July 11, 2019
A final arrividerci, Dol 2B families!
We’re so sad to see your students go.I’m writing to you from the Venice airport where your students are heading through security on their way back to you. And, of course, I’m tearing up.
It’s probably the best feeling in the world to be so saddened by a group of friends separating. Two weeks ago we were strangers, and now I feel as if I have 11 new best friends! That was the sentiment we all shared last night at our final Moonup.
We just spent our last day soaking up the sights in Venice, but before arriving here, we completed our final activity in Clauzetto which meant a lot of laughter as we made our way through the canyons of the Dolomiti Friuliane all clad in wetsuits.
Zach and I found canyoneering to be a crowd favorite amongst our students, and this session was no different. Students like William and Sallie were rocking the wetsuit + harness look, and Merrill rappelled into the canyons like a champ. We were immersed in water amongst green riverbanks for three hours of pure fun, and we even got to do a little cliff jumping. May and Adrian rocked their LOD duties that day, and we went back to our hotel ready for hot showers! That night we had one of our most meaningful Moonups of the entire trip. Our LOD’s asked the question “What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever been through?” and each of your students shared with such honesty, vulnerability, and courage. That was a bonding experience, to say the least, and our group grew even closer as we listened to each other’s struggles. I was especially moved by each and every one of your children. It’s no easy task to open up to people in the way our Dol 2B students did, especially in the social media age when it’s easier to portray a perfect facade with every post and picture. Each of your children is brave, strong, and empathetic. We took the time to encourage one another after that sharing circle took place, and the way they offered compassion and sympathy to each other caused my heart to grow about three sizes!
We went to sleep with full hearts and woke up the next day to celebrate Thomas’ 17th birthday! After everyone shared one of our favorite things about Thomas, we transferred from Clauzetto to Venice. The car ride was full of singing our favorite Justin Bieber jams (Lilly being the loudest vocalist) and we arrived in Venice around lunchtime. We made ourselves at home in our hotel and went out to explore the city! Drew immediately became our tour guide as his affinity for Venice shone through every canal crossing. Brooks rocked a British accent in Saint Mark’s Square, and Rosie enjoyed our pop into the Golden Goose shoe store. We even toured the Louis Vuitton and Gucci stores and were sure to enforce a “look, don’t touch” policy.
A gondola ride and a few gelatos later, we went to our final banquet dinner and ate one last Italian pizza. The waiters brought a birthday cake out for Thomas and we sang one last “Happy Birthday!” to him before circling up for our final Moonup on the steps of a waterfront basilica. That was a special night as we were able to share how much this trip meant each of us. We each grew in unique ways and I saw each of your students develop into “origin leaders” (ask them about the NOLS leadership grid activity we did with them).
We walked back to the hotel with smiles on our faces and a twinge of sadness knowing that airport day was looming. Everyone piled in one room to hang out before going to sleep. While Sophia didn’t want to sleep at all, everyone finally made their way to bed and we woke up this morning with gratitude for the fact that saying goodbye was so hard.
Zach and I are both extremely grateful to each of you for having lent your students to us for the past two weeks. We’re blessed beyond measure by our interactions with them. Each one will be a world changer one day! And we just hope we’re around to witness it!
Mary and Zach
July 8, 2019
Ciao a Tutti!
Mary and I cannot begin to explain how great this trip has been. Not only have the sites and adventure we’ve been on been terrific, but this group formed into a family so quickly and has truly made this a trip of a lifetime for everyone.
We continued our trekking section of the trip by making our way from Rifugio Citta di Flume to Passo Staulanza. Along the way, Lilly and Rosie kept the group motivated with their incredible positivity and impeccable singing ability! Once we got to our Refugio, we were able to put our packs down and take a gorgeous day hike to see dinosaur fossils at the top of a mountain peak (that was under water millions of years ago!!). It was a very cool experience for us all. At the end of our hike, Thomas and Adrian organized a fun-filled game of ultimate frisbee in a beautiful field at the base of the mountain. Our LODs for the day, Sophia and Brooks did an outstanding job of not only keeping the groups spirit up through the difficult uphill, but also playing group games that everyone enjoyed.
