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Colorado Trail 2A • June 29-July 12, 2019

Full Send on the River and a Final Farewell :(

July 12, 2019

Turns out two weeks flies by pretty fast! As everyone goes their separate ways, we can’t help but think about the amazing times we’ve had together. AND soooooo much happened in the past couple days, so here is a brief synopsis:

After a couple days of rock climbing, we headed back to the Arkansas River for an encore of rafting! Blue skies and a warm sun greeted us as we loaded the boats fully suited in our rafting attire. Due to record high waters, we entered on the class 2 and 3 rapids just upstream of the Royal Gorge. The morning began with a few warm-up rapids that cooled us off in the heat. Due to our experience and our amazing guides, we were ready to hit any waves that might come our way. The beautiful backdrop of the high desert, complete with red rocks and funky shaped shrubs, made for a chill morning. We took a quick pit stop for lunch of chips and guac as well as fresh wraps on the back. Bellies full, we hopped back in and prepared for the rollercoaster that is the class 4 rapid, Three Rocks. Kiera aka “The Hulk” led a rumbling counting of strokes through the water to make sure all strokes were in sync. Saily didn’t fear from the frigid water but instead smiled at the wild ride (great pic to come)! Meanwhile in the other boat, Grady leaned and pulled with such force that he probably could have paddled alone. Harris put on his “psyched” face and screamed through the whitewater, and Evan leisurely dipped his paddle but made sure to pose for the camera. After the big rapid, the wave trains didn’t faze anyone. Up and down we went, bumping, laughing, slapping the water, and paddle high-fiving. As the last rapids of the day came up, Evan and Jack “rode the bull” and Rachel, Sara, AJ, and Kathryn went for a quick swim. As we got to shore, consensus was that the day brought the best rafting of the entire trip!

We dried off, filled the van, and headed into Canon City. We stopped at a local thrift store where Saily got DVDs of her favorite TV show, and Quinn bought a sweet hat for a bargain. Stocked with cool finds, we headed to Walmart in preparation for COT 2A’s Iron Chef competition! Split between the boys and the girls, the two teams had limited time and budget to create a meal idea and buy all the ingredients. Stakes were high but everyone remained cool under the pressure and left the store with big potential. Back at the campsite, everyone hurried to cook their meals. But there was a twist! With the other Colorado Trail group at the same campsite, the two teams had more competitors to make it the Ultimate Four-Way Colorado Iron Chef 2k19! On the gals’ side, Kiera chopped some veggies, Rachel stirred the pot, Saily added the chicken, and Kathryn sprinkled in some spices to complete a monster pot of Japanese ramen. To finish it off, Sara decorated an angel food cake with whipped cream and strawberries to perfection. The act was hard to follow, but the boys were ready! Catering to the judges (the leaders), Grady and Harris creatively thought up an amazing three course meal. First, AJ dished out some baked beans. Resident Chef Quinn served impeccably flavored burgers with cheese and bacon. Evan surprised Vegan Amanda with her favorite, roasted cauliflower, while Jack introduced their homemade Shirley Temple. And to finish it all off, there was “all American” apple pie for dessert! Delicious. The other Colorado Trail’s teams were no match, but in the end, the girls pulled through for the win! Satisfied, we circled up for Moonup, and then joined the other COT group for a big bonfire. What a way to end the night!

After a big day, we all slept in. Quinn, the naturally early riser, began cutting up fresh fruit and flipping pancakes for everyone. The slow morning brought great conversation and much needed rest. Once we packed up camp, we were on the road again to another campsite. Good tunes and shorts naps made the ride pass in a blink of an eye. Near our destination, we stopped at (you guessed it!!!) Goodwill. Thrift shopping is definitely a fan favorite for this crew! Everyone bought some crazy outfits for our final dinner aka Banquet! Sara layered herself head to toe in pink and yellow. Harris bought an XXXL bball jersey. Rachel and Kiera truly dressed up with some one-of-a-kind high heels. Before dinner though, we hit the much-needed showers and SCRUBBED! Crazy outfits and we gathered round some very yummy pizzas and soaked in our last dinner together. The comradery continued back at camp as mooned-up and slept under the stars.

