June 21, 2021
Hello from Washington!
Going home after a trip like this, with a group like this, is nothing short of bittersweet. The excitement of seeing familiar faces, favorite food, and one’s bed again contrasts directly with a sense of sadness that the trip is over. While we will never be together in this place again, each kid leaves this trip with a new community that they belong to and that is pretty special.
Our final day in Washington was a blur- early morning oatmeal, a ferry ride back to Anacortes, and some end of trip tasks! We all accepted the challenge of the day and savored each second of it, as it was filled with many lasts. The kids still kept up their excitement and energy, even though the day was long! One of our final LOD’s, Elizabeth, set the tone for the day with the quote, “Life’s what you make it!”. Elizabeth talked about how she thought this quote fit the day because even though it was our last, we all had the opportunity to enjoy it and make it the best last day ever.
We headed for Goodwill as soon as we hopped off the ferry. Each kid picked out an outfit for our final banquet and the kid’s choices were all so stylish. The boys on the trip really went for it on our last night! Harry picked out a gold sparkly number to wear to dinner. He owned it and made all of us laugh! Paul chose a dapper vest and tie combo, paired with some rainbow sneakers. Henry went full send on a librarian inspired outfit, which included a cardigan, tea length skirt, and Mary Janes. The kids could barely contain their giggle’s at the checkout counter. The employee’s made sure to ask us why we were buying crazy clothes and we simply told them it was just for fun!
Each kid rolled up to dinner in their outfit confident and laughing. It was so refreshing to see the kid’s humility and how much they simply didn’t care what the other restaurant goers thought of them. They were all living in the moment, enjoying some pizza, and being silly kids. It was so awesome to see and really was an example of the fun-loving nature of this group.
While we sat and ate, Kate mentioned how she didn’t even miss her phone and the whole table agreed. The kids have shown us their capability to live in the moment without screens and just enjoy each other. This can be seen through little, spontaneous moments throughout the trip, like the impromptu dance party led in the parking lot after dinner by Emma. Macy showed us her best moves in her goodwill Hawaiian shirt! All of us danced and laughed under the setting Washington sun, celebrating our last dinner together as a group. We sang songs in the car all the way home and headed towards the beach for Moonup.
We were lucky enough to have another beautiful sunset as the backdrop for our final Moon Up. The kids ran around the beach in their silly outfits, taking in an important last with this group. Each kid went around and said the biggest take away they had from this trip. Zyah talked about how she realized the importance of people and spending real time with others. Fallon and Mary Grace talked about living in the moment and taking every opportunity you get, because memories last forever!
It was rewarding to hear that the kids had gained so much from the experience. Moonup ended with smiles and sadness, as the kids realized the trip was coming to a close quickly. Regardless, they returned to the campsite with smiles.
After Moonup, the kids set up a “mega-tent”, so that they could all be together for their last night. Lilly talked about how they left the rain tarps off for the night (luckily the forecast was clear) and stargazed through the tops of their tents before their last campsite sleep.
We rose before the sun to drive to the airport and upon arriving, the kids had to make some immediate goodbyes. There was not a dry eye in the house! While we are all so sad to head back to our different homes, we leave with amazing memories and 13 more friends than we started with. Seeing how close the kids became in such a short time is a testament to Moondance’s magic and the power of their programs.
All of us leaders cannot thank y’all enough for sharing your kids with us these past two weeks. We learned so much from them and had so much fun watching them adventure. Simply put, we love them all! They are fantastic individuals.
June 20, 2021
It’s hard to believe that we just finished our last activity of the trip! We are savoring every second that we have left with these kids before Monday and are enjoying many laughs together. Everyone has continued to grow, learn, and share, even in these last few days.
We spent the night before our activity relaxing at our campsite and soaking in the warmth of the San Juan sun after a long day on the ferry. The kids enjoyed pizzas for dinner and watched a family of geese closely while they ate. A purple-pink sunset painted the sky of our Moonup that evening. The kids really took in the beauty of the moment, especially Paul, who sat on a rock and raved about the sunset’s technicolor. He pointed out that we could see Canada from our campsite!
