July 29, 2019
Hello one last time!
These last two days of the trip have gone by incredibly fast, and we are sitting in the airport right now feeling so lonely. The end of a trip is always sad but this one hit us especially hard as the summer comes to a close. This group really amazed us, every single day, and we feel so grateful that we were able to not only be their leaders, but to have become one big family with all of them.
Our first day of surfing was one of our favorites yet. LODs Sienna and Palmer led us fearlessly into the day, wave by wave. We were the first Moondance group to have been able to go past the break on the first day of surf lessons! The surf instructors were loving the kids and were so excited watching how fast this group learned the sport. Sienna, Lara, Palmer, Jack, Charlie, and Bo each got to ride the face of huge waves before going in for the day! That afternoon, we all decided we’d had enough of the sandwiches and whipped out the ole Coleman Backcountry Stove for some gourmet chicken quesadillas and paninis. Before that though, we stumbled across a local farmers market and were able to jump out and buy all the fruit we’ve been craving the last two weeks! Palmer and Carter, after discovering plums, or what they thought to be giant blueberries, decided to go with their favorite, peaches! After all our fresh fruit was devoured and a long, family style lunch in the sun, the group had the afternoon to do something very special that we do on Moondance trips. Each person got to write a letter to themselves and create a bucket list that will be sent to them in a couple months. So many of them took this time to go off somewhere quiet on the beach and reflect on the last two weeks by themselves. The nostalgia quickly set in after we sealed our letters, so we decided we needed something to pick the mood up… like a little friendly competition! We split the group into two teams for a game of Iron Chef, the Dream Team (Mick, Bo, Charlie, Sienna, Palmer, and Lara) and the Champions (Jack, Jason, LJ, Carter, Ashley, and Eleanor). They were given a pantry of food options to choose from and one secret ingredient that they had to use in their dish: spicy mayo! We decided to judge the teams based on a few things, including presentation, taste, cleanliness of the kitchen, entertainment. We seriously have not laughed harder then when Bo made a dance for us to give the Dream Team major points. But Ashley came back for the Champions with an extensive joke for our judge Tommy. Picking the winner was hard, but the Dream Team’s barbecue chicken and dessert crepe really blew us away and we had to name them the winners!
The second and last day of surfing the ginormous swells of the Pacific was an exciting one! They awoke to the smell of chocolate chip pancakes and maple syrup, a guaranteed way to get them out of their sleeping bags fast. Jack enthusiastically asked to make pancakes for everyone, finally getting to perfect his pancake flip. For lunch, we realized it was our last day on the coast and we just had to take a trip to the most scenic Taco Bell in America that is just steps away from where we surf. LJ, Mick, and Bo were all first timers to this American classic, and all LOVED their delectable meal. Soon after, we met our awesome surf instructors for one last surf lesson. Bo wowed the guides with how fast he was able to put on his wetsuit after a tad bit slower performance the day before. Nicknamed “little Kelly Slater” by the surfing guides, Sienna our little surfing pro was given such high praise! At the end of the day, Eleanor, Bo, Charlie, and Annabel all rode one last wave together, or a “party wave.” We were all so sad as soon as the surf day was over because it meant our last activity. 🙁
For our last night all together, we treated ourselves to showers and Mexican food for our banquet dinner! We all got dressed to the nines in our Walmart purchases, Eleanor, LJ, Palmer, and Carter in their flower kimonos, Charlie in his magnificent blue gown, and Lara still rocking her new watermelon crocs. We may have gotten many stares, but the outing was so worth it after we got to fill our bellies full with nachos, burritos, and of course ice cream. The sugar rush was real so we headed to the beach to get our “ya-yas” out and be as loud as we could before dark, but soon our final Moonup was upon us. LODs Jason and Lara asked the question “What are you going to miss the most about Moondance?” Some tears were definitely shed, and we closed our last one out with a giant group hug. The next morning, aka JACK’S 14th BIRTHDAY, we got donuts and headed to the airport jamming to all our favorite songs from the trip. The end came waaayyyy too fast!
Thank you so much for allowing us to make such great, rare memories with these amazing kids. We seriously miss them already as we sit in the San Francisco airport writing to you. CAL 3B, if you’re reading this, we love you so much!!!!
