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Midnight Sun 3 • July 10-July 23, 2021

Final Words from the Final Frontier

July 23, 2021

After departing the takeout, we set our sights on Anchorage and started the long drive west.

After our action packed 12 days together in the backcountry, a good chunk of the trip was spent snoozing. However, when folks were awake, the van was filled with happy chatter that would make you think this group had been friends for a lifetime, and quieter moments looking out the windows and contemplating the massive, spectacular landscape we recently called home.

Together, in the wild Wrangell Mountains, our crew lived from a backpack or dry bag, and traversed the rugged and awesome landscape by foot, raft, and bush plane. We experienced powerful and humbling moments in nature and friendship, and experienced a true feeling of freedom out under the beautiful midnight sun. Upon arrival in rainy Anchorage, we set up tents and some tarps, took well earned showers, and then sat under our tarp shelter cooking creamy four cheese alfredo pasta with chicken and broccoli. Completely comfortable with the uncomfortable rainfall, a testament to our newfound ability to not only appreciate but also live in the moment.

Following our campfire alfredo pasta we dove deep into our second to last moonup,  doing all we could to stretch the most out of every remaining moment we had together. Wiped out from all the laughter, miles traveled, smiles shared, and places explored, we fell asleep fast and deep as the seagulls sung us to sleep. Our final day together sparked off with the scent of pancakes infiltrating our campground and some NSYNC tunes as the wake up call before we packed up our belongings. Eyes wide and bags packed the gang hit our most trustworthy method of locomotion, walking.

During our downtown anchorage trek we took in all the sights and smells, wafts of reindeer sausage dogs and the salt air filled our lungs on our way to a pit stop at a local apparel shop. We then dined on our banquet meal at our campground, our final meal enjoyed together brought with it the onset of heavy emotions. A compounded mixture of happiness, sadness, and appreciation for the time spent in the last frontier alongside such outstanding friends achieving such incredible accomplishments.

Trash thrown away and one final campsite sweep led us to our final Moonup together, emotional and exceptional all at the same time. What felt like the shortest moonup’s, was actually one of the longest, however that feeling of time slipping away more rapid than ever leads us to our only complaint for this trip — that it went by too fast. Wishing everyone a safe arrival home, and thank you for all the memories!

