July 26, 2021
Hello from the SFO Airport.
Austin, Taylor, and I have just parted ways with our 11 new best friends and we are feeling lots of things – sadness and happiness, nostalgia and contentment, and some more sadness. This group was fantastic! Each student brought so much to the group, but it couldn’t have happened without their ability to be themselves and grow comfortable with one another. Thanks to our outfitters for engaging our students and making the trip what it was, too! Let’s rewind a bit and recount every great moment we’ve had the past few days…
We woke up on DAY 12 a bit later. Austin and Taylor cheffed up another great breakfast bagel sandwich bar at our new Olema campsite before we hit the road for Point Reyes National Seashore! In no time, we were on the road. LODs Kate and Mary C sat in the front with Taylor and entertained us along the drive; once at the seashore, I’d ask them whether to go left, right, or continue straight. In a sense, they led our adventure throughout and across the protected area of land! We found a spot called Drake’s Estero, where Cash was fascinated with the figure that 20% of all harbor seals on the California coast were right here. Afterwards, I convinced the crew that a movie was filmed at a beautiful canopied drive off the beach (Forrest Gump anyone?), Connor pointed out the largest cow any of us have and will ever see, and Griff continued imitating a clapping audience for our van Bessie and all the hard work she’s put in these past two weeks. We pulled off in Bessie at a breathtaking view of the rolling coastline shores of Point Reyes with the marine layer, where Clara and Smitty loved taking pictures on the backs of the other girls! After a fun morning and early afternoon in Point Reyes, we headed back to camp for a grilled cheese lunch! Afterwards, we chilled, Ben had all the boys toss the football, and then headed for ice cream in the area. Clara and Griff bought a whole pint; Connor showed me how to perfect my ice cream eating and convinced me to always get ice cream in a cup from now on (I’m following through, brah)! We headed back to camp, had a COOKOUUUUT with another Moondance group, and headed into Moonup. LODs Kate and Mary C both asked super insightful questions and selected Connor and I as LODs for our last full day together…the one and only Day 13!
This morning, we woke up with the sun and packed camp! We ate breakfast on the road as we drove south on CA-1 to head to Pacifica to surf the swells one last time! Along the way, we crossed the real GGB (shoutout to our boy Connor!) and toured the neighborhoods of San Francisco. Griff and Ben exclaimed that all the houses looked the same. Once at surfing, Mika had her wetsuit on first in no time and Evelyn and Isabel hopped in the water to catch the first waves! This morning was super crowded in the water, but our crew did a fantastic job at listening to our guides John, J-Wow, and Russell and riding the waves along the break! Cash and I spent some time out past the break with the guides and we were successful on a few! Clara spent the most time on the water this morning, whether she was surfing or bodysurfing! Once we took off our wetsuits, Austin and Taylor surprised the group with pizza for lunch and we headed for a nearby beach to feast. Afterwards, we headed into SF to walk around, THRIFT, and have our last dinner, known as banquet, together. After a fun banquet, we headed to our final campsite in Luna Mar and went into our Final Moonup…what a memorable night this was! We sprawled out on three tarps this night instead of sleeping in tents, talked for a few hours, and soon were asleep.
This morning, we said our goodbyes, exchanged phone numbers, and said our goodbyes again.
To our kiddos: thank you for bringing your energy to this group. This group is your family now, you’ve played a great role in building this home, and we’ve got plenty to come! We’ll see you soon.
Big love to all of you. Austin, Taylor, and I loved closing out our summer with this group!
Go out and play, Moondancers!
Chuck, Austin, and Taylor
July 25, 2021
Hello from Olema, CA!We had a great few days on Tahoe and are pumped to explore Point Reyes today!
