July 28, 2019
Our final trip update! Can you believe it?
We just landed at the Atlanta airport and the group is soon to be heading on their separate connecting flights. You’ll be hearing lots of stories soon, but we just wanted to share a bit about our final two days in Paris! We had a cozy and rainy train ride from Lourdes and arrived to perfect weather in Paris. We checked into our city hostel (the Oops! Hostel) and soon found ourselves exploring the city streets. It felt great to be walking after a long train ride and our first destination was obviously gelato. We strolled through a large park with gelato in hand, slowly adjusting to being in a city versus the mountains. We then made our way to a rally cool vintage clothing store and scored some amazing finds. After a few hours of exploring, we crossed the Seine and found the perfect spot for dinner. We let our food settle as we visited Notre Dame Cathedral and walked around the backside to see all of the damage that happened from the fire. It was sad to see the damage but still a special experience to visit the cathedral. We then made our way to the quaint and adorable Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore. We quietly admired the bookshelves for quite sometime, resisting the urge to bring them all home with us. A few of us gave in and purchased a book or two (shoutout to Steve and his beautiful copy of The Godfather). The sun had set, queuing our next gelato stop. We treated ourselves once more to an amazing cone of gelato (in the shape of a flower) and made our way towards the Seine. We walked along the river, taking in the charming scenes surrounding us. We could see the strobe light from the Eiffel Tower in the distance, river cruises rode past us with excitement, and the banks of river were scattered with people. We made our way to the very end of the island that splits the Seine where a huge weeping willow tree marked the ending. Mimi and Steve were chosen as LODs for today as our rapper alias duo, Big and Little Toblerone. We led the group in moonup as we debriefed our time in the Pyrenees and discussed our excitement for Paris. We then made our way back to our hostel for a well deserved night of rest. We awoke with excitement the next day for our first full day in Paris!!! Luckily the heat wave had subsided and we took the metro to Montmartre. It was drizzling rain which felt like the perfect mood for our morning in Paris. We first stopped and ate crepes (some sweet and some savory), walked around an artists square, and visited the Sacre Couer Cathedral. From the church we had an amazing panoramic view of the city. We toured the adorable cobblestone streets of Montmartre until we found Musee de Montmartre. We learned about the history of the neighborhood and the artists that once lived and worked here. We visited the exhibitions and strolled the gardens of the museum. Nugs to Catherine, Frances and Larkin for being our drivers and keeping us on schedule as we tried to fit lots onto our schedule for the day. We then took the metro to the Arc du Triomphe! It was so grand and beautiful and we took lots of pictures in front of it. From there we spent a couple hours strolling down the Champs Elysee checking out all of the shops. The sun finally came out and there was lots of excitement on the streets. Nugs to Alec and Ellie for trying on fancy sunglasses. And nugs to Jeff for buying Walker a Paris soccer T-shirt when he wasn’t feeling well. We worked up a hunger and had burgers for lunch before making our way towards the Eiffel Tower. We sat in the field in front of the tower, taking in all of its grandeur. We took lots of pictures and avoided lots of people trying to sell us keychains. At this point, the day had flown by and it was already 6pm! Nugs to Madison and Tara for keeping our photo shoot game strong. We took the metro back to the hostel for a quick siesta to recharge our energy. Ready for more adventure, we explored an adorable section of the neighborhood near our hostel and found a spot called Boca Mexa for dinner. We ate our food while sitting in the middle of the square, taking in all of the excitement around us. We hadn’t had gelato all day so we treated ourselves to one final cone. Nugs to Russel for always keeping the gelato excitement at an all time high. Our LODs, Madison and Sinclair, led us in an amazing final moonup. We shared our favorite moments from our three weeks together and spent time giving each member of the group affirmations. It was a long moonup full of laughter and bittersweet feelings. A few of us made one last late night stop by the Eiffel Tower to bring closure to our time in France before getting a little bit of sleep before our flight the next morning. Our time in Paris flew by but it was the perfect way to conclude our time together. We’re so thankful for our past couple days together and the memories that we created. It’s challenging to put into words all that this trip meant for us, but we will say that we are overwhelmingly grateful and we had so much fun. Every person in this group contributed to making it the amazing experience that it was and it simply could not have been better. We love you, “The Team”!!! Thanks for being amazing.
Mimi & Jonas
July 26, 2019
Greetings from France!
