July 10, 2019
Checking in for the final time from Iceland!
The past few days have been a whirlwind, and I cannot believe that the last two weeks have already come to a close. To say that we are sad to see this group go is a huge understatement. Everyone lived up our last few moments together to the fullest as we came together as a group.
As we made our way to our final activity, sea kayaking, the skies cleared to a beautiful blue. We all suited up into our gear and packed our kayaks with everything that we would need for our time on our overnight adventure. All the kids were so excited to hit the water, and MJ was quickly able to show off her paddling skills.
We loaded up and made our way across the calm, blue sea towards our island campsite. Willie was eager to learn how to sea kayak and quickly started to lead the pack. We made a pit stop at an old shipwreck where everyone was able to board the boat and explore its interior. Elle took her traditional solo picture in front of the beautiful view. Before long, we were back on the water where Julia and the rest of the crew spotted the elusive puffin. Our day of seeing marine wildlife was far from over, as we soon saw a couple of seals that curiously examined our boats, which Kendall was thrilled about! Before long we also saw an endangered eagle on his nest, and Carlton looked and pointed in amazement.
After an awesome time on the water, we landed at our home for the night, an uninhabited island that we would have all to ourselves. We all set our tents for the last time, which Elle noted was very bittersweet. For the rest of the afternoon, we hung out listening to music and playing games with each other. As usual, Luke and Andrew showed off their abilities in hacky sack and jackpot, and Meredyth, Kendall, and Camp were always in the final few rounds. During all of the games, Fin, Wilson, and Carlton enjoyed watching all the activity from the sidelines and relaxing in the grass.Soon, we ate a delicious dinner of pasta with meat sauce, which was one of everyone’s favorite meals! After dinner and dessert, Luke, Camp, and Andrew all took turns narrating rounds of mafia, and we all enjoyed one of the last few nights of being in each other’s company.Before bed, we all climbed up to the top of a hill where we were able to see the ocean and surrounding islands, and Erica and Camp led us in a meaningful Moonup.
The next morning, we woke up, had breakfast, repacked our kayaks, and headed back to shore, ready to live it up on our last day all together. Once we hit land again, we headed to a local bakery where the kids ate cinnamon rolls the size of their heads and chowed down sandwiches. Then loaded up the bus en route to Reykjavík!
The crew showered and then was excited to hit the town. The first stop on our list was the famed hot dog stand where Finn got another one of the best hot dogs he’s ever had. Next, the girls picked out their new favorite sweatshirts and everyone bought souvenirs for their families. Soon, it was time for our banquet dinner! Most of the table got burgers, while Wilson branched out by ordering breakfast, and Meredyth and Julia tried out the fish and chips. Although we were very full, we decided to go for ice cream to celebrate MJ’s birthday just a few days early!
Now that we were completely full we headed back to the hostel, where the group packed quickly before heading to a neighboring park where we played pickup soccer with some local Icelanders. Luke showed off as goalie, and all the kids showed off their athletic skills. Erica was very proud every time she made contact with the ball, and Kendall worked on her “intimidation factor.”After a long and fulfilling day, Julia and Andrew led us in our last Moonup, where we reflected on everything that we would take away from our time in Iceland. All of the kids talked about how happy they were to spend time away from their phones and truly live in the moment.
Thank you so much for sharing your kids with Tillman and I for these past two weeks. They are all incredibly mature for their age and easily adjusted to the life of living simply. I am so proud of how much they have grown over these past two weeks and am so sad to see all of them go. We will miss each of them so much and cannot wait to hear about their bright futures!
Brantley and Tillman
July 8, 2019
We’re back! Since our last update, we have had the best time rafting and sightseeing our way through Iceland.
After a much need night of rest and BEDS in the hostel, we loaded up the super Jeep once more for our day on the White River to raft! Willie, Kendall and Finn didn’t seem too nervous at all despite this being their first time whitewater rafting. The kids quickly got their gear on and into their boats eager to hit the water. The boys named our boat “The Rednecks” after Luke’s newfound nickname while the girl’s named their boat “Seven”.
