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Pacific Northwest 1 • June 12-July 2, 2019

Final Update!

July 2, 2019

Departing thoughts from the leaders:

On Day 1 new faces with massive duffels piled into our van. I took a deep breath in, looked to Steve and we were off. As a Moondance leader you never truly know what you’re getting yourself into. Will the group get along? Will this be a meaningful experience? Will it be fun? All these thoughts raced in my mind and halted as soon as our group came together. From day one we were laughing like long time friends and all those “what if’s” shifted into “when it happens”. We headed to the North Cascades, totally unaware of what was to come. Backpacking was challenging. We faced many switch backs, heavy packs, and put to use a lot of skills this group didn’t know they had. We held onto our PMA (positive mental attitude) when things got tough. Without it I think this trip could have gone a completely different route. This group became so insanely close after just 48 hours. We all found that going through something like backpacking together really served our bond. Trail conversations flowed so naturally, inside jokes became forming at a ridiculous speed, and laughing until we cried seem to become a daily reoccurring theme. We carried all we had on our backs and realized that luxury and things are not needed to have a great time. We realized that the harder the hike the better the views when we approached Hozomeen. Wake up, eat, swim, hike, sleep, repeat. We indulged in the simple life and became hooked on it. Backpacking came to an end and we were thankful to have conquered what majority of the group claimed to be the hardest thing they’d ever done.Little did we know how much backpacking would be missed and how special of a time it was. The amount of growth and life I saw in this group was incredible. Each and everyone of these students has already left an impact on myself. Holland’s bursting personality and ability to live to her fullest taught me how important it is to laugh always and often.

My new perspective on life after spending 21 days with her is that if I haven’t laughed until I’ve cried everyday it’s time to re-evaluate. I’m going to miss your facial expressions, hilarious reactions, and laughing uncontrollably together. Eli’s ability to come up with the most elaborate on spot jokes blew my mind. I wish more than anything that I could see life through his eyes. He is so bright for his age. I could always count on him to boost the mood with his wit. I’ll miss his inside jokes so very much. Mallory proved to be consistently selfless and a light on this trip. Her love for all and unconditional compassion for everyone was inspiring to see. Her authenticity was contagious. Mal taught me so much about how to treat others and she probably has no idea how much I feel impacted by her presence. James shone bright on this trip by displaying a heightened level of bravery. I’ll never forget seeing him come down the 200+ foot repel and the celebration we had when he made it to the ground. Throughout the trip I would joke about him being the backbone of this trip but man was it true. He was a good friend to everyone and really treated us like family. His warm heart was revealed and I’m so thankful for him. Lucy blew me away constantly. This girl is on it, she is so so smart I can’t even begin to comprehend. Lucy had her act together at all times and made sure the group was working as a well oiled machine. I really learned I could trust her when we went sea kayaking. Not only did her organizational skills and brilliant mind shine so bright, but her humor as well. Almost everything she said cracked me up. I could create a quote book about this girl. She’s truly the full package. Last but nowhere near least, Mr. Teddy Lansing. This guy impressed me day one with his knowledge and natural ability to lead a group. Teddy is a genius. Not only did he wow me with his outdoor experience, but with his ability to solve problems, and figure out what needs to get done. Teddy I’m not worried about you one bit. You’ve taught me so much about being intentional and self aware. Sled on my friend. I can’t wait till you’re a Moondance leader.

I could go on and on about this group. We had so much fun these last 21 days. Not a single day felt wasted. I remember leaving backpacking and wondering, how can anything top all the fun we’ve had so far? Well each day seemed to. There is no one else I’d rather spent these last 21 days with. Every single person was a crucial part to our well oiled machine. The amount of trust, respect, and love I feel for all 7 of these individuals is through the roof. Parents, thank you so much for trusting Steve and I to take care of your most valuable assets. Thank you for raising such spectacular children. If there is one emotion to feel it is proud. This trip was not easy. We didn’t have a bad day or a bad attitude. The obstacles this group overcame would be challenging at any age. I am incredibly humbled by the level this group operated at.As I write this at the airport I can’t help but to wish we had more time. Saying goodbye was so sad but I’m thankful to have something worth missing. From the outside looking in you may not be able to understand, from the inside looking out it’s just impossible to fully explain. So much fun, growth, jokes, views, etc happened on this trip that a update could never fully capture. This group has a special place in my heart, I am so honored to have the chance to guide these young adults on an adventure of a lifetime. Give everyone a big hug from me. I miss you guys already. Get some well deserved rest and take a long shower!!! Nugz to the best group of all time !!!

With love,

Molly and Steve

Climbing Masters of Monkey's Face!

July 1, 2019

Howdy folks!