The past two weeks have truly been a once in a lifetime experience, and we were so lucky to spend it with this crew! Everyone’s unique and amazing personality came together to create something that we, as leaders, will never forget. So, thank you to all the families who so generously shared Rachel, Sara, Evan, Jack, Quinn, Kiera, Kathryn, Harris, Saily, Grady, and AJ with us this summer! We will miss them all!

Sad and don’t know what to do now,


Jack, Ellie, and Amanda

Rocks rock!

July 10, 2019

Colorado Trail crew here, checking back in from central Colorado!

Between climbing and exploring the Crested Butte area, the last few days were action-packed, bringing us tons of fun and a myriad of memories.  We woke up at a campsite and ate a delicious breakfast of bagels and Cinnamon Toast Crunch before driving to the day’s climbing site. The area in which we climbed feature a scenic and unique high desert landscape covered in sage, with orange pillars of uniquely shaped rocks rising sporadically out of the ground.  After a short discussion on safety, the crew moved quickly toward the crag, and students attacked each route prepared for them with vigorous enthusiasm.  Quinn, already an experienced climber, quickly proved his prowess on the rock, scrambling up the routes at unbelievable speed and returning to each route he climbed in hopes of improving his ascent time with each attempt.  Kathryn and Rachel, both newer to the sport, quickly caught the climbing bug, taking every opportunity they could to be on the rock.  In between climbs, Harris and Grady explored the crag, while Jack and Evan, having recently discovered spear grass, ambushed Big Jack (a.k.a. Marv) with the surprisingly sharp needles that grow on the plant.

Following our climbing session, the crew drove toward Crested Butte, but not before stopping to explore a thrift store.  Harris left with a new wet suit, while Evan found a hilarious night gown he could not pass up.  Once in Crested Butte, the gang split up and explored some of the local shops.  Some of the hits were the Patagonia Store, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Scout’s General Store, and Mountain Top, a souvenir shop.  When everyone was satisfied with the loot acquired, we grabbed some pizza from a local place and walked to the local art center, where a music event called Alpenglow was taking place.  Eating pizza while listening to live music as the sun set over the mountains was certainly a great way to end the day.  After finishing dinner, we loaded in the van, drove to our campsite, mooned up, and hit the hay.

In the morning, the crew woke up the sound of the “Happy Birthday” song, and for good reason: it is Rachel’s 13th birthday! After Rachel received her presents, including a t-shirt, a birthday sash, goofy sunglasses, and a troll doll headband, we ate a large celebratory breakfast of berries, bananas, oranges, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Frosted Flakes, and bagels, we loaded in the van and drove through Taylor Canyon to our climbing site.  Upon arrival, we were greeted with a gift of costumes to wear while climbing.  The second day of climbing featured taller, more difficult routes.  Regardless, the group attacked the wall with excited energy.  Quinn climbed each route multiple times, while AJ inadvertently completed an extremely difficult route next to the intended route prepared to the bewilderment and excitement of his peers in the Colorado Trail Crew and the climbing guides alike.  Harris, embracing a “live in the moment” mindset, took a moment to take in the view of Taylor Canyon from the top of the crag.  Despite initial apprehensions, Sara Bailey climbed the longest and tallest route on the rock.  Throughout the late morning and early afternoon, Rachel completed several climbs in a tutu, and Kathryn climbed in a flying squirrel costume. Meanwhile, Saily DJ’ed for the base camp area, and the boys put on a fashion show for the rest of the group in their costumes.  Kiera embraced her creative side, writing in her journal and trying on some flash tattoos.  Evan, enthused by the discovery of flash tattoos, quickly covered his arms and back with a number of intricate designs.  In the middle of the afternoon, it was time to say goodbye to rocks and move onto our next adventure!

After a fun afternoon of climbing, the gang loaded into the van and drove to our campsite.   We got a chance to see some of the rapids they were to raft the next day during our drive through the canyon.  Upon the arrival at our campsite, we set up, ate a delicious dinner of grilled cheese, tomato soup, and vegetables, and concluded our meal with a birthday cookie cake for Rachel.  We concluded the evening with a short, but fun Moonup, a game of “Muffled Telephone” and then went to bed in preparation for our rafting trip tomorrow.  The last week and a half have presented the Colorado Trail gang with a number of adventures and challenges, all of which we conquered together and from all of which we have grown, and we are confident that we will conquer whatever the River throws at us tomorrow with unbridled vigor and excitement.

