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Dolomites 3 • July 13-July 26, 2019

A Bon Voyage from Italy!

July 26, 2019

It’s only been two days since we last updated y’all on our adventures, but boy has a lot happened! As Mary mentioned in our last update, we started our adventure with a morning of canyoneering. Everyone was new to the activity, so expectations were all over the place. However, everyone soon found their goofy side when we arrived to the park where we donned full body wetsuits. MacLeod had a unique gray suit which made her look like a superhero ready to take on the river. With the wetsuits glued to our bodies, we waddled up a path to the mouth of the river where our adventure began. Within seconds, the entire group belted out into a beautiful rendition of “Shallow” from “A Star is Born”. As the song bounced off the walls and water, the girls descended down the waterfalls one by one. Though each repel led to laughter, none trumped the slide that came in the middle of the journey. Upon receiving instructions to go down the natural rock slide on our bellies like penguins, Lizy, Lindsey and Emily immediately went for it. Laughter genuinely erupted as they quickly exclaimed that water rushed up their noses upon hitting the water face first. The moment gave us such a laugh that it was featured in the nights nug jug story (make sure to ask your student about these!). Canyoneering ended with the highest rapel of the afternoon which allowed Katherine to overcome her fears and descend with grace. Once at the bottom, we walked along the river where Lindsey and Grace went on a salamander hunt! Within minutes, we had two little guys to pass around and admire their slimy cuteness.

With our final outdoor activity behind us, we headed back to the hotel for an afternoon of relaxation. Summer reading was finished, drawings were created, and games were played. Lia, Lindsey, Grace, Katherine, Cate, Kate, and Sarah joined Mary and I for a game of Fish Bowl and Family. Cate proved to be a key player in Family and helped her team walk away with a victory. Dinner soon followed with a full table conversation surrounding the anxieties and pressures that stem from social media. It was special to sit around the table sans electronics and reflect on how peaceful and intentional conversations can be without any distractions. The girls then suggested we walk back to the local gelato shop to continue our tradition of three course meals and Mary and I couldn’t help but cave. So on to the gelato shop we went! Everyone walked away with two scoops of their favorite flavors including nutella, chocolate, and stracciatella. As we enjoyed our gelato, we glanced up at the sun setting behind the mountains and soaked up our last view of natural Italian scenery. Sarah and Lindsey then led an equally impactful Moonup where they posed the question, “What was the happiest time period of your life and how can you implement something from that time period in your life today?”

When Mary and I went to wake the girls up the next morning, we opened their doors to find them already awake! They simply couldn’t contain their excitement for Venice. So we quickly devoured breakfast, packed our bags, and loaded into swanky vans. The van ride was full of bold singing that our drivers listened to without complaint. Big nugs to them. Two short hours later, we laid eyes on the one and only, Venice! And what does one do in Venice? They hop on a water taxi! So we did just that. We approached the old, charming city on the water and immediately fell in love despite the heat. Once we arrived at our hostel, we dropped our luggage, ate lunch, and prepared for an afternoon navigating canals and alley ways galore. Our fearless Venice LODs, Kate and Izzy, took the reins once we touched down in St. Mark’s Square. To start the day’s adventure, Grace led the group in a dance in the middle of the square. We’ve practiced the dance for a few days and it was hilarious to finally see it come to life in public. Next up, luxury stores! Never fear, we practiced the “look, don’t touch” policy as we made our way through Golden Goose, Gucci, and Tiffany & Co. Kate and Izzy then guided the girl gang to a nearby gelato shop. The cool, refreshing treat eased our heat pains and prepared us for an afternoon of shopping. Once we’d shopped till we felt like we were gonna drop (not even our weeks of hiking prepared us for hours of shopping), we decided to take the extra-long trek to a pizza place Mary promised would be delish. And by golly she was right. We all scarfed down one last Italian pizza and reminisced on the trip. Though we all finished our pizzas and felt utterly full, we knew another round of gelato was necessary. So we walked down the street until we came across a cute little gelato shop with an incredibly friendly man inside! We had quite the time trying all the different flavors and entertaining the shopkeeper with our jokes. So much so that at the end of our transaction he gave us two boxes of cookies and a crumble cake for FREE! Needless to say we walked away from Venice feeling like winners.