Getting soaked in the first few rapids was a blast, and Kendall was the first one to fall in while trying to push MJ out! The boys seemed to constantly be in the water as well because Wilson wouldn’t stop “jumping” in. The group all seemed to be excited to do some cliff jumping and Meredyth, Carlton and Andrew all went for a second jump! With most of the big rapids over, Julia took advantage of the calmer waters by soaking in the cool glacial river as she floated behind the raft. When our float was finished, the group threw off their wet suits and jumped into warm showers and a sauna! To top it all off, we enjoyed some hot coco with our lunch! With some tired arms, we headed to Kerlingafjoll for the night.
The group woke up well rested and ready to hit the trail yet again for a day hike. Our LODs, Elle and Luke, started the day off right with a motivational quote about adventure. Finn and Camp took the lead as usual with Meredyth and Elle following shortly behind. The group motored up the mountain for spectacular views of snow-covered mountains and a glacier!
After our ascent, we arrived at our final destination…natural hot springs and geysers! Erica was very intrigued by the natural landscape and how the area came to form. With a short pit stop for lunch the group was up and moving, wanting to explore the area.
We unexpectedly found a snowpack that looked promising for sliding down! Andrew was the first one up, with Willie, Wilson and Finn not too far behind. Camp showed off his skiing abilities as he slid all the way down the pack on his feet multiple times! MJ and Meredyth decided to join and slide down the soft snow for a graceful landing. The group’s energy was at a high, and everyone was stoked to make several attempts down the slick snow amongst the beautiful landscape.
Upon returning to the campsite, we rested our feet by enjoying our local natural hot spring near camp! Camp and Finn raced, along with the rest of the group for a quick soak before dinner. We had hotdogs for dinner, a great way to end the day!! Before Moonup, Erica taught some card games to the group, and Hilmar, our guide, decide to join as well!
After waking up and getting our super jeep all loaded, we headed off for a trip around the Golden Circle and walked around Thingvilir National Park. The group was very interested in listening to the history of Iceland and how it was founded. Even though we had a day full of tourism, we decided to stretch our legs by exploring the waterfall Glymur. Finn dominated the steep hike up, but Wilson, Willie and Carlton were the last down as they soaked in the beautiful view for the longest.
It was a quick 10 minute drive to our campsite for the night. The group quickly unloaded and scurried to set up their tents…there was another hot spring to hit! We soaked before dinner and enjoyed the relaxing warm water overlooking the fjord surrounding us.
Currently we are headed to our last activity, sea kayaking, and are excited for our final days on the island! We are positive that it will be just as exciting as the first days.
Brantley and Tillman
July 5, 2019
Greetings from Iceland!! We’re checking in after finishing our five days of trekking— we saw some incredibly beautiful sights and became closer as a group.
We woke up early on the first morning of our trek and loaded up the van to head towards the Trail of Strutur. Along the way, we stopped at several iconic waterfalls, one that we could even walk all the way behind. Kendall was able to perfect her selfies on a real camera, and she started a compilation of photos that continued throughout our trek. We also ate lunch near a black sand beach, and all the kids took advantage of the opportunity to run over to the water to see the beach and the jagged coastline up close. During the drive, Meredyth and Mary Jane French braided all of the girls’ hair in preparation for the days to come.
When we arrived at our trailhead, all the kids were ready to go. We loaded up our backpacks, and Camp and Finn quickly took the lead. Along the way, we admired the electric green colored moss that surrounded us and the clear blue river that ran alongside us. After a relatively short day to warm up our legs for the days to come, we arrived at our first campsite. All the kids had their first go at setting up tents alongside a creek. Luke and Carlton even chose to set theirs up on a tiny island surrounded by the water, and Kendall spent her first night ever in a tent!! After an awesome day, the boys helped everyone out by being on cook crew to make salmon pasta. Finn and Wilson mastered their fish cutting abilities by dicing up the salmon with precision, and Camp schooled us all by being able to perfectly cut a bell pepper. After enjoying a delicious dinner, Andrew and Kendall, our Leaders of the Day, led us all in Moonup as we sat up on a hill that overlooked the beautiful highlands surrounding us.