Best,

Ellie and Bishop


Cookouts on the River

July 22, 2021

Day 9 started with some homemade cinnamon rolls crafted by one of our hiking guide, Jonas. Every single one of us infatuated by the swirls of cinnamon sugar glaze dispersed throughout each piece of the baked goodness. Quinn and Charlie both agreed that they were by far some of the best cinnamon rolls they have ever had. Whenever you start a day with a breakfast as solid as that you know it’s going to be an outstanding day. We loaded up our gear into the van and then made our way to the airstrip where we would be boarding our final bush plane for the trip! Once airborne, mesmerization set in as the visibility was tenfold compared to our first bush plane flight, able to see mountains both near and far, lakes small and large, and streams thin and wide. Silence enveloped all planes as everyone was comprehending the shear fact we had just conquered the underlying landscape for 6 days straight carrying all our belongings on our backs. Arriving in Chitna we boarded our van that was toting our gear and made way to the Copper River where we were greeted by our river guides and a beauty of a sandwich bar for lunch. Dispersing into the 4 different rafts awaiting us after our lunch, we set out onto our river voyage with full hearts and full bellies. One of our guides had mentioned how it was highly likely we would have the opportunity to admire several eagles during our trip. Following this news MC & Elizabeth decided they would have a competition on who would spot the first Bald Eagle! Before we knew it   both of them spotted the first Bald Eagle and everyone went wild, our symbol of freedom soaring through the atmosphere in its natural habitat, not phased in the slightest by its onlookers. By the time we pulled up to our first riverbank campsite we had spotted 20+ Eagles just that afternoon! A fire line was quickly executed with Lucy and Cooper leading their two respective group gear and personal gear lines, as an impending rainstorm was charging at us fast! Next thing we knew it was pouring cats and dogs but that didn’t phase us from singing our favorite songs and dancing in the rain, it was a glorious moment for all. A strategic tarp shelter was set up using oars from the rafts and driftwood logs, learning how to adapt to our environment and Mother Nature’s fits of precipitation. A dinner of Cheeseburgers and glizzies was enjoyed to the fullest extent while we sat around recounting all the eagles, raindrops, and belly aching laughs from the day. When dinner was complete and our feast was finished we enjoyed a moonup and then quickly fell asleep. Day 10 began with birthday celebrations in place for Alexa, aging 16 years old on the Copper River in Alaska, what a treat we got to help her celebrate. Ellie awoke everyone with her famous rendition of happy birthday, then we had chocolate chip/blueberry pancakes for breakfast, and some birthday candles in the birthday girls plate, happy birthday Alexa! Camp was quickly broken down, everyone is a pro at breaking down a tent at this point, quite an improvement from our first day. Grouping up into new raft groups and loading into our vessels we had an important agenda to take care of, catch some z’s, some vitamin D, and see more wildlife. Right off the bat we checked off all three, taking naps, soaking in the rays of the midnight sun, and admiring Bald eagles both juvenile and old, swallows and seagulls all soaring amongst the stratus clouds. After a few hours of this we approached our next riverbank campsite, perched in a beautiful location with a perfect view of three Alaskan giants — Mt.Drum, Mt.Wrangell, and Mt.Sanford. This evenings pre dinner festivities were journaling and spike-ball, a perfect combination suiting any crowd. Not long after a few games of spike ball were complete the dinner bell rang calling for some hungry rafters. Pasta with marinara and vegetable sauce and fresh tossed salad had the whole crowd pleased. Post dinner, we made banana boats on the fire, and then engaged in some classic evening activities: a toothbrush party for the books, and an awesome moonup under an amazing yellow and orange “sunset”. We fell asleep to the soothing sounds of the Copper River.

 

We woke up the next day and deleted some delicious French toast. Stewart showed us a fantastic technique for holding maximum toppings in his toast slice, and soon everyone followed suit and employed this superior eating method. We hit the river and enjoyed a relaxed morning of rafting on the Copper. We stopped for lunch break on a beautiful river bar, and enjoyed snoozing in the sun and spotting bear tracks in the sand during some down time. By now, the sun was beating down and it was pretty hot out. We all knew there was one true solution to the afternoon heat — a massive water war. After loading up into our rafts, we set off and all grabbed our weapons, which consisted of extra paddles and buckets. Any boat that dared to get near another was instantly punished with buckets upon buckets of silty water and spray of water from the oars. Marshall, Ben and Sam proved to be especially dangerous trio, and together they wreaked absolute havoc on anyone who dared get close enough to their raft. They were heaving buckets faster and smacking the water harder than I knew was humanly possible! Lauren and the girls boat put up a good fight however, and  in the end everyone was laughing, thoroughly soaked, and worn out. We all quickly dried in the hot sun, and upon reaching camp, everyone posted up in chairs and enjoyed some time to chat and reflect on our adventure thus far. We had an awesome burrito dinner, then finished off the night with a spike ball tournament. Sam and Stewart took the gold, but honorable mention goes to Lucy and Marshall who put up an awesome fight. Another round of honorable mentions go out to those who had never played before (everyone picked it up so quickly!) and those who helped teach the game to others — excellent EB and sportsmanship all around. After a great Moonup, we went to bed with tired arms from heaving water and spiking all over the place. We woke up this morning and enjoyed a quick breakfast of bagels and yogurt, then loaded up the rafts one last time and set off towards the takeout. We all took particular care to soak in the scenery this one last time, and before we knew it we were at the takeout. We helped unload the rafts and carry all the gear up, where we then redistributed our stuff from dry bags to our duffles. We were all bummed to be done with rafting, but all good things must come to an end — we are so thankful for our few days enjoying the beautiful and wild Copper River! After one last awesome sandwich lunch, we said goodbye to our amazing guides and hit the road to Anchorage, where we will spend the final hours of our adventure.

