July 29, 2019
Well that’s a wrap! All dozen of our incredible students are now in the air, on the way back home. Each one is carrying along new memories, new friendships, fresh knowledge of the world around them, and a few pretty rad souvenirs!
We started the last leg of our journey three days ago as we boarded our rugged, river vessels and hit the water on the Royal Gorge. That morning we woke up to a hot breakfast of pancakes with yogurt and fruit. After we were fueled up we headed to the outfitter, where we were fitted with life jackets and helmets for the day. We contoured multiple class three and one class four rapid in our first few miles of the river. Easy warm up for our gang. We stopped for lunch along the riverside and munched on some delicious sandwiches and cookies provided by the outfitter! After lunch we strapped our gear back on and hopped in the rafts for one last battle with the Gorge. Our raft groups were the same as our last whitewater adventure except for one name change. The Backyardigans, now the Goonies, featured Sally, Kiera, Boots, Ava, Lucas, and Ben, while the Vikings crew was Mia, Natalie, Logan, Spence, Hill, and Reed. We charged down the gorge, smashing through multiple more class three and four rapids while admiring the breathtaking scenery along the way!
After we finished rafting we headed to the local grocery to stock up on supplies for our best night of cooking all trip- Iron Chef competition night! Our boys made some delicious strip steak with mashed potatoes and gravy while the gals whipped up some incredible chicken alfredo with fruit kabobs! The two teams were scored on taste, cleanliness, attitude, and of course presentation. Both dishes were incredible but the girls took the title as victors at the end of the night for their awesome teamwork. We finished the night with a warm campfire, cookies, and Moonup.
We woke up the next morning after a nice sleeping in. We ate a delicious breakfast before cleaning the Uhaul and packing up camp. Afterwards, we headed to Mueller state park where we took shower and got ready for our last dinner together Our last hoorah of the trip entailed an entertaining shopping spree at Goodwill. This left Boots scootering into the sunset as Ava strutted her stuff in a police onesie before heading to our banquet dinner. During our last dinner as a group we feasted on burgers and pizza while sharing our greatest predictions of where everyone will be 15 years from now. After dinner we headed back to the campsite for our final Moonup. We discussed all the things we’ve learned through our Moondance experiences.
This morning we woke up and headed to the airport to depart home. There were some tears and many tough goodbyes for the students. We want to thank you, parents for sharing your incredible kids with us over the past two weeks. It was a true blessing to be able to learn from them and watch them grow as everyone battled hardships throughout the trip.
Thank you once again,
Amanda and T
July 27, 2019
Howdy! Since last time we’ve had one wild backpacking adventure, two crazy days of climbing, and many new memories made!
We started off our backpacking adventure by learning exactly what to bring to minimize our weight and the ABC’s of packing a backpack- accessibility, balance, and compactness. We then packed our bags, loaded up, and headed to the trailhead! Before we began our blaze, we grubbed on some good ole sub sandwiches with deli meat and cheese. We then fitted our packs, learned how to take them on and off properly, and hit the trail. Our first half mile was filled with calf-burning switchbacks which then led into decently steady, easy, uphill terrain for the next four miles. The gang cruised through the first day. Boots led the group for most of the day, keeping a good pace so that everyone could stick together. We made camp where we set up tents before starting on our first backcountry dinner- stir fry! We whipped up some rice, chicken, and veggies, tossed it all in a bowl, and enjoyed! Once everyone was adequately full, we then discussed how to do dishes in the backcountry, cleaned everything up, and began Moonup! After Moonup we all slipped into our sleeping bags for a restful night’s sleep!