Pinks and oranges danced across the sky as the sun set on our last night together. It was almost as if the Earth was acknowledging how much beauty was created and found on this trip. AP and Katherine shared incredible takeaways from the trip at Moonup that left Mary and I feeling lucky to be a part of such an incredible experience. It’s always hard to find adequate words to sum up a Moondance trip, especially one with such a powerful girl gang. How does one effectively communicate the countless moments that transformed a group of 14 strangers into a tight knit family? How does one convey the appropriate amount of laughter, struggle, strength, and vulnerability that brought us all together? At the moment it feels “impossible” as our guide Carlo would say. But what Mary and I do know is that these girls challenged themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally and we could not be more proud of each and every one of them. We miss them already and can’t wait to see what all they accomplish in the coming year and beyond.


AP, Cate, Emily, Grace, Izzy, Kate, Katherine Lia, Lindsey, Lizy, MacLeod, and Sarah — Mary and I love you and think the world of you! Don’t forget to engage with everyone around you sans phones and find joy in the little things. Invite people into the culture we’ve created and continue to experience childlike joy and wonder wherever you go. Know that we are here for you if you ever need us!


Signing off with love,

Maddie and Mary

Cinque Torrri WOW!

July 24, 2019

Family! Friends! Kith and kin! We’re so excited to update you on how we’ve all been.

I’m writing to you from the Dolomite Friulane in a small town named Claut. We’re about to leave for a day of canyoneering, but we wanted to update you on our time at Cinque Torri first. We arrived here in Claut yesterday evening, and we were sad to say goodbye to a place that has truly captured our hearts this summer.

Before you continue reading this, please Google a photograph of Cinque Torri. You simply have to get a glimpse of the grandeur of the place before you continue reading. Our group really understood the magnitude of Cinque Torri when we transferred from the small “Rifugio Cinque Torri” (where Maddie wrote our last update) to the centrally located “Rifugio Scoiattoli” on Sunday. Once we arrived we put our packs down and hit the trail for a full day of rock climbing. Most of our students had not spent time on a rock wall before, much less the famous routes of Cinque Torri. It was a blast to see their excitement as our guides began to explain the basic techniques associated with climbing and handed the ropes over to them. The girl gang began with easier routes and slowly made their way toward multi-pitch climbing by the end of the day. Lizy and Sarah were always the first ones on the wall, and Lizy even managed to summit a multi-pitch climb with Izzy before heading in for the day. Katherine and MacLeod overcame fears on the wall and were both *rocking it* (pun intended) by lunchtime. And, of course, the cardboard cutout of Timothee Chalomet made an appearance for a photograph with Sarah and Cate. We went to sleep that night with full hearts after a fun, relaxing day outdoors and a Moonup that had some of us giggling until we cried.

We woke up early the next morning to start the Via Ferrata we hiked on Monday. This Via Ferrata was one of the more challenging ones – it is very technical and requires a lot of focus as our students clip in and clip out of the wire cable that takes them to the summit of Averau, a mountain that sits right above Cinque Torri. Our girls handled this challenge with grit and determination! Everyone made it to the summit and students like Izzy overcame their initial anxiety about the activity once we saw the cross that marked the summit. Maddie and I were so proud of everyone! As we made our way down, Grace and Lindsey couldn’t keep from laughing at our guide’s pronunciation of “squirrel” and their laughter was contagious when they shared their story of asking the guide to pronounce “rhinoceros” at Moonup. We stopped out our Rifugio for lunch and some homemade tiramisu (delicious!) dessert. With full stomachs, we made our way back out to climb for the afternoon. Kate, Lia, Lindsey, and Grace all accomplished the multi-pitch climb while AP, Katherine, and Izzy got technical with a harder route and each one made it to the top! We came back in from a full day of activities on Monday to enjoy a delicious dinner together and our best Moonup yet. MacLeod asked our group “Who is someone who makes you smile?” and everyone reflected on the people who bring us joy and light in our lives. Thanks to all of you for being those people! We ended Moonup with “The 411 with Mary and Maddie” and a dance party to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” It was the type of day that leaves you feeling happy, content, and tired all at the same time.

