Trip Updates

Chamonix 2B • June 15-July 7, 2019

A final "au revoir" from Paris!

July 7, 2019

With the Pyrenees, Costa Brava, and 63 kilometers of the Tour du Mont Blanc all under our belt, we woke up bright and early to head to Paris for some sightseeing. While we were full of excitement, it was on the train to Paris that everyone began to accept that we were down to our last couple days together, and Hannah and ER made sure to remind everyone to cherish our time left together.

Arriving at our hostel in the early afternoon, we wasted no time and took to the city. Cross and Briley, the only students (besides our London native) having been to Paris before, helped the group decide how we’d spend our Friday afternoon. With its recent media coverage, we decided the Cathedral Norte Dame de Paris was a must and we compared its current structure to a photo taken in January in order to get an appreciation for the destruction. Next we headed to the Arc du Triumph and after completing the walk in the mid afternoon sun, decided we would play “What are the Odds” for someone to “sugar cookie”—dump a freezing cold liter of water on their head and do one complete roll in the white, sandy footpath. Virginia proved to have the worst luck today and fell victim to the sugar cookie. The entire group was bent over laughing as she stood up with a new ghostly hue.

The next attraction that caught our eye was the Big Wheel, and Abby convinced most of the girls to catch a bird’s eye view of Paris with her from the top of the ferris wheel. No trip to Paris would be complete without a hefty serving of gelato, so after the ferris wheel we headed to Amorino for some of their famous flower cones. The line was long, but the wait was worth it. Ally had perhaps the best flavor combination with her coffee, chocolate, and caramel cone. Being the first Friday of the month, we learned the Lourve would be free to enter in the evening for anyone under the age of 26, and we all jumped at the opportunity to find some shade and enjoy some of the most famous works of art. While walking around the world’s largest art museum, we were all more than surprised to run into familiar faces when we crossed paths with Mica’s parents, brother and little sister! After exchanging hugs and even some magic tricks with the Lavi’s, we were off to find the Mona Lisa and explore the museum. To cap off the day we headed to Bocamexa where Josie ate what she claimed to be the best burrito she’d ever had.

Having checked off the majority of our sightseeing on Friday, the girls decided to take advantage of some shopping. After perusing a few name brand stores, we decided that some vintage stores were more up our alley. We spent almost two hours trying on outrageous outfits and eventually found a few gems. Katie Clark walked away with arguably the best find in the form of a multicolored sweatshirt from the early 90’s. We then decided to enjoy a Parisien lunch at a cafe in a busy square and partake in some people watching. We spent the afternoon soaking up the French culture pretending to be locals as we strolled through the streets.

Our final destination was the most notable of all, the Eiffel Tower. We climbed to the second floor, everyone joking that they thought the hiking was over. Relieved to find out we could take the elevator to the top, we hopped in and enjoyed the afternoon breeze from almost 1,000 feet up as we looked down on the beautiful city we spent the morning exploring. We made our way back down and walked to a nearby sushi restaurant to order take out and then bought drinks and snacks at a nearby grocery store. Picnic in tow we walked back to find a spot on the Eiffel Tower lawn to enjoy our final meal together. We spent the night enjoying the most incredible picnic, a backdrop of the Eiffel Tower with the sun setting behind us. All of us so humbled to be together in such a beautiful place. After finishing our meal, Hayes, the President + Founder of Moondance, joined us for a surprise visit. We all reminisced our favorite memories, lessons learned and things we’ll miss most about the trip. After one last round of gelato together, Virginia and Allison continued this conversation with our final Moonup. We laughed and cried into the wee hours of the night, looking back on the last 23 days we spent in this magical world away from everything familiar. Our eyes grew heavy and we knew it was time to go to bed before an early morning, but all the girls pushed their mattresses together in one room so they could stay close by.

Reece and I are now sitting in the airport together, the girls flight just took off and we are heartbroken knowing that this adventure has come to an end. We are so incredibly impressed by the growth we saw in all 11 young women we had the pleasure of getting to share this experience with. They are 11 of the strongest, kindest, and most hilarious humans we have ever known and they truly created something special. They should be so proud of what they accomplished and we hope they are going home knowing that they are so much stronger than when they arrived. We will miss all the laughter and love they brought to Europe with them. We both want to thank all of you for allowing us to spend the last 23 days with your incredible daughters and friends. The itinerary was incredible but these girls truly made our trip so much better than we could have expected. Thank you for following along this journey with us. Please continue to pick their brains about this adventure because we promise there is so much more to share.

