July 10, 2019
Waking up early on day eleven was much easier because we had fallen asleep in Slovenia to a great thunderstorm and were going to be laying our heads to sleep in Croatia!! Our transfer day began with a yummy breakfast before jumping in the vans to travel down to our mid drive stop at the Škojan Caves. This cave network is the largest in all of Europe and consist of many different large chambers with beautiful stalagmites, stalactites, cave shields, flow stones, and even a flowing river! Students were amazed by the geological formation and timeline that the caves went through during their formation. At one point in the tour, our guide turned off all the lights in the “silent chamber,” that was by far the darkest room ever and evoked such a scary thought of how the early explorers saw the cave. After our two hour exploratory trek jaunt through the Škojan Caves, we had worked up quite an appetite for some Slovenian pizza! With our bellies full, we got back in the vans to make our way into Croatia. We arrived to the coastal city a short two hours later to see the center of the ship building capital in Croatia, the Croatian colosseum, and even experience a street basketball tournament. Whit, Brooks, and Charlie were dying to play but they laughed and shook their heads. Due to the humidity and heat, it was necessary that we stop to indulge in some yummy gelato in the hot summer sun before going to our seaside lodging.
Because of our travel day, we didnʼt get to partake in the arranged basketball tournament, but we held a heated five versus five basketball game with our guides at our lodging. Then we enjoyed a dip in the sea to cool off. For dinner we had lasagna and chicken noodle soup and then back on the basketball court for another game. We had a short Moonup and afterwards, enjoyed listening to Kat and Hadley sing a bit for us and were sung into a sleepy daze. We had a good day.
The Croatian sun woke us up with its heat and light early on day twelve. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to begin our day with an outside yoga/Pilates class before loading up to go sea kayaking! The morning jams got everyone super excited to be out on the water. Everyone paired up with a partner to share a tandem sea kayak and after everyone helped their partner lather sunscreen on each otherʼs backs, we pushed off the shores. The current was not very strong but that did not mean it was an easy activity. Each kayaking team had to effectively paddle together in unison. We visited a beautiful sandy beach to take our first dip of the day and continued to paddle. We stayed motivated by free styling hip hop music with our partners. We paddled along the coastline explore some shallow sea caves in the boats and saw many beach tourists jumping into the water from some low coastline cliffs. At our last break of the morning, we pulled out our goggles and explored the underwater surroundings for a bit and relax on the beach. We rose to waves breaking and seagulls flying over and prepared for our last short push to our lunch location.
We met our guides on the shore and were so excited because we were very very hungry. For lunch we ate at an extreme Safari themed restaurant. People had a traditional Balkan dish called cevapcici, a sausage link like meat stuffed in a sandwich. Every student enjoyed the adult sized swings and silly merry go around at the restaurant before going to hangout and jump into the water. At the coast we experienced some serious heat and after everyone jumped in and cooled off headed back to camp. A serious basketball game was necessary before dinner and Atkins, Hadley, Brooks, and Henry returned from the store with some special soda drinks for dinner and surprise ice cream! For dinner we had a family style dinner with grilled sea bass, calamari, cevapcici, grilled chicken, salad, and French fries! With dinner time over came more basketball, everyone is gonna be a professional basketball player by the end of the trip! Right before Moonup, our group was attacked by toddlers that wanted to hang out with us but unfortunately had to cut our time short do Moonup. Our sun kissed bodies looked great but we were quite tired and with an early morning wake up to get to our ferry, we went to bed. Our group had truly come together and everyone was thriving off each otherʼs energy. As a result, we had great conversations and so many moments of laughter. We are sad the end of the trip is near.
