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Colorado Trail 1A • June 9-July 22, 2021

Mile High Magic!

June 22, 2021

Greetings from the Denver Airport (teary eyed I might add.) The group had some hard goodbyes to say this morning filled with last minute exchanging of numbers, Snapchat’s, and hugs. It was a sweet, sweet sight to see. After all, that’s what it’s all about: the lifelong friendships and memories. Sam, Griffin, and I wished them well this morning and assured them that they will all keep in touch.

Before the airport morning, we ended the trip with whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River. This time, the group took rafting in stride. After their overnight rafting trip earlier in the session, they were pros. We rafted the Big Horn Sheep section of the river. Our laughs and shouts must’ve scared the sheep away, but we were lucky to spot to native deer on the bank of the river. John started our boat off with a game of categories and boosted the energy through the roof. Charlotte led her boat in songs and solved nearly every riddle the guides had for her with the help of the group. At a jumping rock, Judson was the first one to jump off and made a splash that got everyone else excited to jump in the chilly river. Mimi and Palmer wouldn’t let the guys show up the girls for number of jumps, so they took multiple plunges into the Arkansas River.

After rafting we headed to our campsite and had a pasta bar for the group. The alfredo and marinara pasta dinner with Reynolds’ caesar salad were a big hit. Reynolds can always be found lending a helping around the Coleman stove when it comes time for meals. After dinner, the day’s LODs, Caroline and David, posed the question to the group: “Who is your biggest role model—someone you look up to.” The group really opened up with this question and shared the importance of having someone positive to look up to. Steven and Cate rallied a group for one last game of hearts with Sam. This group really got into hearts. Next hobby, the game of Bridge perhaps?

The last full day, we spent time getting everyone’s gear together and celebrated the group’s accomplishments with a banquet dinner at a local Mexican restaurant in Woodland Park. As we cleaned our beloved van, coined with the name Serena, Charlotte was the vacuum master, Reynolds was the scrubber, and John had fun hosing off the van. Who knew a car wash could be so entertaining! Audrey and Hicks were a huge help back at the campsite getting tents set up. Mimi even mentioned how proud she is that she will be able to set up a tent without her Dad’s help now. Our final Moonup, led by Audrey and Mimi, post banquet was one where each student reflected on what they would take home with them from the trip. Griffin, Sam, and I were very impressed with the group’s answers. Their answers included gaining independence, respecting parents more, or even just picking up an extra dish to clean after dinner.

As we bid all of you farewell with our final trip update, we wanted to thank each and every one of you parents for sharing your kids with us these past two weeks. It was a joy to watch them grow, laugh, mature, be challenged, and meet friends for life.

Signing off for now

— Ruth, Sam, and Griffin

Rock Climbing like Professionals!

June 19, 2021

Hello from Colorado!

As our second day of rock climbing comes to a close, this group is really accelerating towards the close of our time together. Even though four days in the backcountry can be exhausting, the group brought the energy for two days of rock climbing.

Yesterday, we climbed in Taylor’s Canyon. According to our guides Sam, Connor, and Zach, the rocks at Taylor Canyon were a little more technical, which means they required more attention to finding specific foot and handholds. Reynolds kicked the day off to a great start as one of the most avid climbers. She was all over the rocks on at Taylor’s Canyon. Her energy was awesome and she was goofy all day long.

Steven and Reynolds completed the middle route too many times to count, yet Steven was determined to see how fast he could do it. Despite a few limbs of a pine tree and some shrubs in the rocks, he ascended the rope in a lightning-fast 2 minutes, 27 seconds. He attempted many scouting routes to help him choose the fastest route up the rock. Cate also stepped up to the plate when the guides asked if anyone wanted to scale one of the more challenging ropes at Taylor’s Canyon. Despite her hesitation, she summited the rock with flying colors. John—yesterday’s LOD—was all over the rocks as well. He was energetic as he climbed, but also as he supported others who were climbing.

After climbing for a few hours in Taylor’s Canyon, we went into the town of Crested Butte. Palmer led the group around town. Having visited last year, she pulled on her local knowledge to show the group around to some awesome hole-in-the-wall spots. It was really fun that she shared her experience to make the town visit so memorable. David really got to know the various ice cream and burger shops of Crested Butte as well. In fact, he found the best burger in town!

