July 26, 2019
We write with mixed emotions after watching our final students; Lea, Adair, and Mae board their plane leaving MC and me alone in the Pacific Northwest feeling like empty nesters. Since our last update we have road tripped our way back to Seattle, stopping last night in Olympia where we spent our final evening celebrating with a banquet dinner at a hip pizza joint. As Moondance tradition has it, we all bought celebratory outfits at the thrift store to wear to our final hoorah. Sarah and Helen went with the pajama theme, making for a funny and cozy dinner. Arthur wore a pink mouse onesie which was found by Helen. Mae, Lea, and Adair dressed up in matching Hawaiian shirts with ties. Asher and Jack found retro polos with long patterned pants that Jack then ripped into shorts. Thomas also found some diva pants and a tight gray hoodie as a top. Lastly, Anna combined all of the above to create a very happening outfit including a bright orange traffic suit. The pizza was delicious and the spirits were brighter than our clothing.
After banquet dinner we returned to our campsite and built one last campfire with s’mores for dessert. We then had our last Moonup lead by Thomas and Anna. They knocked it out of the park as we spent nearly three hours sharing our love and appreciation for one another. This morning we got up early and headed to the Seattle airport. The students are all in the air now and will soon be back with their parents with new perspectives and a plethora of funny, frightening, transformative, and loving stories to share with. Make sure you treat them well tonight because they deserved it. We are sooo proud of their accomplishments and growth. MC and I have learned so much from them and would like to thank all of the parents one more time for blessing us with such precious souls. We hope to stay in touch with all of them and want to let them know they can contact us anytime anywhere as we now share a lifelong bond with each and everyone of these amazing students.
With unconditional love,
Will and MC
July 25, 2019
Hello!!! We are extremely proud to say that we have successfully completed the boss stage of the trip; the infamous monkeys face!
It started with a beautiful cloudless morning in the unexpectedly gorgeous Smith Rock State Park. Our campsite was on the edge of an enormous gorge overlooking a meandering river with giant colorful rocky bluffs and soaring eagles. We met our guides near our campsite and had a surprise visitor from the Moondance office, the one and only Claire! Claire is a full time Moondance employee and chose to take her annual trip visit to join our group for climbing in Smith rock, this was an honor for our group and the students welcomed her into our family with open arms.
Our amazing climbing guides, Noel and Dean geared us up with climbing shoes, harnesses, and helmets and we hiked up to a large rock wall. Helen and Arthur lead the charge as LODs. Without hesitation our group jumped on the rock face and impressed us with their climbing skills. Everyone was very quick to learn the ropes (pun intended), as Noel and Dean taught us how to tie the figure eight follow thru knot, and how to belay. Asher, Thomas, and Jack were the first to “send it” up the route setting the stakes high. After each student got a chance to climb a few times we ate a pita pizza picnic and then hiked to another route which we then repelled off a 40 foot cliff to get to. We continued climbing and Dean pointed out a golden eagle nest the size of a VW van across the gorge. Huge shoutout to Lea, Arthur, Thomas, and Asher for impressing everyone by successfully making it up every route of the day.
Upon finishing climbing that day we travelled to an incredible waterfall where we cooled off with an epic cliff jump into a freezing cold river. We jumped, played, swam and made cool GoPro videos all afternoon before heading back to the campsite for dinner. Helen and Arthur lead our first Moonup with Claire where we all shared how we would spend our time if we only had one more year. Our group continues to develop as a family and impress us with their depth and insightful perspectives.
The next morning we headed out to a different section of the park to climb some new routes. This set of routes was both higher and more challenging than the previous day, and was designed to build off our skills learned from earlier. Again, our students crushed the routes and our confidence as leaders grew regarding Monkey’s face. After “sending it” up the “bomber” routes all morning we drove into the town of Bend where Claire treated us to “the worlds best burgers” at Bogeys. We explored town, bought some shirts, stickers, and then feasted on some delectable gourmet Gelato. Back at camp we had the students favorite meal of fried rice in order to carb up for our big day at the monkey. Asher and Claire lead what may have been our best Moonup yet asking us to share someone who inspires us both from the trip and in the outside world. So much inspiration and love was expressed and big shoutout to Adair for inspiring Claire and the rest of the group with her wonderful presence that leads by example on this trip.