Today is our last full day and we canʼt believe it! Our morning came early when we woke up to leave on time for our ferry to Venice. Upon our arrival, we quickly dropped our bags off at the hostel and ate delicious pasta and pizza lunch at a local Italian restaurant. Then we took a water bus over towards Saint Marcoʼs Square for shopping and gelato. We roamed the streets of Venice looking for knickknacks and other gifts to bring home for ourselves, friends and family. We also probably stopped at 5 or 6 gelato shops, it was our last day so we had to take advantage. While strolling along the Rialto Bridge, we found a perfect spot for Banquet! We filled our stomachs with salads, pasta and bread, and then walked around the city under the night sky some more. We eventually went back to the hostel to grab another layer before Moonup. Our designated final Moonup location was on the steps of an old cathedral on the water. It was such a special last gathering, from dancing like fools when the night cruise ship drove by to starfish high-fiving to reflecting on our favorite
memories and sharing our takeaways. We all hugged good night and thanked each other for the thoughtful conversations, laughs and time.
And one final nug:
Jack – Thank you for your quick wit, ability to throw out fast facts and, brutal, yet appropriate honesty.
Charlie – Thank you for your sarcasm, constant curiosity, and great stories you shared with everyone.
Egan – Thank you for your random and unpredictable one liner jokes/comments.
Whit – Thank you for being an energizer and cheering people on during hard hikes/ volleyball, it was always appreciated.
Thomas – Thank you for the comic relief and simply demonstrating how to better love oneself.
Brooks – Thanks for being the best teddy bear! Your simple ways of showing love to all was noted.
Hadley – Thank you for your contagious energy. Your humor and openness towards others is incredibly comforting.
Kenzie – Thank you for your thoughtfulness. The number of times we heard you stand up for your group members and always provided perspective was incredibly kind.
Lily – Thank you for your ability and willingness to talk to anyone, your perseverance when the going got tough, and your freaky mad card (ERS) skills! You will never be outshined in that game.
Atkins – Thank you for continuously keeping us on our toes, alert and alive! Your laughter and willingness to try new things was inspiring.
Kat – Thank you for your beautiful voice and open mind towards expectations of the trip.
Sally – Thank you for your genuine responses, vulnerability, and self reflection throughout the entire trip.
Wes – Thank you for your inclusivity, support and appreciation for the activities, people and places visited. But specifically, your blue floppy hat and frequent groutfits.
Slovenia 1 was energetic. It was spontaneous and also loving. As leaders, we feel fortunate to have had the opportunity of getting to know these students and watch them challenge themselves by stepping outside of their comfort zones and to live in the moment! We would like to thank all of those who contributed in enabling the students to participate on Moondance this summer and hope to see them return in some way somehow!
Our deepest appreciation and love,
Oakes and Henry
July 7, 2019
As we traded our hiking boots in for neoprene booties, we got the best of both
worlds by being able to go rafting AND canyoneering! Once we left our campsite
we drove towards our put in on the river and slid into our wetsuits. After being
split into two groups, we then embarked on our journey. Wes and Kat ran to the
front of the rafts, more than ready to get soaking wet from the rapids. The water
was freezing, but that didnʼt stop Whit or Charlie from jumping in!
Then we drove to a delicious restaurant for lunch where we all ate burgers. Our
bellies were extremely full. We quickly discovered afterwards that we had a
“short hike” (haha) up a mountain while simultaneously carrying our
canyoneering gear. We were physically and mentally not ready for this because
of our heavy lunch, but it was well worth it in the end! Everyone was laughing as
we struggled to put on our wetsuits and jumped into the cold water. It was
beautiful. We were surrounded by rock walls and lots of greenery. We were
sliding, jumping and swimming! It was unlike any other experience for most of
We then drove back to our campsite to shower and hang out before dinner. The
leaders were cooking stir fry while everyone else was playing volleyball.
Suddenly a man approached the students, it was Hayes Hitchens! We
are so fortunate that Moondance’s President + Founder was able to take the time to visit and meet our incredible group.
After talking with our outfitters, he then asked the students about their
experience so far and what Moondance means to them. It was a unique
opportunity for students to vocally express how special it has been, reflecting
on their self growth and the friendships they have made with others. Henry and I
were so proud of their responses and happier than ever to be part of this
Slovenia experience. Hayesʼ words definitely resonated with the students as we
discovered when we followed up at Moonup.
