June 22, 2021
Hi Moondance families and friends! We’ve made it to the end of our journey and have shared so many fulfilling memories altogether. Let’s recap the final days of Big Wild!
After driving off of the Salmon River, we arrived at our campsite in Glenns Ferry, Idaho, with a whole ton of pent-up energy from sitting in the car. John, Win, and Booker threw on some workout clothes and started running laps for speed around the loop- slowly turning it into a big group competition for the quickest time. Kate and Addison got a quick workout in, and everyone enjoyed some physical activity after lots of driving. For dinner: make-your-own pizzas! Juliet, Win, and William were absolute professionals at tossing and rolling the dough into pizza shapes, and we cooked them as a group to close out a fantastic day.
The group woke up early the following day to tackle the rest of the driving to reach Jackson! Our car rides were never ever dull, thanks to the infectious energy amongst the group. John and Nicolai kept the group on their toes with their jokes while Evie Moore, Ava, Addison, and George loaded up the queue with some tunes- Phoebe Bridgers is a hot favorite amongst the group. We arrived at our campsite in Jackson early afternoon and started prepping for climbing before announcing the night’s big surprise. We had tickets to go to the Jackson Hole Rodeo! It was a first rodeo experience for many, including both us leaders- and we had such a blast. Win and Booker rode the mechanical bull, and Anna and Evie McKenzie led the charge to buy cowboy hats. Chris was one of five lucky contestants picked out of the crowd for the famous rodeo dance competition! Our crew had a great time, and it sounds like we have some kids who want to go to rodeos more often.
Next up on our activity list was rock climbing in quite a scenic location. We drove into Grand Teton National Park to meet our rock climbing guides all the way through to Jenny Lake. Breathtakingly scenic is one way to describe that morning drive. The tops of the peaks around us were still full of snow, yet it was a clear and cool morning on the road. After being fitted for harnesses, helmets, and climbing shoes, we trekked over to a water shuttle that took us to our climbing area entrance. The guides warmed us up with some basic climbing maneuvers and strategies on 5-10 foot walls before we hiked past Hidden Falls and up to the base of our day’s climbing spots. We split our group into 4, each group with its own specific guide for instruction. This gave each kid an ample amount of focused time climbing, which each of them immensely enjoyed. Climbing was a challenge for everyone, and our guides made sure to not take things too easy on our confident group! Evie McKenzie stood out with her speedy climb of the most complex walls of the day. We had been fortunate to go our whole trip without rain until the boat ride back from climbing soaked us all. Our late-afternoon agenda consisted of doing laundry, a car wash, and Haagen Dazs ice cream! This was a thrilling combination of events for the kids considering they’d been camping for 12 days. Moving onto the campsite, some delicious beef stir fry and a Moonup under the stars brought us to the end of our day. We got to bed early before an action-packed final day. It’s worth mentioning at this point that to the entire group, tents were a total afterthought. The kids –and us leaders included- cherished sleeping outside all together while taking in the night scenery, sharing laughs, and recounting fond trip memories.
Final day, more climbing! After some bagels and cream cheese, fruit, yogurt, and granola, we were on the road back to our climbing site. Today’s agenda: more increasingly difficult climbing, multi-pitch climbing, and a big rappel to close things out! Each kid pushed themselves to the fullest, enjoying the challenge of a relatively new sport in climbing. William and George shared laughs during the difficult points, but everyone left climbing feeling fulfilled and accomplished. After climbing, we headed into the town of Jackson for showers, free time walking around town, and shopping –mainly for funny banquet outfits! Oh man did the kids find some fun clothes to wear. The guys found matching tank tops and American flag shorts while the girls matched with some super oversized funny t-shirts. Next, our motley crew headed off to our banquet dinner with emphatic energy, which carried all through the night. We went to a tasty restaurant called Streetfood @ Stagecoach for banquet, where we all sat outside together joking, laughing, and cherishing some of the last moments we would share together. A rambunctious ride back to the campsite- with plenty of sing-alongs on the way- was followed by our longest Moonup yet.
Everyone had several positive memories to share and gratitude for how much they had grown throughout the two weeks. Many shared their enhanced appreciation for life’s simple things they had taken for granted, positivity and happiness created from being in a supportive group, and the confidence they gained from tackling tasks that initially felt impossible. We are so incredibly proud as leaders to see how much the group progressed as a functioning team. Each kid felt more and more comfortable every day to unashamedly be their genuine selves. This is a lesson they will all take away from Moondance. The group’s relationship- and strong bonds created within- will be shared for a long time, and we as leaders are thrilled to follow their lives and maturation as incredible people.
