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Dolomites 1B • June 11-June 24, 2019

Final Update!!

June 24, 2019

Arrivederci, session one families 🙁


Zach and I have loved keeping you apprised of our session one happenings. Right now, we’re sitting in the Venice airport waiting for the students’ plane to take off and make its way back to you. We know you’re excited for your reunion with your children, but we’re so sad to see them go!


Our last few days of the trip were filled with sweet memories. We went from our trekking portion to a beautiful canyoneering excursion! It was everyone’s favorite activity. Sarah, Andrew, and Thomas couldn’t get enough of jumping off the rocks into the canyon. And Hailey, Sadie, and Katherine overcame their canyon fears in order to get a little wet and wild with the rest of the group. We transferred from the Dolomites in two large vans (girls in one, boys in the other) and the girls enjoyed the challenge of finding English music amidst local Italian radio channels. We reunited in the small town of Clauzetto and settled into our hotel. After a great Moonup led by Katherine (the birthday girl!) and Andrew, we fell asleep to the sounds of the quiet city.


Our next morning was marked by cloudy skies and rain, but that didn’t keep us from enjoying our canyoneering adventure in the afternoon! We had a relaxing morning with a slow breakfast (during which Sadie drank her daily cappuccino) and enjoyed one another’s company. After a lunch of polenta and mushrooms (a famous local dish), we followed our Leaders of the Day, Sarah and Alexander, to the canyons. The guys and gals geared up with wetsuits and harnesses and hit the waterfalls! Edward really rocked the wetsuit look, and Charlie was sure to capture the entire aesthetic on our GoPro. The rappelling through waterfalls was exciting to say the least. We’d never experienced anything quite like it. And it was a remarkable juxtaposition to go from the sharp rock faces of the Dolomites to the lush greenery that surrounded the canyons. We all thought we’d been transported to the rain forest!


Once we wrapped up that activity, we found ourselves back at the hotel just in time for dinner and Karaoke Night. Every one of our students gave a rousing rendition of “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey, “Our Song” by Taylor Swift, and “Sweet Home Alabama,” at Edward’s request. Many students told us this was their favorite memory of the trip. And the hotel owner told us she wishes we could stay there every weekend — y’all’s students certainly livened up the Karaoke party 🙂


After all that singing, we headed to bed and woke up the next morning to transfer to Venice for our last day together. We made our way to the City of Water to take in the sights. Upon arriving, we made gelato our number one priority. Two scoops later, all of our students had satisfied their sweet tooth, and we were ready for some shopping. The gals made our way to Gucci, Chanel, Tiffany’s (Mr. and Mrs. Blumer and Mr. and Mrs. Howard, don’t forget to ask Sadie and Eleanor about the ring they tried on!), and Louis Vuitton. And the fellas had portraits drawn near Piazza San Marco. We met back up for dinner together on the water – pizza, of course. Leah had quite the pigeon encounter after dinner, but we all made it to our gelato dessert spot. That’s right, gelato twice in one day! Stomachs full, we went for a gondola ride. It was a pretty magical experience to weave through the various canals with friends who became family in just two short weeks. We had our final Moonup, led by Charlie and Lucie, and went to bed feeling bittersweet toward the goodbyes the morning would hold.


We woke up this morning for our last day together and made our way on a water taxi to the airport. How often do you take a boat right up to the airport entrance? That was one last unique Italian experience for our students before they boarded their plane back to you all. We gave a million hugs and exchanged “I love you’s” with one another as we waved goodbye to everyone at the security line.


We already miss each and every one of your kids, and can’t thank you enough for allowing Charlie, Thomas, Edward, Alexander, Andrew, Katherine, Eleanor, Sadie, Lucie, Hailey, Leah, and Sarah to spend a part of their summer with us. We will forever cherish this Dolomites 1B group and hope to reunite with everyone soon!


Much love and gratitude,

Mary and Zach

Mountain Magic

June 22, 2019

Ciao a Tutti!

Wow, the past few days have left us absolutely speechless. We have been going from Refugio to Refugio on a daily basis, while getting to experience some of the Dolomites most beautiful hiking with some of the best Moondancers ever!

After trekking the difficult Giro del Pelmo Circuit (in the rain!), we found our way to a beautiful Refugio to stay the night. During this gorgeous hike, Charlie and Leah kept the group extremely motivated as our LOD’s. It was needed this day because of the difficult uphill we had to endure. The view from the peak though made every step well worth it! Sarah and Andrew’s undeniable positivity and unselfishness were instrumental in getting the group through the hike.

The next day, we had a relatively easy hike to our next Refugio; however, Alexander insisted that we do a day excursion to go see dinosaur footprints imbedded into the side of a mountain!! With our Italian guides leading us, we were thrilled with the decision to go see this piece of our Earth’s history. Along the way, Sadie and Haley began to reminisce about all the amazing times we’ve had together so far and how great this group has been. Mary and I couldn’t agree more!

