July 31, 2021
Hello good people!!
Last time we checked in, we were heading on a ferry out of Friday Harbor, off to soak up our final day together as a family! I fully recognize that it has only been a day (and it was just a travel day!) but I have to say that it was one of my favorite days of the trip. I have found that just spending time with this group, regardless of the activity, makes a day feel special.
We woke up yesterday on San Juan Island and enjoyed breakfast together for one last time before packing up and heading out to the ferry terminal. At Moonup the night before, the Leaders of the Day chose Henley and Corbitt to be our final LOD’s! They were chosen for their positive energy and boundless love for this group and this trip. We knew that they would be perfect LOD’s to lead our last day and final Moonup together. The crew, functioning as a well-oiled machine at this point, packed up the U-Haul and we took off for Friday Harbor. On our ferry ride back to Seattle, we were able to park toward the front of the ferry and have a stunning view of Mt. Baker on the entire way back. We had full body chills looking up at the summit and couldn’t quite believe that we were up there just a few days before. It was such a special moment to see it from sea level— I will never forget that view!
As soon as we made it back to the mainland, we headed south through Seattle and on to our final campsite. The drive felt long, but we were energized by Graham’s incredible karaoke skills! We made it back to camp, dropped the U-Haul, and headed straight out to the car wash to finally clean our well-loved home (the van). Corbitt went to town vacuuming the van, and Henry, Graham, and Corbitt worked on cleaning off two weeks’ worth of dirt on the outside of the van! We had big plans to head to a thrift shop after the carwash to get everyone a wacky outfit for banquet night, but unfortunately the local Goodwill was closed down! Luckily, we had a bag of ridiculous thrifted clothes from our second session to pass out and made it to banquet dinner with incredibly silly outfits in the end. We enjoyed a lovely final dinner together at a local Mexican restaurant and left with full bellies and full hearts. After dinner, we made it back to the coast just in time to watch a spectacular sunset of oranges and pinks setting behind the Olympic Mountain Range. We had the entire beach to ourselves to soak up the stunning view across the ocean. We felt alive!!! We had a quick photo shoot session in our thrifted outfits and got some epic shots of the group all together.
Shortly after, we finally made it back to camp to our campsite to have one last Moonup together. We all slept outside on a tarp for our last night, so our Moonup was shared under the stars. Corbitt and Henley had an incredibly unique Moonup planned for us. They handed out sheets of paper with our names on them, which we passed around in a circle for each person to write on. They had us write down compliments for each person, so that everyone could take their sheet home and have something to remind them just how loved they are! It was such a beautiful process to be able to affirm each and every one of these students. They all have beautiful hearts and souls and brought Frankie and I so much joy this summer. Our LOD’s asked us what we are going to miss most about this trip to end our Moonup. Ellery mentioned that she is going to miss the group the most, and how she felt so supportive and loved. Cora and Giles both mentioned the same thing, which filled our hearts with joy! Evie mentioned her favorite part was being able to share in Moonup every night, and Hector said he was going to miss the beauty and simplicity of camping out under the stars every night. We ended Moonup all snuggled together on the tarp and fell asleep under the stars for the last time.
We cannot believe the past two weeks are already over! We are feeling incredibly blessed for the opportunity to share this experience with your children. They have taught us so much about how to wonder and to wander, to love and support each other, and push through even when things get tough. It’s only been a few hours since we left the airport, and we miss every single one of them so much!!! Thank you for sharing your loved ones with us this summer. We are looking forward to an OLY 3B reunion soon!!!
Big BIG love,
Molly + Frankie
July 30, 2021
“After all these years, I refuse to believe joy costs something, or that you have to get on a plane to find it, or that it has to happen on vacation, and that dreams can’t come true on a Tuesday.” – “35” film by Arc’teryx
Family and Friends,
We are currently sitting in the ferry line at Friday Harbor. Today is our last full day together. We have so much planned for today but I’ll save that for next time. The past 3 days have been nothing short of blissful. After the fast paced and challenging nature of backpacking and mountaineering, sea kayaking was a breeze. If you don’t know already, this group is strong. Breaking Moondance records left and right. These past two weeks I have seen growth like never before. Individually and collectively. On Baker we succeeded as a team but now on the islands we have become family.