Thank you for sharing your kids with us this summer, and we hope they continue to live their lives and grow in confidence just as they did with us on Big Wild.
– Anna Stone & Chris Monde
June 19, 2021
Hello from your favorite Moondancers! We’ve had some action packed days since you’ve last heard from us, let’s recap:
We started our journey to Idaho with warm showers before piling into the van for our long car ride. It consisted of some much needed relaxation, sing-alongs, podcasts, trivia, oh- and a Chick-fil-a intermission. It’s never a dull moment with this crew. We pulled into our campsite in McCall, Idaho to find out we’re right on another lake! Nicholai and Booker led a group to go and jump off the dock, and banana pancakes were on the menu for dinner as we enjoyed our last night pre-rafting.
The next day we had an early rise, but met our awesome raft guides- Matt, Mason, and Trista- at a beautiful launching spot on the Salmon River. Raft groups were split guys and girls for our first day – a 25 mile adventure, and the entertainment in both was quite memorable. Evie McK. really helped calm some of the early nerves when she told us all about her experience rafting the Salmon last summer! Our guides showing the kids how to “ride the bull” on the rapids was a major hit. This is where someone sits on the front of the boat holding onto the roping with one hand, and has the other waving in the air! George- who never fails to make any of us crack up laughing- stepped up to the plate on our first rapid with great amusement. Meanwhile in the girls raft, Kate never missed an opportunity to jump into the water while encouraging everyone else to follow suit. We were spoiled by beautiful river-beach campsites all three nights of rafting, and the first night’s camp held an excellent surprise. After unloading the rafts, the group enjoyed some exploration, expert rock skipping- led by John. William and Addison loved playing bocce ball. Our guides cooked up an excellent dinner followed by a campfire, s’mores, and a beach dance party! We had an awesome Moonup before bed, which capped off an incredible day for the whole crew.
The group was able to sleep in a bit before another action packed day of rafting, but Win always loved waking up early to have some coffee and hang out with the guides! After some French toast and bacon, we set out on the river. Today marked the beginning of the raft “sneak attacks”, and John never missed an opportunity to pull someone into the water! All of the energy used in the morning was shown at lunch when most of the group was asleep in the sand when the lunch bell rang. After some tougher rapids in the afternoon, we had a low-key night at camp enjoying each other’s company and sharing laughs before dinner and an early sleep.
We switched up the raft groups for our last full day on the water, and the group had a relaxing, yet memorable day. The guides gave us the chance to float down some of the rapids; William and Win went from Chris’ boat, and Nicholai, John, Kate and George from Anna’s! Ava, Evie M., and Addison greatly enjoyed getting to know our guide Trista, and couldn’t stop talking about how awesome of a conversation they had. At our final rafting campsite, Evie M. led George and Ava on a small trek up a hill to an incredible view where they felt like they were on top of the world! Meanwhile, a rock with a thrilling jump into the river was found and enjoyed by some of the rest. Nearly the entire group slept outside as we all cherished more of the incredible stars on display and laughs shared.
We only had a few miles left to raft on our final day, but we’re still surprised our guide Matt could survive any longer rafting with all the guys! Our river adventure was a fantastic success, and between her cleaning crew help and humor, Juliet was the raft guides’ favorite!
All of the kids miss you all so much! With the holiday coming up this weekend, here is a message from everyone:
Addison: Happy Father’s Day dad. Love and miss both of you. I love it here. Thanks so much for sending me here.
Ava: Happy Father’s Day to the best dad ever. I think about y’all every day and I miss y’all so much but I’ve had an amazing time and making lots of memories. Love all of you guys so much, xoxoxo.
Booker: Love y’all. Happy Father’s Day dad. Happy Birthday Hunt. See y’all soon.
Evie McK.: I’m alive! I miss you guys. Love you.
Evie M.: I love and miss you guys, but it’s incredible here. I don’t want to leave. Happy Father’s Day dad. I wish I could be there to decorate and make it special, but you know just a day can’t express my love for you. Anyways tell Walt I love him bye.
George: Happy Father’s Day daddy
John: Happy Father’s Day dad. Can’t wait to see you and I love you.
Juliet: Happy Father’s Day dad! I miss all of you so much, but I’m making great memories here and learning so much! Can’t wait to see all of you again. P.S. Thanks mom and Maggie for packing so many things, it helped so much to have a blanket.
Kate: Happy Father’s Day dad love and miss you.
Nicholai: Happy Father’s Day can’t wait to be home
William: Happy Father’s Day dad. Can’t wait to see you and I love you.
