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


July 27, 2021

Hello Colorado Trail friends and family!

We have had the best final days on our Colorado adventure. We have laughed, cried, and celebrated the trip, the new friendships, and the growth that each student has experienced.

The white water rafting at the Royal Gorge was intense! Heavy rains the night before had elevated the water level. Our kids rose to the challenge. They attacked the brown water with a confidence that only comes after two weeks of pushing one’s self. Jack, Will, and Soleil volunteered to be at the front of the boats. They did an amazing job leading the group in synchronous paddling to navigate the technical class 4 rapids. Nikhil sparked a spontaneous swim during the calm river, and everyone jumped in to experience the cold snow-fed river. We were in awe of the towering walls next to us, the old mining sites, and the second tallest suspension bridge in the world! Seriously, look up pictures of the Royal Gorge. It’s a jaw-dropping experience. Jack kept the guides laughing the entire time with his one-liners, and Doug provided calming antidotes when fears elevated before big rapids. Overall, us leaders were extremely impressed with the group’s leadership, teamwork, and growth on the rafts. It’s obvious that this group has formed strong bonds that will last long beyond these two weeks.

After rafting, LODs Jack and Kate divided the group into two teams for our cook off! Reston led team one of Sawyer, Nikhil, Will, KJ, and Benton, and made sliders and Rosemary fries. Bates took led of team two, with Jack, Soleil, Kate, and Doug and made a delish meal of chicken fried rice and egg rolls. It was a hard-fought competition, with everyone showing off great team work and lots of new cooking skills! In the end, team one can away with the victory, but the judges were definitely happy to have gotten to eat both meals!

Yesterday was sadly our last together. We woke up Doug to songs about birthdays, as he turned lucky number 13 yesterday!! Yesterday was a day full of cleaning and getting organized for our trip home, but it was also a sad day full of lasts: last family meal together, last Moonup, last ride in Van Halen. We went thrift shopping to find a fire outfit for our banquet dinner, and had so much fun trying on all the funny clothes. Doug, Sawyer, Will, and Layton went for the oversized blazer, fun hat, and athletic shorts combo, while Reston dresses as a kooky cowgirl, and Kelly Jane as a style-less soccer mom on a beach vacation. My personal favorite fit had to be Soleil’s: a hot pink floppy hat, light blue blazer, red athletic shorts, and sparkly high top shoes. Iconic!

We all sat down in a local park to cut cake and to give Doug his card and birthday present. We bought him a super cool rocket model. Unfortunately, we needed baking soda to make it fly, but Doug promised us all a video from when he got home. After a last game of hackey sack, we all circled up for our last Moonup. We laughed and cried reminiscing on the last 2 weeks. The looks of appreciation and love on the students faces as they gave out final Nugs warmed my heart. The last questions talked about the past, present, and future and made kids reflect on how they had grown. I know that each student is coming home a more confident version of themselves, and we as leaders are so excited to see their growth in life. After the final hugs, we all went to sleep (or really took a nap) so we could wake up early at 3am.

It was time for the inevitable. The final goodbyes were tear-filled and heavy, showing us leaders that we did our job well and filling us with bittersweet feelings. As we sent off each student, we knew they were off to rejoin their old life full of interesting stories and a love for life. Leaving the airport was difficult, but I feel so appreciative to have met these wonderful students. Will, Nikhil, Doug, Reston, Kate, Benton, Jack, Kelly Jane, Bates, Soleil, Sawyer, thank you for your participation on what I hope was the best two weeks of your life so far. Continue to search for new adventures and keep inviting new people into your life.


Love you always.

Layton, Casey, Gracie

Backpacking in the Books!

July 24, 2021

Dear Friends and Family of COT3B,

What a blast these past four days have been! Layton, Gracie, and I were talking last night, and we all agreed we could lead this group forever. They are so capable, confident, and have bought into the Moondance magic so well.For the past four days, we swapped our fifteenth group member (our white Ford Transit van we named Van Halen) for our backpacks and hiking boots. The San Juan Nation Forest is a beautiful area of Aspen trees and large open fields will with purple and yellow wild flowers. Before leaving camp, Reston helped Gracie organized all the snack food, while Bates led his own cook crew in breakfast burritos, without any leader help! We love the independence this group shows. Then Layton taught the kids how to pack their packs, and it was off for the San Juan.

