Trip Updates

Northern Lights 2 • July 6-July 26, 2019

Kayaking!

July 25, 2019

Day one of sea kayaking was an absolute blast and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. We were lucky with two full days of sunshine in the most northern temperate rain forest in the world. We started the morning prepping with our guide Kevin. After a safety debrief and packing everything into the kayaks, we watched the ferry arrive and then we hit the water. Leaving Whittier behind us, we looked forward to 4 days on the water. Our first nature sighting was right around the corner where we saw a sea lion bathing in the sun on a dock in the middle of an inlet. Immediately after, we paddled over to a shipwreck which was a cool copper color from rust. We all paddled around in a circle to get a good look at both the sea lion and shipwreck. Next, we saw harbor seals and bald eagles on our way to the most enchanted campsite we may ever stay at in our lives. Board walks led through mossy, dense trees to tent platforms with ocean views. Everything was so luscious and green. Before dinner Nick and Sydney went for a swim in the cold salt water and Allie joined. Margaret and Janie whipped up Mac n cheese and baked beans with a side of veggies for dinner. While the group ate looking over the inlet that our campsite was tucked in to, Nick was amazed to look at his swim spot and see the tide 6 feet below. The group pondered the 11 foot tide change before Moonup. We fell asleep to the sounds of the ocean, and the salty smells of ocean air while tucked away into the forest.

The next day we woke up to a beautiful blue sky and rays of sunshine on our tents. Hash browns, sausage, eggs and avocado were on the breakfast plate for us and we finished it all without a thought. Once on the water, we quickly prepared for a channel crossing which would require us to stick as a group and consistently paddle until we were on the other shore line. After a successful crossing, Reece launched into a story about Cheerio boy which kept our minds busy as we paddled. On our way to lunch, the group laughed as Preston and Nick were pranked into not paddling with a rutter for the majority of the morning. At our lunch spot, we were fortunate enough to be next to a river where we could see salmon a run! Katie, Hannah, Margaret, Preston, Nick, and Janie all stood in the river to try their hand at catching a fish with their bare hands! No success in catching but it was so much fun and a few of them touched the fish as they swam by. After lunch we dove right into a silent paddle which we all enjoyed but admittedly also put us to sleep. The stillness of the water and sounds of our paddling were a recipe for sleepiness. Just after the silent paddle, Robert and Susan found a waterfall to kayak up next to and get a little freshwater spray. Robert also kept us busy with riddles as we paddled to our campsite. Once at the site, the group was hungry and Charlotte and Luke were quick to get dinner started. We dined on Buddha bowls at the beach where we could see large chunks of ice from the glacier floating across the bay. As the night sky fell over us, the clouds turned pink and looked like cotton candy. We headed for bed with the need for rest for our next big day of adventure.

Day three was our last full day of kayaking and last full day of adventure together. We started with a paddle along the shoreline to a spot where we hiked up to the glacier. The glacier formed a bridge over the glacial river below and we collected fresh glacier water in our water bottles. After many pictures, we headed back down to the kayaks for lunch and a moment of relaxation. After lunch we headed to the majestic blackstone glacier. It took us a bit of paddling to get there but the effort was beyond worth it. Upon arrival we paddled up to a 50 foot waterfall. Right next to the waterfall was a cliff full of kittewake birds that soared out from the cliff, over our heads, and back to the cliff as a means of defense. We couldn’t help but get close!. After the cliff we continued on to get a closer look at the glacier and on our way we spotted a sea otter floating by! As we approached the glacier, we saw a chunk of the glacier fall into the water which exploded with thunder as it hit the water. After spending at least an hour in the inlet of the glacier, we paddled back to the campsite. We finished the day with chicken pesto pasta prepared by Katie and Hannah. We were highly impressed by their garlic bread that was hot and ready for us to feast on!