Love,

Izzy & Reece


Mystic Mountain Magic!

July 4, 2019

Hello friends and family! Izzy and Reece here with another trip update for ya. This one is bittersweet because we have just finished our final section of the trip and it’s dawning on us that our days together are numbered. We are back in Chamonix after five amazing days on the Tour du Mont Blanc feeling stronger and more accomplished than ever.

 

Last time you heard from us we had left Costa Brava after two days of sea kayaking, well rested and anxious to get back to the mountains. From there, we took a couple buses and few trains north to Chamonix, France where we packed our bags and geared up to hike again. Early the next morning we met our guide, Laurice, and piled into two vans headed to Arnuva, Italy. The hour and half drive was the perfect introduction the unbelievable mountains we would be spending the next 5 days exploring. As we weaved through the curvy mountain roads we were left speechless as we passed snow capped peaks, endless fields of wildflowers and unbelievably high mountains. The view was interrupted by an epic ride through a tunnel that went on for 12 kilometers but once we made it through we arrived in our fourth country of the trip, Italy! Now more excited than ever, we strapped on our backpacks and began our ascent up to our first pass of the trip. This one was special because it is the spot along the Tour in which France, Italy and Switzerland intersect. In fact, this was the day that we will all remember as the day we ate breakfast in France, lunch in Italy and dinner in Switzerland. We quickly learned that we were not the only Americans who were drawn to this region. On this hike we met a trio from Maryland, a couple from New York and a group from Colorado. We saw all three countless time throughout our journey and always exchanged words of encouragement along the way. After a beautiful lunch on top of the pass we found another patch of snow that was perfectly placed as a short cut for our hike. This time we were in shorts instead of rain pants, so we tried to stay on our feet and use our poles as breaks as we skied down the mountain with just our boots. Katie Clark made it the farthest of anyone in the group. The rest of us, almost immediately lost our balance and fell to our butts sliding down the rest of the way on our backpacks. We were all left with frozen bottoms and huge smiles. For the rest of the day it seemed like every turn we took, or pass we crossed there was a different type of landscape to appreciate. Allison helped us live in the moment by reminding us every time to stop and take it all in. We can thank her for all the pictures we took on this day. We reached our hotel in La Fouly in the late afternoon, settled into our shared bunk room where we spent the night laughing at Virginia’s corny jokes and swapping scary stories.

 

After a night full of high winds and thunderstorms, we awoke to a slight break in the European heatwave ready for our second day on the Tour du Mont Blanc. Our shortest day on the Tour, a few hours through boulder fields and 300m climb was all that stood between us and Lake Champex. Needless to say, the entire group hiked with an unparalleled determination. Our morning was full of countless new types of wildflowers and Lauris took time to teach everyone about various species and their uses in everyday life. We arrived to Champex rather earlier, which gave us plenty of time to enjoy the lake. After picking up some fresh oranges, nuts, dried fruit, and peach tea, we found a sunny spot on the bank of the far side of the lake that offered great views of the small town and surrounding mountains. The water wasn’t as cold as we’d expected and we were able to hang in the water to get the best vantage of the snow-capped Alps. Revealing their competitive nature, ER and Hannah accepted Izzy’s challenge of swimming around 200 meters to the opposite end of the lake. The three of them made the swim across and back with ease and we all soaked up every last bit of sun before it dipped behind the jagged peaks. Hungry from our active day of hiking and swimming, dinner did not disappoint. Our hostel served salads and creamy tomato and chicken pasta with peas, and after seeing us scarf down our first serving, the cooks insisted we all take seconds—an offer almost nobody refused. At Moonup, Ally found herself snuggling up to the hostel’s cat, whom she promptly named Fred.