-Jack, Amanda, and Ellie

Out of the woods!!!

July 8, 2019

Aaaaaaandd we’re back! The last few days in the woods were certainly challenging, but highly rewarding at that. After a massive, delicious Fourth of July breakfast of apples, granola, peanut butter, and cinnamon wraps as well as eggs, bacon, berries, bananas, and whipped cream, we packed up our campsite at Ridgeway State Park and prepared for backpacking.  The drive into the dramatically beautiful San Juan Mountains toward the Bear Creek trailhead took us through aspen and pine forests and red, rocky canyons, next to rushing rivers, and over scenic mountain passes like Lizard Head Pass, a famous mountain mountaineering area.  Finally, after around two hours, we arrived at the start of the Bear Creek Trail, which we would call home for the next few days.  Following a few short lessons on backcountry living, we set off, across the Dolores River and up a series of switchbacks that led us into Bear Creek Gorge.  The first section of our hike featured a more heavily wooded landscape that eventually opened up into a number of small alpine meadows next to Bear Creek. Finally, after four miles, we settled in the early evening at a campsite at the junction of Little Bear Creek and Bear Creek.  That night, we enjoyed a delicious dinner of macaroni and cheese, with optional sides of chicken and green beans.  This meal would not have been possible if it were not for Grady’s enthusiasm, as we try our best to limit food waste in the backcountry in accordance with the pillars of “Leave no Trace”.  When dinner was finished, we learned the basics of backcountry dishwashing, cleaned our dishes, mooned-up, and went to bed for our first night in the wilderness.


One of the many perks of backpacking is that there is no strict schedule; rather, the experience is in part about living and reveling in the time spent in the wilderness with no regard for the outside world.  With no schedule, we were able to enjoy the rare luxury of sleeping in.  After a late morning breakfast of pancakes, we packed up and hit the trail, starting with the crossing of Little Bear Creek.  We hiked for a few hours before finding a small, riverside campsite in a tranquil alpine meadow where we decided to settle for the night.  When we finished setting up, we ate a lunch consisting of sandwich wraps and a backcountry favorite, G.O.R.P. (Good ole’ raisins and peanuts).  In the afternoon, we had some free time to spend the way we pleased.  Grady and Harris spent some time fishing in Bear Creek, while AJ learned how to cast a fly rod with the assistance of Grady and Harris.  Meanwhile, Saily took advantage of the peaceful afternoon to read.  Sara Bailey hiked further down the trail with two leaders to further explore the San Juan Wilderness.  Evan and Rachel spent the time holding down the fort at the campsite cracking jokes and sharing music interest with their new friends, while Jack kept the energy going by sporadically yelling “down little doggy!” (a command call from the group-favorite game Hay Barn) to one member of the group, who would respond with a “ka-ping!” (a Hay Barn response call) and a laugh.  Towards the end of the day, Quinn, Kiera, and Rachel helped prepare a delicious dinner of rice noodles, veggies, soy sauce, and a peanut butter option.  Following a hilarious post-dinner hangout session, we had a fun Moonup during which everyone shared embarrassing stories, played a game of Hay Barn, and went to sleep on the earlier end, though not before the girl’s tent treated us to covers of Ariana Grande hits as well as “Let it Go” from Disney’s Frozen.


The final full day of backpacking involved our longest hike of the backpacking excursion, as we traveled around five miles back toward the trailhead.  Thankfully, Kathryn was highly encouraging to everyone in the group as she was every other day of backpacking, always looking to assist her team members during more difficult portions of the hike.  After a good night’s sleep, we woke up and enjoyed a breakfast of oatmeal and grits.  We then packed up and hiked back along the river, across Little Bear Creek, and through the meadows we passed earlier on in our backpacking trip.  We stopped to eat lunch and take in the view of the river below us and the forest surrounding us and across the gorge.  Shortly thereafter, we arrived at our final campsite, a quaint nook amid tall pine trees just next to the river.  There, we rested for a few hours, enjoying the afternoon while relaxing in our Eno hammocks, playing games such as “Psychiatrist” and cracking jokes.  Sara Bailey revealed an artistic side she had previously kept to herself, creating impressive drawings using charcoal from the fire pit at the campsite on the surrounding rocks.  After a delicious dinner of stir fry, our leaders of the day, Kiera and Saily, led us in a thoughtful Moonup.  We then went to bed one last time in the backcountry, falling asleep to the sound of the river rushing next to us.