We woke up with the sun and got ready to kayak so quickly that our guide, Kevin was very impressed. Because we got ready so quickly, we bought ourselves plenty of time to paddle to our destination. This time was filled with a dance routine by Allie, Robert and Susan, a hunt for cinnamon rolls by Charlotte and Anna which we found in Janie and Hannah’s kayak. Once they successfully pirated the cinnamon rolls, Nick and Preston made a feeble attempt to steal the cinnamon rolls with no success. Once at our final destination we unloaded all of the kayaks and spent an hour on the beach, mainly napping. We were picked up by Lazy Otter Charters which whisked us away back to Whittier. Before leaving this magical place, we gathered for some Chinese food, which was surprisingly delicious! The bus picked us up shortly after and took us to where we sit now. We are currently watching students as they compete in iron chef. One group is worked on hot Cheeto chicken and the other caramelized some sweet potatoes, yum!

 

Talk soon,

Allie, Reece and Anna


Shoutouts!

July 21, 2019

Here are some shoutouts from your kids!

Robert:I’m having an amazing adventure up here and seeing some mind blowing sights, but I’m definitely going to need a new pair of Adidas joggers.

Margaret: I’m having a lot of fun and Alaska is so beautiful! I Miss everyone back home. I’ll see you soon

Katie: Big Mountains – Maximum Effort. 😉 Love and miss y’all.

Susan: Hi Mom and Dad!! I am having so much fun in Alaska and have met the BEST people. I haven’t showered in 15 days 🙂 Thank you for sending me on this trip and I will see you soon. Hi Victoria.

Sydney:What an adventure it has been so far. I miss you both so much and be sure to give Ollie a hug. I love you guys 🙂

Charlotte: hi mom dad Mac and bill love and miss you having lots of fun can’t wait to see you!

Hannah:Hi mom and dad, I’m still alive! Alaska is so beautiful I wish you guys could experience it with me. <3

Preston: Hey family, I’m having all types of fun in Alaska! It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I wish you were here! I love you and I’ll see you soon!

Luke:I’m having fun, the mountains here are beautiful. My favorite part so far was the glacier climbing. See you all soon

Janie: Toilet paper has become a new luxury item, but I wouldn’t trade it for backpacking in the Alaskan tundra any day! Squeeze Wrigs and Grif for me. Love y’all and miss y’all!

Nick: I’m chillin  right now having fun we made a lil family with the people that I met. Ok bye tell Zeus that I love him 🏽🏽


Back Country Beauty!

July 20, 2019

Day 1: Annnnddd we’re off!

We started our backpacking adventure with a late start after a long morning of packing everything we would need to survive for 10 days in the Alaskan Wilderness. We were driven by the owner of Nova in a old white rafting bus to the trail head just a short 5 minute drive from the NOVA base. The trail started right in the woods where we dodged small puddles of water along a wide ATV trail. The woods slowly turned into bushes and bright green grass as we made our ascent toward the Talkeetna mountain range. After climbing 1500ft in just a few miles we were on top and the views were beautiful. Although cloudy, the clouds were low enough that we could see the mountain peaks above them. Beautiful purple flowers were in the foreground. With more puddle jumping ahead of us, only Anna and Susan got stuck in the mud. However, Nick and Charlotte stood no chance against the mud baths. At one-point Nick actually picked Charlotte up by the backpack and set her on her feet. The mud was relentless as we continued beyond the mud baths and found ourselves with a steep slope to descend, coated with mud. But the group was not afraid. We slipped and sliced down the hill and Luke even managed to mud skate at one point. What was once determination was now the kind of laughter you might hear at a playground. We finished the day with curry prepared by our star chefs Luke and Sydney for dinner and Oreos for dessert. We went to sleep tired and happy.

Day 2: Hunters’ Camp

We woke up the next morning to warm bowls of oatmeal and got ready to hike in record timing (and we mean it – we have never experienced a group that can get ready so quickly). We also hiked at a speedy quick pace which blew our minds. The group decided that lunch would be on the other side of the magnificent Hick’s lake. Clouds were still low in the valley, but we were still impressed by the peaks above them. The afternoon surprised us with a small rainstorm and our arrival to Caribou creek which we would be following for the next 3 days. With an early arrival to our campsite that was deemed the “castle” by Anna, we spent time chatting by the river, and washing our hair. After a tough day of hiking 8.5 miles, Charlotte and Hannah prepared a delicious burritos – an absolute crowd pleaser of a meal.