Lauren, Annabel, and Tommy
July 26, 2019
We are currently driving down the famous Pacific Coast Highway on our way to Half Moon Bay. Tears are forming in all of our eyes as we realize this is our last campsite before we all part our separate ways. But, we still have two more precious days together and I assure you we are going to live them to the fullest!
Just two short days ago we woke up in Point Reyes at our favorite campsite. And…. it was Charlie’s 13th BIRTHDAY!!! We started the day off right with rainbow sprinkle chocolate chip pancakes and thirteen birthday candles. Everyone put on party hats and googly-eye glasses. Charlie got a special birthday sash and pink birthday crown, which he really loved. We then walked down a windy gravel path to a beach in Point Reyes National Park. Some of the girls walked along the water while the boys got into a very intense beach football game. We enjoyed a yummy picnic lunch where Mick added a little sand into his sandwich for that extra crunch. We played games and took naps well into the afternoon. The girls found a way to push on your chest to discover your “true laugh.” We all were surprised when Eleanor let out a loud, deep laugh and Lara let out a high one that sounded exactly like a hyena! After lunch, Ashley kindly shared some Oreos with everyone, and then we finally decided it was time to say goodbye to our beach haven and head back up the trail. On the drive back to the campsite, we stopped at a cool surf town called Fairfax for homemade ice cream, and some got stickers and T-shirts from a local surf shop. We then headed back to the campsite for a birthday cookout! Mick redeemed his flipping skills from our pancake breakfast with some perfectly charred burgers while LJ cut us up some fresh, delicious watermelon. While everyone was eating, we secretly set up a piñata behind the trees for the birthday boy and put on our fake mustaches. The group beating up the taco piñata wearing fake mustaches definitely gave our neighbors quite a show! After stuffing ourselves with chocolate and candy, we all cuddled up around Annabel and LJ as they played the guitar and sang Ed Sheehan’s “Perfect” to us. Bo and Jack led Moonup soon after, and may have been the first ever in Moondance history to name each other LODs for the next day, so looks like they get another crack at it! After Moonup, our neighbors came and complimented how great the group was and how she heard us singing and laughing and just being a family so she brought us stuff to make s’mores and let us cuddle her dog Bella, a lab that reminded Jason and Carter of their labs at home.
Happy Freaky Friday! The gang woke up and immediately dressed each other in each other’s clothes for freaky Friday. Eleanor was in Jason’s shorts and shirt, Charlie was in Sienna’s short shorts and choker, and much, much more. Right before leaving Point Reyes for good, Charlie and Palmer found four leaf clovers! We knew we’d have a great day. We walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, in awe of the views just beyond the fog. Jack, Mick and Lara led the pack and we finished our mile walk in record time. We then took a quick drive to such a beautiful, historical spot called Sutro Baths to eat a picnic lunch.
We just arrived at our last campsite and finished setting up tents for the last time. Very bittersweet! This went by so fast we can’t believe this is our last stop, but we can’t wait for surfing, so bye-bye for now!
July 25, 2019
Welcome back to another special edition of Moondance California!
So far our trip has been firing off on all cylinders, where everyone has gotten close to one another and enthusiasm is at an all time high. Now that we’ve finished rock climbing and hiking through Yosemite, we’re ready for the next adventure!
Our start to our four nights in Yosemite was met with a warm welcome from the California A group where the kids jumped out of the van, embraced one another and traded trip stories. It was hard to tear them apart from one another when we told them we had to leave to make dinner and set up tents because they were having so much fun. After setting up shop for the evening at our campsite, the girls ran up a hill on our campsite to watch the sunset set over the snowcapped mountains. The sunset wasn’t the only highlight of our campsite. We also were super psyched to create another Eno triangle where the kids double stacked their Eno hammocks on top of one another. They were so proud of their Eno configuration that they wanted to do Moonup inside of it to end the night on a high note.
