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California 1C • June 9-July 22, 2021

Goodbye California!

June 23, 2021

Well, everyone’s picked up and probably on their way to chow down on some Chick-fil-A or bask in the newfound luxury of lying in a real bed, but we’re writing this last trip update with heavy hearts from all the goodbyes just said. Per Amalie’s most common song request, we listened to “Count On Me” by Bruno Mars as we drove to the airport and reflected on the new friendships that have added to our lives in many ways already and will surely last for a long time to come. We couldn’t say it enough- this was a truly special group of kids.

We’re sure you’ve already been hit with an avalanche of stories from your kids as soon as you got in the car (although we realize another reality is that they may be relishing in reuniting with their phones and might be more focused on Snapchatting their new friends). Regardless, we wanted to still throw out an update letting you know what the last couple days looked like. Spoiler: They were silly.

After leaving Lake Tahoe and heading back to one of our favorite campsites from earlier in the trip at Half Moon Bay, we woke up the next morning ready to spend our last day exploring San Francisco and holding on tightly to our last hours together. We walked along Fisherman’s Wharf and paused to take in the ominous view of Alcatraz across the water. We made sure to inform the kids of that being the spot where students who sneak their phones onto Moondance trips are sent (I think William gave us a pity laugh for that one).

Then, we turned around and behind us was a museum of historic arcade games from the boardwalk in San Francisco many years ago. Our time in there was an unexpected highlight as we spent a while walking around and trying out some of the games that our grandparents might have played if they had visited the same place back in their day. Some of us were spectators to Jack and Evan’s riveting air hockey match- Evan showed no mercy.

Afterwards, we walked to Pier 39 and poked our heads in a few of the fun stores around there. When we got back in the van and ate some lunch on the road, John shared the exciting surprise the leaders had been holding in. It was the news that we were on the way to a thrift store to pick out outfits for our final meal together that night. The kids really took advantage of the opportunity to go all out with their wardrobe selections.

Jack went with the multicolor striped rain boots and floppy hat while Grace decided on the long, peach-colored formal gown. William took charge of choosing clothes for the leaders by handing John a pink bunny onesie (think ‘A Christmas Story’), Katherine a medieval peasant dress, and Rachel some orange tie-dye pants. By the time we showered, changed into our purchases from the thrift store, and made it to dinner at a Mexican restaurant local to Half Moon Bay, we were altogether quite the spectacle. Honestly, we were surprised by the level of confidence the boys and girls all had as they strutted boldly into the restaurant wearing sparkly dresses and oversized blazers. A sight to behold. We ate like kings and queens with our super-sized burritos and felt especially spoiled when churros were passed out at the very end.

After our feast, we came back to the campsite and threw the frisbee while the sun was setting. Us leaders have talked about how special it is to us to see the transition from the first night when the students didn’t know each other yet and were apprehensive about giving up phones, to see them now running around without a care in the world and smiles on their faces.

We love watching them just play as kids and experience joy in its purest form. This group was really good at doing that and we will hold it close to our hearts. We wrapped up the night with our final Moonup led with a great question picked out by our LODs Evan and Katie. Then in true California 1C fashion, we concluded by joining together in one last game of Mafia led by our narrator Katie and Robert and Lilly really getting into it. Although Eleanor and Zach defended themselves valiantly, they were ultimately found out by the townspeople and exposed as the mafias.

All in all, we just want to thank you for allowing your kids to spend the last two weeks with us and for trusting us to give them the ultimate adventure tour of California. It means a lot. We’ve had so many moments and discussions about how we see unique and wonderful qualities in each kid we shared this trip with and we are grateful to have gotten to know them as friends. We will really, really miss them.

– John, Katherine, and Rachel

Happy (late) Father's Day From Half Moon Bay!

June 21, 2021

Hello to our loyal California C fan base! We’re back at Half Moon Bay writing our third and final trip update (cue the tears), and things are going swimmingly. The van ride here from Lake Tahoe was characterized by peaceful quiet as the kids slept with their heads back and even a few full-on open-mouthed sleepers. They have played hard and soaked in the sun during our time at the country’s second largest lake. Here is what we’ve been up to!