It has been a while since our last update and I’m sure you’re so curious about all that we’ve been up to in Europe. Since our last update, we have trekked many miles through Pyrenees National Park and have experienced moments that we will remember for the rest of our lives. We are currently seated on a high-speed train that’s traveling from Lourdes to Paris. It’s a rainy day outside but we’re grateful because we’ve been experiencing a bit of a heat wave here in France. We have about 6 hours of train time until we arrive in Paris and it feels like a reward to rest on the train after our grand adventure in the Pyrenees.
Let’s rewind to July 18th, our first day in the Pyrenees!
Our guide, Dan, picked us up at our hotel in Lourdes and drove us to our trailhead at Ponte de Espagne. We were so excited to be walking again after our break in Costa Brava. We visited a beautiful waterfall then followed the river upstream all morning until we arrived at the most picture perfect lake by lunch time. The lake, which has been formed from snow and glacial melt, was deep and the most beautiful shade of blue. Fog was rolling over the lake and through the trees as we took a long lunch break. The lake was just too enticing, and Mimi, Jonas, Walker, Russel, Steve, Alec and Jeff all plunged into its freezing waters. After lunch, we continued uphill, saw a few marmots, and made our way to our Refugio called Oulettes. Our refuge was surrounded by mountains above with a green field and flowing stream below. The tallest peak around us, the Vignmale, towered over us with it’s beautiful granite formations. Once we checked into the refuge, we took an hour for solo time to reflect on the day and to take in the beauty of our surroundings. During our solo time, two beautiful horses made their way into the valley. We learned that Tara is a horse whisperer as we attempted to interact with the animals. Our LODs, Steve and Madison, facilitated an insightful Moonup and a game of signs (one of our favorite games that we’ve been playing on this trip). Following a delicious dinner, we sat outside and watched the mountain change colors with the setting sun as the stars slowly began to reveal themselves. Jonas and Russel stayed outside late to experiment with night photography and to try and capture the milky way.
We began the next day with a challenging uphill hike over Col de Muelles, a mountain pass that led us to our next destination. The group crushed the uphill climb in an hour and we crossed the border into Spain as we went up and over the pass. From there, we trekked downhill to a sunny spot by the river for lunch. Walker, Steve, Russel, and Jeff took a nice icy cold dip before we began hiking again. It was a very long day of hiking and our LODs, Frances and Ellie, did an amazing job keeping the group motivated and encouraged. After 20km, we finally arrived in Bujaruelo. We immediately dropped our packs and swam in the river just outside of our hostel. It was the perfect reward for a long day of trekking. We spent the rest of the afternoon by the river and eating snacks at the hostel b. We felt that we truly earned our dinner that night and refueled our bodies with all of the calories that we had burned during the day. Ellie and Frances led us in Moonup by the river and we ended the night with some stargazing before bed.
Day 3 of the Pyrenees: Our LODs, Sinclair and Russel, led us through an enchanted forest towards the town of Torla. We were rewarded today with an easier day of hiking and lots of swimming. We came across a river with a bridge and an absolutely perfect swimming hole. Everyone excitedly jumped from the bridge into the refreshing and cold water. The river was bordered by big rock walls that had been carved and smoothed by the flowing water over the years. We got hot in the sun, cooled off in the water, and repeated this process for a few hours. The group befriended a frog and Alec and Walker tested their strength with pull-ups on the bridge. Once we had our fill of swimming, we made our way to Torla. We were greeted in town by a medieval festival! We felt lucky to happen upon a festival in this tiny town. There was a band dressed in medieval garb playing the flute and the bagpipe, and other instruments. We strolled through the market that was set up for the festival and purchased some locally made goods to take home with us. We watched an acrobat walk across a tightrope blindfolded and explored the adorable town. Mimi and Jonas led the group in an activity to learn more about their leadership styles in the afternoon. We enjoyed an amazing dinner and Sinclair and Russel led us in a wonderful Moonup outside of the town’s church. At Moonup, a new member of the group was introduced. She’s a stuffed animal whom we have identified as a wild boar named Boris. She is named after a mule that Steve once fell in love with and is now our group mascot (nugs to Russel for finding her in the wild aka buying her in the store). We all slept in one big bunk room which has been our sleeping situation for the past few nights.