Last time we checked in, we were on the ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor. Once we landed on San Juan Island, we drove to Jackson Beach to eat lunch. After some chips and sammies, Evie and Cora broke out the spike ball and proceeded to dominate all competitors (That is, until Molly and I hit the court). Spike ball would become a central theme of the rest of the trip. Everyone took it so seriously and was completely obsessed. All daily activities revolved around matches. Dirt and sweat was our currency. Empires formed and collapsed, heroes rose from their ashes, and legends were made.
Later that day we met up with one of our guides to pass out gear and talk about our next adventure. We would be kayaking to Jones Island, a small island to the east of San Juan Island. The crew was psyched. After our meeting we hit the town. We got ice cream and shopped around the harbor. Giles and Hector bought hand printed sweatshirts that made everyone jealous. After a much needed break in civilization, we drove a bit to our campsite and started cooking dinner. Spaghetti and Garlic bread was on the menu. We went to sleep under the stars, bellies full and excited about what the future would hold.
The next morning we woke up nice and slow. “A slow roller” as it is affectionately known. Evie and Corbitt woke up a bit earlier to make banana and blueberry pancakes. They were absolutely delicious. We duffle shuffled and packed our dry bags with everything we needed for the next 4 days. After breaking down camp in the fastest to date time we met up with our guides, Kyle and Mary, at Roche Harbor. After a nice lunch of wraps and chips beautifully crafted by Kyle, we loaded all our stuff into the boats. After a smooth and efficient fire line we put on spray skirts, life jackets, and sunscreen. Once we handed out paddles everyone ran to the boats. We hopped in and started our paddle out of the harbor. The sun was high and the tide was low as we hugged the coastline and made our way through Spiden Channel. As the beach veered right we could see our destination off in the distance. Jones Island would become our new home for the next couple days but we still had about a mile long channel crossing ahead. We charted a course and set off. We bunched up real close with Hector and Ellery leading the pack. We punched our way through crossing currents, giant wakes, and head on winds. Despite the conditions, the group never faltered. We were strong and steady all the way across. As we reached the beautiful cliffs of Jones Island the wind and sea calmed. All was peaceful until Evie and Henry challenged Corbitt and I to a race, in which they were victorious. Salty, literally and figuratively, we made sure to give them a nice splash next time they passed us. Everyone hooted and hollered as we rounded our final corner into the cove on the northside of Jones. We beached the kayaks onto the small pebbles and began the unloading process. Camp was up and functional in less than a minute and the kitchen was being set up before I could blink. The guides were floored at how well this group worked together. The rest of our day was very chill. Aside from the occasional spike ball match, of course. We laid around, played cards and just hung out together. For dinner, Kyle and Mary made us pasta with sausage, mushrooms, and cheese. It was quite possibly the best meal of the whole trip. Again, we went to bed under the stars only this time with the accompanying sound of waves dancing on the rocks below. I could not help but think, is there anything better than this? More clear or sound than this? More real?
The next day we ran the grand spike ball tournament. Cora and Evie set up a full seeding pool before the elimination rounds. Games ran all day. Some took five minutes while others grinded on for half an hour or more. In a stellar performance, Giles and Henry (4 seed) upset Evie and Cora (2) to move on to the finals. There, they would face up against Molly and I (1) in the championship. After a forty minute grueling back and forth, Molly and I came out the victors. Charged up by our win, I led a group along the shoreline to climb some rocks and check out tide pools. Back on the beach, Molly led the rest in a vonderful goot card game of Dutch Blitz. Energy was high, but relaxed. Everyone was very much themselves. We spent the rest of the day down at the beach, swimming, reading, and relaxing the afternoon away. Graham and Molly were the first ones in the freezing cold water, closely followed by Giles and Corbitt! The water was icy cold, but completely refreshing after a long day in the sun. After a chicken burrito dinner, we took a hike to the other side of the island and worked our way to the farthest point north. Just as the sun was setting over the islands we found a spot for Moonup. Giles and Evie (our LODs) started Moonup with the quote above. They asked about each of our greatest or most pivotal moments in our lives. Even though she thought it was cliche, Henley said her proudest moment was when she climbed Mt. Baker. She went on to say she never thought she was capable of doing something like that. I cannot tell you how much that makes our hearts sing. It is impossible to describe the gratitude we feel from this job. It lives and breathes within us. It’s not work. It’s just living. These kids make all the hardships and sacrifices worth it. This group is so amazing and so kind. We are so lucky to be a part of this. To share in this beautiful experience of life.
