June 25, 2019
Full Circle (by Quinn XCII)
And here we are… FULL CIRCLE! As we sit alone in the airport, U-Haul empty, and in an uncomfortable quiet, we wish we could go back to the beginning! What a rush this trip has been! Although we aren’t sure if we are emotionally stable enough to look back, here is what the last few days of COT 1B entailed.
After Telluride, we travelled to our campsite right beside the Arkansas River. But first, we had a pit-stop at the all-mighty Walmart where COT B was split into two teams for Iron-Chef: MF, Emily and the Austins and then Sara, Marlo, Cal, Maggie, and Oliver. The challenge: purchase food to create a delicious meal in a sensible budget of $40 or $30 dollars respectively (the bigger budget accounted for the deficit of a smaller team). The ingredients purchased had huge potential for a great dinner. Hungry after days backpacking, we whipped up some grilled cheese and tomato soup. It was the perfect meal to warm us up on a windy Colorado night. MF tried her very first grilled cheese, and thoroughly enjoyed it! That’s what Moondance is all about: living in the moment, going to incredible places in the world, meeting different people, and introducing kids to classic American meals. Anyways, our LODs, Maggie and Austin H., promoted a much needed cleaning of the U-Haul and also an in-depth discussion of our future children’s names. Exhausted, we zipped up our tents and passed out.
The next morning, we were up and at em’, excited for another day of rafting. Because of the intense water levels, the portion of the Royal Gorge we initially were set to raft was closed to the public, but lucky for us, the section of river right above the gorge was rocking and rolling! We put on our cool wetsuits and splash guards, and the boys’ and girls’ boats were back on the river. Although chilly, the morning was immensely fun! The gals’ boat spent most of the time in concert for our guide. A Capella renditions of classic Taylor Swift (you should hear Sara’s “Stay Stay Stay”) and Disney classics were shouted from the water. Impressively, every song from Hercules and Frozen were sung in chronological order. Downstream, the aggressive paddlers of the left side, Austin E. Addison, and Oliver, balanced out the chill chatters of the right, Cal and Austin H. After a quick break and yummy lunch brought to us by the always fabulous River Runners, we went head first into the whitewater! Big rapids like Puppies, Maytag, and Shark Tooth soaked us head to toe. Although tired for the brutal paddling, everyone preserved and swerved through the correct routes. The exciting bumps, beautiful views, and big horn sheep sightings made this the best rafting we had ever done. As we approached the takeout, fearless Marlo and Austin E. ‘rode the bull’ down the final rapid. With the guide’s permission, Maggie boldly plopped into the cold water for a swim. As we reached land and disembarked, we couldn’t contain our smiles (or cheers for that matter)!
We dried off and headed back to camp, and Iron Chef commenced. The teams raced to the stations. As soon as we knew it, Oliver was sautéing ground beef. Marlo and Sarah were chopping non-stop. Maggie was trying not to crack under the pressure. Emily was carefully cutting crust. MF was centripetally spreading sauce. Austin H. was sprinkling cheese. And finally, Austin E. and Cal contributed to the cooking in very unique ways. Cal also buried Ellie totally in rocks. All very important parts of the process. An hour later, time was up, and we, the judges, sat in our crazy-creeks with our tummies rumbling. The grading rubric: creativity, presentation, and taste. Group 1 (Austins, MF and Emily) plated first. They began with hand-feeding us grapes, poured us sparking juice, and gave us pita and pico de gallo for an appetizer. The main course, Margarita pizza, left us wanting more! Delicioso! Next up, Sara, Marlo, Maggie, Oliver, and Cal introduced their chips, homemade guacamole, and “Walkin’ Tacos” (a Doritos bag with all the fixins’ of tacos) with “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast. All of our senses were overjoyed. Once again, an amazing dish! The decision was difficult, but in the end the tacos took the prize. Well done to all participants though! Iron Chef was definitely the best meal of the trip. To cap off a great day, Austin H. won “Hay Barn” with an Oscar winning performance of a depressed eggplant during the Veggie Off.