On the hike there, Gracie took the front, while LOD Sawyer kept everyone together in the back. Nikhil was pleasantly surprised that backpacking was not that difficult, and kept everyone engaged in a big game of GHOST on the trail. When we got to our campsite, a beautiful field overlooking one of Colorado’s many 14,000 foot peaks, we were quick to set up camp, and then spent the afternoon socializing with COTA. That evening, Layton, Kate, Bates, and Doug made a delicious dinner of chicken and veggie stir fry, and then a great Moonup, where they elected Soleil and Will as our LODs.On our second day of backpacking, we stayed at our basecamp and played group games all day. It was our first chill day of the entire trip, and everyone appreciated a little free time.

After Gracie, Bates, Reston, and Will cooked us some delicious chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, we played a big game of cowboys and outlaws. Benton had made an awesome tree like structure at the center of our campsite that we used as base. In the first round, Reston, Will, Nikhil, and Sawyer were our cowboys, and no one but Gracie made it to base. Some solid defense!Then we took a big walk to the creek to explore the area. Benton and Sawyer led the way, and everyone dunked into a deeper part of the creek. The water was COLD, and Nikhil and Jack competed to see who could stay in longest. After our day of adventure, we had a delicious dinner of BBQ chicken sliders, brussels sprouts, and mac and cheese.

After Moonup, Doug narrated an intense game of Mafia, where Sawyer fooled everyone in the “Town of Doug.”Day three was our big hike day. We woke up early to a breakfast of “The Davis,” a Moondance classic of cooked apples, pineapple, sun-butter, and granola on a tortilla. Then we were off! The three-mile hiked to the lake was a little difficult (and VERY uphill), but LODs Bates and Kelly Jane were so encouraging and showed great leadership. When we finally got to the beautiful blue green lake, it was all worth it. Unfortunately, the snow melt that formed the lake was FAR too cold to swim in, but we still had an awesome time playing by the rocky shore and exploring the area. Sawyer and Benton both made very impressive thrones made of rock, and Soleil and Will made an awesome rock stacking sculpture (can’t wait for y’all to see the pictures!). Kate and Kelly Jane soaked up the sun, and Kate said the lake was her favorite part of the backpacking trip!

After we got back to camp, everyone took a quick nap to wait out the afternoon shower. Kate, Kelly Jane, Reston, and Soleil played a VERY competitive game of Go-Fish, which was so funny to hear from the counselors’ tent. Then, everyone played a huge game of capture the flag, where Reston and Kate hid their flag in the creek (jury is still out on the legality of that move). Then we had a fire dinner of Jambalaya, and a great Moonup, with another intense game of mafia.On the hike out, we made great time, and Nikhil, Jack, Bates, and I played the movie game. Back in the front country, after setting up camp and restocking on which is always a good time. We had to change plans quickly, as the town we are in was in a flash flood warning! So, instead of cooking make you own pizzas like we planned, we hopped into Van Halen and found an arcade to spend the evening playing in, and then got pizza for dinner! What a fun change of plans. Benton crushed the ski ball game, and Reston and Jack got in a HIGHLY competitive game of air hockey. Kelly Jane used all her tickets to get the cutest stuffed sloth.What was a bit unfortunate turned into such a wonderful evening! Next, we are on to rafting the Royal Gorge!Until next time,Casey + Colorado Trail

Zipping Over The Canyons of Salida

July 20, 2021

Dear Friends and Family of COT3B,

If I had to pick a word for the trip thus far, it would be joy. These kids are joyful. They are adventurous, fun loving, caring, and free spirited. Over the past two days, we have hiked, creek stomped, zipped through the canyons of Salida, but most importantly, we have cried laughing, yelled songs at the top of our lungs, and let our spirits run free.