Sleeping in after a long travel day? We say, ABSOLUTELY! After getting some much needed extra Z’s in, Davis wraps were made due to high demand from the kids to prepare us for our hike to Dog Lake. The leaders could not have been more proud of this group on the hike as everyone crushed the hike and with so much enthusiasm! Jack, Mick and Charlie were our fastest hikers, eager to see what was around each turn of the trail. The girls moved at a casual pace to take in all of what the trail had to offer while also singing songs the whole way up with hits from Miley Cyrus and Pitch Perfect. Once the team made it to the top, a heartfelt proposal between Mick and Jack was shared with a ring pop to solidify marriage. Tears of joy were shed for the new couple. At the bottom of the hike the group found a warm flat granite rock overlooking Tuolumne Meadows to eat lunch. Bo got creative with his salami and carrot sandwich and inspired more people to do it with him. Ashley, Jack and Mick after lunch stacked rocks and tried to create the tallest rock tower in the valley. After the hike, the crew walked down to the lake close to our campsite and chilled with a panoramic view of the mountains behind the lake. Jason gathered some of the group to play card games like Black Jack, Egyptian Rat Slap, Spoons and War while the rest of the group hung out in their Enos listening to music on the speaker.
For dinner, a special surprise dinner was created with Pad Tai as the main entree’. Carter made the peanut butter and soy sauce sauce, while Bo and Charlie took turns with cooking the chicken, and Ashely cooked the fresh veggies. It was a sure hit with everyone and many Nugs were given to the cook crew for their delicious meal. Palmer ate vegetables and was met with a roar of applause and excitement from the group especially from Carter. For dessert the leaders brought out Oreos and animal crackers to cap off one of our best meals. Lauren, Annabel, Eleanor, LJ and Sienna caught a beautiful sunset where the High Sierras presented a display of reds, purples, oranges and yellows like no other. Tommy, Jason, Charlie and Mick continued a game of cards after dinner where animal crackers were used as game chips. Our first campfire of the session was a delightful one because Annabel brought out her guitar and sang wagon wheel for the group.
To start day 2 of climbing, Jason ignited the group’s motivation with a quote about facing fear that rallied the group for another great day in Yosemite. To get fueled for the last day of climbing, Jack, Lara and Eleanor prepared a protein packed meal with eggs, bacon, apples with peanut butter and English muffins. The group wanted a more challenging climb than the day before, so the rock climbing guides led us to a new wall with crack climbing. Jason wowed the group with his quick and skillful climbing on the hardest part of the wall. Eleanor, LJ and Sienna all made it to the top on multiple pitches and everyone cheered them on the whole way up. Sienna, Jack and Bo were super psyched that they completed all four climbing walls and left feeling on top of the world coming down to the van. For lunch, the group stopped halfway through our rock climbing session and enjoyed pesto, mozzarella cheese, tomato and pita bread sandwiches with pretzels. LJ’s immaculate culinary mind had the idea of combining Nutella and pretzels which the group loved and followed. Before going back to our campsite, the leaders pulled over to a souvenir shop to get postcards, cool stickers for our water bottles, and matching hoodies. Lara found the duct tape in the van and made horns and a snout entirely out of duct tape. The leaders and the rest of the group were dying laughing at how hilarious she looked and the leaders decided to invite her into the market store with us. Lara really embraced the new look as she danced and said hi to everyone in the store with a huge smile across her duct taped face.
After another fabulous dinner, the group saw yet again another gorgeous sunset and decided to run from our campsite all the way down to the lake to enjoy our last Yosemite sunset. Bent over and out of breath we all stared silently taking in what a breathtaking sight was in front of us for our final night. In the morning, the group got energized for our long car ride to Point Reyes with an inspiring morning and wow moment from Eleanor and Mick before hitting the road. While singing in the car, Palmer stopped the music and insisted we stop and take photos with the hundreds of cows we saw in the prairie, so we did. Palmer was ecstatic while approaching the fence and the hundreds of cows staring at her. This morning Cal C stole our van mascot (Optimus Prime Action Figure) and taped it to the front of their van. The kids were super upset, but we’re plotting our revenge to get them back. So stay tuned.
Currently we are on our way to Point Reyes and will update y’all in a few days!
Tommy, Lauren, Annabel
July 21, 2019
We’re back again after two days of hardcore rafting down some of the American River’s craziest rapids!