This morning, we awoke and quickly packed up with the goal of reaching the trailhead early so that we could make the most of our busy day.  Before long, we made it to the end of Bear Creek Gorge, down the switchbacks, across the Dolores, and to our van where we unpacked, loaded up, and drove to the world-famous mountain town of Telluride. We stopped on our way to Telluride for the opportunity to take a polar plunge in Priest Lake, one which Rachel, Kiera, Jack, and Evan could not refuse.  Once in Telluride, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Steamies Burger Bar, where we were able to catch up on recent sporting news and enjoy the everyday amenities we too-often take for granted such as chairs, restrooms, and walls to keep bugs away for the first time in several days.  Afterwards, we explored the town and loaded back into the van for our drive to our campsite just west of Crested Butte.  The drive was a fun one; we listened to all kinds of music, stopped in Montrose for ice cream, looked for wildlife, and checked out the incredible scenery as it shifted from dramatic mountainous landscapes to high-desert buttes, mesas, and crags.  Our search for wildlife during the drive led Harris to reveal his deep enthusiasm for animals of all kinds, including livestock, statues of animals, and roadkill.  Finally, we arrived at our high-desert campsite in the Blue Mesa area, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner of spaghetti, watched a fellow resident of our campsite named Ethan entertain us with his bike tricks, and listened to a presentation from a park ranger on coyotes.  Finally, we had a deep Moonup led by our leaders of the day, Sara Bailey and Grady, during which we discussed events in our life that made us thankful for what we have. Our four-day excursion into the backcountry was a new, unique, and rewarding challenge, during which we pushed ourselves and, in doing so, grew as people.  We also got to know each other on a much deeper level, and got to appreciate one-another more as everyone pitched in to help the group have a safe and successful backpacking experience.  We look forward to climbing and exploring the Crested Butte area over the next few days as well as everything else Colorado has to offer.


-Amanda, Ellie (now known as Elle-belle), and Jack (now known as Marv)

Hello again from Colorado!

July 4, 2019

The Colorado Trail crew is now in the beautiful San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, preparing to embark on our four day, three-night backpacking excursion on the bear creek trail.  But the last few days were a blast!


After waking up to a warm, sunny Tuesday morning, we said goodbye to our charming campsite at Hecla Junction on the Arkansas River and drove east for a zip lining adventure through the high desert canyons of the Salida area.  After throwing on our gear, receiving a safety briefing, and going through a short training session, we set out to fly through the air on some of Colorado’s finest zip lines.  After three quick and easy runs and a few scenic stops along the way, it was time for the longest, highest, and fastest zip lines, Death One, Zipidee-do-die, and Rusty Thread.  Regardless of the daunting size and speed of the final three runs, each student fearlessly took down the challenge with no hesitation.  Some even threw in some tricks while suspended hundreds of feet in the air:  AJ raised the roof while soaring through the air on the highest run of the day, Zipidee-do-die, while Quinn channeled his inner yogi, striking a meditative pose on rusty thread.  After a fun morning of zip lining and a quick lunch of PB & J wraps in Salida, we loaded in the van and drove to the Great Sand Dunes Oasis just outside of Great Sand Dunes National Park.


There, we spent a relaxing afternoon of soccer and resting in Eno hammocks at our secluded campsite in the trees before enjoying a dinner of “barbecue bowls,” a stir-fry inspired medley of vegetables, chicken, and rice prepared in barbecue sauce.  The meal was a hit!  Following dinner, our leaders of the day, AJ and Sara Bailey, led Moonup, which concluded with a game of “Mafia” facilitated by AJ.  Kathryn, the secret “Mafioso” of the group, won, using cunning and stealth. Definitely a new favorite game of the crew!  Before going to bed, we got the chance to take in a fiery red sunset over the mountains in the distance and the resulting alpenglow that covered the Sangre de Cristo Mountains behind us and to our east.  We went to bed early Tuesday night in preparation for a sunrise hike on the sand dunes, but not before some late night shenanigans such as group singing in the girl’s tent led by Rachel and Kiera. Some would say their renditions of Ariana Grande’s greatest hits and “Shallow” by Lady Gaga were better than the originals.