The next day, we rose to start our fourth and final activity – Sea kayaking. The activity presented many opportunities to explore and challenge ourselves. The kids were excited to start and ready for the adventure. Our day began early, driving to the beach to meet our guides in the haze of a sunrise. The kids really love listening to music in the car- 70s groove and country being some favorites. Emma always has great song requests that really set the mood!
When we arrived at the beach, we packed all of our stuff in dry bags, suited up in life jackets, and got in our boats. While all of us were ready to go, we came to find that one of the boats had an issue with the rudder! The kids stayed cheery and energetic despite the delay, playing games on the beach to pass the time. Elizabeth and Fallon participated in an intense veggie off that prompted much laughter and sillies.
Once the rudder was fixed, we were off! The guides first took us to a scenic lunch spot where we enjoyed wraps, chips, and veggies. The kids basked in the beach sun while they ate. While we were relaxing, a raccoon emerged from the woods of the island and the kids immediately took interest. Henry named him Randall the raccoon, and he quickly became an important character for the day.
After a filling lunch, we continued to paddle around the San Juan islands. We eventually stumbled upon seals, who poked their heads out of the water to say hello to us! Zyah thought they were especially adorable.
We continued to paddle all afternoon. The kids definitely had to dig deep in order to make it to our destination. With each stroke, I saw all of them push themselves further mentally and physically. They never stopped smiling even though the day was long. We were so proud of them! Lilly kept an especially sunny attitude, constantly asking people how they were doing and encouraging others. Kate and Mary Grace started up games between the boats to pass the time and keep everyone entertained.
When we finally reach our destination, Jones Island, the kids rejoiced in their accomplishment and their proximity to dinner! Our guides helped us set up tents and cooked us a fabulous dinner of chicken burritos. They also surprised the kids with a camping favorite – s’mores! The treat was well deserved after a long day and very much enjoyed. Harry told me that he ate seven whole marshmallows in one sitting! We went to sleep that night full and ready to rest after our long day.
The next morning, we got up to conquer another day of paddling around the islands of northern Washington. We powered across a large channel with determination and enjoyed lunch at another scenic site. Macy worked on mastering her steering of the kayak, which had improved greatly since the first day. We sang songs as we paddled and soaked up our last day of doing activities. The day proved to be a much more relaxing excursion and we reached the harbor proud of all the distance we had covered!
Whale watching awaited us as our finale for the day. We loaded onto a large boat, eager to see the wildlife in action. We first saw a humpback whale. It’s spraying spout and floppy tail caught our attention quick- it was such a sight to see. The kids were excited for the viewing and eager to see more. We next saw a pair of killer whales hugging the exact shoreline that we had kayaked the same morning! It was amazing to think that these magnificent creatures followed the same paths that we did and that we got to share the same waters with them for two short days. This sighting put our whole kayaking journey into perspective and wrapped the adventure up well.
Tomorrow, we start our final day together. I cannot believe that it has been almost two whole weeks since we all came together in Seattle to start this journey. Oh, what a time it has been and oh how we love these kiddos!
June 17, 2021
WOW! It’s hard to believe we are already over halfway through our Washington adventure. While the kids have only known each other for a little more than a week, you would think they’ve all been best friends for years. The camaraderie of this group seems to grow exponentially each day, and the belly laughs only get louder and louder. It has been such a joy to see the kids form these life-long friendships and memories.
We began our third section of the trip with a beautiful hike around Lake Wenatchee, not far from the town of Leavenworth. The combination of the towering evergreen trees, the snowy mountain peaks in the distance, and the serene waters of the lake made every view of our walk breathtaking. The kids especially had fun when they discovered that a fallen log on the lake shore could double as a see-saw! Furthermore, Henry made everyone laugh by writing the group’s favorite silly phrase, “Sussy Baka,” in the dirt of the trail. Overall, the calm trek was the perfect way to regroup everyone before the adrenaline rushes to come with our next adventure, rafting.