Still full from the night before, we awoke for our last day! After a bountiful breakfast, we headed towards Denver. Austin H. and Marlo sprayed down the van at the car wash till it was sparking. We spent too much time in the Goodwill where Maggie created a Domino effect for most girls to buy some fun banquet shoes. Oliver found a cool football jersey while MF bought super cool t-shirts as usual. At the campsite, we took advantage of the hot water and spent some time in the showers. Dressed for the occasion, we feasted at a local Mexican restaurant for Banquet. Inconspicuously, the crew told the waiters it was Ellie’s birthday so the entire restaurant serenaded her “Happy Birthday”. It was not her birthday. Our last Moonup reflected on our great adventures and friendships. As we freaked out over shooting stars and comets (!!), we felt more close than ever. We spent out last night sans tent and “Starfished” in a circle. What a night to finish off!
So, thanks for reading, keeping tabs, and following! Parents, we are incredibly lucky to have spent the last two weeks with your amazing and unique children. We would have no other group to spend our first trip with! To Sara, Maggie, Austin E., Marlo, MF, Oliver, Austin E., Cal, and Emily, we miss you already!
Keep on Moondancin’!
Ellie, Brendan, and Addison
June 22, 2019
And we are out of the woods!! Our backpacking trip was a rollercoaster of an adventure, and we all loved spending 4 days in the forest together. Here are just a few of the highlights!
Before we strapped on our backpacks, we spent the night at a really cool campsite! The landscape of sharp cliffs, tree covered hills, snow capped mountains, and crystal blue lake was a sight to behold. After a long day (remember we woke up veerry early that morning for the Sand Dunes), we were treated with burgers (veggie for Maggie ;), juicy watermelon, and everyone’s favorite dessert, semi-sweet chocolate chips. As we finished up, it began to rain. But then we looked directly up to see the most vibrant double RAINBOW we had ever seen! We ran around like headless chickens screaming about the magic of this rainbow. Words cannot do justice to this full semi-circle of ROYGBIV! Some might say you can never see the end of rainbow, but we did as it dropped into the lake just beneath our campsite. We even spotted a leprechaun… AKA our own ginger, Addison! There was absolutely no better way to end the day.
We woke up the next morning after a well-deserved night’s rest and demolished the rest of our food besides the strategic rations for backpacking. We unloaded the uhaul and split group gear and food in the Duffle Shuffle. We carefully and meticulously packed our backpack with necessities. No deodorant! As the first rule of Leave No Trace Ethics states, we PLANNED and were PREPARED. Excited and a little nervous for what this new venture would have in store for us, we piled into the van to San Juan National Forest. Nugs to the playlist again creating a concert in the car. At the trailhead, we hopped out, strapped up, and in a single-file line, we stomped into the Aspens. Uphill is no small feat especially with heavy packs on our shoulders. We trudged for a few hours playing 20 questions and stopping for water breaks. Our LODs Mary Frances and Oliver took the lead and the caboose with endless encouragement! Confused and unsure when we would stumble across the next campsite an ANGEL in the form of Moondance’s Colorado Trip A appeared around the bend! COT A and B together once again! Reinstalled with energy, hope, and knowledge that the next campsite was less than a mile away, we parted ways and wished them luck on their way out of the forest. A short trek forward, we arrived home! Marlo literally jumped for joy! Right away, the tents were up and fried rice was in our stomachs. Cal helped wrap our smellies (anything with a scent) in the bear burrito and even volunteered to be in the burrito as our first line of defense. But there was no need due to Austin H. and his special whistle which he vowed to protect us from mountain lions. (Sidenote: we neither saw nor heard either of these two animals). Feeling proud, happy, and safe, we all easily drifted off to sleep.
With no set schedule, we all woke up naturally to the warm sun. At breakfast, Emily and Maggie tried grits for the first time. Despite the “weird” textured, both were fond of the traditional southern meal. Our LODs, Marlo and Austin E., decided to keep our campsite for another night and go on a day hike further down the trail. Through fields of wildflowers, cold streams, and thick trees, we spent the early morning hiking at our own pace and enjoying each other’s company. Sara kept falling every other step until we realized she just needed to tie her shoes through ALL of the holes. We applauded her for her relentless and hilarious spirit. We eventually came to a halt at a clearing due to an avalanche from the prior winter. We discussed our favorite childhood TV shows over PB&Js and GORP. The sandwiches, stained tie dye from the M&Ms, made for a funfetti lunch. After seemingly a short hike back, we sun bathed, set up ENO NATION, and played plenty of “Got it” (a game in which two people say two random words and then try to find middle ground until they say the same word). The relaxing afternoon was much to be appreciated. Pad Thai for dinner was a fan favorite as we licked our bowls clean. Who knew that backcountry would be so fun? Well… Moondance did!
