July 9, 2021
Denver, CO—It’s hard to believe that our time in Colorado together has come to a close. We are so proud of this group and everything they accomplished as a unit. It was tough to see the group have to say goodbye this morning at DIA, but a hard goodbye just shows how close everyone grew.
The group accelerated through the finish line as they rose to the challenge of rafting the Royal Gorge on the Arkansas River. This is a gnarly and difficult stretch of Class III to V rapids that requires a lot of strength and discipline, but this group was phenomenal for the entire duration. Rapids are classified not necessarily by size or aggression of whitewater, but by the risk involved if one were to fall out of the boat. In total, Wednesday’s trip was 16 miles, but the Gorge itself was about nine. That is, the guides used the first half of the day to teach the technical paddling skills and commands. The river was running at 1,050 cfs (cubic feet per second), which means there are 1,050 cubic feet of water passing through any cross section of the river at any point. Entering the Gorge, the river makes a big right-hand turn into the mountains, which start closing in on either side of the river. As the river narrows, the water must move faster so that the same amount of water can pass by, and this calls for some epic whitewater. Clementine and Alex were today’s Leaders of the Day (LODs), and set the tone that paddling was nonnegotiable. It was great to see them take the initiative that the group’s success depended on strong paddling.
In the first series of rapids—El Primero, El Segundo, Y El Tercero—each had a couple of big drops. Some had a visible horizon line, which is where the water has a clear drop so that one can’t necessarily see the water below until one has arrived. For these drops, it’s important to carry speed so that the boat propels through the drop instead of getting stuck in an eddy or a boil below. The next rapid, Sledgehammer, was very technical. The safe line down the rapid requires the boat to start on the right, quickly get left, and then just as quickly get back to the right. This was an exhilarating rapid today, kicking off the series of Class V rapids. Roby wore the GoPro on his helmet, capturing the epic drops and splashes. Everyone was so excited to watch his videos once they got off the river today. He captured the other moments when Lee and Sloan both fell out of the boat. They were both brought safely into the raft, exchanged a quick laugh, and quickly got back to paddling. Another rapid, Wall Slammer, is pretty self-explanatory. In this rapid, the walls of the Gorge were tallest, maybe 1000 feet high! Here, the current pushes the boat in to the wall somewhat unavoidably. The guides yelled “get down,” a command that tells everyone to lean into the center of the boat and put the T-grips of their paddles into the bottom so that the paddle points vertically up out of the boat like a mast. This command is particularly important as the raft approaches the wall because if the paddle is over the water at all, then it becomes a pool stick, and you’re ejected into the water as the cue ball. To cap off the day, the group found a good rock to jump off of. Devan jumped twice!
The evening, the group enjoyed spending time warming up in the hot sun and tie dying t-shirts. Ava really got into the tie dye, declaring that the picnic table became the art table, making way for everyone who was feeling particularly creative that afternoon. A great day on the river was concluded as everyone enjoyed some delicious Marinara Pasta that Avery did a great job cheffing up.
As the group packed up the next day, they visited a Goodwill in town to get a fun t-shirt or hat for the banquet later that night. It was so funny to see these kids’ goofy outfits! After some well-deserved showers, everyone piled into Fortune Dragon Chinese Restaurant to enjoy one last meal together. Hunter sat at the head of the table and led the charge for some beef Lo Mein, while Karan ate the most Orange Chicken I’ve ever seen one person consume. Somewhat comatose, the group returned for a special, final Moonup. Everyone shared their favorite parts of the trip and their funniest memories and appreciations for everyone else.
We are so proud of this group and everything they have accomplished, and it was so hard to see them go. We are grateful for the chance to have spent these two weeks together.
Sam, Griffin, Ruth, and Frazer
July 7, 2021
Hello friends and family!
We are in the car on the way to Canon City to raft the Royal Gorge after finishing an epic session of rock climbing in the Crested Butte area. We arrived at our campground two days ago (on the Fourth of July). This campsite was a student and leader favorite! It’s surrounded by beautiful green hills and tall craggy mountains in the background. In the middle of the campsite is a stunning lake where we spent a large duration of our free time.
To celebrate the fourth, we got some colorful rafts and beach balls and headed to the lake! Clementine and Karan were among the first to make a splash. After swimming for a while, Ava, Clementine, Frazer and Avery made a giant raft out of four rafts stacked on top of each other. They all hung off the side and paddled using it like a giant kick board—it was one of the most ineffectual yet hilarious strategies to get from one place to another.