The very next day, we had our toughest climb of the trip staring at us right in the face. Of course, that was not going to stop Eleanor and Katherine as they once again graced us with their impeccable singing voices, and that motivated the group to push to the peak! Along the way, Thomas and Edward befriended a group of Italians while learning new, fun Italian phrases! As we approached the peak of the mountain, everyone was starting to show some fatigue after trekking for the past 3 days (understandably so), so Lucie acted quickly to remedy this by giving us riddles and games to play on the hike. The timing could not have been more perfect, as we reached the top to our most beautiful view yet: a 360-degree view of what seemed like all of Italy. The group sat and marveled at this unbelievable sight. Truly an incredible end to our trekking experience.

Our next day was an amazing one for multiple reasons. Most importantly, it was our very own, KATHERIN’S 16th Birthday!! The group serenaded her in the morning and were able to get a delicious chocolate cake after dinner!!

We are so sad that our time together is nearing an end but have cherished every second together! Thank you to you all for sharing your most prized possessions with us for these past 2 weeks as we will miss them dearly! But first, we are going to enjoy canyoneering and Venice together!!


Zach and Mary

PS- please enjoy these shout-outs!


Charlie- Hi Mom Dad Jacob and Ella! Today we finished our trekking days and we our headed to our next hotel then Venice. The trip has been amazing! See you on Tuesday! Love y’all!

Thomas– Hey Mom and Dad trip is almost over and I can’t wait to see you but I’m sad that I have to leave. Headed to a hotel now and then Venice see you soon!

Leah- hi family! I’m having a great time and I’m excited for the rest of the trip. Might buy myself something fun in Venice 🙂 because I’ve been saving my money! See you soon!!

Alexander– having a great time here, beautiful views and meeting new people. Can’t wait for Venice and American food.

Andrew– Hi Mom and Dad! As you can guess I’ve been stingy with my money so I’m really looking forward to shopping in Venice in a few days. Hope you all are having as much fun as I am!

Edward– hey mom and dad. I’m having a great time. Please don’t have fun without me. Venice should be fun. Love you.

Hailey– hey mom and dad! I miss and love y’all so much!! Say hi to honey and Cali for me. I am having an AWESOME time and can’t wait for Venice! Love y’all and see you soon!!!!

Sarah– Hey Tom and Dad!!! I’m having a great time and am super excited to walk around Venice and go canyoneering! Love y’all and can’t wait to see you soon!!

Katherine– Hey family! I miss y’all so much! I absolutely love it here and don’t want to leave! We finished trekking today and wow it was probably one of the coolest things I have ever done!!! Love you and see you soon!

Eleanor– Hi!!:) I don’t want to leave this place!! We finished our hike today and it was awesome!! I’ve made so many new friends. See you guys soon… Love you guys!!

Sadie– Hey!! We just finished trekking today and are at our hotel! It’s been so much fun and I don’t want it to end, but I also can’t wait for Puglia!! See you in Venice and have a safe flight. Love you!!

Lucie– Helloooo‼️ just arrived in a little Italian village and are in a hotel/motel! Tomorrow we are going canyoneering and then Venice the next day! I miss you guys and will be home soon! Love you Guys!

Dolomites Dream Team!

June 18, 2019

Ciao to our favorite people!!!!!


Mary here writing this trip update to you all, and I could not be more excited to share some of what the Dolomites have offered us since we got into the Rifugio/trekking portion of our trip. The past few days have been THE BEST. And I cannot thank you enough for sending your students to Italy to spend two weeks with Zach and me because WE. LOVE. THEM. My goodness this trip is full of incredible students, loads of laughter, and stunning 360 degree views.

Since leaving Corvara in Alta Badia, we trekked 12 miles on our first day! Alexander and Edward were leading the pack the whole way and Eleanor kept us laughing with her Cardi B impressions. My gosh, Dr. and Mrs. Blumer, your daughter is hilarious. We slept soundly after that long trek and woke up the next morning to make our way to a step back in time. Our group took a cable car to tour the WWI tunnels near Cinque Torri. We all experienced a bit of what it was like to traverse mountains while battling opposing forces, but Andrew was especially intrigued by this excursion. And Sadie faced her fear of heights as we crossed over snow-covered ridges to make our way to the next Rifugio.

We just spent three nights at there and we were guided by the two Marcos on a myriad of rock climbing and via ferrata excursions. Charlie blew us all away with his climbing skills, and we think he just might be suited for Tokyo 2020.

We left the Rifugio this morning to trek another 12 miles to our next stop where we’re currently playing a rousing game of Uno. Thomas and Leah were champs during the rainy weather we faced today, and sweet Sarah kept everyone’s PMA (positive mental attitude) high. Conversations about favorite restaurants back home and the Tex Mex we’re all missing kept us entertained as we walked, but we’re really loving the time we get to connect with one another on a deeper level. Hailey asked a great Moonup question last night during her turn as our Leader of the Day and Katherine has been a consistent source of engaging questions.