After arriving to our campsite just a few short days ago, we enjoyed an amazing meal prepared by our very own Lila Jane, Mick, and Sienna. They left the group in awe with their perfectly cooked pasta served with a Caesar salad. Full of energy, we decided to scope out the nearby river that we will soon be rafting. We stumbled upon a calm swimming area, where we all skipped rocks and waded into the cold water. Charlie and Jack taught us all how to skip the rocks with perfect form. Bo showed us some impressive Tai Chi moves and then chopped a log in half with his bare hands. Eleanor and Lila Jane stayed behind to journal and take in the Golden Hour sunlight reflecting on the water. After the sun went down, the girls put on their new matching pajamas and slippers. We all gathered together for our nightly Moonup led by Charlie and Lara. The kids then talked and shared stories on the big tarp together into the night before falling asleep under the stars.
The next day they woke up bright and early ready for our first day of rafting! We swear these kids don’t seem to need any sleep despite their endless energy! Ashley, Carter, and Bo cooked up eggs and toast for breakfast. Bo can’t wait to show everyone at home his new egg scrambling skills! Everyone couldn’t contain their excitement to get on the river. We divided into two rafts, met the guides, and began our journey down the water. The first boat, Stacy’s Mom, led and Diddy Dream Team followed quickly behind as we attacked one whitewater rapid after another. Sienna was praised by the guides for her impressive paddling form. Bo and Palmer got to “Ride the Bull” or sit on the bow of the boat through the rapids. We then stopped for a picnic lunch and everyone tried “River Nachos” or chips and salsa with cream cheese. Everyone loved the combination! In the afternoon, the guides had us stop on the side of the river to pick some wild blackberries. Jason and Eleanor picked the most and brought them back to the boat for the rest of us to eat. Mick and Jack made some new friends with the other rafters floating down the river next to us. We eventually made it back to the campsite where we enjoyed warm showers. California C arrived at the campsite and we got to talk to them for a little bit! Then, everyone sat down for some steak and pasta prepared by the river guides. Charlie passed around his incredibly hot spice that he bought in Lake Tahoe. Lara was brave enough to try it, but quickly regretted it! We finished off dinner with some freshly baked brownies. LODs Carter and Jack led Moonup and everyone settled into their sleeping bags on the tarp for another night’s sleep.
Our second day of rafting was even more fun than the first if that’s even possible! We enjoyed a great breakfast of eggs, bacon, and sausage. We said goodbye to Cal C and jumped back into our rafts, ready to take on the river. We conquered the morning’s rapids with no fear. A few of them got the chance to guide the boat directing us to turn right or left. Jason and Tommy played tug of war with the paddles, and both of them ended up flying into the water! Everyone else also got soaked by the epic water-gun battle that took place between our two boats. Carter got lots of great GoPro footage of the huge rapid sections where we all screamed with excitement. My favorite moment was when Lara out of nowhere says, “I’m just so happy right now!” The river definitely brought out the happiness and laughter in all of us. We were all sad to say goodbye to it, but we can’t wait for what lies ahead!
We just stopped for homemade ice cream in our favorite historic California town, Placerville. I guess it took bellies full of double scoops to get them to finally sleep a little! They are now napping on our drive to our next destination. Our group has gotten closer than ever. Us leaders are so excited to see them try out rock climbing in one of the best places in the world to do it—Yosemite National Park!
So long for now!
Annabel, Tommy, Lauren
Hey guys! I miss you so much but I’m having so so much fun and I’m making so many new friends. Say hi to Stan for me, love you! -Eleanor
California is so beautiful! I’m having so much fun and I’ve met so many new friends! I miss you all 🙂 Sienna
Miss you guys!! It’s been so fun and everyone is so sweet!! I’m having so much fun!! Love you all!! 1-2-3, Palmer
Hey California is so great hope you guys are doing well, Jason
Miss you guys! Dad- Lake Tahoe is so beautiful in the summer! California is so much fun and give Tom, Scout, and Ringo hugs for me! -Ashley
Hey fam! Imysm but I’m having so much fun. Miss my puppies so much. I have met so many ppl. Love you -Carter
Hi I’m having so much fun! Ly bye -Mick
Hey guys! I miss y’all but I am having a great time at camp! I can’t wait to see everyone soon! Love you <3 Lila Jane P
Hey I miss you. I am having a lot of fun -Charlie
Hey guys! I’m having a great time but I miss you so much! Can’t wait to see you! Lara 🙂
Hi mom and dad. I just took a nap and we went rafting today -Bo
Hey! I’m having so much fun. Miss you so much -Jack
July 18, 2019
Hello from sunny California!!