Day 3: Chilly Creeks and Cold War Jeeps

The group was relieved to know that day 3 was only 4 miles of hiking. Just 2 miles away from our start, we ate lunch at “The big scoop site” where we found old construction equipment including an excavator and bull dozer. Naturally, Reece, Robert, and Nick practiced their handstands while Margaret impressed us with an unreal dance move. Many pictures were taken with a beautiful back drop of the valley and caribou creek. After lunch the group learned about river crossings and executed with style as we crossed Chitna creek. The remaining mileage was a breeze as Hannah, Anna, and Katie impressed us with their freestyle rapping skills and Sydney asked everyone what their dream house looks like in great detail. We arrived to the campsite with time to take short nap and check out the old abandoned military Jeep at the site. Margaret and Janie whipped up Thanksgiving which included mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, chicken, and craisins and oh boy did we enjoy it as we sat next to the river.

Day 4: Rise to the Tundra

Day 4 was a wild time of a day as we first walked along the gravel bar Caribou creek in the expansive valley it lay. Only a few times did we have to bushwack through thick bushes and over a few trees. Although we acquired new scratches, we all came out alive and thriving. Before lunch we entered a beautiful canyon where we crossed caribou creek FOUR TIMES. The water was a beautiful aqua blue and the canyon walls were layered in white, orange, and grey rock. After lunch by the confluence of glass and Caribou creeks, we started our ascent up to the three alpine lakes we would camp at. Within the first 5 minutes of hiking, Reece launched into a story about his grocery store experience last week and our jaws dropped as the unbelievable story he was telling us, and we all believed was a trick! The remainder of the ascent was spent talking about our frustrations of believing Reece’s story. Once we made it to the lakes, we set our tents up just in time for a summer storm! We all remained hunkered down in our tents while the rain sounded ferocious on our tents. After the storm we were happy to receive sunny skies and a dinner of Jambalaya with cornbread prepared by Robert and Susan. After dinner and before hitting the hay, we used the NOLS leadership grid to learn and reflect on our leadership styles.

Day 5: Views of the Pass

On Day 5 the group gathered for a warm southern breakfast of cheese grits and sausage by the scenic alpine lake. Nick came out of his tent with his sandals and ear plugs in hand, set on jumping in before we started our day. However, no one else seemed too inclined to join him on this polar plunge. He ultimately decided to hold off and wait for a sunnier opportunity for swimming. After breakfast, Robert began to encourage the group to push a bit further than the hiking notes suggested for the day, in order to camp as close as possible to the mountain pass that we were to cross on Day 6. It didn’t take much convincing, as our group always seems to be pushing their standards to the next level. The students were especially speedy at packing up camp this morning and were all ready to hit the trail well before us leaders. We started out our hike listening to another crazy story from Reece. This time, the group realized it seemed a bit too far fetch to believe. About a mile into our hike we came across a dug-out area of dirt in the midst of the grassy hillside. Reece gathered the group around to point out that a grizzly bear had most likely dug out this area looking for small marmots to eat. The group was hesitant to believe him and couldn’t tell if he was speaking bologna again or not. Ultimately the group walked away undecided and Reece walked away having learned his lesson. After a few to many rolling hills we reached a nice lunch spot with views of “The Pass”. We chowed down on cheese and sausage tortillas soaking in the view of the mountain saddle and thinking about what it will be like to reach our high point tomorrow. We had hiked so far that morning that we were able to take an extra-long lunch break. We chose a campsite about half a mile from our lunch spot, tucked just below “The Pass”. After setting up camp everyone jumped into a little frisbee toss-a-roo. Charlotte inquired about the plans for the tub of Nutella we had brought along with us, and we told her it was for snacking purposes. Within seconds of hearing this, the girls darted for their spoons and went in on it. By dinner time, the Nutella tub was licked clean. For dinner, Luke and Hannah helped whip up some quesadillas with lots of beans and rice—beans and rice for days!! We all did our share in helping deplete the leftover pot of beans (especially Anna) and entered Moonup with expanded bellies. It was a cooler night up there in the tundra, reminding us of how high we had come. We bundled up for bed with full bellies and beanies on our head.