The next morning was an early one as we aimed to conquer the monkey’s face before the desert got too hot. The nervous excitement was apparent as we quickly ate breakfast and packed up all our necessary gear. We got pumped up with our favorite Glass Animals song and then began our hike up misery ridge to meet our guides in front of the giant rock formation called monkeys face.
Misery ridge lived up to its name as we slowly hiked back and forth up what must have been close to one hundred switch backs. At the top of the ridge we were treated to an incredible view of the entire park as well as the three sisters and Mt. Jefferson off in the distance covered in snow. As we rounded the corner we got our first glimpse of the Monkeys face. We quickly agreed that the giant rock did in fact look like the eyes nose and mouth of a monkey. It felt like it was staring us down, intimidating us with its free-standing enormity. Arthur made the comparison of it looking like a skyscraper that had been stretched and twisted.
We were greeted by four climbing guides who had already set up the ropes and anchors that we would rely on as we traversed across a 200 foot high expanse to the mouth of the monkey, climb up the side of the face, and finally repel straight down 200 feet. One by one we traversed, climbed, and repelled. Asher lead the students, going first followed by Thomas, Lea, Helen, Adair, Anna, Mae, Sarah, Arthur, and Jack. The guides, and leaders were amazed by how gracefully and willingly everyone executed the whole challenge. At the bottom I (Will) shared a wonderful conversation with Sarah about overcoming fear and self doubt leading to more confidence. Also huge shoutout to Ana, MC, and Claire for overcoming the obstacle despite their fear of heights.
After soaking in the feeling of accomplishment, we hiked back down off misery ridge and celebrated with Huckleberry Ice cream that Claire once again treated us to. We said goodbye to Claire, Smith Rock, and the Oregon Desert as we drove back north to a camp in Washington. There we had the traditional Moondance iron chef cooking competition which was won with a delicious “Mother’s pasta” dish made by the Synchillers (Jack, Asher, Lea, Mae, and Anna). We finished an incredible day with another great Moonup lead by Mae and Jack who reflected on overcoming fears.
MC and I are incredibly proud of our group for all their accomplishments and for their personal and collective development over the course of the past three weeks. It will be heart breaking to say goodbye by to these ten bright and inspiring souls. We will check in once more after send everyone off on their flights.
Will, MC, and PNW fam out
July 25, 2019
Hello family and friends from the Oregon desert! Our PNW tribe has just disembarked from the Deschutes River and we are tan, sandy, and brimming with whitewater adrenaline.
Since you last heard from us, we left our campsite on the outskirts of Washington’s Cascade Mountain Range and drove south for our next whitewater rafting adventure. Jamming to our group playlist (titled “Washingtunes”), we had a fun-filled (and snack-filled) road trip through many iconic landmarks of the Pacific Northwest. We passed through Seattle, waved to the space needle, and stopped for a yummy lunch at a farm-to-table restaurant. After a long week of backpacking, everyone indulged in some delicious chicken tenders, fries, and hamburgers. Continuing our drive south, the glimmering peak of Mount Hood emerged on the horizon as Taylor Swift blared on the stereo. The scenery then drastically changed as we entered Oregon’s desert landscape! Upon reaching our campsite, we ate a delicious dinner of tortellini pasta, Caesar salad, and breadsticks.
The next day we traveled further through Oregon to reach our rafting destination, but first took a pit stop to Bridal Veil Falls to see this spectacular waterfall. Continuing with our German family shenanigans mentioned in our last update, Jack (AKA Peeta) and Thomas (AKA Hans) led the group to the waterfall with some hilarious accents. We snapped some great pictures and then continued on through the desert. Upon reaching our campsite, we met our Orion rafting guides and played a name game where we paired our name with a food of the same letter. Our guides – Kumquat Katie, Sriracha Sean, and Kale Kelsey – outfitted us with dry bags for our gear and bid us goodnight at our desert campsite beside the river. That night we feasted on hamburgers and LODs Lea and Jack led our Moonup with the question ‘what is the weirdest phase you’ve gone through?’ as the moon rose above the desert rock towers.
