June 30, 2021
Hi everyone! I’m writing to you now from the Seattle airport, and all of our incredible students are officially in the air on their way back to you. We had an amazing last couple of nights with our crew. It all began when we arrived back to the campsite after finishing our kayaking section. We arrived with plenty of time to hang out, and the first stop for us was the lake! As you may have heard, it’s been pretty warm out here in the PNW recently, so we really enjoyed cooling off by jumping into the lake over and over (and over) again! After we had our fill of the lake, we made the trek to the activities area to play a few rounds of beach volleyball. Our ever-sporty group always jumps at the chance for some friendly competition. Next, it was off to the showers before starting on dinner! Our LODs for the day, Ivey and Trent, cooked us up some yummy grilled cheeses, and even took specific orders from each person so that everyone had the exact toppings they wanted! Everyone was tired after a day of paddling, so after dinner we had a quick Moonup and then hit the tents!
The next morning, we woke up and loaded into the van to make our way to the Ferry. Once everyone was situated on the boat, we all got out of the van to explore! We checked out the windy front deck, the sunny back deck, and ultimately decided to hang out in the middle and play a few rounds of cards. Back on land, we stopped the van for a bit to make everyone sandwiches for lunch. While waiting for everyone to finish, the students found a perfect tree to use for a pull-up competition! Everyone really showed their strength, but ultimately Annie and Teddy tied for the winning title. Later on, after arriving at our campsite and setting up tents, we set course for Olympia, where we’d visit a local goodwill store and have our final banquet! The students all got outfits to wear to the banquet, and everyone decided to go all out and find formalwear for our pizza dinner! George even found a patterned button-up vest, and Carter found a checkered blazer! We had our final banquet at a local pizza place, and we all stuffed ourselves full with as many slices as we could eat! That being said, there’s always room for dessert! The students opted to go back in after finishing their pizza to get themselves a frozen treat. Back at camp that night, we had a moving Moonup led by Belle, Sadie, and Ava where we all discussed the moments in the trip where we started to truly think of ourselves as a family. Reflecting back on our incredible trip, we went to bed sad that the adventure was coming to an end, but immeasurably happy to have met each other and formed the incredible bonds that we have.
We want to thank you all immensely for sharing your kids with us these past three weeks. Each and every one of them was such a vital member to our little Moondance family and the trip would not have been the same if even just one of them had not been present. They all showed such strength, determination, and silliness throughout the trip, and we are so glad to have experienced this with them. They each have such bright futures ahead of them, and we hope they keep in touch to let us know about all of the incredible things they’ll do. As I write this in the airport, knowing they are all in the air flying home to you all, I am filled with such gratitude and pride for all your kids have accomplished and the experience we’ve shared.
That’s all we have for you. We hope the stories your kids tell you tonight give you a glimpse of just how special this experience has been for us all.
Claire & Chaucer
June 29, 2021
Hello again from the good ol’ Pacific Northwest! These past few days have been absolute scorchers, and we’ve been lucky enough to spend them all cooling off on the water! We’ve been having a blast paddling around the San Juan Islands, and we can’t wait to tell you all about it! Let’s go back to where we left off last time.
After our post-backcountry cookout dinner, we headed out to the campsite we’d leave for our kayaking section from. While we were waiting for our guides to arrive for our briefing, the students got to explore the campsite and enjoy all of the fun activities they had there. Some played a few games of giant chess, some played tether ball, and some even opted to do some tie dye! After receiving our dry bags and some important information from our guides, we set to work on dinner for the night. Tonight was a little different than most nights, because the kids all decided to do a cook-off! A few days earlier they had split themselves into two teams (boys vs girls) and planned out their gourmet meals. A select few representatives even got to go shopping for all the ingredients the day before! The guys, led by Trent and Carter, concocted chili cheese dogs with Fritos and macaroni salad on the side, while the girls opted for spicy chicken sandwiches with curly fries. We all got to try some of each and went to bed with full bellies!
The next morning, we packed up our dry bags and went to meet our kayaking guides at the marina! They gave us a quick lesson on how to pack the boats, provided us with a delicious lunch, and off we went to the high seas! Paddling along the coast we ended up in a patch of Bull Kelp, a green tube-like plant that apparently grows a foot every day! After learning it’s edible, Ava was the first to take a huge chomp out of it! Teddy, our resident trombone player, grabbed a chunk of the hollow plant and started playing it like a musical instrument! Our guides said they had never seen anyone try that before! We took a quick beach break in the middle to munch on some snacks and got to see a Bald Eagle perched in a nearby tree! Later on in the paddle, we resumed one of our favorite pastimes: telling and solving riddles. Belle finally cracked the riddle that has been puzzling our students ever since whitewater rafting! The riddle is “If granny likes coffee, but doesn’t like tea, what else does she like?” The rest of the crew is still wondering! Soon after, we arrived at our campsite for the next two nights and began unloading the boats. During this process, a few members of our group got to see a whale diving back under the water! We finished the night with a lovely dinner prepared by our guides, yummy s’mores, and a fireside Moonup.