The first day served as a wonderful introduction to the lake and its surrounding areas. We began kayaking late that morning and spent midday on Tahoe, exploring the pristine waters and surveying the breathtaking mountain vistas. When we arrived at our outfitters and met our kayaking guides Brian and Julie, they gave us a quick lesson on how to maneuver the tandem kayaks and then we all set off into the glassy landscape. Although it wasn’t meant to be a race, we’ve learned that it’s impossible to send a group of middle school students out do any physical activity and not expect them to turn it into a competition. That being said, Jack and Robert swiftly led the pack to a beach area where we threw the frisbee and dunked our heads in the chilly water. Initially, Grace and Eleanor weren’t able to find as much synchronization in their paddling as their constant, silly belly-laughter while they trailed behind the group. On the way back, however, they found their stride and advanced their pole position in the imaginary race. We came back and ate our packed PB&J lunch, paddled some more, and then spent a relaxing afternoon lying on the beach and swimming around against a background of stunning snow-capped mountains. We concluded the day’s activities by taking a short stroll to an ice cream parlor and treated our intake of sun rays with an intake of a couple scoops each of the refreshing treat. Dinner that night was a taco buffet prepared by the kids and turned out to be a massive success. The kids enjoyed time in the Eno hammocks that night after dinner and went to bed happy and excited for the next day.

This morning we got up, scarfed down an oatmeal breakfast, and headed to the rim of the lake for some paddle boarding. Our day on the water proved more relaxing than the kayak outing. We paddled around the rim of the lake and floated on the crystalline waters. The kids battled in paddle wars and took turns picking unassuming targets to jump into the water. Amalie, William, and Zach were responsible for the majority of the onboard carnage, but Evan proved to be a masterful escape artist as he successfully evaded numerous offensives. Meanwhile, Katie taught a free paddle board yoga lesson to the leaders and a passerby. After exhausting themselves in the field of battle, the kids all collapsed onto their paddle boards for some much-needed rest and sunbathing. We wrapped up a very wholesome day with pasta and sausage paired with a Caesar salad and cupcakes. Following dinner, we sneak attacked the other California trip groups with silly string. Lilly was especially ferocious, taking no prisoners.

In all seriousness, this has been an incredible trip and it has been a pleasure getting to know these kids and see them grow. For Father’s Day, they wanted to let you all know how much you mean to them ahead of seeing you this week.


Hi Mom and Dad! I miss you guys, I’m having a blast! Happy Father’s Day. Love you, see you soon xoxo Amalie


Happy Father’s Day and happy late anniversary! I’m having an awesome time at camp -William


Hi Mom and Dad. I’m having so much fun at camp and I can’t wait to see you guys again. Sorry I missed Father’s day but we’ll de something fun soon. love you guys xoxo Grace


I love you Mom and Dad and happy father’s day! I’m having fun!! -Robert


I love you Mom and Dad. I’m having a lot of fun!! -Jack


Hi Mom and Dad I’m having a lot of fun. Happy Father’s day sorry I had to miss it! I miss you and love you -Eleanor


Love you Mom and Dad. I’m having a spectacular time. -Evan


Hey Mom and Dad miss you so much but having a great time. Happy Father’s Day love you and see you soon. Xoxo – Katie


Love you Mom and Dad. Thanks for sending me to Moondance! -Zach


Hi Mom and Dad. Sorry that I had to miss your birthday Mom but we’ll do something soon. Happy Father’s day, Dad. I’m having a great time making new friends. I’ll see you soon. Love you all the way past infinity and past back down forever -Lilly

Yosemite Rock Climbing, What's Better Than That!

June 19, 2021

We are peaking in a few ways on this California trip!

First, on our climbs to the tops of menacingly high rock walls (which every student boldly attempted) overlooking beautiful scenery. Second, the rising temperatures in and around Yosemite have prompted us to go splash in the chilly lake outside our campsite a few times. And third, in group cohesiveness and enthusiasm (hooray!). All in all, we feel like we can speak on behalf of each person in California C that the last few days have been really, really great.

Tuesday morning, we woke up and hit the road to head into Yosemite National Park. After we drove through the long tunnel that opens up to reveal magnificent Yosemite Valley, all eyes were glued to what towered over us out the left window, El Capitan. We met up with our wonderful guide Andrea who has lived in Yosemite for the last 25 years and knows just about everything there is to know about the park. We joined her in a hike up to Vernal Falls. Grace led at the front of the pack as we walked to the top. The kids maintained positive attitudes as they pushed through a tough hike that culminated in a magical view of the waterfall.