Day 6: Peaking

We started with the latest start of the trip yet, waking up at 10am and fresh hashbrowns were hot and ready! Although not quite the Waffle House standard, the hashbrowns proved to be a great fuel for the hike ahead. After a good pep talk and the best cinnamon roll hug we’ve ever seen, the group was ready to hike up to the top of the mountain pass that lay ahead. As we reached the top, Preston was quick to give everyone a high five and we all celebrated the achievement with pictures galore. After a heroic toss of the frisbee off of the pass to the valley below by Nick, we slowly made our way down to mountain, through the valley, and to the most beautiful, luscious green campsite. In the final 15 minutes of hiking before arrival to the campsite, the group broke apart and walked as individuals in a “monk walk”. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and it gave them an excellent opportunity to really soak in the beautiful scenery. With impeccable timing, we set up a tarp and tents before the rain hit us. After a few moments in our tents to close our eyes, we all huddled under the tarp for backcountry pad thai prepared by Sydney and Nick. We concluded the night with moon-up under the tarp.

Day 7: Screeful descent from tundra to riverbank

Day 7 was our biggest and longest day of the trip. It started with an early morning and oatmeal for breakfast to keep us fueled for the day. Before hitting the road we played a quick game of hey barn but even better we succeeded in creating the human chair! This would serve as a great reminder of our support for each other throughout the day where it would inevitably be needed. Our first move on the hike was the descend of a steep green slope of grass. Once we completed this steep descent, we found a beautiful patch of purple wild flowers next to a babbling brook. After filling up our water bottles, we headed up toward the scree fields. We crossed the slanted slopes of scree with a few laughs here and there as the rocks would sometimes surprise us with a little movement. After a few hours of walking on the rocks, we were more than relieved to see green grass on the other side. We stopped for our favorite PB & J lunch. On top of PB & J’s we had an outrageous snack trading event. Any stranger would have thought an auction was happening. Preston ended up trading his whole bag of granola bars for 8 packs of ramen and Anna offered to dig Nick’s next cat hole for his fruit snacks! Once we were full and satisfied with our trading we completed our final descent through the bushes, ending on the river banks of the Chickaloon. We enjoyed time by the river and gazed at the water colors. Right next to us the river was split in two by a stream the color of copper and a stream of perfectly clear aqua blue water. 2 miles later along the river shore we found our final campsite next to the landing strip where our raft guides would be landing the next day. After this long day, we earned a feast of ramen and whatever snacks we collected at the trading event. As we leaders, we couldn’t have have been more proud of the group and how they handled this day. The group was truly performing the whole day and we couldn’t have made it through perhaps the most physically demanding day most of the students have ever had without that,

Day 8: No more walkin’ for us

Day 8 was FULL of rest. Susan said she would sleep in to 3pm and came close waking up at 2:15 pm! We kept the leftover pancakes for her as well as Nick and Preston who woke up closer to 3pm. We spent much of the morning talking under the tarp and staying dry from the rain. Once clear skies were above us, we all ran out to the river bed for reading, sun bathing and clothes washing. Those brave enough (or maybe just dirty enough) took a splash in the ice cold water to cool off and clean off. Hannah, Charlotte, Preston, Allie and Nick were happy about their decision. Despite all of the fun being had, Anna was sure to let the group know a storm was brewin’. The clouds were dark over the mountain and headed our way. At the first drop of rain we packed up our sun bathing session and traded it for tent time and hot chocolate making under the tarp. Come dinner it was sunny again and we enjoyed grilled cheese and tomato soup under blue skies and even had brownies for dessert!

