July 26, 2019
Dear Brooks, William, RJ, Ed (¯\_(ツ)_/¯), Coconut, Anna, Mags (Ee Oh Ah Ah Ah), Proter, Harris & Murph,
Thank ya’ll for a beautiful time exploring California. We did it. We summited Shasta, we watched a lot of sunrises, and we ate a lot of onions. Until the end we goofed around and acted out alternate worlds on beaches. Who knew kelp could be so useful? We may have regrets, like not hearing Harris freestyle more, but the ups and downs and UHaul unpacks have been worth it. So here’s to being the Livers of Life, to staying wild, and to being weird always. Never change you beautiful people. As we sit here, reminiscing about the nature fashion show and ‘Safety Phone Calls’, we’re thinking of you guys. We will miss you dearly and remember, Bic or Bust.
Joan + Casey
We awoke early in the morning from the intense California sun. A few fun road trip stops pushed our arrival time and we arrived into Point Reyes in the evening. Our tarps were aligned directly in the early sunlight, the sign of a quick shift from van to sleep. After a few chores, we wondered into the town. Murphy found Moody success at the c25 book thrift store and we popped around the main drag. The choice of bread at the sandwich bar was overwhelming. Everything was going our way. Edward found a picnic table that seemed as though it was made for our group: a cozy hexagon. As always, good chow and conversation. Fueled up, we sought out the beach. We adventured on a beautiful hike through the forest and out along the dunes. We stumbled upon our own strip of beach and set up home base. Some read, others followed Charlie’s lead in a Game of Thrones theatrical performance. A few wandered up and down the beach. The sun softened and fantasies of the chips, salsa, hotdogs, and grilled squash pulled us to camp. Brooks took lead as squash char-master. It was nice to be back in the front country with a grill. As Harris and Brooks slang out a thanksgiving load worth of food, we relaxed on a cool late afternoon. We cooked late into the evening, a typical scene from our summer. Tarps were relocated to the ideal morning locale for tree shade. Another day for the books.
We rose early again, trying to squeeze as much of these waning moments as possible. Into San Francisco we ventured. After parking near the square, we all b-lined it for Ghirardelli Square for delicious chocolate and ice cream treats. We all smiled from ear to ear over the most tasteful treats in SF. William amazed us all as he crushed a ‘Crissy Fields’ ice cream treat, the largest they had, in no time flat. With full stomachs, we began our exploration of city, the very opposite of the wilderness we had been venturing around this whole time. We pounded the pavement, as they say, up and down San Francisco, seeing all the city and Culture had to offer. On the way around, we made it to an amazing Thrift store in the trendy Mission area, snagging quite a few good finds. Rebecca had one of the best gems all day in the form of some great dark blue jeans for next to nothing. Maggie also took the cake with some great treasures picked from the masses of the store. We made our way back to Maxi and called it quits late in the day, resting well that night.
The next day we popped right up, ready to crush the waves and spend one last day with the family. Porter was catching waves left and right from the get go, looking like quite the pro. With a salty smile he knew he was killing it. Anna definitely showed the most improvement as a surfer. She braved the swells and continued to impress and show the grit she has had all trip. Exhausted from the sun and paddling, we retreated to camp for a smorgasbord board of choices for lunch. After doing our chores for the end of the trip, we all showered up and dressed to impress for banquet night. On the menu, Chinese! The table was covered with giant plates of food and smothered with laughter. We dined like Kings and Queens, an admired the individuals we had each come to call friends. After, one final Moonup for the ages, full of admiration, love, and pride. Hoots, dollars, and hugs wrapped it up, an off to bed we went. It is so hard to say goodbye sometimes, but with heavy hearts we parted ways today. We arrived strangers but left the best of friends. We have learned so much from each other, experienced so much emotion, and grown an awful lot. So, for now, we bid you ado. Its been on heck of a time!
Joan + Casey
July 24, 2019
After hiking for six days through the Yosemite wilderness, then summiting a big ole 14179-foot mammoth of a mountain, the group has just finished a well-deserved, playful, and relaxing trip on the Middle Fork of the American River. We spent two amazing, sunny days laughing, splashing, and just enjoying each other’s company. While relaxing for a good bit, the river had its own challenges in the form of several wild class 4 rapids. We have been kissed by the sun and bathed in the waters all the while smiling from ear to ear.