The next morning, we woke up ready to hit the trail. We had 15 miles to cover and were very excited about all the hiking that we would be doing. After a misty morning, the skies cleared up to be bright blue. We all were taken aback by the mountains, waterfalls, and snow patches that surrounded us. Carlton consistently took the lead and had no problem making his own trail when needed. Towards the end of the day, we came upon a naturally occurring hot spring. Everyone changed into their bathing suits and hopped in the warm water ready to soak. After a refreshing break, the group got back on the trail again and covered the last few kilometers to our camp for the night.
The crew arrived back at camp feeling tired, hungry, and accomplished from our big day of hiking. Thankfully, Elle got to work on dinner, cutting all the vegetables we needed for our meat stew. As we were finishing up dinner, Julia noticed that a rainbow had formed over the valley in front of our campsite— a perfect ending to a long day.
After a good night’s rest, we woke up for a shorter, but still challenging day on the trail. We made our way out of the green valleys into the black volcanic sand deserts and trekked closer to a massive glacier. We ate lunch looking out over the glacier, and the whole group laughed as we realized that Willie had consistently been making nutella sandwiches for every breakfast and lunch. After eating our sandwiches and having a snack of cookies and chocolate, we started crossing over a series of small rivers that spread out through a large valley. We started off by trying to jump the streams, and most of us followed Camp’s lead as he launched himself over the water. Once we reached larger sections of water, some of the group, like Erica, Willie, and Wilson chose to push on through the rivers in their hiking boots, while others like Julia decided it was best to keep our feet dry by changing into our water shoes. After successfully crossing all the streams, we climbed all the way up into the mountains to a lookout over the entirety of the trail that we had covered and all that was to come.
That night, we cooked some amazing spaghetti, and although the whole group ate until we were stuffed, Luke finished up everything that was left with at least four servings of spaghetti and ate least another three bowls of our cheesecake desert. We were all incredibly impressed to say the least. After dinner, our Leaders of the Day, Camp and Erica led us in Moonup before we went to bed.
The next morning, we woke up for another full day on the trail. After a river crossing early on that woke us all up, we had a relatively flat hike through the desert. Mary Jane and Julia kept the conversation going with the group as we pushed on towards our next camp.
After a successful day of hiking, the group arrived at camp early enough to hang out before dinner. We used this time to start refining our hacky sack skills. Luke and Andrew quickly proved to be pros at the game, and Julia was able a natural as well, showing off her soccer skills. At the same time, Elle and Meredyth used this time to excavate the volcanic rocks that surrounded our tent— digging each of them out with care. Following an incredible dinner of salmon and potatoes, we made our way over to a nearby gorge for Moonup. The views were unparalleled and created an awesome setting for our Leaders of the Day, Mary Jane and Luke to get everyone to reflect on our day. On our way back to camp, we saw our first Icelandic sunset!
On our last morning of our trek, we woke up ready to finish out the last bit of our trek. Erica kept pointing out how much the landscape had changed as we finally reached a part of Iceland where there were trees! The whole group moved quickly down the trail and were surprised back at camp by lots of cookies and chocolate! As we relaxed among the trees, our guide, Hilmar, cooked us all burgers. After eating until we were full, Wilson and Elle led us in Moonup before we all returned to our tents to sleep.
Our final morning on the trail, we woke up late to the smell of chocolate chip pancakes. We devoured these before hopping in the van and leaving the trail behind. We stopped at two incredible waterfalls, one where we could walk up all the way under the spray and another where Andrew found the best views by scaling the rocks beside the falls. We rewarded ourselves for our hard work with hot dogs, which Finn said were the best that he’d ever had, and ice cream. After a relatively chill day, we arrived at our hut for the night, where we were able to take a hot shower and sleep in a real bed!
We’re all sad to be leaving behind the views that we have woken up to every morning but are excited to give our backs and feet a break. Right now, we are headed on to our day of rafting!