Then, we walked down, ate some PB&Js, and drove to the viewing area below El Cap. Andrea shared fun facts about climbing culture in Yosemite as we passed around her binoculars to look at the climbers slowly trudging their way up the nose route of the massive rock face in front of us. We had previously told Andrea about our rock-climbing adventure that would be happening the following day and she let us know that we would all be taking a crack at the 3,000 ft high rock face of El Cap. The looks on our kids’ faces ranged from the utmost, unfounded confidence to sheer terror.

Luckily, she informed us that she was kidding and that we’d all be starting our rock climbing careers at a more reasonable location. Andrea finished our tour, we thanked her for her expertise, and we went back to camp for the night. The kids swam in Bass Lake and had barbecue chicken quesadillas for dinner. Eleanor and William spearheaded our quesadilla efforts, creating tortillas with perfectly melted cheese and the crispiest of bell peppers. We went to bed after a nice Moonup.

Wednesday, we met our climbing guides, Ari and Tobias, and headed out to learn the ropes (no pun intended). They showed us how to tie figure eight knots, belay, and climb natural rock faces. The kids enthusiastically scaled the rocks. Katie, Zach, and Lilly were particularly fast as they scampered up the walls with ease. After climbing, we returned to camp and hopped back in Bass Lake to cool off from a sweaty day. The kids found a submerged log close to shore which functioned as the lake version of a sandbar. They squared off in swimming competitions, jumping from the log and seeing who could swim the farthest in one breath. Jack came away with a convincing victory in breaststroke. After swimming, most of the kids went back to camp to towel off, while Robert, Evan, Lilly, and Zach stayed in the water skipping rocks. Robert and Evan engaged in a heated battle, and while there was no clear victor, I did count an 11-skip throw, which is notable in its own right. We capped off our Wednesday with a hearty dinner of chicken pad Thai.

On Thursday, we progressed to harder cliff faces, and the kids rose to the challenge once again. The group took turns climbing rocks up to 100 feet tall. At the end of the day our guides, Tobias and Daniel, remarked that the group was a pleasure to work with. Our dinner that evening was a French toast, strawberries, bacon, and powdered sugar feast.

The highlight of the night, however, was our impromptu water war. The kids engaged in an all-out melee, equipped with Nalgenes and un-coachable levels of tenacity. After exhausting themselves splashing each other, they turned their efforts towards us. Needless to say, the trip leaders ended up getting drenched. Amalie delivered a masterclass in grand strategy water warfare. In a move rarely seen since Waterloo, she orchestrated a sneak attack, wrenching the bathroom door open to soak the last-leader-standing who was hiding within.

After Yosemite, we packed up our things and drove to Lake Tahoe, taking our ‘local’ food stop at Nevada’s nearest In-n-Out for dinner.

We are getting to bed early tonight in anticipation of kayaking tomorrow in this beautiful natural wonder.


– John, Rachel, and Katherine

Rafting the American River Like Pros!

June 17, 2021

It’s the second trip update and the California crew’s morale is high!

Everyone is going to bed with smiles and sleepy eyes in Yosemite tonight after the last two days of whitewater rafting on the American River with our exceptional guides Hayden and Reece. These adventures were characterized by exhilarating class 3 rapids, which soaked William and Robert (stationed bravely at the front of the rafts), Asher and Jack’s sneak attacks to raid each other’s boats, and delicious sandwich spreads fixed for us by our outfitters (Eleanor and Amalie were very excited about the artichokes).

While Jack, Asher, and some of the other kids opted for raft warfare, Grace was the picture of contentment as she relaxed on the raft and sunbathed during the slow parts of the river. The first day we rafted the lower portion of the American River, which begins with class 2 rapids and then progresses to class 3 rapids. This gave the kids with little or no rafting experience the opportunity to learn the strokes and commands before entering more intense whitewater.

By the second day, the kids were all pros and we hit the water running (no pun intended) on the American’s middle section, seeing class 3 rapids early. We even saw Evan get to try his hand at guiding a raft down part of the river, with Katie acting as our raft’s ‘drill sergeant’!  It was great to hear the kids turn to each other and say “that was so fun” as we handed in our paddles and helmets after finishing up our rafting expedition.

