June 20, 2021
Hello from the raging rapids of the American River!
Today we got to wake up late and enjoy a nice pancake brunch made by Austin. All of the kids were so pumped for pancakes that several came over to the Kitchen area to see if they could speed up the process. As Austin and I flipped pancakes, Chuck helped the kids pack up their tents. After packing up tents at the fastest rate yet, we all teamed up to finish some last-minute details. Jack helped reorganize the van and Ben, Ridley, and Hank helped us move the Uhaul. Finally, we said goodbye to the largest ENO village yet and made our way to the American River.
When we got to the campsite, it was so hot that we couldn’t resist jumping into the river to cool off. Andrew immediately tried to skip rocks all the way across the lake while Elise, Margaret, Ridley and River were trying to get Russell to get his hair wet. While everyone was swimming in the river, a bald eagle flew right over our heads, and we all gazed up in amazement. Later that night, our LOD’s, Ridley and Jack, helped Chuck make some of the tastiest chicken quesadillas that we have ever had! Later, we all went to bed early in anticipation for one of our favorite activities yet.
Rafting Day 1
Energy was teeming from every single tent when we woke up this morning. We started off strong with a delicious egg and hash brown breakfast where Jack cleared his plate not once, not twice, but three times!! After breakfast, all the kids eagerly put on their swimsuits, and we piled into the van singing “it’s the best day ever” from SpongeBob. When we got out of the van, we layered on our sunscreen and filled our water bottles to the brim.
After the safety briefing, we split into two rafting groups. There was the BROAT (bro boat) led by chuck and the GROAT (girl boat AKA the greatest rafters of all time) led by Austin and me. All biases aside, the GROAT was the superior rafting group and had the most fun on the river. Once we hit the river, we immediately hit some class two rapids. The GROAT quickly learned that they had to follow their leaders- Margaret and Elise- and paddle at the same time as a team. The BROAT on the other hand was captained by Hank and Ben and put more emphasis on singing than paddling. Russell started singing a remix of yellow submarine and their whole boat eventually joined and sang loud enough for the entire river to hear.
After a great morning, we found a nice spot in the shade for lunch and enjoyed fresh deli sandwiches with a view of the rapids. We quickly cleaned up lunch, eager to get back on the river. Before getting back in the boat, all of the kids put their lifejackets and helmets on and floated up and down the Eddy to cool off. We jumped back into the boats and enjoyed a thrilling afternoon of class three rapids that have unmistakable names. In between the intense class three rapids, the GROAT and the BROAT would have splash wars- one of which included the girls raiding the BROAT and throwing as many boys off the raft as possible. After endless hours of splash wars, river games, and raging rapids, we headed back to the campsite and were treated to a wonderful dinner made by the raft guides that included salad, chicken, steak, pesto pasta, marinara pasta, and breadsticks. We finished off the night with hot chocolate and warm brownies.
Rafting Day 2
This morning, we were awoken by our amazing outfitters with fresh fruit and Danishes. They applauded us for our efficiency in taking down camp, which left us with plenty of time to hang around and chill before it was time to begin our eventful second day of rafting. We started off the day with a class 3 rapid to keep us on our toes. Andrew and Russell were thrilled to have their turn sitting in the front of the raft this time around, with lots of waves and splashing coming their way. Maggie, River, and Ridley tested one another’s strength and trust by using their paddles to balance against one another while leaning back towards the water. As the rapids wrapped up, Hank jumped on the opportunity to practice his guiding skills by giving paddling commands to the rest of the boat. On the other raft, named the River Grinder, Lucian practiced his animal noises, with a baby goat being the biggest hit. Our outfitter, Ben, pointed out numerous different species of birds along the way, which captured Elise’s attention from the start. Jack mastered his skill of the beaver clap with his paddle, by smacking it down on the water to make a loud noise. Once our rafting journey came to an end, we set off to our new campsite, the Olema Campground. The girls got a kick out of brushing Andrew’s curls, to give him a new “Albert Einstein” look. Meanwhile in the front, LOD’s, Russell and Ella, showed off their sketching skills on a notepad and tested their knowledge in the alphabet game with Taylor and Austin. We finished our day with a grill out of hamburgers and hot dogs, which was an all-time fan favorite the first go around. The kids went to sleep with full tummies, and ready to explore the great city of San Francisco.