Below are some shout outs to our families back at home!
MJ- Hi family! Thank you so much for sending me to Iceland! I am having so much fun! Tell Worth I said Happy Birthday! Love you!
Julia- Hi mom and dad, I’m having such a fun time here in Iceland. Thank you so much! Love you and miss you
Finn- Hey mom and dad! So far Iceland has been the most amazing experience in my life. Thank you guys so much for sending me, and I really appreciate the opportunity to make such amazing memories and friends. Love you!
Andrew- Hey mom and dad, I am having so much fun. Iceland is awesome. We just finished our five days of backpacking, and we are about to raft and kayak. Sincerely, Andrew
Kendall- Hi mama, dad, Lauren, and Lucy, I am having a blast!!! It’s so beautiful here! Love and miss you all so much. Everyone here is great, and I have made so many new friends! See you and Oscar soon!
Carlton- Hey mom and dad, thank you so much for sending me on this trip. I am having so much fun, and we just finished the trekking portion of the trip.
Elle- Hi mom and dad! I am having such a great time in Iceland, and I have made such great friends. I can’t wait to see y’all soon!
Luke- Hey mom and dad, Iceland is pretty cool. We just finished the hiking portion of the trip. Anyways, I have come by the name of Redneck Luke. Not exactly sure how I got it, but I guess it’s pretty cool. Tell everyone I love and miss them, and I’ll see you in a week.
Camp- Hey family! Iceland is incredible, and we are currently in a hostel having a great time. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime.
Erica- hi mom and dad (and gunnar 🙂 ) I am having SO much fun I’m Iceland!! thanks for sending me. I’m having a blast. Love you!
Meredyth- Hey! I’m loving my time in Iceland so far! Thanks so much for sending me. I’ve made lots of new friends and seen so many great sights. Love y’all lots!
Willie- Hello mom and dad, I am having a great time in Iceland. Thank you for sending me here. It has been great.
Wilson- Hi mom and dad! I am having a great time in Iceland. Thank you for sending me on this trip. We just finished a five day backpacking trip all across the land. See you soon.
We will check back in soon!
Brantley and Tillman
June 28, 2019
Velkomin til Íslands! The group landed in Keflavik all safe and sound and were met by our guide, Hilmar, with a hardy breakfast of fruit and yogurt. Mary Jane and Kendall were the first to scarf down bananas and Camp the only one to touch the yogurt! With the weather shaping up and the kids all fed, we were eager to jump right into the day. What better way to get the day started then delving deep into a lava formed cave!
As we descended into the darkness, Erica lead the group followed by Willie and Wilson. Our guide told the group of elves and trolls but Andrew wasn’t afraid to keep on exploring the cool and rocky cave. The group completed the short underground loop and popped back up into the misty lava fields ready to jump right into the warm waters at the Blue Lagoon!
Fin, Andrew, Luke, Carlton and Tillman were the first ones into the water while Julia and Meredyth and Brantley were the first ones to rush over to the silica mud mask station. We soaked for an hour and a half and all got slushees of smoothies along the way. Julia especially loved her smoothie!
After the soak we stopped for lunch on our way back to Reykjavik. The group ate turkey and ham sandwiches and took in the views of Reykjavik in the distance. We checked into the hostel and Luke was the first to jump in bed for a quick nap! Willie followed right along. Following a brief power nap, the kids munched on some pizza while relaxing on the lawn outside. The boys went to take a quick shower before bed while the girls ran around the play ground across the street. We had a blast on the play ground with Elle taking full advantage of the zip line!
We closed the day with our first Moon Up and all got to bed early. Andrew and Kendall will be our leaders of the day as we head into the highlands and start our 5 days of trekking! We can’t wait to let you guys know how it goes!
Brantley and Tillman
June 28, 2019
Hello Iceland Families!
We heard from our Leaders that the group has arrived safely in Iceland. They were headed out for their first activity this morning, and the trip is off to a great start.
We can’t wait to hear more from their adventures. Stay tuned!