To initiate our journey on the rivers of the North Cascades, we snuggled back into some wetsuits and splashed into the chilly waters of Washington. Our first day of rafting consisted of mildly floating down the Skagit River. While the water was generally calm, there was never a dull moment on the river. Early on in the rafting trip, Lilly initiated everyone getting out of their boats for a leisurely swim while Kate helpfully showcased the proper technique for pulling people back into the boat. Zyah sat towards the front of her group’s boat, getting many splashes or what we like to call, a free shower! Furthermore, many of us did a mini (and very safe!) “cliff” jump into the icy water. Harry especially had an electric jump from the rock into the river, characterized by a fun pose mid-air.
After our morning of rafting the Skagit, the kids enjoyed a fun and relaxing afternoon at the campsite. Per usual, they broke into their reading groups and played intense matches of spike ball. Macy especially was entrenched in her book, King of Scars, and loved to discuss details about it to the others. The kids also embraced their childlike playfulness by spending ample amounts of time on the campsite playground. Paul may have been the most excited about the playground, fearlessly jumping off the swings. The day was topped off with everyone’s new favorite meal, pad Thai, for which Fallon graciously prepared the vegetables and chicken. We also taught the kids how to make our “secret” pad Thai sauce (recipe: peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, sriracha), which Elizabeth is now very excited to make at home.
Finally, the evening ended with a Moonup full of giggles and a conversation about our favorite parts of the trip. Mary Grace commented about how much she already loved white water rafting, and everyone was in agreement.
Our second day of rafting, fueled by a breakfast of avocado toast and sautéed summer sausage, took place on the engaging Sauk River. Full of level 3 rapids, the Sauk offered countless opportunities for thrill. In the few calm moments we had on the river, the kids engaged in splash attacks and raft wars. Emma even inspired several of the kids to take turns sitting at the very head of the boat while going down some of the milder rapids. The day’s adventure ended with many laughs and all the kids recalling the most exhilarating parts of their journey on the water.
As we say goodbye to rafting, we head to the most anticipated part of our trip… the San Juan Islands for sea kayaking. In fact at every place we have been to thus far, the kids have asked “are we at the San Juan islands yet?!” Now, we can finally say “YES!” We can’t wait to see how the group takes on our last few days together. Lastly, some shoutouts from the kids:
Harry: Hey Sussy Bakas! I’m having an amazing time and am not trying new foods, love you mom and dad!
Henry: Hey Sussy Bakas! This is so fun, I’m going again next year hopefully, love you! P.S. Happy Father’s Day! Bye
Paul: Hey Sussy Bakas, this camp is amazing and I would like to wish a happy Father’s Day to the best Padre ever. Love, Paul
Lilly: Hey Sussy Bakas, I hope my back massage is scheduled, love you both so much!
Kate: Hey Sussy Bakas, I’m having such a great time, hope everything is going well at home. Happy fathers day, love you and miss you!
Emma: Hey Sussy Bakas! I hope lacrosse is going well, and happy Father’s Day dad, you’re the best! Love you all so much. -32
Zyah: Hey Sussy Bakas, don’t have too much fun without me! Happy fathers day and mom make sure to make plans for when I get back, bye!
Fallon: Hey mom, I’m having such a fun time and everyone is so nice! Love you, tell Becks I said happy late birthday and Poppa that I said happy early fathers day.
MG: Hey Sussy Bakas, we had a mud fight it was really fun, tell dad happy fathers day and I miss and love y’all!
Elizabeth: Hey Sussy Bakas, happy fathers day dad, I love y’all so much. I hope everyone is doing good, I am having a lot of fun!
Macy: Hey Sussy Bakas! Hope Reese is having a good time being the only child. I’m having a great time. Miss y’all! Dad,
June 14, 2021
After leaving the sandy shores of Westport, the group arrived in Leavenworth with anticipation for the next few days. Some sunny days of surfing left us all tired, but excited for the next adventure in store.
