August 1, 2021
Greetings from Anchorage!
We’ve just finished up two fun filled days of ice climbing and are now on the bus anxiously waiting for banquet! This group has impressed us with their bravery as they climbed like pros through the crevasses of the Matanuska glacier.
After a slow and relaxing (but much needed) rest day, the group was ready to get back into the swing of things with day 1 of ice climbing. Emily F and Mason cheffed up some delicious chocolate chip pancakes to start the early morning off. After getting fitted for our gear, we headed over to the Matanuska glacier to get on the ice! After a short hike and some practice getting used to the crampons (spikes that go on the bottoms of your boots), everyone in the group successfully made it up the huge glacier. Lillian and Katie showed off their skills as they made it up the glacier quickly after having already ice climbed before. After getting the hang of the climbing, James and Ford were the first ones to try out climbing without ice picks, and impressed us all with their skills. After an amazing day on the ice, we enjoyed some hot pizza at a local spot called “The grand view”. Ari was super excited when he saw the pies on the menu, and just knew he had to buy one. The rest of the group followed his lead, and almost everyone ordered their own chocolate brownie or apple pie. With full stomachs, we then headed back to camp and enjoyed some rest time before Moonup.
Annie and Lillian decided to take a quick nap in the gravel. The rest of the group had joined them to enjoy the hot sun for the first time in a while. After Moonup, George led the group in a game of werewolves (a mystery game similar to mafia). Emily B was the first one killed by the werewolves but the rest of the town avenged her. The game quickly became a group favorite, and we could’ve played for hours but had to get to bed for an early morning the next day.
Today, the group packed up camp early in the morning and enjoyed some cereal for breakfast. We had a much longer(but well worth it) hike to the ice today. To climb, the guides lowered us into a glacial crevasse before we could climb back over it. The ropes were much steeper than yesterday, but everyone loved the adrenaline rush as they bravely tackled the challenging climb. One of the ropes had an overhang, which Maggie was first to give a shot at. Adam, Ari, and Katie also tried this route, the most difficult one of our ice climbing experience. Although it was very cold, spirits were kept high. We made a penguin huddle and jammed out to some music as we tried to stay warm. On our way out, everyone filled up their Nalgenes with some crystal clear glacier water, which James even joked about checking it in his bag to bring back home. After wrapping up on the ice, we headed back to camp and packed everything up before hopping on the bus to the airport.
What a time in Alaska! One we will never forget
– Travis, Lauren, and George
July 28, 2021
Hi to all! We just wrapped up an incredible week of backpacking through the Talkeetna mountains and our spirits are sky high. Throughout the week, our group conquered challenges like champions and grew closer with every mile.
On the first day of backpacking, we fueled our bellies with our final front country meal of bagels alongside an array of toppings. The majority of our morning was spent packing up our backpacks that we would become accustomed to living out of for the next many days. Everyone was eager to hit the trail, and Emily F took the lead as we winded up into the mountains. After a couple of hours hiking uphill through some muddy terrain, we began to wind down into a beautiful valley. Our original campsite was too muddy to set up camp, so we continued on to find a better option. Everyone kept a positive attitude and before we knew it we had arrived at our first of many stunning campsites. We kicked off our boots and set up tents adjacent to a lake. Meanwhile, Katie cheffed up some Pad Thai coupled with a delicious coconut peanut sauce. Dinner was scarfed down in minutes and everyone headed to bed with full stomachs ready to conquer day 2!
Thanks to our extra mileage on day 1, we got to sleep in on day 2 which was very appreciated by the whole group. For breakfast we boiled some piping hot water to make oatmeal. This time in the backcountry we had some new flavors of oatmeal to try, and the crowd favorite was peaches and cream. After packing up camp, our LOD’s (leaders of the day) led us to our next campsite which was nestled in the woods. A nice afternoon rain shower allowed us a to relax in our tents before dinner and everyone clocked some great nap time. For dinner we ate burrito bowls which consisted of chicken, rice, black beans, and veggies. Maggie and others went to the river to fetch water for tea and were in awe of the stunning golden hour as the sun so elegantly hit the river. Everyone warmed up with some hot tea which was enjoyed by all during moonup.