After a fun afternoon of swimming in the lake, we headed back to camp for an awesome dinner. The crew asked Austin and Taylor repeatedly what we were having, but all they got out of them was a hint: “Spencer.” With no idea what was in store, the crew ran off to play Mafia and our new favorite ‘Alibi.’ A half hour later…Austin and Taylor revealed our dinner: Spaghetti Tacos from the show iCarly! After Connor excitingly ran to grab his bowl from the bear box, he proclaimed that he had always wanted to try this food. Griff devoured three STs (Spaghetti Tacos) and many of the girls came back for second and thirds, too. Dinner was great; shout-out Nickelodeon and iCarly. Once again, we had Moonup at the breathtaking overlook view of Tahoe and, soon after, headed to bed with the sun.
We woke up the next morning to a breakfast sandwich bagel bar! Bellies full and swimsuits on, we headed to the north shores of Lake Tahoe to start our kayaking section of the trip. After a quick lesson on kayaks, paddle strokes, and the lake itself, we headed in with our guides Mike and Julie! In no time, we were cruising on our tandem boats to the eastern shores of Tahoe. With Nevada just across the way, we paddled over the deepest section of the entire lake (1600+ feet!). Along the way, Mika and Evelyn took a dip and Connor and Griff sang several songs to entertain the front of the pack. We pulled off at Speedboat Beach to hang and rest after a long hour and a half of paddling. Connor “starfished” on a large rock as the girls laid out on the sand. We soon headed back to our put-in point. On the way back, Griff and I swam 3 times and several other pairs joined us. It was a blast! We headed back to camp, had a great beef taco dinner, and had Moonup. After Moonup, we took some photos with the beautiful, almost full, rising moon over the Nevadan Sierras. Soon after, I started playing “Panda” and, unbeknownst to me at the time, it would soon initiate the craziest, loudest dance party Tahoe has ever seen! Ben and Griff gave us their duet rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and Isabel suggested “Our Song” and “Love Story.” For the next half hour, our crew sang at the top of their lungs, hugged one another, and fully embraced the moment. As we danced and laughed in the moonlight, we all were so genuinely happy…the little things!
Yesterday, we woke up after a great night of rest and packed camp in record speed! With LODs Smitty and Clara in the front of Bessie with us, we headed north for Tahoe Vista once again! This time: SUUUUUUUUUP, aka Stand Up Paddleboarding. Austin, Taylor, and I were the guides this morning, and the group was so excited! We got our boards into the water in no time and headed towards the west shores. Clara and Mary C were speedy fast on the water, while Griff, Ben, and Mika chilled in the back. A mile down shore, we docked our boats on a beach to hang for a bit. Cash and Clara continued to perfect their rock skipping skills which they started on the American River — the rocks on Tahoe are much more smooth and rounded out! After a fun time hanging on the beach, we paddled out to a buoy, connected our boards together, and spent some more time relaxing on the water! Ben, Griff, and I took a dip, messed around with the other boys, and then headed back to shore for lunch. With Tahoe in our rear, we looked forward to Olema and all that we would soon see at Point Reyes. After a ROAAADTRIP, we made it to our new campsite, set up camp, tossed the football, saw some goats and sheep, and chilled. For dinner: hand breaded fried chicken, mac n cheese, and Chick-fil-A sauce (our group’s favorite). After a great dinner, clean crew hopped on dishes and then we headed into Moonup. At Moonup, Clara and Smitty asked us about the best decision we’ve ever made. Kate, Griff, Cash, Ben, AND Smitty said coming here to California with Moondance. I couldn’t keep back a smile…how cool!! This adventure has taught us all about ourselves, one another, and the magic of Moondance.
As we (somehow) approach the last mornings and nights of our time together, we’re hugging each other a little closer. Austin, Taylor, and I are so proud of our group’s performance and development over just a week and a half.
We’re well-fed, happy, and living in the moment!
Talk soon,CAL 3A
July 22, 2021
Checking in from Tahoe once again!
Our first full day on the lake has been super fun. After an early start on the Overlook Trail, I returned to camp with 11 teenagers running around. Supposedly, our very own Ben and Griff were contestants on Chopped Junior in 2018!? Confused and curious, Mary C helped me separate the boys to ask about their dishes, the other contestants, the judges, the travel, and all the other details that would rat them out and profess a lie. However, Mary C and I were unsuccessful, but we all still believe they’re pulling our legs.