The evening before our first day on the river we arrived at in the area and camped next to the river. To our surprise and delight, two other Moondance groups where camping in the area so we resolved ourselves to give each of them a good little scare and startle. Ed, being the tallest of us, led the sneak attack. Following his example, we crept over to their campsites silently then gave them a good holler! Everyone was all laughs once the surprise had settled down. After the little fun and exchange of hellos, we were off to bed in order to make it up for our early morning start on the river. The next morning, we rose early, all piled into Maxi half asleep, then headed out to meet the guides at the put in on the American about an hour away. We awoke slowly with some tunes as we feasted on bagels and cream cheese for a lite breakfast. We arrived a little time later bright eyed and bushy tailed, met our guides, and departed with haste back out into the woods, a place we’ve come to feel so at home.
After an incredibly liberal application of sunscreen for all, we were off and rafting. Charlie immediately proclaimed himself coxswain of his raft, hilariously calling out strokes in the voice of a revolutionary general to all of our amusement. It was apparent immediately that rafting would be joy for us all, with the perfect mixture of downtime intermingled with some challenging rapids. As we floated down after the first two rapids, Will decided a theme was in order for his raft. The decided on the Justice League, since the guide Kent looked sort of like Superman. So each member of his raft in turn took an alias as a member of the Justice league. Will was deemed Aquaman. Charlie, Maggie, and Casey were respectively deemed the Flash, Wonder Woman, and Batman. Not long into our first day, we arrived at the infamous Tunnel Chute rapids. The is a manmade feature, created during the mining days. A tunnel has been blown through the mountain side to divert the American River, creating a spectacular rapid. The gang scouted the approach, then without hesitation, we all shot down it hooting and hollering all the way. It was a blast, literally. Everyone made it safe and sound but thoroughly drenched. Harris, quite the videographer, capture some really great footage of everyone, and continued to do so throughout rafting and the rest of the trip. He is really crafty with the camera!
About half an hour later we beached the rafts and set on foot for a side hike up this small creek. After 15 minutes uphill, we popped into a small ‘canyonlette’ created by this mini waterfall along the creek. Each of took turns taking a dip under the waterfall in our ‘Indiana Jones – esque’ nook in the woods. After jumping in the raft again for a short bit, we broke for lunch on the bank, enjoying one a the very few meals cooked by someone else for us after cooking almost all of the time for ourselves. The delicious spread for sandwiches tasted just that little bit better since it had been prepared for us. At the conclusion of lunch, one of our guides Garrett pulled out the inflatable kayak for us to try and Murphy and Porter hopped into it for an afternoon of goofiness and fun. They immediately made the most of the duckies mobility, cruising up and down the river around the rafts. Next the spun the kayaks in donuts through the rapids as much as possible, while Murphy, the designated captain yelled orders in the funniest voice possible. Standing in the raft, jumping in the water and trying to pull others in all the while. Porter tried all day, to no avail to pull Kent into the water, but he was to crafty. We finished the day with plenty of sunlight left, relaxed on the beach, and just enjoyed each other’s company. Charlie and Casey continued their ‘Chess in strange places’ series on the riverbank, with Charlie getting ever closer to taking down Casey in a game. We dined on a delicious feast of pasta, garden salad with balsamic, and grilled chicken. Full and tired, we rested well.
The next day we awoke for more excitement on the river. After shuffling the rafts around a bit, Rebecca became the newest member of the Justice League, deemed the Cat Woman. We all laughed and splashed around until Rebecca made the grave mistake of confusing Wonder Woman, aka Maggie, for Captain Marvel. The upset Justice league had to evict her so she got thrown into the river, drenched and smiling. She would exact her revenge later by soaking the entire group with splashes from her paddle. The Cat Woman got the last laugh. The only person not to get thrown into the river the whole entire rafting trip was Brooks. He somehow managed to either push would be conspirators in or just dodge all the attempts. He remained the sole survivor in the end. Maggie was definitely the surprise attacker on the river, managing to push several people in. Behind her sweet and innocent smile lies a capable river dunker, something we found out the hard way.