After another restful night with beautiful stars, we chowed down on some oatmeal and packed up camp. Emily and Austin H. led the way back to a campsite near the trailhead. More experienced and stronger, the hike seemed easier and went by in a blink. Fun trail convos and “Got it” made time pass more rapidly. We dropped our stuff at a perfect campsite in an open field right by the river. Austin E. practiced his fly fishing cast. Sara and Marlo showed off their knot tying abilities. “Got it” was taken to another level with the addition of three people instead of two. Mary Frances gathered a crew to hike up to what only can be described as Pride Rock (from the Lion King) that overlooked miles of forest. Eno Nation once again covered the trees. We circled up for tacos and shared our hopes for the future for hours. Til dark, we went around intricately describing our perfect wedding, ideal characteristics of a spouse, and more. Unsurprisingly, Oliver wants to have his marital ceremony in Stamford Stadium. Go Dawgs! Austin E. wants to settle down in Raleigh. Sara is going to get married at a farm with twinkly lights. Mary Frances is going to have a huge wedding with over a thousand people. Emily is going to have 2-4 children. Instead of flowers, Marlo’s wedding will have dozens of puppies. Maggie would like to get married on a large boat in the middle of the ocean and then adopt a pair of siblings. Austin H. wants three kids. Cal said he was going to get married to a tree in the middle of the jungle and start a new species of tree people. So we will have to keep tabs on that.
As the sun rose this morning, we packed up camp and hiked the final stretch of our backpacking journey. Everyone had a great experience, and the positive attitude of the crew made it that much better. The opportunity for all twelve of us not to be separated by rafts or harnesses was undeniably the best part. A little dirty and stinky but still smiling, we headed down the mountain to Telluride. In town, we got some lunch and ICE CREAM! We walked around as snow fell and enjoyed some of the Bluegrass music (there was a festival in town for the weekend). We are pumped to raft tomorrow but baffled how fast two weeks have flown! We just aren’t ready to leave Colorado and each other!
See you soon!
Ellie, Brendan, and Addison
June 18, 2019
Happy Tuesday from COT B! I guess this officially marks the halfway point of the trip, but the adventure is far from over! These past couple of days of ziplining and visiting the Great Sand Dunes have made for the BEST outings yet!
So where did we leave off… ah yes… the morning of ziplining! Our LODs, Emily and Cal woke us up bright and early to break down camp, eat some breakfast, and pack our lunches for the day. They led the group seamlessly to an EARLY departure and a punctual arrival to our ziplining, without us, the leaders, having to lift a finger. The initiative, leadership, and maturity to motivate a large group of 12 to get ready early in the morning AND be on time cannot be underestimated. So huge props to Emily and Cal! Upon arrival to the ziplines, Marlo, our animal lover, made friends with a sweet hummingbird. Harnesses and helmets fitted, we flew down zips like “Fluffy Bunny”, “Death Zone One”, and “ZippadeedoDIE”. But don’t worry, we all zipped safely and had a blast! Oliver nailed the zipping position and was the fastest out of all of us. We even got to go on the oldest commercial zipline in the US. As an added bonus, we learned a little history and geologic facts about the area. We glided over canyons, were in sight of the Arkansas, and shouted our best warrior cries. Maggie’s was quite the shriek! Overall, ziplining was a huge success!
From outside Salida, we travelled south, and created probably the best playlist known to mankind. Emily suggested the newly inducted COT 1B trip song, Love Story by Taylor Swift and promoting a huge fan base of Swifties. Although T.Swift’s latest release, Sunflower by Post Malone (thanks to Cal, is stuck in everyone’s head), and Changes by XXXtentacion also deserve special recognition. MF and Austin H. are attempting to go the remainder of the trip without saying X’s name due to their obsession with him a day into the trip.