Day 1 of rafting began the next morning! With the group split up in 2 rafts, we boarded the Deschutes River for a wet and wild whitewater adventure. “White Horse” was the first half-mile long rapid to conquer and it did not disappoint. We then pulled off to the side of the river for a great jumping rock opportunity. When it was time to get back to the rafts, Will sneakily pushed Asher into the water. This began a hilarious boat war of pushing each other into the very chilly water. After all this monkey business, we got back to rafting along a calm section of the river. The guides gave us a cool opportunity to try rowing the giant oars in the back of the boat. Mae, Arthur, and Helen showed off their rowing abilities and rowed the group down the river! Upon reaching our campsite, burritos were on the menu for dinner. Our LODs for the day, Asher and Sarah, led our Moonup with the question, ‘what is something weird about you that you are proud of?’
This morning we boarded our rafts for more whitewater thrills! The “Four Schutes” were four continuous rapid sections that immediately got us soaked and giggling.
In between rapids, we discussed favorite books, movies, and TV shows with our guides. Upon reaching our put-out spot on the river, LODs Anna and Adair helped prepare a bagel lunch complete with veggies and cream cheese.
I (MC) write to you from Smith Rock State Park where we are excitedly awaiting the start of our climbing section tomorrow. It is hard to believe that this is our final week with this group. Will and myself are sad to think that our family will disperse and travel home after climbing, but our hearts are warmed by the relationships that have formed and growth we have witnessed with this group.
The group would like to give some shoutouts to all of our fans back home!
Arthur: Hi mom and dad and Frances! Say hello to Daddy L. Also, my new name is Dante.
Anna: Hi mom and dad! I’m having lots of fun and I’m really excited for climbing. Tell Rosie I said hi. Love and miss you guys! P.s. my new name is Caroline
Asher: hello friends and family! This letter goes out to dad, Moog, siblings, JP, Andrew, Elliott, and Mere. I’m a changed man and I have found a deeper meaning in life. I’ve tuned into a higher state of consciousness. Don’t be afraid by this message. Namaste, Asher
Jack: dear mom and dad, I’m having a great time. My new name is now Peter and I’m converting to Buddhism.
Adair: hey mom and dad! I’m having a lot of fun in the Pacific Northwest. I can’t wait to see you guys soon, but I also don’t want to leave! I love you guys a lot <3 p.s. I’m getting a pretty great Chaco tan
Lea: hey family! I’m having so much fun and can’t wait to see you. Tell Kobe I say hi! Love you!
Mae: hi lil ma and yo pops! I’m having a great time in the Pacific Northwest and I’m excited to take a long shower and see y’all! Say hi to Henry, Jack, and Atlas for me.
Sarah: wassup shawty! Miss y’all and I bet you’re missing me a lot. To Christie, I hope you’re not too bored at home. I’m not sure if dad is in Cuba, but if so I hope he’s having fun. Give my dogs a hug! See y’all soon!
Helen: hi family! I’m having so much fun! Everything’s really pretty here. Miss y’all!
Thomas: hello mother and father! Oregon is dooopppee!!
July 18, 2019
We are proud to say that we have successfully trekked for six days through the backcountry of North Cascades National Park. MC and I are incredibly impressed by the physical and mental strength of our group as well as their ability to maintain a positive attitude while enduring the challenges that come with backpacking long distances through the elements. For the past six days we have been living out of backpacks, shaking life down to the bare essentials, and enjoying life’s simpler offerings.