After several class 4 rapids, we took another and even more spectacular side hike to a waterfall to swim in the pool below it. It was a magical time. We had a delicious lunch shortly after, dining on wild blackberries for dessert we picked by hand. It was a heck of a day. Anna, who has turned out to be quite the conversationalist at times, kept great conversation on the river with both the guides and everyone else in the group. She has also given Casey a newfound addiction for British Mystery novels with her recommendation to read Agatha Christie, a book she brought on the trip. After reading the “ABC Murders”, he is full on hooked. For the last two hours on the river we navigated 3 class 4 rapids back to back, then walked around a powerful 25-foot waterfall at the end. It was two days that went by incredibly quick but were so much fun for the group. We left feeling rested and rewarded, but with heavy hearts that it would be our last time in the backcountry together.
The group is heading back to the coast to meet the great Pacific again. We are conscious of our limited time together, trying to soak up every last bit of the present we have to enjoy with each other. We are excited for what’s left to come. Tonight, we throw down in the kitchen with our iron chef challenge, eager to see how our cooking skills have improved. For now, take care, We will see you all soon enough.
Joan + Casey
Shout Outs :
Porter – Hi Mother, I am having a great time. I’ll see you soon, Love you
Charlie – What’s up Fam!! I am having a great time and Love y’all lots, say hello to marshmello
Edward – Hey guys! I am having an awesome time here, Thanks so much for letting me come on this trip. Love you
Rebecca – Hi everyone! I’m having lots of fun! See you soon!
Maggie – Hi Mom and Dad, California has been so fun and I’m so excited to see you soon. Tell Huck and Buddy Hi!
Anna – Hi Everyone! Yosemite has been absolutely amazing and I am having an incredible time! Can’t wait to see everyone including Sadie & Em!
Brooks – Hey Mom! I’m having a great time at camp, See ya soon!
Harris – Hi Mom! I am having such a great time right now! I can’t wait to see you and Sandals!! Oh, and Dad too! Love you guys!
Murphy – Yo Fam, I am having a great time! I’m really sad its almost over. Pet the cat for me. I can’t wait to tell you all about our trip.
Will – Sup Family! I have had a great time on this trip, Pet Lilly for me! See ya soon.
July 20, 2019
Fourteen thousand one hundred and seventy-nine feet later, we did it! We climbed Mt. Shasta! The literal apex of our journey: three days on a stand-alone volcano. You can see the towering peaks of Mount Shasta over 100 miles away on Route 5. The mountain got bigger and bigger as Maxi drove towards its base. At its first sight, we all let out a nervous sigh and wiped our sweaty palms on our pant legs. It’s a big mountain. Snow covers the top and rocky ridges jut out from all angles. The severity of the next three days set in quickly. That didn’t affect our goofy nature, in fact, it only enhanced it. At camp that night we all took on alternate personalities with foreign accents that had each other bent over laughing. Our giggle spells lasted long into the night.
Up early the next morning, we packed our bags and munched on fresh fruit that we bought at a typical California fruit stand the day before. Peaches, nectarines, melon, cherries, etc. Packing our bags with our warmest clothing posed a bit of confusion, as it was over 100 degrees in the town of Shasta. “Do we really need this?” was a common question, and was always followed by, “Yes, yes you do.” Driving into town to meet the guides, Mt. Shasta was staring down at us, smiling. We had four trusty, professionals lead us up the mountain. They were affable and divided us into groups as we went through all our gear to ensure we were well prepared. Included in this check were our ice axes, crampons, helmets, harnesses, and mountaineering boots. Walking down the street we all felt like heavy duty mountaineers. We ate sandwiches and blasted Eminem pump up music as we drove to the trail head. Spirits were high and everyone was ready to tackle the climb ahead. The first day of hiking was easy: a mile and a half on a dirt trail. It flew by as we chit chatted and got to know our new guides. Low camp was beautiful. There is a mountaineering cabin, fresh spring water and the nicest composting toilet named The Phoenix. We set up camp just below the tree line and cooked a delicious dinner of chicken tacos. Of course, we had all the bells and whistles to go along with it: avocados, onions, peppers, cheese, hot sauce, etc. In typical fashion, every dish, pot and pan were licked clean. Anna was the LOD for the day and invited our guides to Moonup. She posed a question about a time when we were really nervous and how we overcame it. This sparked great conversation and let the guides in to what Moondance is all about. Back at home in the woods, we all slept soundly.