Day 3 brought new challenges but an even greater feeling of accomplishment. We woke up to rain and slowly emerged from our tents to eat breakfast and pack up camp. The mileage was short today and we only took one break during the hike to eat lunch. Annie took the lead on setting up our rain tarp which we all squeezed under to stay warm while we ate. Before we knew it our daily lunch of tortillas with Summer sausage, cheese, peanut butter, jelly, and Nutella was filling our stomachs. It was the perfect break and meal to fuel us up to our campsite above the clouds. As soon as we arrived, everyone pitched in to set up tents so we could warm up in some dry clothes. Adam made pita pizzas followed by a skillet brownie for dinner which hit the spot. The rain halted for a few hours and after moonup Ari led our first sun dance with hope to manifest a sunny day 4.
The sun dance worked! We woke up in a cloud, but no rain today! Day 4 called for an early morning as we had a lot of mileage to cover. We started off strong by crossing Chitna Creek and headed up higher in elevation. To everyone’s excitement, we ventured off of the ATV trail and into bushwhacking terrain. Our LOD’s Mason and Emily B read the map to navigated us to our next campsite. Two lunches and 8 hours later we arrived! Lauren, Katie, Ford, Ari, and James threw their packs off and explored another peak which stunning views. There was a 360 degree view of mountains, canyons, and waterfalls. Meanwhile, Lillian and Emily B boiled water for our meal of champions: ramen and mashed potatoes. It was a great day with our best views yet and Ari led us through another successful sun dance.
Morning 5 was a chilly one as we were awaken in another cloud by Lillian and Adam. Maggie boiled water for oatmeal, and with full stomachs we were off for another incredible day of hiking. There were two potential routes to follow today, and based off of the foggy conditions we made a group decision to take the more gradual decent down into the valley. The teamwork and decision making by this group is incredible, and it’s amazing to see them grow closer each day. Once we were in the valley, the rest of the day was spent walking through the Boulder Creek basin. We decided to push further again today to arrive at a better campsite, and it was so worth it once we arrived! Emily, Maggie, and Ari made chicken and cheese quesadillas which were a huge hit. Thanks to George, we spent the evening around the fire and were able to dry all of our belongings.
On day 6 we had an amazing late start and woke up to music! George and Lauren made delicious, yeast-less cinnamon rolls which were devoured by all. We spent the morning (and much of the afternoon) soaking up the sun. Travis, Ari, Adam, and James were the first to take a swim in the river. Lauren, Katie, Emily, and Annie also followed their lead and soon nearly everyone had plunged into the ice cold water. It was just the refreshing bath we all needed! Today’s hike began in the creek and then we followed along a ridge to our intended campsite. Unfortunately, there was already another group there. It was our first time seeing anyone else in the past week and we happened to run into them several more times in the days to come! We continued on and set foot on ATV trails once again. Our campsite that we arrived at was next to another beautiful lake and Travis even went for a swim. For dinner we filled up on pasta and eagerly crawled into sleeping bags for a great night sleep.
Day 7, our final day of hiking! We are all shocked at how quickly our time in the backcountry has flown by. For breakfast we got to choose between oatmeal and grits, and we hit the trail to finish off strong. We soaked up the final views and serenity of the outdoors on our final few miles. On our right side there were newly visible massive snow capped mountains. It was a bittersweet ending as we all felt so accomplished but sad to see our time backpacking come to an end! When we arrived at the trailhead where we were planning to camp, we were surprised with the news that our outfitters could pick us up tonight instead of the morning. We headed back to our front country campsite, and settled into our home for the next few nights. Adam and Ford made mac and cheese for dinner and we all filled up on candy and snacks now that we have all of our food back!