Snow capped peaks framed our drive into Leavenworth, as well as rolling orchards and winding rivers. The kids spent the first night playing spike ball, a group favorite, and got out all of their sillies. Laughter rang out under the tall Washington pines of the campsite, dust kicking up in the wind as the kiddos ran about. We ended the evening with an Italian feast for dinner, which included pasta, mustaches, and vintage Italian restaurant tunes. We took many funny pictures and went to sleep that night with full tummies.
The next morning, our second activity began- rock climbing! We traveled to a local park in our trusty van, each kid toting a helmet, harness, and electric green climbing shoes. Our climbing guides led us up to a rock face, only to find that we had an amazing view of Leavenworth waiting for us! The kids got suited up in their gear and listened attentively to the safety demo. The guides set up three separate ropes for the kids to climb on – each at a different level of difficulty. We can happily say all of the kids crushed it! Each made an attempt up the wall with a smile on their face. Zyah was the first to scurry up, proving herself as a nimble and fearless climber. Fallon caught on to the climbing very fast and was able to get up the quickest out of all of us by the end- what a beast! Lilly spent much time belaying people up with grace, skill, and encouragement.
We returned to camp dirty, tired, and content. The kids finally got something they’ve been waiting for- a shower! Emma said it was quite possibly the best shower she’d ever had. Clean and hungry, cook crew began working on our taco night dinner. Henry worked as our master bell pepper cutter and can opener! Paul sautéed veggies and told us all about his favorite sushi place in Atlanta. That night we also had a special treat – hot coco! The kids had been begging for it and after conquering rock climbing with such fearlessness, the hot coco felt earned. Harry quite literally gave all of the leaders a hug when we announced the treat and did a little happy dance! We sipped our warm beverages during Moonup, where our LOD Mary Grace asked us what our greatest fear was and what time period we would want to live in, guiding a really awesome conversation.
The next morning we arose for another day roped up in the mountains. Today’s climb was set in another gorgeous mountainous background. We sat next to secret caves and massive granite boulders. We started off with a quick rappelling session. Kate was a rappelling pro, descending down the rock face with ease and excitement. The kids found their groove again when we switched back to climbing. The routes were a little bit harder but that did not stop the kids!
In between climbs, Elizabeth talked about her current read, We Were Liars, and we all discussed our favorite books. This group is so into reading which we love to see! All of them have utilized their time unplugged to read a lot, as well as participate in a reading circle where they read together and talk about books. So awesome. Macy has a list of favorites books that she loves to share and she has made many connections with people over books.
Upon our return to camp, a surprise was revealed to the kids – a local food stop! This treat is always a highlight on the trip. Leavenworth is a Bavarian style town, nestled into an American landscape. It only felt fitting to take the kids to get German style Bratwurst’s! The kids loaded up their sausages with onions, ketchup, and cheese sauce. We definitely went to sleep full last night!
Today we depart for our next section of the trip. This group has been consistently energetic, positive, and hilarious. We treasure this next week with them and all of the experiences to come. They are a fabulous group!
June 11, 2021
When thinking about the first few days our Washington adventure, I can’t help but see a parallel between our experience and our kids’- both being exciting, fun, and active. Airport day started off as a whirlwind but the kids bonded so quickly after playing cards and sharing introductions. Many card games of spoons were played and many peanut butter sandwiches were eaten.
Paul, being the last to arrive, had an anticipated his introduction which further gave him the endearing title of “Trip Mascot.” We then took off in our trusty van – decorated with streamers and green car paint reading, “Best summer ever!”, to celebrate the kids’ arrival. The car ride was filled with friendly chatter and song singing! We ended the night with a pizza feast as well as some much-needed rest!
