July 27, 2021
A big paddle high-five for a couple of incredible days rafting on the American River! After hopping out of the van into our campsite that backed right up to the river, we talked and laughed together while cooking mini pepperoni pizzas that we all munched on as soon as they came off the stove (and don’t forget the delicious Capri Suns to drink) (the kids go crazy for that stuff). Afterwards, we ate chocolate chip cookies on the shore of the river, followed by a wonderful Moonup led by our LODs Grey and Mickey. We went to bed in anticipation for the rafting adventures ahead of us.
The next morning, everyone was thrilled about our breakfast consisting of a variety of cereal options, so much so that the boys who woke up early went and shook the Enos of the girls who were still sleeping so that we could all start eating. After slurping down every last drop of cereal milk from our bowls, we suited up in our swimwear for rafting and headed to the outfitter. There, we met our fabulous guides Hayden and Chloe and received a quick lesson on river safety and rafting technique before we set off for the rapids. We began our rafting quest with some smaller rapids and then practiced our paddling on some Class 2s until lunchtime, which involved a hearty spread of sandwich-making ingredients. Harless especially liked the “goe’s” (codename for dried mangoes). Then we headed back out to the great yonder of the river, but this time sporting an all-girls boat and all-boys boat. Tommy led the boys with energy in some paddling chants as they followed the girls boat, where the mood was characterized by more chatter than chanting. The boats definitely engaged in some splash battles, in which Maggie seemed to have been targeted, since she was drenched while the rest of the girls came out only with a little water damage. Then, we headed into the Class 3s, where we paddled hard and almost never stopped smiling and laughing. Hayden and Chloe led valiantly as we focused in and held on when they told us to. We finished the day with a special treat of surprise sodas given to us by the guides as we turned in our life jackets. Kate was especially delighted to be sipping on some ice-cold Dr. Pepper.
We arrived back at camp and threw the frisbee around, showered, and picked the blackberries Caroline discovered on a nearby bush until the outfitters (they made us dinner eep!) told us our food was ready to dig into. Get this- we feasted on steak, chicken, TWO kinds of pasta, roasted veggies, and garlic bread. Not to mention the brownies brought over to our campsite for dessert. We felt like kings and queens with this delicious special treatment. Afterwards, we circled up for Moonup and then quickly went to bed dreaming of what the next day on the river might hold.
The following morning, we woke up and scarfed down breakfast sandwiches with cantaloupe and cinnamon bread, a tasty morning meal gifted to us by our guides. Then, we headed back to the outfitter to ride a bus to the Upper Fork of the American River. More Class 3s today (woohoo!!!). We got back into our guy and girl boats from the day before and of course, splash battles once again commenced. At the front, Grey was catching some serious whitewater as we shot down big rapids with ominous names like “Troublemaker” and “Hospital Bar,” and she took it like a champ. After we ate a sandwich lunch at a picnic area we stopped at, we got back in our rafts and were met by some calm water. And thus, RAFT WARS began! Palmer and Prescott springboarded into the girls boat and began peeling girls off one-by-one, but the ladies certainly fought back hard when the boys were thrown in after there was some time to react and retaliate. A notable moment from the shuffle was when multiple boys began trying to pull Harless into the chilly water, and she held her ground for quite some time. Finally, she was knocked in, but many of the guys admitted that getting her off the raft was a feat. It was altogether a time of chaotic, lighthearted fun, and we feel as though it reflected this group well. Even our guides were laughing hard at the silliness our group can so easily make room for. After a truce was made, we all paddled to the end of our rafting journey. We returned our gear, thanked our incredible guides, and made ourselves comfy in the van for the ride to Point Reyes. We finished the day with a filling dinner of buffalo chicken quesadillas and a heartfelt Moonup where we all squished together on the tarp. I think at this point, we all became aware of how much we were starting to feel like family.
Sleeping in was well deserved before a big day in Point Reyes! Our LoD’s Ben and Maggie helped chef up some delicious Waffle House style breakfast bowls for us, which were SO good. The morning was spent playing Spikeball, throwing the football, and enjoying some shade under the big tree covering our camp! We then packed our backpacks for the day and headed to a beautiful beach along Point Reyes National Seashore. Everybody had such a blast!! Mickey and Katherine put on a dominant display in a Moondance favorite game called birdie on a perch. Grey and Prescott just barely lost in a well-fought Spikeball tournament final against Ben and Mickey.