Today we have had a very relaxing day and everyone got to sleep in as late as they wanted. We had a smorgasbord brunch and are enjoying the company of each other as we play games and share plenty of laughs!
Sending all of our love to everyone back home!
July 21, 2021
Hey there everyone! This is the Northern Lights crew checking in as we wrap up our time in Whittier. As we made our way from Denali to Whittier, the excitement and nervousness began to grow among all of the kids. The small town with a population of only 250 is well known for its never-ending rain and strong gusts of wind, and as a result, we tried to mentally prepare our kids for four days of wet clothes and damp tents. Soon we saw it, the 2.5 mile, one way, old military tunnel that leads into Whittier, and the bus grew quiet. Darkness engulfed the bus, and left everyone to wonder what would be on the other side? The light at the end of the tunnel grew closer, closer, and closer. Suddenly, everything was bright and warm again. By some miracle, Whittier was sunny and there was quite literally not a cloud in sight.
Everyone began cheering and smiling ear to ear; it seemed Alaska decided to give us a special treat. The next morning, as we loaded our kayaks onto the charter boat that would take us to the beginning of our route, the water was as calm and still as glass. James, and Emily F happily sipped on their coffee they got from a small local coffee shop as we sped across the ocean. Next we carried our boats off the “Lazy Otter” charter ferry and placed them into the water. Everyone’s spirits were through the roof as we began our sea kayaking trip, cruising across the Prince William Sound taking in the sun and the beautiful views in every direction. Ari and Katie acted as our trips photographers, making sure to capture every moment with their cameras and GoPro! Soon we arrived at our coastal campground with a view on Long Bay beach. There, we set up home base and had a delicious dinner consisting of Chicken, rice, and a motley assortment of veggies cooked by our “iron chefs” James and Lillian. After a long day, everyone was happy to head off to bed and get some much-needed rest.
The following day was very relaxed. We did not have to take down our tents in the morning because we would be sleeping at this campsite for another night, which meant everyone got to sleep in a little longer than usual (which everyone loved). We boiled some piping hot water and made ourselves oatmeal as we watched the tide begin to role out and Alaskan salmon jumping out of the water every couple of minutes; definitely one of the most scenic breakfasts we’ve ever had. Later on in the day, we all suited back up into our life jackets and kayaking skirts before heading off on a day paddle to a mountain ridge we would hike up. It was a short paddle to where we would be hiking, and if the views were anything like Rich (our paddle guide) said they were, we would be in for a real treat. The climb up the mountain was slippery, as most people opted to hike in their Chaco’s or rain boots. Needless to say, everyone had their fair share of wipeouts as we scaled our way upwards.
About halfway up, we ran into a little pile of snow, and as one might imagine, it did not take long for a big snowball fight to begin. Maggie threw the first snowball and Adam was quick to join in, hitting his targets from a distance with fantastic aim. No one was safe from an icy cold heap of snow being hurled in their direction. After cooling off in the snow, we pushed on for the final stretch up the mountain before reaching the top. No matter which way you looked, it felt like you were on a movie set; the views were just that gorgeous. Once at the top, all the kids took out their snickers bars excitedly only to realize they were melted. One of our leaders, Lauren, had the idea to bury them all under a pile of snow to help them cool off.
While waiting on our chocolate bars, we had nice tortilla wrap sandwiches with each person mixing and matching different topping combinations. By the end of lunch, the snickers were the perfect consistency and everyone happily munched them down (I’ve never seen a chocolate bar disappear so quickly before!). On our way back down there was about twice as much falling than on the way out, but everyone who fell totally did it in style, always bursting out into laughter before getting back on their feet. Despite all the food we had eaten for lunch, everyone had their minds locked on dinner that night; macaroni and cheese + bacon bits made by Annie and Mason. Normally it can be a bit of a challenge making sure all the food gets eaten and none is wasted, but that night we had no problems; every last noodle was eaten and there was not a belly left wanting more, life does not get much better than that!