At a starry 3:00 am, we arose, hopped into the van, and were hype for the dunes despite the early hour! Our feet on the sand, were began our journey up, up, and up. The cold creek surrounding the mounds of sand woke us up even more! Despite stumbling and slipping in the sand, we persevered.  Grady and Harris led the way and pointed us in the right direction to the highest Dune in North America, Star Dune. Although some parts were tough as sand dug to our ankles, spirits were high as we shut off our headlamps and looked for shooting stars. After a couple hours of traversing the hills, we made it to the very top. Everyone cheered for Saily as she ran to the finish line. Exhausted and proud, we watched the sun come up over the still snowcapped mountains in the distance and enjoyed some Motts gummies. Evan and Jack completely rolled down the steep edge in hilarity as their limbs flew in the air. All good, they raced back up and back down again. All of sudden, Big Jack surprised the group with sand boards! Harris showed off his surfing skillz by smoothly slaloming back and forth. Quinn was the first to full send down the steepest slope. Although the hike was challenging, the views and experience were totally worth it. Grady, Harris, and AJ wrote a huge “Live in the Moment” in the sand for all to follow spontaneity and freedom of the Moondance way. Sara Bailey began building a jump for Evan aka “The Sandman” to fly over on the sand board. Dressed in a sweatshirt helmet or “uskanka”, Evan dared to face the jump. Three! Two! One! He speedily slid down and hit the jump perfectly. After spending some time in the sand, we headed back to the campsite for a bountiful harvest of eggs, bacon, cereal, and some fruit. The meal was well deserved and eaten up rapidly!


The van packed, we were on the road again to Ridgeway State Park. With a quick pit stop at Walmart to load up on the essentials, cheeseballs, watermelon, Oreos, and like, were arrived at the beautiful campsite overlooking the giant reservoir and jutting mountains. To celebrate the Fourth, we cooked out burgers, slurped some watermelon, and waved some red, white, and blue glow sticks in the air.


Closer than ever, the crew is ready to conquer the San Juans! Happy fourth of July, and see you soon!


Ellie, Jack and Amanda


“Hey Mom and Dad! I’m psyched! We are about to begin backpacking! Can’t wait to see yall soon!” –Harris


“Hey Mom and Dad! Having a great time! We’re about to go backpacking, and so far my favorite thing was the rapids while rafting!” –AJ


“Hey Mom and Dad! I’m having an amazing time! Guess what? I made friends! Hope you are having fun in Israel” – Rachel


“I love you guys! I miss you too! I really liked white water rafting. Take care of Violet!” – Kiera


“Sup mom and dad! Chilling our here in Colorado! I like zip lining a lot! See you soon!” –Grady


“Happy birthday America! The sand Dunes were gnarly! I will see you soon!” – Jack


“Hi! The Sand Dunes were amazing! Take care of Emmet and Mable, and I will see you soon! Love you!”



“I miss you guys, and I hope to see you soon! Love Quinn”


“Hey! I miss yall! Could I have your homemade cookies when we get back?” –Saily


“I love yall, and I am going to try Monster Energy!” –Evan


“Happy fourth of July, and I miss you!” –Sara Bailey

Rad Rafting in Colorado!

July 3, 2019

Howdy from gorgeous Salida, Colorado!