The next day served as a reset day for all of our tired bodies. We got to sleep in a little bit and woke up to the smell of eggs & bagels prepared for us by our amazing guides! We spent the morning chilling at our campsite playing cards, which has quickly become a favorite pastime of our group. One of our guides even taught us a new game, “Cambio,” which has definitely earned a spot in our rotation. Around noon, we packed up and took a short hike to the other side of the island where we enjoyed a picnic lunch overlooking the water! We all took a dip in the water afterwards to cool off, and Annie and Ivey took self-care to a new level by making face masks out of the seaweed! We hung out in the grassy field for a bit, and many of the students participated in a rousing game of ultimate frisbee spearheaded by George. Returning to our campsite, a few students set to work preparing us all a charcuterie board complete with chocolate covered pretzels and pesto dip! We lazed away the rest of the afternoon and evening and went to bed ready to paddle again in the morning!
We awoke this morning bright and early to pack all of our belongings back into our dry bags. After a quick breakfast courtesy of our guides, we packed up our boats and hit the water a half hour ahead of schedule! As we paddled along, we kept our eye out for wildlife. We managed to spot another Bald Eagle, a seal, and a small jellyfish that Sadie wanted to keep as a pet! Our group made record time paddling back to shore, arriving just in time to enjoy a nice lunch in a shaded grassy spot before unloading all of our gear back into the van. We said goodbye to our guides, but weren’t quite done yet! Before we left the marina, we surprised the students with a trip to a local ice cream spot. Let me tell you, nothing could’ve made us happier in this crazy heat! Now we’ve made it back to our campsite, and are preparing for our final couple of days together. This crew has been an absolute delight to lead over the past few weeks, and we’ll be sad to see them go in just a couple of day’s time. We’re gonna soak up every last bit of time together, and we’ll check back in with one last update in a bit!
Talk to ya soon!
Claire & Chaucer
June 25, 2021
Hello everyone! Our crew is officially out of the backcountry and boy do we have a lot to tell you! Get comfy and grab a snack because this is gonna be a lengthy one!
Last you heard from us; we were on the road back north to Washington. We began our backpacking journey with a productive day of preparation at a campsite near our trailhead. Every member of the team really buckled down to make sure everything was ready for our trip! We began the process with a few different prep stations. We had Teddy and Trent working on cleaning & organizing the pots & pans we’d be bringing, Ava preparing our GORP bags (or Good Old Raisins & Peanuts), George distributing personal granola bars and ramen packets, Ivy preparing everyone’s personal toilet paper rolls (fun fact: if you take out the cardboard tube from the middle, you can flatten the roll and it packs better!), Carter filling our fuel canisters, and lastly Sadie, Annie, and Belle working together to prepare our food! A lot of our food had to be removed from its original packaging and put into plastic baggies in order to pack it into our packs easier. Everyone took a quick break after this, which we spent playing another round of our favorite card game, Anomia! Then, it was back to work! We taught everyone the all-important “Duffel Shuffle” lesson, which consists of going through your duffel bag to determine what to bring on the backpacking section and what to leave behind. We followed this with a lesson on how to pack a backpack, and with that we were backcountry ready!
The next morning started bright and early, as we had a boat to catch! We all used our new packing skills to quickly pack our backpacks and loaded up in the van to drive to our trailhead. Once there, we had a short downhill hike to the edge of Ross Lake, the body of water we’d be hiking along for the next six days! Our group made record time on this leg of our journey! Rumor has it that the hike usually takes about 45 minutes, but our speedy crew finished the route in just about 30! At the end of the trail, the forest opened up to breathtaking views of the lake and the snow capped mountains beyond. We met our water taxis at a nearby dock and enjoyed a scenic ride through the lake. Our drivers dropped us off at our next trailhead, and our backcountry adventure officially began! We enjoyed a pleasant hike that took us through towering forests that occasionally opened up to views of the lake to our left. We crossed a few bridges, ate some summer sausage & cheese tortillas, and even saw a few small waterfalls! We arrived at our campsite in the early afternoon, leaving plenty of time for a group swim! We dropped our packs and almost immediately searched for a trail down to the water. Once we found it, Teddy was the first to brave the icy water, dunking under almost immediately! We spent an hour or so splashing around before heading back to the campsite. On our way, we were pleasantly surprised to find a deer in our path! We watched him for a while before continuing on our way. Little did we know, this would not be the last time we saw that deer! He continued to pop up around our camp for the rest of the night! On one such occasion, a group of us were playing cards when Belle let out a huge gasp and let her mouth hang open in shock! We all turned to see the same deer poking his head over the rocks on the edge of our campsite! After a yummy dinner, we had Moonup under the stars and retired to our tents.
