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Colorado Trail 3A • July 13-July 26, 2021

An Incredible Finish to an Amazing Trip!

July 26, 2021

Greetings from the Denver Airport! After an early wakeup call this morning with the moon still out, the group gave some big hugs, took some selfies, traded numbers, and then parted ways at the Denver airport. But before we bid you adieu, I want to share some stories from our last two days in Colorado spent whitewater rafting and celebrating with a banquet dinner.

The night before rafting this group saw torrential downpour right after we made some burgers, hotdogs, Mac & cheese, and veggies. This group has really grown to embrace the rain and seemed to always be prepared with their rain jackets. At our campsite, we found a covering and had Moonup there while the drizzle passed. The day’s LODs, Austin and Peter, asked the group a great question: where do you see yourself in ten years? The kids gasped at how “old” Griffin and I would be which made us laugh. Meanwhile, Griffin and I were taking in and listening to the big dreams this group has. We told the group a long-winded tale of the Arkansas River while tying in the river safety spiel and encouraged them to gear up for hardcore paddling the next day. The kids called us out on our sub-par acting, but something must’ve clicked because they absolutely crushed paddling the next morning!

In Cañon City, we got our gear for the rafting trip on the Royal Gorge and set out to the put-in spot. Our awesome guides, Patrick and Bri, gave us a serious safety talk as we were about to hit some big Class 3 and Class 4+ rapids. The kids seemed nervous, yet excited. Afterwards, when Bri and Patrick asked if anyone wanted to still go rafting there was a loud, resounding, “Yeah!” We started off with some Class 2s which gave the group time to practice their strokes, paddle commands, and the full-body motion needed to paddle in bigger rapids. On my boat, Bri named Hugh quality control (QC for short.) Hugh’s job was to sit in the back next to Bri and make sure everyone paddled well. He may have even called out a leader or two for their wimpy paddling! In the front of the boat, Dutch had the group GoPro on his helmet mount and was sure to capture all the splashes, drops, and some paddle high-fives too.

Once we entered the Royal Gorge, the rapids started to ramp up a bit. We started with El Primero and El Segundo, both class threes that gave us all a big splash. The water, quite muddy from all the rain upstream, got dubbed the chocolate milk river for the day. Wait until you see the pictures of the muddy faces! Sunshine falls greeted us next as our first class four. I was especially proud of MG for paddling hard in Sunshine falls and stepping it up from the rafting trip earlier in the session. Then came Wall Slammer. In this rapid there’s a quick move that the boat must make to get to river right and this typically involves the boat hitting the large rock walls of the Gorge. Soon after, the boat must make its way river left and cruise down some more rapids. Gigi had the biggest grin on her face the whole time and was sure to dig her paddle in the huge waves right after Bri and Patrick called “Lean in!” to both boat groups.

After the huge rapids which even rose from 900 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 1,150 cfs just from breakfast to lunch, the guides started to pull some tricks out of their hats. Patrick’s boat had William and Ella up front, head butting every wave as they surfed. Surfing on the river just entails catching a wave and crashing the front right into the crest of it, making for a big splash. Our guides pointed out a jumping rock and the group all cheered as they had been asking to jump from rocks all trip long. Nearly everyone took the plunge. One of the best moments of the day was when the group (along with some kayakers downstream) cheered and counted down for Pedro’s jump. With his fear of heights, it took some courage and a literal leap of faith. The crowd went wild! After a full day on the river and gazing up at the walls of the Royal Gorge, we headed back to our campsite to change into some dry clothes.

Back at the campsite, we set up some tie-dye for the group and everyone agreed that Sarah’s blue and green, spiral Moondance tee turned out the best. Henry wasn’t far behind with his makeshift stripes though. Griffin and I then surprised the group with a trip back into town to see the Whitewater Festival rafting rodeo. Our rafting guides gave us the tip and it did not disappoint! The guides from the local outfitters all teamed up and surfed one wave on the Arkansas River and had many tricks to show off. The crowd got to pick the winner and Will was doing lots of cheering for the crew that our guides were with.

On our banquet day, we set off for our last campsite and the group was great with helping us clean all the gear used. They also wrote letters to themselves with 25 things they want to accomplish in their lifetime which will be mailed later in the year. We made a pit stop at Goodwill for some fun outfits for our banquet dinner. The boys all coordinated with funny shorts while the girls found some pajama pants. We didn’t go unnoticed in the restaurant—that’s for sure! Everyone enjoyed pizza for dinner and reminisced on fun times from the trip.

