July 27, 2021
Hello again for the final time!
It’s truly surreal to think that our Washington adventure is officially over. While the 15 of us only spent 14 days together, we are confident that the friendships we have made will last a lifetime. It is incredible how living in the outdoors, away from phones or watches, can really bring kids together in the most special way. Without the distractions of everyday life, our group found a way to make deep connections in such a short amount of time. In fact, many of us noted that the friendships we’ve made on this trip feel like some of the most genuine bonds we’ve ever made throughout our lives.
Our final day in Washington was no doubt a busy day, but it was of course still full of fun. After taking down our camp and loading our gear back into the van, we headed to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island to board our ferry. As we awaited the ferry’s arrival, we first fueled up at a local coffee shop. Elizabeth decided to change things up a bit from her usual order and got oat milk in her coffee, a choice that she was very happy with. Once we were all sufficiently energized by our treats, we jammed to some of our group’s favorite songs from throughout the trip. Most notable was our dance party to the iconic song “I am Steve,” dedicated to our trip mascot, Steve, a tiny bald head eagle figurine. All the kids, but especially Will, were so enthusiastic while singing the songs that you could even hear them from outside the van!
Eventually, we boarded unto the ferry, taking in our last views of the San Juan Islands. Snacking, playing cards, and chatting, it was a lovely time of relaxation in our day. The most entertaining part of our ferry ride might have been our debate about “y’all” versus “you guys.” Reese, coming from St. Louis, admitted that although she came onto the trip saying “you guys,” she has officially added the word “y’all” to her daily dialect. It was a conversation full of laughs and amusement!
Once our ferry landed back on the main continental land, we scooted on over to our campsite. We quickly set up our tents and hammocks, then made a surprise stop at Goodwill! Each kid had 15 minutes to pick out their ultimate outfit for our banquet dinner. The most notable of outfits may have been Bennett’s, who sported a cropped sweater vest paired with cheetah print pajama shorts. Nat also looked iconic, rocking fuzzy Santa Clause pajama pants, a Hawaiian shirt, and a gold chain. We loved to see every student embrace the silliness of the moment, wearing their ridiculous outfits with full confidence and laughter.
Dressed up in our snazzy new styles, we then headed to our final dinner together. Instead of enjoying a traditional camping meal cooked on our trusty Coleman stove, we instead treated ourselves to a delicious pizza outing at a local restaurant. The food was outstanding and the perfect reward after two weeks in the wilderness. Along with Pizza, Lucy also noted that the restaurant served phenomenal chocolate milk! As we dined, we enjoyed peaking at the Olympic swimming races on the surrounding TVs. We especially had a fun time cheering on Alex Walsh, a Nashville swimmer who went to Audrey and my’s (Cat’s) high school, as she won first place in her semifinal race! Furthermore, the boys in our group enjoyed the arcade room at the restaurant, Liam being especially successful in winning candy at the claw machine!
After dinner, we made our way back to camp for some refreshing showers. With clean hair and high spirits, we then grabbed our crazy creeks and formed a circle for our final Moonup. It was a monumental moment, reflecting with one another for the final time. After an inspirational quote, written by Alex, about the past, the future, and living in the moment, we went around the circle and shared our final nugs. John made sure to give nugs to surfing and rock climbing, as those were his favorite activities. Furthermore, Avery gave nugs to conquering her fears. It was a dear moment with everyone calling out the most special parts of our adventures together. We of course also took some time during our Moonup to be silly, reviewing our favorite types of dog. This question was hard for Frances, as she is a lover of all dogs, but she ultimately concluded that her own dogs are her favorites. We then dove back into a deep discussion, going over our greatest trip takeaways. Katy noted that she is going to hold unto her new friendships forever.
This morning, we rose before the sun to drive to the Seattle airport. It was a bittersweet morning, full of tears, hugs, and goodbyes. We were so sad to see all the kids go, but nonetheless excited to know they will cherish their memories with Moondance forever.
Us leaders cannot thank y’all enough for sharing your kids with us these past two weeks. Each and every one of them truly are such special individuals who have nothing but great futures ahead of them. We could not have imagined a better group of kids for our last session of the summer!