We last left you in the beautiful Friday Harbor of the San Juan Islands. Since then we have traveled south from Washington to Oregon to embark on another set of adventures. As we roamed the open land of Oregon, it felt as if we were transported back decades to taste the Wild West’s grandeur during its golden era. The roadway seems to trail the steel rails where steam locomotion was once king, transporting early America’s building blocks. As we coasted through the quaint town of Terrebonne, Oregon you could still hear the faint whistle of the late iron giants pulling into the station.

Later that afternoon, we hiked into a well-known cliff jumping area called Steel Head Falls. The heights the students experienced were a little taste of what lay ahead!

The first day of climbing began with a couple easy pitches up cooled lava, distributed by the Three Sisters Mountains during their eruption. Eli handled the challenge with ease, pinching the crimp holds up the face of the rock. As we completed scaling the volcanic remains, we began training for the 200’ rappel. Holland was the first to lean over the edge. As she held herself against the rappel device, she swiftly began the descent to the bottom. Later that afternoon we cruised into Redmond, Oregon for some rest, relaxation and laundry. On the way back to camp we made a pit stop at a local thrift store for some groovy finds!

The following day was an early morning start, as we eased into a 3 mile hike around the horn of Smith Rock. Our first face was composed of pressed volcanic ash, which Teddy noted lent significantly more traction. Today’s challenge was the sheer size of the wall, and gave the students a good feel for what we’d be tackling the following day. Mallory’s birthday was celebrated with a giant bag of gummy worms- her favorite and many birthday wishes throughout the entire day!


Post rock climbing, we hit the road to a local destination, Bend, Oregon. We cruised the streets of the quaint town, marveling at the rally cars that lined the street- who knew there was a rally car race the next day! We enjoyed each other’s company over some hot pie at a local pizza dig, ‘Mondo Pizza’, and called it an evening!

As dawn peered over the peaks of Oregon, we powered though the switchbacks known as Misery Ridge, full steam ahead with our sights set on Monkey’s Face. Calling our name was a traverse over a 200’ foot drop, followed by a rock climb, to a point where we would rappel down 250’. Mind over matter was the name of the game as James powered through the traverse, masterfully scaled the climb, to a textbook rappel into the canyon- “I did it!!” He exclaimed! Lucy was next on the traverse, executing the moves with perfect focus, descending past the compressed volcanic ash down to safety. Following a hike back to the van we celebrated Holland’s birthday with surprise twinkies! Then hit the trail bound for our next destination- the Deschutes River.

As we sat around the dinner table, we reveled in our accomplishments, sharing tales of self-doubt and overcoming it with triumphant bravery.  Ravenous, we feasted on breakfast sandwiches piled high with sausage, eggs, and cheese. Fueled and ready for the day, we took to the rafts conquering the towering rapids. The middle part of the day we encountered calmer waters and enjoyed each other’s company exchanging stories about the trip.

25 miles on the river sure does fly by in good company, for we arrived at the camp site in no time! A swift fire line made quick work with all of our gear and we soon had camp set up. Dinner that evening was a fan favorite, tacos, chips, salsa and guacamole. We explored our campsite and the canyon hills behind it, even seeing a freight train across the river. We watched the sun set reflecting on the days past, and how fortunate we all are to be sharing an experience so incredible.

As the trip winds down, we repeatedly affirm how lucky we are to be in this beautiful place, able to share this experience with incredible people.


Until next time,

Molly and Steve and the entire, grateful PNW crew!

San Juan Island Hopping!

June 24, 2019

Ahoy from the San Juan islands!


Steve and I are so proud of this group of wacky warriors. This group of young adults are so beyond their years and Swe truly have become a traveling family. Hard to believe we’ve only known each other for just a few short days! We just completed our 3-day sea kayaking adventure through the glassy waters of Northern Washington. For the second time this trip we’ve made it to the Canadian border! Since we last updated you all so much has happened over here in PNW.


For starters we’ve reentered what we refer to now as the front country. Directly after finishing backpacking, we made a pit stop at the northern cascades organic ice cream shop! With a pretty even split between vanilla and chocolate lovers we each indulged on a luxury impossible to have in the backcountry; ice cream. While waiting in the store for our order Steve and I noticed the music in the background. We couldn’t believe our ears, the song Moondance by Van Morrison was playing, and we couldn’t help but crack up. Life here is so fun.


We loved the mountains, but the sea was calling our name. We all loaded up into Val, aka our van and headed to the next campground. After being removed from society for so long we felt mesmerized by the nearby town we entered. We stopped for some pizza and gathered all the snacks we craved while backpacking. Shortly after our arrival at the nights campsite we were exposed to yet another luxury we all missed so much … A SHOWER!!!