 

Yet another night of window-rattling thunderstorms brought us an even cooler morning for day three. We knew today would be tough as we would be climbing 900 meters at the hottest point of the day, so we enjoyed the misty cool morning hike through the extremely low hanging clouds in the mountain valleys. Before long the climb was upon us and the conversation lulled as we all put our heads down and breathed heavily. Abby led the crew and hiked tirelessly until we reached one of the most breathtaking vistas of the trip. From the treeless portion of the trail, we could see an incredible section of the Swiss Alps and could even make out Lake Geneva. Having spent a semester in Switzerland, Cross was at home in this sedition of the trip and was happy to lead us to our lunch spot in a grassy field with even more noteworthy views. After making it over the Col de la Forclaz, we made a steep switchback descent into the tiny Swiss town of Trient, where we enjoyed ice cold drinks while we awaited dinner. Our last night in Switzerland, we couldn’t leave the country without experiencing a fondue dinner and our hostel was ready to serve up one of our largest meals yet—split pea soup, cheese fondue, and local Swiss ice cream. Briley was cracking us all up as she spent the meal stirring the pot to keep the cheese safe from burning. After Moonup we were able to watch the semi final of the Women’s World Cup as the US took on England. Mica, being the lone England supporter, and Josie, being a competitive soccer player, kept the group engaged with their intensity as we watched the US pull out a 2-1 victory.

 

Our last full day on the Tour was an exciting day because it was our very own ER’s 17th birthday! We woke her up by singing happy birthday bright and early. As we ate breakfast and packed our bags, Laurice, our guide, went over the route for the day and we quickly saw that we had another tough climb ahead of us. We began our trek and as we approached the pass he pointed off into the far distance at a house that was at the top of the pass and said, “We just need to get to that.” The girls, stronger than ever, were nervous but we knew they were capable and they absolutely crushed it. We reached the top by mid morning and were greeted by an incredible surprise. Ice cold coca-colas to celebrate our last big climb and ER’s birthday. We savored each sip as we sat together looking at the best view we had of Mont Blanc yet. As we snacked on fruit and peanuts we laughed about what this hike would have felt like on our first day, the girls all taking a moment to appreciate how much stronger they’ve become. We arrived at Argentiere by early afternoon and checked into the nicest hotel we’ve stayed at yet. The girls were thrilled to feel fancy again and took their well deserved hot shower before exploring the town. We met in the lobby of our hotel before dinner and all the girls came down with their rain jackets zipped all the way up wearing mischievous grins. Reece and I knew something was up because it was even raining, but we humored them as they giggled all the way to the restaurant. We sat down the girls unzipped their jackets in unison to reveal the cheesiest, yet incredible tourist T-shirt’s I have ever seen. I’m sure you’ll see them when the girls return. They surprised with a pair as well and before we knew all 13 of us were sitting at the table wearing matching shirts that read in giant block letters, “Next stop, Chamonix.” We were certainly a topic of conversation amongst the rest of the restaurant, and we loved it. We had pizza and salad, followed by dessert. The birthday girl blew out her “17” candles over her ice cream and we surprised her with an oversized bedazzled Tour du Mont Blanc shirt. We ended the night all snuggled in one room, talking about first impressions of each other in the airport and reminiscing on our favorite moments of the trip

 

This morning, after “sleeping in” (waking up at 8am) we ate breakfast and then began our walk back to where it all began just 5 days ago in Chamonix. After just two hours of walking along the river, singing songs and swapping stories, we arrived. We had a graduation ceremony led by Laurice where he presented us with our certificates of completing the northern portion of the TMB and we said our goodbyes to him as he headed off to his next adventure. We spent the afternoon exploring Chamonix, basking in our success and savoring one of the last days we have together. Tomorrow we head to Paris to enjoy our last two days together. The next time you hear from us the kids will be on the plane home. Hoping for long days in Paris because we are definitely not ready to say goodbye quite yet.


Kayaking and Cooking in Costa Brava!

June 29, 2019

Hello again!

Its already time for another trip update. It’s wild how quickly time is flying by on the trip now. We just finished our second activity and are currently en route to Chamonix to begin our 5 day trek.The last few days were a drastic change of scenery after spending 8 days in the Pyrenees mountains. Our first full day out of the mountains we explored Lourdes a bit more. As we walked around, we saw hotel after hotel and the girls began to wonder what brings so many people to this quaint mountain town in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Lourdes is a pilgrimage site for many millions of Catholics each year who come to see the Grotto and Saint Bernadette’s Cathedral. We were able to explore both, admiring the architecture of the building and learning more about the history of this pilgrimage site built in 1858. A heat wave is rolling through Europe right now, and we were definitely in the thick of it so in the afternoon we escaped the heat at a local cafe indulging in some milkshakes and iced coffee. By then it was time to catch our bus to our next activity, kayaking in Costa Brava!