 

Signing off from the 49th state,

Ellie and Bishop


Stunning Beauty and Feats Achieved - Alaska!

July 18, 2021

Day 5 began with energized and quick footsteps as the sweet savory scent of bacon wafted through our campsite. Bagels, cream cheese, mangos and bacon, YUM! While we thoroughly enjoyed our meal, we knew we had a lot to look forward to – our glacier crossing was about to kick off! With Marshall and Elizabeth as our LOD’s, we had no doubt that we would have a smooth sail across the glacier. After breaky, we packed up camp and walked down again towards the Root Glacier on the same trail we used yesterday. As we strapped our crampons on, we all sized up the challenges ahead as we looked at the huge chunk of ice we were about to traverse. Nervous jitters were in the air as we began our hike for the day. Turns out, the nervousness was totally unwarranted and we were moving quickly and easily across. As we went, we observed & learned about powerful ice falls, beautiful moulins and blue pools. We quickly reached the medial moraine, a ridge of rock and ice in the middle of the glacier. We easily surpassed this obstacle, and then stopped at a nice and sunny flat spot on the ice for a quick lunch. We carried on, ready to face our next obstacle, which our guides called “the litter box”. The litter box is a massive muddy slope of ice, rocks, and gravel, and as we stood at the base and were fixing to climb it, we all knew things were going to get messy. Screams and hysterical laughter filled the air as everyone began the climb. Elizabeth and Lauren stood knee deep as mud flowed down slope around them — luckily, they were able to make it out with both shoes still on. Ben and Marshall scaled the hill with surprising skill and ease, and were soon at the top shouting encouragement down at the rest of us. Lucy and Alexa really embraced the mud, and slathered it all over their faces. There is no doubt in my mind that fresh Alaskan glacial mud is good for the skin! Cooper found a small ravine on the hillside, and took a moment’s break from the muddy mess to stick his head under the cool, fresh water which reinvigorated him for the remainder of the climb. Finally, once we had all conquered the litter box, we sauntered into our lovely campsite feeling accomplished after a hard days work. After dinner and a great Moonup, we all took a few moments to appreciate the awesome views of the glacier and Kennecott across the way, then hopped into our tents for the night.

We woke up to a beautiful day and the sun shining bright! We ate a great breakfast of Canadian grits, then packed our bags and said goodbye to the wonderful glacier front campsite. After a great story time stretch, we tightened everything down on our packs, and got ready for a big bush push day. We set out, and whoops and shouts filled the air as we plowed through branches and sticky mud, and walked along the margins of crystal-clear mountain lakes. This crew absolutely torched the trail, and before we knew it, we were rock hopping up a dry stream bed. As we crested the hill, excited gasps and hollers were flying around as everyone laid eyes on the beautiful sapphire blue lake that would be in the backyard of our campsite. After setting up camp near the shores of the lake, we took a group swim, and Sam impressed us all with his cold tolerance by staying in the water for several minutes (as opposed to 20 seconds like the rest of us). We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around and enjoying the fruits of our hiking labors by appreciating the absolutely stunning landscapes which surrounded us. After an awesome dinner, we did Moonup up on a ridge which overlooked three glaciers, two ice falls, and had epic views of a massive ice cave. The background music to our discussions was the low rumble of water thundering through the cave and into the depths of the glacier. Big shoutout to our LOD Mary Call for making the executive decision to head to this amazing spot! After Moonup, we all took a moment to take in the sunset and breathe in the fresh mountain air, then we collapsed into our tents for a well-earned big night of rest.

