July 12, 2019
Well we can’t believe it’s over. Over the past six or so days our group has thoroughly transformed. We have not only backpacked, and whitewater rafted, but we have also grown very close as unit.
We started our backpacking adventure by learning what to pack and not to pack to minimize the amount of weight we were carrying. We then learned the ABC’s of packing and how to pack a pack- accessibility, balance, and comfort/compactness. It didn’t take long for the guys to become packing masters. By noon we had completely packed all personal and group gear into our bags and were on the way to the trailhead! Once we arrived to the trailhead, we ate delicious deli meat and cheese sandwiches before hopping on the trail. We crushed the first day, hiking five and a half miles before arriving to our first campsite. However, the boys were ambitious and wanted to keep pushing. Our LODs, Peter and Bryan, made the decision to try to squeeze in a few extra miles in a race against the sun. We finished the day hiking a total of seven miles and finding a campsite in the nook of a nice meadow. Upon arrival we started on making some good ole stir fry. Brave Bryan stepped up during dinner and helped self-sump the canned chicken juice, YUM! That night Luke, Quinn, and we decided to brave the elements and sleep outside in hammocks.
We woke up bright and early the next morning, made some delicious oatmeal and grits, and hit the trail. Will took his position at the front of the group as we strolled through an area of the trail affected by wildlife as well as another which was affected by avalanche this past winter, completely changing the landscape. We then entered unarguably the most beautiful section of the trail. The woods stopped, the valley widened, and the view extended for miles. We were all blown away by the scenery and crisp echoes off the canyon walls. By look on many of the boys’ faces, I’m not sure they ever experienced much like it. We continued for another mile or so before finding a nice spot to stop for lunch. We pulled the summer sausage, cheese, cucumber, and tortillas from our packs and whipped up some delicious roll ups. As we ate Miles and Gavin checked out the series of beaver dams located in the creek below. After lunch we packed for a few more miles, with Peek and Peter joining the front of the group, before finding a great campsite tucked away in the corner of a wide-open field. We relaxed for a little while before starting on our dinner for the night- Mac N Cheese with sautéed peppers, onions, and sausage. The meal was a hit, but also required a good-sized sump-hole due to our mediocre cooking skills leaving some burnt mac on the bottom of the pan. Bryan and Peter were quick to hop into action and dug quite the hole for the gang. That night we dove deeper in our Moonup, discussing our biggest struggles in life. It really brought the group closer together.
Day three brought the start of our return to the trailhead. We needed energy, so of course pancakes were put into action. The pan style cakes were a hit but also required some downtime for them to digest before we hit the trail. This gave us plenty of opportunity to enhance our football and fishing skills. Gavin hit the stream, unfortunately to no avail. However, records were set that morning. We took the pigskin, along with Will and Quinn, and set the San Juan record for number of throws in a row without the ball hitting the ground- 200 and we could’ve gone further had we not had to start hiking. We cruised through the morning, cranking out most of our eight-mile day before lunch. We found a nice shady spot by the creek to munch on some PB & J pitas before hitting the trail once again. Our seasoned legs made quick work of the hike and after just four hours we had moved from one campsite to the next. When the sun began to sink Baker, Antonio, and Freddy didn’t hesitate to climb up the hill next to our site to watch the sunset. They would’ve stayed there all night had we not called them back for a quick meal of chicken and cheese quesadillas. Afterwards we had our last backcountry Moonup led by Gaston and Miles. During, we shared who our greatest influences and role models were. Afterwards we went to sleep to the soothing sound of Bear Creek one last time. The next morning, we quickly grubbed on some oatmeal and grits before finishing out the last mile and a half of the trail. Once at the trailhead we packed up and cleaned our gear, loaded up, and set the GPS to Telluride! We figured a successful backpacking trip deserves some nice juicy burgers at the end, so we got just that. We also did some shopping, loading up on all our souvenir wants and needs. We finished off our quick town visit with a trip to the local ice cream cart before hitting the road for Salida once again. We wrapped up the night with grilled cheeses and tomato soup to prepare for a big day of rafting.
After sleeping under the stars, we got up to the hot sun ready to have a great last day of activities. With not a cloud in the sky, the whole group was ready to hop in the water. The whole day was filled with giant, fast pace class 3 and 4 rapids. Everyone made it down the river safely while soaking up the cold water and quickly drying off from the blazing sun! Once we made it back to the campsite, the boys were ready for iron chef…. Six guys made some delicious nachos with some very very sloppy joes. The other six crafted a beautiful chicken risotto dish topped off with brussel sprouts and green beans! To end the night, COT A came over to our campsite for a warm fire under the stars topped off with loads of s’mores.