As we returned to camp last night, some well-deserved showers lifted group morale despite seeing the first rain of the trip! As the rain cleared up last night, the sunset over the Blue Mesa Reservoir was beautiful. John and Reynolds skipped rocks while Steven, Palmer, and Hicks read by the water. After a cookout of burgers and hotdogs, the LOD’s asked the group at Moonup to share how quarantine affected our lives. It was so awesome to hear everyone bring something unique to the table, but that is why everyone is leaning into these two weeks in Colorado even more.

Judson and Reynolds are today’s LOD’s as we climbed at Hartman Rocks because they brought an extra degree of strength, grit, and enthusiasm yesterday. The guides explained that at Hartman the rocks are more so a slab than those from yesterday, so there are fewer footholds, which requires climbers to press their whole foot or toes straight on the rock. It was an adjustment learning to put weight on feet that are just on the wall instead of a clear spot. Judson was one of the first ones up the rocks yesterday, and this morning, he embraced the challenge to keep the title.

The guides rigged a new rope on the backside of the rocks to challenge the group, and Judson was the first one up. Mimi and Caroline later followed his lead, and they crushed the extra rope. The two of them really excelled at climbing and were all over the wall. One of the ropes followed a little half pipe that was the diameter of about a body. It was tough learning to climb with such little wiggle room, but Hicks, another enthusiastic climber, made it up this rock with a huge smile on his face despite a couple bruises and scrapes. Audrey always seemed to be on the rocks, too. Of the five ropes today, she tried all of them. Every time we looked up, she was always halfway up a climb, and doing very well! Additionally, Charlotte conquered her fear of heights. In fact, as the day came to a close, she was the last one climbing! She crushed many different climbs both days, so it was awesome to see her crush a new activity!

Tomorrow we head back to the Arkansas River to raft the Big Horn section. The group is pumped to bring the trip full circle, and it will be really awesome to see how much better the group works together rafting this time around. Everyone wanted to give a brief shoutout to their dads as tomorrow is Father’s Day, and those are down below. It’s hard to believe that the trip is coming to a close, but we cannot be more grateful for the memories and fun that we have shared since the start.


All the best,

Sam, Ruth, and Griffin


Happy Father’s Day Dad!!! I am so grateful for everything you do for our family! I miss you so much and I can’t wait to see you! Have a good day, love you! – Audrey

Happy Father’s Day to the one with the worst jokes and best advice. Love you Dad! And Happy Birthday to the one with the best style and biggest heart! I love you Mom! See y’all soon! – Charlotte

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!!! I love you infinity much, and I miss you! I hope you have an

amazing day! See you soon! Love your surviving daughter, Mimi

Hey Dad! Happy Father’s Day!! I’m in Colorado right now! I miss you and can’t wait to see you soon! -Caroline

Happy Father’s Day, Chuck!! I love and miss you so much, I cant wait to see you! -Cate

Hey Dad! Happy Father’s Day to the absolute best dad out there and how grateful I am to have you and Mom as my parents. I love both of y’all beyond words can describe. Have the best day without me! – Reynolds

Hey dad! Happy Father’s Day, I miss you so much! I love you so much so excited to see you – John

Hi Dad! Happy Father’s Day! I hope you have a fantastic day and that you and mom have a great time! Love you and can’t wait to see you. – Hicks

Hi Dad! Hope you’re having a great Father’s Day. Can’t wait to see you. – Steven

Hey Dada, I miss you so so much. I hope your Father’s Day is so fun!!! I can’t wait to see you and mom soon. Love you – Palmer

Hi Dad, I hope you’re having a great Father’s Day with Max and Patrick I can’t wait to see you again. -Judson

Hey Dad, I miss you a lot and I hope you’re doing just fine. Happy Father’s Day – David

Backpacking like Never Before!

June 17, 2021

Hello from Serena (our beloved van)!


We are currently driving out of the San Juan National Forest where we just backpacked for the past four days, and are currently on our way to our campsite for the next two nights as we climb Taylor Canyon!

What a fantastic adventure backpacking was for this group, with it being almost everyone’s first time carrying a backpack into the backcountry and living off the grid for a few days. We lucked out with beautiful weather the entire time- not a drop of rain! Sam, Ruth and I could not be more proud of the eagerness by this group to emerge themselves into the backcountry and learn the reins of “Leave No Trace,” principles to live by in the backcountry and beyond. 