The next morning we rose to rainy weather, but the kids’ spirits were nothing but sunny! The rain cleared as we made it to the beach and blue skies stayed as our backdrop for surfing. Zyah lead our morning huddle as one of the Leaders of the Day, reading an inspirational quote that set the tone for an adventurous outing. The guides showed us how to put on wet suits with care – Mary Grace sporting an electric green suit that made her pop as she shredded gnar. Harry – despite already being a surfing BEAST – listened attentively to the instructors and even got his first double 180!
We also got the chance to explore a local lighthouse with the kids. Each had phenomenal manners at the lighthouse- being respectful and attentive to all that the guides had to say about the structure. Emma asked many thoughtful questions and approached the whole day with incredible energy! We got 360-degree views of the surf town from the top which made for some phenomenal pictures. Lilly snapped many awesome pics of our group and the lighthouse, proving herself as the proclaimed trip photographer.
We had our first cook crew of the trip for making burrito bowls. Elizabeth proved to be a wizard on the Coleman grill, helping cook the chicken and season it to perfection. Macy took to the chopping block – cutting up all of our veggies and entertaining us with her stories! The night was capped off with an awesome Moonup – Henry starting it off with some amazing cartwheels. Each student talked about the favorite place they’ve ever been. Fallon talked of her amazing stay on the River Walk in San Antonio. Kate talked about her zip lining adventures in Costa Rica. We all got the chance to learn a little bit more about each other and deepen the bonds within our group that have already formed so quickly.
For our last day in Westport, we woke to some warm oatmeal, peanut butter, and bananas. The sun came out soon thereafter, thus we loaded back into the van for our second day of surfing. To warm us up before putting on our wetsuits, the Leaders of the Day led us in some fun stretches and silly group dances. Soon thereafter, we headed into the water once again. Watching the kids surf was amazing and made us so proud! All of them stood up consistently on their boards, and several of them were also able to catch their own waves! The surfing instructors were also highly complimentary of the students, calling them well mannered, respectful, and fun!
Our day of excitement continued with a walk in the Westport Light State Park, and a surprise visit to a local ice cream shop! We rounded out the afternoon at the camp site with games and “book club”, as well as a delicious pad Thai dinner that the kids loved. Overall, our first section of the trip was outstanding. We were amazed at how quickly the kids bonded with one another and how they greeted every situation with enthusiasm. We can’t wait to see how the group progresses and grows throughout the rest of the trip.
Now, we are onto rock climbing, but before we officially sign off for now, here are some shoutouts to y’all from the kids:
Fallon: Hey mom! I had a blast surfing and it is beautiful out here. Tell Finn and Becks I said hi! Love you and hope your shoulder is ok!
Henry: Hi mom and dad! I ate 12 cuties clementine’s yesterday and tried oatmeal! Love you and having fun!
Macy: Hi mom and dad! Tell Reese and Higgins I say hi. Don’t worry, I’m not cold! Love you!
Harry: Hello mother and father! Surfing was rad yo. See you in two weeks brotatochips. Love you pops and mamadre!
Paul: Surfing was awesome! Love you guys and miss you guys!
Lilly: Surfing was a blast! It’s very pretty here. Love and miss you lots!
Emma: Greetings! I finally started to hear yesterday. I love you and could sleep last night. Miss you and tell my animals I say hi!
Elizabeth: Love you and miss you so much! Washington is a big WOW!
Kate: Hi mom and dad! I’m having so much fun and surfing was a blast. I love and miss you! Also I love Cliff bars and we made awesome pad Thai last night.
Zyah: Hey mom hey dad! We really shredded the gnar in surfing. Dad, I’ll see you in Atlanta. Love you guys!
Mary Grace: Hi mom and dad! Surfing was fun. Tell the dogs I say hi. Love you and miss you!
June 9, 2021
Hello British Columbia Families!
The whole group arrived safely in Seattle yesterday, with the final few arriving late last night and is off on their adventure! 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 our leaders and students will be unplugged during their trips but we will be posting up to 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 shout out mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!
– Moondance HQ