Day 9: Chickaloon Boatin’ and Bobbin’

We woke up early on the 9th morning of our backpacking section. After plenty of rest we were all very ready for what lay in store. We ate breakfast, packed up camped, and waited. It didn’t take long before we could hear a faint buzzing in the distance. Soon we could see the source of the noise. A plane! We watched with excitement from the trees as the plane touched down onto the landing strip. The plane came to a halt and out jumped a pilot and one of our rafting guides! We quickly unloaded dry bags, a deflated raft, and cooking gear and began to fire line it down to the river. Once we had all the gear, the plane took off and was gone almost as quickly as it had arrived. After three more planes landed and took off bearing more guides and gear, we were all set. We spent the next hour or so staging, prepping, and getting on our dry suits. Before we shoved off our guides set out a magnificent lunch spread for us consisting of sandwich meats, bread, fresh veggies, and chips! It was a much appreciated treat after a week of backpacking food. After everyone had gone through the sandwich line a couple times and had their fill we packed up and began our trip down the Chickaloon! What a refreshing change of pace it was to go from hauling heavy packs on foot to floating down a cool river with only a paddle in hand. As we floated down through the braids of the river we spotted a bald eagle soaring overhead keeping watch over the valley. We also saw a caribou coming down to the water’s edge for a drink! The rapids started to pick up towards the end of the day and we found ourselves enjoying a wild, splashy ride all the way to the top of a huge class 5 rapid named Hotel Rocks. Our guides made us enchiladas and brownies for dinner! We all slept very well knowing tomorrow we would emerge from the woods to finish our trek.

Day 10: Captain Kid

Our last day of rafting was just as fun as the first with more rapids and plenty of splashin’. Before hitting the river, we switched up the boat groups and announced them in tunnel formation. The two gear boats had Nick and Luke, and The Keller Siblings. The other two boats included Charlotte, Margaret, Katie, Anna, and Reece in one and Preston, Hannah, Janie, Susan, and Allie in the other. We hit two big rapids: 8 mile canyon and Captain kid. 8 mile canyon was a fun rapids where all the rafts had to squeeze between a cliff wall and a huge rock. Captain kid rapids included many rocks that had to be dodged and many of the rafts even spun around some of the rocks. The next stretch of river had some wild 90 degree turns in the river. At the very finale of the rafting, we made the switch from the Chickaloon River to the glacier fed Matanuska River. The difference was stark and so cool to see! After a full morning of rafting, the raft guides provided us with lunch and we spent the rest of the day doing absolutely nothing and we loved it! We did happen to take a quick walk to the post office to send some post cards home so you can look forward to that!We have made it back to society, currently dining at a scrumptious cafe with smoothies and baked goods galore. All the students designed our menu for the rest of the trip and gathered ingredients together at the grocery store. They are having an absolute ball together and are so stoked to see what this sea kayak adventure entails! Peace out home skillets!


Starting off with a bang - Ice Climbing!

July 10, 2019

Day 1: Airport Day

Greetings from Alaska!! We are so excited to have all of our students here. We started off our trip with some local pizza in the airport! After scarfing down some Uncle Joe’s pizza, the group dove in a lively card game. As the students began to get to know each other and settle in, we couldn’t help but huddle up as leaders to giggle in excitement we are about the group. We could tell it was going to be a good group right away! After only being able to learn about our kids via paperwork and phone calls, actually meeting them gave us a real sense of the excitement that lay in store for us. Once everyone had arrived, we headed from the airport to our first campground in order to get some much needed rest after a long day of travel.

Day 2: Travel Day

We woke up to a smorgasbord of bagels, cream cheese, yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, and wild Alaskan salmon. Nick tried smoked salmon for the very first time. He loved it! With full bellies and a packed-up camp, we hopped on the Magic Bus to drive to Nova in order to get ready for our first activity. The drive to Nova was absolutely stunning! As we drove from the seashore into the mountains we could feel the group’s excitement building! Once we got to Nova, we ate lunch and spent the afternoon learning about the wilderness of Alaska and playing games. Preston won a very exciting game of taps which sparked plenty of friendly competition among the group. After some games we walked down to the riverbank. Janie read to us about the Enneagram. She told us about its 9 different personality types and the strengths that each of us possess within those categories. Anna, Hannah, and Nick all laid down in the river to cool off. The whole group got a little wet shortly after when a rainstorm took us by surprise! Once the rain subsided, we cooked some delicious burgers and chatted under our tarp shelter. As the night wound down, we settled into our tents weary but anticipatory of getting on a glacier the next day!