When we woke up the next morning, we were feeling a twinge of sadness knowing that we would be making our way out of the heart of the Dolomites. However, that sadness was assuaged with a beautiful hike that led us by mountain lakes (which we jumped in – of course!), wild donkeys, and waterfalls. Yesterday was our last day of trekking, and my, was it a note to end on! Maddie and I said throughout the hike that it was one of our favorites from the entire summer. Along the way, Emily overcame some a little knee pain like a champ and each one of our girls overcame some hard uphills with gusto – singing songs to help them up the hills! We ate lunch next to a beautiful lake and the majority of us jumped in to cool off. Some wild donkeys made their way over to us to see if they could have a bite of our lunch which prompted us to get on our merry way toward the bus that would transfer us to Claut. The descent to the bus was down a trail that led us alongside an incredible series of waterfalls. It was one of the more beautiful sights we’ve ever seen! And we wished we could have spent the entire afternoon swimming. Alas, the bus was waiting for us, and our girls were ready to get over here to Claut for canyoneering! We piled in the bus and AP serenaded us with some Lady Gaga. The girls were singing the whole ride as we rode through the windy mountain passes. We got to Claut ready for a good shower and a fresh change of clothes. After making both of these things happen, we shared a tasty meal together and followed it with gelato for dessert. We did Moonup outside on our patio and went to sleep feeling very accomplished – we’ve finished the most difficult part of the trip!

Maddie and I are so proud of y’all’s students. They’ve pushed themselves really hard this trip and now we get to enjoy canyoneering and a day in Venice before we make our way back to you all!

Ciao for now! We’ll see you soon!

Mary, Maddie, and the Girl Gang


PS – Mr. and Mrs. Tarantino, we’ve made it past the trekking without any blisters on Lia’s feet!

Wildflowers, Cows, and Pasta in the Dolomites!

July 21, 2019

Ciao from the heart of the Dolomite mountains!


Over the past 5 days, we’ve climbed peaks and trekked through valleys galore! The sights have been nothing short of stunning, but the camaraderie and memories made have been the most beautiful of all — sappy, but all too true.


On the first day of our trekking adventure, we met our two new trusty Italian trekking guides, Claudio and Chiara! Yes, we have a female guide for this incredible all-female crew! With our guides in tow, we received a transfer to the trailhead and immediately hit the ground running after learning all the ins and outs of how to properly put on a pack. Our first few steps took us through a lush valley filled with cows and wildflowers! And a few steps later, we came across our first marmot! The sightings provided some much-needed energy as we took on our first mountain. Energy also stemmed from a game of STAR (movie guessing game) and served as a way to distract ourselves from the number of stairs we had to climb in order to reach the top. Once at the top, we collapsed into a grassy field filled with small boulders that wildly resembled a scene from the movie Frozen. We were all waiting for the stones to roll to life and turn into little trolls. But alas, they did not. Instead, we ate traditional Italian donut holes, took countless photos, and admired the various wildflowers. With rested legs, we then continued our trek until we landed beside a beautiful lake where we ate our packed lunches. After our sandwiches were devoured, Claudio took us off the traditional path in order to get to an incredible ridge where we had 360-degree mountain views! Talk about stunning! Without hesitation, we grabbed our cameras and engaged in a photoshoot. The silence of the mountains was then broken by our beautiful singing voices as we started a riff off. In two groups, we traded off singing songs that had the word “love” (first round) and “fire” (second round) in the lyrics. Taylor Swift songs were a solid go-to for both groups. MacLeod proved to be a musical genius in her group and led them to two straight victories. After the celebration ceased, we hopped back on the trail and soaked up the mountaintop views one more time before heading down to our first rifugio! On our way down, Izzy kept the groups morale high with some incredible words of wisdom on staying positive even through challenging moments. With positivity on the mind, we made it to the rifugio in no time and quickly made the place feel like home as we prepared for dinner and Moonup. The LODs, Lindsey and Katherine, chose to have Moonup in the field outside our rifugio which proved to be hilarious as the cows roamed close by with bells constantly chiming around their necks. It was only fitting that the question was “What is your biggest pet peeve?”