Our next day was our toughest trek yet! Plenty of uphill combined with some of the prettiest 360 degree views we could ask for. Whether we were trekking a mountain side, or circling an exquisite lake where we ate lunch, the serenity was truly something none of us had ever experienced. Sallie, Drew, and William came up with the brilliant idea to have a swim in the ice-cold, but refreshing lake after lunch. It was definitely a highlight of the trip! That night, the entire group got to see something truly special. We had a huge thunderstorm in the afternoon, and that night, the sunset we were able to see was something out of a movie. May and Merrill convinced the whole group to “live in the moment” by sitting quietly on the mountain side and simply take it all in, as none of us will get to experience something like this ever again.
This group has been so special, and an it’s been an absolute pleasure for Mary and I to have the opportunity to lead this wonderful group of people. Although our time is coming to an end, we want to thank all of you for sharing your most prized possessions with us these past two weeks! We cannot wait to enjoy canyoneering and explore the beautiful city of Venice these next couple days.
Zach and Mary
July 4, 2019
And Happy 4th of July to all of you! We just celebrated with an American flag banner hanging over our dinner table here at our rifugio and we’ve been wearing red, white, and blue necklaces while trekking all day. Our sense of patriotism is high! And our sense of fun and adventure has certainly been high over the past few days, too! We just finished the rock climbing and via ferrata section of our trip, and now we’re on to our trekking days! We’ll be trekking from mountain rifugio to rifugio, but we want to give you all some insight into what our past few days have consisted of…besides that which goes without saying: a ton of fun, laughter, and beautiful scenery. Our entire group woke up early on Sunday to trek 10 miles to our first rifugio.
Lilly and Drew rocked their role as LODs and pep talks with Lilly have become a daily part of our activities. She’s always keeping the group motivated! That trek was one of the harder ones, and we’ve seen students like Rosie push themselves outside of their comfort zones to accomplish challenging physical feats here in the Dolomites! We slept soundly after that long trek and woke up the next morning to make our way back to yesteryear. Our group took a cablecar 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 Adrian was especially intrigued by this excursion. Adrian received some “nugs” from Sophia for all the attentive tour guiding and great EB (expedition behavior) he demonstrated while we were in the tunnels. And Sallie, Sophia, and I carried on great conversation as we made our way to the next rifugio — Rifugio Scoiattoli.
We spent three nights at this incredible mountain inn and took in lots of sights during our time there. We rock climbed with our guides Marco, Michele, and Lucca, and May and Thomas blew us away with their rock climbing skills. We also completed a via ferrata excursion where we saw Merrill face her fear of heights to make it to the summit! We left Rifugio Scoiattoli this morning to trek another 10 miles to Rifugio Citta di Flume where we just finished a Moonup with lots of giggles and reflections on our favorite 4th of July memories. Brooks and William shared some stories from Independence Day celebrations in Atlanta and Nashville, but we all decided there’s no where else we’d rather be this July 4th. Zach and I are so thankful you’ve shared your students with us, and we can’t wait for these next few days of jumping from Rifugio to Rifugio with all of these students! 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 Drew’s celebrity doppelgänger, their NOLS leadership style, and their LNT skits once they’re back at home.
Until then, we’re going to enjoy every last minute! Sending lots of love and hugs!
Mary, Zach, and the whole Dol 2B crew
Before we let you go, we have some shout outs for all of you from your favorite Moondancers:
Sallie: Having a marvelous time! See you soon! Love y’all, sallie boo
Drew: Hey mom and dad! Love y’all and miss y’all! Mom, can you bring my charger and the duffel bag full of clothes? Love you, can’t wait to see you in Venice.