Later that afternoon Devan, Karan, and Clementine displayed their bravery by leaping into the water off of a great jump rock. As the sun began to set, we headed back to have our yummy Fourth of July cookout. We had some “bussin” (as the kids would say) hotdogs, turkey burgers, watermelon, and chips. We closed out the night under the stars with some popsicles, glow sticks, and ice cream next to a warm fire that Hunter helped us build.
The next morning, we started out the day with a hearty breakfast to get ready for our adventures ahead. We enjoyed some delicious scrambled eggs, sausage and toasted English muffins. We then played several rounds of the card game Spoons and some Egyptian rat slap before hopping in the van to head climbing.
We arrived at rock climbing and met our awesome guides Loni, Connor and Zach! They led us to a steep rock face, that looked daunting, but our group tackled it with ease. There were three paths to the top set up, and Hunter, Clementine, Sloan and Roby climbed all three rock face paths. We then had some sandwiches under the shade of the trees by the beautiful rock face.
We then headed into Crested Butte and stopped at Third Bowl to get some ice cream. Avery got a cone with ice cream and whipped cream and it was almost as big as her! After enjoying our cool treats, we explored CB together. We visited places like the general store, the thrift store, and some candy shops. Even though it began drizzling once we got back to our campsite, it didn’t stop the group from wanting to get in the lake. This time Lee, Roby, and Alex took a try jumping in and made some great splashes. Devan ended up totaling a whopping 15 jumps and Lee came in a close second with 12.
Later that night, Roby and Hunter helped us cook some incredible pesto pasta with chicken. We then closed the night with a great Moonup led by Hunter and Devan.
The next morning. we packed up camp and drove to meet our climbing guides at the next rock climbing site near Cement Creek. This climbing site was a short but steep hike up from the road. Roby made it up the rock in record time and Alex climbed every single option–some even twice! And while Ava was waiting to climb, she sketched some incredible art—she truly is talented. By the end of the day Clementine had totaled up ten climbs just today and made it to the top every single time!
It was amazing to see the group climb to new heights (literally and figuratively,) cheer on new friends that now seem like old friends and relax under the shady trees that lined the blue crested mountains.
We look forward to our next rafting adventure and can’t wait to see them put their previous rafting skills to the test.
Frazer, Ruth, Griffin, and Sam
July 5, 2021
Telluride, CO—Happy Fourth of July! How awesome is it that this group gets to spend this holiday in such a fun, old, American town? Wedged in a valley between three mountain faces, the town is bustling with people decked out in red, white, and blue to celebrate the holiday.
On Thursday, the group zipped up its big backpacking packs and hit the road to the trailhead. For the next four days in the backcountry, everything anyone needed was on someone’s back. It was awesome to see the feelings of independence, confidence, and accomplishment on everyone’s faces as we set up camp the first night. On the hike in, Devan was quite animated as the group offered hot takes on the trail. A hot take is a strong opinion that goes up for debate. Which Gatorade flavor is the best? Is Chick Fil A’s or Popeye’s chicken sandwich better? In fact, some of these hot takes are yet to be settled, but one thing’s for sure: this group is passionate about its food. Hunter and Devan were Leaders of the Day (LOD) on the hike in, and they were able to orient the map to help guide the group down the new trail. They really got comfortable using a map that wasn’t a GPS. At Moonup that night, Grant and Avery were chosen to be the next day’s LODs for their great attitudes on the hike in.
Clementine kicked off the next morning with an exclamation point by taking a polar plunge into the creek nearby camp. The water was pretty chilly, but it was really fun to see her go back for a second dunk because the first one was so refreshing. After frying some potatoes, peppers, and onions for breakfast, the group hiked up to Navajo Lake for the afternoon. The sun was hot, and the water was a deep, cold, glacial blue, but that didn’t stop Roby from swimming six different times! That evening, Avery showed off her vocal cords by singing the Hamilton soundtrack just before dinner. Everyone had a great time sharing their favorite lyrics and songs. The day was capped off by Sloan, who showed off her cooking skills, preparing pasta with a lemon chicken sauce. This meal was agreed upon to be the best of the backcountry portion!
The next day, the group competed in a great game of capture the flag in the beautiful valley between the mountains. Ava was the MVP out there. She was the ultimate strategist for offence and defense. She even put her body on the line, diving into the hollowed-out cavity of a dead tree to avoid being tagged by the opposite team. What a competitor. Lee, however, snagged the flag to conclude the second game, giving his team an undefeated 2-0 record on the day. Capture the flag definitely was a highlight of the backcountry. To cool off after the game, everyone hung out by the creek. There was a contest to see who could stand in the water the longest, and the true competitor she is, Ava won, standing for longer than 20 minutes! Some others chose to relax after the morning’s games by reading next to the creek. The hot sun made it nice to sit by the water, so nice that Alex finished an entire book!