The next morning, we chowed on a buffet breakfast before heading up a nearby hill to do some morning yoga led by Izzy and Lizy. Everyone took in the views and gathered their centers before heading back to throw on our packs, lace up our shoes, and hike down the trail. The day started with a lot of downhill which allowed everyone to get back in the groove of things before taking on another big mountain. At the bottom of the valley, we enjoyed a snack and the entertainment of a tiny Italian baby before setting off to conquer the mountain. As we hiked, everyone maintained a positive mental attitude (PMA) and offered encouragement to one another along the way. The positivity carried over to lunch where we enjoyed our sandwiches with a side of accomplishment! While we ate, we discussed which TV show we would want to live in the most. Sarah said she would want to live in Phineas and Ferb which kept us all laughing and made us realize just how fun that would be! As we set off on the trail once again, Lia told the group a riddle about a baseball diamond that had us all stumped for a good 6 minutes until Kate finally solved it! T’was a relief when we all finally heard the answer. With riddles and songs (The Climb by Miley Cyrus was belted while hiking up our last hill) to keep our minds busy, we arrived at the rifugio in no time! Or should we say “our” rifugio—we had the entire place to ourselves! We couldn’t get over just how cute the small, family owned mountain hut was the entire time we were there. Once we got the lay of the land, we showered and gathered downstairs for a Leave No Trace (LNT) lesson. Mary and I taught the students the 7 principles and then they performed each principle charades style for each other as a review. For example, AP walked across my back (a trail) to demonstrate principle number 2 which states that you should always travel and camp on durable surfaces. Major shoutout to Grace for her participation and ability to remember each and every principle! We then played a quick celebrity guessing game before dinner. After a few rounds of questioning, Sarah successfully guessed Jack Sparrow as the celebrity written on her forehead and Kate successfully guessed Piglet! Dinner and Moonup followed shortly after where we talked about the one thing we couldn’t live without.


When we woke up the next day, everyone was stoked to find out we were going on a day hike with only our day packs! Though the weight from our big packs was gone, there was still a challenge ahead as the girls trekked to the summit of a nearby mountain! On the way, Izzy captured the perfect picture of a marmot (ask to see it!). At the top, camera shutters clicked left and right as we were yet again surrounded by a 360-degree view. This time, the view included Austrian mountains! T’was pretty crazy to think about how far we could see as well as how far we’d come. After our camera rolls were full, we headed back down the mountain to enjoy lunch and relax by an incredibly beautiful mountain lake. While the girls sat by the lake chatting and enjoying the view, Mary ran up from behind them and jumped in the lake! The water was nothing short of freezing and everyone’s jaw dropped simultaneously. Chattering from the cold, Mary then led the group back to the rifugio for an afternoon of rest before our NOLS leadership grid lesson. The leadership grid allows students to identify what kind of leader they are and how they can successfully incorporate and temper their leadership style while in a group setting. Katherine, Lizy, Izzy, and MacLeod were our Architect Analysts; Kate, Emily, and Lia were our Drivers; AP, Lindsey, and Cate were our Relationship Masters; and Sarah and Grace were our Spontaneous Motivators. It was so neat to see the group evenly split between the four groups and realize we all have value and are needed to make our group dynamic successful. Our lesson worked up an appetite in the students so we quickly devoured dinner shortly after. During dinner, MacLeod found a guitar and graced us with some beautiful notes between courses. Moonup followed and the LODs posited the question, “What is your biggest fear?” Though answers fell all across the board, it was special to hear everyone open up and be vulnerable with one another. What started as 12 strangers was quickly becoming a family.