Several students touched on how this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and the
experiences we have are only shared with the people in this group. They
reminded and encouraged one another to take advantage of the last few days
and embrace everyone and everything with opened arms. To close Moonup we
went Star Tipping, it was hilarious and a nice way to release our energy before
hitting the sheets after a long day. Round 2 tomorrow!
For day nine, we began our day with some delicious eggs, toast, and fruit. The
entire group left camp very excited to see what advanced canyoning had in
store for us. We slipped on our wetsuits for the last time and walked to the start
of the box canyon. Right off the bat, we had a high jump into the water to make
sure we were fully awake. Egan fearlessly jumped without even shrieking! Our
exploration of the canyon immediately started after our jump, the canyon walls
welcoming us into a great morning ahead. We slid down a couple of waterfalls
backward and some even face first! The geology all around us was so incredible,
lots of cross bedding and signs of historic tectonic plate shifting. As we
approached our first super tall waterfall, our outfitters set up a rappel but those
daring enough had the option to jump the ten meters! Everyone had a smile
once they came up from the water. We continued deeper into the canyon and
had to swim in the narrow parts. The last waterfall we had was over seventeen
meters high so we repelled down to about eight meters and then jumped into a
massive pool below. Atkins did a 360 turn when he jumped! Our group was so
stoked for such a great morning and worked up quite an appetite!
For lunch we went to a restaurant owned by Hisa Franko who is one of Sloveniaʼs
most famous chefs. She is a self taught cook that works with her husband who
is a sommelier to perfectly pair the food. Her Michelin star restaurant is located in
the northern part of Slovenia and we just visited her everyday kind of restaurant.
We were blown away when four different appetizers were placed in front of us
each better than the last. For our main course we had homemade gnocchi with
braised lamb and homemade pesto ravioli stuffed with lamb. At the table we
talked about some of our favorite meals ever, Jackʼs was in Venice! Then dessert
came, everyone already knew that Sally Maxʼs favorite dessert was ice cream
but today, we had a dessert dumping stuffed with cinnamon and sugar and it
was scrumptious! We left with our bellyʼs filled, smiles on our faces, and ready
for a nap.
We returned to camp to rest before zip lining. Brooks, Thomas, and Atkins spent
the entire hour and a half trying to get the two balls they got stuck up in the tree
the day before while everyone else rested or read. Luckily they got the balls
down and the camp manager was very impressed by the athletic ability! We took
4×4 vehicles to climb to our starting point for zip lining. After a brief
demonstration on how to properly break and climb up the line if we didnʼt make
it to the end, we headed up to our first of five wires. Katharine was by far the
bravest and decided to go first on the 250 meter zip line. Each person had their
own way of shrieking except for Wes who made not a sound. Everyone was
ready eyed once they reach the finish because we went so fast! The next wire
was a tandem ride. The third zip line was by far the fast and we soared over the
valley and saw an incredible view. The last one was the longest and was over
350 meters and ended our zip lining experience perfectly.
We ended at the local town to see that there was a culture festival going on and
saw people dressed in traditional garb. Brooks and Katherine showed everyone
up and swinger danced to Slovenian music while Lily, Whit, and Hadley did some
fantastic interpretive dancing. We didnʼt have long to explore before going back
to camp but were able to grab some delicious dessert crepes! For dinner, we
had a traditional meal, izpod peka, which means meat cooked under hot coals, it
was quite a display! There were four meats, lamb, turkey, pork, and chicken!
Charlie was very satisfied but was willing enough to help out Elizabeth finish her
Right before Moonup, the rain began to pour pushing us inside Jack, Egan, Wes,
and Charlieʼs tent. For the Moonup question, each person guessed where the
person to their right would be in ten years. Sally Max believes that Kenzie will
become a CEO of a sports company! With that we packed up to leave early in
the morning for Croatia! Slovenia has treated us Americans so wonderfully!
Our last three days together will be spent living in the moment, creating more
lasting memories, and enjoying each others company.
July 5, 2019
Happy Fourth of July!! We are celebrating in the Soča River Valley with fried Oreos, balloons, dancing, and a BBQ feast! Our celebration of the United States independence is not the only reason we are celebrating today, we also finished our strenuous trekking section in the Julian Alps!