Only about 30 minutes from the New Mexico border, we made it to the Great Sand Dunes National Park! Although we first had to make a pit stop at Walmart where Austin H. picked out a Superman and Jojo Siwa watch for the LODs while Sara tried to buy Brendan a “Dad Bod” tank because his character is uncannily similar to that of a middle-aged man. We love BrenDAD! Back at the campsite, we had an early dinner of Jambalaya and Moonup where we shared our proudest accomplishments. Let’s just say, that COTB is one talented group. We hit the hay early to prepare for our big day at the Dunes!
At 2:45 am, we crawled out of bed to the “Circle of Life” with the same excitement as all the animals in The Lion King when Simba was born! But actually! Despite not even the sun being awake, attitudes were sky high! In the pitch black and only the light from our headlamps, we traversed thick sand, freezing streams, and tall dune grass. Surprisingly, large piles of sand are hard to navigate. Thankfully, our LOD, Austin E, is an expert (and quick!) hiker and led us up and down and up and down and up and down again through the dunes. At points, three steps might have as well been one because the sand slipped down the hill. Through the early morning, we walked and crawled and stomped and grappled. Although our calves and quads felt the burn through the climb, the 5:39 sunrise was well worth it! On top of the highest sand dune in North America, Star Dune, we could see the flat plains with ranches, snowy peaks surrounding the horizon, and the miles upon miles of dunes. Addison surprised us all with SourPatch kids at the peak too! We capped our venture with sandboard rides, writing in the sand, photo shoots, sand angels, rolling around, laughing, and just enjoying one of the coolest/craziest/wildest/hardest/best/most insane experiences of our lives. We all sprinted back down the untouched sand with the biggest smiles. We celebrated the long morning with some pancakes (blueberry and chocolate chip!!), bacon, Lucky Charms, and fruit. This morning was unanimously the favorite activity of the trip so far!
Everyone passed out on the ride toward our next destination, the San Juan Forest. A quick pit stop in Gunnison resurrected energy. Maggie played us the Wii theme song on the park xylophone. Marlo and Sara, future zoologists, saved two baby birds. We also drove through Western Colorado University’s campus on everyone’s first college tour! It’s never too early; MF says she’s applying. Now on the road again, we are more prepared and excited for backpacking than ever! We are Ready For It! See you when we get Out of the Woods!
Well, that’s the Story of Us!
Ellie, Brendan, and Addison
Get to know COT 1B: What is you favorite part of Chex Mix?
Oliver- corn Chex
MF- rye chip
Emily- squiggle breadstick
Maggie- round pretzel
Sara- corn Chex
Marlo- corn Chex
Austin H.- square pretzel
Austin E.- squiggle breadstick
Cal – corn chex
Brendan- rye chip
Addison- wheat Chex
Ellie- corn Chex
June 17, 2019
Hello out there!
Another couple of days have flown by, yet the excitement and fun is nonstop! Let’s see if I can even begin to summarize what we all have been up to!
So, after our second day of rock climbing, we set up camp at a beautiful site near the Arkansas as we prepared for our rafting adventure! Once camp was set up, the cook crew spoiled us with taco night! Chips, salsa, homemade guacamole (thank you Emily and Mary Frances)… the whole nine yards! Good food and good company; what could be better?! Stuffed to the brim, we walked down to our neighbor’s campsite… Moondance’s own Colorado Trail A! We mingled, swapped stories, and played a big game of “Hay Barn”! (Might be a new favorite game). FOUR SHIFTER GEAR BOX! Big shoutout to our own, Cal, for winning and representing COT B well in the final Veggie Off! (Sorry for the Moondance-isms, we’re sure that everybody would be willing to share some of our games when we get back!) We wrapped up the night back with our own group for Moonup. We shared some of our toughest experiences and had plenty of Nugs to go around.
