July 12, 2019
Hey there for the last time to all of the Big Wild parents!
To begin, thank you all so much for sending your kids with us this summer. We truly had a trip of a lifetime with them and already miss them dearly.
Since rafting, our crew traveled to Idaho after a pit stop to get some ice cream. The scoops were as big as their faces which made Callie and Bennett grin ear to ear with excitement after the long ride. Once we arrived to our campsite, the sun was going down but that didn’t stop Ballou, Reagan, and Mary Kate from cooking up some killer potatoes and hotdogs for our group. Everyone enjoyed the cookout, the stunning sunset, and our wonderful Moonup led by our LODs, Sam and Mary Kate. The following day, the kids didn’t let another car ride bum them out as they sang their hearts out to their favorite artists. After a few hours in the car, we arrived in Jackson to clean out the van. Sambo took charge of this crowd pleasing activity by power washing the van. Now, it’s looking clean as a whistle. Thank you, Sambo. We then embarked on our journey to the thrift store where Will and Margaux led the pack with some very funky attire. Our kids then took the streets of Jackson in style before our final banquet.Banquet was a fun and delicious fiesta to say the least since we stuffed our tummies with some Mexican cuisine. We then headed back to our campsite for our final Moonup led by LODs, Webb and Barrett. During Moonup, we shared our favorite memories from the trip in addition to superlatives. To end Moonup, the LODs hosted a lip-syncing contest between Mary B and Reagan which left us all on the ground laughing.Today was definitely a tough and tearful goodbye for all. We are looking forward to staying in touch with all of them and seeing all of the incredible things they will do next.
Thanks again for sharing your children with us on Big Wild!
Eleanor and Chappell
July 10, 2019
A big hello from Idaho!!!
Our team just got off the river after passing through three states (Idaho, Oregon, and Washington) all this morning! Saying we had an incredible rafting section would be an understatement. These past few days have been a summer highlight for many as we experienced many types of wildlife, activities, and time to get to know each other on a deeper level.
We began our river expedition on the Salmon River right outside of McCall, Idaho. Will and Callie (LODs) did a great job of getting everyone packed up efficiently to start our trip on time. We hit the river late morning just in time for the warm sunshine to come out as we splashed through a couple Class II rapids. The kids loved the big splashes to the face both from the river and from each other. Sam thoroughly enjoyed “riding the bull” which is the front of the raft that takes the most forceful splashes.
Once we pulled into camp for the night, the kids couldn’t believe we were actually camping on a beach in a canyon. Bocci, spike ball, and frisbee were quickly unpacked, and the competitions commenced immediately. It took no time to discover that Mary Kate, Ballou, and Margaux’s secret talent is spike ball. Meanwhile, Sambo, Webb, and Barrett took a dip in the refreshing water with the leaders to cool off before a feast of cheeseburgers and chocolate cake. With full bellies, we had our first Moonup on the river with our lovely raft guides. We had many laughs before heading off to a deep sleep on the sand.
The next morning, we awoke to a feast of hot chocolate, pancakes, eggs, and bacon. We all were super stoked to get on the river and play some river games. Everyone’s competitive streaks came out in full force as alliances formed once plots were made to push people overboard. Callie, Bennett, and Sambo were especially stealthy in their plots against each other and got the whole group in on it. After lunch, we were lucky enough to wave hello to some furry friends from afar. A black mama bear and her cubs watched us as we floated down the Salmon. We were all stoked to say the least to spot some bears but they weren’t the only wildlife we said hi to on the river. Bighorn sheep, bald eagles, deer, turkeys, and blue herons greeted us as well during our trip.
Before heading to our beach for the night, we had to scout out some Class IV rapids before rafting them which got the kids super excited for the waves. They soaked us for sure which made us all appreciate the afternoon sun once we arrived at our campsite. As LODs, Reagan and Bennett helped the guides make some delicious spaghetti and peach cobbler which was a group favorite. Post dinner, Will joined Eleanor and the guides for a sunset hike that overlooked the canyon. With his observant eye, he spotted hatched eggs on the ridge line. As the sky turned a neon pink, Reagan and Bennett led us in a wonderful Moonup that made everyone think a little harder than usual before heading off to sleep.
Smells of French toast and sausage made the kids practically run out of their tents the following morning giving us all a great start to the best day of the trip. We started the day off with cliff jumping a little ways down river. Although the height of the rock was intimidating, Will overcame his fear and jumped like it was no biggie. After multiple jumps of the cliff, we made our way down the river to where Oregon was on one side and Idaho was on the other. The kids were amazed by the fact we were technically not in either state especially Ballou.
