June 22, 2021
“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
― A.A. Milne, The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh
The final airport day, the students are leaving in waves causing waves of emotions. The first to go were Robin and Lilly, there were lots of tears which speak to the depth of the bonds that were created on this trip. Then Kennedy, her parents surprised her by showing up at the airport after a spontaneous road trip to Jackson. Next to go will be Knox and Bennett. Then finally the Charlotte crew, Harris, Hannah, AC, and Virginia.
Our group has joked that Moondance is a time warp and that feels accurate in this moment. It feels like just yesterday we were at this airport awaiting the arrival of the students and meeting each other for the first time. Simultaneously, it feels like we have a lifetime of memories that were created between now and then.
I suspect these next few days will be hard for all of us; coming down from such a rich and powerful experience can be difficult. So, if you are a parent, give your child whatever support they need, and know that Molly and I (Wil) are here for them. Encourage them to reach out to us and keep in touch.
Since our last update we have done more exploring, hiking, and an amazing rafting trip. We rode up the gondola in Teton Village and hiked up to the snow where we had a snowball fight. We explored the town of Jackson, barbecued at the local bouldering park, and went to the Saturday night rodeo… Yee haw!!!
Yesterday, we spent our final day rafting down the Snake River. It was several miles of class II and III rapids, and it went by in the blink of an eye. We made a visit to the local thrift shop and bought funky outfits for our banquet meal together. All the students were given superlatives at the tasty street food restaurant where we ate dinner.
Hannah: Most likely to be CEO of Dots Pretzels
Robin: Most likely to star in an animated movie
Kennedy: Most likely to say it how it is
Virginia: Most likely to be a Moondance Leader
AC: Most likely to know her way around the med kit
Lilly: Most likely to make you breakfast in bed
Knox: Most likely to be YouTube famous
Bennett: Most likely to have the biggest heart
Harris: Most likely to power through a heat stroke
On our way back to camp we stopped for ice cream and then celebrated with a sunset dance party and photo shoot against the backdrop of the Grand Tetons. Upon arriving back at camp, the students packed up their belongings and then we sat around a campfire for our final Moonup. Here we took turns showering one another with love in what we call the Love Roast. Hearing all the appreciation the students had for one another was heart-warming and brought tears to our eyes.
We will miss each other dearly but are extremely grateful to have shared this life-changing experience. To all the parents, thank you for trusting us with your precious children and for allowing them to touch our souls.
Wil and Molly
June 20, 2021
Happy Fathers Day! We’re all missing you and wishing you could bring a piece of this adventure to you. Here are some special shoutouts:
Wil: Hi dad! Missin’ you! Hope things in Lexington are going well! I’ll call you when this trip is over. It reminds me a lot of the Methow Valley. Love you!
Virginia: Hey Dad! Hope you’ve had a great Father’s Day! Miss you so much! It’s so beautiful out here and I can’t wait to tell you all about it! Love you !! PS : tell the boys I say hi
Lilly: Happy Fathers Day! I hope you have a had such an amazing day. I miss you and love you so much, I can’t wait to see you!
Anne Carden: Hi dad!! Happy Fathers Day! I miss you lots and hope you have had a great time on your trip. I can’t wait to see you and tell you all about my trip. So lucky to have you as my dad! Love and miss you!!
Hannah: Happy Father’s Day!! I’m so grateful for everything you do for me and I hope you had an awesome day! I have had a great time and can’t wait to tell you all about it. Love you and miss you!!
Robin: Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for everything you do for me, I don’t know what I’d do without you! Miss you tons king!
Kennedy: Happy Father’s Day Dad!!! I am so lucky to have you in my life and can’t imagine my life without you! I hope you have had a great day. Love and miss you!
Knox: Happy Father’s Day! I hope you are doing well and I can’t wait to see you soon!
Harris Graham: Happy Fathers Day. Hope you are doing well. Have not been blessed by the fishing gods, but have had a good time. See you in couple days boss.
Bennet. Hey dad! I’ll save the formalities and we can celebrate belated Father’s Day when I see you next. You should bring your fly rod up here and we can do some fishing. Enjoy your day though, I love you!
Molly. Happy Father’s Day dad! I couldn’t stop thinking about you as we approached the wild landscape of Yellowstone and the grand Tetons. I hope you are ready because I am bringing you back here to fly fish with me! Give mom a hug from me. Love you thanks for always being such a great role model!
