June 21, 2021
Hello loved ones! We are tuning in from our campsite on the rocky coast of Washington, preparing to head out to the San Juan Islands tomorrow. We are finally showered and feeling good in our fresh clean clothes! Sitting here, watching the sunset over the bay, it’s hard to believe the day started at our campsite in the snow at 6,000 ft!
We are SO excited to tell you about our last four days in the Mt. Baker wilderness. It was absolutely epic! It all started on the drive up to the beautiful North Cascades, when we caught our first glimpse of the mountain that would soon be our home for the next four days. Mt. Baker towered above all others. It looked way too big to be the mountain we were going to summit. When we checked the map and found out it was, in fact, Mt. Baker, the van exploded with excitement (and a little bit of nerves!). We were up for the challenge. After a late night arrival at our campsite in the mountains, we prepared for another four days in the backcountry. We woke up early to meet up with the guides and were finally en route to the trailhead. We parked the van and immediately got stuck in the snow, but Carlton and Oliver led the group in pushing it out and we set off for the trail! The guides led us through thick cedar woods, over glacier fed creeks, and deep snow banks. After about 3 hours of climbing up with heavy packs, we made to a clearing where we would see our destination— a campsite at 6,000 ft. Jack, Yates, and Anna led the charge up a rather daunting ridge line for the last hour of our hike. Despite a slight fear of heights, Julia and Ainsley powered through and conquered their fears for the last stretch. It was a pretty grueling hike and Frankie and I are so incredibly proud of everyone for pushing themselves up that mountain. When we got to our goal elevations, we all found a nice place to dig out an even platform for our tents in the snow and set up camp. The guides even carved out a “kitchen” and “dining hall” in the snow! Our campsite had views of the North Cascades Range, the Olympic Range, Mt. Rainier, Glacier Peak, and even a view of the ocean to the west with the San Juan Islands popping up. Not to mention Mt. Baker was standing tall right above us!! It was absolutely incredible. After everyone settled in to our stunning campsite, Naya, Oliver, and Carlton grabbed their crazy creeks and used them to sled down the snow bank next to our campsite. The entire group was howling in laughter. We packed in cold pizza for dinner, and enjoyed a Moonup at dusk, with purple and pink mountains as our view. Life was GOOD.
The next morning, Ainsley and Yates were chosen as LOD’s and led us through our day of mountaineering school. The sun was beaming down, and it honestly felt like we were sweating at the beach even though we were in the snow! We split up into two groups and headed to some steeper snow banks to learn more technical mountaineering skills. We started by learning how to efficiently walk up steep snow in our crampons with an ice axe, and practiced walking around in groups of four while tied together by ropes. We learned the duck walk, crossover step, how to clip into a fixed line, and how to pace ourselves while walking in a group. We also practiced safety protocols while traveling on a glacier, such as self and team arrest should someone slip and fall on the ice. To practice this, we would slide down the ice in our rain pants, and grab our ice axe, flip over, slam the axe into the snow, and kick our feet rapidly into the mountain to stop our sliding. After a few practice rounds, we were absolute pros. Since we could really only boil water on the mountain, and not cook our typical meals, we feasted on some ramen, instant garlic mashed potatoes, and summer sausage for dinner. We packed up our packs and went to bed around 7 that night, so that we could get some sleep in before our 3AM Alpine Start the next morning! Most of the group agreed that mountaineering school made them feel safer on the glacier, and walked away from it feeling empowered and ready to conquer the summit the next day. Yates, Julia, and Ainsley, unfortunately, felt a little too overwhelmed by the thought of climbing up the glacier the next day, and decided to hang back at camp with Frankie while the rest of the group pushed for the summit. While they chose not to push for the summit the next day, they still woke up with the group, boiled water, and hyped everyone up for their big day, giving the group an energizing and encouraging farewell!