The morning before departing, we did some extreme carb loading for our long day ahead. Dance music radiated out of the windows on our van ride to the trailhead to mentally prepare us. With our backpack straps strapped and hiking boots tied, we hit the trail. We immediately realized what our guides Luka and Bené meant when they said Slovenian flat – not flat at all! Just after the first hour we were downing water and reminiscing back to our day on the river, then back at it again. A couple hours later we arrived at the first mountain hut of our trip! We refilled water and the students learned how to properly purify water before getting back on the trail. As the trail became steeper, Atkins, Lilly, and Brooks introduced a word game to keep the group distracted. Another hour in we saw our challenge for the day, the saddle between two peaks. We kept hiking and right before our last big push we took a long snack break to gain extra energy. Halfway to the top, we came across our first snow of the trip and Hadley’s first time ever seeing snow! Huffing and puffing we continued to climb up the steep terrain. Once to the top the view was spectacular!! Never have Pringle’s tasted so good. We would not have made it without everyone’s positivity and encouraging words. The group celebrated our determination with lots of breathtaking photos and sharing snacks. From the top we could see the mountain hut we would be staying at that night, but it took another two and a half hours to safely navigate down the terrain. We thought the views from the top of the saddle were amazing but the view from the most remote mountain hut we stayed at were absolutely stunning. People from around the world were there and sharing laughs. We filled our bellies with soup before taking a nap. We stayed in a separate area called the winter room and it looked oddly like a mushroom.
For dinner we ate yummy bread and more soup! Thomas has loved each soup more than the last and wants to learn how to make some of the traditional soups. Today the group discovered how hilarious Wes can be, he always has something funny to say about any situation! For Moonup, Kat and Wes asked thought provoking questions and Wes narrated the fun game mafia. With the stars up, our bellies full, and another day of hiking we finally rested.
Our second day of trekking started with an incredible mountain breakfast with eggs made by Bené. With fuel to crush the day, we departed to head down the valley to our next campsite and luckily it was not far. On the way there, Luka taught us about the geological history of the Julian alps, how they formed and how they were rapidly degrading; we even saw a fossil! We arrived to the second mountain hut just in time for lunch. We attempted to go on a day hike to a nearby summit but a nasty thunderstorm drove us indoors. With the afternoon inside, we played lots of card games like Egyptian rat slap (ERS). Egan became a worthy competitor to Lilly! We also did an exercise to determine one’s unique leadership styles (analyst architect, driver, relationship master, or spontaneous motivator). Each leadership style is an extremely important component for a successful team or group, luckily, we had an even spread of all four.
We had chicken noodle soup, meat pasta, and crepes with jam for dinner and it was scrumptious!! We had to prepare for a very early morning wake up call so we ended the night earlier than usual and tried to get some rest.
July 3rd began bright and early for our group, specifically at 3:45am! Due to harsh weather conditions and the need to sleep at a certain hostel, we had to wake up that early in order to safely hike to our destination.
Waking up this early typically results in lack of sleep and grumpy moods, but not for our group! Whit, Atkins, Thomas and Brooks were all super high on energy and kept the group alive. The sun was peaking through the mountains and trees as the fog began to settle and eventually, we arrived to a hostel where we stopped for breakfast. Coffee and tea warmed us up and we devoured our apple strudels and bread as they filled our bellies. We continued hiking and came across ancient ruins where we took a break. Sally, Hadley and Kat showed off their dances moves on top of the peak where we captured some awesome videos. However, the walk must go on! We continued moving forward for the next few hours and made it to a cheese farm. We saw pigs, cows and chickens! The owner showed us how he makes his cheese from milk and we even bought some at the end. We then left and walked a few quick minutes towards our hostel where we were able to take off our boots and relax.
Our group decided to eat after half an hour when we were served a delicious plate of spaghetti. After downing food, some decided to nap and others played card games. Lily is an absolute beast at ERS (Egyptian Rat Slap) and she remained reigning champion no matter how hard everyone else tried. The storm was settling in so we stayed inside playing games. Lily decided to take a break from ERS and so Jack, Kenzie, Sally, Charlie and Wes got into a very intense game. Meanwhile in one of the boys room, the speaker was seized and there was a massive dance party with the green laser beam. For dinner we ate gnocchi, ordered eggs for all who wanted one and ate chocolate pancakes (crepes) for dessert.