After rafting, we had ziplining. Layton woke up early to drive to town and surprise all the kids with a breakfast of chicken biscuits and egg McMuffins. When we told the group, Bates turned to me, and yelled, “LETS FREAKING GO!” Then we drove to ziplining, where we met our awesome guides, Harmony and Josh. Josh brought his speaker on the tour with a playlist of oldies and Disney hits, and Soleil and Jack performed a perfect rendition of “You’re Welcome” from Moana, including hitting every word of the rap part. Nikhil was NOT pleased with my advice to look down while ziplining, and realized he might have a fear of heights, but he took it like a champ. We flew through the Colorado blue sky for hours, drove to a park in town for a picnic lunch of Mediterranean wraps and popsicles. We let our LODs, Benton and Kelly Jane, make the playlist for the ride to the Sand Dunes, and Sawyer was VERY persistent about getting some 80s on there. We set up camp, and then took the kids to a local waterfall for a hike and to play in the creek. The creek was beautiful, and we had to walk through a canyon to find the waterfall, which was such a cool experience.

Later, Reston, Nikhil, Kelly Jane made a fire dinner of made to order quesadillas, with Reston organizing everyone’s desired toppings, and whipping the group into shape. Then the whole group got to shower for the first time of the trip! For the rest of the evening, we played around the campsite, and Soleil, Doug, Sawyer, Kate, and Will watched found a cool spot to watch the sunrise. Benton and Kelly Jane led us in a wonderful Moonup, and then it was early to bed in preparation for our sunrise hike the next morning.

Sand Dunes day is always something special. We woke up before dawn, and hiked with the light of our headlamps to the Dunes to watch the sunrise. Benton was so excited to get to the top, and this was actually the first group we made it all the way up there. Watching the sunrise for the tallest Sand Dune in North America was wonderful, and then we spent the morning playing in the sand. Jack and Bates doubled up on the sand board, and almost got air sledding down the Dune, while Reston and Kelly Jane wrote Moondance in the sand. Sawyer was a surprisingly good sand boarder.

After playing in the sand, we traveled to our next campsite, and got prepped for everyone’s favorite part of the trip, backpacking. On the way, we stopped in a town and surprised the kids to brunch at a real restaurant. We had not been around people not in our group for so long, it was such a fun treat! Doug and Sawyer split two massive plates of pancakes and French toast, but still managed to join the clean plate club. After brunch we went to Walmart to restock, where Soleil and Kate bought Layton a barbie doll (no idea why), and LODs Reston and Nikhil helped with food shopping.

Then, we made it to our campsite, and had a wonderful dinner of stir fry noodles, got another shower (two in a row, how did we get so lucky??), and spent the evening having fun. Soleil, Bates, Sawyer, and Doug played tetherball, while Reston learned how to play the guitar thanks to Layton, and Nikhil, Will, and Jack played Hacky Sack. Then, our LODs led us in Moonup, with a silly question of “What would the person to your left be most likely to get arrested for?” Kelly Jane was most likely to be arrested for tripping over a piece of valuable art at a museum, and Will was voted most likely to be a super spy.

Everyone is so excited to get into the backcountry for the next four days, and I cannot wait to see how our group will grow and continue to bond during that experience. These eleven kids are so special, and Gracie, Layton, and I could not be luckier to get to led them.

Until next time,
Casey, Gracie and Layton


Rafting like Never Before!

July 19, 2021

Hi Colorado trail family and friends!


Our trip keeps getting better and better! We have just finished up our rafting section and we had a ball of fun. We woke up the morning of rafting and had a yummy breakfast of bagels and spreads. Then we proceeded to make our way to River Runners where our overnight rafting trip would begin. After dividing the group into two boats and hearing a safety briefing, we hit the water. Sawyer one of our LOD’s took the front of the boat showing off his strong paddling ability. We ended up paddling around 12 miles on our first stretch to lunch. On our way to lunch we hit some awesome class three rapids. The group favorite was for sure when we went surfing on the play rapids. Reston was inches from falling off, but luckily the others on her boat helped her stay in the raft. Then we had an amazing lunch at River Runners headquarters. We had chips with guacamole, salsa, and hummus, as well as sandwiches with lots of fixings, and fruit! Once our bodies were fully nourished we hit the rapids again with full tummies. We rafted all the way to our cool campsite where our stuff was waiting for us.