We had a nice early start to our day the next morning, packing up camp fairly quickly. We wolfed down some hot grits & bacon before beginning another sunny day of paddling. Today was a big one for the “Leaders of the Day” (the two students who get chosen to be leaders for the day). The first big choice they were given was whether or not the group should go on another day hike up to a glacier fed lake. Ford and Emily F took a vote from the grip and we ended up doing the day hike. During the hike, James so generously held a thick, swinging tree branch open like a door for everyone to pass. The LOD’s definitely made the right decision, no one wanted to stop swimming! Mason in particular was the first into the water and the last out, not just for this lake in particular but any body of water that was swimmable. Somehow he still had enough energy after kayaking back to camp to do a couple of laps back and forth along the shoreline!
The next important decision our LOD’s made came at what was so poised to be the end of our long day of paddling. As we approached the campsite, we realized another kayaking group was already staying there, meaning we would have to sleep elsewhere. Rich, our kayaking guide, pulled the LOD’s aside and gave them two options; the first was another small campsite 5 minutes away. This one was close but did not have much room and the view was very lackluster. The second option would add another 3 miles of paddling, but it had a ton of room and an astounding view. Ford and Maggie carefully debated the choices before deciding we should go to the further campsite. There were no doubt a few grumpy campers after this decision was announced, but all negative attitudes disappeared as we rounded the last point and saw where we were camping. Snow-capped mountains echoed across our line of sight, we all felt as though we were in a Macintosh computer background the colors were so vivid and beautiful. Once again, the LODs made the right choice, despite it being the more difficult one. The following day we arrived back at Whittier. Everyone was starved and wanted a nice hot meal. Despite the only pizza joint in town being closed, Emily B walked and demanded a pizza made for her. She got that pizza.
We are currently preparing for our 8-day backpacking trip in the Talkeetna mountains. As the group gathers supplies has fun at Walmart, Annie and Lillian volunteered to do everyone’s dirty, wet, not-showered-in-9-days laundry. We have a big night of packing food and our backpacks. Talk soon!
Hey Mom and Dad! I’m having so much fun and I love my group so so much! I haven’t showered in over a week which is so crazy. I miss and love y’all!! Love, Lillian
Hey Mama! I’m currently waiting for our laundry to finish drying but I’m having so much fun and I’ve met so many amazing people. Also, we saw a bear in the distance while hiking!! It was awesome. Love you so much, Annie
Hey Mom and Dad, Alaska’s awesome. We just finished sea kayaking and are about to head into back country. The weathers been amazing. Love y’all, James
Hey Mama and Papa, I’m loving Alaska! It’s beautiful here and the people are awesome. We finished sea kayaking and it was beautiful. We’re about to start hiking in the Talkeetnas. Love you, Ari
Hi family! I’m having tons of fun here and love my group. Everything is absolutely gorgeous and sea kayaking was so much fun. The weather has been great and I can’t wait for backpacking. Love and miss y’all so much!! Thank you for sending me on this amazing adventure! Xoxo. Ems B
Hey Mom Dad and Chase! Alaska is so amazing. I have a great group and leaders. We just got done sea kayaking and we had the perfect weather which is rare bc Wittier only gets like a couple days of sun per year. I miss y’all but am having so much fun. Love, mags
Hey family! I miss y’all so much. The people and leaders are awesome! Alaska is so beautiful, and I’m so thankful to be on this trip. We’re about to start backpacking. I’m so excited. See you soon! Love y’all, Katie
Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. Alaska is so beautiful. We just finished our backcountry sea kayaking trip of four days. We began and ended our trip Whittier, a very small town with an amazing café called The Lazy Otter. I’ve heard from others that the sea kayaking would be hard because it usually rains the entire day, but we had four days of sun filled with hiking, kayaking, and even swimming. We are going to begin our backpacking tomorrow. I love and miss you guys so much! See you soon! Love, Em F
Hey guys hope,all you are doing well , I’ve just finished sea kayaking, it was pretty fun and easier than that time in Idaho. About to go on 8 day backpacking trip and then comes ice climbing which I’m pretty stoked about. Hope hero is well miss you guys and her a lot. Everyone is pretty chill here so that’s fun. Peace and love -Adam
Hey Mom! Hey Dad! I’m having a blast in Alaska it’s gorgeous out here, we recently just finished sea kayaking it was super exciting. We were able to go cliff jumping and even climbed a ginormous mountain. I’m so excited to go backpacking where there will be some gorgeous peaks and beautiful views. Missing you guys a-lot, love you guys so much and cant wait to see you guys! – Mason
It’s great in Alaska, see y’all soon. – Ford
July 19, 2021
Greetings from Denali, Alaska!