To all the fathers of our incredible kids, we are so thankful you sent your kids on this trip! We have loved getting to know them and feel so grateful that you are willing to share them with us.
Now, a special message from our kids:
Russell: Papa, I really love you, I really miss you, I can’t wait to see you again. I really hope you enjoy the Father’s Day gift I got you, which you’ll get it the airport. Thank you so much, I love you! See you in 2 days. Happy Father’s Day!
Lucian: Hey Dad! I miss you very much, but I’m having a great time here like Mack and Harrison said. I love you so much and I’ll see you soon. Happy Father’s Day!
Andrew: Hey Dad! Can’t wait to see you soon! Hope you have the best day of your life.
Ben: Hey Dad! You’re a great dad. Hope you have a good Father’s Day, see you soon!
Jack: Happy Father’s Day! I love you and this is fun. I’m also better than you at surfing now.
Ella: Hi Dad, I love you. Happy Father’s Day! I miss you so much. Thank you so much for everything you do for our family and for everyone else that you help. See you soon!
Maggie: Dear Dad, thank you for being the best dad ever. I miss and love you so much. Thank you for always putting me before yourself and for helping me achieve my goals. I hope we get to go running, swimming, and mountain biking when we get home. Thank you for always being my running buddy and my best friend. I love you and will see you in a couple days.
Margaret: Happy Father’s Day Dad! Thanks for being the best dad a girl could ask for. Thanks for being there to help me whenever a challenge comes my way; whether it’s trying to proofread my papers or throwing the volleyball at me. Love you and miss you. See you in a few days.
P.S. I’m sure you’re doing a great job collecting all of my lacrosse balls.
Elise: Thank you for being the best father ever. Thank you for taking us to racetracks and always supporting me in what I believe in. I can’t wait to go glamping with you again. See you soon. Happy Father’s Day!
Ridley: Hey Dad, I miss you so much! I love you so much and I hope you have a great Father’s Day and thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me. I love you and can’t wait to see you.
River: Happy Father’s Day Dad! I miss you and I love you, and I can’t wait to see you in a few days.
Hank: Dear Dad, I want to show you that I can make YOU laugh sometimes too, rather than it being the other way around. So, I wrote you this poem for Father’s Day…
To my father,
I love you dearly.
And from all of your children,
The love comes sincerely.
I know you very well,
Not just by the things you buy,
Even though you have made me a showman,
The things you have done for me,
Have made me the man I am.
Because for when I say I can’t,
You say “I can”.
Happy Father’s Day from Hank.
WE LOVE YOU DADS!
Austin, Taylor, and Chuck
June 17, 2021
Austin, Taylor, and I had two great days with this group!
Day 6: Nevada Falls to Lake Tahoe
After our breathtaking trek to Vernon Falls and Nevada Falls in Yosemite, we descended in under two hours, spent some time in the gift store, and then hit the road. On our drive out, ours jaws dropped at the sight of some geological giants: El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the WORLD!
Once we arrived to our campsite in Tahoe, we set up camp and had Moonup. The stars here are insane! Both Big Dipper and Little Dipper wandered above us as LODs Jack and Ella asked the group, “If you could buy one thing, regardless the price, what would you buy?” and “If you could only stay in one place the rest of your life, where would you choose?” With some comical and thoughtful responses in the mix, we closed Moonup with Elise and Russell being nominated as the LODs for the next day…a big one: sea kayaking across Lake Tahoe!