With this being the last session of the summer, we are all thinking about life without Moondance. Wondering if this high will wear off. Thinking about how we can bring this energy and happiness into the rest of our lives. Into the real world. A world where we don’t wake up next to the ocean or on a mountain. But at home, in our beds. On a Tuesday. How will we feel? Who says life can’t be this amazing all the time and that fun isn’t the most worthy of enterprises? Who says our lives can’t change on a Tuesday?
Frankie and Molly
July 26, 2021
“To those who have struggled with them, the mountains reveal beauties they will not disclose to those who make no effort. That is the reward the mountains give to effort. It is because they have so much to give and give it so lavishly to those who will wrestle with them that people love mountains and go back to them again and again…The mountains reserve their choice gifts for those who stand upon their summits” – Sir Frances Youngblood
Family and friends,
HELLO from the Mt Baker trailhead!! We are currently jamming in the van on our way out of Baker National forest. We are on top of the world. Words cannot describe the past four days but I will do my best. I struggle to find language powerful enough to encapsulate them. They have been truly spectacular. Watching this group come together has been a true joy. It is like they have known each other all along and were just pretending to meet at the airport. We are all beyond excited to end this trip in the islands. We are itching to sit back, relax, and just enjoy each other’s company for the next few days.
Last time we checked in we were gearing up for the climb. After a long night of passing out ice axes, harnesses, and helmets, we woke up early to fresh fruit and bagels. That morning, the guides met up with us at the campsite. After a couple of intros and games we loaded up. Molly and I curated a perfect playlist of hype music to get the group absolutely jazzed. By the time we were at the trailhead we were all bouncing off the walls. Once we arrived at the end of road access we stuffed our last minute gear into our packs and headed off. The next 3,000 feet of elevation gain were quite eventful. Once we made it out of the treeline, Evie took a rather nasty spill while admiring the mountains. Despite having a small, but deep cut on her head she was smiling. I could tell she was bummed because she knew we would have to take her down but she was so positive through the whole process. Molly and one of our guides led her down after the group gave their goodbyes and well wishes. The rest of us still had around an hour left of hiking. We made our way up a path called the railroad grade, a skinny ridge line that runs alongside the bottom of Easton glacier. After finding a stream of snow melt for water we found a nice line of trees to set up camp in. That night we settled in and took stock of our surroundings. The view to the south was absolutely breathtaking. The view to the north was a blank white canvas. Clouds covered Baker and the surrounding mountains. Typically with our other trips our first glimpse of the mountain comes during our drive from Seattle. This time the mountain was completely covered by a cloud bank. The group still had no idea what they had gotten themselves into. That night we settled in and watched an incredible sunset. I have never seen so many colors and gradients in my life. We went to sleep happy and at peace. Content and one with the moment.
The next morning we crawled out of our tents to find the mountain in all its glory. Henley and Ellery could not believe we would be climbing it that night. After a nice oatmeal breakfast I broke the news that Evie and Molly would be rejoining the group after receiving an OK from the doc. Everyone was ecstatic. As Molly and Evie hiked up (in record Moondance time), we attended mountaineering school. The guides led us up to the snow where the group would learn how to walk with crampons, keep proper rope intervals, and learn how to use an ice axe. We also learned how to save ourselves and others if one of us were to fall on the glacier. The techniques are called self arrest and team arrest. Which is essentially using your ice axe to anchor yourself to the mountain. We practiced by fake falling and sliding on steep slopes. It was way too much fun. Hector and Cora both had high speed self arrests that looked straight out of a movie. Snow went flying in every direction only to reveal them in perfect position. After a couple hours of playing in the snow we were reunited with Molly and Evie. We were all incredibly impressed with Evie for making it back up to base camp in half the time it took the group to hike up there the day before, even with stitches in her eyebrow!!! Her positivity and strength were truly inspiring. Everyone hugged it out as we settled in. The rest of the day was very chilled out. We conserved all the energy we could, because we certainly would need it. Tomorrow was the big day.