Getting up early the next day might have been tough, but not for COTB POLAR PLUNGE 2019! Almost straight out of the tent, we all ran into the freezing river! Afterwards, we warmed up with some breakfast tacos, packed up our camp, and were ready for rafting. With the sun shining, we suited up in our wetsuits and PFDs and loaded into the rafts. Our LODs, Marlo and Austin E. led the girls’ and guys’ boats through long wave trains and super slashes! Due to the intense snow in the mountains this past winter, the river is super high and fast, but our squad paddles through the rapids like pros. As soon as we knew it, we were on the beach eating fresh wraps and more chips and guac (!!!) prepared by out wonderful guides. Dark skies postponed our second raft of the day but Newcomb and naps on the volleyball court kept us busy. Maggie also confused us with her never-ending riddles. As soon as the clouds moved past, we were back on the Arkansas! The waves got bigger; we were splashed more and more, and by the end of the trip, rafting was everyone’s new favorite activity! The guides built us a cozy campsite right by the water. We then went for a cool hike along old train tracks to scout out the rapids for the next day. Around the campfire, we ate another delicious meal of fried rice with SMORES for dessert! Oliver cracked us all up with his spot-on impressions while Austin H. tried to convince us he bought a Bengal Tiger on the Dark Web. Videos to come! And the laughter continued with Moonup as we all described our weird habits. Even the guides joined in! After a long, fun day, we drifted off to the soothing bubbling of the river.
We all slept in the next morning and were greeted by a beautiful cloudless day. Bacon, breakfast tacos, fresh fruit, and yogurt were in our bellies before we could even open our eyes! Once again, our raft guides were the absolute best! We popped into the rafts, and just as we turned the bend, our first big rapid, Pinball, awaited us. We bounced. We got wet. And thanks to our expert paddling, none of us fell out. The rest of the morning was filled with even bigger rapids including everyone’s favorite, Zoomafloom! Both the guys’ and gals’ boats swerved through the whitewater with the biggest smiles! Sara even “rode the bull” on the last rapid. She sat on the front of the raft with her legs hanging off! Although we could have boated for hours longer, we eventually made it to the campsite. We snacked on hummus, chips and veggies while debated if water is wet. Let’s just say things got a little heated. Both sides have good arguments, but the question still remains. We chilled in the afternoon around our tents, laughing, creating games with rocks, and climbing up the hill to check out the views. The cooks crew put together a bountiful feast of spaghetti, an assortment of sauces, ground beef, and garlic bread. We sat around in a circle for a while as we watch the sunset on the mountains. Maggie and Oliver, the LODs, asked us what the toughest challenge we overcame while on the trip. It was cool to hear how everyone had conquered a fear in some way already!
Ziplining is on deck for tomorrow, so you’ll be hearing from us soon! We truly are a big family now and are so hype for the next week and a half!
Ellie, Addison, and Brendan
“I’m good and having fun!”
“It’s really fun! Having a great time! Nowhere else I’d rather be! Just completed the most fun hike of my life! Happy Father’s Day!”
“Sunday Summit for the boys! Happy Father’s Day!”
“I’m having a blast! And happy Father’s Day! I love y’all!”
– Sara aka Bear
“Happy Father’s Day and I’m having fun! Have fun in New York! Mom, I am wearing my hiking boots to break them in! Can’t wait to see y’all! Love y’all!”
“This is a really cool experience, and it’s really fun! Tell MR she should being looking forward to hers! Have fun! I love y’all and happy Father’s Day!”
“Hi mom and dad! I love y’all so much! Happy Father’s Day, dad! I can’t wait to see y’all!!”
“Miss and love y’all! Happy Father’s Day! Can’t wait to see y’all!”
“Hello Mom and Dad! Colorado is fun. Please don’t rent out my room to Max. I am excited to see you guys back in MN! Happy Father’s Day! Love you!”
“Happy 50th birthday Dad!”
“Hey Hey Hey! Things are goings great! Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I saw one of those cool tents that fold on to a bed of a truck.”
“Rafting and rocking was a blast! Can’t wait for fly fishing with the kids! Hey Mom!”
June 15, 2019
This is Ellie, Brendan, and Addison coming to you live from 9,000ft! We cannot believe it has only been two days since we have arrived! With all the activities we have done and how close we all are, it seems as if we have been together for weeks already! In a matter of minutes, we went from three lonesome leaders to a family of 12.