About half an hour later, we started breakfast on our trusty Coleman stove. LOD Mika and Cash were very helpful in the process. While Mika watched the Canadian bacon, Cash prepped and buttered the English muffins and cheese to make our staple breakfast sandwich! We woke up Connor with the smell of a tasty breakfast sandwich, packed our day packs, and headed for the Rubicon Trail!
Just a few hundred feet from our campsite, the Rubicon Trail is a staple hiking trail in SW Lake Tahoe. The trail wraps around Emerald Bay, one of the must-sees when at Tahoe, and continues north past D.L. Bliss State Park. Clara, Smitty, and Mary C joined me in the front for the first mile of the hike. It was mostly downhill, sending us closer to the lake; as we descended, the girls and Cash were amazed by the Tahoe blue water – Clara even said it looked like The Bahamas! Soon after, we traversed our way to a little secret beach on the shores of Emerald Bay. Here, a few of us laid in the sand and Taylor, Cash, Connor, and Clara jumped into the water. Kate suggested the crew go and climb on a downed tree over the water; the crew did so and we snagged a few sick shots! Evelyn and Isabel had a blast taking photos of everyone on the beach, too. We headed back uphill to camp to chill as Taylor and Austin cheffed up grilled cheeses for lunch!
Now, we’re heading to swim for a few hours in the lake! We are so pumped to chill, throw the frisbee, and bask in the California sun. You’ll be hearing more from us in the next few days as we kayak and SUP this vast, rad lake.
Chuck, Austin, and Taylor
Clara: hey mom and dad I miss yall so much. I’m having a lot of fun. Love yall so much.
Evelyn: Hi Mom and Dad! I am having so much fun here. I love you and miss you and can’t wait to see you guys soon!
Ben: Hey mom and dad, miss you and I having so much fun!
Isabel: I am having so much fun here. It is the best two weeks of my life. Miss yall and love yall.
Kate: Hi Mom and Dad I am having so much fun. Love and miss you
Mary C: hey Mom and Dad, I am having the best time and meeting the best people. Tell turner to have so much fun at camp. Love yall!
Mika: Hi family, I am having so much fun!! I have so many stories to tell and so many photos to show you guys. Miss you.
Smitty: hey mom and dad, miss you and having so much fun!
Cash: Hi mom and dad miss you and love you. Having a great time. ask Marley how the 10 hour car ride was and ask Sam if he likes any colleges.
Connor: Hi Mom and Dad I’m having an amazing time! I’ve met some cool people in the past few days and have been doing insane activities like surfing! I hope y’all are doing well at home. How’s Gracyray doing. I’m excited to see you when I get home! Love you, Connor
Griff: I love you mom and dad hayes and anna, yall should leave me here.
July 21, 2021
Howdy from Tahoe!
WOW, we’ve had an epic time here in Cali. I’ve got a lot to share, so let’s hop right in.
On our fourth and fifth mornings, we hit the slab and climbed on! After eggs and bacon both mornings, we headed a bit north to Southern Yosemite to climb on. On our first morning, we met our awesome climbing guides Tobias and Kevin and caravanned to Willow Creek, the wall we’d be spending the next two days on. While we all attempted the routes and made it up at least to a ledge, here are some highlights from both days: Griff and Cash were first to climb on, Clara exhibited great EB by waiting for the rest of the group to climb before zooming up both walls, and Mary C overcame her fears and sent it up the wall in no time! After a milkshake surprise on our first afternoon of climbing, we hit the pool and had a blast making whirlpools, playing football and taps, and having swimming races. Both pairs of LODs, Connor + Kate and Smitty + Cash, led great Moonups, where we learned a lot and laughed a lot!