Since it was a rest day, we slept in, which was so nice and well-deserved by all! After a leisurely breakfast, we split into two groups to go on side hikes — Bishop joined the one crew which undertook a longer glacier adventure, and they had a blast! They traversed the Gates and then hopped on the Kennecott glacier and did some exploring. Quinn and Charlie were some of the ambitious few on this longer hike, reporting back that the views were the best they’d ever seen. Ellie and her crew scrambled to the top of a ridge to take in some epic views from above. While we were up there, Stewart showed us all up with his amazing rock throwing skills — he was able to throw a rock and knock another out of the air! Very impressive although a little frustrating to watch for the less skilled of us. Upon return to camp, everyone laid out and soaked up the sun, then we had a great dinner and another fantastic Moonup atop the ridge, which is perhaps the best location in the history of all Moonups.

On day 8 we all awoke to a frigid breeze rolling off of the gates glacier into our campsite, an early wake up call for our big day ahead was followed by a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and southwest hash browns. A perfect meal to fuel us up with protein and carbs for our longest trek of the trip, with everyone chomping at the bit to accomplish such a feat of making it all the way back to Kennecott in one day. Swift and steady we made our charge towards home base with aggression, shouting and singing about, cheering whenever we encountered big mud holes or big piles of bear droppings, finding joy in the little things is a trait everyone has strengthened. Before we knew it, the Root glacier was in front of us, begging for us to give it our best shot and boy did we. Crunch, crunch, crunch, over and over again as our crampons made their mark on the unforgiving hard packed ice. Boom, we get to the medial and don’t hesitate to keep moving forward without a break, no hesitation and no signs of fatigue we kept chugging along. Belting out our favorite tunes throughout our journey, we quickly ended up at the base of the glacier, we then took a moment of silence and admired the glacier and surrounding behemoth views as we said goodbye to the Root and its neighbors. The final push of our hike was a breeze, flat trails and clear skies full of sunshine had us making record time. As we approached Kennecott the first sign of life we saw was the 14-story copper mine building, immediately we started singing the National anthem as we walked through the main drag of town, bystanders taking off their hats and watching us March and sing in bewilderment, a powerful moment for all. Once back at McCarthy we passed an ice cream shop and immediately hit the brakes and funneled out of the van for a post hike treat, everyone was ecstatic yet silent as they devoured their hard-earned delicacy. A quick jaunt over to our riverbed campsite was followed by setting up tents and then getting our dry bags and sizing our water boots for the rafting trip. Upon completion of preparation for our upcoming rafting excursion, we surprised the gang with a local dinner stop at the potato! An eccentric gem in the heart of McCarthy dishing out piping hot meals for weary travelers and hikers alike. Two tables full of Philly cheesesteaks, pizzas, burgers, and chicken pitas was the perfect way to wrap up our backpacking trip. Full bellies and exhausted bodies, we made our way back to camp and enjoyed a Moonup and then fell fast asleep dreaming of what our river journey will entail. Looking forward to reporting what we find out!


Climbing Our Way to an Incredible Start!

July 14, 2021

Big hello from the land of the midnight sun! This is leaders Ellie and Bishop checking in. 

 

We’ve had an awesome first few days of our Alaskan adventure! Our trip began in the Anchorage airport on Saturday night as our group came together for the first time. Once we had everyone accounted for, we grubbed on some ‘za, then it was time to head to our first campsite just west of town. After we got settled in, we took some time to all get acquainted and then had our first of many Moonups together. Lucy and Lauren then proceeded to demonstrate what good EB looks like by helping everyone out with a big water run — heck yeah! After Moonup, we all cannonballed into our sleeping bags, ready to rest up for the adventures ahead.