Once we got to camp it was all fun and games! We had an appetizer of chips and dip awaiting us. We quickly set up our tents and got to playing. Kate, Soleil, Reston, and Kelly Jane were the fastest at setting up their tent, Go girls! After the tents were set up we played an intense game of death sack, which is hackey sack with a little twist. Benton ended up in the finals showing off his soccer juggling skills. After death sack we competed in veggie offs. A veggie off is a very intense competition where two people go against one another. The rest of the group decides on a vegetable and an adjective and then on three calls it out the competitors. The competitors have to act out the veggie and the description to the best of their ability. The winner is chosen by a vote from the crowd. We had almost everyone compete in veggie off’s, but a group favorite had to be Bates vs. Jack. There vegetable they had to act out was a constipated carrot and let me tell you Bates and Jack absolutely nailed it. The whole group was filled with laughter during their performance. We decided it was a draw because they both did such an amazing and accurate job at the constipated carrot. We laughed so hard our tummies started hurting.

After the veggie off some of the kids decided to jump off of a jumping rock. Nikhil was the brave one who volunteered to jump first and then encouraged the rest of the group to go! Jack, Nikhil, Reston, and Bates all went and then convinced Soleil to do it! Reston and Soleil jumped together and had so much fun. After all that jumping and playing the group was hungry and thank goodness it was dinner time. The raft guides prepared us a delicious dinner of fajitas. Everyone dug in and thought it was so yummy. Then we had brownies and whip cream for dessert. After dinner Sawyer and Will went exploring around the campsite and found some really cool climbing rocks. Then those two led the whole group up the mountain for a nice climb and beautiful rewarding view.

After dinner and the excitement that followed, we ended our night with Moonup. At Moonup Doug had the whole group laughing with his witty one liners. Then the new LOD’s were chosen and no surprise to anyone it was Kate and Doug. Then the group exhausted from the long, yet fun day of rafting and playing went to bed for some much deserved and needed rest. We woke up the next morning well rested and prepared to take on some awesome rapids. Nikhil, Jack, and Bates started the morning off by jumping off the jumping rock. Then we had an amazing breakfast of eggs, sausage, cheese and bagels. Kelly Jane and Soleil showed amazing expedition behavior to the group by taking the lead by doing the breakfast dishes. Then we cleaned up camp and geared up for the rafting adventure ahead.

During rafting we hit some gnarly class three rapids. We hit the biggest rapids of the trip and luckily everyone stayed in the rafts! No one was close to dry though because the waves we hit were huge and everyone was getting splashed. We stopped for lunch and had such good wraps. There was turkey, cheese, and lots and lots of veggies and chips. After lunch we continued rafting and hit some more big rapids, and also had some very relaxing spells on the river full of laughter and splash fights. We had the most amazing time rafting the world-famous Browns Canyon and we were more than sad to see the rafting section of our trip go.

On our way back from rafting we had to stop at Walmart and grab some last-minute things for dinner. Our LOD’s Kate and Doug lead the shopping and got everything we needed for delicious Mediterranean bowls that would be made by our cook crew consisting of Bates, Jack, and Kate. Bates, our in-house chef, crushed the cooking. While Kate and Doug were getting the important stuff, the other students walked around and got a treat if they wanted. Sawyer and Will both had an amazing purchase of light savors and hosted a light savor dual tournament that evening that everyone competed in our cheered on and watched. When we got back to camp, the kids got their Ya-Yas out, sword fighting with their plastic light sabers, playing Moondance games, and Jack even gave Casey a bit of a haircut! To end our night Doug and Kate lead an amazing Moonup which was filled with reflection from our wonderful day that we had.

Thank you again Family and Friends of COT B for sharing your amazing kids with us we have enjoyed getting to know them so much already and cannot wait for what the next week has in store. It truly is such a special group.




Climbing in Colorado!

July 15, 2021

Hello Family and Friends of Colorado Trail!


We have had an amazing start to our Colorado adventure! Every student has bought in to this program, embracing the positive energy and Live-in-the-Moment philosophy that Moondance endorses. From navigating the maze that is the Denver airport to summiting the towering rocks of Gunnison, our students have faced and overcome challenges, growing closer as a group in the process. We are well on our way to creating the Moondance magic: an inseparable group wandering through the most beautiful places on earth. 