Next thing we knew, it was 2AM and we were all waking up, eating breakfast by the light of our headlamps, strapping on our crampons, and getting each other psyched for the climb. The energy was HIGH. Summit day baby!!!!!! We put on our boots, strapped on crampons and helmets, put on our packs and grabbed our ice axes, ready to take off hiking under the stars. Oh the STARS were incredible!!!!!! The big dipper has never looked bigger. John and Oliver led us in a morning huddle, hyped us up, and we took off up the mountain. The group absolutely crushed the first hour of hiking, while the sky around us slowly got lighter. We were slipping a bit, but feeling more sure footed than we had in three days. Fiona was giggling for the entire first hour in the dark, and Anna decided that was her favorite part of the whole hike. I can’t even describe how magical it felt to be climbing up the mountain with the sky slowly waking up all around us. After the first few hours of hiking, the mountain ranges around us were turning purple, pink, and orange with the sunrise. We looked back to the south to see the sun hit the very top of Mt. Rainier, a sight we will never forget as long as we live. After our first 15 minute hiking break, we got into rope teams, tied up, and spaced ourselves out on the ropes ~15 feet apart from each other. Our pace was slow, but steady. We put one foot in front of the other, and practiced our high altitude breathing as we ascended up past 8,000 ft, still climbing. This climb was no joke, and I was so proud of the positive energy that was still radiating from the group. Even though Naya was having a tough time mentally on the way up, and Anna was feeling a bit nauseous, they both powered through and absolutely crushed the climb. It was so incredibly energizing to watch them both fight through their pain and decide to keep going. It took an insane amount of courage, grit, strength, and determination for each of the members of this group to keep climbing for hours and hours, in windy glacial conditions, and we could not be more proud! After about 5 hours of climbing, we finally made it to the Sherman Crater, at around 9,600 ft. The Sherman Crater is the sight of geothermal activity that reactivated in the 70s, when steam started to come out of the volcano. We were able to stand on the edge of the crater and see the steam coming out! The sky had been pretty clear up to that point, but suddenly there was a wave of mist coming over the peak of the mountain, and descending upon us. With about an hour left to climb to the summit, the guides decided that with the weather deteriorating rapidly, they wanted to take us back down the mountain and avoid getting trapped by wet and windy conditions on the summit. Within 5 minutes of that decision, while we were preparing to descend, it started to rain on us. It was a very real moment on the mountain when we realized that we are not in control up there, and conditions truly can change at any moment. We were so glad we had incredible guides who had been tracking the weather the entire morning. We felt very proud of ourselves for making it all the way to the crater, and decided that it was as good of a “summit” for us as any! It was truly a moment when we recognized the value in the journey over the reward of the final destination. We hugged each other, celebrated, and took in the incredible view before deciding to quickly descend out of the rain. John and Jack tore down the mountain first, through three hours of a grueling descent. They didn’t even stop to take a break for the first few hours! While it was a gnarly 10 hours on the mountain, Carlton and Jack still had so much energy, and said they felt like they could keep going for another few hours! Following closely behind, the rest of us hauled down the mountain, through rain and wind, eager to get back to camp and into our warm sleeping bags. We made it back to camp around noon, where we celebrated, drank hot cocoa, ate lunch, and warmed up. Most of us took 3-4 hour naps that afternoon, massaged our feet, and got some much needed rest. We feasted on mac n cheese and oreos that night before climbing back into our sleeping bags to prepare for our big hike out the next day.
Fiona and Anna led us the next morning as we cleaned up camp, packed our packs back up, and finally left our home on the mountain. While we had once in a lifetime views and a summit day for the books, our group was ready to get off the mountain and camp back on dry ground again. The climb down took around 3 hours, through sloshy snow that made quite a few people slip and fall! The group was miraculously still radiating positive energy, helping each other up, and encouraging each other to push through to the trailhead. Carlton showed incredible peer leadership that day, and I personally saw him help at least four people get back up on their feet throughout the hike. We finally made it out of the snow, drove back to REI, dropped our gear, and headed out to the coast to shower, have Moonup on the beach, and feast on some burgers! Watching Baker in our rear view mirror gave us absolute chills. We could not believe, just 5 hours before, we were camping halfway up that beautiful, majestic mountain. Our Moonups definitely turned a corner that night. Something about getting through the last four days in the snow and conquering Baker brought our group closer together, and the energy in the group was tangible. Anna and Fiona read a quote at Moonup about the intricate connectivity between people, and how one person’s actions will have a strong impact on those around. Our group felt that so deeply. Our hearts are full, we are feeling strong, proud, and grateful. We feel alive!!!!!!
Until next time!
Molly and Frankie
AND HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL OF YOU INCREDIBLE FATHERS OUT THERE!!!! We have heard nothing but great things about y’all. You are so loved.
June 16, 2021
Hello friends and family!! We just made it back to our van after three incredible days exploring the rugged coastline of Olympic National Park. The sun is shining, country music is blasting, and goldfish is being consumed at an impressive rate. While it feels good to be back in our home (the van), we already miss the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
We asked a lot of your kids during the first few days of the trip, and they have blown us away with their grit and determination. As soon as we picked everyone up from the airport, we drove west to our first campsite on the Olympic Peninsula. In classic PNW fashion, it rained for most of that day, night, and into the next morning. Did we let it stop us? Absolutely not! We found a covered picnic area to feast on our pizza and start learning hard skills for backpacking. All within the first few hours, our group learned what to bring on their backpacking trip, how to pack a pack, how to scout out a campsite, how to set up a tent, staying healthy in the backcountry, animal safety protocol, and the role that leadership behavior will play on our trip. We finally got to take a break from all of the lessons and went down to the dock to have Moonup. It was Frankie’s first time seeing the Pacific Ocean!!! When a seal popped its head up out of the water next to us during Moonup, we knew it meant this was going to be a special trip. Naya and Carlton were chosen as the first Leaders of the Day (LODs), as we knew they would set a good example for the group having both done Moondance trips before.