The first few days of our Colorado Trail adventure were a true blast.  We are lucky to have such an incredible group with which share the incredible experiences Colorado has waiting for us   From Winter Park, Florida, come Evan and Rachel.  Also from Florida are Saily, who hails from sunny Sarasota and Kiera, from Panama City, in the Panhandle.  Harris and Grady are from Raleigh, North Carolina, while Jack lives in nearby Charlotte, the Queen City.  Joining us from the upper south are Quinn, from Richmond, AJ, from the Music City of Nashville, and Sara Bailey, from Lexington, Kentucky.  Last, but certainly not least, we are also lucky to have Kathryn from all the way over in San Francisco, California.  After all students arrived safely at Denver International Airport, we loaded into our van for a several-hour car ride through the mountains, into the Arkansas River Valley, where Salida and Buena Vista, two storied rafting hubs, sit alongside the Arkansas River.  After stopping in downtown Salida to pick up pizza, we drove to our beautiful, desert-like campsite on the Arkansas River. After a few discussions about what the next few weeks have in store for us and a tutorial on setting up tents, we sat down for our first Moonup, a time we spend reflecting and sharing about ourselves, and went to bed.


We awoke early the next morning and headed to the river to raft a stretch of the Arkansas from lower Brown’s Canyon to upper Bighorn Sheep Canyon.  The float was beautiful.  The Arkansas River sits in the Arkansas River Valley, a large, open agricultural area land populated largely by cattle farms and old western towns.   The eastern side of the valley is dominated by a desert-like, arid, craggy landscape covered in short piney foliage.  However, the western wall of the valley is dramatically different; alpine forests climb the side of tall, snowcapped mountains, some of which are part of Colorado’s famous family of fourteen-thousand-foot peaks such as Mt. Princeton, Mt. Antero, and Mt. Shavano, and all of which could be seen from our boats.  The river is a little high right now, so a great deal of the riverside foliage such as cottonwood bushes now emerge from the water, creating a picturesque image.  Along the way, we passed some really neat houses next to the river and saw several deer, one of which darted straight through our lunch spot in downtown Salida.  We were also lucky enough to hit a few class three rapids: Squaw Creek, the Play Park, which floated right by our lunch spot, and Bear Creek.  Throughout the day, Harris and Grady urged the group to “stay psyched” as we approached each rapid.  After a whopping 18 miles of rafting, we reached our takeout nestled in the dark red rocks of Bighorn Sheep Canyon, loaded a bus, and drove to our campsite for the night, where we hung out and got to know each other better as our raft guides prepared a delicious dinner of rice bowls with chicken, veggies, and a bean sauce.  Following dinner, we snacked on s’mores and had our second Moonup, led by our leaders of the day, Harris and Kiera.  We then went to bed in anticipation of another day on the river.


Our crew awoke the next morning to a breakfast of hot chocolate, oatmeal, and breakfast burritos prepared by our guides before taking down our campsite, donning our rafting gear, and loading in the van to raft another section of the river just south of Buena Vista. Our rafting section was shorter today; however, students made the most of their time on the river by spinning the boat and standing while paddling.  AJ, Grady, Harris, Rachel, Evan, and Quinn each tried their hand at “riding the bull”, a daring rafting endeavor in which the rider sits at the very front of the boat as the waves buck them up and down.  Saily got the chance to guide her boat, leading her crew down the river with the prowess of a Viking commander.  After arriving at our takeout spot, we ate a scrumptious lunch of build-your-own salads and packed up.  Following our rafting excursion, we got ice cream in Buena Vista.  There. Jack found a chalkboard wall on which passersbys are encouraged to write things to they wish to do in their lifetime and added some colorful answers.  We then returned to our beautiful campsite from the first night.  After settling in, Kathryn led a game of spike ball while our cook crew, Grady, Saily, Kiera, and AJ prepared a dinner of burrito bowls.  We concluded the evening with a game of “Hay Barn” and a Moonup led by our leaders of the day, Grady and Saily.  After a wild time rafting, it is clear group is already coming together quite nicely, and we look forward ziplining and exploring the Great Sand Dunes over the next few days, as well as everything else Colorado has to offer.

-Jack, Ellie, & Amanda

Safe Arrival in Denver!

June 29, 2019

Hi Colorado Trail Families!


The group has all arrived in Denver and are headed off to the Arkansas River! We are so excited for them to begin their adventure!


-Moondance HQ


  • AJ
  • Evan
  • Grady
  • Harris
  • Jack
  • Kathryn
  • Kiera
  • Quinn
  • Rachel
  • Saily
  • Sara Bailey