July 11, 2021
Hello all! Hey guess what?! We just finished our last activity. Are Emme and I sad that it’scoming to an end? Yep! Are we thankful for the memories we made? Ooohh youbetcha! In allseriousness, we cannot emphasize how honored we are to call ourselves leaders to thisamazing group of teenagers.
Everyday I feel like I can’t laugh more or like them anymore than Ido already, and then the next day comes and they all exceed my expectations once again. Ourhiking portion through the Wind River Range was no different.In our preparation portion at GROW ranch, we taught the group the wonders of the duffle shuffleand showed them how to properly pack a backpack. May I just say, wow they picked it upIMMEDIATELY. It was really awesome to watch. What was even cooler was watching Will andField help everyone else who were uneasy about the whole process of stepping out of theircomfort zone. I should probably preface by saying that we had a wide range of expertise when itcame walking around in the woods. After everyone felt comfortable with their packs, we had some downtime at GROW ranch. Luckily, there is just about the best stocked pond literally astones throw from our campsite. I remember setting up our bug net “Neoni” and then hearing arest deal of hoopla coming from the pond. “Bo, come see this monster Tommy pulled out”,Annabel screamed. And by George, she was correct. Hands down, it was the largest rainbow trout I have ever seen above the surface.
To be completely honest, everyone kind of felt guilty athow large it was since it was private property and it was only his second cast. The guys collectively decided to put their rods down. Then they remembered something. The girls have bombarded them with pranks this whole trip, and they were long overdue to get them back.Together they put their minds together and threw each girl into the pond individually. There weremany chases and smiles to be had that evening.That night we crowded into our bug net (Neoni) and charged for the day ahead. When we awoke we packed our necessities into our backpacks and met our guide Justin. He is a truly chill man who was born to walk in the woods.
Next stop was the Wind River range. Will, Tommy, Crawford, Wilkes, and Reid were clearly excited to put foot on trail from the get go.The 6 mile hike in was definitely challenging for most but the group completely crushed it. My favorite moment on the trip was seeing Mary and Meghan thinking they couldn’t go anymore and then seeing them realize that they could go much farther than they thought they could. It was a really inspirational moment for everyone. We finally rolled into camp in the mid afternoon. Most opted for naps while Tommy, Reid, Wilkes, and Anabel went fishing. Each of them caughttrout, and we could not have been more proud of them.
The next morning was our summit day. The plan was to gain 2500 feet up the Warrior One peak. The group needed some extra motivation which is exactly where Lucas and Will came in.This is the best comedic duo of all time and they had no problem making all of us belly laugh inbetween exhausted breathes. On the summit we all gaped at the 360 degree view of ourmountainous world. We could even see our tiny campsite off in the distance and were all surprised at the distance we covered. While some sprawled out on rocks to take quick napswhile others and myself danced and sang our favorite road trip tunes. I think about that moment a lot. On the way down, I remember Will recognizing that our last group challenge was over.That sense of appreciation really sank deep with the entire group as our trip’s end quickly became apparent.
The next day Reid and Anabel lead us as we hiked to our lunch spot next to Big Sandy Lake. Anabel, Emme, and myself all caught some rainbow and cutthroat trout. We left the lake, and headed to our last campsite in the Wind River Range. The sudden realization that we might never be back together started closing in. Conversation about each others flights started emerging as there was an obvious sense of cherishing every last moment they had with each other. Our second to last Moonup was the most emotional yet and I remember many meaningful hugs among newly formed best friendships. This group was really something special and I don’t think anyone was ready to leave. The next morning we arose at the crack of 5:00 am to hike to our van. We were gifted on our last day together with a beautiful sunrise above our impossibly beautiful mountain range. Many of us tripped over our feet because of the incredible distraction.
After 2 hours of hiking, we made it back to the van and our hiking portion was over. We ate breakfast at the van and packed up for our first and final destination, Jackson Hole. This was our first opportunity to effectively explore Jackson Hole as we all stormed in and our of shirt shops, ice cream shops, and gift shops. We then ate at my favorite restaurant, The Bird, where we ate burgers and talked about our predictions for each other’s future. It obviously devolved into some hilarious ideas. That night we camped next to an amazing view of the Tetons and ate s’mores. Sadly, we all gathered under Neoni for what we knew was our last time to do so. That nights question for the group was what have you learned from this trip. The silver tongue known as Lily Beck sent everyone into deep thought as she challenged everyone to stay their best Moondance selves even after the trip was over. I have never seen a group get so close in one night. I have a great deal of faith that these friendships will last a lifetime and feel incredibly thankful to be apart if such a wonderful family.
We miss them all so much. Big thanks to whoever had a hand in giving us such a wonderful group. Life is strange without them.
July 3, 2021
Hello from Washington! We have just finished four long, hot and beautiful days on the Salmon River and boy do we have some memories to share. A few days ago we traveled from Wyoming to the beautiful town of Mcall, Idaho. On our drive we surprised the group with Chick Fil A for breakfast and rewarded ourselves with a swim in the lake at our campsite.
Our group spent the evening channeling our competitive side by playing Iron Chef, a cooking competition. During the cook-off, Lily carried her team to the finish line by presenting a beautiful fajita decorated in hot sauce and corn on the cob. Her team of rambunctious boys would not have done well without her! On the other team, Mary led her group in a detailed and organized fashion, creating the best fajita bowl Bo and I have ever had. I don’t think we have ever been more full and content in our lives. Iron Chef was a success!
The next morning we met our guides at the Salmon River to set off on our next adventure. Meghan was first to ride the bull of the raft and fall off into the waves. She never stopped laughing and smiling as she swam down the rest of the rapid. Later that day, the raft wars
began. Wilkes, Tommy and Field took charge to overtake the other raft. Field is the first ever person to take Bo into the water during raft wars. It was incredible! That evening we ate burgers and peach cobbler along the riverside at our first beach campsite.