We woke around 1:30am. Stars littered the sky behind dark fast moving clouds. The moon was high in the sky while the horizon glowed from the light of Seattle and Bellingham. After putting on all our gear we started walking around 3am. We hiked the last bit of the railroad grade till we hit high camp. From then on we mostly would be on snow so we put on our crampons, harnesses, and helmets. Single file we made our way up steep slopes using various techniques we learned in snow school. After about 30 mins we crossed over a rocky ridge that emptied out onto the glacier. We separated into small teams and roped up. We were officially climbing. We walked in the dark with our only light being the lamp on our head and the glow of the moon. At one point surrounded by bottomless crevasses we turned around to find the moon had sunk just about to the horizon. It turned fire red and was split perfectly in half by a cloud. Even though we typically never stop during glacier travel we all took a moment to soak it in. During our 6 hour ascent no one talked but we were all communicating. Our language was that of tension and rhythm. When you’re roped together, the only way to be effective and safe is to be completely in sync. A steady slow pace. When climbing, slow is smooth and smooth is fast. We weaved our way around crevasses and massive blocks of 10,000 year old ice. Around 5am the sun rose and cast it’s light on the countless peaks behind us. As the day went on the top of Baker became more and more obscure. During one of our breaks our guides told us once we entered the cloud above conditions would change greatly. It would be windier, colder, wetter, and visibility would be dropped to around 5-10 feet. The last section of the climb is known as the Roman Wall. It is the steepest most technical part of the climb. Hector, Graham, and Cora led the way through the toughest part of ice and rock. The last push was extremely hard. Corbitt and Henley, despite being the coldest, grinded through the last hundred feet. As we rounded out onto the flat summit, the cheers and yelling could be heard all the way from my spot in the very back. We circled up and unclipped to celebrate. Molly packed up some candy bars and broke them out in between hugs. We took some pictures but didn’t stay long because it was truly a hostile environment. Despite the lack of a view the group was stoked that we had all made it up (Even Evie, who a day earlier was in the ER). We were all so excited but we still had work to do. Getting up was optional but getting down was mandatory. The group joked all day about FKT (fastest known time) most unsure of its meaning. Once we made it back to camp after literally sliding on the last bit snow, we found out that we had in fact summited and come down in FKT. Molly and I knew this group was strong based on a stellar performance during backpacking but we did not expect this. We were down at base camp at 12pm. Record time. We were so proud and the guides were thoroughly impressed. We ended the day with full hearts. During Moonup, Giles and Henry chose to open with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. “A mind stretched by a next experience will never go back to its old dimensions”. We certainly all felt the gravity of that realization. We will never be the same after our experience on the mountain. We worked together and came out on top. The painting of life feels a bit more colorful and shaded in having viewed a different perspective of our world and of ourselves. We feel alive. For that and for all things we are eternally grateful.
This trip and these people are special beyond measure. We are so blessed. Molly and I cannot help feel sad that our summer is coming to an end. This summer has been one of the greatest of our lives. We are so grateful we will close the year with this group. They are so amazing. So kind. So full of life and energy. To all of you, we hope you are well and happy and full yourselves.
Frankie + Molly
July 21, 2021
It’s only 10AM and we have already hiked 7 miles out of the backcountry and are heading east toward our next home: Mt. Baker! The past four days have been a whirlwind, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. As soon as we met everyone at the airport, we knew his was going to be a special group!! I don’t think the van went silent for one minute on our 3 hour drive out to our first campsite on the Olympic Peninsula. This group has definitely meshed better within the first few hours than most groups do in two weeks! As soon as we got to our campsite, we feasted on pizza from a local pie shop and got right down to business. It was a quick transition from karaoke in the car to learning backpacking lessons, but this group handled it like pros! As leaders, we were absolutely stoked to find out that every single person in the group had set up a tent before! You would be surprised how often no one knows. Henry even helped demonstrate the proper technique and we breezed through that lesson in a flash. Next, we covered how to pack a pack and several other lessons about life in the backcountry vs. front country. We covered sanitation, layering, hydration, health eating habits, basic map orientation and the entire backpacking route as a group! It was an overload of information, especially after an entire travel day, but everyone was incredibly patient and positive. After making sure our camp was tidy and spotless, we went down to the dock to have our very first Moonup as a group (family). We discovered that it was Hector’s very first time seeing the Pacific Ocean! It felt like a monumental moment. The sun was setting beneath a purple sky and the water was perfectly still. Picture perfect!
Our first Moonup opened with the poem “If I Had My Life to Live Over” by Nadine Stair, which started with a stunning opening line: “I’d dare to make more mistakes next time”. For or first question, we prompted the group to reflect on what brought them here and what they hope to get out of this experience. Some shared that they want to push themselves and open themselves up to new challenges on this trip, and others talked about how they are eager to make new friendships and connections after a year inside with COVID (something we are all looking for!). Moonup ended with a sleeve of Oreos under the moon, and we all headed back up to camp to spend our first night in our new beds!
