, more riddles. We also had a strange outburst of animal noises at some point on that day. Bruce masterfully tricked the group into thinking we had many more miles to do leaving us with a happy surprise when we got to our campsite, the same as our first night, much earlier than expected. We spent the afternoon exploring what seemed to be a never ending series of enchanted waterfalls. Each cascade had a cliff jump slightly higher than the one before. We cleaned our dirty bodies by jumping into the crystal clear pools that the water carved out of the granite over thousands of years. Our Moonup question was “coolest experience ever” and then we all decided to spend our final night in the backcountry under the stars while telling scary stories.

Patrick and Charlotte got us up early and set a fast pace as we flew down the mountain to our Moon Van. We then explored some of Yosemite’s most famous viewpoints including Glacier and Taft Points. Here we feasted on some eye candy watching distant waterfalls and views of Half Dome and El Capitan. While we were setting up camp in the valley Davis spotted baby black bear cub which we all got to watch cautiously; very cool! Back in the front country we were treated to some burgers and shakes from the Yosemite Burger Shack. We met some very funny Swedes who told us of there summer solstice celebration. We Moonup’d and shared what we would first eat upon returning home and then hit the hay.

Davis and Josie woke us early this morning and we are now headed to the mysterious Mt. Shasta. We just got our first glimpse of the single standing mountain in the distance. To be completely honest, it is extremely intimidating as it towers over its surroundings, dwarfing all other mountains. It seems as if our group has what it takes though to summit this beast of a mountain. We have faith in them and will begin our accent in two days. When you hear from us next we will hopefully all have a 14er under our belt.

 

Peace and love from Shasta, CA,

 

Will, Annie, and The Moonfam

 

Trail Names

Will: Barking Spider

Annie: Crocker

Ashe: Pookie J

Patrick: The Inhaler

Bruce: Illupoo

Mary: Cornpop

Davis: Crapcrown

Leighton: Solo

Katherine: Bugbite

Josey: Spiffy

Charlotte: Chappy

Madison: Karen

Caroline: Point Five


Climb On!

June 17, 2018

We have arrived in what must be one of the most beautiful places on this planet. We are surrounded by jagged, snowy peaks; clear blue mountain lakes, and ice cold rushing rivers. We’ve heard multiple kids exclaim, “I feel like we’re in a movie!” It’s true, it is almost hard to believe that this place exists.

Not only does it exist but this is now our home, we sleep under uncountable shooting stars and a clear view of the Milky Way. We have spent our last couple days climbing enormous granite slabs that reach for what feels like such a crisp and clean air; a huge change from the humidity of the South.

We arrived to our campsite late Thursday night where the kids impressed us with their ability to set up tents in the dark. Patrick and Charlotte woke the group up early as our next LODS to start a big day of rock climbing. With big plans ahead of us we were in need of a big breakfast; Mary, Davis, and Caroline scrambled some eggs and we made bagel sandwiches. We then met with our climbing guides, two guys who have spent the last 15 years living and climbing their way through Yosemite. We learned how to belay and hiked up to the edge of a steep mountain. We roped in and begun rock climbing.

Leighton, Katherine, and Caroline really impressed us with their monkey like abilities to fly up the wall. We watched Mary walk up to the hardest section of wall having never climbed before and start climbing. We’ve never seen such persistence out of someone; she went way out of her comfort zone and eventually made it all the way to the top. We ate lunch on the side of the cliff where Ashe led us in a game of Mafia.

We then spent the afternoon on a surreal lake and jumped in the frigid water. We laughed, screamed, and practiced our handstands on the lakeshore before returning to our campsite for a delicious chicken, veggie, and rice stir fry dinner prepared by Ashe, Leighton, and Katherine. Bruce stuck to just chicken and rice, but our group is on a mission to make him a greens guy by the end of the trip.

Patrick and Charlotte led a spooky Moonup where we talked about the scariest experiences we’ve ever been through. We also discussed the story of the hero’s journey which excited all of us to be on our own personal “Hero’s journey” this summer as we tackle challenges head on and have our minds and perspectives stretched by new experiences.