Day two of three. We woke early and expertly took down tents and packed our bags. At this point, it’s second nature and part of our morning routine. Breakfast that morning – you guessed it, oatmeal. The weather that day was bright blue skies and sunny. The mountain peak was out as we started our hike. We continued to gain elevation and finally hit snow. Mountaineering boots are stiff and heavy. Hiking on dirt is not ideal, so we welcomed the snow with happy relief. The hike today was enjoyable, about 2000 feet of elevation over two miles. We climbed high above the tree line and was awed with an expansive view of the Trinity Mountains, Lassen National Park and Mount Eddy. The Cascades is a beautiful part of the country that expands from Northern California to Washington state. It consists of stand-alone volcanoes, towering mountains and deep canyons. Our group is comprised of fast hikers and we got to camp early the second day. William and Murphy took advantage of day light and snow. They built forts with their ice axes and had a snowball fight that lasted close to an hour. The two of them tossed snow back and forth, continuing to use their odd accents we adopted two day before. While they were having a snowball fight, Edward and Brooks spent the hour perfecting the art of sautéing onions and bell peppers. They diced both vegetables and patiently cooked them on low heat. The smell of browning onions infiltrated the tents of fellow summitters around us. That night we ate a group favorite, backcountry Pad Thai. We ate early, as we had to be in bed by 6 p.m. sharp to rest for the arduous day ahead. Wide awake, we lay our heads down hoping that we would get a few hours of shut eye.
It was here: summit day. Our guides came to wake us up at 1:30 A.M. We started early than usual due to unseasonably warm temperatures. Despite the early wake up, everyone was up within minutes goofing around, funny accents and all. We were ready to climb to the top of the mountain we’ve been staring at for days. We split into four climbing teams, our headlamps and the moon guiding us across the snow. The mantra ‘be bold, start cold’ was calling in the back of our minds. Our bodies got warm quickly as we steadily gained elevation. We were on a sharp schedule: climb for an hour and then take a 10-minute break. A few hours and many snacks later, the sun slowly started to creep up. We were hiking up the southern face and the sun rose behind the ridge. This resulted in an expansive array of red, pink and orange colors bouncing on the valley around the shadow of the mountain. None of us have ever seen anything like it. The mountain shadow was a giant dark triangle with glowing colors around it. For some, the first few pushes were the hardest. Climbing in the dark is intimidating, especially when you can see the peak thousands of feet above of you. Maggie was a voice of consistent support and positivity. She encouraged her peers and cheered them through tough mental moments. The steepest part of the climb awaited us. We brought out our ice axes and put them to good use. Switchbacks were engraved in the snow and we slowly put one foot in front of the other. The short-term goal: a ridge called The Thumb. The Thumb is at 13,000 feet and is the ridge line where you can see the peak and the northern valley. It’s a huge accomplishment in itself. Here, Harris was feeling the altitude. He courageously made the decision to turn around with a guide. In high risk environments like this, it’s imperative to be in touch with how you’re feeling and to communicate with your fellow climbers. Harris knows himself and recognized it was time to call it. He welcomed us with the biggest smile and open arms later in the day. After a few snacks on The Thumb, we bid farewell to Harris and continued up to the summit. On the open ridge the wind picked up and reminded us of our exposure and high altitude. We still had another two hours and 1000 feet to the top. Slowly, in our rope teams, we continued to climb. Finally, all the hard work and nervous excitement paid off – we made it to the summit!! Rebecca led the girls rope team up the final stretch across the snowy ‘Football Field’ and up the point. She was the perfect person to lead her friends and fellow climbers. The top was more beautiful than we could have ever imagined. The 360 views were uninhibited as the sun crept over the horizon. Clouds blanketed the valley floor below. We enjoyed 15 minutes on the summit top, laughing and quietly basking in our accomplishment. Our guides smartly reminded us that only half of the challenge was over – we still needed to get down. Spirits were high and conversation flowed as we descended down the mountain. The sun warmed up the mountain face and the snow was ripe for glissading. Glissading is sliding down the snow on your bottom. It’s a quick, efficient, fun way to get down the mountain. Charlie was especially keen on glissading and connected different tracks all the way down. He was quite talented as well and sped up as others slowed down. We got to High Camp, packed up, and continued down to the trail head. Back at Maxi we tore off our mountaineering boots and let our tired feet air out. Hugs and high fives were everywhere. We wrapped up the adventure with our guides by talking about a high and low on the trip. Porter’s high was especially rememberable. He talked about how he wants to come back to Mt. Shasta with friends to hike up and ski down. As a guide, you know you’ve done a great job if people want to come back. We’re excited to see Porter and everyone else continue their mountaineering careers and expand their adventurous spirits.