Day 4 in the Pyrenees: We took a quick bus ride in the morning to the entrance of the canyon that we were planning to hike through. We began our hike with a silent “monk walk” on a very steep uphill trail through the trees. The group astounded us with their hiking strength and made it to the top of the canyon in an hour and 20 minutes. They took zero breaks and just pushed through all the way to the top. Our LODs, Larkin and Catherine, helped to keep the attitude positive during our ascent. We were rewarded with conversation and a panoramic view of the valley beneath us. We took a break and lots of pictures at the top. We continued on the trail for a bit until stopping again for lunch. We then traversed our way to the heart of the canyon. We walked past breathtaking views of millions of bright yellow flowers on the opposing canyon wall. We were surprised to find a huge waterfall at the back of the canyon as we continued on towards our refuge. With just a bit more uphill travel, we eventually arrived at our lodging for the night, Refugio Goriz. We stretched our sore muscles and admired the breathtaking canyon views until dinner. Larkin and Catherine made a leash for Boris out of dental floss and passed her on to the next LODs following a fantastic Moonup.
Day 5 in the Pyrenees: This was a very memorable day because we did something that no Moondance group has ever done before. We summited Mt. Perdido, the highest limestone peak in the Pyrenees. We have a very strong group of hikers and we knew that they would be up for the challenge. We left at around 7am in hopes to spend our uphill journey in the coolness of the shade. We made it to “Freezing Lake” by 9:00am and continued on for the summit. We traversed very technical trail and we were so proud of the group’s hiking skills. We then encountered a very challenging section of the trail that was incredibly steep and all loose rock. The kind of rock that when you take one step forward you slide two steps back. The group made it up like champions and we were on the summit of Mt. Perdido by 10:30am. It was an amazing experience for all of us, and especially for those who had never climbed a mountain before. We were rewarded with a breath taking view of mountain peaks, ridge lines, valleys, canyons and glacial lakes beneath us. We could see the distance that we had traveled thus far and the mountains we were to pass over the next day. We enjoyed our time on the summit, taking pictures and feeling proud of ourselves and each other. On the descent, Dan guided the group in sliding down a section of snow (a much quicker way down!). We made our way back down to Freezing Lake where we enjoyed lunch and our cold water lovers braved the icy lake. Walker, Jeff and Russel joined Jonas in a quick plunge into the water. And then… across the lake, Steve went from quietly sunbathing on a rock to a sudden dive into the water and swam the entire distance of the lake. It was phenomenal and we were all so shocked. After this move,, he has officially earned the nickname “wildcard”. We took a different trail back to our hostel with new views of our surroundings. Halfway down, Alec, Russel, Steve, Jeff and Walker joined Jonas and Dan in an uphill sprint to another 3000m peak where they could see down into the Cirque du Gavarnie. We made it back to our hostel by 5pm. After 20km of hiking and 1200m of elevation gain, we were proud of ourselves. Larkin led some of us in an ab workout to finish the day off strong. Our LODs, Walker and Tara, were amazing leaders all day and led us in a fantastic Moonup. We stayed in Goriz for one more night in our big bunk room. We were so proud of the group for the strength they showed climbing today and the enthusiasm they maintained the entire day. It truly made this experience 10x better that everyone in the group had positive and enthusiastic attitudes.
Day 6! Trek from Goriz to Gavarnie! This was also a special day because we took a route that no other group had been able to take yet this summer due to snow. We traveled deeper into the mountains through vibrant fields of wildflowers and past marmots hiding behind rocks. We stopped for a break in a large cave in the mountainside. We then made our way up towards the Brechè de Roland, a natural gap in the rock formation along the ridge line, that sits at the border between Spain and France. We traversed technical trail once again where the group performed flawlessly. We proved our mountain goat abilities on rock travel and faced any fears of heights that we might have had. Our LODs, Jeff and Madison, were so great at encouraging the group and checking in on everyone throughout the day. We successfully made it to the the Breche where we stood on the pass between the two eroded walls of rock on either side of us. We enjoyed our lunch at the top, proud of our accomplishments. Bracing the wind, we passed through the Breche and began our downward descent back in France. We slid down a patch of snow that led us to a rocky moraine where we continued hiking. We followed a river all the way down to the valley. We rock hopped and followed switchbacks all the way to the town of Gavarnie. It was a long day of trekking (22km!) and we were so excited to arrive at our hostel, Gite Oxygene. Everyone was treated with a clean shower and we walked around the town and explored the shops. The owner of the hostel prepared us an amazing dinner of salmon pasta and homemade blueberry sorbet. We were in heaven. Our dynamic duo, Jeff and Madison, led us in Moonup with an amazing view of a huge waterfall that’s in the cirque du Gavarnie.