Day 7: Sea Kayaking
Austin, Taylor, and I woke up early this morning and knew it was going to be a good one. To make it even better, we decided to chef up a mouthwatering bacon, egg, and hash brown breakfast. Elise helped us with the cheesy eggs and Lucian was fascinated with the resemblance of hash brown boxes to school milk cartons.
Soon after, we headed for Tahoe Vista to meet our outfitters! Our guides, Ben and Mike, helped us get fitted into our lifejackets and on our tandem kayaks! Once in the water, Ben told us more about the lake: it has a circumference of 72 miles, is the second largest lake in volume in the continental U.S., and most fish reside 500+ feet deep! We all braced the winds coming from the southwest (where we were heading), but Hank and Ben were particularly exceptional with their impressive in-sync paddling system! Once we made it to the beach, we had snacks and laid out on the warm rocks; Lucian cuddled them and Ben buried himself in them for half an hour. After a quick nap under the cloudless, California blue sky, we headed back for basecamp with the wind on our side! While Andrew and Lucian were speedy on their return, Jack, Russell, Austin, and I were in no rush.
Once back at camp, we walked to an overlook of the lake and played two Mafia “Werewolf” games for the record books. In short, Andrew (the Detective) and Lucian (the Witch) trusted me a sliver too much! After a great dinner, we had a special Moonup led by Elise and Russell. We leaned into being vulnerable with one another and it made each of us exceedingly appreciative for the Moondance community. Day 7 was a special one for our group!
Day 8: SUPin’ Tahoe!
Today was awesome! We slept in a tad more than yesterday, had a cereal and muffin breakfast, and headed back to our water-base from yesterday to get some SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) action in. Once we arrived, LODs Lucian and Margaret led us in the Morning Huddle and then we got in the cold blue water! Russell was the first to fall in, but Margaret wasn’t far behind. We paddled around Tahoe for 2 hours! Jack was fascinated with all the boats buoyed in the water (fun fact: it’s more economical and justifiable to dock your boat in the lake than store it on land since there is no significant presence of algae in the water). For the last hour of our paddle, Hank narrated a game of Mafia and Russell’s régime gained support from many, particularly Elise, who jumped in the water and swam after Andrew to support Russell!
After our SUP, we ate lunch on the beach and then hit the road for a small hike to Maggie’s Peak. LODs Lucian and Margaret directed us to the top…WOW, was it beautiful! With a great view of Tahoe, we decided to make it an even greater afternoon with ice cream. We headed back to Tahoe Vista to treat ourselves. River got a cup of Oreos with hers and Ridley and Maggie went into one of the nicest Port-A-Johns they’ve ever seen! I broke not one, but two waffle cones.
We headed back to camp and chilled in ENO Village while cook crew prepped dinner: Spaghetti Tacos from the show iCarly! This was my first time trying the meal and, although it sounds unappetizing, it was one of the biggest hits of the trip. Elise, Ridley, Margaret, and I tried the ELF Spaghetti recipe with the distinctive ingredient of maple syrup, too. Scrumptious! We finished dishes and circled up for Moonup. Before the LODs started, River gave us a concert featuring song “Party In The U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus. LODs Lucian and Margaret led a great Moonup; we shared with one another what we love most about ourselves and what we want to be when we grow up!
I have decided to sleep under the stars tonight with Ben, Hank, Lucian, Andrew, Maggie, Ridley, Margaret, and Ella! I am the ninth addition to ENO Village…late to the game, but happy to be here.
Tomorrow we head to our rafting section of the trip! We’ll check back in this weekend.
All the love,
Chuck, Austin, and Taylor
June 16, 2021
Hello from California!
