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Northern Lights 2B • July 6-July 26, 2021

One Last Hello from the Great North!

July 26, 2021

After rafting, we drove back to Anchorage to spend one final night in the tents. The kids partook in an Iron Chef challenge and produced amazing dishes. Team Heyward produced a delicious angel hair pasta with shrimp that was seared to perfection by Keegan. Anderson’s heavy handed contribution was that of squeezing the lemon into the pasta for the final touch. But not to be outdone, Team Rebecca brought their A-game and whipped up some nummy street tacos! As a point of flair, Catherine made the shells as little quesadillas and Max whipped up a guacamole topping. It was a close race but ultimately the tacos, being presented to us on wonderful camp dishes by Danny, won the prize. We reminisced on the picnic tables of the camp, erupting into laughter when Jay found his toothbrush in the pocket of his pants. We all shared our favorite things about each other during the final Moonup and signed off with our traditional group howl.

 

Our last day in Anchorage consisted of us perusing the town in and out of shops and feasting on delicious breakfast for our banquet. We had to continue our walking tour of Anchorage proper to fend off the ensuing food comas. Saige purchased a Moose cap and wore it better than any Davey Crocket character ever could. Julia donned a pullover that was four sizes too large, but “just so comfortable”. Emmy found us a small farmers market and Bella tracked down the Kombucha-on-tap first and foremost, starting a trend among the rest to follow suit.

 

We packed up our camp for the last time and headed off on down to the airport. It was so sad to see all these kids go, but we made a lot of memories to keep us company until we can meet again.

 

We wanted to express our gratitude to the parents for allowing us to spend three unforgettable weeks with these kids. We’re so proud of how they took on all the challenges with determination and grit. A tight group of friends was formed up here under the never-setting sun.

 

Wishing everyone the very best and a great rest of the summer!

 

Cheers,

 

Walt, Emmy, Sierra


Tales from the Tundra

July 25, 2021

Hello from just south of the Arctic Circle! Our backpacking was amazing – full of incredible views, non-stop laughter, and some truly special moments.

We began our start on the trail with beautiful weather and a tough hike. The kids quickly acclimated putting in miles and gaining elevation with a lot of singing and high spirits. Even though the mud provided a challenge everyone was able to laugh through our missteps and maybe a few tumbles before arriving at camp. We happily feasted on chicken and bean quesadillas under the evening sun.

On our second day, we were again awoken to beautiful cloudless skies. Great morale powered us through our 7-mile day. Anderson and Julia were in awe of how big the mountains were. At camp, we had a delicious chili dinner prepared by Saige and finished off bags of Fritos around a fire. We walked the kids through the map of our next day and the challenge of the climb, but they took it in stride and quickly hopped into bed ready to take on the day ahead.

Day three was our biggest day yet and the kids woke up ready as ever. We trekked nearly 9 miles with significant elevation gain. We also saw a moose! Max was incredibly caring throughout the entire hike as some of our group members weren’t feeling their best. Keegan made us all laugh when he thought he spotted another person, but it was just Emmy who shot ahead to scout for camp. A thunderstorm came at night, but these kids were such pros with their tents already locked down, they climbed in and fell asleep awaiting our next push tomorrow. We cannot express how proud we are of this group for the work they put in that day. It was a massive climb but that was no problem for this group.

Our fourth day much the much-awaited PASS DAY! We navigated up a small creek to the top of Chitna Pass. We stopped to eat lunch and celebrate by blasting Forever by Drake and share a jar of Nutella in triumph. Heyward led the charge down the other side of the pass. It was smooth and beautiful as we were in awe of the tundra around us. As the afternoon went on, we got hit with another storm. Even though it was rainy we still enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner of mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and chicken (closest we could get to Turkey). As dinner ended the sun popped back out and we did Moonup with some hot chocolate to top off our amazing day. Max and Danny, our professional videographers, took control of the GoPro and got amazing footage all throughout our hike that we cannot wait to see and reminisce on.

Day five took us out of the tundra and into a wide river valley. It was a beautiful long day filled with hiking, river crossings and muddy feet. We constantly laughed our way through the day as we sunk into the soft mud and sand of the creek bed and worked to navigate the more solid routes. Our weather could not have been more perfect with a breeze keeping us cool under a full day’s sun as we powered down the creek. Bella made sure to take advantage of our riverbed terrain and got to hike in Chacos.