All the best,
Cat, Audrey, and Cal
July 26, 2021
Many hellos from the Salish Sea!
We arrived in San Juan two short days ago, ready to use our paddling skills from rafting in a new way. Many of the kids were excited for a new adventure, but sad about starting our last activity and the looming end of the trip. We all rallied together regardless, attempting to truly live in the moment to the best of our ability and soak up our last excursion as a group.
An early ferry awaited us on Friday morning. All of the kids were super excited about the ferry, as it was a form of public transit foreign to each of them. As we pulled our van onto the ship, the kids were all in awe of how many cars fit onto the massive boat! We moved upstairs to the passenger area for the duration of the ride, the kids playing cards in their seats and taking some time to appreciate the ocean views from the back deck! John especially enjoyed looking out into the ocean from the boat, as well as the number of cute dogs that accompanied us on our ride!
Upon our arrival in Friday Harbor, we met up with our guides to talk about the two days ahead of us and gather some supplies. The guides showed us our route to Jones Island, as well as briefed us on the names of other islands in the area. The kids took great interest in our proximity to Canada! Afterwards, we headed on over to our campsite on the other side of the island. Nat talked about how he did not feel like he was on an island at all, because San Juan looks just like mainland Washington! We set up our tents, ate dinner, and relaxed. The kids found a cool trail with a rest picture spot at the top and took many memorable photos! Avery said she could see Canada in the background of the pictures. We later had Moonup under the setting sun, taking in the beauty of the island and enjoying each other. It was a great end to a busy day.
The next morning, we rose ready to paddle! After getting our campsite packed up, we heady over to Roche Harbor to set off on our kayaking adventure. We packed our stuff into a colorful squad of boats, their white, red, and orange hues allowing us to stand out in the water. As we were pushing off to start, Reese spotted her favorite animal- a sea otter! The kids were so excited to see this cute creature and we all felt it was a good omen for the kayaking trip. We paddled along for two hours, crossing channels and hugging shorelines. Our arrival at Jones Island felt well earned and we were all excited to take a break for a while. The kids started a game of keep away in the field of the campsite, boys versus girls! They ran around giggling, throwing, and just having fun. Bennett proved to be a star at keep away, with his football skills transferring over well. Frances was an intense competitor as well, making many interceptions and killer throws.
Our kayaking guides served us an all star spread for dinner- pesto pasta, sausage, and some AMAZNG brownies for dessert. The kids played cards after eating, and Katy proved herself as an ERS champ! Moonup occurred on the banks of Jones Islands, with the Olympic mountain range sitting in the distance. LOD Will questioned us on our favorite type of donut, which led to a lengthy conversation. Elizabeth is a fan of the classic Krispy Kreme. Alex has a favorite place in Houston where he gets a donut with white icing and sprinkles. This silly discussion was the perfect cap to a long day and it was so fun to see what everyone’s answer was. We all definitely went to bed last night dreaming of donuts and awaiting another day on the water.
In the early Island breeze, we departed once again on our kayaks. It proved to be a quick morning of paddling with the current in our favor. Liam proved to be the speediest paddler and headed up the group as we traversed back to Roche Harbor. We reached the marina tired, but pumped about all that we had accomplished. Sea Kayaking multiple miles is no small feat! The kids got some well deserved ice cream and a fresh change of clothes. Lucy said it was the best cookie dough ice cream that she’d ever had!
Later that afternoon, we headed into town to catch our whale watching boat! This excursion was highly anticipated by all the kids, with hopes of seeing orcas, porpoises, and whales! We piled on and took our seats on the front deck, ready to scout the waters for dorsal fins and blow hole mist. Lucky for us, we spotted three humpback whales! The whales put on a little show for us- doing dives, tail flicks, and corkscrew spins! The guides spoke to us about how playful the whales were being and that this behavior from whales was a real treat to see. The kids were so excited to spot the whales, taking many photos and sharing many excited smiles with each other. It was a fun night to say the Least and a perfect ending to our stay in San Juan.