The second day of rafting, we got the opportunity to swim down a rapid all together. Anabel, Lily and I clung to each other as we went up and down the waves. We couldn’t see anyone else among the huge waves, but we could hear everyone’s laughter! Later at the campsite, a group of us hiked one of the hills along the riverbend. Will, Crawford and Lucas took off and were the first to summit! It was so cool to see the Salmon River from a different elevation, giving all of us a new perspective of our surroundings.
After a breakfast of French toast on the third day, we set off on the last stretch of the Salmon river. We stopped a few miles in to jump off lava rocks into the deep river. It was amazing to watch Reid work his way to the higher jump, even with a fear of heights, and come up from the water with a huge smile on his face. Later that day as we made our way into the Snake river, the whole group was floating down the river together. Then all of a sudden I turn around and Tommy is holding a massive carp! The fish swam by him in the water, and he just reached in and grabbed it. Everyone was in awe of our group’s fisherman!
Today, we reluctantly left the Idaho rivers and are on our way back to Wyoming with excitement for the upcoming adventures!
June 30, 2021
Hello all! We absolutely cannot explain how ecstatic we are to fill you in on our adventures. Right off the bat, we could tell that this was a special group by how quickly everyone got along in the airport. From the moment the first four people, Wilkes, Anabel, Mary, and Crawford, got off the plane, they immediately became close friends. Already, Emme and I could sense that we were going to have a great time with our group. Once a few more arrived, we began playing the notorious game of “Big Booty” in baggage claim to break the ice and make everyone comfortable being silly. We were pleasantly surprised how quickly the giggles showed up as Crawford won his first veggie off by acting like a heartbroken asparagus. The veggie choice was chosen by the group, obviously a creative group!
Once all our chickens were in a row, we set off for our campsite at Colter Bay. The drive could not have been more beautiful, and I distinctly remember looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing Lucas and Anabel’s amazed faces as we all ogled over the Grand Tetons that were illuminated in the afternoon skyline. It was a moving moment for all.
When we arrived at the campsite, the group began setting up tents and the kitchen. It was wonderful to see how helpful and encouraging everyone is to each other. Especially Reid, Meghan, and Lucas who always ask us if there is anything they can do to help. There have always been moments when I have witnessed them doing group tasks without any of us asking them. Later that night, we escaped the mosquitos by setting up our bug net. Field took the most affinity towards the neon bug net and chose to nickname it “Neoni”. No one has used the term bug net since. This promoted the group to give each other nicknames. Field is Lumberjack/Lumby/Pop. Crawford is Craw Daddy. Tommy is Tommy Bahama/Tom Tom. Wilkes is Wilkes Booth. Lucas is Gobby. Reid is Neil. Will is XX the Falc0n. Anabel is Snaps. Mary is Marley. Lily is Chef Boyardee. Meghan is The MEG.
We woke up with the first Leader of the Days (LODs), Anabel and Field, to cook the group loaded hash brown burritos. Then we set out towards Jenny Lake in the Tetons for some rock climbing. There we met our guides Seba, Tom, and Trevor who were absolutely amazed at how polite our group is. Before we hit the walls, the kids learned how to tie their own knots that they would be depending on for any climbing activity. They learned the figure 8 follow through, and Tommy won the knot tying race. Once everyone was confident in their abilities, we hiked up to the walls where the guides were ready for us to climb up a relatively steep rock wall with a rope. Field was hands down the fastest at these activities and practically walked up the wall. For some, it was their first time climbing on an authentic rock wall and quickly learned to conquer the mountain. After our first climb I noticed Mary, Reid and Lucas becoming more and more comfortable with climbing and heights. It was truly inspiring to say the least and that night’s Moonup was full of people describing how they personally accomplished things they never thought possible. I should mention that no one amazed me more than Lily that day, she was always the most patient and climbed as well as belayed with grace. Trevor, our guide, was amazed at how well she coiled the rope because it looked like one of the professional guides had done it.
When we came back to camp that afternoon, we immediately put on our swimsuits and jumped into one of the most beautiful lakes to exist. We sat and gazed at the fresh snow-melted water with the Teton mountains on the opposite shoreline. We have absolutely loved getting to spend time with this group. Everyone adds something different to the group whether it’s wise cracks from Crawford, Will, Lucas, and/or Wilkes or a kind gesture from literally everyone (they crave helping others, each one of them) we love having his group.
The second day of climbing was one of the best ever. Each student came back from it remarking on how well each got to know each other. I couldn’t be prouder of them. I remember talking to one of our guides about how our plan for the day was to increase in difficulty which involved a couple of multi pitch climbs. She also made sure to tell me that not many groups come through Exum like ours. I just remember being as content as one can be since other people were noticing that we have something special. The new LODs, Will and Lily, had much more responsibility than usual, but they executed their duties flawlessly since the group was split up so much. The day consisted largely of climbing difficult walls and then repelling from them. I remember Annabel absolutely crushing the climb like she was born to climb that rock wall. I also remember Mary telling me she felt a little uneasy about the whole situation and by the end of the day she was the first to volunteer to go up a new wall. What a great day!
The afternoon was full of smiles and giggles as we returned to our gorgeous lake and Mountain View. After we dipped into the frigid shoreline, we sun dried on the hot rocks. We honestly could not have asked for a better afternoon; the Tetons showed their beauty just for us and we were so grateful for every second we had with them. Later we laughed and told stories while making s’mores before we drifted off to sleep in preparation for our long travel day.