Each night the stars were more impressive than the previous at night. Deep in the woods, away from light pollution, everyone was awe struck looking at the Milky Way. It was great to see the group become comfortable enough that they want to even sleep under the starts. Clementine, Lee, and Alex slept outside two of the three nights, braving the cold because the view was worth it. One thing is for sure: a camera will never do it justice.
This morning on the hike out, Karan offered to carry a lot of group gear. We could tell his pack was heavy, but he rose to the challenge with a great attitude. The hike out always gives the group some extra energy and drive. The time flew also as Hunter shared many riddles on the trail. His best was about a storm that destroyed a house. The family hired a repairman to fix the roof and paid him 1/7 of a bar of gold each day of the week during the repair. If they only cut the bar of gold twice, how did they do it? That one really stumped the group, but it made time fly on the trail! Good luck figuring it out. You’ll have to ask Hunter for a hint!
As we head into the last few days of the trip, the group is excited to rock climb and raft before heading home. We are so impressed with this group and can’t wait to see them perform on the rocks! Everyone wanted to give a quick shoutout back home to celebrate the Fourth, and they are here.
Sam, Frazer, Ruth, and Griffin
Lee—Hey Mom, Dad, and Hobs! Hope you guys have a great Fourth! Love you!
Devan—Hi Mom and Dad, hope you have a great 4th of July!! Love you a lot see you on Friday!
Grant—Happy 4th Mom and Dad, don’t let Andrew be too lazy at home!
Avery—Happy 4th! I hope you have a great time because I’m having a great time out here. Love you guys! Listen to lots of Taylor and Harry for me!
Hunter—Happy Fourth! I hope you guys are having a lot of fun. And please make sure Ava doesn’t fall off the ship.
Clementine—Hey mom and Dadders! I miss you so, so much! I am having a blast, so don’t worry about me. Have the best Fourth, and tell Arch I miss him!
Ava—Happy Birth of America, has Mom cried about us gone yet? Miss y’all. I’m having a great time.
Sloan—Happy Fourth you guys! Miss you all so much and I’m having a blast. Say hi to Zelda for me.
Karan—Happy 4th of July and Happy Early birthday to Dad!! Miss you guys a ton. I’m having a great time. Say hi to Uma for me.
Alex—Happy Birthday America. Mom can you get me Neapolitan when I get home 🙂 The trip rocks!
Roby—Happy birthday America! Land of the free, home of the brave. Mom, Dad, tell Tack and Bear that I love them and I can’t wait to see them again. Love all you guys so much! See you guys soon in the A-A! I’m having a blast!!
July 1, 2021
Greetings from our sandy, Colorado trail group post our zip-lining and sand dunes adventures! As I write this update, we are headed in the direction towards the San Juan National Forest. The van is filled with the group chatting away, singing to what we call some nostalgic songs, or songs with which they grew up, and games of MASH and hangman. Sam, Griffin, Frazer, and I are really excited to see how this group is coming together with a shared love for the outdoors and getting to know each other.
On Tuesday, the group got out of camp at record speed using their new tent skills and packing their duffels to the brim. Everyone was really looking forward to zip-lining near Salida, Colorado through the canyons. After a safety talk and one of our guides, Harmony, guessing every student’s name with just the first letter, we set off on the six-line zip course. Devan, a little nervous about the zip lining and the height of it, crushed the first line and later started to perfect the ultimate zip lining form, the “L” shape. Alex kept us all entertained on the second part of the course with his various takeoffs on the zip course such as his peace signs and relaxed takeoffs. The group also had so much fun with picking spear grass and seeing how many pieces they could get on someone’s back before they noticed. You can only guess how many us leaders ended up with! After we wrapped up our morning of zipping, we headed to the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. However, Griffin had the idea to surprise the group with a trip to a nearby waterfall upon arrival. At Zapata Falls, Clementine, Hunter and Avery led the group upstream and through a cave to the start of the falls. The cascading falls were stunning and left the group with freezing feet but cooled off from the mist of the falls. Back at our campsite, Karan led a game of Moss/Jackpot. The game consists of one person throwing a football and the group competing to catch it. With the golden hour dunes and valley as the backdrop, it made for not only a fun, but beautiful game. Hunter set up his Eno hammock and everyone was in awe of his sweet setup and hammock skills. Clementine and Avery picked daisies and put them in everyone’s hair which made for some great pictures. Tuesday’s Leaders of the Day, Ava and Karan, led us in a Moonup where everyone shared their dream travel destination and why. The diversity of answers was amazing. Then we were all off to bed with the sun as we prepared for our sunrise hike at the Dunes.