Day one of backpacking was lead by Jack and Anna who would hike in front and back to set the pace and keep us all together, a big task on the first day of backcountry trekking. Our hike started with a steep mile descent down to Ross lake where a small motor boat picked us up in two groups and shuttled us deep into the mountains and dropped us off on a trail along the lakeshore. After being dropped off, as we watched the boat speed away it hit us. We were now deep in the wilderness just us with only what we could carry on our backs. We picnicked at Rainbow point then began our 4 mile hike along the lakeshore. With 5 nights of food and gear our bags were heavy, but this proved to be no problem for our group as we kept a quick pace. We arrived at our campsite and were greeted by the other PNW Moondance Group. We shared stories, games, and swam in the lake together. They warned us that our next day would be extremely challenging with a big uphill climb. After our first backcountry dinner of Pad Thai we Mooned up and then fell asleep beneath the tall Washington Spruce trees in the silence of the mountain Forrest.
Day two was lead by Arthur and Adair. Together they did a fantastic getting the group through what may have been the most challenging day of the whole trip. The first four miles were relatively flat as we continued along the shoreline of Ross lake. As we crossed over a 70 foot high suspension bridge we spotted a small black bear far below and watched it swim in the lake and then climb away up the mountain, a great reminder that we were not alone in these mountains. The next four miles of trail was almost entirely uphill switchbacks. To make the miles easier we shared riddles, belted out songs, and Anna, Helen, Sarah, and Arthur shared their life stories. Eventually we reached a small campsite tucked away in the trees beside a rushing mountain stream. After dinner and Moonup we used our headlamps and the long exposure setting on MCs camera to write Moondance on a picture, we can’t wait to share these with you all!
Day three we reached Lake Hozomeen! Thomas and Mae got us going and Mae set a quick pace. The hiking was again very challenging as we gained elevation throughout the day. The morning fog was slowly burned off and when we arrived at Lake Hozomeen we were treated to what many students claimed was the most beautiful view they’ve ever seen. The calm, clear water of the alpine lake, combined with towering rocky peaks piercing the clouds made this place feel like a movie set. We jumped in the cold lake and rinsed off the dirt and then bathed in the warm sun. As we relaxed beside the lake a National Park employee, Kiki, showed up in search of a family of loons that was said to be living on the lake. She spotted them through her binoculars and showed some of our students. Later that night during Moonup the two loons and their baby swam right up to us and let out their spectacular loon call. Adair, Asher and Lea went and found Kiki, and brought her to see the family close up, she was extremely appreciative. This is around when Jack started his German accent which spread to everyone as we now consider ourselves a large German family touring the states. After Moonup we split into a boys group and a girls group and each group had a deep and meaningful conversation (DMC). At the end of the night we came back together and were brought closer by all that was shared.
Day four we walked to Canada!!! We kept all of our tents and food set up at the lake and then Asher and Lea lead us on a five mile hike to Canada. In Canada we had a nice picnic in a Canadian park. After lunch we opened our Huckleberry surprise of Sour Patch Kids and popcorn. As we walked back into the states Sarah, Helen, and Anna smuggled Canadian toilet paper back to our backcountry site. Upon getting back to Hozomeen we swam again, ate burritos for dinner, and then fell asleep to our first rainstorm of backpacking.
Day five we hiked eight miles back to our previous campsite. Before leaving Hozomeen we all took a moment of silence to take in the view one last time and created a mental image to return to later. Sarah then lead us at a very quick pace down the trail and Helen held up the rear. The hiking was mostly downhill and we made it quickly to the campsite. With plenty of time to hangout we shared card tricks, played slapjack, and Thomas, Arthur and Mae taught us to play hearts. After a Mac n cheese dinner and Moonup we split up into small groups and had another DMC.
Our final day of backpacking was very special as it was Sarah’s birthday!!! The day started with Kodiak pancakes and sprinkles. Arthur and Mae successfully lead us back down to Ross lake where a boat picked us up and took us to the trailhead and we hiked one final mile back to our van. On our way out of North Cascades National Park we stopped at Cascadia farms for organic Ice cream. We then had a pizza dinner and birthday cake. We finished the night with much needed showers which felt sensational after 6 days in the backcountry.
Backpacking was such an incredible experience that brought the group closer together and made us all appreciate the comforts of society giving great perspective on life. We are now driving to Oregon where we will Whitewater raft for two days. All the students miss you all back home, we can’t wait to share all our new memories.