Henry and William led us in our final Moonup of the session where they asked, “what’s one aspect from the trip that the group will take with them in their daily lives?” Griffin and I loved hearing the group say that they now recognize how much they really don’t need their phones and technology. It was our best Moonup yet and the Nug Jug was overflowing as the group wanted to recognize all their now good friends for everything they’d done.

Thank you all for following along and sharing such fun, adventurous kids with me and Griffin. The rafting was such a great note to end on as well as the final Moonup where everything seemed to pay off.

Signing off from Denver International Airport—

Ruth and Griffin


Climbing in Colorado!

July 23, 2021

See y’all oh so soon!

 

Good morning from Southwest Colorado! The group has come off backpacking on a high, jumping into climbing immediately!

 

We started Thursday with a morning swim. The group was eager to jump into our campsite’s reservoir before breakfast, asking to get up earlier to ensure we would have sufficient time to swim. Will Martin and Peter were the first ones to swim out into the reservoir with the girls right behind them. After everyone felt clean and refreshed, we had eggs, sausage, and apples for breakfast before heading out to climbing. Boy oh boy- did this group kill it at climbing! William immediately set the record that went unbroken for the entire day getting up the rock wall in 1 minute and 27 seconds. Hugh was close behind him with 1 minute and 33 seconds. Sarah, Peter, Gigi, Ella, Henry, and Will all successfully climbed each of the three routes during the morning. They spent the morning orderly claiming going next and eagerly making their knots tights before summiting the rock wall. We were so proud of Dutch, Pedro, and MG for overcoming their fear of heights and climbing multiple times. It’s so awesome for us as leaders to watch when a student who was worried about heights reach the top and turn around smiling. They all learned the proper way of rappelling down the rock. The entire group was supportive and cheered loudly for each other as everyone raced up the routes and they yelled out tips on where to place your foot.

 

After a couple hours of climbing, we went into Crested Butte for our town visit! The kids loved getting back into a town for a couple of hours. They were so happy to buy souvenirs for their families and to buy lots of snacks. The favorite local shop was Nicky’s Mini Donuts where Pedro and Dutch bought buckets of the mini donuts for the group. Our NYC boys- William, Pedro, and Peter- also treated themselves to slices of pizza at the local pizzeria and gave the pizza an “A+ rating” for not being original NYC pizza. The town visit was a success for all. We can’t wait for the girls to show off their new Crested Butte swag to their families.

 

As we arrived back to the campsite after Crested Butte, the group hung out by the reservoir and threw the football around. We had grilled cheeses for dinner, and then our LOD’s, Austin and MG, led a MoonUp where the group reflected on what they were all learning from Moondance. Their answers were all awesome with the group really learning the importance of unplugging, spending time outside, and meeting new people.

 

The next morning, Peter, Hugh, and Will were the only willing ones to join Griffin for a morning dip. The rest of the group had a chill morning packing up camp. We had watermelon and cereal for breakfast before heading back to climbing. Today, the guides chose a more difficult spot to take the kids climbing based on their accelerated skill from the day prior. They set up four routes and let Ruth and some of the students belay after a lesson on how to properly belay. William was the first one up again, setting a record in just under two and a half minutes. Will, Pedro, William, and Gigi successfully climbed all four of the routes throughout the day. The group was hysterical watching Ella and Dutch race against each other, hurling jokes at each other as they climbed up differing routes. Dutch did win the end, but Ella’s commentary was award winning. MG faced her fears again and went up twice, going further up the second time and having a great time. Sarah and MG had fun in the shade for most of the day watching everyone climb and making bets on who would climb faster. Austin, Henry, and Peter not only climbed some of the routes but spent a good part of the morning hiking around the area and cheering on the climbers from different boulders. Both Will and Sarah tried their hand at belaying others and the guides were impressed by their ability to do so on their first tries. The group ate sandwiches under the shady trees and continued to climb throughout the afternoon. Our guides were awesome and really let the activity become interactive, conversing with the kids about different climbing techniques and hints.

 

The kids climbing ability truly impressed me and Ruth. They were so strategic, competitive, and motivated to keep trying new routes and ways of getting up the rock walls. They are a creative and fun group and we are so glad climbing was a great success for all of them. We are sad to be winding down to our last activity- rafting the Royal Gorge. But for now, we are off to our next campsite to grill burgers and play more Mafia and Uno!