We’re proud. So incredibly proud of every single goofball in our Moondance family. Mount Shasta is an intimidatingly beautiful mountain. We’ve all been nervous, excited, and every emotion in between. We continue our adventure to the American River. It’s time to give our legs a rest and enjoy some water, sunshine and big rapids.
Joan & Casey
July 16, 2019
Greetings friends and family! It’s been a wild week in the Yosemite backcountry. We write to you with happy hearts, tanned skin and worn feet; over 30 miles of beautiful trail behind us. After the first day we barely saw a soul, giving us plenty of space to let our goofy selves go. We laughed until we cried and got to know each other better via thoughtful conversations on the trail. It’s amazing how close you get by putting one foot in front of the other, propelling your home with your body. Yosemite’s beauty shocked us with every twist and turn. Smooth granite mountains reflected the sun in the distance as we walked under towering California pines.
The first day of hiking started with a steep uphill climb with an uncountable amount of switchbacks. Our bags heavy with a week’s worth of food, we were immediately thrown into the backpacking gauntlet. Sweat dripped down our faces and conversations were staggered as we caught our breath. Maggie kept spirits high and chatted about favorite movies, TV shows, podcasts, and singers. We all have a list of Maggie-recommendations for entertainment to check out when we part ways. She also had great recommendations for vinyl albums, which sparked a great debate of vinyl vs. downloaded music. Another great distraction from the gruesome uphill was the view. The trail climbed up a mountain side with a sprawling valley below. Every switchback was celebrated with an open view as the evening colors changed from orange to purple. We arrived at our first campsite as dusk settled upon us. To one side was a series of five waterfalls and to the other was an open rocky area perfect for camping and stargazing. Exhausted, we cooked up dinner and had Moonup mummied up in our sleeping bags with the waterfalls crashing in the distance.
The following morning we planned to sleep in but the California sun kindly reminded us that was not an option. We took our time to wake up and explore the rivers and waterfalls below. Almost everyone took a morning dip to shake out our sore muscles. The water was freezing cold, but was balanced out well by the hot sun. We took an hour to read books, play chess, and debrief crazy dreams from the night before. We set off late that morning for another hard day of hiking. Although not as steep as the day before, we had a lot of ground to cover and consistently gained elevation. The trail immediately challenged us with a river crossing where we learned how to safely get across, a skill we would have to use many times again. Our sore muscles ached as we climbed uphill. Harris kept up conversation and shared stories of life in Florida, his lacrosse team, and family. Harris took advantage of time on the trail to truly get to know everyone. He would skip up to the front and hold up the back so that he got to chat with multiple people each day. We stopped for a late lunch that day and took out the stove to make the famous ‘Davis’. The ‘Davis’ is tortillas, PB, and Nutella filled with cooked cinnamon apples, fresh pineapple and granola. This is then heated up on the stove to meld all the flavors together. Rebecca was on cook crew for lunch and perfected the cooked apples. She laid out a buffet of all the ingredients for us to go through, making our lunch feel extra gourmet. We continued on our hike with bellies full and energy restored. We climbed higher in elevation and further into the wilderness. Snow patches started to appear, which immediately resulted in snowball fights and snow angels. Give a bunch of southerners snow in summer and giddy smiles are everywhere. Edward was the Leader of the Day today and his leadership skills shone brightly. He was conscious of the group at all times, asking if people needed water breaks but keeping us on track to get to camp at a good hour. He brought out the map and compass at each break to ensure we were on track. We arrived just as the sun was setting over the lake. On the menu tonight was backcountry Pad Thai: sautéed onions, peppers, chicken, noodles, soy sauce and hot sauce. This was a unanimous crowd favorite and we went to bed that night exhausted and full.