We return to the mainland tomorrow to wrap up our Washington adventure and cram in a final few memories together. All of the kids are cherishing each second they have left together, as they have fully formed into a group of friends. We marvel at their positivity, fun loving attitude, and love of Moondance. They are a fantastic group and we are so lucky to have one last day with them this summer!
– British Columbia Team
July 23, 2021
WOW! It’s hard to believe that we are already just about 3/4 of the way through our Washington adventure together.
Each day of our trip only gets better and better, making it very bittersweet to approach the end. With one activity left, we know that nothing but the best is to come. Our rafting section of the trip began by waking up in the North Cascades, nestled under massive hemlocks next to the calming noises of the nearby rushing river. After our wake up call, we all emerged out of our tents excited for the day- except Liam, who instead emerged excitedly from a hammock after bravely deciding to sleep outside for the night!
Fueled by a delicious yogurt parfait breakfast, we eventually jumped into some snuggly wetsuits and listened to a thorough rafting safety talk. Finally, we loaded into our boats and ventured out onto the Skagit river. Our day on the water was filled with nothing but fun. With milder river currents, we had ample opportunities for raft wars, swim time, and splash fests. John, was quickest to jump out of his raft in order to act as the “motor” for the other boats. Bennett was also feeling fierce on the water, attempting a full-on RKO. Furthermore, Reese and Elizabeth played the T-grip game nonstop, continuously laughing and falling into the cold water together. Beyond just splashing and playing, our guides even gave us opportunities to guide the rafts! Lucy was especially skilled at guiding, using her field-hockey goalie voice to take command.
After many fun hours in the water, we finally hopped off our rafts for the day and drove to our next campsite. Our dinner, “pizza-dillas” were a big hit, as well as the surprise hot chocolate and cookie treat. Moonup tonight was opened by our LOD, Alex, who offered us an inspiring quote, written by himself, about complacency. Our other LOD, Frances, promoted us to think about our biggest fears. It was inspiring seeing the kids open up to one another, truly being courageous through their vulnerability. We also shared many giggles during Moonup, especially as we talked about which foods we are going to eat once we get home. Katy mentioned that she is excited to eat Chick-fil-A, which of course prompted us to all share our Chick-fil-A orders!
The next day, we headed back to the Skagit for our second day of rafting. It was a day full of sunshine, which made our time splashing and swimming in the frigid waters all the more enjoyable. At our lunch stop, we munched on some sandwiches, chips, grapes, carrots, and cookies. Will was adamant that green grapes are definitely the best types of grapes, and all else were quick to agree. Before we loaded back into our rafts, we had the special opportunity to cliff jump off a rock on the river’s shore. We were so proud when every single student on our trip decided to live in the moment and jump off the rock into the cold waters. Avery was especially impressive, challenging her fear of heights to cliff jump as well. Some students, like Nat, even enjoyed the experience so much that they jumped off the rock multiple times!
After lunch, our kids decided they wanted to flip rafts. Therefore on a mellow part of our river, prompted by the raft guides, the kids learned how to flip and un-flip a raft! It was hilarious watching their faces as they first felt the shock of the cold, then immediately broke into laugher. This afternoon, we leave the Skagit river full of wonderful memories and a family-like bond.
Heading towards the San Juan islands, our group is full of excitement for our next and final adventure together— sea kayaking!
July 21, 2021
Hello again from the sunny west coast! We’ve seen nothing but sunshine and smiles since we arrived at our latest destination, the Bavarian town of Leavenworth, Washington. Our drive from Westport was outstandingly scenic. Observing the aspens, ponderosa pines, and firs, we witnessed many WOW moments. We also can’t forget to mention our jam session to Party in the USA!
Our first afternoon in the mountains was spent with countless matches of badminton, along with story time in the hammocks. Nat especially had a fun time running all over the badminton court, doing just about anything to reach the birdie! For dinner, we enjoyed a delicious pasta dinner, accompanied by rosemary seasoned chicken and yummy vegetables. Our Moonup was led by LOD Katy, who prompted us to think about influential people in our lives. Will immediately talked about a friend from home who inspires him to be his best self. Exhausted from the travel and campsite games, we all finally snuggled into our tents and quickly dosed off.