Our journey started Monday morning, with an early morning breakfast of eggs and bacon and a lesson on how to properly pack a backpack. After a beautiful drive into the mountains, the group hiked 4 miles into our campsite. The hike was full of creek crossings (shout-out to quick drying wool socks) and views unlike any other. Our Leaders of the Day on Monday- Mimi and Caroline- were fearless as they navigated the trails with the map and compass. Mimi kept the pace in the front of the group, while Caroline tailed the end and made sure we all got enough breaks to check for hotspots and blisters. Palmer was a superstar and carried extra weight for the team and was a positive force on the trail.

Charlotte kept the group entertained with stories, riddles, and camp songs. After we reached our campsite, we made pizza bagels with Buffalo chicken. Our MoonUp led by our LODs posed the question “What is something you’ve overcome in life and how has that shaped you?” This question allowed the group to become closer by the honest stories and memories that they shared in the circle under the stars. In a sense, Caroline and Mimi took Moonup to the next level. 

Our second day in the backcountry started with a potato hash, followed by a steep 5 mile hike to a glacial lake. Since we had set up camp and only needed to pack water shoes and lunch, only Steven, John, and David carried packs. John and David were our LODs on this hike. David set a quick pace up the mountain, while John was cracking plenty of jokes in the back. Upon arrival to the lake, Audrey was the first one to dive into the freezing lake with a smile on her face. Reynolds, Mimi, Palmer, Cate, and Caroline were quick to follow into the lake with Charlotte snapping pictures and videos from shore. Sam, Hicks, John, and Palmer tried their hand at fly fishing. There weren’t many bites but the group was determined and waded happily into the lake. Even though it was high 70s, there was still some snow by the lake. John, Judson, David, Hicks and Steven were eager to throw snowballs at the girls but the girls gave them a challenge back for sure. After hiking back out, we had a delicious dinner of chicken and rice. Most of us were tired and eager for bed, but Cate, Steven, Hicks, and Sam stayed up a bit longer playing cards under the light of headlamps. 

On our third morning, we had a later start with pancakes being made over the whisperlite stove. After breakfast, we played capture the flag in the valley we camped in. We split into three teams, but Judson and Hicks led their team to create an alliance with another team. No victory this week was as sweet as Judson finding the flag and running from Steven and Cate and bringing his team the win. Judson was all smiles as his team embraced him.

We spent the rest of the day playing games, cards, doing some leisure walks, and bonding even more. Reynolds was the first one to suggest swimming in the creek in the afternoon heat, and the group eagerly followed her. Once again, the girls were the first ones in as they are one brave group. We ended our night with fajitas and one last backcountry Moonup. 

This morning, we had an early, camp break down as well as some oatmeal and then hiked out back to the van. On our way out, we passed another group of Moondancers and got to swap stories and laugh. We had lunch in Telluride, where the kids got everything from grilled cheese to spicy burgers to loaded fries. We treated them for a great week in the backcountry :). 

We are so proud of this group for their willingness to embrace the backcountry and for their easy transition. They are one great group!


Now, off to Taylor Canyon for some climbing Friday and Saturday. 


-Griffin, Ruth, and Sam

Hello from Southwest Colorado!

June 13, 2021

Montrose, CO—Hello from the winding roads of Southwest Colorado! The group is really starting come together after having completed the ziplining section and a wonderful day at the Great Sand Dunes Park.

The group got out of the Campground early because everyone is really getting the hang of taking down tents and packing duffels efficiently. While the other morning we started our day with the “Cup of Joe” rapid, this morning we started with even more of a thrill: ziplining over the rocky canyons of Colorado—only to look up and not see a cloud in the sky. After harnessing up, putting on helmets, and practicing the commands on prep line, the group was ready to go! Our guides, Josh and Harmony, had many games and tricks up their sleeves to keep the group entertained between each zipline. David and John were the first ones to play “football” on the zipline where John and David scored multiple touchdowns. Trust us, it takes some serious coordination and focus. Reynolds, being the daredevil that she is, quickly raised her hand to be the first to zipline after the first guide. The group cheered on Charlotte as she conquered her fear of heights with each zipline. We concluded the zip tour and were then on our way to Great Sand Dunes National Park.

The Dunes are wedged in a corner between two mountains at the edge of a valley. As the orange mass materialized on the horizon, someone exclaimed, “It looks like someone just dumped a bunch of sand here!” It turns out that the dunes are what is left of the bottom of the lake that dried up. With years of wind and the elements, the surrounding mountains helped shape the dunes into the unreal national monument they are today.