Waking up on our last full day together, we started off with eggs and pancakes before cleaning gear, traveling to the next campsite, and thrifting. Our last few real hours together were spent taking down some pizza from a local pizzeria and reminiscing on the past two weeks. We returned to our campsite for our final Moonup. We each shared how we have grown throughout the trip and what we’ve learned. We spent our last night all sleeping under stars in a big group.
This morning we woke up early to get to the airport. Upon arrival the boys quickly plugged back in, eager to exchange numbers and insta handles. It was wonderful to see the stark contrast between our two airport days. These young men went from awkward strangers to brothers within a matter of just two short weeks. They laughed, cried, grew, and lived together through a very transformative time in all their lives. We want to thank you, parents, for allowing us the opportunity to witness the greatness each one of your boys possesses. We are better people because of the time spent with your boys, and we cannot thank you enough for that opportunity.
Addison and T
July 6, 2019
What’s Up! It’s us again! Checking in from the Great State of Colorado, and oh do we have some wicked stories to share!
We started off rafting by waking up to a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs at camp before traveling up river to the meet our whitewater guides. Upon arrival we were greeted with dry bags to pack our gear into. We partnered up and filled the bags with our sleep gear and a change of camp clothes… and spikeball. We then got our very own pair of highly fashionable, overall-style wet suits and neoprene booties to protect us from the roughly 45 degree water we would be embarking upon. We were also fitted with personal flotation devices and helmets before being declared whitewater battle ready. As we waited for our gear boat to be loaded, the group spotted a volleyball net. Game on. We immediately split into our raft boats and began the first game of our Nuke-Em series- a game very similar to volleyball, except instead of scoring points when the ball hits the ground, a team member is eliminated, making it even more difficult to defend. The USS Wakanda team, led by Addison and manned by Miles, Gaston, Peter, Baker, Will, and Bryan, couldn’t handle the heat from team USS He Who Shall Not Be Named, led by T and manned by Quinn, Antonio, Peek, Luke, Gavin, and Freddy. The USS SWSNBN took a 1-0 lead before we headed even further up river to begin the first section of our whitewater adventure. The first few miles were filled with small class 2 “boogie water” for all of us to practice our paddling skills. “Forward 1, Back 2, ALL FORWARD!” The crew was fully psyched for the big waves as we sought and destroyed each rapid we saw along the river. The excitement raged and before we even knew it we had paddled the five miles back to the outfitter location for our lunch break. We sampled some chips with salsa and guac as well as carrots with hummus before fully grubbing on tortilla roll-ups with deli meat, cheese, and veggies, topping it all off with a cookie, and washing it down with some good ole pink lemonade. Of course we also had to wait the mandatory 30 minutes before returning to the water, so naturally we returned to the court for two more games of Nuke-Em. With Miles and Gaston manning the front row, the USS Wakanda grabbed two quick dubs to take the series lead at 2-1. Then back to the river!
The latter part of the rafting was filled with a few more miles of “boogie water” to practice on before diving into our first class 3 rapids of the trip- Screen Door, Canyon Door, and Pinball. The USS SWSNBN led the charge with our fearless Peek and Quinn sitting up front to power us through. The waves crashed hard, but we hit harder back and emerged victorious on the other side. Just after Pinball, we paddled hard into a eddy on river right and made camp. Land Ho! Step one: set up tents and sleep gear in case of rain. Step two: set up spikeball for hours of fun. The game seemed too quick and easy at first, until Will informed us we’d been playing wrong the whole time. After that, the games were intense. The winners stayed in for the next game and the losers took the seats of the next challengers. We played for hours, switching out at least two players each time for fresh determined competitors. In the meantime, many others guided by Addison and myself, took to the rocky hills surrounding the campsite as we hiked and scrambled for even more spectacular views. We were rewarded with a beautiful scene of Mt. Princeton in all its beauty. We returned to our campsite to find our incredible guides finishing up on dinner. They served us a fantastic meal of fried rice and grilled chicken with a fresh side salad. Afterwards they surprised us with a wonderful pineapple upside down cake. YUM! Afterwards we had a great Moonup led by our LODs Antonio and Peter, who asked everyone to share their favorite aspect of the trip so far. We went to sleep that night with the soothing sound of the river flowing just next to camp.
We woke up the next morning to a hot breakfast including bacon, eggs, and hash browns all provided by the rafting guides! After breaking down camp, we got back on the river in our same rafting groups to attack the class 3 rapids for the day. The boys started off the day quickly with hitting a class 3 immediately after hopping in the boat. That rapid was repeatedly followed by more, and both boats absolutely crushed them all! We hit massive waves, spun around, and got drenched on a beautiful sunny day on the Arkansas River. Both boats got off the river around noon and headed back to River Runners headquarters for yet another delicious meal. Pita Pockets with meat, cheese, and spinach dip! After lunch, we had to finish our series of Nuke-Em. With the USS Wakanda leading 2-1, the series ended up being tied at 3-3 with a winner takes all game left! Having almost choked away the lead, the USS Wakanda prevails to win the series 4-3. Now back to our campsite, but first a stop at Walmart to deck ourselves out in Fourth of July gear! Without a doubt, Antonio had the best pick up with a fireworks tank top, which added some serious patriotic style to his look. Once we got back to our campsite, the boys thought the great food for the day was done, but no! Pad Thai was the only option to end a great day of rafting, filled with the amazing rice noodles, veggies, soy sauce, sriracha, and peanut butter! The night was capped off with a Moonup under the stars lead by Peek and Baker. By the end of the day, we were ready for the Fourth of July!