The next morning, we woke up bright and early for our first day of rock climbing! Today’s adventures took us to an area called “the icicle,” a canyon of granite rock that is perfect for climbing. Everybody was ambitious to climb, despite any fears of heights. They all faced the rock wall’s challenges with high energy and great attitudes. We even decided on their own to make one of the routes a “speed wall,” taking turns climbing up the wall and timing themselves. The ultimate winner was Alex, climbing up the wall in an impressive 14.3 seconds! John was also an especially fearless climbing, (safely) jumping up the wall in order to reach his goals.
After climbing, we returned to camp to enjoy yet more rounds of badminton. Sweaty and dusty from the busy day of activity, we finally treated ourselves to some quick showers! Feeling clean and refreshed, we enjoyed an extremely popular Pad Thai dinner. Lucy did a wonderful job cutting the zucchini for our meal and cooked the bell peppers with ease. Our special Thai peanut sauce was a hit and some kids planned to make the recipe back at home! Moonup tonight was paired with a surprise round of Oreos and was followed by one final round of badminton to finish off the night.
Our second day of climbing started off early again, but we reached our climbing site and got into the groove quickly. After suiting up in our helmets, harnesses, and shoes, we all took a second to take in the amazing mountain views at our climbing perch. It added something extra to the activity and made the experience from the top of the climbs that much grander! Elizabeth attempted an extra hard route, taking her time to find good footings. She fought her way to the top! Bennett was known as spider man by the end of the day, based on his ability to scurry up with such agility. Avery, despite being hesitant about the heights, conquered her fears and made her way up the wall with determination! It was so awesome to see everyone push themselves and really take advantage of the opportunities to climb.
Many of us sat and talked while others climbed, one of the topics of conversation being our favorite kind of cheese. Frances talked about her love of charcuterie boards, and the group all came to the consensus that charcuterie boards are just fancy Lunchables. It was a conversation that prompted many laughs and was really a product of living in the moment.
We eventually escaped the hot temperatures by settling into the shade of our camp, taking in the mountain breezes and relaxing. Reese showed everyone her Dog Book, which we all had a fun time looking at and talking about our own dogs. Everyone got another well-earned shower and a fun surprise – our local food stop! Bavarian style hot dogs were on the menu for tonight. The kids loaded up their dogs with ketchup, mustard, chili, and a variety of other treats. Liam got jalapeños on his hot dog and finished it in a matter of minutes. Ice cream topped off our mid trip feast, the kids picking out a variety of yummy flavors to put in waffle cones.
We returned to our campsite full and silly, but also sleepy after two action packed trip days. Tomorrow marks the half way point in our trip, and we cannot believe how fast it has flown by! These kids have come together so well, creating a group of friends that will have a lot of fun together these last days. Their fun loving, easy going style has made this trip a joy and we look forward to all the memories to come!
July 17, 2021
Greetings from the Evergeen state! Our Washington adventure has been nothing but fun since we all arrived in the airport two short days ago. Even though the day was filled with introductions, we were all laughing together in no time. It is crazy to think that all of us were strangers to each other at one point, as the group has come together so quickly. The kids say they felt like they’ve all known each other for forever! We love hearing them say these things, as we still have so much of the trip ahead of us and so much more fun to have together.
After a long car ride to our surfing destination, the kids learned how to set up their tents for the first time and quickly got settled in at our campsite. We munched on pizza for dinner, relaxing in the cool coastal temperatures. Many games of spike ball followed dinner, which left the kids laughing and excited. Will was especially enthusiastic to break into some spike ball matches after a long day of travel! Overall, it was a was a wonderful moment for the kids to settle into our outdoor environment. Later that evening, each kid experienced their first Moonup, a nightly ritual that is unique to Moondance. Our question for the kids was, “Why did you want to come on this trip?”, and many responded that they wanted to come to meet new people. We are so happy that these kids are here to not only get outside, but also to get out of their normal circles and make new friends. As we said earlier, they are achieving this amazingly fast, which has made this group so fun!