June 19, 2021
We now only have a few more days together and it’s shocking how quickly this trip has flown by. The last two days have been spent in the Grand Tetons, which have quickly become our favorite mountain range in the world. Jagged rocky spires jut out reaching through the clouds, with detailed crevasses holding the quickly melting winter snow.
We were greeted inside of Teton National Park at Exum’s climbing office right off the park’s famous Jenny Lake. Exum is a world class guiding company, one of the country’s oldest and best. We quickly sensed that in the presence of our guides as they told us stories of climbing mountains all around the world. After gearing up we hopped on the ferry that dropped us off at the Hidden falls trailhead.
From here we hiked up to a giant playground of boulders where we learned different climbing techniques and focused on how to grip the rocks with the sticky soles of our climbing shoes. After learning the basics and with warm muscles we headed up to hidden falls where we were taught knots and rope stacking. The spectacular waterfall would make an excellent backdrop for our two days of climbing.
After learning the ropes, we put on our harnesses and helmets and made our way up the cliffs, splitting up into smaller teams. Here we all successfully climbed several multi-pitch routes, each climb getting progressively more frightening as the ground got farther away.
By the end of climbing, we were hot and the LOD’s, Hannah and AC, decided to take the climbing guides recommendation by taking the group for a swim in String Lake. The cold mountain water refreshed our tired muscles. Some of us swam out to a big boulder at the middle of the lake where Knox, Harris, and Hannah courageously cliff jumped from the top.
After some much-needed relaxation we made our way to camp where Lilly and AC spearheaded a delicious quesadilla dinner. At camp we competed in a hilariously fun sleeping bag race. We finished our day with a Moonup that ended with the classic s’mores over a campfire.
Day two of climbing was led by Virginia and Kennedy. With the basics under our belt we were able to hit the ground running. We quickly broke into smaller groups of two and three. Harris, Robin, and Hannah were all challenged with a very steep and technical multi-pitch route up what the guides called the “open-book”. After over a hundred feet of climbing and several scrapes and bruises they made it to the top of a giant rock formation. Here they were met by Wil and Bennet who also climbed a very long and challenging route with their guide Tom.
The whole group absolutely crushed the climbing and blew the guides away with their tenacity and willingness to step outside their comfort zones staring fear in the eyes.
With only a few days left together we are soaking in our precious time, and looking forward to our final activities of fly-fishing, hiking, and whitewater rafting. In last night’s Moonup we all shared the first thing we would do upon returning home, and it became clear how much perspective this trip has offered all of us. We are in the final leg of this Moondance Adventure and there is no doubt that it will be one for the books.
– Molly and Wil
June 15, 2021
Wow do we have a lot to share! Buckle your crazy creeks because you’re about to go for on journey.
It all started after spying two grizzlies, a black bear, and a hoard of bison (not Buffalo) all from the safety of our trusty van, Betty. The backpacking began with Robin leading a blistering pace and we arrived at our campsite in no time.
Then, Virginia and AC whipped up some delicious pesto pasta and we gathered in a circle where Bennett taught us all about the book he’s reading, Michael Harner’s The Way of the Shaman. We then circled up for Moonup and shared fun facts about ourselves as well as our hidden talents.
The next morning, we prepared for a big day of hiking with some yummy Quaker oatmeal… mmm good! We crushed a couple miles before taking a nice lunch break on the side of the trail. Here we met a nice elderly couple who shared stories of the trail ahead and encouraged us to use this experience as an opportunity for self-reflection.
After lunch we continued trekking along. It was a beautiful day, however carrying a 30+ pound back over mountains in the sunshine is no easy task. Our group proved to be strong both physically and mentally as we made our way along the trail. We paralleled an icy cold mountain stream high with snowmelt and passed through large alpine fields. Our water was some of the freshest you can imagine, which we collected from springs and purified with Aquamira.
We ended up trekking a very long eight miles before finally arriving at our campsite; a big alpine meadow aside a rushing creek with views of jagged snowcapped peaks in the distance. Our LODs, Bennett and Hannah cooked up a delicious jambalaya with the help of Lilly and Robin.
Bennett and Hannah then Led a Moonup that was finished with a fiery game of hot seat. Hot seat is when one person is put on the metaphorical hot seat while the rest of the group asks questions ranging from what’s your favorite movie to what’s your biggest regret in life. Here we took our bond to an even deeper level and we all learned so much about one another.