The next morning, we woke up excited to complete our last big day of trekking! The trail consisted of a lot of downhills and flat ground which kept everyone’s spirits high and conversations loud. We passed mountain lakes, countless varieties of wildflowers, rolling streams, cows, and horses! It was crazy to see seemingly wild horses roaming around the Dolomites. The animal sightings must have been a reward for Lindsey, Kate, and Katherine’s bravery during snack and lunch. The three ladies successfully ate an ENTIRE apple, core included, from the bottom up in order to avoid leaving a trace. Everyone was wildly impressed and despite their initial thoughts, at the end they reported that eating an entire apply, “didn’t taste that weird”. With several miles under our belt, we then hopped on a local bus which took us up the mountain to a cable car! AP overcame her fear of heights as we jumped on the cable car to reach our final destination—a rifugio on the summit of a mountain! We dropped our packs and immediately hiked to a summit cross to soak up the best views possible. But the best views came when we stepped out on the patio after dinner to see a beautiful sunset on our way to an incredibly meaningful Moonup led by Lia and Grace.


This morning, we woke up and experienced history! Marco and Michele joined us as our guides and historians as we made our way down the mountain through WWI tunnels. Once at the bottom, we stopped in a gift shop to purchase some swaggy Dolomites memorabilia. We had far too many laughs trying on different hats, t-shirts, and little trinkets. Our packed lunches then filled us up for our last trek! We made our way through lush forest up a mountain until we arrived at the famous Cinque Torri! Cinque Torri is a famous rock climbing area in the Dolomites and it is STUNNING! We are thrilled to jump on the rock tomorrow and see what all we can accomplish.


Be on the lookout for another update from us in a few short days! In the meantime, soak up these sweet shoutouts from your students!






Mom and Ned, having the best time! Can I go to Jax on aug 3? Talk to Mrs. Wachholz Thanks, bye. I’m having fun and I love y’all!



Hi it’s Grace! Having a really really good time and don’t want to come home. Love and miss y’all and Katherine and tell Eddi everyone here is dying to meet her. Also I want Zaxbys when I get home bye!



Hi mom dad and ben!! Miss y’all so much but Dolomites is so sick and fun!! Trying so many new things but eating pasta every meal!! Give the animals some love from me!! Can’t wait to be back in Jax and have actual American food! Specifically Mexican tho!! Love y’all!



Hello everyone!! It’s really pretty here and I’m having lots of fun! My feet are sore but it’s all good 🙂 Ev I hope you are enjoying sorta being an only child at moms. Can’t wait to see y’all in Venice!! Please go to Taco Lu for me because I’m missing Mexican food. Tell the boys i miss them so much but I’m having a blast. Love y’all!! Also give Harry a hug for me!!



Hi guys! I’m having fun here in Italy and I miss you guys so much! The mountains are very challenging, but it’s very rewarding in the end. The food is so good and I am loving all of these carbs that they serve here. I can’t wait to see all of you at home! Love you all see you soon x



Hey!! I’m having so much fun in Italy! Everything here is so beautiful and the views throughout the hikes are amazing! Our treks each day are challenging but the views are worth it. Can’t wait to see everyone at home and tell you all about our journeys through Italy! Love you all and see you soon!!



Hey family! I’m having a great time in the Dolomites and miss y’all a lot. We have been trekking for the past couple of days and it might be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but I’m having so much fun and love all the people on the trip. I miss home a lot and can’t wait to see y’all but especially Kim! Hug Kimmy for me!


Friends! I miss all of you so much and I hope you are having so much fun. I’m so excited to see y’all when I get home like next week I think…. hahaha miss y’all :)))



Hello family! I am having so much fun in Italy! Everything is so pretty and I can’t wait to show you all of my pictures! The food is really good which I am enjoying! The hikes can be challenging but I am having lots of fun! See you in a week and tell all the puppies I say hello!



Hello Family! I am having so much fun! It is so pretty! The food is really good! Trekking is very hard but I’ve gotten over it and the views are super good! I miss you all so much! Love you soo much!!


Lainey, Claire, Maggie, Chloe, Claire, Sarah, Lucy, Olivia: Miss you all so much and love you!!