Our second day of backpacking began with a later wake-up time and leisurely breakfast. Once everyone was all packed up, we gave the crew a more in-depth lesson on our maps and compasses. Ava in particular is a natural with a topographic map, and enjoyed pulling it out at every opportunity along the trail to pinpoint our location. The views of day 2 did not disappoint. They were just as spectacular as the day before, and we marveled along the way as we were treated to more small waterfalls, huge trees, and even a raging river! Arriving at our campsite, we could not believe where we’d be sleeping for the next two nights! Our campsite was tucked into the trees right on the edge of the beach! We quickly set up our tents at our lakeside property, and jumped in the water for a swim. We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out, alternating between cooling off in the chilly water and warming up in the afternoon sun. To our delight, we found out that hanging out with a deer was not an isolated occurrence on our route! This campsite was filled with them, and we enjoyed watching them from afar. We even named a few of our favorites! It was an early dinner, Moonup, and bedtime on day 2, because we knew we’d be waking up at midnight to begin our sunrise summit of Desolation Peak! We all went to bed full of excitement and anticipation for the following day.
When the clock struck midnight, we woke up the students with the only surprise that could make hiking in the dark even more exciting: glow sticks! As the kids adorned themselves with glowing bracelets, necklaces, and headbands, we whipped up a quick oatmeal and granola breakfast to fill us up before the big hike! Before long, we began our moonlit journey to Desolation Peak. Soon after we were out of earshot from our campground, we started singing to pass the time! Throughout the night, the sounds of Bohemian Rhapsody, the Twelve Days of Christmas, and Moana filled the darkness around us. Eventually we fell into a rhythm, hiking silently as we conquered one switchback after another. As first light crept over the mountains, we would occasionally catch a breathtaking glimpse of Ross Lake and its towering mountains as the forest opened up on our right. It was one thing to see the view from our campsite, and an entirely different thing to get to see it from so high up! Just shy of the summit, we took a break to watch the sunrise, eat some GORP, and rest. Exhausted from the early morning, many of the students opted to take a quick nap atop their backpacks. This nap was described by many as the best nap they had ever taken! However, the trek wasn’t over yet! Once everyone had their fill of food and sleep, we continued up the mountain. The mountain surprised us along the way with a weather phenomenon we were not expecting to see in mid-June. We got to hike the last few hundred vertical feet through snow! As we climbed over the final crest and touched the flag at the summit, our cries of triumph could be heard for miles (probably)! We had one more surprise left for our adventurers: candy bars to celebrate our victory! Sadie and Ivey were first to choose their bars, as the perseverance and strength they showed at the most difficult parts of the hike definitely earned it! Our whole crew lingered a bit at the top eating candy, taking pictures, and enjoying the 360 degree view of the snow-capped mountains around us. We even had a full-blown snowball fight in June! Once we soaked up as much of the scenery as we could, we started the trek down. As it turns out, our day’s journey was only halfway through! As we descended back to our campsite, we marveled at the views we had been unable to see in the dark. It’s crazy how different a place can look in daylight! When we finally arrived back at camp, everyone ran into the lake for a dip as quickly as possible! We had a delicious pancake brunch, and spent the rest of the day napping, swimming, and soaking up the sun! It was truly a day for the memory books! Our kids showed such strength and determination on today’s difficult hike, and we could not be more proud of them. We wound down the day with a pizza dinner and lakeside Moonup, and went to bed to be ready to hit the trail again tomorrow!