At 4:30am, headlights lit, we crossed the creek at the base of the dunes and started off for a starlit hike. The sand was cold to the touch at first. We were so proud of how the group persevered through the sand and uphill sections as we traced the peaks of the dunes. Roby was the first one up the Dunes (and he even took the long way!) Ava, on the hunt for a stunning sunrise, pointed out the sunrise to the group before they missed it as they were distracted by some serious sand boarding. Sloan took first place as the pro-sand-boarder as she zoomed down the Dunes and even went the furthest. I hiked up with Lee, Grant, and Devan and couldn’t have been more proud when they reached the top with beaming smiles on their faces. We surprised the group with some candy at the top. After all, what’s better than 6am sugar rush at America’s largest sandbox!
After driving to our next campsite, we taught the kids how to pack for backpacking by doing what we call the duffle shuffle. Once the group had only the essentials needed for backpacking, we tracked down a nearby reservoir and all went for a swim. The group thought this reservoir was chilly, but little do they know, the glacial lakes are coming up pretty soon.
We will be signing off for the next four days as we will be backpacking in the San Juan National Forest. We couldn’t be more excited to get this group into the backcountry and will be back soon with many tales to tell.
All the best,
Ruth, Griffin, Sam, and Frazer
June 29, 2021
Greetings from Colorado! What an awesome trip we’ve had so far. Despite some rainy weather, this group has had amazing energy and we are so proud of them for doing so well rafting. Our trip started at the airport on arrival day when the group spent time getting to know each other. On the drive to the first campsite, we stopped for pizza and ate it in a nearby park. After dinner, at the campsite, everyone learned how to set up a tent. Hunter’s Boy Scout skills really shone through as his tent was the first one up, and then he helped the others with their tents. It was awesome to see everyone help each other out before it got too dark!
Our second day started early with everyone up early, before the alarm, chatting and joking, eager for the day to come. After enjoying some 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, filled with all different types of rapids. Rafting was awesome with this group—they had fun swapping stories and trying to push each other in the water. Lee was the first one to fall in and took it like a champ. Frazer followed him in, and the two laughed while getting back into the boat. We arrived to our riverside campsite and set up camp and immediately started playing cards. Lee, Karan, Devan, and Grant played blackjack until rain rolled through which sent everyone into their tents. Since the tents were close to each other, the kids played games and talked back and forth over the rain. The girls braided each other’s hair during their tent time and emerged for dinner, all with new hair! Luckily, the rain stopped right before dinner where we all ate fajitas. Big shoutout to our first dish crew – Roby, Ava, Clementine, and Alex – who volunteered to wash the group’s dishes. Our first Leaders of the Day (LOD) were Roby and Avery and led the group in the first Moonup.
Day 3 started off with the sun shining down, which was a relief after yesterday’s rain. Today’s LODs were Lee and Clementine, who were super positive and encouraging during the previous day’s rain. Clementine and Ava led Sloan, Roby, and Alex up in a hike to the top of the campsite. What a fun start to the day- the group saw some awesome views, had so much fun finding their way up, and yelled down to wave to the rest of the group. After a yummy breakfast of eggs and sausage hash, we were back on the boats for a second day of rafting. The group was determined to push each other in today and, to our amusement, almost everyone got to swim. Ava was quick to push Hunter in, while Devan unsuccessfully tried to push in Clementine. Grant was pushed in by Avery, a surprise attack from behind, that got the whole boat laughing. Alex and Hunter rode on the front of the boat during some Class II rapids. After saying goodbye to our rafting guides, we headed back to the campsite where we had a cookout for dinner with burgers, turkey burgers, hot dogs, and Mac and cheese. The kids played SpikeBall, played more cards, and climbed more of the campsite’s trails. We ended the night with s’mores!
We are super excited for the rest of the trip and to head off to zipline tomorrow! This is a great group, and we’re excited to see them grow closer!
Best,Griffin, Ruth, Frazer, and Sam
June 26, 2021
Hello Colorado Trail Families!
The whole group arrived safely in Denver today and is on their way to their first campsite. We have heard from our leaders this afternoon 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