Airport day is always a little crazy. Unaccompanied minors, flight changes, and the lovely airport construction all try their hardest to give us a stressful day, but pickup went so smoothly. Nikhil and Will were our first students to arrive. What a first impression of this group! Nikhil and Will were super pumped to be here, almost dragging me to the baggage claim where we would meet the rest of the group. As we sat in the airport eating lunch, I felt like we were missing something. We had all 11 students, all 11 bags. I then realized that our group had completely skipped the breaking-the-ice phase. Bates and Jack were pumping-up the group with their motivational speeches and chest bumps, while Reston and Sawyer made sure everyone felt included and ready to tackle the next two weeks. I looked at my co-leaders and smiled with the unspoken communication that comes with living with the same people for three months. We all were thinking the same thing: this group is something special. 


After all the flights arrived, we had a long drive before we could finally relax in our sleeping bags. As leaders, we are always hoping that this first impression will not derail the moral of the group. Thanks to Sawyer and Kate, we all had a blast. They were our DJs, acapella group, hype-people, whatever you want to call them. The next three hours flew by as we figured out each other’s favorite songs and sang along to fan favorites. Sawyer also loved to puzzle the group with his riddles. He was no match for Soleil however, who seemed to know the answer before the riddle even left his mouth. We laughed our way down through the snow-capped mountains to the dry desert of Southern Colorado and we finally saw the beautiful lake that marked our campsite. 


Benton and Kelly Jane took charge of the camp set up. The entire group was impressed with Benton’s ingenuity. He used knot skills to tie his rainfly to logs to create a dry space for his bags. Great timing too, because a fast rain storm was moving in. Despite the less-than-ideal weather, not a single smile was wiped from the faces of our 11 students. We moved to the van to hold our first Moonup. Moonup is a nightly Moondance ritual where we share quotes, sing songs, ask deep questions, and get to know each other. Our first serious question was, “What are you hoping to get out of this trip”. We loved the thought the students invested into their answers. Bates’ was a group favorite, with just hoping to appreciate the beauty of everywhere we went. We could tell that they were looking to leave this trip with a greater understanding of the outdoors, themselves, and their ability to convert strangers to family. To conclude Moonup, we elected LODs (Leaders of the Day) to serve our first day of rock climbing. Will and Soleil were both chosen for their positive attitude and friendly demeanor, which led to natural leadership that is so appreciated by us leaders. Finally, we retired to our tents after Moonup, lulled to sleep by the raindrops hitting the roof of our tarps. 


The next two days were filled with some of the best climbing in North America. Our guides were super encouraging, but our group was equally as self-motivating. Doug and Kate pushed themselves farrr out of their comfort zone. They wanted to come down a few times, but instead fought back against the voice that said to quit and reached new heights on the red rocks of Colorado. We were so proud of them. Sawyer and Will competed to find the hardest routes and the quickest times. I tried to join in, but they left me in the dust! Benton found his home bouldering on the smaller (but very technical) rocks next to our climbing area, and Jack could be heard encouraging everyone to climb higher. After climbing, we spent the afternoon in Crested Butte, and then went cliff jumping at the lake by our camp site! Nikhil was the first to take the leap, but everyone soon followed. After getting back to camp, Bates, Reston, and Jack helped Gracie cook a delicious meal of fajitas. While they were cooking, Doug and I challenged anyone who dared to see us on the Spikeball court. We had a long run, but we were eventually beaten by Nikhil and Will. Oh well, it was just in time for dinner to start. We ate and enjoyed Moonup under the beautiful Colorado sunset, and fell asleep ready for another day of climbing. 


The next morning started with a quick camp breakdown, cleanup, and hearty breakfast of oatmeal with toppings. We drove off for our next rock, this time set to climb on the grey rocks found in the forest. Everyone used the skills learned the day before to tackle even more challenging routes. Reston attempted every route, while Bates persevered through the tallest climb. We did not want to leave, but quickly it was time to say goodbye to the rocks and guides and to drive to our next campsite in anticipation of our next activity: RAFTING!!!


I can’t wait to see the way this group develops and forms on the whitewater. If climbing was any predictor, we will come out of the overnight trip feeling like family. 


Wishing you all the best,


Layton and COT3B

All Have Arrived!

July 13, 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


  • Bates
  • Benton
  • Doug
  • Jack
  • Kate
  • Kelly
  • Nikhil
  • Reston
  • Sawyer
  • Soleil
  • Will