After lunch, we had the privilege of experiencing the confluence of the Salmon and Snake River which are the two deepest river canyons in the United States. Shortly after we started rafting the Snake River, we arrived to our beyond magical campsite called China Beach. Upon our arrival, the kids discovered a mulberry tree and picked the tree clean in no time. Webb even gave Barrett and Eleanor war paint from the purple juice of the berries. However, the berries were no match for the fruit of the orchard just above our campsite. Once the kids heard there was more fruit, they took off running. Words cannot describe the look on their faces as they gorged themselves with fresh apricots, plums, and blackberries. Mary B and Callie were determined to find the perfect plum and they succeeded. Webb and Bennet’s eyes could not have been bigger as they tried apricots for the first time. Their reactions to the orchard were definitely a highlight of our summer and undoubtedly the trip. Following the fruit picking, Mary B and Margaux led the cook crew in whipping up some special tortillas for a hot fajita dinner. Once there wasn’t a crumb left, we had our best Moonup yet led by our LODs, Ballou and Mary B. We were so proud of everyone for being brave enough to open up to the rest of the group about very personal topics. It marked the turning point in our trip where our group truly became family. We ended the day with plenty of s’mores, laughs, and a great sleep under the stars together.
This morning, Sam and Mary Kate cooked up some delicious breakfast sandwiches like pros before we floated to our take-out. We tearfully waved goodbye to our guides before climbing back into the van. Now, we are currently headed to our campsite in Idaho before we drive back to Jackson in the morning. Boy, does time fly! None of us can believe the trip is coming to a close. We are all looking forward to savoring these final days together before departing our separate ways. Thank you again for sharing your kids with us this summer! We are so proud of these kids for challenging themselves not only physically on this trip but mentally as well. Keep an eye out for a final update after the trip!
Eleanor and Chappell
July 6, 2019
Hey there from Jackson!
Our crew has had a blast these past few days in Jackson rock climbing and enjoying the stellar views that the Tetons have to offer! After we departed the Winds, we had the luxury of treating ourselves with some burgers and fries from the notoriously delicious Dave’s Last Stand in Pinedale. The kids were thrilled to say the least. However, nothing got them more excited than getting squeaky clean at the rec center followed by an intense game of pickup basketball. After showers, we headed back to Jackson for a well-deserved ice cream trip. Sugar buzzed and all, Team Elk, Trout, Chipmunk, and Grizzly hit the grocery to stock up for our rock climbing section. Team Elk (Mary Kate, Margaux, and Sambo) completed their list first and came out with the victory which earned them the winning prize of gummy worms.After our afternoon in town, we set up camp overlooking the majestic Tetons. Although it started raining as we started flipping some quesadillas, cook crew spirits were not dampened. Mary Kate, Sam, and Sambo had a quesadilla making party with MK as the tortilla flipper, Sambo as the chicken and cheese sprinkler, and Sam as the runner. Once the sky cleared, the rest of the group made their way outside and we all enjoyed a great Moonup together.The following morning, we woke the kids up with an eggs and bacon for a hearty Fourth of July breakfast to fuel us up for a day of rock climbing. We had the privilege of riding the gondola up in Teton Village which the kids thoroughly enjoyed and we learned to climb on the ski slopes. Sam and Mary B were already climbing pros and were able to show the group the ropes. Leader of the Day, Callie, turned the knot tying lesson into a fun competition which Ballou and Mary Kate came away as the winners beating our guides in tying knots. The kids were fascinated by our guide, Jim’s, stories of leading people up Everest giving them inspiration to push themselves the following day when the real climbing began.After a day of climbing school, we had a celebratory Fourth of July cookout at camp with hotdogs, burgers, cookies, and loads of snacks. Webb (LOD) even made us some homemade fries which were a HUGE hit. Before we loaded up the van to scout out a new sunset spot, Will and Bennett dominated in a game of frisbee. We then stumbled upon a beautiful field down the road with a tremendous view of the mountains. There’s nothing more patriotic than a game of soccer as the sky turned pink on the Fourth of July!The next morning we had a pancake party before heading to Grand Teton National Park for our final day of climbing. We were able to take the water taxi across Jenny Lake to our climbing spot. We could not have asked for a better view and weather for climbing! It was awesome to witness these kids truly challenge themselves climbing. Reagan and Webb mastered three rock walls in a row before being rewarded with the treat of rappelling off the top. Sambo and Barrett challenged themselves by successfully completing the tricky chimney climb. Margaux, Callie, and Mary B completed bouldering like it was no sweat. “Schmacks” all around to these kiddos for their climbing efforts these past two days!Upon returning to our campsite, Bennett (LOD) and Will whipped up some tasty pad Thai for the group! It was a new dish for many but it was a mild hit after a long day! “Schmacks” to Reagan for trying new things including mushrooms! After dinner, we had our last Moonup before our drive to Idaho for rafting. With the help of Barrett and Ballou, we then packed up the Uhaul for our early road trip the next morning. Everyone hit the hay early to get some well-deserved rest for the long drive ahead.Now, we are off to Idaho to embark on our rafting journey down the Salmon! Thank you for letting your kids adventure with us this summer. It has been a blast to see the group bond and experience outdoor adventure together!! More updates to come!