The next morning started off in a light drizzle, but we managed to cook a hearty breakfast under the rain tarp. Our first cook crew (Ainsley, John, and Anna) made us delicious egg, sausage, and avocado breakfast sandwiches with a selection of berries on the side. It was an incredible last meal before heading back into the backcountry! By the time we drove to the coast, the clouds moved away to reveal crystal clear blue skies. It was so energizing! Our trail started off meandering through a thick evergreen forest before dropping down onto the beach. We cannot express our excitement when we first caught a glimpse of the waves crashing along the shore! We got our boots sandy and headed down the coastline. The 7-mile trail definitely kept us on our toes, leading us up coastal cliffs along fixed ropes and ladders, through a dense cedar forest, and back down and around to remote backcountry beaches. The trail is not for the faint of heart, but every single person in our group absolutely crushed it, even with a 65L pack on their back! We finally settled at our campsite where the dense, dark green forest meets the ocean. The ocean in front of our campsite had bright blue waters with massive sea stacks scattered throughout. Some of the sea stacks even have their own little ecosystems on them, covered in flowers, shrubs, and pine trees! We couldn’t stop talking about how special it was to be on a beach like this. We were in shock! Jack kept saying he couldn’t believe this was in the United States. Feeling incredibly lucky, we set up our tents while the cook crew served us up some fajita bowls for dinner. After a long day of preparing, driving, and hiking, we were wiped and went straight to bed.
After a much-needed sleep-in day, Yates, Carlton, and Oliver helped make the crew some chocolate chip pancakes! The group decided to use the day to recover from our hike and rest/explore the coastline. John, Jack, Oliver, Carlton, and Anna came along to explore the tide pools that were exposed at low tide that morning while Julia, Ainsley, Naya, Yates, and Fiona soaked up the much-needed rays on the beach. We saw several crabs and anemones in the tide pools that were exposed earlier that morning, while two bald eagles circled above head! There were so many bald eagles along the coast that we almost got used to seeing them! We had quesadillas for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon playing games on the beach, bonding, and soaking up the sun. We had stir-fry that night, loaded with carrots, broccoli, onion, and mushrooms, served over noodles with a curry/soy sauce seasoning and chicken on the side! A backcountry feast!
During dinner, Yates noticed something spraying up out in the water. We quickly realized there was a pod of orcas a couple hundred feet off the coast! We all sprinted down to the beach in time to see a handful of orcas swimming south along the coast. Their fins were huge! At the same time, a bald eagle was circling one of the sea stacks off to our right, and a seal had popped its head out of the water below. It was truly a magical moment. To top it all off, the sunset across the water painted the entire sky bright orange and created the perfect environment for our Moonup on the beach. Fiona and John were our second LODs, chosen by their peers for their exemplary leadership shown throughout the first day of backpacking. We talked about what we look for in a best friend and finished the Moonup with a quote about the importance of having a good attitude. We went to bed that night with the moon shining down on the ocean and the waves as our own personal sound machine!
We got an early start this morning, led by Oliver and Anna, our third set of LODs. Tide was low this morning and allowed us to walk on the beach among the tide pools and sea stacks almost the whole way back. Our group crushed the trail! Oliver, Carlton, and Jack set a strong pace at the front, and we made it back in record time.
We finally made it back to the vans and are headed North with Mt. Baker on our minds! We are so excited to see what we are able to accomplish on this next section of the trip and are feeling up to the challenge. We send our love to you all! You have blessed us with some incredible children. Until next time!!
Molly and Frankie
P.S. Here are some shoutouts from your kids!! We have been hearing nothing but great things about you all. They love you so much!
Tricarico’s – Trip has been great so far. Can’t wait to tell you all about it. Happy Father’s Day Dad!
Tobins- having a lot of fun out here. I’m doing well. Hope y’all have fun at the beach. Happy Father’s Day dad!
Hardacre’s – having a great time and miss you lots, also happy Father’s Day! Love you both!
Johnson’s – having fun. Have a good Father’s Day. Love you. And love you too mom.
Hilsman’s – having a lot of fun. Miss you and love you. Happy Father’s Day!!
Martin’s – having a blast. Have a great Father’s Day. Love you!! See you soon.
Pease’s – having a great time here in Washington! Hope you have a great Father’s Day. Love you tons and can’t wait to see you when I get back!!
Elste’s – I’m having such a good time!! Love and miss you so much. Also have a good Father’s Day dad love you.
Edmiston’s- Miss you guys so much!! See you soon. Happy Father’s Day dad!! Love you
Krehbiel’s- Happy Father’s Day!! I love you and miss you so much. See you in a bit!
June 13, 2021
Hello Olympics 1B Families!
The whole group arrived safely in Seattle, and they are headed to their first campsite! 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 at least 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 shoutout mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what were up to this summer!!