Things are off to a great start! We woke up early this morning and packed our backpacks for an incredible day of rock climbing in Southern Yosemite. We met our guides at the bottom of Willow Creek and took a quick, but very steep hike to the rock face. When we got to the bottom of the rock face, all the kids stared at the massive structures in awe. Eager to climb, they all laced up their climbing shoes and adjusted their harnesses. We went around and said our goals for the day and Andrew made the whole group laugh by saying that he just wanted to get off the ground. Jack was the first to start climbing and the rest of the group followed suit. Ridley and Ben looked completely at ease as they made their way to the top of the rock wall and the rest of the group soon followed behind. As Chuck gained the courage to climb on, the kids belayed and coached him through the process. Elise jumped at the opportunity to belay the outfitter and did an excellent job helping him work his way up the rock. After a long day of slab climbing, we made our way back to the campsite for a cook out. Our LODs, Hank and Ridley, completely stole the show with their hamburgers and hotdogs that were grilled to perfection. After dinner, Margaret and Maggie set up a spa in the bathroom and deep conditioned their hair while Andrew, Lucian, and Russell relaxed in ENO Village cracking their best jokes.
The next morning, we woke up for another day of rock climbing with a new level of confidence in our skills. Today’s rock faces were more challenging than the day before, but our group was determined to conquer them with a good attitude. Hank and Margaret started the group off by climbing a challenging vertical wall side by side with swift feet. On the other side of the mountain, River practiced her belaying skills and encouraged Jack to the top. Later that afternoon, Chuck tried his hand at rock climbing and the group decided that he should have, not one, but two back up belayers. After getting a staggering five feet off the ground, his belaying team of Ridley, Lucian, and Andrew safely lowered him to the ground. We concluded our day of rock climbing with hummus and pita bread sandwiches back at the camp site. After lunch, Russell led the group in the most unexpected game of Mafia yet. As the sun went down, the group hopped in the van and took a surprise sunset cruise to In-N-Out. The whole group was elated and went to bed with full and happy bellies.
The next morning, the group woke up to the Hamilton soundtrack on full blast, while packing up tents and gathering belongings. After one final camp sweep, the group got into the van and we made our way into Yosemite National Park for a full day of adventures. The drive into the park was beautiful and had us yearning to get out of the van to explore. We made our way to the trailhead and began our 2,000-foot ascent to the top of Nevada Falls led by our LODs, Ella and Jack. Step by step, we made our way up the steep path, passing other motivated hikers from all different backgrounds. After hiking for about two hours, the group found the perfect place for lunch at the top of a waterfall. Elise was amused by all the squirrels that would walk right up to you and was shocked that they weren’t scared of visitors in their park. While everyone else was eating, Russell and Jack explored the top of the waterfall and splashed in the water. Hank on the other hand had his eyes glued to the horizon in awe of the views. We quickly got on the trail again and headed to our final destination-the peak. The last part of the hike was the most challenging, but Maggie didn’t even break a sweat. After what seemed like thousands of steps and endless switchbacks, the group finally advanced to the top. With proud hearts, Austin, Taylor, and Chuck reflected on how well the group had come together and worked as a team. This group continues to grow and amaze us every day.
On to Lake Tahoe we go!
June 12, 2021
Hello from The Golden State!
It’s hard to believe our group of 15 met just 72 hours ago in SFO; we have grown so close, so fast!
Day One: Airport Day!
Our adventure started in the San Francisco airport early Wednesday morning with Jack and Russell’s arrivals that were soon followed with River, Ella, Ben, Hank, Elise, Lucian, Andrew, and Maggie’s. Ridley and Margaret landed soon after, so we all celebrated safe travels with a delicious sandwich bar in baggage claim. Then, with duffels on backs and backpacks on chests, we packed the van and headed for the coast!
Once we arrived to our campsite in Half Moon Bay, we unpacked our duffels and learned how to set up our tents with our tent groups. It was a little tough with the strong winds coming from the Pacific Ocean (right in front of our campsite), but everyone shared a laugh about it! Chuck grabbed dinner from Verrazzano Pizza and we ate pizza, salad, and fruit at camp after checking out the beach and touching the ocean with Austin and Taylor!