Afterwards we decided to have an early Moonup where we talked about how you would spend unlimited funds if you had it for 24hours and if you could change one thing in the world. This Moonup was super fun and thoughtful. Following, more ERS was played, poker and we also messed around outside while practicing handstands. We then played one game of Mafia then all went to snuggle under our own covers.
HAPPY 4TH OF JULYYYYY!!!!!!!!! Although not in America, we absolutely still celebrated.
After leaving the hostel, we began our trek towards the saddle between two mountain peaks. It was early and our feet were tired, but we pushed the first 2 hours until we reached the top with the help of Thomas leading everyone in group chants. As we all cheered with pride, we also snacked big. The longer we stayed at the top the chillier it became so we decided to put our packs back on and head down towards our vans. The decent was steep and very rocky but we eventually reached a restaurant near the cars and treated ourselves to Cokes and Fantas for completing our backpacking section.
We then drove to a nearby town for a pizza lunch and ate some of the best ice cream. Afterwards, we drove to our next campsite which we will call home for the next few nights. It is incredible, filled with beach volleyball and all sorts of other games. It is also home to one of the Chronicles of Narnia movies. We went to the beach and messed around for a while. Capturing videos with the GoPro and dancing to music. We then came back to our campsite and ate our 4th of July dinner. Following, we worked off all of the food during a very intense volleyball tournament. It was hyper competitive and so much fun! Round 2 will be tomorrow night. We enjoyed Moonup and then made deep fried Oreos. Today was so exciting and we can’t wait to begin our canyoneering section tomorrow.
Hey mom! Hey dad! Slovenia is beautiful and I’m having so much fun. Give the dogs a pet for me! I’m not starving!! Love you & see you soon – Hadley
Hey mom and dad! I miss y’all more than you know but Slovenia is absolutely amazing and I’m having the best time. See you guys so soon! Love you lots! – Katherine
Hey Dad, Hey Mom. I miss you guys a lot and Hudson! Tell jack I said hi, Slovenia is amazing and the views are crazy, can’t wait to see you. Love you so much!! -Sally Max
Hey mom and dad and the rest of the fam! Slovenia is amazing!!! I miss you guys so much and can’t wait to see you soon and show you cool pictures! I hope you are enjoying your vacation! love you guys! -Kenzie
Hey!! I’m having so much fun in Slovenia and it is sooo pretty. I miss you guys so much and can’t wait to see y’all. Happy birthday Julia!! Love y’all so much – Lily
Hey mom, dad, Timmy, Rosie, and Graham who is in Wyoming. Slovenia is so cool and reminds me a lot of Austria last summer. I think you guys are in Michigan now so bring back some Tom’s moms and fudge for me. I can’t wait to talk to you guys in a week. Love you so much!! (Also thanks for changing my flight!!) – Egan
Hey Family, Slovenia is awesome! I hope y’all are having a great time, see you soon. Hope the 4th is a good time! – Thomas
Wassup fam! I’m having a blast and a half out here. Don’t have too much fun without me. Love y’all, see you soon. – whit
Hey guys, we are having so much fun and I’m destroying everyone in poker. Hope u guys are having fun in Italy. love u guys and see you guys soon… – Sheck Wes
Hi mom, dad, and Chloe Slovenia is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. The hiking is pretty hard but it’s extremely rewarding. We have also kayaked and rock climbed which were super fun. – Jack
Hey mom and dad! I’m having so much fun here in Slovenia. I can’t wait to see you guys again! – Charlie
Hey! Slovenia is litThe hikes are hard but the views are worth it. Hope y’all are having fun in Fripp. ~Napkins
Hello friends and family. Slovenia is going great and I’m having lots of fun. I would like to wish Ben my best birthday wishes and much love to everyone else. See y’all soon -Brooks
June 30, 2019
The first session of the Moondance Adventures Slovenia trip is now underway with thirteen fantastic students!! After a long and hopefully restful night on the plane, the kiddos landed in Venice along with two other Moondance groups. Elizabeth and I were so happy to see that they had already become acquainted with the each other! We had a two and a half hour drive for some nice morning naps, Pringle eating competitions, and a brief history of Slovenia from our guide Luka. Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, has a population of about 200,000 people and some beautiful architecture. We had a traditional Slovenian lunch of yogurt based soup, pork chops, and prekmurska gibanica, a sweet layered pastry that not many students liked but were glad they tried it. Jack was especially fond of the dessert. Also during lunch, Kenzie and Jack told us stories about their successful lacrosse careers. We had a nice walking tour through downtown Ljubljana, ate some of the best ice cream ever, and crossed over the triple bridges to see the town hall. Whit was very fond of the art behind the ice cream roll demonstration.