Until next time,
Eleanor and Chappell
July 3, 2019
Our crew just finished our three day backpacking excursion into the wild Wind River Range and are happy and healthy! These kids blew us away with their determination and team spirit these first few days of our trip. Upon arriving to the Jackson Hole, we knew we had a stellar group of kids after plenty of giggles during our first pizza dinner together and Moonup. The kids played an intense game of cards as the sun set and did not hesitate becoming friends.
The next morning we packed up the van and headed to the Wind River Range to start our journey into the wild. However, before we hit the trail, we had a birthday celebration for Ballou with cupcakes and Oreos galore! The sugar buzz gave us all the enthusiasm we needed to carry our heavy packs on our hike to our glorious campsite for the next few days. At the trailhead, the kids wasted no time hitting the trail with Mary B. (Leader of the Day) leading the pack. It was awesome to see the kids take initiative while packing group gear in their packs knowing backpacking is a team effort. Will, also LOD, even took more than he needed to in his pack showing the group what it means to be Leader of the Day.
The team made it to our campsite in no time but just in time for a rainstorm. However, the rain did not damper spirits by any means. While Callie, Margaux, and Mary B helped cook a fiery fajita dinner, the rest of the crew played outside in the rain like it wasn’t even there. After our bellies were full, the rain cleared up and the sky gave us an incredible rainbow just in time for a spectacular Moonup. Even though it was only night two of the trip, the group already felt like family and started to open up to each other. Before bed, Bennett and Will spotted packs of elk galloping in the meadow as the sun set which was truly a treat.
Smells of warm cinnamon apples filled the noses of the kids as the awoke the following morning. We started the day off with some sweet breakfast burritos and a game of lookup look down which ended in an intense veggie off. While Callie gave a great effort imitating a clumsy carrot, Sam took the cake and was crowned veggie champion. After demonstrating his acting talents, the group gave him the nickname, Leonardo (after Leonardo DiCaprio) before heading on the trail for the day.
Margaux (LOD) led our crew to a vast meadow by a river where we enjoyed lunch, many games of football, and fly fishing. First time fly fishers, Callie and Bennett really put in the work to learn how to do it. Sambo, an expert already, caught a perfect rainbow trout which made the whole group jump up and down with joy. Before heading back to camp, Mary Kate was crowned group hero for fearlessly saving the football from the river.
Once we were back at camp, Barrett (LOD), Webb, and Ballou whipped up some delicious stir fry for the group which made us all happy after a full day of hiking. Once again, we had a wonderful Moonup before heading off to sleep.
For our last day of backpacking, we decided the kids were capable of summiting Independence Peak due to their strength, endurance, and teamwork over the past couple of days. Summiting Independence is far from easy but the kids were up for the challenge. Reagan and Sambo were our fearless LODs and stressed to the group how important self-care as well as a good attitude is when attempting something challenging like this. With them leading the way, our team started the trek up to Independence. We took our time up the mountain teaching the kids how crucial deep breathing and foot placement is. While most of them did not think they could make it to the top, it made our day that every single one of them made it up. When we were close to the peak, Barrett even disclosed that this was “the most challenging and most fun thing he has ever done”. That is what Moondance is about and we couldn’t be more proud of all of your amazing children for pushing themselves and accomplishing something huge!
At the peak, we were humbled by the breathtaking view of the Winds in addition to Colorado, Utah, Montana, Idaho, and of course, Wyoming. We could see 10 percent of the United States from Independence Peak- truly a WOW moment! The team ate a well-deserved lunch at the peak and also munched on a surprise treat of sour gummy worms. With huge grins after witnessing the wonderful view, the crew headed back down the mountain. Sam and Webb started a team snowball fight on the way back to camp which brought out Mary B and Ballou’s competitive side. Who knew that there would be snow in July?!
Once we arrived at camp, Reagan, Mary Kate, and Eleanor made the wild decision of partaking in a polar plunge in the river. Chilly it was but it was also so worth it. We then enjoyed a yummy spaghetti dinner before our last Moonup in the Winds. At Moonup, the group got even closer after opening up about who their role models in life were. It was really special to hear everyone’s stories and witness the group becoming a real family. Will inspired the group to stay up to see the Milky Way come out which couldn’t have been a more perfect way to end our backpacking section. We shared many laughs and stories under the stars before drifting off to a well-deserved rest.
Now, we are off to Jackson to start our rock climbing section! Thank you all for sending your kids with us this summer. It has been such a treat for us to have spent time with this incredible group so far and cannot wait to see what the rest of the trip brings!
Until next time,
Eleanor and Chappell
June 29, 2019
Hello Big Wild 2A families!
We are excited to say everyone has arrived safely into Jackson Hole, WY, and they are headed with their fearless trip leaders to their campsite to prep for their backpacking adventure to come! We can’t wait to hear about the Wind River Range.