Everyone fell asleep fast after a long travel day, and we awoke well rested. Surfing awaited us – an activity that many of the kids were looking forward to with enthusiasm. We arrived at the beach with full tummies from breakfast, ready for an action-packed day riding the waves, or “shredding the gnar” as Bennett likes to say! The kids listened attentively to our coaches, learning how to “mount up”, “chicken leg”, and “olé”! These are all techniques used to teach the kids, and they mastered them quickly. Alex, a seasoned pro at surfing already, was paddling on this own by the end of the lesson and Liam stood up on his third try! The coaches were impressed by the athleticism of the group, as well as their easy-going attitudes!
We returned to camp ready to feast after a long day out on the water. BBQ chicken sandwiches and roasted potatoes were on the menu for dinner, with our two LOD’s helping to chef it all up! Elizabeth was a master with the potatoes and sautéed them to perfection! Nat helped by cutting all our fresh vegetables and entertaining us with countless stories, many about his Nana. The cooks did such a good job, evident as everyone in the group came back for seconds! We also had an end of the day treat- hot coco! John was especially excited about the coco and was first in line to get some. The chocolatey treat was a perfect end to a chilly evening and warmed all of us up. Before we could begin Moonup though, it was essential that Katy braided all the boys’ hair, which was both very impressive and hilarious! It was great to see, them all fully embracing the silliness. Finally, during Moonup, we all talked about what we think is going to challenge us most on the trip. It was so cool to see the kids talk about their anticipated challenges and simultaneously be excited to face those challenges. We are excited that they are ready to put themselves out there and push themselves on this trip! It makes each activity that much more meaningful, knowing that our group will grow from the experience.
We rose the next day ready for our final surfing venture. A drizzle of rain had come into town, but that did not put a damper on the kids’ excitement whatsoever. They hopped into action when we arrived at the beach, pulling on their wetsuits, and grabbing their boards. By the end of the day, the kids all looked like professionals on the water. Reese looked extra sophisticated, throwing up a shaka sign as she rode the waves. Avery also improved significantly, looking like she had been surfing for years even though it had only been two days! Of course, we had to celebrate our new surfing skills with a surprise treat in town- ICE CREAM! Along with enjoying our tasty treats, we had a great time popping into a local gift shop, where all the kids and us leaders got matching bracelets to commemorate our new “ohana” (the Hawaiian for “family”). Frances and Lucy also had a great time greeting just about every dog we passed while in town! Our adventures for the day finally ended with a leisurely and scenic stroll through Westport State Park. It was truly the perfect end to an action-packed day.
With our first activity down, we are shocked by how fast this trip is moving along and how quickly our group has bonded. As we see these strong friendships so quickly forming, we feel nothing but excitement while we enter the next phase of our adventure: rock climbing!
Here are some shout outs from everyone!!
Lucy: Hey ohana! Having so much fun. I miss y’all and love y’all! Hope you’re during well and give Roxy a hug for me!
Nat: Hey mom and dad! Everything is amazing here! Tell the dogs I say hey. Hope all is well!
Avery: Hey! I miss you! Tell Darby that I say hi and I miss her too!
Katy: Hi! Miss you guys! I hope you’re having fun in Colorado. Love you!
Elizabeth: Hey everyone! Love you! Miss you!
Reese: Hi! I’m having a great time- don’t worry! Tell James to make sure that Duke is happy. I love you, miss you, bye!
Frances: I’m having a really great time and love y’all!
John: Hey mom, and dad if you’re reading this! I’m eating well here! I miss Champ- he should’ve come.
Alex: Having fun! Love y’all! Thanks to Ava for telling me about Moondance
Will: Hi AJ! How is having your own room going? And mom, I love you!
Liam: Hi mom and dad and Caroline and Sawyer and Charlotte! I’m having a good time! Can’t wait to see you
Bennett: Hello mom and dad! I miss you and can’t wait to see you. Im having a great time!
Until next time,
Cal, Audrey and Catherine
July 15, 2021
Hello British Columbia Families!
The whole group has arrived safely in Seattle, and they are 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