Day 3: Matanuska here we come!

To kickstart our day, we ate a hearty meal of breakfast burritos. After cleaning up breakfast, we packed our lunches and extra layers and walked to the gear hut to meet our guides. They fitted us in some snazzy ice climbing boots, sturdy harness, and spikey crampons. Sydney couldn’t help but do a little jig to show off our new flashy gear that would help us take on the glacier. We hopped in the vans to take a quick ride up the road and across the glacial melt river to our trailhead at the terminal moraine of the Matanuska Glacier. Jaws hit the van floor with heavy thuds as the glacier emerged into view! What an awe-inspiring sight. It being all of our first times to see a glacier, all eyes were glued to the window. We got out in the parking lot and began to gear up to make our approach. Allie had to run back to the van with her bandana to mop up all the drool that had inevitably covered the floor and seats. Once the van was clean and everyone was geared up, we started our hike into the terminal moraine of the glacier. With huge piles of rocks and mud everywhere, it was not a stretch to believe we had suddenly found ourselves on the moon or maybe in a quarry or construction site. Our guides explained that the glacier (which is essentially a massive river of ice) had scraped and crushed all of these rocks from the surrounding mountains, carried them down the valley it was carving, and piled them all here where the ice ended. We reached the foot of the glacier and stopped to put our crampons on. These allowed us to walk on the ice with ease! It was a short walk to our first ice climbing spot where we congregated to get a safety talk as well as tips and pointers before we started to climb. Once we were all well informed the guides set up the routes for us. Charlotte and Margaret’s hands shot up to answer the question of who would go first! They crushed it! With the whole group cheering them up the ice, they made ice climbing look easy. We spent most of the rest of the day climbing but at the end we got to check out an ice cave that was beginning to form with a little creek of melted water flowing down into its seemingly endless bottom. Back at camp the group enjoyed some rest and relaxation down by the riverbank. After dinner we had Moonup where we shared plenty of fun stories and laughter. Katie laughed so hard for so long that she could speak for about 5 minutes! We went to bed with tired limbs and full hearts ready for the next day.

Day 4: The Bahamas

Our second day of ice climbing started with a long hike through the moraine and over the glacier to get to a stunning canyon of ice with a deep blue pool in the bottom of it. The guides call this spot the Bahamas because the water is so beautiful and clear. Our climbing was a bit different this time in that we had to repel down the big wall and then climb back up. This offered a unique “challenge by choice” that allowed the students to go down as much as they wanted to and then climb back up. Robert and Luke impressed everyone going all the way down to the bottom of multiple routes and then climbing back up with ease. After everyone had their fill of climbs we headed to explore another ice cave. This time however we could go all the way inside to the end of the cave. On our climb up into the mouth, Susan stopped to have a quick icey photo shoot. The stunning backdrop made for some excellent photos. The group had so much fun sliding around on the cave walls and posing for funny pictures. On the way back from the glacier we stopped for ice cream! It was a perfect treat to end a perfect day. We made enchiladas and sat around talking after dinner for close to an hour before Moonup! We got into our tents that night very fulfilled and ready for our first day of backpacking!

Our first activity was an absolute blast! We cannot wait to see what lays in store for us. Your kids have really hit the group running and are already all so close. We can tell that this trip will certainly be the trip of a lifetime! Tomorrow we head full steam into the woods. Stay tuned for our next update after backpacking and rafting!

 

Reece, Allie, and Anna


Ready to Roll in Anchorage!

July 7, 2019

Hello Northern Lights families!

 

The group has arrived safe and sound in Alaska, and are already getting a good night’s sleep at their campsite so that they can hit the ground running. Next up, ice climbing!

 

  • Moondance HQ

Students

  • Charlotte
  • Hannah
  • Janie
  • Katie
  • Luke
  • Margaret
  • Robert
  • Susan
  • Sydney
  • Preston
  • Nick

Staff