June 25, 2019
Howdy from the last morning of our magical California trip!
As we sit in the airport crying happy tears, we are so sad to see this group go but could not feel luckier for every student we had the pleasure of spending the past two weeks with. It has truly flown by and does not seem real that we have now said our goodbyes!
The past two days have been incredibly busy as we reached Half Moon Bay as our final campsite. The leaders surprised the kids with a hibachi-style dinner full of chicken fried rice, sautéed steak and shrimp, teriyaki vegetables, pot stickers, and a homemade “yum yum” sauce crafted by George! We then made our way to the beach for our second to last Moonup where our LODs, Blythe and Julia, led a great reflection on the parts of our trip that we will share with our friends and family. Many reflected on how close we’ve become in such a short amount of time and how meaningful our relationships are with one another from being our most natural selves. We spent the rest of the evening looking at stars and telling funny stories as we knew we had a few extra minutes to sleep in the next morning!
We started the next day with a banging breakfast of eggs, sausage, pancakes and cinnamon rolls for our final full morning meal together. The students then switched into organization-mode (Maddie and Liz’s favorite!!) where they helped clean gear, reorganize their duffels, and made sure everything was in order for their trip home – including taking a nice shower! What a treat! We then made our way into windy downtown San Francisco to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge! Everyone was amazed at the magnificent work of engineering and loved looking back into the city from the high view. After we finished our walk, we made our way to a thrift store where all the students were able to pick out a wild outfit for our banquet dinner. Some highlights included Audrey’s shoes, John’s fur vest, Georgia’s white flowy skirt, Morgan’s all-plaid ensemble, Hudson’s floral silk pants, and Whitt rocking a sport coat and jean shorts! We chowed down on some delicious Mexican food in Half Moon Bay (except for Carter who chose the cheeseburger off of the menu!) Our bellies were full of guacamole and quesadillas as we laughed the entire meal, hearing everyone’s “paper plate” awards and wearing paper crowns made by the leaders.
We finished the night with ice cream and a parking lot dance party, singing our trip’s theme song, “Live Like You Were Dying” for the final time (our country music expert Lilly belted it the loudest of course)! The final beach Moonup was led by Audrey and Margaret and the students were able to reflect on what they have learned about themselves through this experience and a part of them that has been changed by coming to Moondance. Liz shared one of her favorite readings with the kids as well, titled “After the Adventure” by Morgan Hite, as the perfect closing piece for our time together. Maddie and George shared more final words of encouragement and gratitude for the kids and for their future, encouraging them to take what they have learned about themselves, others, and the world around them and carry those feelings with them back home. When we all rose to get into a big group hug, Whitt broke out singing “See You Again,” where we all joined in and sang the lyrics on the beach under the moonlight.
We all slept in a big circle outside for one last night under the stars together, giggling while reminiscing on some of our most memorable experiences together. As leaders, we all shed tears telling our kids how proud and humbled we are to have had them on this journey with us. This first trip has been full of laughter, encouragement, friendship, and so much personal growth and we could not be more thankful for this phenomenal group of students. We are incredibly proud of them and cannot wait to see and hear about all of the incredible things they do in the future.
Again, thank you so much for sharing your exceptional kids with us for the past two weeks. We wish we could spend infinitely more time with them, but we are so grateful for having the time we shared with them. They are truly so special and we feel so lucky to have had them impact our lives! We wish you all a great rest of the summer and look forward to keeping in touch!
With warm hearts & lots of love,CAL C
Maddie, Elizabeth, and George
June 23, 2019
A bittersweet hello from our 12th day of the trip!
We are all dumbfounded at how fast this trip has gone, so we are soaking in every minute we have left together in Cali. Before leaving for our big drive, we had a delicious breakfast of cheesy hashbrowns, eggs, bacon, and a variety of fruit. LODs John and Georgia got the leaders’ waterworks flowing when they wrote us each a sentimental letter that will definitely be kept for a lifetime. On our trip to Lake Tahoe, we stopped at a California favorite for lunch: In-N-Out, where we all enjoyed massive cheeseburgers and milkshakes! We later arrived to a beautiful tree-lined campsite after our spectacular drive around the lake and munched on a delicious and nutritious spinach salad with roasted potatoes and beef prepared by LODs. They even surprised us after dinner with apple pie and angel food cake (with whipped cream and strawberries of course)! It was quite the treat. We all snuggled in close during a chilly Moonup while looking at the stars and sharing stories and qualities of the biggest role models in our lives.