The first day of kayaking started bright and early. Our guides Tyler, Callie, and Allie needed us to meet them at 6am to beat a current in the waters. The intensity of this new activity really set in when we approached the shore of Friday Harbor. Our guides suited us up in what they call sea skirts and taught us how to operate the vessels. We were each placed in a tandem kayak. The first day it was Steve and I together, Mal and Eli, Holland and Teddy, and Lucy with James. The sky was clear, and the sun warmed us as the cool sea breeze surrounded our boats. As a group we cruised down the shoreline following our guides who informed us the history as we passed numerous islands and wildlife. Holland quickly became captivated by jelly fish. The guides told us they are called “Moon’s jellies” and perfectly okay to hold because they don’t have stingers! These Moondancers love the moon jellies. We spent lots of time later that night collecting washed up jellies and placing them back in the waters.


After some serious paddling and navigating we finally made it to the island for some lunch. This island was only present because of the low tide. We had the chance to explore around the perimeter and check out some fresh tide pools. Mal, Holland, Lucy and I decided to go looking for sea stars. Our guide Tyler told us the chance was highly unlikely but on our first attempt we found a giant purple sea star! Eli, James and Teddy had lots of luck finding crabs. The local wildlife captivated our group as we explored the shores of the island.  We feasted on a well-deserved lunch. Once finished with our meal the group was so exhausted from the early start that without even declaring it nap time the whole group fell into a deep sleep. I woke up to some mild snoring just in time to capture a picture! It was the ideal nap location. We sure did feel like a million bucks when we awoke to the cascading mountains in the back and various islands among us. We continued onward to the nights campsite excited to see what lay ahead.


This campsite did not disappoint! We set up our tents on top of a hill that overlooked the water. Due to our early start we had lots of time to get comfortable at our campsite and relax. The girls had time to work on their tans while the boys explored the island serving as our temporary home. This was much needed after our huge backpacking trek. We hit the hay early as the longest day of the year came to an end. We entered the summer solstice fully recharged and ready to hit the water again.


Day two of sea kayaking started nice and easy. The group was able to sleep in and slowly begin the day. Our guides greeted us with hot coco and breakfast burritos when we finally decided to get up. Breakfast was such a highlight; it was the first morning in a long time that we weren’t up early and needing to be somewhere. The group sat around the table for probably an hour just laughing and sharing stories. We hit the water and knew it was time to get serious. Our day started with a pretty big channel crossing. The waves were larger than the day before and we were ready to conquer! We switched up the boats today, I was with Lucy, Eli with Steve, Holland and Mal, and James with Teddy. We flew through the channel leaving Jones island in the shadows as we headed to our new destination. Today’s paddling felt a lot easier than the first day; we felt like we were finally getting the hang of it. Our guides led us to another island for lunch, this time one with an ice cream shop! We indulged yet again in one of our favorite treats, vanilla ice cream!! Such a satisfying feeling to eat some ice cream after a morning filled with paddling. Our group was given the choice to either head straight to the next campsite or take the long way to get more paddling in, we picked the long way! This group is always up for a challenge. Steve, Eli, Teddy, and James showed us how it’s done after lunch. Every time I looked up, they were racing full speed, gliding through the water so fast. Us girls enjoyed a more leisurely stroll in the back of the group and focused on the views. Lucy really wowed me with her strong steering skills. Tandem Kayaking requires lots of trust from the person in the front who supplies speed to the person in the back who steers.


After a long day of hard work, we finally arrived at our campsite. We saw some seals hanging out on rocks nearby and we knew it was a good sign. Our campsite was beautiful, trees covered the land and our site was directly on the water with access to the beach. Eli, James, and Teddy spent hours skipping rocks when we arrived. The girls went on a hunt for more sea stars and sea glass. To our surprise the guides treated us to our first campfire of the trip s’mores!


Day three our final day on the water came so quick! It was bittersweet when we started to pack up our campsite for good. Yet another early start for this group and before we knew it, we were on the water back in route to our van. To our surprise we were paddling right by some porpoises. This encounter helped energize the group to push through our final miles. Lucy, Holland, Mal, and I swear we saw some whales in the distance. The jury is still out on whether or not it was just waves in the distance…. but for now, we believe whales were spotted!!(it’s more fun that way). We stopped on one last island, Washington’s smallest state park for lunch. We were sad to finish up kayaking but ready to be back on land. We pulled up to the harbor and thanked our guides and headed on our way. Ice cream yet again was calling our name, so we headed to the streets of Friday Harbor to collect some souvenirs and snacks.


Now we reside at our beautiful campsite with free showers and a delicious meal being prepped as I type! Tonight’s agenda: get some sleep and head to OREGON tomorrow 🙂


Till next time!