The next day we used our relaxed backcountry schedule to sleep in and gain a few extra hours of rest. Once we were all up and going, we boiled water and enjoyed some delicious oatmeal and grits. As we ate we sung happy birthday to our very own Keira, and gave her a fresh birthday outfit comprised of a new shirt, “Birthday Girl” sash, and pink bedazzled sunglasses! Our second day on the trail revealed some magnificent scenery. We passed through an area which had been uprooted by a recent avalanche this past winter as well as another area which was blackened by a past wildfire. The trail then led us into a beautiful, massive meadow in the base of the valley. We continued for another mile before finding a nice camp near the creek. After setting up tents we munched on some PB&J tortilla roll ups and let the tomfoolery commence. Mia, Ava, and Spence took to the frisbee and practiced their different throwing techniques. Meanwhile Lucas used the fresh, snowmelt creek to cool off and wash up as he fully submerged in the water. We then began preparing a fan favorite dinner, Dank- Mac N Cheese with diced peppers, onions, and summer sausage! Our group chef, Spence, was a huge help with this meal as he prepared and sautéed the diced ingredients. Meanwhile, since it was Keira’s birthday and every good birthday needs a cake, Natalie distracted Keira while Logan and Sally helped bake and decorate a double layer, angel food birthday cake. After all the mac n cheese was devoured, we surprised Keira with the cake. She rated her birthday in the top 50 percentile of all her 14 birthdays- we’ll take it!
The next day marked our first day heading back to the trailhead. We began the day by filling our bellies with some delicious pancakes before hitting the trail. From the look of the morning we expected great weather for the day; however, after only a few miles on the trail we started getting rained on. Spirits were still high though as Boots and Ben joked about using the rain to shampoo their hair (and they definitively would have if shampoo would’ve made the backcountry packing list). Luckily, the weather moved on quickly and we continued down the trail. We were able to get another two or three miles down the trail before more poor weather move in. We waited for the storm to pass. After the storm moved past us, we decided to finish our day with a short and hike all the way to the trailhead. We had completed close to eight miles on the trail when we made it back to the van. We packed our gear back up into its correct places and headed to Telluride for a post-trip celebration dinner of burgers and milkshakes. Afterwards we found a campsite, had Moonup, and got a good night’s rest.
The next day, we were able to head to our next night’s campsite as soon as we woke up. Once we arrived, we set up camp and laid out all our gear that was still wet from our adventure the previous day before we took advantage of the great weather and went swimming in the lake located in our campground! Afterwards we decided to head into town and do a little shopping. We went directly to the local thrift store to pick out some fresh new gear! Afterwards we headed back to the campsite and made some good ole spaghetti with red sauce! Our relaxed day allowed us to get to bed real early and get plenty of sleep for climbing the next day! The next morning, we woke up and then headed to our first crag to begin our rockclimbing section. Upon arrival we were fitted with harnesses, helmets, and rad climbing shoes! We also got a lesson in climbing commands and techniques to make our day run smoothly! Everyone was very ambitious and took all opportunities to climb every route. However, Hill proved his mastery of the sport by finding new, more challenging ways of getting up the wall! Everyone also enjoyed PB&J tortilla roll ups for lunch as we waited on our turn to climb. The local chipmunks smelled out our lunch and attempted to take some for themselves. However, Spence and Ben came to the rescue and even got a real kick out of scaring them off and trying to catch them- to no avail. After everyone was worn out from climbing, we headed into the quaint mountain town of Crested Butte to shop till we dropped! We started off getting some delicious ice cream before hitting up all the outdoor stores, bike shops, and souvenir locals in town! Afterwards we headed back to camp, made some barbecue sandwiches, had Moonup, and slipped into our sleeping bags for another great night sleeping under the stars!
The next day was filled with even more great climbing. We woke up and made some breakfast burritos with apples, granola, peanut butter, and Nutella! Afterwards we packed up camp and headed to Taylor Canyon to meet our guides at the crag! The new crag featured a few more technical climbs as well as a few easy ones. Everyone was still very ambitious and climbed for a while! We ate lunch at the wall again, munching on some deli meat and cheese sammies as well as some good ole chips and guac! During lunch, our group comedian Reed kept everyone entertained with constant amusement!
Tomorrow we will be rafting the using our rafting skills from last week on the Royal Gorge and the group couldn’t be any more psyched! Wish us luck!
All the Best,
Amanda and T
July 21, 2019
We’re back! Our last two days were filled with high flying adventure, one calf burning hike, and exhilarating fun!