The next morning came early as we crawled out of our comfy sleeping bags into the cold of the snow-topped mountains surrounding us. Blythe whipped out her cooking skills and showed us how to make Eggo waffles on a Coleman stove, which was a huge hit! Big nugs to her for the creativity! The leaders of the day, Carter and Lilly, got us pumped up for the big day ahead with some inspirational quotes and an amazing playlist in the car. We then traveled down to the water to meet our kayaking guides and learned all the tricks to successfully paddling the miraculous Lake Tahoe. The cold water didn’t even phase us as we paddled into the most beautiful cove, surrounded by the snowy mountains and warm beaches. The guides pointed out old sunken ships in the water, told us more about the history and formation of the lake, and even took us to a cool little island with a hike up to a castle with the most spectacular view. It was quite the site and many students said it is their favorite place we’ve been this trip (Liz and Maddie also agree!) On our paddle back to shore, we raced to the guides where John and Julia’s boat took the lead and soared past the finish line (Morgan and George were a close second!!). As we glided back to the shore, our guides pointed out a black bear walking in the woods! It was many of our first times seeing one in the wilderness and was really neat to experience the beautiful wildlife that Tahoe has to offer.With sore arms and big smiles, the leaders told the kids we were going on a long afternoon hike but instead surprised them by driving up to a delicious ice cream and cookie shop in South Lake Tahoe! Our spirits lifted even higher with the beautiful sunshine and a delicious cold treat after all of our hard work from the morning.
With our bellies full, we went back to our campsite and did a fun tie dye activity with awesome Moondance shirts – we can’t wait to see how they turn out! We spent the evening hanging out and having some of the best conversations with one another and enjoying being in each other’s presence. After a scrumptious dinner prepared by George, Audrey, Blythe, and Margaret, we transitioned into one of our most sentimental Moonups yet. We shared what we will miss most about this trip, while also reflecting on all that we have learned. Many students shared about how they have felt the most comfortable to be their true selves on this trip, found the value in being unplugged, and how they want to bring these fond feelings and memories back home. Hudson closed with saying that he’ll miss absolutely everything, which had us all in agreement; it ended in a big group hug and many happy tears, and we all snuggled up in a tent and continued reminiscing and laughing for the rest of the night.The next morning, we fueled up on oatmeal, bacon, bagels, and fruit before heading back down to the lake for some stand up paddle boarding! The water was very chilly but refreshing, and everyone enjoyed being able to float and meditate on their boards (Whitt was so relaxed he fell asleep!!). Lilly carried her team during our relay race and lead them to victory, and we all spent a few moments at the end of our time on the lake reflecting on our last activity, taking in the insanely beautiful scenery around us.As leaders, we could not rave about this group of students more. We feel like such a family after all our experiences, and we will be so sad to see them all leave in two short days. We will miss their dance moves, laughter, good night hugs, meaningful conversations, and kind words the most. Although we are feeling sad about departure day quickly approaching, we are pumped for two more nights on the Pacific Coast and to explore San Francisco! We will see y’all soon!
With lots of love,CAL C
Elizabeth, Maddie, and George
June 22, 2019
Hello all! We just finished the Yosemite section of the trip and it absolutely lived up to the hype! We arrived to our campsite just outside of Yosemite National Park after one of the more memorable van rides of the trip. Lilly took the lead belting every word to “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw and soon had everyone singing along. There was a huge surprise waiting for us when we pulled into the campsite: the California “B” Section was right there!! We loved becoming friends with their group and had nightly dance competitions and hilarious water battles.
Audrey and Carter took charge our first day of the Yosemite section teaching everyone how to orient a map and find true north on the compass. They confidently read the map of Millerton Lake and pointed out the trail that would lead us to our afternoon swimming spot! We spent hours playing in the lake and laughing, including an impromptu water baseball game started by Whitt (“It’s dinger season!!”). After conquering the heat on our hike back, we celebrated by making personal pita pizzas topped with pepperoni and sautéed peppers for dinner!!
The next morning we rose with the sun to have plenty of time to enjoy Yosemite! Excitement rose as we drove through the tunnel leading to the park, and when we emerged with a view of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls, Blythe was in tears from its immeasurable beauty. It was absolutely breathtaking and we collectively took in the moment to appreciate our surroundings. Giddy from the views, we eagerly put on our helmets and harnesses ready to learn about rock climbing. Morgan climbed the toughest route on the first day while Margaret belayed and offered so many words of support along the way. We ended the day at a local ice cream shop and enjoyed our cones outside while Julia and Georgia surprised us with a choreographed dance on a nearby stage. So many other Yosemite visitors even stopped to watch their killer moves, which had us all laughing out loud. Later that night, we chowed down on some chicken, mac and cheese and broccoli prepared by Julia, Georgia, and John! They did everything on their own without any prompt, truly showcasing all the cooking skills they have learned on the trip. We were all incredibly impressed!