We really relished in the different, neat aspects of our campsite the last few days. The weather was perfect and there was a serene grassy area that was great for circling up to do Moonup or play Mafia. Aside from a few unexpected geese invaders, it was a very peaceful time at camp. Katie has grown into her role of resident Mafia narrator nicely and delights the camp group with her creative stories every night. We had the chance to shower at the campsite, and the vibes were great as the kids sat around, talked about their hometowns, and swapped stories. The Moonup led by our LODs (leaders of the day), Asher and Eleanor, was one of our best to date. Hayden and Reece cooked us delicious meals including beef tri tip, garlic bread, pesto pasta, Greek salad, and brownies.

Following the second day of rafting, we packed up our things and drove to Yosemite. Along the way, we were treated to the soothing sounds of Lily’s singing and Zach’s infectious crooning and dance moves. The kids seem to particularly love any and all songs by Bruno Mars.

We arrived at camp, enjoyed personal pepperoni pizzas, and had a fun Moonup led by today’s LODs (leaders of the day), Grace and Jack. Some of the kids even got to hop in nearby Bass Lake for some afternoon swimming and water frisbee. Tomorrow morning we go on a guided hike centered around Nevada Falls and the iconic Half Dome peak, and thus our Yosemite adventure begins. While here, we plan to hike, swim, mountain climb, and rappel our way across this natural treasure.


We can’t wait to see what happens next and to share more with you all soon!

– John, Katherine, and Rachel


Seas the Day and Rays the Roof in Sunny California!

June 13, 2021

Hello from California!

We’ve been having a blast out here. From afternoon hikes at a beautiful overlook at Point Reyes National Seashore to the waves we caught thanks to our incredible surfing instructors, this trip has really felt like a gift so far. When the group met altogether at the airport, it was clear to all of us leaders that this crew would be a lot of fun. We hopped in the van and drove straight to a short hiking trail that took us right to the top of a hill that let us get the coolest view of the Golden Gate Bridge, so of course we hung around up there and took a bunch of pictures. Then we drove to Point Reyes and played capture-the-flag at a park for a little while until our pizza was ready and we took it to our campground and FEASTED. That night, we learned tent set-up. We were truly so impressed with how quickly they picked it up!  The night closed up with our first Moonup, which is the small group time we share each evening in order to reflect on the day’s activities and get to know each other better (you’ll probably want to ask about Nugsylvania after the trip).

The next day, we woke up and were able to take a slow morning while we ate eggs, hash browns, and bacon – SO nice after everyone’s previous long travel day. We drove to Point Reyes National Seashore and marveled at all the pretty views while we walked along the beach. A highlight of the day was the driftwood sculpture competition that happened. Although it was a close call between Asher, Evan, William, and Robert’s “SpongeBob World,” Lilly, Zach, and Jack’s “Crabby Town” came out on top. Maybe it was due to either Lilly’s seaweed décor or Jack’s explanation of the creation.

On our third and fourth day, we were so pumped to surf at Pacifica State Beach with a few awesome guides who taught us about rip currents, how to pop up, and surf etiquette. Within a couple hours, everyone was able to catch at least one wave (woohoo!). Our first day of surfing was calm and the waves were smaller, but on our second day, we were met with some more gnarly ones. Watching Amalie and Rachel, our more experienced surfers in the group, gracefully glide on the waves was fun for all of us. Everyone did great and had a great attitude. After going out for surprise ice cream, we ended the day with beachside Moonup and an intense game of Mafia led by our fabulous narrator Katie.

As we send this update from our sweet campsite next to the American River after full bellies from a delicious spaghetti dinner (thanks to our cook crew made up of Eleanor, Grace, and Robert), we are gearing up for our next two days of white-water rafting. HERE WE GO!

We’re doing so well and can’t wait for the adventures ahead!

John, Rachel, and Katherine

All Have Arrived!

June 9, 2021

Hello California 1C 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!!

-Moondance HQ


  • Amalie
  • Eleanor
  • Evan
  • Grace
  • Jack
  • Katie
  • Lilly
  • Robert
  • William
  • Zach