We woke up before the sun the next morning and packed up camp in record time! After a quick breakfast, we packed the UHaul and loaded up Bessie to head for Yosemite. Leaving this awesome campsite in our rear-view mirrors, we turned forward to the winding, forested roads leading us towards Yosemite Valley. After a super fun, musical ride supported by Griff and Connor’s queue requests, we entered The Valley through a tunnel which opens with a remarkable, picturesque view (Tunnel View) of Yosemite Valley – Half Dome, El Cap, Cathedral Rocks…all of the geological wonders of this unique place. Once we exited the tunnel, I remember hearing Griff scream “Take a picture!!! That’s so cool!!!” and “WOOOOAHH!!!” from Ben and Mary C. We made it! We cruised further into The Valley, dropped Bessie in Curry Village, had a quick lesson on trail etiquette, and headed for our trailhead. As LOD Clara led the group and LOD Mary C followed, we ventured towards the Mist Trail at Vernal Falls. Along the climb, we had fun looking at all the rock fall from the Happy Isles incident in the 1990s – massive boulders and fields of rock dust, too! We sent it to Vernal Falls in no time, basked in all its glory, took some photos, and sent it back down to The Valley to have a much-deserved lunch and rest. We took the scenic route of Yosemite, made it to Lotus, and surprised the crew with In-N-Out for dinner! Connor threw up two thumbs of approval, so all is good here. Afterwards, on our ride back, we drove past a park and figured why not hop out. We played an intense, sweaty game of keep away with the soccer ball, while Taylor, Griff, and Ben tossed the football! After a great Moonup, we hit our pads at our new camp!
While the girls slept in the next morning, I took the boys to get in a sunrise workout and swim in at a local park on the American River. Connor, Griff, Ben, and Cash all contributed to the workout and our sets! Afterwards, we hopped into the river and took a swim in the icy water. Once back, we headed to wake the girls and prep for our day whitewater rafting the American River! Sunscreen applied and Nalgene’s full, we headed onto the river after a quick briefing from our All Outdoors (AO) guides Ben and Wyatt! Ben and Connor headed our boat, while Griff and Cash started as lead for the other boat. We spent the morning perfecting our in-sync paddling skills, our left- and right-turns, and getting ourselves back into the raft in style! At lunch, Clara impressed us all with her ability to skip stones upwards of 12 times and even making it across the river! Once back on the river, Isabel and Smitty smiled throughout the whole gorge, and I even heard Smitty whisper “This is the best trip ever” under her breath. After successfully maneuvering many Class III+ rapids like Hospital Bar and Lost Hat, our boat tried convincing Connor that one of the bridges we passed was THE Golden Gate Bridge (GGB)! Things are good here, friends. Once out of the river, we headed back to Lotus for dinner, prepped by none other than Wyatt, Ben, and Reece from AO! On the menu: salad, grilled chicken, steak, peppers, two pastas, and garlic bread…most of us went for seconds. Wyatt joined us for Moonup; he was super involved and gave out several nugs to our crew for their great paddling skills and humor down the river. THIS DAY WAS A BLAST!
AO continued to spoil us! We woke up the next morning with coffee cake, fresh fruit, and tea as Ben and Wyatt continued to prep a breakfast sandwich bar. As we waited, LODs Griff and Evelyn led our crew in a camp sweep, looking for micro-trash and any unclaimed belongings. Ben and Wyatt walked over casually to let us know that breakfast was indeed ready and Smitty and Isabel quickly sped to their kitchen with the rest of the group on their tails. After a great breakfast, we said our goodbyes to another great campground (Kate and Smitty get emotionally attached to each campsite) and headed to AO to get back on the river.