The third day of hiking started as usual, in high spirits and good conversation. Almost immediately we came upon an abundance of snow that covered the trail. Snow melt carried off on different paths, creating trails that confused our direction. We all worked together to spot trail markers and signs that we were on the right path. We used compassion navigation and searched for footprints and human-placed logs. This was a great lesson for all of us to take our time and note our surroundings. The trail today was a combination of up and down as well as forest and open rock. The rock formations were cut into big blocks and surrounded us as we trekked; it certainly felt like we were in Yosemite. We stopped by a lake for a 15-minute break and Casey introduced us to the power of the Yosemite echo. Yelling into the distance our voices bounced along the rocks and reverberated along the valley. William saw some fish in the lake and took the time to take out our flower and plant identification book. Noting the colors and shape of the fins he pinned the type of fish and educated the group. This then became a standard while we backpacked for interesting flowers and trees. A few miles later the trail graced us with one of the most beautiful views yet. Snowy mountains to our left, a large lake below us and the Yosemite granite in the distance. Our campsite for the next two nights was the lake below and we slowly made our way down, as we wanted to enjoy lunch at the vista. Down at the lake everyone immediately shed their sweaty shirts and jumped into the icy water. Porter, always one for a spontaneous side adventure, and Casey challenged themselves and swam across the lake to the towering boulders. We all watched in amazement as the rest of us could only handle a quick dip in and out. We enjoyed the evening and made quesadillas to end a rewarding day of hiking.
The next day was a free day to roam, explore, relax, and reflect at the Buena Vista Lake since we would be staying at the campsite again that night. We started the day off in the most spectacular way we could think of, a sunrise hike to Buena Vista Peak. The group rose while the moon was still high in the sky and began to scale the snowbanks and rocky mountain side for the peak led by a full moonlight and headlamps when needed. Anna, our LOD for the day, led the group wonderfully through the giant scree field near the top to situate us in a prime location for a sunrise we all will never forget. No matter how cold, tired, or early it may be, Anna is always one to sport a positive attitude and get the job done. We are beginning to think someone forgot to teach her how to complain, for she surely doesn’t know. As we all sat perched on top of this rocky cliff side, the color show began as black turned to light blue, then to pink, then to a dazzling orange, and then at last a glimmering yellow we will always hold in our hearts. It felt amazing to reflect on all the hard work we had put in as a group to get here and what we had learned and accomplished. The beauty of that Yosemite sunrise made every second worth it, and some. After some time just sitting to soak up the moment, Charlie, our other LOD for the day, led us down for a day of miscellaneous fun and relaxation. We all spent time for self care, with some napping here and there, some swimming in the crisp mountain lake waters, and even some exploring the other side of the mountain on a day hike. Before everyone went about their day though, Brooks whipped up some of the most delicious chocolate pancakes there ever was. With 11 drooling people looking on, he made us all several mouthwatering pancakes as a reward for the successful sunrise hike. Charlie spent the better part of the morning playing chess with Casey, and also began his first installment in a series deemed ‘Chess in strange places’’. The days feature was atop a huge boulder next to the lake. The series entails playing games in beautiful and wild places all over California. It is surely to have many more features to come. The weather was beautiful, and everyone got the time to rest and relax that we all needed. It was an incredibly enriching day for the group, and one that was well deserved with all the beauty of nature to go along with it. It was all too fitting that we ended the day with a Thanksgiving feast together deep in the Yosemite wilderness. On the menu was buttery Idaho mashed potatoes and stuffing with a scrumptious brown gravy on top and a side a chicken. Some of us even ventured to add a little bit of spice with the addition of Chile oil, our new addiction from the pad Thai supper. We ate ‘til our hearts content, then rested like we’d never before.