On the second day of climbing, we all felt like professionals and effortlessly tied in our Figure 8 knots to our harnesses. John and Hudson did their best Alex Honnold ‘Free Solo’ impersonation (except safely with the ropes!!) as they tackled the hardest climb offered by our guides! Audrey truly excelled by not only teaching others how to safely climb and belay, but had the most encouraging words and climbed every route fearlessly. We had a surprise Iron Chef competition when we got back, where we split into two teams and went back and forth drafting food ingredients. Both groups made delicious dinners and we capped the night with Liz’s famous Brownie Scramble (with Nutella and Oreos of course!) We had one last Moonup at Yosemite under the stars where we talked about our favorite moments from the trip so far, reminiscing on all of our special memories together. During this conversation, we were even joined by a shooting star! It was many of our first times seeing one and it couldn’t have come at a better time or in a better place! We are on our way to Lake Tahoe for two days of hiking, kayaking, and paddle boarding and are so excited for the adventures ahead!
With lots of love & laughs,
Maddie, Liz, and George
June 18, 2019
Greetings from California!!
We have just finished the white water rafting section of our first trip which left us wishing for a third day on the beautiful American River!
We began the first night at our rafting campsite with a delicious dinner of yellow curry, rice, sautéed broccoli, carrots, and peppers inspired by John’s affection for Indian food. We all sat together at dinner discussing our all time favorite meals, which left all of our mouths watering. Some highlights included Margaret’s mention of truffle fries, Georgia’s love for seafood, and Carter teaching us all about his passion for venison.
The kids then put on a hilarious “backcountry fashion show” that had us all in tears! We also got to meet our rafting guides who happened to be camping right next to us, and they really got us pumped for the days ahead.
The next morning came early as Hudson and Morgan prepared Egg Moon Muffins for us all (a bacon, egg, and cheese muffin). The leaders of the day, John and Blythe led us all in a much needed group stretch and we then headed to the rafting company! This season, the snow melt has been later than usual, so we all got to wear bright colored wet suits in the river! We got on the river with our guides for a calm morning section to practice our strokes and safety commands before we hit the rapids!
The outfitters prepared a delicious sandwich bar for lunch and led us in a game where we had to stick cookies to our forehead with peanut butter and get them into our mouth without using our hands! Elizabeth took first place with Audrey close behind. Lilly had us all laughing and making a plan to get Oreos soon so we could play at our next campsite. Whitt and Julia took a majority of the first boat’s waves to the face like total champs – they truly showed natural leadership and worked together as a strong team.
We all enjoyed an afternoon full of sun and adventure as all the boats soared through the roaring rapids, and also got to swim at the end of the day while enjoying the spectacular views of the river valley. After some exploring and relaxing back at camp, the outfitters prepared an insanely delicious dinner of steak, chicken, two types of pasta, and lots of veggies. They even surprised us with a special brownie scramble! We invited some of the rafting guides to join us at Moonup where LODs Blythe and John put on a hilarious skit and we discussed things we’ve done that we felt proud that we accomplished!
Day 2 of rafting began with an awesome breakfast that had us fueled up for the day! We rafted the upper portion of the south fork which called for some rocky rapids in the beginning and bigger challenges than the previous day – but that didn’t stop us and the group was only more excited! Everyone faced each rapid section with fierce determination and lead each boat to soaring heights. The rafting guides even let us “surf” a huge wave! The calming second half of the rapids was welcomed with open arms as Audrey and Carter got to try a hand at rowing the boats!
We thanked our guides graciously for the best two days and headed out with huge smiles and reminiscing on all the laughs we shared on the water. We’re now on our way to Yosemite and could not be more pumped for the next few days of beautiful sites, hikes, and climbing!
P.S. A HUGE happy father’s day shout out from all the kids and leaders for all you amazing dads out there!!
– California C signing off until next time!
June 16, 2019
Hello from the sunny shores of California!! It’s crazy to think that we’ve only been here for a few days – our group of 14 already feels like a family. After a hectic airport day, we were ready to roll after eating some delicious pizza on the way to our first campsite. Leaders Maddie, Elizabeth, and George taught tent set up and the 7 principles of “Leave No Trace” before our first Moonup together as a group where we discussed our reasons for coming to Moondance and what we hope to gain from this experience (Whitt had a great goal – to be a Moondance leader one day!!).