The LOD torch was passed on to Bruce and Katherine for our second day of rock climbing. Our amazing climbing guides led us to a more challenging rock face because of how our group impressed them the day before. This time we were faced with more technical crack climbing routes and once again our group approached the wall with persistence, excitement and skills that made it seem like they’ve all been climbing for years. We were in awe and felt incredibly lucky to be surrounded by granite slabs and beautiful Fairview Dome. The view from the bottom was only topped by the panoramic view we were rewarded with as we made it to the top of each route. Ashe became the groups most trusted belayer and supported almost half of the group on their climbs up the wall. Madison impressed us by making multiple attempts at the hardest climb and not giving up till she made it all the way to the top. Throughout the day we had one on one check ins which each student to talk about what they wanted to get out of the trip in terms of personal growth, leadership development, and facing physical challenges. Each person had such amazing things to say and we are so excited to have such open minded and curious students. Shout out to Josie for being incredibly insightful and open in her check in. After a full morning of climbing we ate lunch and laid on the rocks basking in the sunshine before making our way back to the campsite. With lots to do before leaving for backpacking, we organized gear and food, learned how to pack our packs and stay safe in the backcountry. At Moonup, Will led the group in a guided meditation and we discussed our biggest fears and how we can conquer them.

We now enter the next phase of our journey and are headed deep into the Yosemite wilderness. See you on the other side!


Learning the Californian Way

June 15, 2018

Greetings from easy breezy beautiful CALIFORNIA! Will and Annie here, the Yosemite leaders. The students have arrived and are in high spirits after a gnarly day surfing the waves of the Pacific. We are extremely thankful for what seems so far to be a very special group of kids. From the moment the first student arrived in the airport, Davis, who held a great conversation with us, to this moment on a jammin’ road trip into the infamous Yosemite Valley, the group has been “vibin” – a term that Patrick has coined and the group has adopted as part of our lingo.

We were very fortunate to experience the gorgeous Halfmoon Bay before Karl (The name San Fran gave their fog) came in. We took a leisurely sunset stroll along the beach and the girls fashioned a jump rope out of kelp which Leighton impressed us with a diving summersault through.

We then experienced our first Moonup together and everyone shared their reasons for joining us on this epic Yosemite Moondance Adventure. After a long day of travel, we all hit the hay early and got a good night sleep.

The group woke up this morning to a campsite fully decorated for the Birthday Girl. Happy Birthday Katherine! Bruce, Madison, and Josie cooked us all some deliciously thick pancakes. As some Moondance Alumni, Ashe and Madison stepped up to the plate as our first L.O.D.s (Leader of Day). The two of them directed us to break down camp and with full bellies we met some local surf guides and were once again blessed with some California sunshine. The winds were a-blowin’ but our hearty crew had no trouble braving the rough seas. As leaders, we were humbled by some of the talented surfers in our group. Caroline managed to catch a wave alongside Will and meet for a mid-wave high five! Even our guides complemented the vibe of our group. Special shout out to Charlotte for an exceptional easy-going attitude; she carries herself with admirable authenticity.

We ate a quick lunch and then packed up to begin our road trip to Yosemite where we will spend the night. I must say, these kids have the ability to turn what would normally be a boring car ride into a musical adventure. We ate dinner upon popular demand at In-N-Out Burger. As a health nut myself, I was very impressed to see Mary request an apple from the car as a substitute for fries! We shared a meaningful conversation about the importance of a healthy diet. As we drive, we are all waiting with great anticipation to see what Yosemite and the High Sierra have in store for us. I have no doubt that our group will conquer any challenge thrown our way with grace and enthusiasm.

Again, we are beyond grateful for this opportunity to share what will surely be a life changing experience with a collection of such curious minds and bright souls.

-Will and Annie


All Accounted for in Cali!

June 13, 2018

Hello Yosemite Families!

We are so excited to hear that our entire Yosemite group has landed and their trip is now underway! We can’t wait to hear from them soon.

-Moondance HQ


Students

  • Asher
  • Mary
  • Caroline
  • Leighton
  • Madison
  • Davis
  • Katherine
  • Bruce
  • Patrick
  • Emma
  • Josie

Staff