After dinner, we had our first Moonup of the trip! We asked everyone “Why are you here? What are you most excited for?” and “If you could have a miniature animal live on your shoulder, which animal would you choose?” Ben’s response of a monkey received a ton of support – who wouldn’t want a small monkey hanging on their back? Margaret and Lucian were nominated as Leader of the Day, or LODs, for tomorrow for their inclusivity and helpfulness throughout the day.
After Moonup, we went to bed with the sun to prepare for our first surfing session in the morning!
Pancakes, nutella, and chocolate chips galore! We had a delicious, long breakfast this morning. Afterwards, the guys went down to the beach with Taylor and the girls played Uno with Austin in a tent. Russell found a massive crab while Hank, Lucian, and Andrew raced down the coast collecting cool rocks!
After a slow, but eventful morning, we had lunch at the campsite and then hit the road with “Surfin’ USA” on aux; Pacifica Beach, here we come! We met our guides, quickly suited up in our wetsuits, and headed to the beach. Jack was so excited to get in the ocean and catch a wave. Ridley and Margaret were the first to brave the freezing water and the rest of the group followed their lead! We surfed for 3 hours! Ben caught a few waves by himself, Maggie, of course, was a natural, and River caught a great wave all the way to shore. We had such a fun time playing in the water and being cold together. Jack even got to try out a smaller board to practice his maneuvering skills on waves.
After surfing, we headed back to camp and put on our layers. We all played Spikeball and Mafia for 2 hours and learned that River and Chuck are an epic co-mafia team. Also, Hank is a great detective! For dinner, we had a pasta bar with chicken, sauces, and watermelon. It was Russell’s first pasta dish and taste of watermelon!
We headed into Moonup with LODs Lucian and Margaret. We talked about our favorite thing about our home state and a risk that paid off. Ella closed out the second question with a great response: coming on this trip! Lucian passed the LOD torch to Andrew and Margaret passed it to Maggie. We hit the ground pads and prepped our duffels for an early morning!
To Yosemite we go!
A great morning we had! We woke with the warm sun and dew still on our tents to pack up for our drive to Yosemite National Park! After a quick lesson on how to break down tents, we ate warm bagels, cream cheese, and cereal for breakfast.
Before jumping into our faithful van, LODs Maggie and Andrew led our morning huddle. Andrew shared the quote, “We do not take risks to escape from life; we take risks so that life does not escape from us” by Unknown. Maggie showed the group the map of California and pointed out Yosemite and shared some fun facts about the park. Yosemite is the 3rd National Park in the United States, has over 400 species of wildlife, and was formed during the Ice Age by glacial movement of the Yosemite Glacier. Chuck is a geology enthusiast, so he’s excited to share more with everyone over the next few days!
As we drive to the park, our top jams are Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and T-Swift. Some guys know all of the lyrics, but River is outperforming all of them! We’ve seen fields of goats and cows, massive windmills on the rolling California hills, many different fruit and nut trees, and the Sierra Nevada in the distance. Last thing: who knows what the capital of Iowa is?
This afternoon, we arrived to our new campsite, ate lunch, set up tents, and prepared for our afternoon hike. Elise, Lucian, Andrew, and Ben started to construct their “ENO Hotel” and others are planning their additions to the establishment before dinner. We then hit the road for our hike, where we had an intense finger jousting tournament. Russell was victorious! Afterwards, Chuck pulled off the road and proclaimed a tire was flat. However, this was a ploy for MILKSHAKES! We all enjoyed a shake and then headed to camp for a fajita dinner. Our cook crew – Hank, Ella, and our LODs – were super helpful with dinner. We closed the night with LODs Maggie and Andrew asking “What is a super fun fact about yourself?” and “What is your favorite candy or snack?” We learned that Andrew broke his toe by hitting his brother’s toe and Elise has been thrown off a horse 20+ times!
We are so excited to continue and watch this family develop as we start our climbing section tomorrow!
Peace and Love,
Austin, Taylor, and Chuck
June 9, 2021
Hello California 1A Families!
The whole group arrived safely in San Francisco 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 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!!