June 25, 2019
Greetings one last time from Colorado!
We could never have asked for a better conclusion to our time in the Rockies. After camping next to the Arkansas River, we once again threw on our wetsuits, splash jackets, and helmets to raft an intense section in the rocky, arid, and scenic Bighorn Sheep Canyon, just above the world-famous Royal Gorge. Before setting off down the river, the gang was a little nervous, but nonetheless excited and fully pumped with adrenaline. The first portion of the day consisted largely of gentle waters with a few class three rapids thrown in toward the end. In between the rougher and more fast-moving class three rapids, Banks, Owen, and Trent challenged themselves by “riding the bull.” This is a daring white water rafting feat in which the “rider” sits at the very front of the raft and grabs the perimeter rope on the side of the boat as slow, but large waves over which the raft floats buck the raft and “bull rider” up into the air. After a fun morning, we landed at a riverside campsite for a delicious lunch of build-your-own sandwich wraps, chocolate chip cookies, and fruit punch. After lunch, the intensity of the river picked up. Throughout the afternoon, we hit a number of class three rapids, as well as two class four rapids, Maytag and Sharks Tooth. Just before hitting the class four rapids, Carson encouraged her group on the lead raft. Though the class four rapids seem intimidating at first, we handled them with veteran expertise. Furthermore, they were an absolute blast. Towards the end of our float, when the waters calmed, rafters were given the chance to jump into the cold river, an opportunity which Banks, Owen, and Trent wasted no time taking. After our float, we loaded into the van and returned to our campsite.
Dinner the night after our rafting excursion was Pad Thai, a new meal to most students. Despite some level of skepticism initially, the meal was a hit. Mindy liked the Pad Thai so much, she revealed to the group that she logged it in her prestigious journal. Following dinner was a campfire, a desert of s’mores, and a Moonup run by leaders of the day, Wyatt and Trent, during which we discussed things in life for which we are thankful. Before going to bed, we had a long and fascinating conversation about astrology while looking at the clear, wide night sky, during which Alexa revealed her vast curiosity and fascination about the universe we all yearn to understand and explore.
The next morning, our last full day of the trip, was a relaxing one. We awoke to a beautiful, warm, sunny day and enjoyed a pancake breakfast. All were given the opportunity to experiment by choosing the ingredients included in their pancakes. This led to the discovery of the delicious s’mores pancake, which should be a staple on every breakfast restaurant in the country. After the conclusion of breakfast and a rigorous cleaning session, we loaded back into the van and drove to Mueller State Park in the shadow of world-famous Pikes Peak, a fourteener that can be seen from all over and serves as the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. After settling in and preparing for the end of the trip, we all rejoiced for the arrival of one of the most highly anticipated opportunities of the adventure—showers. If this was what some were expecting to be the highlight of the day, however, they were unprepared for what was to come next: the opportunity to explore and shop at the Discovery Goodwill in beautiful Woodland Park, Colorado. The crew spent over an hour in Goodwill, perusing the aisles and examining quite literally every shirt in attempt to find the best outfit approximately $10 can buy. Wyatt came away with a soccer jersey, chef’s coat, and furry hat, while Kate found a sparkling skirt. After thinning out the clothing section of Goodwill, we ate at a delicious and festive Mexican restaurant in our newly acquired outfits and returned back to Mueller for a final Moonup and slept underneath the stars.
This morning, we loaded into our van one last time for a two-hour drive to the Denver airport. The entire time, we listened to our Moondance playlist, to which everyone contributed throughout the past two weeks, and tried our best to get some shut-eye before loading onto planes headed in various directions to reunite with our families. The past two weeks were a blast, and it was a joy and a blessing to get to know every student on the trip. Each individual brought their own unique flare to the trip contributed in their own way to make our Colorado Trail adventure a memorable one for all. Thank you to all parents for sharing your wonderful children with us. We hope that your child had a blast and learned a few things along the way, and we also hope to see everyone further on down the trail on another Moondance trip.