After waking up the boys to the sound of the Star Spangled Banner, then continuing with “I’m Proud to be and American”, and of course Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue,” we ate some delicious bagels with cream cheese and headed out for a morning of zip-lining. We first learned the basics such as how to brake and proper zipping position before starting out on our first three zips of the day- “Cotton Candy,” “Fluffy Bunny,” and “Disney Line.” They were fun and allowed everyone to baton down our skills before heading out to the big guys. The last three zips were longer, higher, and faster. What more could you ask for!? We were all pumped full of adrenaline when we finished zip six. However, our now rumbling bellies were calling our names. We made our way to the nearby town of Salida, found a spot by the river and had ourselves a sandwich bar picnic. We were able to watch the local kayakers take on some rapids, admire how the high water had changed the landscape, and Will and Gavin even figured out they could look through a restaurant window to catch up on some sports news being broadcasted on the TV. Apparently there is some NBA drama going on. Before we left for the dunes, the heat of the day, and the fact that there really isn’t anything much more American than an ice cream cone, drew us to a local ice cream parlor. We slurped down some frozen goodness before heading towards the place where many of the boys said they were most excited to visit- The Great Sand Dunes. As we drove we noticed the dunes way off in the distance. Lady Garmin, our trusty GPS device, informed us we still had 70 miles left until we reached our destination. Continuing our approach the dunes grew and grew in magnitude, spreading excitement throughout the group. We made it to camp, set up our tents, and began to relax. The gang used this relaxation time to read, nap, and talk amongst each other. We then began preparing our American dinner! In classic Fourth of July style we had our very own hot dog eating contest, and in classic Moondance style, we did it as a group. In front of us were placed 72 steaming dogs, buns, and condiments with the goal of consuming each one. We mentally prepared, harnessed our inner Joey Chestnut, then dug in. Quinn, Gaston, and Bryan backpacked the team, all going into the double digits in their dog count. After the ravaging was over, and the dust had settled, there were only three remaining dogs. We declared 69 consumed dogs as a victory and cleaned up the carnage. That night we had a great Moonup where we each shared how we had grown during the trip.
The next morning we rolled out of our sleeping bags at a whopping 2:30 AM to prepare for our sunrise dune hike. The crew killed the hike and completed all three miles of uphill sandy hiking in only an hour and a half. At the peak of High Dune, the second tallest dune in the country, we watched the sun rise over the surrounding mountains. Once the sun was in the sky, it was time to bust out the toys- kites and sandboards! The whole gang shredded the sand, but Baker and Will showed pure skill on the boards. Peter broke out the American flag style kite to fly, Freddy got a kick out of burying himself in the sand, and everyone enjoyed seeing how far they could jump down the slope. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. We made our way back to camp and got started on our big breakfast of parfaits, pancakes, and BACON!
With full bellies and happy hearts we packed up and hit the road for the San Juan National Forest. Tomorrow we will begin our backpacking section. The gang has much to learn before we hit the trail, but everyone seems eager to learn. Wish us luck as we take on the most challenging section of our trip! We can’t wait for the adventure ahead!
Peter: “hi mom it’s really fun out here hope Daks doing well.”
Peek: “thank you for sending me to Moondance I miss all off you.”
Will: “hi mom and dad camp has been a lot of fun. Say hi to the paige and Charlie.”
Miles: “Hi Mom and Dad! I’m having so much fun. We had a great time at whitewater rafting, climbing, and ziplining. I miss and love you!”
Antonio: “hi parents, Freddy and I are having fun, can you tell inders happy birthday, see you in 8 days.”
Frederick: “hi mom and dad having fun at camp miss you!”
Baker: “hi mom and dad I love you I am having the best time miss you!” Also can you bring Gus and Molly to the airport.”
Bryan: “hi parents I love you thank you so much for letting me come I having a great trip time. Can you please bring the dogs to the airport? Love you and can’t wait to see you!”
Luke: “hi fam I miss u guys a lot can’t wait to see u on fri next week . I’m excited to see if our house is sold when I get back . Happy Fourth of July !”
Gavin: “Hey Mom I am having so much fun but can’t wait to get back America see everyone”
Gaston: “Hi mom and dad I have been having a great time and I miss Jacksonville a little, I’m very excited to move in the new house, please can you make spaghetti when I get back I love you.”