After some restful sleep in our cozy tents, we woke up fresh and started the day the best way we know how – with pancakes! Audrey, John, and Lilly lead the way as our first cook crew and introduced the group to pancakes with syrup IN the batter … my mouth is still watering just thinking about it! We packed up our camp with full bellies and headed out to the Point Reyes National Seashore where our LODs (Leaders of the Day) Morgan and Whitt took charge and talked to the park rangers about some suggestions for the group. They settled on Abbotts Lagoon trail, which turned out to be a HUGE success. We walked through beautiful wildflowers along the path, and then the group stumbled upon a ginormous sand mound! We spent hours having the absolute time of our lives jumping, sledding, rolling, and playing around on the big sandy slope. Everyone left screaming, “that was soooo much fun!!” We had a delicious lunch on the beach, played Spikeball and some group games by the water, and the group even taught us the “woah” dance! Hiking out happily exhausted, we drove back across the Golden Gate Bridge to Half Moon Bay. Where John excitedly helped us organize the entire U-Haul to make it super functional for the trip! After hanging in Enos and downing some scrumptious quesadillas loaded with guac and queso, the LODs lead Moonup on a cozy cove on the beach where we all went around and shared our most funny and embarrassing stories.
The next morning was an early one as we all rose with the sun for a fun filled day of surfing! Our LODs, Julia and Carter, brought the gang together for a hype morning huddle and fueled us up for the day. After pulling on our wet suits and warming our bodies with some dynamic exercises, our surfing guides prepped us with all of the skills we needed to hit the water. Everyone went out to face the waves and had an absolute blast! Whitt’s “surfer boy” impression had us all laughing out loud and Georgia and Blythe were named “naturals” and “pros” by our surfing guides! We all crushed some snacks after a long morning on the water and headed back up to camp for the afternoon where we enjoyed a relaxing day at the beach. Team Blythe and Lilly and team Whitt and George both came out as Spikeball champs, and our entire group played a huge sand soccer game, laughing breathlessly the entire time from the tough sandy field. Lilly, John, and Morgan’s quick feet dusted through all the other players while Audrey, Carter and Margaret played some killer defense. After a surprise brownie and Nutella scramble made by Elizabeth, the group went back to our cozy Moonup spot where Julia and Carter posed the question: “what is something no one really knows about you?” After getting ready for bed, we all snuggled up in the middle of the tents and shared funny stories, signifying how close we’ve all gotten in such a short amount of time.
The second day of surfing called for more great waves and positive vibes after a morning donut surprise lead by our LODs, Hudson and Georgia! Our instructors crushed it yet again with helping everyone get up on their boards. Julia absolutely thrived and rode countless waves to the shore while Carter, Morgan, Hudson, Whitt, John did some amazing body surfing. Drip castles, sand crabs, and surfboard forts had us laughing all morning! After thanking our incredible surf guides, we got ready to hit the road to our next campsite. Lilly and Blythe jazzed us up for our drive with an awesome playlist, and we’re singing our way to campsite to get ready for the days ahead!
So far, every one in our closely-knit group has been exceptional and have us keeled over every day from laughing so hard! Their unique personalities have meshed so well and we feel truly spoiled with such a phenomenal group. We’ve had an absolute blast the past couple of days and are so pumped for the rest of our journey. White water rafting, here we come!
Love,Maddie, George, & Elizabeth
Shoutouts to home!
Julia: Don’t pick me up please! JK miss you and love you!! Sadie too!!
Morgan: This trip is good for me!
Audrey: Miss you mom and dad, love you!! I’m also having a great time!!! I also miss the dogs! Give them love.
Margaret: Miss you but having the best time!!
Hudson: Having so much fun!John: G.A.G.A. Getting big……………
Whitt: So stoked to be here! I miss y’all so much! Tell Auggie and Finn that I love them.
Carter: Having so much fun and meeting tons of new people!
Lilly: Aight I only miss my doggo! Having a blast!!!
Blythe: I’m having the best time! Love and miss you!!
Georgia: Waddup fam, I’m having the best time ever!! Miss you and Emma, Catherine, and Brooks!!
June 12, 2019
Hi California Families,
Moondance HQ here to say all students and leaders have arrived in San Francisco and they are on their way.
We’re excited to see where this adventure takes them!