The next morning, we let ourselves sleep in a bit as a reward for completing our challenging hike the day before. For breakfast, our LODs treated us to scrumptious servings of hashbrowns topped with George’s new creation, which he dubbed “bacon-fried summer sausage.” The addition was a hit! So much so that later on that day, the group requested he make it again to put it in our dinner quesadillas! Our hike that day began with a pretty brutal uphill section, which the whole crew absolutely crushed despite their sore legs! Eventually the trail mellowed out a bit, and we got to hike through a beautiful tunnel of trees, the ground carpeted with a layer of light green moss. After crossing a few bridges, we arrived at our campsite for the night, a secluded wooded area on the bank of a rushing river. We enjoyed a pleasant evening to ourselves, as we were the only ones using the campsite that night. After dinner, we treated ourselves to a backcountry delicacy: brownie scramble! Carter and Trent were quick to offer their services to scrape the pan clean!
The next morning, we decided to get an earlier start to beat the heat. We hiked along a creek for most of the day and even got to see a couple waterfalls! We stopped for lunch at a lake along the way to enjoy our summer sausage wraps by the water. For a few miles, the trail turned into a bit of an obstacle course as we reached a section with a ton of downed trees! We ducked and climbed our way to our last backcountry campsite, which we were pleased to find was right on a lake! We arrived in the early afternoon, and passed the time swimming in the lake and playing “caps,” another new favorite card game. We had a yummy pasta dinner, and fell asleep to the sound of loons calling across the lake.
The next morning was our last in the backcountry! After a quick & easy hike back to Ross Lake, we awaited our water taxis to take us back to our van. While aboard the boat, we all paid special attention to the shoreline, pointing out all of the trails and campsites we had been on just a few days prior. Back in our trusty old van, we stopped at a gas station for a surprise! To everyone’s delight (but mostly Annie’s), each one of us enjoyed an ice cold Gatorade! It really hit the spot after a week of mostly lukewarm water.
I’m writing to you now from our front country campsite, where we just enjoyed an enormous cookout to celebrate our accomplishments! The spread was complete with a charcuterie board, chips & dip, watermelon, Caesar salad, and burgers! We even had a desert planned, but that has to wait until tomorrow because everyone was simply too full to eat it! Everyone had a hand in cooking up today’s meal, and we all had a blast the whole time. We’ll miss our time on the trail with our backpacks, but we’ll go to sleep tonight dreaming of kayaking! Can’t wait to tell you all about it!
Claire & Chaucer
June 17, 2021
Hello everybody! We’re back and have so much to tell you! We’ve spent the last three days exploring the climbing routes in Smith Rock State Park, a legendary park in central Oregon. After making our introductions to our guides for our first day on the wall, James, Diana, and Patrick, we sized ourselves up for helmets, harnesses, and climbing shoes. We then headed to a nearby rock face. For many of us, this was our first experience rock climbing. With the help of our guides, we became familiar with the belay system and began attempts on the six routes they set up for us, cleverly described to us by our guides as “mild, medium, and spicy” in regard to their difficulty. Ava, always eager to challenge herself, jumped at the chance to attempt the “spicy” route (in more technical terms, a route with a whopping 5.10a rating), and impressed us all by making it all the way to the top! Soon after, both Trent and Carter gave the route a shot and both succeeded in sending it! We’ve got some natural born climbers on our hands. After spending so much time learning to climb, it was only fitting that we also learned the inverse of climbing – rappelling. This skill had us using a belay device to descend 30 meters down to the ground! Belle showed a lot of perseverance and bravery during this section, pushing herself to complete the challenge despite some initial hesitation. After a packed first day, we said goodbye to our guides for the night and headed back to the campsite to enjoy a bit of free time. We were lucky enough to have access to a basketball court at this campsite and everyone spent most of their free time playing knockout! The game was spearheaded by George, who picks up a basketball every chance he gets! After a thoughtful Moonup accompanied by a beautiful sunset over the mountains, we hit the hay to prepare for another packed day of climbing in the morning.
Oregon welcomed us with some light showers the next morning, but the sky soon cleared up and the sun helped dry off all of our new climbing routes. With a days experience under our belts we were excited to take on the six new (and more difficult) routes which our guides had planned for us. After examining the wall for a moment, Annie was the first to take on the most difficult route of the trip, rated a 5.10b. After crushing this new challenge, she told us from the top of the wall that she “did it for the climbing shoes.” Teddy also took on this extreme route, and after spending a good amount of time on the wall he opted to be lowered before reaching the top. Unphased by this, he decided to reattempt after some rest and conquered the challenge! We had so much fun both climbing and belaying each other up the walls! Sadie has become quite the master belayer. She even learned how to lead belay and used this new skill to belay one of our guides up the wall to set up a new route! Ivey kept us entertained all day with her new reality show, “The Moondance Hour.” She spent her time interviewing her friends as they started and finished their routes, keeping us laughing the whole time with her spunky personality. We finished the day of climbing with another short rappel and got back in the van for a visit to the nearby town of Bend, Oregon.