We arrived in L’Escala, Spain late that evening, all anxious for the day ahead. We woke up early the next morning to get our day started, met up with our kayaking guides and headed to the beach. They outfitted us in skirts, life vests and helmets so we were all feeling quite intense as we strapped into our kayaks. Having arrived late the night before, this was our first opportunity to really take in the beautiful views around us. We were all in awe of the unbelievably blue water, and how it almost glowed teal in the sunlight. Much like the Pyrenees we were blessed with a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. We spent the day exploring caves and learning about the different types of rocks we were seeing layered into the cliff walls that surrounded us. Still basking in the heat wave, it was the perfect escape to be inches above the water splashing each other with our paddles to keep cool. Virginia and Josie were singing their way through some of the caves letting the acoustics really show off their talent. We laughed as we pretended to be professional “yakkers,” racing through the water. By late afternoon we were spent after a day in the sun and it was time to head back to our bungalows. On our drive back our guide told us about an awesome spot for an afternoon swim. The girls immediately rallied at the promise of rocks to jump off of. What we found was an incredible cove, tucked away with a giant rock formation just a swim away. We climbed up and jumped into the water, everyone screaming with exhilaration as they splashed into the ocean water. With a newfound energy it was time to make dinner. This was the first time on the trip we got to cook for ourselves! Our LODs for the day, Allie and Allison, took the lead at the grocery store picking out supplies for caprese salads and cheese quesadillas. ER and Briley assembled the impressive caprese salads, while Mica learned to cook chicken. The end result was delicious and we shared the meal family style at a giant table, decorated with pine cones, outside of our bungalows.On day two of our kayaking section, we awoke to plenty of sunshine and what would be the hottest day of the year in Costa Brava. Luckily, we got to spend the day on and in the cool Mediterranean Sea as we perfected our paddling technique. Cross and Katie Clark took to leading the pack as we headed to tour our first cave of the day. This cave, dubbed “the broccoli” cave, had three branching entrances that seemed to be delivering the clearest, dark blue water imaginable. After working up a quick sweat, Hannah initiated a splash war which kept us cool all the way to lunch.

Having learned to appreciate the Spanish siesta, we took a leisurely lunch and found ourselves enjoying the sun and cool water. For close to an hour we floated around enjoying the increased sense of buoyancy in the extremely salty water. After our relaxing lunch we toured one more cave and it was time to say goodbye to our guides Paul and Miguel. Feeding off of yesterday’s enthusiasm for cooking, LOD Abby suggested we make what we called Buddha Bowls—rice bowls with corn, pepper, garbanzo beans, olives and chicken. We also enjoyed a tomato, cucumber and feta salad….and of course a little Swiss chocolate for desert.After a few days of enjoying plenty of sun, homemade meals, and ample R&R, we are gearing up to head back to the Alps for our last activity of the trip. Our group of new friends feels more like a close family now and we cannot wait to see what the Tour du Mont Blanc has in store!

Adíos,

Reece & Izzy


The Odyssey of the Pyrenees!

June 25, 2019

Greetings friends and family! After 8 days of backpacking in the Pyrenees, our largest leg of the trip is over and we have just arrived back in Lourdes, France. What an adventure it has been! We have hiked high and low, over glaciers and across rivers, all the while soaking in some of the most unbelievable views along the way.

While it seems like a lifetime ago, this whole adventure began only 11 days ago when most of us met in Atlanta, GA. We took an overnight flight to Paris where we caught our next flight to Geneva, Switzerland and met up with our final group member from London who flew in to meet us there. We got to our hotel in the early afternoon with plenty of time to explore the city. After picking up lunch from a local grocery store we made our way to the city’s main attraction, Lake Geneva. The city is stunning, surrounded by mountains and centered around the giant lake filled with bright blue water. It was a beautiful Sunday morning so the park surrounding the lake was packed with people and we all got a real taste of what life is like in the city. We quickly learned that even though the sun was shining, the lake was freezing as we hesitantly dipped our toes in. The girls already anxious to take in every aspect of this trip braved the cold water and jumped right in screaming as they submerged their heads under the water and swam to a nearby dock. We spent the afternoon playing name games and doing icebreakers, getting to know a little more about each other. After a few hours we went back to the hotel where we had our first Moonup. With only a few alumni in the group to lead the way, it was our first opportunity to introduce one of Moondance’s most important traditions. Every night we come together to debrief the day, share highs and lows of the day and get to know each other on a deeper level. We began the trip by asking the girls why they were here and learned more about what brought us all together.