Hey mom and dad! I am having such a great time in Italy! We are hiking and trekking so many miles and the mountains, cows, and wild horses are so beautiful. Each Rifugio we have stayed in has had amazing Italian pasta and bread. The girls on the trip and the leaders, Mary and Maddie, are so much fun. I miss you guys so much and I can’t wait to get back to see you and get a massage at Naturopathica. Love you!



Hey Janas fam!! I miss y’all so much. I’m having a lot of fun and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. Also, tell Erynn I said happy birthday!



Hey mom and dad! It’s BEAUTIFUL here. You’re missing out. Thank you so much for this trip!

P.S. there are NO blisters (yet), but I doubt they’re coming 😉

Love you!

Adventure Begins in the Dolomites!

July 15, 2019

Ciao, families and friends of the girl gang!!!

We are here!!!! And we are so excited to tell you about our first couple of days in Italia. This group is full of incredible young women and Maddie and I could not be more thrilled to spend two weeks with each of them.

So, how does every good all-girls trip start? With some bus ride karaoke. We boarded our bus to transfer from the Venice airport to Cortina, and sounds of Taylor Swift (and our other favorite female artists) filled the air. Sarah was the first to sing along with Maddie and me to the Wicked soundtrack, and our snacks of Oreos and vivance chips only further fueled the flame of karaoke. After a few rousing renditions of “Let it Go” from Frozen, we transitioned to what we like to call “Speed Friendshipping.” The girls all took turns to come up to the front of the bus to introduce themselves with a series of get-to-know-you questions. We simultaneously responded “awww!!” when we heard that Katherine’s perfect combination of two animals would be a puppy and a penguin. (How cute would that animal be!) We also learned about each other’s hometowns, the sports they play, and what movies they watched on that 9–hour flight.

After resting a bit on the bus, we arrived in Cortina and hit the town for some lunch and, of course, gelato! Our first introduction to the Italian pasta life was followed by three-flavors-in-one gelato which Izzy couldn’t get enough of. All of us a bit comatose from jet lag and a hearty meal, we decided to talk a walk around the lovely town of Cortina. We came upon a small park where we played “Two Truths and a Lie” and Lindsey stumped us all with her fact about the age difference between her and her brother. We also played the game “Look Up, Look Down” and Cate and Lizy had an epic “veggie off” — Lizy won and was crowned our ultimate winner. We wrapped up our afternoon with showers back at the hotel and made our way to a yummy pizza dinner. After dinner we had our first Moonup together and Emily and AP were chosen as our first LODs for our first activity day.

We all went to bed happy to be in Italy and happy to be together! And we woke up feeling excited for our first activity — a Via Ferrata alongside a breathtaking waterfall. McLeod blew us all away right as we hit the trail with her speedy hiking pace and we were all trying to keep up with her from the start. She’s an impressive speed demon! But regardless of pace, we all enjoyed the chance to get to know one another better while being in the great outdoors. Lia told me all about her travels to Spain, Grace showed the whole group how to “woah” when we stopped for lunch, and Cate helped celebrate our guide’s 40th birthday by leading us in the “Happy Birthday” song. Everyone reveled in our first taste of the Dolomites’ beauty and we’re looking forward to all that is to come during our trekking section!

We ended our day today and our Cortina stay with a fantastic Moonup where our LODs chose a quote about being the authentic version of yourself. We’re so excited for the next two weeks because Maddie and I genuinely believe that’s what comes with each Moondance trip — the opportunity to unashamedly be YOU! Especially when there are no boys around!!

We’re so looking forward to it and can’t wait to update you along the way ♥️

Mary, Maddie, and the whole DOL 3 girl gang

Safe Arrival in Dolomites!

July 14, 2019

All students have arrived in Italy and this Dolomites trip is on its way.

More updates to come!

-Moondance HQ


  • Anna Parker
  • Cate
  • Emily
  • Grace
  • Izzy
  • Katherine
  • Katherine
  • Lia
  • Lindsey
  • Lizy
  • Sarah
  • Sally