After jamming out to some tunes in the van, our crew arrived in Bend! We split into two groups and hit the town! Out of all of the stores we visited, the two favorites were a local candy shop and a souvenir shop where all of the girls bought matching sweatpants! Our next stop in Bend was a local burger joint for dinner. We picked up our burgers and fries and headed to a nearby park to enjoy our meal. Obviously, no dinner would be complete without dessert! With this in mind, we hopped back in the van to head to our final stop in Bend – a gelato shop recommended to us by one of our climbing guides! It definitely hit the spot after a long day of climbing in the sun. Following our frozen treats, it was time to hit the road back to camp. Singing along to the radio in the car made the drive fly by. Back at camp, it was showers and straight to bed for us all in order to prepare for our early rise the next morning!
The next day, we all woke up bright and early to cook up breakfast, pack up camp, and head to Monkey’s Face! The day began with a short but steep hike up to where we’d be spending the day. Monkey’s Face is a rock formation at Smith Rock that looks, quite appropriately, like the face of a monkey. First on the itinerary for today was to complete the Tyrolean traverse from a nearby rock to the mouth of Monkey’s Face. To do this, each student clipped on to a wire bridging the gap between the rocks, hung down from the wire in their harness, and pulled themselves along until they reached the other side. Once there, they completed a short climb up the face, where they met another guide. This guide set them up for a rappel, and each student then rappelled about 60 meters to the ground. The level of bravery and strength we witnessed from each and every student was unmatched, and we are so incredibly proud of them all. They were all so supportive of each other, and shouts of encouragement echoed all across the golden rock faces of Smith Rock.
We’re writing to you now from our next campsite, which is on our way back north to our next destination – North Cascades National Park. We’ll spend the next few days preparing for our big trip into the backcountry! When you hear from us again, it’ll be on the tail end of our 6-day backpacking trip! See you then!
Claire & Chaucer
June 14, 2021
Hello from the Pacific Northwest! Over the past four days, our students have found themselves in the forest, the desert, and on the river, getting a taste of the many environments Washington and Oregon have to offer. After meeting each other at the Seattle airport and getting our first hellos in over a game of cards, we headed to camp. Our first campground was surrounded by tall pines, and we considered ourselves lucky to spend our first night together in such a beautiful place. We bonded in the twilight over several games of Anomia (our new favorite card game) and Trent showed us how it should really be played after winning back-to-back games.
The next morning, the students rose to the smell of backcountry breakfast sandwiches, skillfully prepared thanks to the handywork of Ava and Carter, our first LODs, or Leaders of the Day. After breakfast, we headed toward our “put in” for white water rafting, a beautiful campsite along the Deschutes River, which we would soon float down. We grilled plenty of vegetables for our fajita bowls that night, and in order to practice proper LNT (leave no trace) we knew we couldn’t leave them uneaten. Luckily, Annie pulled a hero move, eating all of our leftovers to save us from another trip to the sump hole. The next morning, we hit the water in our rafts, accompanied by our friendly river guides. One of them, Jack, taught us about the “dunk and giggle,” an effective way of getting a swimmer back into the raft. Sadie was keen to give the technique a try and enjoyed pulling all her friends back into the boat after they jumped into the water to swim, everyone giggling the entire time.
After a long and exciting day on the river, we pulled up to our campsite for the night where we got to enjoy some beautiful river and mountain views. Our guides treated us to a delicious meal, and we fell asleep to the pleasant sound of a light rain hitting our rain flys. The next morning, our trusty LODs, Ivey and Teddy, led the whole crew in working together to break down camp and we hit the river once again! After gaining some experience on our first day of rafting, some students jumped at the opportunity to get behind the oars, a spot typically reserved for our guides. Belle was quick to volunteer to be the first in her boat to give steering the raft a try! Our guides even informed us at lunch that more than one of our students may have a future in the white-water industry. After two action packed days of rafting, we are now en route to the next section of our trip in the great Pacific Northwest! George has been keeping the whole van entertained the entire trip, and we know he’ll keep us laughing all the way to Smith Rock, where we’ll spend the next few days rock climbing! That’s all for now, folks! Next time you hear from us we’ll all be professional climbers!
Talk to ya soon!
Claire & Chaucer
June 10, 2021
Hello Pacific Northwest 1C Families!!
The whole group arrived safely in Seattle and they are headed to their first campsite! We have heard from their 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 at least three trip updates throughout the next few weeks. This will allow you to follow along with the trip and the students will also give a special shoutout mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!!