We woke up bright and early for our morning of ziplining, ate some yummy bagels with cream cheese, and headed to the zips! Upon arrival we were fitted with harnesses and helmets before receiving a lesson on proper techniques. Once everyone had graduated from the bunny-zip, we started the tour. We did three starter zips- Fluffy Bunny, Cotton Candy, and Disney-zip- before we moved on to our last three, much longer, much faster zips! The whole crew really enjoyed each of the rides, striking poses as they flew through the canyon, including a stellar “zen” pose by Ben. Mia especially loved the day as she was not able to quit smiling the whole time!
After we had returned our helmets and harnesses, we returned to the quaint town of Salida for a picnic lunch. We grabbed on some chips with quac, hummus, and some delicious pita pockets with deli meat and cheese! The sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in sight, so naturally the gang was getting a bit hot. Only one remedy- ICE CREAM! We walked to the local ice cream shop for some quick cones before hitting the road for the Great Sand Dunes!
We arrived at the dunes around four in the afternoon. Per usual, we immediately set up tents and the kitchen. We munched on some more chips with guacamole and salsa as an appetizer before we dove in on some delicious fajita bowls with chicken, rice, and veggies. After we cleaned up dinner, Sally, Natalie, Logan, and Keira took advantage of the running water and mirrors in the bathrooms and enjoyed washing their hair in the sinks! A few of the guys got jealous of the girls nice new hair and asked for some new hairstyles. Lucas went for the “man bun”, Reed rocked the “triceratops” (one pony up front and two in the back), and Hill decided on a center braid leading to a man bun. After our hair was properly styled we settled down for our nightly Moonup! Our LOD’s, Ben and Sally, led a great Moonup where everyone shared how Moondance has already changed their perspectives on life. Afterwards we slipped into our sleeping bags to grab a few hours of sleep before our sunrise hike.
We woke up at a brisk 3 AM to start our day! The group learned how to hike together and motivate one another to get to the top. It was really great to hear them chant one another’s names to inspire them to keep on keeping on! We arrived to the top of High Dune around 5 AM! The sun wasn’t quite up but there was still plenty of light for fun! Lucas showed us all the proper form for rolling down the dunes, and everyone else was quick to follow suit. Shortly after we broke out the sand boards to shred some gnar! There was a wide range of skill levels to start. Hill, already being a snowboarder was quick to master. Boots, who had never been on a board, became quite good after a few runs. And Ava, finding a liking for speed, showed everyone that the quickest way down was head first on the sled! We only had two boards and one sled, so everyone had to wait their turn to practice. However, Spence grew anxious and decided to use his own two feet to simply sprint down the soft sand- finding one of the most fun ways to descend the dunes!
After we were all worn out from shredding too much gnar on the dunes, we returned to camp for our breakfast for champions. We devoured some eggs, hash browns, and BACON! and fruit. We then packed up camp and headed towards to our next campsite to prep for backpacking. As we arrived, we noticed a lake adjacent to the camp and thought “why not?” We all went for a quick swim in the nice cold water to cool us off before making camp. We whipped up some delicious backcountry Pad Thai which was actually a huge hit! After we cleaned up dinner we had another great Moonup before crawling back into our tents for a wonderful night’s sleep.
Tomorrow we start the backpacking section of our adventure, and we could not be any more excited! We can’t wait to see our much closer our group grows as we make our way through the awesome San Juan Mountains! See you on the flip side!
Until next time,
Amanda and T
July 19, 2019
We can’t believe we are already finished with our first section of the trip. The gang is already becoming family with plenty of inside jokes to prove it. Shark Bait! Hoo Haha!
Our great Colorado adventure began three days ago in the bustling Denver Airport. Between 8:30 and 11:30 the squad slowly poured in. We were also able to meet some wonderful parents during this time! Meeting near the baggage claim, we fed our rumbling bellies with some delicious PB&J and deli meat and cheese sammies! And don’t forget about the cookies! Once everyone had arrived, we loaded up in our wonderful van and headed towards the quaint town of Salida for rafting. Our first stop was at the local pizza shop. We grabbed some yummy pies and cheesy sticks and went to our campsite for the night. Upon arrival we opened up the pizza boxes to reveal a vast selection. The first one down was unsurprisingly the cheese. However, Spence branched out, exploring all options, and let everyone know that the Full Moon Pizza was by far the best, and Ben made sure everyone tried the cheese sticks. We also finished up our cookies before starting our first Moonup! We discussed our trip expectations and goals and taught the seven Leave No Trace policies. During Moonup, everyone shared the things they were most excited about as well as most anxious about going into the trip! We then played a quick game of broken telephone before slipping into our sleeping bags for our first night’s sleep under the stars!