Day six was a beautiful day yet again, we finished our hike through the creek bed and began to work our way out of the valley. We trekked up a few hills and came across a beautiful pond that we dubbed as “Baby Lake”. After our long day we all jumped in, feeling refreshed and renewed. Climbing out of the water was a little chilly but we quickly threw on water for hot chocolate and relaxed with our warm mugs. After dinner Rebecca and Danny led us in a Moonup with one of the questions being “what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given”. This sparked a wonderful conversation and we again got to see how intelligent this group of kids is.

Sad to say goodbye to Baby Lake, but excited for the rest of our hike we packed up camp and headed on our way. We passed another lake and spotted a beaver or according to Jay it was a capybara (the world’s largest rodent that is native to Australia not Alaska). We followed the trail through rolling hills and a steep downhill to arrive at a little tucked away campsite with a view of the Anthracite Ridge to our right and the stunning Chugach mountains to our left. It was one of our shorter hiking days, so Emmy challenged the kids to play Uno. It brought out Catherine’s competitive spirit and we all realized just how long one game can last!

As we returned to Nova the next morning, we celebrated with a massive pancake breakfast. But our adventure wasn’t done yet, the excitement was starting to grow for rafting the next day! We woke up and got fitted in dry suits to take on the wild rapids. The energy was high as we navigated the Matanuska River and each one of us took our turn at the front, being splashed with the glacial water. Saige loved riding in the very front of the boat, taking waves head on! After our rapids, we enjoyed a nice float down the river to our campsite where our raft guides whipped up delicious dinner. After such a big day it took no time at all for us to fall asleep.

Backpacking and rafting with this group was an amazing experience and we can’t believe how fast time is flying! Now back in Anchorage we are savoring our last moments with this amazing group of kids!

Cheers,
Emmy, Walt, Sierra


Climbing The Matanuska Glacier Under The Clear Blue Skies

July 14, 2021

A bright and sunny hello from this Northern Lights team! We are happy to report that we were able to climb the incredible Matanuska Glacier under blue skies.

 

After getting our mountaineering boots fitted and helmets and harnesses secured, we were driven by our ice climbing guides to the start of our adventure. Danny immediately began taking photos because the glacier was unlike anything we’d ever seen. The towering ice walls jutted out against the backdrop of the snowcapped Chugach Mountains, creating a scene that might as well have been from another planet. We hiked into our first climbing route after navigating the various terrain the glacier presented. From white ice to gritty moraine, we all dug our crampons into the ground and adjusted to this new challenge.

 

In order to get to our first ascent we had to descend an ice wall. Harnessed in and extremely excited, Jay was the first down the slope. After the rest of the group followed suite, we were ready to climb. Bella and Catherine quickly showed their prowess on the wall. Climbing side by side they dug their crampons and ice picks in with ease making it all the way to the top. In fact, every single one of these students made it to the top of the first route which is an incredible accomplishment. Even Anderson, who was hesitant at first about the height, pushed himself out of his comfort zone and crushed the wall! Nearing the end of our first day, Keegan spotted a glacial stream with the help of our guides and filled up his Nalgenes with pure glacier water. That refreshing treat fueled us for our hike back to the vans. Once at camp, the rain made an appearance, but we stayed dry while enjoying a delicious burger feast.

 

The next day we were up and at the glacier bright and early. We had a longer hike to our climbing spot but that was no problem for this group. Max was quick to offer a helping hand as we traversed awkward piles of ice and rock, making the trip out even more smooth. We arrived at a stunning deep blue mulan, a hole filled with water in the glacier. Our guides were able to set up anchors and ropes so the students would rappel down just above the icy water and climb back up the ice. Rebecca and Julia were the first to go and with the encouragement they gave one another, they crushed the climb. It was more challenging than the day before but that did not stop them from laughing as they dug in their ice tools and worked their way up the wall. Saige strapped his GoPro to his helmet as he climbed, hoping to get some footage of such a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Heyward conquered her initial nerves and scaled the entire wall, proving just how tough she is!

 

After such an amazing day, it was only right that we stopped for ice cream before going to camp. The group gave rave reviews for the unexpected flavors of Lemon Meringue and Huckleberry Heaven.   After a delicious dinner and insightful Moonup, we snuggled into our sleeping bags for well-deserved rest before backpacking.

 

We continue to be blown away by the strength and determination of this group and cannot wait to start our backpacking section!

All the best,
Emmy, Walter, and Sierra

 

Since we are about to head out to the backcountry here are some shoutouts from the crew:

Rebecca: Hi, mom, dad, and everyone!! We are having so much fun, and ice climbing was amazing! Miss you!!

Jay: Hey! Having so much fun out here. Ice climbing was so much fun and very excited to go backpacking. Love y’all and hope all is going well.