June 23, 2019
The last two days presented the Colorado Trail Crew with a number of new, exciting experiences from the Crested Butte area! After spending the night in a high desert campground called Elk Creek, we headed toward Taylor Canyon to climb the famous crags in the area. Immediately upon arrival, all the kids eagerly donned climbing gear and prepared for the great physical challenge ahead of them. Before long, every student successfully reached the top of the wall. However, just one ascent was not enough for many of us; Alexa, Owen, and Trent returned to the wall as many times as possible throughout the day to try different routes, while Banks requested that each of his ascents be timed so he could beat his record with each attempt at the wall. Because a limited amount of routes meant that a limited number of students could climb at once, the down time at the bottom of the wall presented everyone with opportunities to hang out, relax, and enjoy the beautiful day. Carson tried her hand at vlogging on her GoPro, while Wyatt continued to make the group laugh with all kinds of different jokes and antics throughout our time by the rock.
After climbing, the gang visited the small ski town of Crested Butte and checked out some of the shops. Banks, Owen, and Wyatt took advantage of the opportunity to buy sharp new straw hats, about which they had been talking for quite some time, and Trent was excited to purchase a Rick Riordan novel. Meanwhile, Mindy found a set of Tibetan prayer flags, and Kate was finally able to cash in on some of the candy she had been craving since backpacking. After a stop at Third Bowl Ice Cream, we drove through scenic Taylor Canyon to our campground, where we feasted on burgers before mooning-up and hitting the hay.
Today, we awoke and drove just outside of Crested Butte for another day of climbing. After a short but challenging hike, we arrived at a tall, red crag and began another day of climbing. Although the gang started right where they left off the day before, attacking the rock and taking down each route with ferocity, one of the lines featured a large outcropping that presented a new, difficulty obstacle to all climbers who attempted it. Regardless, Banks, Owen, Trent, and Alexa tacked the challenge, successfully reaching the top of that route. After weather chased us off the rock, we loaded in the van and drove for several hours through rolling hills, prairies, and forests, over Monarch Pass, and toward the Arkansas River to our campsite. We are now preparing for a second go at rafting on the roaring Arkansas River. After overcoming the challenges presented by the cliffs of the Crested Butte area, there is no question the gang is ready for whatever the Arkansas may have in store for us this time.
June 21, 2019
Hello again from Southwest Colorado! Earlier today, the Colorado Trail crew emerged from the Bear Creek Trail in the beautiful San Juan Mountains to finish up our four-day backpacking excursion. While the trail was certainly a challenge for everyone, the experience was truly a rewarding one. After a scenic, hour-and-a-half drive into the mountains down winding roads lined with aspen and pine trees, we arrived at the trailhead and set off. Following a four hour hike up into Uncompahgre Gorge led by our leaders of the day, Trent and Alexa, we settled for the night at a small, cozy campsite next to Bear Creek. Trent and Alexa’s roles as leaders of the day presented them with a special challenge, the responsibility of leading the entire group into the backcountry for most of the group’s first time ever backpacking for multiple days. As the sun set, we set up camp and began dinner. Because we were tired from a long day of hiking, we had a quick Moonup and returned to the warmth of our tents and our sleeping bags and for a good night’s sleep.
The next morning, we took advantage of the freedom provided by the backcountry lifestyle and slept in, and then enjoyed a late pancake breakfast before hitting the trail. Immediately upon leaving, we crossed Little Bear Creek and braved the rain for several miles before finding a peaceful, grassy campsite for a lunch of sausage and cheese tortilla wraps. After lunch, the sun emerged from behind the clouds as we hiked through some incredible landscapes. First, we passed through a part of the forest decimated by an avalanche. The ground was upended and covered with mud, large, fallen trees were scattered across the ground, and a chasm through which a small creek ran disrupted the main trail, forcing us to practice our river-crossing skills. Shortly thereafter, we passed through the ruins of a forest fire. Banks and Owen took advantage of the moment by painting their faces with charcoal, fashioning the warrior look. After admiring the newly-grown fauna of the post-fire forest floor, we trekked through a wide-open meadow covered in wildflowers, with a clear view of the mountains ahead of us. In the middle of the meadow, we spotted a perfect campsite in a grove of pine trees right next to the river. After thoroughly examining the campsite, our leaders of the day, Mindy and Owen, decided this would be a perfect spot for our second night in the backcountry. After settling into camp, the boys tried their hand and fishing — and Scottish accents — both, unfortunately, to no avail, while the girls relaxed in their tent. Following a short rain and a burrito bowl dinner, we had Moonup and went to bed to the sound of the rushing river.