Shoutouts :

Lucy : “hey mom dad and Lilian I’m having a great time but also taking plenty of naps it’s awesome I’m super refreshed. Steve and Molly are great leaders. I don’t know what other adjective to use for them but I love it here. Pick me up later from the airport rather than earlier please!! “


Holland: “mom dad and Harrison I’m having a blast and miss you! We eat our cereal with water here and it is tasty! (Just kidding)


Mallory: “happy late birthday Emma I miss you. I want a pet raccoon now. Don’t worry mom I’m using my peaches.”


Eli: “I’m having a good time I’ll see ya when I get back mom and dad. I reached max sled speed in record time. I love all these nerds. Ya bro Eli”


Teddy: ”I’ve already read 5 books and I’m having a good time! Steve has a unique taste of music I love it and Molly is extremely supportive.”


James: “hey mom and dad I’m having a great time. I don’t know what to say but I’m having an awesome time. My highlight so far is flying on the kayaks. I’ll explain later. That’s all I got for now see you soon”


Steve: “sahma and pa and larn and carn! How is young ham-diesel? Pnw is treating us well, think you’d love it here love Stevie”


Molly: “hi everyone!!!! I’ve fallen in love with PNW might not ever leave. I want to live on an island, but I miss all my friends and family so much. Also blocking out the fact that our trip is half done because I don’t want to live without these people. I’m having way too much fun!!! Thankz mooonnnnddaaannnceee :)”

Backpacking in the Beautiful Northern Cascades!

June 20, 2019

Greetings from the beautiful Northern Cascades!

What a whirlwind of an adventure since our first meeting at the airport. With the unit assembled in the van, we embarked on our journey North after a quick pit stop for friendship bracelet supplies! Holland and Mallory made each person in our team a cherished bracelet. Upon arrival to our first campsite, we got to know each other a bit through classic camp game, “Two Truths and a Lie”. Our newfound knowledge, Lucy is an avid LaCroix connoisseur!

Day two began bright and early with a stop at the ranger station to procure our backpacking permits. We spent the morning with the ranger learning the Leave No Trace principles and reviewing our route. After departing the ranger station, we encountered a treasured pastime- a steam locomotive. The whole crew enjoyed exploring the artifact, especially when James figured out how to ring the bell! That evening we reviewed backcountry etiquette and capped it off with a feast under the campsite pavilion. We indulged in bacon cheeseburgers, chips and salsa, then turned in early to bed for good rest before our excursion.

Lucy took the helm as part of our first Leader of the Day team. Jetting through the switchbacks, we used an old rotary telephone, strapped to hut, to hail a river taxi for a drop off at our backcountry trailhead. As we waited for its arrival we marveled at the views, playing cards and guessing each other’s siblings’ names. A disciplined approach, coupled with a positive mental attitude, fueled the team to a successful first day of backpacking.

Excited for the day that lay ahead, Eli led the charge with a head full of steam that Lewis and Clark would have commended. Mallory spotted a swimming spot the group enjoyed, before powering up the switchbacks of lightning creek. And the summit we enjoyed mega stuffed Oreos while gazing over Ross lake. We arrived at our campsite and began preparing dinner- Pad Thai was on the backcountry menu this evening. Paired with fatigued muscles, we slept like babies.

A natural leader, Teddy wasted no time getting folks on the trail, and motivated the group through an easy 3 miles. Following a BBQ lunch underneath towering Evergreens, we powered through a steep grade and roaring rivers. 8 miles of trail behind us, nestled in the Cascading Mountains of North Washington, we arrived at Hozomeen lake. Holland led the charge into the water, the rest of the group followed suit, and we all enjoyed soaking up the summer rays.

During our 24 hour stay at Hozomeen, the group embarked on a pack-less, 10 mile stroll to Canada. Upon crossing the border, Molly busted out the M & M’s for a trail treat no one could resist. We arrived back to our alpine lake oasis for a night filled with stories and laughter. As we sat in the midst of towering granite peaks, Steve’s soft harmonica melodies rang through the valley.

After cruising through 8 miles in record time, we pulled up at Deerlick campsite before our short hike to the boat ferry the following day. While we sat on the ferry back to the first trailhead, we could track snow flurries being deposited by a storm on distant mountaintops. Ruby remarked how all 40+ miles were worth it- indispensable views, laughs and experiences. The group eased through the last uphill mile and was greeted by a bounty of snacks cached away in the van. One well deserved shower later, we reflected on a job well done before turning in to fuel up for our next adventure – sea kayaking.

Until next time, folks!

Molly and Steve

Safe Arrival!

June 12, 2019

Hi Pacific Northwest Families!


All students have arrived in Seattle and the group is headed to their campsite for the night. We are so excited for their adventure to begin!


  • Moondance HQ


  • Eli
  • James
  • Holland
  • Lucy
  • Teddy
  • Mallory