The next morning started right around sunrise, starting off with a lovely egg and avocado toast breakfast prepared by Henley, Hector, and Corbett. Soon after, we ended out toward the coast to start backpacking! Giles and Graham, our first Leaders of the Day (or LODs), lead us in a little morning huddle to get us pumped up for the day before hiking down to the beach. The trail took us through a red cedar forest for about a mile before dropping us down onto the sand. The sky was bright blue that day and the sun was bouncing off the waves down at the shore. The waves lined the horizon broken up by the massive sea stacks jutting out of the sea. The rest of the hike was not easy and included a handful of steep ascents up the rocks along the shoreline. We went up and down rope ladders and fixed lines. It was WILD to go from a sandy beach straight up into a woody, old growth forest! With Graham leading the way and setting a high pace, we got up and over the rocks, brought the trees, and back down to the beach in record time. With pounding feet, we finally made it to our campsite along the sand! We tossed back some pizza as soon as we arrived, set up camp, and went down to the closest water source to learn how to purify our water. The hours before dinner consisted of a massive soccer game on the beach (yes we carried in a ball!), naps in the sand, and a few incredibly intense card games. Henley, Corbitt, and Evie prepared a fajita dinner. That night we ate like kings and queens. After dinner we all gathered on the beach to watch the sunset over the great pacific. As the last rays of light cast their red glow across the sand and sky, we did Moonup. Graham and Giles led a rather memorable Moonup. They asked us, “what were everyone’s biggest fears going into this trip?” This group has come together so much the last few days it was easy to forget they had met just less than 24 hours ago. Most said that they were nervous to be around new people and new places. The alumni said they were scared this trip would not be the same as their last. Giles went on to say over the past 2 days she realized this trip won’t be the same and that she actually wouldn’t have it any other way. We fell asleep to the sound of the ocean and have never slept better. This is living.
In the morning, we woke up a bit later and got started on breakfast. Today was chocolate chip pancakes and hot chocolate! We headed down to the beach, played soccer and other group games, soaked up the sun, and enjoyed our rest day. At low tide, the group went off to explore the tide pools that were exposed near our campsite. Ellery, our wilderness expert, taught the group so much about the sea life we saw! We saw some anemones, crabs, and little fish all throughout the tide pools. After exploring the tide pools, we went down to the water to put our feet in. Graham was the very first one to rip off his shirt and sprint into the cold Pacific Ocean! The rest of the group immediately followed suit, and before we knew it, we were all dunking in the water! Henry ran back to shore to grab some Dr. Bronner’s soap, and we all took much needed ocean baths. At one point, we looked over and a seal had joined us about 50 yards away! The water felt incredible, the sky was clear, and the views were unforgettable. Swimming among the sea stacks was something none of us will ever forget. We spent the rest of the afternoon drying off, playing epic card games, and soaking up some more sun. We all enjoyed a delicious stir fry dinner that night and ate together as a family while the sun set over the ocean. The sky turned bright orange and faded gently as the sun set. It was stunning! We played a few more games after dinner, and Hector even had a whole boxing lesson that he put Evie through. She has a strong future in kickboxing! Our LOD’s for that day were Evie and Cora, chosen for their positive attitudes and overall high stoke level for the trip! They led us through a Moonup that night and ended with the quote, “Time spent among trees is never wasted time.” Pure magic!
As we went to bed that night, fog settled into the bay and covered the tops of the trees. It stayed that way all throughout the next morning and was the perfect weather for us on our hike back to the van. We woke up with the sun that next morning, led by our new LOD’s, Ellery and Hector, and packed up our packs on the beach. The group CRUISED through the hike, setting a record pace that blew the hike on the way in out of the water! Hector led us in the front and kept everyone motivated to keep powering through. The climbs up and down the fixed ropes were a breeze this time! We have such a strong group and know that we are going to crush Baker. Frankie and I have never been more excited!!!
Getting back to the van has felt incredible. We have snacks flowing and spirits are high after what we just accomplished! We are headed out for a big day of driving on our way up to the Cascades and can’t wait to update you after we climb (summit?!) Mt. Baker.
We are so thankful for this group and are feeling so incredibly blessed. We feel more alive than ever!!
Check back soon!
Molly + Frankie