Day 7 in the Pyrenees: After the previous day’s journey, we decided to let the group sleep in an extra hour to let our bodies get some good rest. Our trail today led us into the cirque towards Le Grand Cascade, the huge waterfall. This waterfall is the tallest in France and the second tallest in all of Europe. So.. we had to go see it. We detoured just a bit to see how close we could get to the waterfall. The heat wave has dried up some of the water sources that feed into the waterfall but it was still so amazingly powerful. About 100 yards away, we could feel the mist and wind coming from the waterfall. We dropped our packs and put on our rain jackets before approaching the falls. Once we were closer, we were absolutely drenched in water just from the mist of the waterfall. Steve and Walker became one with Mother Nature as they faced the falls together. In their attempt to get closer to the water, they were indeed humbled and defeated by Mother Nature. Steve walked away from their “battle” claiming that he had looked into the eye of Poseidon. We waved goodbye to the powerful falls in search of sunshine to dry off. We enjoyed our picnic lunches atop a large rock in the sun before hitting the trail again. Refueled by lunch, we followed the trail into the trees and through overhanging cliffsides. It was incredibly hot outside and we were blessed with a light afternoon shower that cooled off the air. Soon after, we had a view of our refuge for the night up high on the hilltop. We journeyed uphill through herds of hundreds of sheep and their baby lambs. It was amazing. Our calf muscles were relieved when we made to our refuge, Espugettes. We were greeted by the donkeys that are used to transport supplies to the refuge. Arguably the most beautiful refuge yet, it was surrounded by mountains, green rolling hills and a valley below. Once the rain subsided, the sky totally cleared and the golden light commenced. As if they were queued by the sun, a pack of horses joined us on our majestic hilltop home. We pet the horses and the foals that accompanied them, in awe of the fantastical situation that had unfolded before us. We spent the entire afternoon with the horses and the donkeys, taking in our beautiful surroundings. We were served a delicious home cooked meal, followed by dessert. Our LODs, Alec and Russel, led us in Moonup with a view of our refuge, the horses grazing, and the sun setting behind the mountains. There were other people staying at the refuge who were doing circus tricks on one of the hilltops, which made the scenery feel even more dreamlike. We went to bed soon after, not wanting to be anywhere else in the world besides this beautiful spot in the mountains.
Day 8: Our final day in the Pyrenees! We just had a short hike back down to the town of Gavarnie, so we gave the group two options for a morning activity. Jonas, Dan, Madison, Tara, Jeff, Alec and Walker woke up at 4am to climb a mountain called Piminè before sunrise. Mimi, Frances, Larkin, Catherine, Ellie, Sinclair, Steve and Russel slept a little later and woke up to do yoga as the sun rose. It was a very special morning for all of us as we appreciated our final morning in the mountains, wowed by the daily miracle of the sun rising. Our trek down to Gavarnie was quick and we enjoyed our lunch back in the town before our vans picked us up. We were then transferred to Lourdes, where we stayed last night before traveling to Paris.
Our journey in the Pyrenees was transformational in a number of ways. The beauty of our surroundings opened our eyes to how much we love this planet that we call home. The challenges that we faced hiking every day made us stronger both physically and mentally and helped us all to grow in our own ways. Our time in the mountains has brought out the best of each of us and it has been such a treat to strengthen our friendships as our best selves have been revealed. As leaders, we are so proud of every single person in this group because of the leadership they have shown, the challenges they have faced, the perseverance they have endured, and the positivity they have radiated. We have had so much fun over the past 8 days and we’re sad that it has come to an end but full of gratitude that it happened at all.
Our legs are definitely stronger and we feel proud and accomplished. We’re so excited for our upcoming time spent together in Paris and plan to make the best of it! We can’t believe that this trip is coming to an end and we’re soaking up our last couple days together with bittersweet feelings.
We have lots of goals for things we want to do in Paris and we can’t wait to report back in a couple days!
Mimi, Jonas, Catherine, Tara, Ellie, Sinclair, Jeff, Russel, Walker, Madison, Frances, Larkin, Steve, and Alec.
July 17, 2019
We are sun kissed and salty and currently en route to Lourdes, France. The past couple days have been a blast and the perfect reward for our efforts on the TMB.