Win: Happy Father’s Day dad, can’t wait to see you guys.
Next up, back to Jackson and rock-climbing in the Grand Tetons to close out our unforgettable experience of a lifetime.
-Anna Stone & Chris Monde
June 14, 2021
What an adventure these first few days have been! We started out at the Jackson airport and spent some time getting to know each other. George led us in a group game while we waited for our final group members to arrive before making our way south to our campsite. Everyone got their fly fishing license in preparation for backpacking in the Winds and after some pizza we trekked down to our campsite just in time to catch a stunning sunset over the lake and mountains. The group learned how to set up tents, and we had our first Moonup- which is where we recap the day, ask a group question, and pick tomorrow’s leaders of the day! We needed to get to sleep early before a big day backpacking.
A 6am wake-up call wasn’t early enough to stop Booker and Win from a morning dip in the lake! After cleaning up camp, John and Nicolai helped throw together some eggs and sausage for the group and we got our backpacks ready for our adventure in the Wind River Range. Our trek out to the campsite turned out to be quite the challenge, but the group persisted and showed some true grit on our 4.5 mile hilly climb. We were very impressed by the maturity and positivity on display as we trekked over branches and across a boulder field to reach our campsite on a stunning meadow! Kate and Evie Mo. really helped spur on the group with their energy on the final leg of the hike. After battling some strong winds, everyone got their tents up followed by a quick dinner, Moonup and bed after the crazy day of hiking!
Sleeping in was totally earned on our third morning, and the kids really enjoyed their morning hot chocolate! After the long uphill climb the previous day, this had to be a chill one. It was chockfull of card games led by William, crafts, some adventure and a whole lot of laughs! Ava brought up tons of different colors of string, and it was an absolute hit. The group spent hours getting to know each other and making some super creative bracelets- which I am sure they’ll keep for along time. The afternoons on the mountain get pretty hot, so after some fajitas with chicken and peppers, we headed over to a lake near our campsite for some swimming. Booker and Kate were the first to jump in, and they convinced almost the whole group to hop in after them! Afterwards, we headed back to camp and learned how to fly fish. Although the fish weren’t biting, fly fishing form was improved upon significantly- Evie Mc. was called a “natural” by our guide. The cook crew helped prepare pasta for dinner, and more quality group time was spent together through dinner and Moonup- Juliet had some one-liners that cracked the group up! To top it off, we were treated to one of the most beautiful night skies most of us had ever seen, and some saw their first ever shooting stars.
Our final full day in the Winds was fueled by adventure and even more memories. The group was ready for another small hike, so after breakfast we packed our daypacks and headed up even higher into the mountains. Our destination: a huge pond nestled under the highest peak we could see. A few brave souls jumped into the freezing water- Booker impressed all by staying in for nearly a minute- and the rocks surrounding the lake were perfect for sunbathing and relaxation! After eating some lunch, Chris took some of the guys and trekked up a few hundred more feet to find an incredible view of the range. We hiked back to our campsite in the late afternoon, and sat all together in a circle talking, laughing and enjoying our closing moments in the backcountry. The leaders whipped up some pad Thai for dinner and tonight’s Moonup was the longest, most conversation-rich yet. The night wasn’t over though; most of the group refused to go to bed until we saw a shooting star, leading to about half us sleeping outside under the incredible night sky.
Time to leave the Winds! The group cut our hike time nearly in half on the way out while still enjoying some of the incredible Wyoming views we’ve been spoiled by. The kids were blown away by how far they had come when our guide Connor pointed out the mountain peak we had been camping under. What a challenging yet rewarding experience it had been. We packed up the van and headed back to the same camp we stayed at the first night- right on a beautiful lakeside beach. The kids explored the beach and enjoyed some swimming while Chris and Anna prepped the group for rafting and grilled up some burgers and dogs for dinner to celebrate a successful time backpacking. We all learned pretty quickly that George has an unbreakable love for hot dogs. Our leaders of the day- Addison and Booker- picked out a pretty amusing Moonup question that really got some laughs going before bed! The early wake up for our drive to Idaho didn’t stop half of the group from sleeping outside again. The stars here are too good to pass up on.
– Anna + Chris
June 9, 2021
Hello Big Wild 1C Families!
The whole group arrived safely in Jackson Hole, and they are headed to their first campsite! We have heard from our leaders that the trip is off to a great start, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventure!
Please remember that our leaders and students will be unplugged during their trips but we will be posting at least three trip updates throughout the next couple of weeks. This will allow you to follow along with the trip and the students will also give a special shoutout mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!!