We started the day with some good ole Honey Nut Cheerios and bananas while we packed up the gear we would need for our next two days on the river. We then packed up camp and headed to the outfitter to get ready for the day. Our first step was repacking everything into dry-bags for the trip down river. We then got suited up with wetsuits and splash jackets to keep us warm amidst the forty degree water. We had two rafts to use in our attack on the Arkansas River, so we split into two teams. Team Backyardigans, led by T, was backed by Sally, Keira, Boots, Ava, Lucas, and Ben. Meanwhile, the Vikings, led by Amanda, was crewed by Mia, Natalie, Logan, Spence, Hill, and Reed. Once we arrived to the put-in, our respective crews picked a boat and guide and hit the river! Our morning section was full of fun, splashy water and some sweet, wavy rapids. Some of our favorites included Silver Bullet and the Narrows! We did around ten miles of whitewater before we stopped back at the outfitter for a catered lunch! We munched on some chips and guac before diving in on the delicious tortilla wraps with meat and cheese and finishing it all off with some good ole chocolate chip cookies! Our afternoon section was about half as long as the morning, but included one of the largest, most technical rapids of the trip- Pinball! Just after Pinball we pulled into an eddy on river right to make camp. The gang still apparently didn’t feel adequately drenched from the river, so before we stripped off our wetsuits and life jackets, we hiked back up river to a jump rock! Everyone summoned up the courage and took the plunge into the cold water! Once we returned to camp, we set up tents and began to relax. Hill (a.k.a. Mountain) and Ava took the rocky hills surrounding the camp to practice their scrambling skills. That night, the guides whipped up some fried rice with grilled chicken and even made us a delicious pineapple upside-down cake to finish it off! After dinner we all hiked up into the rocky hills surrounding camp to watch the sunset over Mt. Princeton! Wow! That night we capped off the evening with a Moonup led by Spence and Ava. They chose our next LOD’s, Lucas and Hill, and we discussed our scariest moments in life.
The next day we woke up to a great meal of breakfast burritos and parfaits! The sound of the rushing river all night had gotten us all stoked for the day ahead! We suited up and hit the river once again. Our first rapid of the day came up around the very first bend in the river, Zoom-Flume! Both boats crushed it and we knew we were in for a stellar day! Our next rapid was the Staircase, again crushed it. We had 7 class three rapids before lunch, crushed them all. At lunch we enjoyed some pita pockets and Oreos. However, the crew was pumped to keep going, knowing our biggest rapid of the trip was yet to come! We went down river another mile and a half before we caught an eddy on river left to go scout the rapid. We sized it up, it sized us up, and then we hopped back in the rafts to take it on. We were splashed and splashed but in the end both rafts busted straight through, victorious on the other side. The next rapid was Twin Falls, and of course, we crushed it. The last four miles was full of class two boogie water and relaxed pools of slack water. After we finished and loaded up on the bus, we headed back to the outfitter. We changed back into our dry clothes and then headed back to our wonderful campsite! That night we grabbed on some homemade Barbecue bowls prepared by our very own Keira, Logan, Lucas, Reed, and Ava! YUM! We cleaned up and then met up with the COT B group, who happened to be at the same campsite that night! We played a quick game of Hay Barn with them before slipping back into our sleeping abs for a good night’s sleep! That night everyone wanted to sleep out under the stars instead of in the tents!
We are super stoked that we have such an adventurous group of students and cannot wait for what the rest of the trip has in store! Next stop: Zip-lining and Sand Dunes. Talk again soon!
Amanda and T
July 16, 2019
All students have safely arrived in Colorado!
More to come!