We had a bright and early wake up on our third day of the trip. We had a big travel day ahead of us. It was a great opportunity to introduce the girls to navigating the complexities of international travel, especially in a country where none of us speak the language. We had breakfast in Geneva, Switzerland, lunch at a park in Lyon, France and then dinner in Toulouse, France before our final train ride to Lourdes, France. The girls were able to sit together on the trains and spent the day getting to know each other, learning new card games and talking about what they were excited about for the days to come. We were all in awe looking out the windows at the beautiful scenery of the French country side whipping by us in all directions.

After a few long days of travel, it was finally time to start hiking. We packed our bags and drove about 40 minutes to the Col des Tentes trailhead, anxious to get started. At the trailhead we met our guide for the next 8 days, a frenchman named Dan. We quickly learned that Dan, a man in his early 40’s who has spent his life exploring and guiding trips through the Pyrenees mountains, possessed a wealth of knowledge of about this area that he was eager to share with all of us. We pulled out the map, taught our first map reading and orientation lesson and began the downhill trek to Torla. While the hike was completely downhill our first day, as I’m sure the girls will never be able to forget, that certainly doesn’t mean it was easy. For most of them this was their first backpacking trip ever. Getting used to the weight on their back was an adjustment on its own, but we were quickly faced with steep declines that tested our knees with each step. Luckily, surrounded by incredible views and new, encouraging friends, every single girl tackled the day in stride and proved that they were much more capable than they could have imagined on just that first day.

Climb to Goriz

After an initial day of descent, we were ready to spend our first full day in Spain climbing! In order to prepare ourselves for our journey through the Ordesa Canyon—Europe’s largest canyon—we began with a morning lesson on map reading and orienteering. From the skills learned, we determined that the day would result in a net elevation gain of 1,050 meters! The hike began with a gentle, shaded ascent along the river and provided only slight glimpses of the steep canyon walls that surrounded us. After a long lunch next to a trout-filled river, Katie Clark and Allison Garland, our Leaders of the Day, led us through our first challenging climb as we hiked out of the shade and into the sunny prairie, which a few herds of cattle call home for the summer. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves climbing switchback after switchback up the canyon walls to the Faja de Pelay, which would lead us to Goriz. The climb was both mentally and physically strenuous for every member of the team, but the views that the increased elevation offered were unparalleled and provided all the motivation we needed to reach the refugio. After reaching Refugio de Goriz and having a quick rinse, we headed back outside to enjoy the well-deserved views. Virginia and Briley quickly took interest in the families of marmots surrounding the refugio and took off on a journey exploring the rolling hills studying the furry creatures. As the sun set and the temperature dropped, we couldn’t seem to be pulled away from the outdoors and found ourselves playing a new game called “Signs.” Hannah, Cross, and our guide Dan kept the entire group laughing as we played continuously until it was too dark to see.

Goriz to Bujaruelo

Waking up on our third day in the Pyrenees with the long climb fresh on our minds, we knew the day’s descent would be a bit tricky; however, we also were confident the trek would provide a unique vantage of the Ordesa Canyon. The morning began with a quick, cool drizzle but soon subsided to an appreciated cloud cover. Walking along the walls of the canyon, we could not help but notice that the cows we had met yesterday more closely resembled white ants today. We ate a couscous lunch on a rocky outcropping and prepared ourselves for a steep descent down to Bujaruelo. ER never strayed far from the front of the pack as she led the pack with her witty humor and great determination. As our knees and feet grew tired and we reached the tree line, everyone needed a boost of energy to make it through the last few miles. Almost unanimously the team burst in a mashup of songs, which acted as the perfect distraction from our fatigue and sustained our energy for the entirety of the final descent. Once at Bujaruelo, Josie noticed that a banana had been smushed in her pack and smeared all over her clothes. She decided that the most efficient way to rid them of their smell was to throw them on and take a dip in the frigid, turquoise river. The rest of us couldn’t resist the opportunity to swim and soon the valley was filled with our shrieks and gasps as our bodies numbed in the snowmelt bath. Luckily a hot four course dinner warmed us right up.