The mountain town of Kranjska Gora welcomed all fifteen Americans and allowed us plenty of grassy areas to learn new games like Yeehaw. We all saw Charlie’s inner cowboy during the game! For dinner, we all had delicious hamburgers and home fries. We wrapped up our first day cradled by the beautiful and massive mountains during Moonup. We also learned about Whit’s culinary skills with ramen.
Our second day in Slovenia began with a thrilling and adrenaline pumping 500-meter-long zip line!! We nearly went 50 miles per hour! It’s safe to say that Atkins was not intimidated at all by the massive drop! The zip line followed the same route as the longest ski jump ramp in the world! We then enjoyed a spectacular mountain hike to some very blue and chilly waterfalls. After working up quite an appetite, we feasted at a small farmhouse style cabin for lunch. Egan was daring enough to try some traditional pork fat. The rest of the day we all hung out and continued to get to each other by playing name games. This is turning out to be a really fun-loving group!!
Picture this! Kayaking, swimming and jumping into Lake Bohinj on a sunny day AND getting to eat ice cream….Day 4!
The excitement began after a delicious breakfast when driving towards our hotel near the lake. We got settled and immediately suited up for river kayaking. Our guides were amazing, Hadley was especially appreciative of their skills and knowledge as she navigated the rapids. It took some time getting used to as some students had never kayaked, like when Sally Maxwell was courageous enough paddling solo but later decided she wanted buddy up. The views were insane as we were surrounded by beautiful water and mountains. After we tested our skills in the lake, we then went over safety precautions before entered the rapids. It was so exciting, and everyone was laughing the entire time. Poor Wes was trying to figure out how to not keep turning around in the middle of the river and thankfully by the end of the day he had a better handle on it. After kayaking, we drove back to our hotel for lunch and then had a small break to hangout on the dock by the lake while our guides were setting up routes for climbing.
Once the routes were ready, we drove to the crag. Katherine was not only the first on the wall, but also the last! She tried the easiest routes and climbed to the top of the hardest. Everybody else climbed too and some even for the first time, like Brooks and Lily. We finished climbing and played hacky sack, “Wah” and “Pterodactyl”. Once we arrived back to the hotel, we went over the packing list for our trekking section with the guides and then taught a lesson on LNT (Leave No Trace) expressing the importance of minimizing human impact and leaving nature a better place than we originally find it.
We then ate dinner and decided it was necessary to swim in the lake before Moonup. We jumped into the water from the dock, created a tunnel for Thomas to run through before a belly flop and practiced synchronized diving all with the sunset as the most beautiful backdrop. It was a special moment; one we all share together. Afterwards we changed into warmer clothes and had Moonup near the lake. After sharing our biggest fears and LODS for the next day, some had a light meditation and went to bed in preparation for an early morning tomorrow!
Our crew is incredible – full of welcoming, energetic and excited students! We couldn’t be happier to explore the backcountry with these people and continue challenging ourselves outside our comfort zones.
We’ll touch back after we climb mountains!!!!!!!!!
Oakes and Henry
June 28, 2019
Hello Slovenia Families!
We heard from our leaders last night, and all students have arrived safely in Venice! We are so excited for them to begin their adventure!