Keegan: Hey, I am having a bunch of fun up here. We are going backpacking tomorrow! Glacier climbing was a great experience, and I am excited to fish with dad!  Love you guys!

Anderson: I’m having a great time. We got to go ice climbing and I really like everyone else in the group. Can’t wait to backpack soon, and I love you guys a lot.

Danny: Hey guys! We are having so much fun out here! Alaska is truly an amazing place, and the activities we are doing are right up my alley. We just finished ice climbing on a glacier, and we are getting ready for our backpacking trip. Tell Lucy and Stella I said hi. And Hazel. Love you!

Catherine: Hi Mom Dad Julia and EE! It’s been so much fun and ice climbing was so cool! I can’t wait for backpacking! Love and miss you!

Bella: Hey mom and dad! We just finished ice climbing which was so much fun. We’re about to start backpacking, and then we raft after! I love y’all so much and can’t wait to see you soon!

Saige: Hey bubs, mom and dad. Hope you guys are missing me like I am missing you!! We are having a great time. Just ice climbed and it was insane, and we are about to start backpacking. You will not believe that I did it. Thank you for giving me this awesome experience. Love you!!

Julia: Hi mom and dad! I miss y’all! Ice climbing was so fun. So beautiful and I thought of Brian when I was up there. Tell the pups hello for me! When I come home I’ll need a huge hug! We start backpacking tomorrow and I’m so excited! Keep on rockin!

Heyward: Hey mom, dad, stumpy, and Edith. Hope y’all have gotten to the beach by now. Alaska is gorgeous. Everyone in my group is great. Sea kayaking didn’t go as planned, but we still had so much fun. We also got to get coffee at this great place by the water. Ice climbing was cool. The views were crazy. We’re about to go backpacking for 8 days. I’m super excited! Miss y’all!

Max: hey guys I miss y’all so much! We are having a lot of fun and we’re about to start our backpacking section. The leaders are amazing and I have made a lot of good friends.  See you when I get home!


Loving Alaska!

July 13, 2021

Hello from the rainy side of Alaska! We are so happy to be up and exploring this beautiful place with such great kids.

From our camp in Anchorage, we packed up our bus and headed to Whittier. Whittier is known to get 200 inches of precipitation a year and we are pretty sure at least 100 inches fell on us. Thankfully we had an indoor space to get settled as our kayak guides prepped us for our trip. During a break in the rain, we walked around town and got some delicious coffees and hot chocolate. Later we organized for departure and got fitted for boats, boots, and bibs. The rubber rain gear was an absolute gift as we didn’t take it off for the next couple days!

Led by LODs, Max and Julia, we got on our charter boat with plenty of time after loading all our boats and gear. Unfortunately as our ride progressed and we approached the beach, the weather decided to not cooperate and we were unable to paddle. Adapting to these challenges, we quickly turned our beautiful beach campsite into a tarp palace. Giving us the ability to stay together outside and keep playing games. Jay and Keegan invented the incredible game of “throw a rock into the pocket of a tarp” and they are considering going pro. Continuing with our “games to play with rocks” theme, many rounds of “Don’t Touch My Rock” were played, garnering a ton of laughs and competition.

We took an early charter back to Whittier. Even though we were bummed with the conditions we made the most of our last day in the boathouse with an intense two on two basketball tournament. Keegan and Rebecca won the tourney but everyone put up a good fight, those two were just unstoppable in the paint! After we established that this is a group full of students destined for the NBA, Catherine took the lead on our fabulous fajita dinner and we all went to sleep full and dry! Though we were sorry to leave Whittier the promise of blue skies near the Matanuska glacier made us excited to hop back on the bus and roll out of town.

As we made our way through Anchorage over to Nova and got to unload all our gear from the bus in the sun! Taking advantage of the weather, we built a fire and savored our pesto pasta made by Danny, Heyward, and Bella. The next morning Jay and Anderson chefed up some m&m pancakes to fuel us for our hike up Lion’s Head. This short day hike goes 1000 ft vertical in one mile! Regardless of the challenge these students crushed it. Saige was blown away by the views that allowed us to see the glacier stretch for miles.

These first days with the kids have been wonderful even if a little bit wet. We cannot wait to go ice climbing tomorrow and excitement is already growing for backpacking in the next few days!

All the best,

Emmy, Sierra, and Walt

 


Safe Arrival in Anchorage!

July 7, 2021

Hello Northern Lights Families!

The whole group arrived safely in Anchorage last night, 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

  • Anderson
  • Bella
  • Catherine
  • Danny
  • Heyward
  • Jay
  • Julia
  • Keegan
  • Max
  • Rebecca
  • Saige

Staff