California is in a major drought, so, naturally, the water levels can get low across the state. However, as we have learned, there is no problem AO cannot solve! We hopped on tandem duckies (inflatable kayaks) after a short drive up the river with laughs and an unmatched excitement. In under a minute of being on the boats, Kate had been pulled in by Smitty and Evelyn by Griff. Ben, Wyatt, and Chloe, our guides for the morning, hopped in and we headed downstream! We maneuvered the whitewater all morning like pros; Cash and Clara were particularly exceptional in their synchronized paddle strokes and communication down rapids! Evelyn and Griff swam a rapid or two, but we all hopped out with them as we passed under another GGB (Golden Gate Bridge)! Here in the still water, Ben suggested we have a stand-up inflatable kayak race; trust us, it’s harder than it sounds. Once all positioned, we raced for Ben and Chloe further down river! Ben splashed into the river in under 5 seconds and Connor wasn’t far behind. Griff and Evelyn were steadfast in reaching the finish line with concentration and synchronous strokes, but Kate and Smitty came out victorious! After a fun time on the river, we ate one last meal with AO and hit the road…Tahoe, Bessie and her 14 are coming in hot.
We made it to the lake in record speed. As we cruised into the area, the whole group was speechless with their first views of Tahoe! The second largest lake in volume in the continental U.S., Lake Tahoe is massive. We are pumped to spend our next few days here! Austin, Taylor, and LODs Griff and Evelyn made a great dinner of chicken quesadillas with pico, guac, and chips, and then we headed into my favorite Moonup so far. As we onlooked Tahoe at an overlook spot with the sun setting, LODs asked us about our biggest goal in life and to share something that no one knows about you yet…Mary C has some missing joints in her elbow, Isabel and Mika have hitchhiker thumbs, and several of us have broken or hurt our siblings (on accident) many times. We hit our ground pads with the cool Tahoe air.
This morning, I woke up with almost the entire group and headed to the Overlook Trail at our campsite. We made it to the vast, stunning, humbling overlook view of the lake as the sun was still tucked beneath the Nevadan Sierras. The sun rose almost half an hour later, welcomed with cheers and claps from our crew. We took some pictures, laughed a little, and headed back for camp to get a few more minutes of sleep.
Now, here we are! On our ninth morning of this trip of a lifetime, Austin, Taylor, and I cannot believe how fast this group has come together and how much more time we have to continue laughing, joking, and living in the moment. Today, we’re gonna have a day! We’re going to eat a great breakfast, play a few games of Mafia, and then head for the Rubicon Trail. Let’s have a day!
We’ll see you in a few.
Chuck, Austin, and Taylor
July 16, 2021
Hello from the Golden State!
Chuck here. Austin, Taylor, and I have had a great start to our adventure across this great state with our goofy, entertaining, daring crew! Thank you, parents, for sending your kids to spend this time with us; it’s going to be a fun time.
We started our trip in the San Francisco Airport on Tuesday with Isabel, Smitty, and Evelyn’s arrival from CLT. Soon after, the rest of the crew rolled in and we spent some time in the Delta baggage claim playing cards, perfecting our sandwich making skills (which will come in handy), and getting to know one another. After Whit and Clara arrived from ATL, we hit the road with seatbelts buckled and an unbearable excitement for the next two weeks!
With Griff and Ben in the front row of the van, Austin, Taylor, and I were greatly entertained on our drive to our first campsite just off the Pacific shores. With tens of music requests and new nicknames, we made it to our first campsite in under an hour. As we piled out of sweet Bessie (the van), we grabbed our duffels and soon listened to Austin and Taylor as they taught us how to pitch a tent! Isabel, Mika, and Mary C pitched theirs in record time with the other four girls close behind. After we all had our homes in place, we hung out at camp for a few until Cash suggested we go to the amphitheater and perform skits! While I headed to grab some local pizza in Half Moon Bay, the crew presented hilarious skits in groups. The boys’ skit was a hilarious rendition on a sport team and the girls’ was about pajamas – Austin and Taylor’s was a mix of both!
Once I headed back with the ‘za, we all filled our bellies as we laughed along with our new best friends. Just before Moonup, Griff commented on how ridiculous it was that we had just met 5 or 6 hours ago! We circled up in our chairs and started our first Moonup – a Moondance tradition that happens each night, regardless of conditions, and is a space for everyone to get to know one another a bit more! Our Leaders of the Day, or LODs, Taylor and Austin introduced our crew to the Nug Jug and all the other aspects to Moonup. They ended Moonup electing Mika and Ben for our LODs tomorrow, a great day to be LOD: SURF’S UP!!