 

Love,

Griffin and Ruth


Backpacking Like Pros

July 21, 2021

Hello from Telluride!

 

We’ve just finished up our four day backpacking section in the Lizard Head Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains. The group really came together and embraced only having the essentials, cooking over Whisperlite stoves, and braving the elements.

 

The first day of backpacking, we fed the group some eggs, bacon, and English muffins after they were great listeners while learning how to pack a pack for backpacking. We taught them the “duffle shuffle” method where everyone lays out the essentials and we work to fit it all in like a puzzle. We taught the group the ABCs of packing a pack—accessibility, balance, compression. Hugh was the first to be able to remember the ABCs after the lesson. After a winding drive to the trailhead, we set out on Kilpacker Trail, led by Henry. That is after we went over the principles of Leave No Trace, bathroom etiquette in the backcountry, and bear protocol. Henry used the map and signage on the trail to guide us all the way to a great campsite overlooking the valley. The group made it in record speed and we couldn’t have been more proud of them. Once we arrived at camp, everyone ate some well deserved snacks from the non-peanut GORP (good ‘ole raisin and peanuts) bags. The mountains around us are orange-ish, brown and frame the valley filled with tall green stalk plants with white blooms and pine trees. It’s the perfect setting. With the help of Sarah and Austin, we made delicious barbecue chicken pizza bagels for dinner. William and Henry, the LODs, led the group in Moonup before the rain came in for the night. Everyone was very thankful for their rain flies keeping us and our gear dry. During Moonup, Henry shared a Winnie the Pooh quotation about friendship that I think embodies what this group is all about: sharing these incredible experiences with each other.

 

On day two of the backpacking section, we had a much needed slow morning where the group woke up, read, and hung out outside their tents. After breakfast, we made our way from Kilpacker Trail to the Navajo Lake Trail headed towards the glacial lake. Peter and Dutch, the day’s LODs, took a turn at carrying the group’s gear up the steep hike. Will stepped up too when Dutch needed a break. The hike was filled with many switchbacks, but Griffin and I were impressed that they made it up so quickly with few complaints. When some of the group took more time hiking up the mountain, the rest of the group was there to give high-fives and cheers when they reached them. It was a really happy sight to see. At the lake, MG and Ella rejoiced at the sight of sun butter, jelly, and pitas for lunch. They even convinced the rest of the group to love it as much as peanut butter. Peter led the group in a walk around Navajo Lake which involved some wet boots and rock scrambling, but everyone was excited to accompany him. Dutch then decided to stack rocks with the help of Will and Austin, balancing twenty rocks in total. Griffin encouraged everyone to do a quick, polar plunge in the lake, but only a few brave souls attempted the plunge. Ella was one of the ones to take the plunge! On the way down from the lake, Sarah was a real trooper and carried one of the group packs. We had some inclement weather on the way down that made everyone appreciate their rain jackets and the sun that we’d just seen. Shortly after the impromptu “shower,” everyone was laughing at the rain and fully embracing it. That night, with the help of Henry and Gigi, we made lemon, butter, chicken pasta and ate on the rocks by our campsite. Dutch and Peter led us in Moonup that was interrupted by some more rain. The following morning, they resumed and led us in “sun-up” where everyone shared about their families (and dogs and cats too!)

 

The third day of backpacking was filled with capture the flag steals and tags after some M&M pancakes. Gigi stood her ground as a defender as she guarded Will. Meanwhile, Dutch was quick to get the flag from the other side and won the first game. We also played many rounds of “big booty” a game where you have to be quick, stay on the beat, and pass off the beat to another number person. They’ve gotten the hang of it and absolutely love it. The rest of the day we played mafia, a detective-narrator game, and lots of card games like BS and even some rounds of hearts. Pedro got really into mafia and was practically running the game by the end. We made fajitas with Will and Ella’s help, and we have to say that they were a crowd favorite. This group endured the sporadic rainstorms and embraced backpacks almost as tall as them, but absolutely made the best of backpacking section. They have grown closer, more confident in their abilities in the outdoors, and most importantly, they’ve had fun too!

 

Griffin and I are excited to see how the group will tackle climbing these next two days. Many in the group have climbed in indoor gyms, but we hope outdoor slab and traditional climbing will give them a new challenge (and maybe even a new outdoor hobby.)

 

Happy Trails!

—Ruth and Griffin


Great Sand Dunes Explorers!