At the nearby campsite, the girls were all stoked to find mirrors and a clean bathroom. It’s the little things! Cate kept the positivity up all day as she cheered on her peers on the zipline and in Spikeball. Audrey followed Cate’s lead and was a huge help with our campsite cookout, where they helped flip burgers and grill hotdogs! I’d be remiss not to mention that Audrey has one the most contagious laughs and kept the group giggling throughout cook time. Their leadership encouraged Charlotte and Hicks to pick Audrey and Cate as the next day’s Leaders of the Day (LOD’s.) Palmer was all over the Spikeball games at the campsite, while Griffin and cook crew got dinner started. Meanwhile, Steven led the scout the team for the dunes. It was important to scout this out in order for the following early morning to run smooth as sand. The scouting group found a great route and with the help of Ruth and Sam and picked a wake-up time in order to catch the sunrise the following day.

Judson was the first one out of his sleeping bag at 3:30am sharp to ensure an on-time departure for the sunrise hike on the Dunes. We were so proud of the group for getting up and ready in less than fifteen minutes! With our headlamps on, we traversed over the sandy dunes. To everyone’s surprise (except the scouting team) we were met with a small creek crossing to wake us up. Mimi led the charge up to the dunes with record speed. Caroline was our resident photographer for the dunes this morning— snapping pictures with the group and the landscape as well as helping with the time lapse. We can’t wait to see how those pictures turn out!

We stopped in a park for a picnic lunch where the group became invested in a serious game of mafia—think detective case meets storytelling. Hicks said it best, he said, “It’s getting hard to choose my favorite part because they’re all just so fun.” Hitting the trail tomorrow morning in the San Juan Mountains. I’m sure we will have many stories to share in a couple of days when we are back in the front country!


-Ruth, Sam, and Griffin

Wild Water in Colorado!

June 13, 2021

Salida, CO—Greetings from Colorado! What an awesome first few days we have had.

On the drive from the airport to Salida, Charlotte’s taste in music really shined through: from Taylor Swift to Fleetwood Mac, all the lyrics were sung. Additionally, she was the first one to know everyone’s names: within the first hour! When we arrived in Salida, the group enjoyed some dinner Moonlight Pizza, while John and David brought the energy with some 1-on-1 basketball.

The next morning, after enjoying some M&M pancakes, the group was on the raft in the Brown’s Canyon section of the Arkansas River. What a spectacular stretch of water it is. We started with the “Miracle Mile,” a mile of Class III rapids, but in the afternoon, all that was seen for miles and miles were the rocky cliffs on either side of the river. We got to camp and Cate dominated in various campsite games. Palmer and Steven, the first Leaders of the Day (LOD), took charge on the river, giving good commands for strong, synchronized paddling. They then led the first Moonup, where everyone shared what they hope to accomplish in the next two weeks on the trip.

Judson and Reynolds were the second LOD’s on another exciting day of rafting. The two took turns beating each other’s records for how long they could balance standing on the bow of the raft. At the end of the day, however, Hicks ended up in the water the most of anyone by jumping off the Jump Rock four times! The guides explained that the river was running at 1700 cubic feet of water per second, which means if you drew a line straight across the river, 1700 cubic feet of water will pass through that cross section every second. This means that if the river gets narrow, then the water flows faster and stronger. On the last rapid of the whole trip, the rafting guides Ted and Khalil chose to scout the line ahead of time. We pulled the boats ashore and walked ahead along the shore for the length of the rapid. The river was narrower there, so the water was strong, and they decided that the left line was most safe. The group crushed the rapid, but it was particularly awesome to see and Audrey and Mimi step up and overcome their fear. They both crushed the rapids with big smiles on their faces. John, Palmer, and Steven rounded out the day when they all rode the bull, which is when they sit on the bow of the raft, in the maximum splash zone.

The third day concluded with Caroline cooking up some awesome quesadillas. S’mores were made over the campfire to bring an exciting first three days to a close. The group is ziplining tomorrow morning on the way to Sand Dunes National Park before our four-day backpacking adventure.

Signing off as the group sits around the campfire sharing scary stories, laughs, and s’mores—

Sam, Griffin, and Ruth

All Have Arrived!

June 9, 2021

Hello Colorado Trail Families!

The whole group arrived safely in Denver 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


  • Audrey
  • Caroline
  • Cate
  • Charlotte
  • David
  • Hicks
  • Judson
  • John
  • Mimi
  • Palmer
  • Reynolds
  • Steven