We slept in again our second full day before enjoying a breakfast of delicious grits. After packing up camp, we set back towards the trailhead and hiked several miles along the river, crossing back through the burned forest and the avalanche path. Upon returning, we noticed that the avalanche blocked the natural path of Bear Creek, forcing the current onto the bank where it passed through the trees and bushes before returning back to the creek. This landscape created a unique and beautiful scene in which the pines rose out of the sunlit water. Late in the afternoon, we crossed back through Little Bear Creek and trekked several miles before finding a peaceful campsite in a small meadow next to the river. After settling into camp and relaxing for a little while, Kate, Carson, Wyatt, and Banks helped prepare a dinner of chicken, veggies, and noodles with curry, a new dish for most of the crew. Following dinner, our leaders of the day, Wyatt and Banks, led a deep Moonup, during which we each discussed transformative experiences in our lives. We then went to bed, again falling asleep to the river beside our campsite.
This morning, our last morning in the backcountry, we woke up and ate a quick, yet hearty and nutritious breakfast of sliced apples and granola before hitting the trail. The group hiked fast today—we were aware that we were close to accomplishing the challenge of backpacking and living the backcountry lifestyle, and of the adventures awaiting us. After returning to the trailhead, we headed toward the beautiful town of Telluride. There, we found the town in a fury of excitement amid the highly prestigious Telluride Bluegrass festival; just after exiting our car, we observed a small folk show in a park just next to our lunch spot, Steamie’s Burger Bar. At lunch, everyone in the group filled up on delicious burgers and soft drinks before enjoying ice cream. After exploring Telluride, we loaded in the van and headed toward our next destination, Crested Butte, for climbing tomorrow. Feeling accomplished after three nights in the backcountry, we look forward to climbing and everything else that Colorado has in store for us.
June 18, 2019
Greetings again from Colorado! We have been nothing but enamored with the beauty and excitement of our past couple of days. After another wonderful night at Hecla Junction we packed up and headed to our next activity- ZIPLINING! After getting fitted with harnesses and helmets and receiving a thorough tutorial on the training wires, we headed to our first zip of the day- “Fluffy Bunny.” Banks led the way, showing the whole crew how to perform a proper “warrior cry” as he zoomed over the high canyon. Finding our way safely on the other side, we received a history lesson on the limestone and highly valuable travertine mines located in the area, prompting Wyatt and Owen to ask if they should start gathering rocks for their own entrepreneurial pursuits. Our second to last zip of the day was the longest which allowed Kate to add a little pizzazz by showing off her double toe-touch. We then picked up and headed to Salida, where we ate lunch at the riverside and watched the local athletes compete in the FIBArk Whitewater Fest. We concluded our town adventure with a quick ice cream stop before packing up and heading towards The Great Sand Dunes!
As we set up camp tucked between the magnificent Sangre de Cristo mountains and the dunes, we filled our bellies with a hearty and delicious stir fry prepared by the night’s cook crew- Banks, Wyatt, Kate, and Carson. We marveled at the spectator sunset and were given a “golden hour” modeling lesson by Mindy. After dinner and Moonup we hit the hay early in preparation for our early-morning sunrise hike on the Great Sand Dunes.