Merrill: Hey mom! Love you and Miss you so much. I hope you are having fun too! Tell Jessie,Courtney,and Emily that I love them and I’ll see them when I get back. Take care of Sadie!!
Lilly: Hey mom & dad & whoever’s reading this! I’m having a good time & my group is like my fav people ever now! Also the food is actually so good so yay lol but I rlly rlly miss y’all and love y’all sm so can’t wait to see y’all in like a week! & hbd ebs ily!!!
Rosie: Hi mom, dad and chuck, I love y’all!! I’m having a really good time and Italy is such a beautiful place, we should go to Europe sometime soon as a fam!! I really miss y’all and cannot wait to see y’all!! Much love!! – Ro
Adrian: Hey Mom & Dad, I hope all is well, I’m having a blast! The views at the previous refugio were mind blowing. See the Dolomites without snow is an experience worth coming out here for. Love you guys, see you both in a week.
Thomas: Hey mom and dad, Really missing y’all out here but I’m having real good time. I feel like I’m on another planet it’s truly wild. I’m really enjoying the people I get to share this trip left and we’ve done some really insane stuff together. It’s been awesome.
Brooks: Hey Mom, Dad and GG! This trip has been truly amazing. Everything we’ve done has been insanely fun. The views are incredible. I’m having a great time getting to know everyone really well and this has definitely been my favorite Moondance trip. I can’t wait to experience the Dolomites with y’all.
William: Hey Mom And Dad, this trip has been everything I’ve expected and more. The views have been picturesque, the hiking has been intense yet bearable, and the people I’ve met have changed my outlook on life. I can’t wait to see y’all in Venice in a few days, and please bring some extra clothes from the closet. Miss y’all and can’t wait to see y’all soon. We should come back for winter break so y’all can see the views. – WV
Sophia: Hi family! I’m having the best time ever. The views are absolutely incredible, better than I could ever imagine. You guys would love it so much, and I can’t wait to share all my experiences with you. I miss y’all a lot and can’t wait to see you guys. Don’t worry I’m wearing lots of sun screen :). Oh also can you please make sure I have my retainer? Thank you and love you so much! Lots of love, Sophia
May: Hello to my favorite people. Ciao from the Dolomites. I hope you both are doing well. We are in the middle of our four day trekking session. We have covered lots of ground and I am having a ball. I love my group and my leaders! See you both soon, lots of love…
June 30, 2019
Ciao a Tutti!
Wow! What an incredible start to our trip here in the Dolomites. Whether it is the incredible food, the gorgeous views, or the great friendships we have begun to make, we are so excited to get to spend the next two weeks in the beautiful part of the world.
As the students arrived in Venice and we began to tackle that dreaded jet lag, we made our way to Alta Badia where we would be spending our next few days. Sallie, Rosie, and Adrian showed incredible EB (expedition behavior) by cracking jokes and swapping stories that kept the group energetic and lively throughout the 3 hour bus ride. When we arrived, Sophia, Merrell and Thomas helped organized fun group games for us to get to know each other better and really get our “ya ya’s out!” It really was an incredible first day with an even better group of students.
On our first full day of activities, we took an amazing day hike/via ferrata to one of the close peaks next to Alta Badia. May and Brooks were our incredible LODs (leaders of the day), and they displayed a remarkable amount of selflessness and humor to help the group overcome the difficulties of the hike.
Mary and I cannot say enough how much we appreciate the energy level and positivity that Lilly brought to the hike as well! She was instrumental to the incredible start to our trip! When we returned from the hike, William and Drew helped organize a group gathering at the crystal clear river where we could soak our tired feet in the refreshing water. It was one of the many highlights of our first full day together!
I know it is the beginning of the trip, but Mary and I could not be more thrilled with this group we have here in Italy! We are now off to do some trekking, more via ferrata, and rock climbing! Looking forward to talking soon!
Zach and Mary
June 28, 2019
Hello Dolomites Families!
We heard from our leaders last night, and all students have arrived safely in Venice! We are so excited for them to begin their adventure!