July 18, 2021

Good morning from southwest Colorado!

The group has had an amazing few days zip lining and experiencing the Great Sand Dunes.The group came off rafting on a high, excited to zip line and for the trip to come.

After a bagel breakfast, the group showed up to Captain Zipline where our guides – Harmony and Josh- successfully guessed everyone’s names in the first fifteen minutes without hints. Will Martin was the first one to hit the zipline, showing everyone the importance of keeping your feet up during landing. Pedro faced his fear of heights on the first zip and had a blast the rest of the day. Peter impressed the whole group with his natural ability to zipline, sunglasses on and smiling the whole time. The guides gave the group a good time, spinning everyone and shaking the line. Ella wore the GoPro on her helmet and was sure to scream the entire time to ensure her footage would make it on social media.

After zip lining, we drove south to the Great Sand Dunes where we set up camp under the shade of some trees. The group then went to Zapata Falls, a beautiful waterfall in a cave in the mountains near the Sand Dunes. Hugh, Will, and Peter were the first ones to lead the charge up to the waterfall splashing through the cold creek. Ella, MG, Gigi, and Sarah were eager to take the GoPro and film videos of the group in the waterfall. Henry, Will, and Hugh later found a nook in the rocks to hang out and stay cool. The waterfall was a refreshing break in the day and overlooked the Dunes. The group took turns guessing how the Dunes formed, with Austin and Pedro among the first to realize the Dunes were once the bottom of an ancient lake. After the waterfall, we drove back to camp where the girls hung their hammocks and hung out and the boys played blackjack. We had quesadillas for dinner and headed to bed early, knowing we would be up before the sun. Gigi bravely tried cowboy camping- sleeping under the stars- with the leaders.

The next morning, our group got up at 4:30 AM to start our sunrise hike to the Sand Dunes. With no shoes and headlamps on, we begun our ascent to the tall dunes. Will, Peter, and Dutch were the first ones to reach the top in a record setting 30 minutes. The rest the group was up shortly after and immediately jumped on the sand boards to start sliding down the dunes. Ruth and I were blown away by how creative they got on the boards- riding two and three people on the board to ensure that everyone could go as many times as possible. Hugh and Henry were the first to find the boards tandem, and had a blast encouraging them others to try to fit two on the board as well. William and Pedro pulled out their GoPros to start filming on their turns, and the group had so much fun going on higher and higher dunes to see who would be able to stay on the sled the furthest. Austin was a natural surfer – standing on the sand boards and reaching the furthest distance. MG and Ella flew down the dunes tandem on a board screaming and laughing the whole way. We also surprised the group with M&Ms and Skittles a little before 6 A.M.. Don’t worry though we cooked them a full breakfast of bagels, eggs, sausage, and apple juice right after we got off the Dunes!

After packing up camp, we drove to our next campsite to prepare for our backpacking journey! In the car ride, a group of the kids played Uno. William though truly stood out- being able to successfully guess most songs played in the first few seconds. After arriving to camp, we taught them the “duffle shuffle” where we went through their packs to separate what they needed for the backpacking portion of the trip and what they could leave behind. It was honestly so great to see how many of them wanted to bring their books along for the next portion.  After packing, we went down to the lake and all took a refreshing dip in at the beach. Gigi and Will swam out far with Griffin, while MG, Sarah, and Ella sung TikToks aloud while splashing around. Peter got the boys going  with the football. After a nice swim, we finished the day with Chicken Cesar Wraps and our MoonUp.We can’t wait to see how this group takes on the backcountry!

Love,

Griffin and Ruth


Rafting Experts!

July 16, 2021

Greetings from the Arkansas River, Brown’s Canyon Section! We’ve got some sun kissed cheeks and some adventure stories for days. This group has an undeniable energy that is unlike any other and Griffin and I are excited to see where it takes them. Upon everyone’s arrival to the airport, the group immediately started taking videos, or as they would say, started “vlogging,” documenting their morning in the airport as if they’d been friends for years. It was great seeing them pull out an Uno deck and circle up laughing and dealing out “take four” cards left and right.

 

The group was excited to see our sweet ride for the next two weeks named, Serena. We all hopped in and were off to our first campsite overlooking the beautiful Arkansas River. Before stopping at our campsite, we ate local, pizza pies in a park nearby where everyone was quick to hop on the swings after eating.