After waking up at a brisk 3 AM, we strapped on our headlamps and began the three mile trek to High Dune. Alexa quickly proved herself as a professional dune hiker, and Banks kept the group’s moral high with constant encouragement. The hike was hard and strenuous but proved itself worthy as we sat upon one of the highest points in the park to watch sun rise above the Sangres as the first light of the day stretched across the magnificent landscape. At the top of High Dune, we felt the morning sun warm the sand beneath our feet and tried our hand at sand-boarding, a sport at which Owen proved himself a natural. We then headed back across the sand dunes and returned to our campsite for a breakfast of cinnamon cakes, eggs, bacon, bananas, and hash browns. After breakfast, we packed up and trekked to the dramatically beautiful San Juan mountains in Southwest Colorado to prepare for backpacking. Just after arriving our campsite, our dinner preparations were threatened by a heavy rainfall. Luckily, Trent was eager to aid leaders in setting up a tarp under which to cook a savory meal of chili-mac. After dinner, the group sat under a brightly lit moon for a cheerful, yet thoughtful Moonup, enjoyed a quick dessert of Oreos and milk, and headed to bed to rest up for the start of our backpacking excursion in the morning.
As we prepare for what is many of our first backpacking experiences, we are feeling confident and excited for what the backcountry has in store for us!
Amanda, T and Jack
June 15, 2019
There has been nonstop action and excitement during our first few days in Colorado! After leaving the Denver airport, the Colorado Trail crew drove southwest to the gorgeous mountain town of Salida, which is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, including some of Colorado’s famous fourteen thousand-foot peaks. On the way, we checked out the stunning views of the central Colorado Rockies and the quaint mountain towns nestled within them while listening to a playlist compiled by Mindy, Carson, Banks, and Trent. Once in Salida, we got food from Moonlight Pizza and headed to our campsite, located in the craggy and desert-like Brown’s Canyon. At the campsite, we learned the basics of preparing camp, feasted on pizza, and had our first Moonup, where we discussed our goals for the next few weeks.
The next morning, we woke up early and headed to the river for two days of floating the rapids of the Arkansas River through the Buena Vista area and into Brown’s Canyon. After throwing on wet-suits and packing our gear into dry bags, we set off down the river for a fun day of rafting. Towards the end of the day’s float, we took on the thrilling class three rapid, “Pinball,” which let off right at the bank where we would camp for the night. At the campsite, Alexa led the group in helping the raft guides set up our magnificent campsite. We then enjoyed a few relaxing hours of laughing at Wyatt’s witty jokes and playing games such as “Spotlight”, “Contact,” and “Mafia,” which Owen won in a dramatic fashion using his cunning and stealthiness. After a quick hike to a high point near the campsite from where we could see a section of the next day’s float, we ate a delicious dinner of chicken, rice, broccoli, and sweet potatoes prepared by the raft guides. We closed the day with a Moonup led by our leaders of the day, Trent and Carson, at which we all shared funny stories from our past.
After a great night’s sleep, we ate breakfast burritos before embarking on a float full of class three rapids. Some of the group’s favorite rapids, such as “The Zoom Flume,” “Big Drop,” and “The Staircase”, caused adrenaline surges among the entire group as our two boats charged toward the enormous waves. We concluded our rafting excursion in the afternoon, ate a lunch of pita sandwiches, returned rafting gear, and headed back to camp for the night. At the campsite, we played games such as Spikeball, read, and shared more about ourselves as Kate showed the group some pictures of her friends and family at home. After a hearty fajita dinner and a quick game of “Hay Barn,” we had our third Moonup, led by leaders of the day Owen and Alexa, at which we discussed our futures. After only three days of camping in Colorado, the group is coming together fast, and spirits are high. The first leg of the Colorado Trail trip was a smashing success, and the group looks forward to a fun day of zip-lining tomorrow.
Amanda, T + Jack
June 12, 2019
Howdy, Colorado Trail Families!
We just heard from our Leaders that all students have arrived safely in Denver, and the group has departed for their first campsite for the night. We can’t wait to hear more stories from their adventure soon. Stay tuned!