Once all together, we warmed up to each other with one sammies and snacks as well as a game of Ninja in the airport. Turns out, this group is quite stealthy. We then loaded up our bags into the van, and we were off! The car ride seemed short while gazing out the windows at the beautiful mountains, singing to some jams, and getting to know each other. We spent much of the drive playing the classic game, “Raise your Hand if…”, and it turns out no one is an oldest child. What are the odds? “Make it or break it” also stimulated some interesting conversation. For those of you who don’t know how to play, it goes a little something like this: This person is the perfect spouse but [insert some insane characteristic]. Would you make it work or break it off? We came to the conclusion that if they had wheels for feet, we would make it. Although, it was a split vote if they had noodles for hair. After a good gas station stop, we made it to our campsite.
Once we arrived, we piled out and enjoyed the fresh air, stunning mountains, and flowing creek right by our campsite. A few soccer and ultimate frisbee games later, Austin H. led us in how to set up a tent. His last Moondance trip prepared him well. Soon enough, our portable homes were all perfectly up! By the time we staked in the last rain fly, our pizza dinner was served! Straight from a local spot, the delicious pie was the best welcoming gift, especially to our hungry stomachs. As the sun went down, we circled up for our first Moonup! Coming together after a long day might just be the best way to slow down and reflect on the day. We all went around and said one thing we liked, one thing we are looking forward to on the trip, one thing we dislike, a goal for the trip, and finally a fun fact. Austin H. and Mary Frances were chosen as the Leaders of the Day (LODs) for our upcoming first full day!
Everyone was up and at em’ by the break of dawn. We played some hackie sack and could touch it an astounding 7 times before it went to the ground (hopefully we will be in the double digits soon). Shoutout to Emily for sharing her soccer skills and being the only reason we could continuously keep the sack in the air. Nourished with oatmeal, cereal, fruit and muffins, we headed out to our first activity: ROCK CLIMBING! Our climbing guides led us up the mountain to a cool rock outcrop with the most insane views! We couldn’t even get Cal off the wall! He just about climbed every route… twice! Austin Edwards (sometimes referred to as Ed) achieved his goal of climbing from the previous night despite not loving heights. To end the climb, we repelled down a different cliff. The optimism and encouragement was off the charts as each of our new friends scaled the mountain.
As we drove into the town of Crested Butte, we bopped to some of our favorite oldies especially 80s rock. We cooled off with some ice cream and walked about town. Maggie explained that all the crows we were actually seeing were Magpies. Being unplugged, Maggie is our trip Google! Then, we broke a sweat in a rowdy game of volleyball. Marlo and Sara really carried the team. After, we feasted at a local grill and made sure to drink a bunch of water through the metal straws they gave us #savetheturtles. Throughout our meal Oliver updated us all on the past 10 years of sports history over the meal. Go dawgs!!
Back at camp, we circled up for Moonup. We went around and shared some highlights of the day, compliments or “Nugs” as we Moondancers like to say, and a life changing place we had been to. We closed out the night debating the correct pronunciation of words. Austin H. and Mary Frances couldn’t stop laughing during a game of broken telephone in which someone whispers a word into your ear, and then you pass on the first word that comes to your mind. Somehow we started with pine and ended with skeleton.
Our newly elected LOD’s, Sara and Cal woke us up with some hot chocolate and omelets in a bag in the morning. They even prepared all of our lunches too. Austin Edwards cracked his first egg too! We broke camp in record time, and we were off to another day of rock climbing! We met our guides at a different spot with some taller walls! Unfazed, every single person in the group climbed incredibly high. Emily was like a spider monkey as she gracefully ascended. As our guides said, Marlo was “a climbing machine” completing even the toughest route. Thanks to the support and cheering, we all climbed more than we thought we could!
What a whirl-wind these past couple of days have been! I can’t even imagine how exciting the rest of the trip is going to be! Next up: white water rafting on the Arkansas!
Your Fearless Leaders,
Ellie, Addison, and Brendan
June 12, 2019
Hello Colorado Trail Families,
All students have arrived in Denver and the trip is off to a great start! We can’t wait to share more about their adventures out west.
– Moondance HQ