 

Back at our campsite, the group learned to set up tents. After some more practice, they’re sure to be pros. Griffin and I led them in our first Moonup. This is a time for everyone to share more about themselves: their dreams, fears, funny memories, and more. It truly is a special time. We asked them what got them on that plane this morning and many were quick to list off all the adventurous things we are going to do like exploring the Great Sand Dunes, to whitewater rafting, to a friend or sibling encouraging them to try Moondance. All the answers were very encouraging for us to hear as leaders; these kids are ready to tackle the world we have to offer in Colorado. For their positivity and helpfulness with setting up tents, Ella and Will were chosen as the first Leaders of Day (LODs.) In preparation for a big whitewater rafting overnight, we were all off to bed, or I should say our sleeping pads and bags. Peter

 

The next morning, while Griffin was flipping pancakes over the Coleman stove, the rest of us packed up camp and got our bags ready for rafting—packing only the essentials. After some tasty pancakes, we headed toward the rafting place. Our guides, Tristan and William, greeted us with wetsuits, splash guards, PFDs, and helmets and we set off on the Fractions section of Arkansas River after our safety briefing and paddle talk. Ella was our first student to join the Arkansas River “swim team,” but William pulled a Superman move and was quick to pull Ella back in the boat. As LOD, Ella was such a trooper about it and soon enough was trying to encourage others to dip their toes in the water. In Tristan’s boat, Dutch was given a shot at guiding the boat and impressed everyone with his natural eye for finding the right line to follow in the river. Meanwhile in our guide William’s boat, Pedro kept the conversation going and completely entertained the boat with his stories. After paddling about fourteen miles through the Fractions and Buena Vista Play park rapids, we reached the “doors” (two big boulders on the edge of the river) and that’s how we knew we had entered Brown’s Canyon. We pulled the rafts over and met our gear boat at our campsite on the bank of the river. Everyone was really proud of themselves for paddling as far as they did and surviving some of the showers we were met with on the river. Our guides cooked a delicious spaghetti dinner with salad and cobbler. We capped off the night with a fire by the river and Moonup led by Ella and Will. Will and Ella asked the group about their dream vacation and who they’d like to join them. They shared some fun ideas for sure. Gigi was a huge help gathering fire wood and we couldn’t have started the fire without her. Gigi and Pedro were chosen as the next day’s LODs for their positivity on the river and their help with the fire. The cold breeze with the fire and crescent moon made for the perfect backdrop for the second night.

 

The next morning, everyone was thrilled at the sight of the sunshine streaming over the rock walls around us. We all helped pack up the gear boat after an oatmeal, egg, bacon, and bagel breakfast and we were off on our way. We came across the “zoom floom” rapid first thing after we scouted which way to go through it from above the rocks. After some hard paddling, we were excited when we all made it through zoom floom with smiles on our faces and some splashes. When we came up on the Twin Falls rapid, William led the charge in encouraging everyone to be excited to take the middle route down the rapid, where the biggest splash is. Sarah, voted best paddler by the group and our guides the day before, helped their boat get down the rapid safely with her excellent paddling. Before we stopped for lunch, the guides pointed out a fun jumping rock. We pulled over and almost everyone gave it a try. MG was one of the ones to jump off and gave it a raving review, other than being a little chilly. Ella even caught MG’s jump on GoPro video. We can’t wait to check it out! Back on the rafts after lunch, Henry kept us all laughing as he egged on our guides to hit rocks. During our last rapid of the overnight trip, Austin sat in the middle and had the biggest smile on his face as he stayed on the raft along for the ride and was dubbed “the happy camper” by the group.

 

Back at the rafting place, Griffin and I encouraged the group to play some beach volleyball. Hugh and Peter led the charge for the game as Gigi showed everybody up as she plays on a team at home. It was a close game as Peter’s team made a comeback after his spike. But Hugh’s team pulled out the win and even had a winning act to go with it: the team lined up in bowling pin formation and Hugh threw a “volleyball strike” as they fell in the sand. It was quite a show if I have to say so myself!

 

The group is really coming together as a family and they can hardly wait for zip lining tomorrow morning. Signing off from beautiful Colorado!

 

 

Ruth and Griffin


All Have Arrived!

July 14, 2021

Hello Colorado Trail Families!

The whole group has arrived safely in Denver, 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


Students

  • Austin
  • Dutch
  • Ella
  • Gigi
  • Henry
  • Hugh
  • MG
  • Pedro
  • Peter
  • Sarah
  • Will
  • William

Staff