 

Day 2 started with a plentiful spread of fruit, bagels, cream cheese and bacon, followed by a quick lesson on how to pack up tents. Once all tent and personal gear was stowed away we awaited the arrival of our van, eagerness was in the air as we all knew we would be airborne over the beautiful Alaskan backcountry in mere hours. While everyone was anxious to load into the van once it pulled in, Cooper and Charlie exhibited some great EB by making sure all bags had been loaded onto the trailer and no belongings were left behind. Wheels a rolling down the highway, jokes were being cracked, stories were being shared, and friendships were beginning to form. Between all this, we admired the truly breathtaking scenery, still in disbelief we would soon be gazing at it from a bird’s point of view while flying between air currents in a bush plane. Mid trip, Marshall and Lucy had been mentioning their belief in manifestation, soon thereafter they were discussing how they wanted to manifest seeing some wildlife up close. I’ll be darned, not even 20 minutes later we had our first encounter with Alaskan wildlife, a young fox pranced across the road right in front of us taking our breath away.

 

After an eventful trek via van, it was time we continued our venture via air. The seatbelts clicked, the key turned, the prop began to spin, and the wheels began to rotate forward, time for takeoff. Soaring through the frigid air, surveying our future hiking trails, reality set in that we are some of the most fortunate human beings on the planet, we even got to see a moose! We arrived in Kennecott and were greeted by our lovely guides, then headed into town for a tour of the historic 14-story copper mill building. That bad boy milled up over $300 million of copper back in its hay day — go off, Kennecott. After the exhilarating tour, we headed to the banks of McCarthy Creek, our home for the night. Our guides chef’d up some spaghetti, then it was time for bed after a great Moonup.

We awoke up early the next day to get our packs all in order for backpacking. After eating some delicious pancakes, it was time for a packing party! After we were all ready, we hopped in a van to Kennecott and hit the trail together for the first day of many. It was a little rainy, but that couldn’t dampen our spirits. Upon getting to our gorgeous campsite, everyone gathered in one “mid” shelter and swapped funny stories, which only solidified our groups amazing bond. Then after dinner and Moonup, everyone hit the hay and rested up for our big day of ice climbing. 

 

We woke up early and belted out a fine rendition of happy birthday to our birthday boy Cooper, celebrating his 15th lap around the sun, followed by a great breakfast of oatmeal and fruit. The excitement was growing as we strapped on our bulky mountaineering boots, grabbed our packs, and hit the trail down to the glacier. We were all awestruck as we sat on the margin of the glacier and took it all in: this massive river of ice was to be our playground for the day. Our guides started us out on a wall, where MC and Elizabeth both bravely conquered their fear of heights and topped out on sheer routes. Stewart torched the route and showed us all what perfect technique looks like. Sam and Ben raced up the wall and showed us all what lightning looks like on ice. We were all shocked — one moment he was at the bottom, and the other he was waving his ice tool at us from the top!

 

Eventually, our guides moved us over to a moulin, which is a vertical tube in the ice. It was such an amazing experience to gaze into and climb out of this breathtaking natural feature. Quinn showed us all how it was done, and absolutely crushed his rappel in and subsequent climb out. Alexa also bravely dropped in to the moulin and impressed us all with her calmness and skill as she worked her way back out. After everyone had their fair share of ice climbing action we trekked back to our campsite and began our nighttime birthday festivities. First in order was a pesto pasta dish and a cheese pasta, it was a huge hit, kudos to our cook crew. This world class meal was followed up by some cosmic brownies with candles in them brought out to the tune of happy birthday for Cooper, big 15!! Once all celebrations were complete, we enjoyed a great Moonup and then a toothbrush party to wrap it all up for the day. Looking forward to our journey further into the backcountry, we will update soon!

 

Best wishes, 

Ellie and Bishop


Safe Arrival in Anchorage!

July 11, 2021

Hello Midnight Sun 3 Families!

The group has arrived safely in Alaska late last night. They are off on their adventure today! 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

  • Alexa
  • Ben
  • Charlie
  • Cooper
  • Elizabeth
  • Lauren
  • Lucy
  • MC
  • Marshall
  • Quinn
  • Sam
  • Stewart

Staff