Bujaruelo to Gavarnie

Back to France! After a night full of heavy rain Abby took the reins in leading us through the Bujaruelo forest to the pastoral valley of Pouey Aspe, where we encountered creeks raging with the night’s precipitation. A quick lesson on crossing rivers gave us all the knowledge we needed to safely navigate the obstacle. Mica, eager to tackle the challenge, hopped right in and led the first group across the creek in perfect form. From the pastoral valley we then parted ways with Spain when we climbed into the clouds and across the Col du Bucharo into France. Once in France, we were confronted with a new obstacle—snow. A large snowfield covered our trail and proved to be rather slick in the raising summer temperatures; however, we were not discouraged in the slightest. Instead of attempt to hike entirely down the steep scree field on either side of the trail, we slipped on our rain pants and glissaded our way down the ridge. All thirteen of us wore ear-to-ear smiles and the laughter was endless as we slid our way around 400 meters down to another pasture for lunch. This was the highlight for the entire 8 days in the Pyrenees for most. Laughing and screaming as we slid down each other’s paths, using our heels as brakes as we slid down the glacier. The rest of the trek to Gavarnie brought some rain and light hail and led us past hundreds of grazing sheep and cows. While descending into the town of Gavarnie, we found ourselves standing face-to-face with nine rather rambunctious horses. Luckily, Allie (Allison Elpiner) reassured us that if we maintained our confidence and a calm demeanor, we’d have no trouble simply walking right around them and she led us to the massive salmon dinner that awaited us at Hostel Oxygene. The girls explored the quaint town of Gavarnie and learned that it attracts people from all of the world for its access to outdoor activities like skiing, rock climbing, backpacking and paragliding.

Gavarnie to Espuguette

The next morning we left bright and early, beginning the hike through the town of Gavarnie. We passed creperies, hotels and walked along the river in search of the largest free-falling waterfall in France. From afar it looked like the water wasn’t even moving, but as we approached, and the sun began to shine brightly on the cirque illumination the mist in the air as the water dumped over the rock bed. We hiked up to the base of the waterfall protected by our rain gear and were quickly dumped on by what appeared to be a light mist from afar. Soaked in the cold glacier water, we quickly retreated back to the sun where we ate lunch and enjoyed an afternoon siesta in the sun. When we finally reached Espuguette, we were greeted by a tough ascent that tested our girls’ capabilities yet again. Now several days into the trek, they possessed a newfound confidence in the strength and powered through the final push to the top. Some sang songs, others silently endured, but all were cheering each other on once they got to the top, reassuring each remaining group member that the view was so worth it at the top. And oh was it worth it! When we reached the refugio we had also reached what some called the best view of the entire trip. Endless mountain ranges, snow capped peaks and the prettiest blue as the sun hit the western facing wall of each mountain. We sat up there, bags at our sides for a least another hour before checking into the refugio just soaking in the view and basking in the well deserved reward that was this view.

Espuguette to Saugue

We were awoken the next morning by our fellow backpackers all eager to get an early start down the mountain. Many of us brushed our teeth, or drank our morning coffee outside just so we could soak up the incredible views a little longer. We strapped on our packs and were off on another great day of hiking. After breezing through steep descent we had climbed up the day before, we took a packs off break to frolic through the rolling green hills singing Sound of Music sons in the sun. Then we made our way through Gavarnie once again and surprised girls with authentic French crepes. The afternoon was spent exploring small mountain villages along the trail. Thus far the scenery had mostly consisted of high mountain overlooks and giant waterfalls, but today was beautiful in a much more subtle way. We walk through fields of vibrant flowers, and through tiny mountain roads zig zagging through adorable homes. We stopped for a late afternoon lunch where we enjoyed another siesta beneath the shade of some trees. After a more relaxing day than most we arrived at our hostel to find that all the girls could share one room and we were the only guests at the hostel. Basically, a giant slumber party! We arrived early enough to teach a lesson on the NOLS leadership grid. It helps students identify their leadership style and gives them some insight into their strengths as a leader. We learned we have mostly relationship masters and architect analysts, with only one person finding themselves in spontaneous motivator and driver. It was interesting to getting a deeper understanding of the dynamics of the group and what make us function in the way that we do. We played some games as well and then sat down for a dinner of spaghetti bolognese.