Peace, love, and Dante,
Will, MC, and the PNW squad.
July 12, 2019
Greetings from the Pacific Northwest! We are writing from our beautiful campsite on San Juan Island after three days of sea kayaking through several other of the San Juan Islands. The amount of shared memories, stories and inside jokes make it hard to imagine that we were all a bunch of strangers a week ago. These past five days will be hard to put into words.
All the students made it safely to the Seattle airport on day one and we drove North through Seattle and to our waterfront campground near Anacortes, WA where we ate pizza for our first meal together. Between dinner, a walk along the bay, and lots of hacky sack (Jack was the master hacky sacker) we quickly got to know one another. As Moondance alumni, Asher, Helen, and Thomas introduced the group to our very first Moonup, a ritual to close out every day, and we shared “why we are here” and “what we want to get from this trip”.
The next morning started as Helen and Asher got the group up and going as our fist Leaders of the Day (LODs). We packed up our tents, loaded the van, and headed to the ferry which took us from the mainland to San Juan Island. The group took the initiative of creating a count-off as a way of staying together. We then met our sea kayaking outfitters, Hannah and Mary (affectionately nicknamed San and Juan), in Friday Harbor and they gave us drybags to be used to pack all we would need for the next three days on the water. We settled into a campsite on the island, packed our bags and indulged in some ice cream. Helen and Asher helped cook dinner and then lead us in Moonup before we all fell asleep.
Thomas and Anna got us going the next day as LODs as we met our guides by the water, loaded up our 2-person kayaks, and hit the water. The sun quickly burned off the morning fog and treated us to a beautiful, clear day with incredible views of the green rocky coast, clear water, and distant mountains. The paddling was challenging, but the group quickly displayed great tenacity and grit. We spotted numerous seals and even a sea otter and her babies. For lunch we picnicked on a small island where we explored tidal pools and found Dungeness Crabs. After paddling another mile or so we reached an ideal campsite on Jones Island with a big grassy field where we later had an intense series of soccer games. Lea, Mae, and Adair found a giant piece of sea kelp on the beach that served as an excellent jump rope. As the sun set across the water of this beautiful island, we did Moonup, roasted s’mores, and Asher told a scary ghost story around a fire. Finally, we rested our tired muscles for the night before another day on the water.
Day four was lead by Jack and Lea. We had a slower morning and feasted on a delicious breakfast of sausage, eggs, and hash browns. Our kayaks were lighter as we would return to the same camp for the night. We took a leisurely paddle across a channel to Orcas Island where we were treated to another ice cream shop. Together we explored Orcas Island, the biggest of the San Juan’s, on foot and found an awesome view from the top of a rocky cliff. We returned to Jones Island where we spent the afternoon and played another long game of soccer. We reflected on our adventures thus far and slept to the sound of rain hitting the canvas tents. At this point the group already felt like a family and as leaders we are extremely pleased with the positive group dynamic and strong bonds that have already formed.
Today Sarah and Arthur got us going early as we took down camp and had a very hard paddle against the current back to San Juan Island. Adair and Mae impressed us all with their strength, paddling the heaviest boat on the hardest day. We eventually reached our van, ate pulled pork sandwiches for lunch, and then explored the small island town of Friday Harbor.
The first leg of our adventure was a success and we are very pleased with the group so far. The rocky, green coast of Washington State was more beautiful then we could have imagined, and we are excited to move inland tomorrow to get into the North Cascades that we’ve seen peeking out in the distance. Both the students and the leaders would like to thank you, the parents for sending us all on this incredible Moondance Adventure which has already shattered expectations. Wish us luck as we head into the North Cascades for six days of backpacking. We can’t wait to share more of the many stories we will create.
Will, M.C., and the PNW crew.
July 6, 2019
Hello Pacific Northwest Families!
We heard from our Trip Leaders that all students have arrived safely in Seattle, and the trip is off to a great start. Stay tuned for more stories from their adventures.