We are currently winding through epic snow capped mountains of this famed wilderness as we make our way to Whittier to begin sea kayaking. Our first few days of the trip have been an absolute blast and it’s been amazing seeing everyone get to know each other and bond.
From our first moments in the airport everyone began excitedly chatting and instantly becoming friends. No one on this trip came with someone they knew prior, showing their independence and making for an awesome fresh start for everyone. After indulging in some pizza from Anchorage’s best, ‘Uncle Joes’ we headed to our first campsite. The first to arrive, James and Ari, generously helped set up the tents for everyone else. We shared our first Moonup and talked about what we looked forward to most on the trip.
The next morning, we had fruit, cereal, and muffins and began our drive to Denali, marveling at the landscape along the way and talking with each other the whole time. We stopped at a little local grocery store in Talkeetna where Maggie, Emily F, and Lillian got some awesome sweatshirts with big grizzly bears on the front. Afterwards, we had a little ways to go before arriving at our campsite at Grizzly Bear Resort, during which we even saw a family of moose. Then we had a quick lunch and headed off to zipping! After a 3-mile ATV ride through the Boreal forest we got to the course. The zip line course has 8 zip lines, including 2 in which you race each other. The 360 mountain views were gorgeous from up on the platforms and the afternoon was clear and beautiful. While we ziplined the students all tried to figure out the riddle, “I have a be in my eye, what’s in my hand?” At the end Annie and Maggie finally figured it out and yelled, “Beauty!” (Because beauty is in the eye of the “beholder”). After ziplining, Emily B and Katie made burrito bowls for everyone, and we played some frisbee at camp. Finally, Lillian and Mason led Moonup before we all fell fast asleep in our tents.
We woke up early the next morning to get ready for white water rafting. At the guides base, we all suited up in our dry suits, feeling like astronauts in our new fits; everyone was ready to take on some white water! We began rafting on 35-degree water with our knowledgeable and goofy guides, Drew and Patrick. We took in the beautiful sights on over 60 miles of the Nenana River and rafted class II, III, and IV rapids. The class IV rapid even had waves in it 15 ft tall from crest to trough, making our boats near vertical! Everyone paddled like absolute pros as we navigated our way through the roaring river. Many riddles were told throughout the rafting trip, but Ford and Mason didn’t let any riddles stump them as the thought their way through each and every one. Everyone had a total blast and finished by taking advantage of our dry suits with a nice chilly dip in the cold glacier water. James even did a perfect flip off the raft! After rafting we went back to camp and Travis cooked a mouthwatering chili recipe passed down through his family while Adam was firing off some hilarious one-liners that made everyone laugh (including the raft guides). After our stomachs were full, we all joined in on a Pitch Perfect sing-off, laughing the whole time. The day ended with a great Moonup led by Emily F and Ari in which we exchanged stories about funny/embarrassing past injuries along with sharing who our role models are in life. Now, as we are off to Whittier, everyone is filled with excitement for our first backcountry adventure together. We look forward to sharing our adventures with you all when we get back!
July 13, 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