Zach and I can’t wait for these last few days of jumping from Rifugio to Rifugio with all of these students! We just wish our time together would last a bit longer!! We can’t begin to describe all the details about the fun we’ve had with your students over the past section of this trip. You’ll just have to ask them about Lucie almost losing Farkle, guessing student survey responses, and mountaintop/post-Moonup dance parties once they are back home with you all. Until then, we’re going to keep enjoying every minute together!


Sending lots of love and hugs!

Mary, Zach, and the whole Dolomites 1B crew


Lastly, here are some shout-outs for you all directly from your Moondancers:


Sadie – miss you and love you and tell the beagles they’re the best! see you in venice!!

Lucie – I miss you guys! I hope you guys aren’t too bored without me haha  i am having an amazing time and eating the bessstttt food! We had a crazy trekking day today and it poured on us but now we are warm in our Rifugio 🙂 these Rifugio’s are so cool and we have 2 more Rifugio’s and then we stay in hotels for the last couple nights! See you soon love you!

Hailey- I miss you guys so much! I am having the best time. Today we had a crazy trekking day and it rained on us. See y’all soon!! Love you!!!!!

Katherine- hello familia! I miss you guys! Italy has been a blast and i absolutely love it here! Say hello to all the friends for me:) love you guys!

Leah- hi family!!! I miss you guys but I’ve been having the best time! We’ve been hiking between Rifugios which are like hostels and eating the best food ever. See you in a week!

Sarah- Hey Tom and Dad! I’m having such a good time!! We are eating really good Italian food and taking showers most nights:) Italy is beautiful!! I hope everything is good in Spartanburg, see you soon!!

Eleanor- wassup familia!! I am having loads of fun and this is such an amazing experience. Lovin’ the pasta and bread!! Also, thanks for exposing me on the parent survey with the imitation crab meat!! Love you.

Alexander- Trip is fun; see you soon!!

Charlie – What’s up fam? This trip is sick. I am having a great time and I love the Italian food. All the kids are great and I miss y’all. The Dolomites are insane. Thomas and I are bonding. See y’all in a week! Happy late Father’s Day Dad! Love y’all!

Thomas- hey dad and mom the trip is a lot of fun. I love the views and Mary and Zach are awesome. Hiking everyday is difficult but the views definitely make up for it. Happy late Father’s Day and miss you and see you soon.

Andrew- Hey mom and dad this trip is extremely fun. The homies are great and the leaders are fun as well. We have been staying in different Rifugios. I love you all so much and tell Anna and Ryan I miss them!

Edward- Hey family I’m having fun and i love you. Happy Father’s Day. See you soon.

Ciao a tutti!

June 13, 2019

Ciao a tutti!!

We have arrived in Italy and have gotten off to a remarkable start here in the Dolomites! Pictures truly do not do this place justice. Absolutely incredible views everywhere we turn. We are so thrilled we get to spend 2 weeks in this beautiful part of the country and see all it has to offer.

After arriving in Venice, we made our way to Alta Badia where we are spending 2 nights. We got our first taste of Italian cuisine for dinner at our local hostel. A three course set meal was absolutely delicious, followed by creme brûlée for dessert! Sarah and Hailey’s positivity and high energy kept our group going through the much maligned jet lag. It was definitely very much appreciated by everyone! Our first day Leaders of the Day, Thomas and Katherine, did an amazing job of leading the group to the top of one of the peaks here! It was full of very difficult terrain that we hiked and climbed up until we reached the peak where we were able to enjoy a delicious lunch with a view! Sadie conquered her fear of heights by scaling that mountain like she’d been doing it for years, which was very impressive!  Also on the way up, Lucie, Leah, and Eleanor graced us with their incredible voices by singing Taylor Swift for the whole mountain to hear. Entertainment at its finest.

After getting back mid afternoon, we were able to relax and get to know each other better by playing group games in this huge field at the base of one of the beautiful Dolomite Mountains, and preparing for our talent show! Alexander, Andrew, Charlie, and Edward put on quite a performance playing football and taking the lead on several of our group games! It was a terrific evening that could only conclude one way…PIZZA! We got our first taste of pizza in the motherland, and it is fair to say that nobody left disappointed as we cannot wait to try all of the other Italian dishes!

With a top notch group like this, it is no wonder we have gotten off to such an amazing start! We are so excited to continue exploring the Dolomites by hiking, climbing, and canyoneering over the next several days!


Zach and Mary

Safe Arrival!

June 12, 2019

Hi Dolomites Families!


The group has arrived in Venice and are headed to the Dolomites to begin their adventure! Stay tuned for more updates!


-Moondance HQ


  • Alexander
  • Andrew
  • Charlie
  • Edward
  • Eleanor
  • Hailey
  • Katherine
  • Leah
  • Lucie
  • Sadie
  • Sarah
  • Thomas