Our travel day from Chamonix to Costa Brava was long but riding on trains all day was such a fun experience. We played cards for approximately 5 hours straight which made the travel day fly by. We arrived to humid air in Costa Brava and excitement for the Mediterranean Sea. We checked into our lodging, which were three tiny wooden cabins. After dropping our bags, Russel and Catherine (the LODs) helped us grocery shop for our next day sea kayaking. We then ordered pizza to go from a local brick oven pizza shop and ate it on the beach as we watched the sunset. Pizza on the beach was the perfect treat after a long day of traveling. After dinner, Russel, Steve, Alec and Walker braved the cold Mediterranean water with a quick swim. Back at our bungalows, the LODs led us in a wonderful Moonup as we watched the (almost) full moon rise.
The next morning, we woke up early to prepare a breakfast feast. We had coffee, breakfast burritos (Walker cooked all of the eggs for the group), yogurt, cereal and fruit salad. We put on our swimsuits, covered ourselves in sunscreen, and met our kayaking guides at our pickup spot. Once we arrived at the beach, we were set up with life jackets, helmets, spray skirts, paddles and kayaks and set sail. The weather was absolutely perfect with bright sunshine and blue skies and the water was chilly and refreshing. It was crystal clear and the most beautiful shade of blue. We paddled hard against the headwinds passing beautiful cliff sides and gliding through narrow rock passes. Walker and Steve took one double kayak proving their paddling strength while Madison and Sinclair took the other double kayak, proving their ability to have fun together. Our guide shared many tidbits of knowledge with us about the Mediterranean Sea and let us all hold a sea urchin that he gently pulled off of a rock. After a few hours of paddling, we made our way to a beautiful rocky beach where we stopped for a nice long break. We swam, warmed up in the sun, swam some more and ate a picnic lunch. Our LODs, Tara and Jeff kept the group excited and enthusiastic about the day and everyone swam out to a big rock where it was deep enough to jump in and hang out on the rock.
We eventually made our way back to the beach where we began the day. After cleaning all of our boats, we decided to go on a little hike to see a house that used to be owned by Salvador Dali. It was a tiny, unsuspecting stone house, but instead of being straight, the doorway entrance was tilted at an angle. It was fun to see, and we got a view of the coastline that we had just kayaked. We made our way back to our bungalows and Jeff and Tara helped us grocery shop for dinner. Each cabin helped cook an amazing dinner of pesto pasta! Our LODs facilitated a great Moonup and we all fell asleep soon after, exhausted from our first day of kayaking.
The next day, we awoke to another beautiful day and another delicious breakfast. Instead of driving to another location, this day we were able to begin our sea kayaking at the beach that was just down the road from us. After getting our gear set up, we started the day off strong. There was a bit more of a swell coming in today than the previous day so our first challenge of the day was to face the shore break right as we left the beach. Everyone proved their paddling strength this morning (shout out to Frances for being a leader in her kayak!) and made it past the first break. This day was a bit different because it was all cliff faces that we were kayaking by with not many beaches to stop at. So the cliffs felt magnificent as they towered above us. The kayaking today was much more challenging than the previous day with stronger winds and choppier water. But the sun was still shining, and we didn’t give up! It truly was a very challenging day of kayaking and we were so proud of how everyone in the group who accepted it as an opportunity for self-leadership. It was amazing to see how each person was checking in on others while also taking care of themselves. We high-fived each other once we made it to land and excitedly chatted about the adventure we had just endured. We sunbathed on the rocks like seals and enjoyed lunch and cold lemonade. After lunch, one of guides took us all on a tour on the motorboat. We drove all the way through an opening that had formed in the rock and past lots of huge sea caves. We made our way back to the beach, concluding our time sea kayaking.
We spent the rest of the afternoon eating gelato by the pool next to our bungalows and spending time together. Our LODs, Alec and Larkin helped to facilitate a cooking competition for dinner: boys cabin versus girls cabin taco cook-off. The LODs each brought one partner into the supermarket to help them shop for their cabin. Each cabin prepared enough tacos to feed their cabin and they were judged on creativity, presentation and use of ingredients. After a long time spent in the kitchen, the boys took home the gold for their tacos with an A+ in creativity. The girls received an award for the best homemade guacamole. It was such a fun night of cooking dinner and we concluded it with a sunset hike. We walked a trail that led us to a fantastic view of the ocean. We took pictures with the golden light of the sunset as it cast warm shades of orange against the white houses scattered along the coastline (shout out to Ellie for always encouraging us to document our time together and the beautiful places we encounter!). We debriefed our time kayaking then made our way back to our bungalows for Moonup. Larkin and Alec surprised the group with Oreo ice cream bars and led a wonderful Moonup.