Tommy led the group in a big race, and Caroline found a hidden beach cave! Music was playing, morale was high, and the California coast treated us well. Afterward, we hopped in the van and visited the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Ben and Forbes led the charge down the 300 stairs to get to the observation deck, and the views from the top of the tall cliffs overlooking the water were incredibly breathtaking. After some time appreciating the scenery, we headed back to camp for a group wiffleball game! The meadow next to our camp was a perfectly spacious spot for a baseball field, and our group was split into two as the teams went head to head. Our group has some natural hitting talent, especially Kate and Tommy!
Next up on the night was the heavily built-up Iron Chef competition. The group was split between guys and girls, and each team was tasked with making a dish to the best of their ability. The guys made burgers using Mickey’s special sauce combination, while the girls crafted a fine dish of spaghetti and meatballs. Palmer shaped the burgers and cut toppings, and Tommy grilled them to perfection- the countdowns between each burger flip were full of energy! Maggie cooked and seasoned the meatballs while Harless, Grey, and Kate made sure the pasta was cooked perfectly. It felt almost impossible to pick a winner, but Mickey’s special recipe was hard to beat. We followed this up with our most fun Moonup yet, where our entire group somehow fit all on half of one tarp! The group has grown so much together, and friendships have blossomed. It is incredible to witness as leaders, and our final day was sure to be a hit.
We began our morning by packing up camp and getting on the road towards San Fran. Morning drives along the Northern California shoreline are beautiful, and the kids singing along to their favorite songs made it even better. Our first stop of the day was the Golden Gate Bridge overlook! Is the bridge orange or red? Don’t start that debate around Forbes and Caroline! The group loved taking in the scenery around the bridge and taking fun pictures. We then headed to Pier 39 for some shopping and Sea Lion watching! Bennett and Palmer loved the sea lions, and the kids didn’t want to leave when a couple of them started playing around in the water.
Grey, Kate, and Maggie went for a carousel ride that amused us all, and Forbes got some cotton candy that was almost bigger than him! Expect some gifts to come back home as well. The day was only to get better as we told the kids our dinner plans for the banquet. We headed to the thrift store, where the group made it their goal to dress as ridiculous as possible, and oh my, did they succeed. The guys all loved their outfits a little bit too much, and everyone enjoyed the laughs they brought. Dinner was at the Half Moon Bay famous Tres Amigos restaurant, where we all sat together and enjoyed a meal not cooked by us! The group couldn’t have had a better time, and after some pictures, we headed to the beach to enjoy some of our final moments all together. Moonup was as energetic yet genuine and caring as always. The group shared the lessons learned from their two weeks together and what they will take back home with them into their daily lives. It’s going to be hard to leave the incredible sunset views, but this group sure has made the absolute most of their time on Moondance this summer. There have been so many laughs shared, pranks pulled, and memories created which will last a lifetime. We, as leaders, are so thankful to have had such a uniquely fun and energetic group.
Thank you for following along with our journey, and we hope you have a great rest of your summer.
-Chris, Katherine, & Rachel
July 22, 2021
Hello to our loyal California C fan base!
Our time in Lake Tahoe has been absolutely amazing. On our drive to the lake we surprised the kids with a stop at In-n-Out which was a big hit. We all feasted on burgers, French fries, and milkshakes with smiles on our faces. Our campsite was a sweet place in Emerald Bay with a perfect spot for Moonup which overlooked the whole lake and the mountains.
The next morning started strong with French toast before our kayaking adventure. We met our guides Mitch and Julie who taught us all the basics for our tandem kayaks. Everyone enjoyed the beautiful blue water while we explored the surrounding area. We were entertained with a game of “stinky fish” taught by Mitch, which involves throwing a ball (the “stinky fish”) and not being the last person to have it before lunch. It was an intense game that ended with a targeted pass at Ben and Caroline’s kayaks as we pulled up to the beach. They handled the loss with grace and composure.