We woke up this morning to a quick breakdown of camp, then packed our duffels and hit the road in Bessie! To Pacifica we go! An hour later, we met our incredible instructors on the beach, threw on our wetsuits and booties, and headed to the sand. For the next half hour, our instructors David, Gary, Aidan, and J-Wow taught us about La Luna Mar, translated to the beautiful ocean, how to avoid some dangers like rip currents and longshore currents, and how to have great form on the board! After getting some practice pop-ups in, we hit the water! Clara and Isabel had a tough time carrying their boards, but they did it with a laugh. We all braced the cold water and were hangin’ ten in no time! Mary C popped up in no time, and Evelyn was super motivated to catch waves all morning. After a few runs inland, Kate, Griff, and I paddled out past the break with instructor Aidan. Out there, he taught us how to maneuver with our feet, how to turtle roll, and how to practice set watching and preparation for a wave! We all took a few tumbles, but had a blast practicing these advanced skills!
After a great morning of surfing, we took off our suits and changed into dry clothes. While the crew changed, Austin and Taylor grabbed twelve Baja Blasts from the famous Taco Bell Cantina (on the beach) and surprised the kiddos with them – a refreshing drink to pair with our sandwich lunch! We then packed our UHaul (name TBD) and headed for YOSEMITE! After a fun drive (Griff spotted a bald eagle and Mary C and Kate were fascinated with the captivating grassy landscapes), we pitched tents and ate a great meal of chicken alfredo. Then, we headed into Moonup. LODs Ben and Mika asked us about our dream jobs and where we would want to travel to if we could go anywhere in the world. Afterwards, they elected Griff and Evelyn as LODs tomorrow for their inclusiveness, encouragement, and stellar Expedition Behavior (EB)! We headed to bed; Mary C, Kate, and I slept on a tarp and Cash, Whit, and Connor slept under the stars in their ENOs.
We woke up the next morning with the sun and enjoyed a breakfast of fruit and breakfast sandwiches! The group loves the meals cooked on our Coleman stoves; a few even came for seconds and thirds. After a slow morning, we headed to take a look of The Valley in Yosemite National Park! Established in the 1960s, YNP has 400+ wildlife and was formed by rivers of ice…glaciers! A geology enthusiast myself, I enjoyed telling the crew during our ride about the granite that makes up the park and sharing more about glaciation and the (at least) 8 glacial periods Yosemite has undergone. Taylor claims that “Granite” is the answer to every single question I ask. Nugs to that. We arrived to our main overlook of the day: Glacier Point.
After a quick lunch, we all enthusiastically walked to the point and all our jaws dropped! It was fascinating. Clara and Smitty couldn’t keep back a huge smile, and Connor had to take several solo shots on some slabs of rock! All of his pictures were sweeeeet. After some time here, scouting out our next few days, we headed back to camp and hit the pool! Griff suggested a game of football, but we all enjoyed sharks and minnows – Cash tagged me first, so it was game over from there. After a fun afternoon in the water, we went back to camp, changed, and chilled until a delicious dinner of fajitas prepared by none other than our great LODs Griff and Evelyn! Afterwards, we went into Moonup where we discussed what we would want to do with unlimited funds for 24 hours (buying a yacht was the common denominator; no one agreed with my lottery tickets response) and our biggest pet peeves. Our LODs elected Connor and Kate as the new LODs and, once we howled, we headed to bed.
Today, we are heading into the climbing section of our trip! We will meet our guides in Southern Yosemite this morning and climb through lunch. We are super excited to see how this group enjoys the slab wall and expect each student to crush it on these routes!
We’re heading into a busy section of our trip afterwards with a large hike through The Valley and a rafting trip down the American River, so we’ll check in with you all in a few days!
Chuck, Austin, & Taylor
July 13, 2021
Hello California Families!
The whole group arrived safely in San Francisco today, and 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