We feel rejuvenated after our time by the Mediterranean. It was so refreshing to swim in the perfect water and spend two full days in the sun. We loved giving our legs a rest and using our arms to paddle. It was also an amazing two days of spending time together, playing games, cooking food, and getting to know each other better.
After lots of relaxing time, we’re ready for our next adventure in the Pyrenees. We miss our backpacks, hiking boots and feeling dirty. We’ll spend the next 8 days traversing back and forth across the French and Spanish border up and over the Pyrenees Mountains! The weather forecast looks perfect and we’re so excited to have another week together in the mountains. We feel well prepared for the challenge that lies ahead of us and we’ll report back soon with more stories to share!
Mimi, Jonas, Alec, Russel, Ellie, Walker, Larkin, Steve, Frances, Catherine, Tara, Madison, Sinclair, and Jeff.
July 14, 2019
Hello friends and family! Bonjour from France!
We are writing to you from a train (imagine the train that goes to Hogwarts with the trolley coming down the aisle) that is traveling from Geneva, Switzerland to Girona, Spain. So much has happened since you sent your kids off to the airport and we are so excited to update you!
Let’s start from day one! We greeted the group in the Geneva airport, and it was amazing to see that they had already become good friends on their travel day from the states to Europe. We got a ride from Geneva to Chamonix, checked into our hostel and went straight into town for some food. We sat in a park and ate burgers/chicken sandwiches from a spot called Poco Loco and everyone persevered through their jet-lag. We took some time to rest and nap in the afternoon until our dinner time at the hostel. We watched the sun cast warm shades of pink and orange over the snowcapped Mont Blanc while we got to know one another and introduced our first Moonup. For those of you who don’t know, Moonup is something we do every night (facilitated by the leaders of the day) where we debrief the day and get to know one another.
We woke up to our first full day in France together full of rest and excitement. The blue skies and perfect sunny weather encouraged us to explore the beautiful wilderness that Chamonix has to offer. We packed a picnic lunch and headed up the trailhead to Mer de Glace, a glacier in the Mont Blanc Massif. We filled the enchanted forest, full of ferns and moss, with conversation as we trekked uphill. Our LODs, Tara and Russel, proved to be wonderful leaders as they set the perfect pace for the group and encouraged us the entire way up. Our legs and lungs warmed up quickly and it was obvious that we had a group of strong hikers on our hands. We enjoyed lunch on the trail and made it to the top soon after. As we exited the forest, we were greeted with towering jagged mountains above us and a grand glacier below us. After a necessary photo shoot at the top, we rode the cable car down to the glacier where we could enter a cave that had been carved into the ice. We toured the glistening blue tunnel of ice with nothing but childlike excitement. We sat at the cafe at the top for a bit before making our way back down the trail to Chamonix. Back in town, we treated the group to gelato as a reward for their positive attitudes on the trail today. We were so proud of them for cruising through 8-10 miles of challenging trail! We watched the sunset once again as Tara and Russel led us in an amazing Moonup and Jonas sang a song for the group.
With our bags packed for our trek on the Tour du Mont Blanc, we departed early the next morning for our trailhead in Italy. Our guide, Xavier, greeted us with the jolliest attitude and briefed the LODs on our hike for the day. Frances and Jeff, our LODs, were appropriately chosen to lead us on our first day of the TMB. They exploded the airways with enthusiasm and positivity, getting everyone stoked on the day ahead of us. This was also a special day because it was Steve’s 19th birthday!!!! We had sung happy birthday to him at least three times before 9am. Frances led the group in the front while Jeff took the caboose and kept everyone motivated on the challenging and steep uphill. We trekked uphill all morning until we made it to the mountain pass that marked the Italy/Switzerland border. We ate lunch in Italy before continuing into Switzerland. We traveled along breathtaking mountainsides with dozens of waterfalls in the distance. In total, this day was about 12km with 800m of elevation gain. A big first day! We arrived to our hostel by late afternoon and were treated to an amazing dinner. As the chocolate mousse came out for dessert, we sang happy birthday to Steve just once more before he blew his candles out. This day will go down in history because we ate breakfast in France, lunch in Italy and dinner in Switzerland. Talk about a day worth remembering!