Our fifth day of hiking began our trek back towards Maxi, our home away from home that we were all excited to get back too. It was a longer day of 8 miles, but mostly down hill, so the group set a goal to push it back to our first night’s campsite with pace so we’d have time to swim and enjoy ourselves one last evening in the backcountry. With a blistering pace, we made it back to the falls of night one in record time with much of the afternoon ahead of us. We set up camp in a jiffy, threw on some sunscreen, and off we went to the waterfalls to find the perfect swimming hole. We found a beauty right off the bat and jumped right in. The water was so cool on that hot summer day that it felt incredible and refreshing. After some time at the first waterfall, Murphy dared to adventure further up only to discover four more gorgeous waterfalls above that we could all explore. As we climbed further up the tiers of waterfalls, the fifth and highest one opened up to a giant and breathtaking swimming hole with a nonexistent current and an amazing little ledge for jumping. After swimming down in the pool to see it was very deep, we all took turns leaping from the little cliff into the cool waters at the foot of the fall. There couldn’t have been a better way to spend the last afternoon out in Yosemite. Our last dinner was pesto couscous and salmon, and plenty a goofiness to go around. Every single person was talking in funny accents, making funny noises, laughing, and hooting and hollering. As if we all knew we had to go back into civilization, we wanted to squeeze our backcountry experience for all its weird and quickness once and for all. It was the funniest diner yet. After a goodnights rest, we all packed up in a hurry and zoomed down the trail to Maxi and all her comforts.
ackpacking had reminded us just how special the little things in life truly are. We loaded up into our home, and headed on down to the Valley, stopping at the mind-boggling view of Glacier Point for a panoramic view of Yosemite Valley. Upon arriving at the floor, we spent to afternoon hiking to El Cap to touch the giant granite monolith walls, eating pizza to celebrate, and finishing our night with a scoop of ice cream reminiscing the wonderful adventure we’d taken together.
Our time together in the wild has brought us much closer as group and taught us many skills. However, the challenges are far from over and our skills are soon to be put to the test. Now, the magnificent Mt. Shasta awaits our approach. Soon a new adventure begins, with higher heights and new things to learn. Off we go back into the Wild!!
-Casey and Joanie
July 9, 2019
Friends and family!
Finally, our big Moondance adventure across California has begun. It’s been a long time waiting, but man is it worth it. Airport day was nerve racking, exciting, and full of energy. Rebecca was our first to arrive. She bounded into baggage claim with a smile bigger than you can imagine. Bag in hand, she quickly established herself as the welcoming committee. One by one people would filter in and Rebecca would make them feel at home. As the day trickled on, everyone was gnawing at the bit to get to our first destination: the Pacific Ocean. Finally, the group was complete, and we bounded to the parking lot to meet our four wheeled home away from home, Maxi. The California sun was shining down on us as we drove down Highway 1 with the windows down and speakers bumping. Once camp was set up, many found it necessary to baptize ourselves in the ocean and wash away the long travel day. Clean and salty, we enjoyed our first dinner together as the sun set in the west. Our campsite that night was feet away from the beach and the ocean waves lullabied us all into a deep slumber. What a way to start our grand adventure.