We have had the best few days on Lake Tahoe getting to know each other! Time really does fly by when you are having fun. Our group has already become one big family, and us leaders are beyond excited to see what amazing things they will achieve in the next two weeks.
Our trip began just a couple short days ago in the wonderful San Francisco airport. As everyone rolled in from their flights, we could already tell this group was going to be special. Full of excitement, we loaded our duffels into the UHaul, piled into our 15-passenger van, and started our journey up to Lake Tahoe. Everyone kept entertained by getting to know one another and watching the beautiful California countryside pass by. All the boys proceeded to dress up in the girls accessories, including sunglasses, scrunches, and headbands. Mick was best dressed by far in Sienna’s cat eye sunglasses. As we got closer to Tahoe, we stopped for some delicious pizza and sang the rest of the way to old Taylor Swift songs. Despite rolling into the campsite a little after dark, the group did not let the long drive drain their energy. They set up their tents like pros, but then decided to all sleep together under the stars in a huge configuration of Enos and tarps. Before settling into a well-deserved sleep, we circled together for our first Moonup where we talked about what brought us to Moondance. Almost everyone said they wanted to gain new friendships and I know with this amazing group, that won’t be hard at all!
The next day we woke up to the sound of everyone already talking and laughing, full of energy because of the time difference. Our first cook crew, Eleanor, Lara, and Jack, cut up some fresh banana and apples for our hearty oatmeal breakfast. We hopped into the van and drove to the beach to begin our day of kayaking! Everyone was amazed as we drove down a ridge that opened into a breathtaking view of beautiful Lake Tahoe below. During our kayaking, we learned all about “Lake Tahoe Tessie” and even got to see some sunken barges from the gold rush. They quickly got hungry, or as Bo would say, “hangry,” so we stopped on a beach by the lake for a scenic lunch! We also got the chance to jump in and swim for a bit, and everyone definitely took advantage of this time. Later in the afternoon, LJ and Eleanor rounded up the group to go to the beach by our campsite and we swam even more! Ashley also took such great advantage of this time to read her book and have some chill time, while Palmer and Carter took this time to vlog a little on their GoPros. We can’t wait to see the videos they make! That night, we went to THE spot. Just over the hill next to our campsite, the thick forest of trees opens up to a beautiful lookout of Lake Tahoe in the distance. We watched the sunset behind the mountains and then behind the lake, all in complete awe at the beauty of where we were. How lucky are we to be able to spend our first full night somewhere so beautiful!? The first LODs (Leaders of the Day) Mick and Eleanor led our second Moonup. We were so impressed yet again with their maturity and ability to lead the group. We went around and answered the question “What is your biggest fear?” and I hate to expose Charlie and Carter but for their sake I really hope we don’t see many more spiders or butterflies at our next campsites!
For our last morning in Lake Tahoe, we made our favorite backcountry breakfast by far, Davis Wraps! The kids loved them and many went back for seconds, which always makes us so happy. Everyone relished in the fresh berries we were able to eat, Sienna especially who helped make sure there was no fruit wasted! We were all so sad to leave such an unforgettable campground, but we were excited for the day of Stand Up Paddle-boarding ahead of us. Thanks to Jack and Bo, there was not a dry person. They successfully knocked everyone off their boards into the cold lake water. But we all agreed the water felt so refreshing in the rare 80 degree weather! We dried off in the sun for a little beach picnic, where we enjoyed some healthy, delectable sandwiches and some heated relay races, with Jason securing in the win for his team in the end! The hot day made our next move obvious. We drove into South Lake Tahoe for the biggest and tastiest customizable ice cream sandwiches, and also spontaneously stumbled upon a local crazy sock store. The owner let us all have another free pair each for our obvious excitement about her shop!
We are now on our way to our next activity, and we are in shock that this is only the third day and we all feel so close already! We can’t wait to tell you all about white water rafting in a few days, but for now we are signing off to live in this moment and make it last as long as we can!
Lauren, Annabel, Tommy
July 16, 2019
All have arrived in San Francisco and the group is out.
More updates to come!