Day hike to Portaillou return to Saugue

Now our 7th day of backpacking through the Pyrenees the girls were able to rest up a little bit as we only had a day hike. Thrilled to leave their heavy packs behind we bounded up the mountain to get some great views. Presented with an ascend over a wide open field, we took the opportunity to do a solo hike. Each girl was spread about 2 minutes apart. Spaced out enough that they could still see one another, with enough separation that they couldn’t talk along the climb. As leaders, we didn’t set any parameters and just allowed them to take the time and make it what they wanted. After an hour, we grouped up near the very top of the pass and debriefed the hike. While everyone was happy they did it, there were mixed reactions of how they felt about it. Some said they enjoyed the opportunity to take it all in without any distractions. Others said they missed the encouragement of their friends, especially over such a steep ascent. All agreed that it showed they were much stronger than they initially thought on day one of this journey, and they were impressed by their ability to motivate themselves to the top. All agreed they didn’t think they could have done it alone on the first day. It was definitely something that will stick with them from this trip and I encourage all of you to ask them about this experience. We took the rest of the afternoon to hike to the highest point we could find. We walked along the ridge for a 360 view of the mountain ranges and with the help of our guide, pointed out all of the places we had hiked thus far. It was incredible to see how far we had hiked over the last 7 days.

Finish trek at Gedre

While it feels like the last 8 days have flown by, it also feels like we have known each other and been together for weeks. After two nights in Saugue, we packed up our things and trekked to Gedre where we enjoyed a quick lunch in the quaint mountain village followed by a surprise ice cream stop. Before long our vans arrived to take us back to Lourdes. The group shared a bittersweet moment as we meandered our way out of the Pyrenees and said farewell to our guide Dan. Once back in Lourdes we showered up, grabbed a few of our smelliest items and hit the laundry mat. While the clothes washed the girls enjoyed exploring the small city, even in the seemingly extreme heat. To cap off our experience in the Pyrenees we feasted at a local pizzeria and held Moonup in a small park near our hotel. Each student reflected on newly realized personal strengths and expressed great excitement for some time in the Mediterranean!

With half of the trip already passed, we all realize how quickly these next twelve days will fly. We have so much to look forward to in Costa Brava and the Alps, and we plan on soaking up every second!

Au revoir!

-Izzy and Reece

 

And now some shout outs from the kids!!

Briley – Hey mom and dad. I’m having so much fun, can’t wait to see you (please bring Boz when you pick me up). Love you so much!

Allison G – Hey mom, dad and Parker! Everything has been so amazing and everyone here is great. I love and miss you, can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Josie – Hey mom, dad and will!! I’m having so much fun with everyone and I can’t wait to see y’all and tell you about it! Miss y’all. And hi Taylor!!

Allison E – Hi Mom and Dad, the trip has been amazing so far and I have learned and seen so much! I’ll see you guys in less than 2 weeks and can’t wait to share my stories!

ER – Hey Mom, Dad, Garrett, Gracie & Harper! Hope ya’ll are having a great summer! I am having the best time on my trip and love everyone here! Love and miss y’all! See you soon!

Hannah – Hey Mom and Dad! I am having such a fun time and love my group so much. Hope everything is going well there! Can’t wait to tell y’all all about it. Love you guys! (Please bring Blu when you pick me up)

Virginia – Hey Mom and Dad! I am having a great time. Happy birthday, Dad! Have a great day! I miss y’all and can’t wait to tell you y’all all about it!

Katie Clark – Hey mom and dad! I miss y’all so much!! I’ve loved everything a bout this trip so far and I can’t wait to tell you all about it it. Tell Ellie, Dennie, Bruce and L’alliée I miss them too. Love y’all so much!

Mica – Hi Ima, Alba, Yoni and Elia!! I’ve ad an amazing time so far and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. I really miss you and hope you are having an incredible summer. See you soon, lots of love!

Abby – Hey mom, dad and lea! I am having the best time! We have done ad see so many amazing things I can’t wait to tell you about it. Love and miss y’all so much!

Cross – Hi mom, dad, John and Tyler! I’m having so much fun and can’t wait to tell y’all about it. Love and miss y’all. Happy birthday Tyler!


Safe Arrival in Geneva!

June 16, 2019

Hello Chamonix Families!

We received word from our Leaders early this morning that all students have arrived safely in Geneva. The groups are headed to their hostel for the night, and the trip is off to a great start. We can’t wait to share more stories from their adventures. Stay tuned!

  • Moondance HQ

Students

  • Virginia
  • Allison
  • Hannah
  • Allison
  • ER
  • Briley
  • Cross
  • Katie Clark
  • Josie
  • Mica
  • Abby

Staff