We woke early that next morning with awe in our eyes as we watched surfers catch mega waves in our beach backyard. It was our morning TV as we drank coffee and cooked eggs and English muffins. Spirits were high as we drove to Pacifica to learn the art of surfing. Our guides ‘Big Wave Dave’ and James took us under their wings and started from the basics. On sand we learned how to paddle, pop up, and most importantly, how to read the ocean. The ocean is unpredictable and strong; we must respect it and be aware of the currents that can pull in different directions. This is an important lesson to learn. Over the next three weeks we will learn how to respect slippery rock faces, big mountains and all the powerful nature in our giant playground. In the water we paddled into the waves allowing them to crash on top of us. We put our newfound talents to the test and popped up on as many waves as we could. Everyone got up at some point and was able to ride the board toward the beach. Without a doubt, Brooks caught the wave of the day. While the rest of us were catching waves that had already crashed, Brooks was able to paddle as a wave got momentum and rode it as it broke toward the beach. Turns out we may have the next Mavericks winner on our hands. A few hours of surfing was plenty for us all. Endless paddling and the California sun can surely take it out of you. After a Mediterranean sandwich feast, we were back in Maxi with salty hair driving straight for Yosemite National Park. Charlie’s musical knowledge immediately came out on our first long drive. He had a brilliant idea to play some new albums from start to finish. His music taste spans many genres and it was fun for us all to expand our musical knowledge under his guidance. Unanimously, this was one of the most beautiful drives any of us had been on. The sun set as we drove north of the park through windy roads separating thickly covered forest floors. The purple haze blanketed the valleys as we curved our way up and around. At camp, Edward took the Grill Master title as we sparked up the grill and cooked burgers. He is a talented griller and even perfected the Veggie Burgers, which are not an easy feat. We laid our heads to rest that night with full bellies and sore arms, excited to conquer the vertical granite playgrounds the next day.
We rose early the next day with a light meal of oatmeal and dried fruit, then hit the road to meet up with our climbing guides. As we got to the wall, Porter helped everyone get situated with their gear and doled out some great advice for cruising up the wall. You could tell he had spent some time off the ground at home. He noted how different climbing outside was from climbing in a gym. The climbing for the first day was all slippery slab climbing on the granite walls high up at 10,000 feet of elevation. We all learned to focus on using our feet instead of our arms to climb, as is the Yosemite style of climbing. We climbed til we were worn and worked, then retreated to camp for a delicious diner of fajitas! On cook crew later that evening, Anna became the onion sautéing queen, slowly caramelizing them to a golden-brown perfection that warmed out hearts and taste buds while taking her time to make them with love, and while the group chatted about Sophomore year in high school, with all its twists and turns, ups and downs. Maggie was also killing it in the kitchen, with her perfectly hysterical sarcasm, she kept everyone laughing for hours. She’s been getting funnier and funnier as she gets to know everyone and opens up more and more. After our delicious diner, we all settled into a special Moonup led by Rebecca and Harris, as we all began to become more vulnerable with each other. Harris has been a rock for the group, being friendly and open with each of us. As LOD, he encouraged a longer Moonup around a campfire where we talked about pivotal moments or parts of our life that has shaped us to who we are. It was a meaningful night for us all, and we slept feeling so much closer to each other.
For day 2 of climbing, we ventured to a different area for a new style of climbing. Day 2 was the day of crack climbing. It was a strong contrast from the slab climbing. Everyone in the group unanimously preferred crack climbing to slab, and we climb all day long. Everyone was really coming into their own as budding climbers. Will, who had really been showing a lot of skill on the rock, managed to climb every single route on the cliffs on day two. It was quite a feat. We returned to camp that night kissed by the sun, starting to look a little more like locals. For diner, we busted out the tunes and partied to our success as climbers. Murphy lead the cook crew that evening, busting out his whole repertoire of unparalleled dance moves to everyone’s delight. It was so much fun. As Murphy reminded us there’s nothing liking cooking a good meal with friends and dancing the night away. For diner we had lentils with onions, bell peppers, and some jasmine rice. It was interesting to see all those among us branch out to try more veggies and find out they were pretty tasty after all.
Now we head into an even bigger challenge, our 6-day backpacking journey into the wilderness of Yosemite. The psych is high and everyone is eager to get out to the beautiful solitude of the backcountry. Sunny days and starry nights await us. For now, sayonara to all of you, and off we go to blaze the trail.
Casey + Joanie
July 5, 2019
Hi Yosemite families,
All students have arrived at SFO and this Yosemite trip is officially on its way.
Be on the lookout for more updates to come!