After we ate yummy chicken sandwiches and snacks on the beach we were greeted by four adorable dogs, which Caroline, Prescott, and Mickey were especially excited about. The kids had tons of fun throwing the toy for the dogs and watching them swim. After our relaxing break on the beach, we went back on the lake for some more kayaking. The whole group participated in a race and we were so impressed with Grey and Kate who won!!!! We stopped for ice cream after kayaking, the perfect treat for a nice summer day on the lake. Souvenirs and trinkets from one of our favorite spots were a must, so we spent some time shopping around Tahoe.
We came back to camp for silly games (Forbes really comes alive during Catch Phrase) and relaxing time before dinner. Maggie was the chef for our Taco Tuesday buffet, which was AMAZING! Bennett, Tommy, Mickey, and Chris played a spicy version of Bean Boozled with different jalapeño flavored jelly beans. We were all very amused watching the boys play this game and yell to the front of the van to see if there was any milk around. The night ended with a fun question during Moonup about our dream day which prompted very creative answers led by Tommy and Maggie.
The next day in Lake Tahoe began with oatmeal and apples for breakfast. Our LODs Harless and Prescott helped with preparing lunch and snacks for the group. We had a fantastic time paddle boarding around the lake and floating on the crystalline waters. Ben made sure that everyone got soaked by splashing and even jumping on other people’s boards. Paddle board wars! Palmer and Ben had a battle to see who could stay on the board the longest, and Palmer was the champion. The paddle boarding was a blast and overall we had an incredibly memorable time in Lake Tahoe.
Now, we are on our way to the American River for two days of rafting! We know you’re missing your kiddos, so here’s some shoutouts from them to you.
Hey Mom and Dad. I hope you’re doing well. I’m having a great time. How is Rosie? Love, Prescott
Hi Mom and Dad. I’m having so much fun and meeting so many new friends. I loved hiking in Yosemite. Can’t wait to see you when I get home. Love, Bennett
Hi I miss you guys we’re going white water rafting. I’ll see you in four days! 🙂 Love, Forbes
Hi Mom and Dad. I love you and miss you. Having a great time! Love, Harless
Hey Mom and Dad. I miss y’all. I’m having fun. Tell Maggie and Beck I said hi. Can’t wait to see y’all. Love, Kate
Hey guys! it’s Marypalooza! I’m having so much fun! Miss you guys and love you! Tell the dogs I said hi. Love, Maggie
Hey Mom and Dad. I miss y’all. I’m having fun. Tell Birdie I said hi. Can’t wait to see y’all. Love, Grey
Hi Mami and Papi. I love you guys so much and I miss you even more. This trip is pretty awesome! My favorite activity so far has been rock climbing and surfing. Can’t wait to see you guys soon! Love, Ben
Hey Mom and Dad. I miss you. I’m having fun and can’t wait to see you. I love you. Tell Sarah and Holland I said hi. Love, Palmer
Hi Mom and Dad thanks for sending me here! I’ve had a great time. Tell Leighton and Rylan I said hi. Love, Tommy
Hi Mom and Dad. I’m having a lot of fun with all of the activities. Can’t wait to see you. Love, Caroline
Hey Mom and Dad. Miss y’all. I’m having so much fun here! Say hi to the dogs, Mason, and Georgia for me. Love, Mickey
July 20, 2021
Things are picking up out here in Yosemite! We’re climbing mountains, climbing rock faces, and to match the theme, the temperatures are climbing too. We’ve really enjoyed the warm, still evenings here at our campsite outside Yosemite in contrast to the chilly air we had in Pacifica. The packing list really is right when it tells you to bring your puffy jacket and your dry-fit shirts too!
As soon as we pulled into camp, the “oohs” and “ahs” as we passed the pool prompted an immediate walk to jump in and splash around. The Spikeball net was quickly set up and the boys were practicing their trick shots in preparation for the tournament that would occur over the next few days. We wrapped up the night with a scrumptious spaghetti dinner along with Caesar salad and garlic bread, which Ben was especially delighted by, as he has continued to remark that it was his favorite meal so far.