Day two on the TMB: trek from La Fouly to Champex. This day had less elevation gain/loss which felt like a breeze for the group! We covered about 13km of trail and talked and sang the entire way. We were greeted in the town of Champex by the most beautiful lake we had ever seen. The lake water was very cold, but that didn’t stop Catherine and Steve (our LODs) from jumping right in fearlessly. We loved how they inspired the group with spontaneity. The boys had fun all jumping in together while Russel wow-ed us all by swimming across the lake. We then learned that he is indeed part human, part fish. We dried off in the sun and let our feet rest from the long day of walking. We then made our way to our adorable hostel. We played cards and ping pong in the lawn until dinner time. After dinner, Xavier surprised us with a campfire in the woods! We had Moonup around the campfire and eventually retired for the night.
We began our third day on the TMB following a beautiful river before we made our way uphill. The uphill was challenging but our LODs, Madison and Sinclair (truly a dynamic duo) kept us all motivated and excited. Xavier took us on a secret trail that no one else was traveling which was a fun adventure. We were rewarded at the top with a picnic table at an adorable mountain-top restaurant called The Bovine. We partook in fresh made cakes and pies and enjoyed our lunch together as we took in the views of the valley below. We cruised through the downhill trail and ended our day in the town of Finhaut. We checked into our hotel where we all slept in one big room on the very top floor. We had an amazing dinner and Madison and Sinclair had us all smiling and laughing during Moonup. It was a really good day.
The following day we began our hike up tree covered switchbacks with our goal set for the mountain pass above us. The group once again proved their strength as we cruised up the trail. We made it to the mountain pass (Col de Balme) so quickly that we all decided to keep going and summit a neighboring mountain. Our LODs, Walker and Larkin, were so amazing today and encouraged the group constantly. Walker earned his nickname “mountain goat” as he ran up the trail with Xavier. We made our way up the steep grassy trail winding through vibrant wildflowers. Once at the to, we were blown away by the panoramic view of the mountains that encompassed us. We could see blue glacial lakes below us and had a perfect view of Mont Blanc. We ate our well-deserved lunch behind a small hillside that protected us from the wind. After eating, we took about 1,000 photos at the top with a sense of accomplishment. Alec and Russel entertained us with their attempts at acro-yoga while Madison wow-ed us with her toe-touching skills (which Jonas couldn’t quite keep up with). We eventually made our way downhill into Chamonix valley where we ended the hike in a town called Le Tour. We checked into our rooms and strolled through the small streets of the tiny town. This hostel was super special because all of the food that they prepared was locally produced. They served us a fantastic dinner with a summer vegetable salad and green chicken curry. Larkin and Walker facilitated a wonderful Moonup and we all felt a little sappy as it was our final Moonup with Xavier.
We awoke to a breakfast of fresh baked breads, homemade lavender honey and jams, and lots of yummy fruits. Our LODs, Ellie and Alec, navigated their way through the town and the winding trail system back to Chamonix. They proved their determination with the map well as we followed the river all the way back to Chamonix. It was a beautiful trail and a very pleasant way to end our tour. Back at our hostel, Xavier said farewell with an award ceremony of certificates for everyone for completing our portion of the TMB. We took some pictures with our certificates and hugged Xavier goodbye with bittersweet feelings. He was the best guide and we were so thankful to have had him on our adventure. We dropped our packs and spent the rest of the day exploring Chamonix town. We ate lunch and looked around all the different shops. Some people did laundry, some bought souvenirs, and most ate gelato. We took some time to chill and shower before heading back into town for dinner. It was the perfect day for us to end our tour because the finals for the climbing World Cup were in Chamonix last night! Following dinner, we joined the masses in watching the world’s best climbers compete for first place. We cheered Ashima Hiraishi (18-year-old female climber representing USA) on with passion and were enthralled as we watched Adam Ondra (arguably the world’s best climber) take first place in the men’s round. It was so much fun to be a part of the excitement of this event and it ended with a fireworks show also celebrating Bastille Day. Alec and Ellie ended the day with a wonderful Moonup reflecting on our time on the TMB as we watched the fireworks from our hostel window.