Quinn: “Hi mom and dad, I’m having a great time. Hopefully I don’t miss too much of Nantucket “
July 3, 2019
Well we’re off! After gathering the crew from the Denver airport, munching on some good ole PB&Js, and unplugging, we all hopped in the van and started towards beautiful Taylor Canyon. Taking the high road on the way, we passed through the towns of Leadville, Copper Mountain, Salida, and Gunnison. In Copper Mountain we had the opportunity to drive above treeline before descending into the Arkansas River Canyon where we were able to get a sneak peak of our rafting section. We then headed back up through Monarch pass. The views were broad and beautiful and the ear popping was frequent. We descended once again into the town of Gunnison where we stopped by the local pizza place to pick up some specialty pies before going to our campsite in upper Taylor Canyon. After filling our bellies, we learned how to properly pitch our tents and discussed expedition behavior, leave no trace principles, hydration, and the Moondance culture and philosophy. We then had Moonup, where we each shared what we were most excited about as well as what we were most nervous about.
We woke up bright and early Day 2, anxious to start climbing. But first, Breakfast! We grubbed on some healthy breakfast roll-ups with peanut butter, banana, apple slices, and honey before loading up and heading out to meet our guides for the day. Our guides, Chris, Don, and Josh, first fitted us with harnesses and helmets before going over climbing safety and a few tips on climbing techniques. We had four different pitches to try our hand at. We quickly learned that Luke is a natural climber (he could also just be a spider monkey, we’re still trying to figure it out), and Bryan is an adrenaline junkie, as he completed all four routes with ease. When most people were done, Luke, Bryan, and Peek kept climbing, determined to further their skills on the wall. Once everyone was fully tuckered out, we headed to the quaint mountain town of Crested Butte!
Our first stop was to pick up our last straggler, Quinn. (It was nice to meet you Mr. and Mrs. DiMartini). Then, after a quick stop at the ice cream shop to obtain our sugar fixes, we began our great shopping tour. We all instantly became outdoor gear specialists. Will and Antonio upgraded their pillow game with fresh inflatable pack pillows. Peter also bought a small laser pointer for unknown reasons. We then went souvenir store hopping, where Gaston fashioned himself with a nice new “Crested Butte” bucket hat. As we walked around, the whole gang got a kicked out of asking each biker we passed, in which there were many, to “POP A WHEELIE! WHEELIE!” and luckily many were kind enough to oblige. Once the whole crew’s sugar rush wore off we decided to head back to the campsite. On the way we were caught in a traffic jam of unusual sorts. A large herd of cattle decided to make a three mile stretch of highway their new pasture and the guys, especially Baker, got quite a kick out of watching them.
Once returned to our humble abode, we began our first of many group cooked meals of the trip- the classic fajita bowl. Our LODs (Leaders of the Day), Gavin and Bryan, doubled as cook crew. They learned proper veggie chopping techniques as well as the classic and fan favorite move of “making sure the food’s not poisonous” before the whole group dug in on some chips and salsa. As the food was cooking, Peek, Gaston, Antonio, and Frederick broke out the spike-ball net and got to playing. After dinner, the boys had their first student-led Moonup. We each shared a weird quirk about ourselves and we able to bond just a little more before heading to bed.
Day two of climbing was full of even more excitement on the wall. Today’s crag featured two easier pitches as well as two much more difficult pitches. Once again, Luke led the way showing off his natural climbing skills, inspiring everyone else to try their hand. Not everyone was able to make it up, but the encouragement they received from the rest of the crew inspired each climber to give it their all.
Time flew by at the site and before we knew it we were once again loaded back up and headed towards Salida for rafting. Upon arrival to the campground, we quickly pitched our tents so we could go for a quick polar plunge in the Arkansas River. While most of us could only bear the cold, snow-runoff water for only a few seconds, Miles showed us all up by lounging and floating in the eddy. However, even Miles eventually couldn’t have any more and we ventured back up to our site to prepare our next meal- ‘Sketti! While cook crew worked diligently to prepare the noodles and sauce, the rest of the gang worked on perfecting their spike-ball, frisbee, and soccer juggling skills. After eating and cleaning up dinner, we prepped our bags for the start of our rafting portion before heading over to the campsite for a quick game of “Hay Barn.” I am pleased to announce that our very own Bryan took home the crown.
Wish us luck as we head out into the beautiful Brown’s Canyon to take on some gnarly whitewater these next two days. We’re all psyched for what’s in store.
T and Addison
June 29, 2019
Hello Colorado Trail families!
We just heard from the group’s fearless Moondance leaders that all students have arrived safely in Colorado, and they are already on their way to their first campsite of the trip. We can’t wait to hear about their rock climbing adventures over the next few days!