Throw the confetti! Morale was high the next morning as it was Chris’ 23rd birthday (hooray for his Jordan year!) What better way to celebrate a birthday than by a hike on a beautiful day in Yosemite National Park?! We scarfed down some oatmeal for breakfast, packed our sandwiches and snacks in our backpacks, and hopped in the van to head into the Valley. We met our guide Mark and he told us that we were hiking up to Vernal Falls and then stopping a little above at Clark’s Pointe to eat lunch. At the start, he circled us up and assigned us leadership roles that we would hold for the remainder of the day. Then, we took off!
Something we leaders have discussed that we love about this group is their desire for adventure. As soon as we got going on the hike, all the boys had their shirts off and really took on the “mountain man” persona. Kate and Grey, our official “Complaint Managers” (meaning that if there were any complaints the students could only talk to them about it) really didn’t receive too many negative remarks. As we walked up and one student explained that they felt really tired, Mickey, without hesitation, offered to take her backpack, and happily carried it up the rest of the hike. Maggie, our designated “Oracle,” wore Rachel’s watch and informed us every so often how much time we had until we could break.
It was a challenging hike, but the view of the waterfalls and the backside of Half Dome at the top of Clarke’s Pointe was well worth it. Getting to know “Uncle Mark,” as he let us call him, and hear his stories from his travels around the world was a major highlight of the day. He even led us in a silly rubber band game on top of the mountain in which the group raced to see who could wiggle them from their nose to their chin first. Turns out that Bennett may have a future in rubber band wiggling as he effortlessly defeated the rest of us and even gave us an encore just so we could watch his newfound talent in amazement.On the way down, we were entertained by a bet formed between Mickey and a few of the other boys to see if he could carry five backpacks for the last bit of the hike, and he followed through with grit.
As a refreshing conclusion to our hike, Uncle Mark led us to a river in the valley where we were able to cool off and swim around in the clothes we were wearing. I think in those moments, with the beautiful scenery of Half Dome in our view to the right, we were all united in our gratefulness to be in the place we were. It was pure bliss! After drying off and eating some birthday cookies in the car, we stopped by the gift shop and then hopped back in the van to ride back to our campsite. As soon as we got back, Chris received a mullet haircut using craft scissors from Harless, Grey, Kate, and Mickey. Honestly, they did a great job. To cap off the night, we ate hotdogs and mac-n-cheese with an ice cream sundae dessert bar, and finally finished with a Moonup led with a thought-provoking question by our LODs Bennett and Caroline.
The next morning, we started out by eating some hashbrowns and bacon and then spent the morning swimming, hanging in our Enos, and just taking some time to chill. After our delicious hummus, pita, and salami lunch, we were pumped to go rock climbing in the afternoon, and the kids were so impressive in the way they pushed their limits and ALL made it to the top of the wall! After a while, it of course became competitive, as it inevitably does when it comes to middle schoolers, and we were doing timed races to see it who could make it to the top the fastest. Kevin and Tobias, our superb guides (Kevin has climbed El Cap 7 times!!!), said that Tommy was the fastest they’d ever seen, climbing the rock face in a whopping 16 seconds. After climbing, we ate homemade chicken sandwiches (with real Chick-fil-A sauce eep) chef’d up by Chris and his fabulous cooking partner Mickey. Palmer absolutely loved em! They were GOOD.
After we reflected on the day in Moonup, we hit the hay to get ready for our second day of climbing.For our third and final full day in Yosemite, we met back up with Kevin and Tobias for a morning session of rock climbing. When Maggie hit the first wall, Kevin remarked that she glided through the difficult section better than anyone he’d seen the whole summer. Harless and Prescott were the first among the few who fearlessly attempted the daunting right-side wall with grace. All-in-all, each person in the group surpassed their comfort zones, and it was really neat to see.
After finishing our climbing expedition, we changed into our swimsuits and spent some time at nearby Bass Lake, swimming around, playing Spikeball, and lying on the beach. A much needed time of rest. For dinner, our all-girls cook crew (whoop whoop) whipped up a pad Thai feast that we collectively devoured (Ben said it tied with the spaghetti dinner) (that’s a big deal). Afterwards, we had our favorite Moonup so far, led by our LODs Forbes and Grey, who also made the announcement relayed to them by us leaders that we get to SLEEP IN in the morning!
Now, we’re on our way to Tahoe and we’re excited for our adventures to come. This group is rowdy and we’re here for it. We’ll check in soon!