Our time on the TMB was so special and it’s wild how quickly it flew by. This group truly amazed us with their positivity, unity and strength as hikers. There were zero complaints and no negativity. It’s so special to be a part of a group that exudes positivity and it’s been so fun to witness how quickly friendships are forming. We truly feel like a team and completing the TMB was a group accomplishment. We’re so thankful for the leadership that’s radiating from this group and the kindness that has defined our group dynamic. We are now headed towards Costa Brava for our sea kayaking section of the trip! We’re all so excited to be traveling on trains all day. We’re sitting in two little train carts as we pass by miles of beautiful French countryside. We’re having so much fun and we can’t wait for sunshine and salty water!
We’ll report back in a few days after our coastal adventure!
-Mimi, Jonas, Madison, Jeff, Sinclair, Russel, Frances, Catherine, Steve, Ellie, Larkin, Alec, Tara, and Walker.
P.S. Here are a few words from the group!
Hey mom, dad, and G! We just finished up our first round of hiking on the tour de Mont Blanc. To keep things short, it was the most amazing experience of my life and I can’t wait to share it with you guys. See you all soon and tell Oreo i say hi. -Jeff
Hi Mom, Dad, Anderson, and Bandit! I am having the best time here! We just finished our hiking on the TMB. Thank you so much for sending me on this trip, I am having the time of my life! Love y’all! p.s. hey Chloe and Claire!-Sinclair
Hey mom, dad, Anna, Liam, Fitz & Liffey! I miss you all but I’m having so much fun with my new best friends! Happy late bday junior! To sum it all up, I’m having the time of my life! Love you guys so much! Also, plz feed my fish thanks! -Tara
Hey Mom and Pop, I am having a good time on my Moondance adventure. Happy bday Pop and hope the mountain bike is fixed.
Hey Mom, Dad, Zach, and Massey! We just finished the tour de Mont Blanc and it was absolutely amazing oh my, I’m having the best time of my life with all of these amazing people I can now call my friends, thank you guys so much for this trip, I love you all so much! I hope Zach made it home alive from his trip but if not then can I have his watch? Jk I miss you guys so much and I can’t wait to see you again! I have
Many stories. -Walker
Hi family!!!! I love all you guys so much, we just finished the TMB and it was so cool (even though I wish I had that same green sweater mom wore). We are all super close already and I’m having so much fun. We are going to come back to Chamonix together and bring Buck of course. Anyways, I love and miss all of you and I’ll talk to you soon!!!!!! -Ellie
Hey! We just finished hiking the TMB and it was really hard but AMAZING. The views here are incredible! I miss Cisco and Buddy a lot, and I miss you guys. Dad you would love this, we watched the World Cup rock climbing finals in Chamonix, it was crazy. Tell all my friends I miss and love them! See you soon. -Madison
Hi Mom and Dad! I’m having the best time ever on this trip!!! We just finished the TMB and I realized I really like to hike! It was hard at some points but I loved getting to the top all together with the group! The towns are so cute! I love everybody in my group and we are all getting so close! Now, we are off to Costa Brava. I can’t wait! I love you all so so much! Thank you for sending me on this trip!! I miss you but will see you soon!! -Catherine
Hey guys! We are currently on a train to Girona, Spain. We are heading to Costa Brava for the sea kayaking portion of the trip. We just finished the 5 day hiking trip ( tour de mount blanc) it was challenging but so cool as well. We definitely got all of our steps in 🙂 Frances has been missing piper after seeing all the ponies they have here. We have definitely gained some leg muscles after all this hiking. We got to watch the world cup climbing competition take place last night In Chamonix, SOO cool! Last but CERTAINLY not least we miss our Finley so so so so much. ( and Kate )We have seen many puppies In the towns but they aren’t as cute!!!! Love you all so much and miss you. Tell MB we said hey. See you soon. -Larkin and Frances
Hey mom and dad! I live on. you guys are allllllllllllllllllllllllllll good In west. Tell others I love. Ok. -Russell
Hey mom. Just got on the train to go to Costa Brava where we will kayak for a couple days. I have had so much fun on my trip so far and made many strong friendships on our TMB hike. Our time in Chamonix was the best and I wish I could have stayed there longer. Have so much fun in Costa Rica with Barry and tell him “I know he misses me”. Miss u and love u mom.
July 7, 2019
Hello Chamonix 3A families!
This amazing group has arrived safely on their flight in Geneva and are on their way to Chamonix, France for the night! We can’t wait to hear about the Tour du Mont Blanc and the incredible French Alps. Stay tuned!