July 16, 2021
Hello from beautiful northern California! This group has an energy that is hard to match, and we love the excitement they bring to everything we do.
Our journey started at the San Fran airport. Caroline brought some games in her duffel, and Genius Square stole the show. She and Harless were proclaimed champions, but everyone enjoyed playing. After a short while, everyone safely arrived, and we were ready to head to our campsite! The drive displayed some of California’s hilly and beautiful landscapes. We drove into a forest with some of the largest redwood trees Cali has to offer and get to call it camp for the next two nights! Upon arrival, the kids had a blast getting to know each other, playing games, and learning how to set up tents. Prescott, Tommy, and Palmer quickly found a path down to a creek where they unashamedly went hand fishing for some crawfish. Grey and Kate hung right next to one another in some hammocks between these redwoods in our campsite. Spikeball got competitive early on, as Forbes and Chris took on Tommy and Mickey in a best of three showdown. As you can imagine, pizza for dinner was a hit! The rest of the night was spent sharing stories and building friendships that will only continue to blossom throughout our adventure together. Our first Moonup of the session was held in an awesome secret tree fort found by a few of the guys. We spoke about trip expectations, introduced the famous “nug jug,” and shared what we are most excited for on the trip! Maggie and Prescott were chosen as our first leaders of the day (LoD’s) for tomorrow, and everybody was thrilled for some California surfing!
The kids were up early with a ton of energy-no surprise- excited to spend their first full day together. A great breakfast was needed before surfing, so Prescott and Palmer whipped up some eggs, and Maggie worked on the bacon. All of it came out to perfection, with many compliments sent to our chefs. After cleanup, we hopped in the van and set off for Pacifica! We were blessed with a sunny and 75-degree day and enjoyed lunch on the beach. Just before surfing, a group planking contest came out of nowhere. Bennett showed off some impressive strength, mopping up the competition with some ease! Not too bad of a warmup. We then met with our surfing instructors, who ran through a safety talk and an engaging surf lesson! The kids learned how to paddle into a wave correctly and then practiced the technique to stand up on their boards. Time to surf! Some gnarly waves were caught, or as the kids liked to say, “they caught some barrels! Mickie and Prescott had some prior experience and enjoyed some fantastic surf far out with Rachel- our group’s gifted surfer/leader. Everybody gave a tremendous effort, and the shoreline surfboard naps surely showed!
Dinner for tonight was fajita bowls, and WOW, were they amazing! Ben and Caroline balanced their roles of dinner prep and DJ superbly. We followed up our meal with some campfire building. Tommy helped spark the fire while everyone went and found sticks to use for S’MORES!! We sat around the fire for tonight’s Moonup, led by Prescott and Maggie. They chose a quote that summed up the early portion of their Moondance experience well: “To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from” -Terry Tempest Williams. To close out an awesome Moonup, Ben & Kate were elected as tomorrow’s LoD’s. The kids are getting to act like kids again after such a strange past year and are loving each other’s company- without technology! They are full of fun, contagious energy plus a fearlessness and courage to make this a great two weeks of unforgettable memories!
Our next morning started early as we had to pack up camp before heading out for surfing. Mickey and Caroline joined Katherine in making a Moondance famous Davis breakfast. Cut up some apples, toss on some brown sugar and cinnamon and let those flavors mix in a warm pan. Add that to a tortilla with granola and peanut butter, and you get an unbelievable result for breakfast. Back out for our day 2 of surfing! We couldn’t be prouder of the kids’ positivity and determination battling the waves through the cold and rainy weather. Everybody got up on their boards and made significant improvements from yesterday. Maggie, Ben, and Tommy stayed out in the water the entire surfing session, getting better by the minute and being rewarded by some extra waves! After surfing, we grabbed some slushies on the Pacifica beach and hopped into the van to start our road trip to Yosemite.
We couldn’t be more excited to continue seeing your kids break out of their shells and grow in these coming days. They are truly an exceptional group of fun-spirited, yet respectful and kind kids.
We’ll catch you all after Yosemite!
-Chris, Katherine & Rachel
July 14, 2021
Hello California Families!
The whole group has arrived safely in San Francisco, 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