The next day was our zero day, meaning we didn’t have to cover any ground. We all got to sleep in a little late, although because we are sleeping in tents and the sunrose around 5:30am, we weren’t too successful. We gorged on a mound of pancakes and then took some much-needed R&R. While Wil, Bennett, and Harris tried their luck at some more fly fishing, the rest of the crew swam in the frigid creek and found their way to a nearby waterfall. This day was full of childlike silliness with an abundance of laughter and smiles.
After lunch we learned about our different leadership styles with the NOLs Leadership Grid then played a series of games ending with what must have been close to two hours of a game called signs. The rest of the afternoon was spent simply sitting around and talking. At this point in the trip, we truly felt like a family and our minds were blown at remembering that five days ago we didn’t even know one another.
Following Molly’s lead, we created handmade, backcountry, personal pizzas for dinner and boy were they tasty. After dinner, our LOD’s, Kennedy, Harris, and AC led us in Moonup where we were asked “Who/what motivates us in life and how?”. After Moonup we played another round of hot seat and then went to bed as we watched an incredible display of stars paint the night sky.
We woke up the next morning ready to hit the trail after our zero day. Knox and Virginia lead our group down the trail who are now operating like a well-oiled machine. In no time at all we completed a relatively short hike before arriving at our final backcountry campsite. Here we were greeted by a majestic bison that quickly trotted off upon our arrival. It was almost as if he was guarding our site and awaiting our arrival.
Our last day in the backcountry was bittersweet. With the van’s AC as our finish line, we woke up early and hit the trail. We reflected on the trail and our time in the backcountry. Many members of the group shared they never thought they would be able to do something like backpacking and were happy to learn they can do a lot more than they think! We finished at a blazing speed, completing our last 3 miles in exactly an hour- wow! This group is a well-oiled machine. We hit the road and celebrated with a massive bag of gummy worms and clementines.
We love and miss you all but we got to run and find us a place to shower!
June 11, 2021
Hello family and friends from Wyoming!
We write to you today as we pass through the breathtaking Tetons on our way to Yellowstone National park where we will start backpacking. Wow where to begin? It’s only been 72 hours yet it already feels like we’ve all known each other forever.
Day 1 aka Airport day: The day we’ve all been eagerly anticipating. If you’ve ever had the privilege to fly into the Jackson airport then you understand how stunning the view is. To paint you a picture- the airport is nestled right at the start of the Tetons, with a back wall of windows offering an up-close view of what are said to be the most photogenic mountains in the country. Not a bad place to start! While we waited for the entire group to land, Molly, Hannah, AC, Virginia, and Harris hiked around the outside of the airport and took in our first of many fresh mountain breaths.
Once our entire group landed it was finally time to hit the road to our campsite! We loaded our bags into the trailer we named Eddy and then hopped into our van called Bettie. Bennett picked a song for us to start the trip off right! Before we knew it we were at our campsite! A wooded area along a crystal clear creek. We are living large with brand new tents. Knox, Harris, and Bennett were quick to pick a sweet spot and had their tent up in no time.
Dinner was quickly approaching so we grabbed some good ole comfort food, pizza! We headed off to the town of Jackson where we ate our warm pizza next to the mountains in town. Back at the campsite Molly and Wil led the group in our very first Moon Up! Moon Up happens every night of the trip, it’s a chance for the group to sit together and discuss the day and reflect on all we’ve done. It’s a Moondance ritual that every trip will do this summer, but each group gets to add their personal flare. The long day of travel and new places / faces left our group feeling very sleepy and ready for bed!
Day 2 started off bright and early as we prepped to meet with our fly fishing guides. As our two Moondance alumni, Lilly and Virginia were chosen as our very first Leaders of the Day (LODs). Together they modeled the Moondance way by living in the moments and keeping the group focused throughout the day. We arrived at Jackson Hole Fly Fishing School to four local guides who sat us down in what looked like an old-fashioned schoolhouse made of logs and canvas, sitting in a canopy aside the famous Snake River.
Here we learned all about fly fishing, from the different types of fish we might catch to all the insects we imitate with our flies. We then practiced casting before finally gearing up in waders and hitting the river. The group was really excited! Kennedy showed off her skills when she successfully hooked and landed a fish. The bite was not great as the snowmelt was high, but the group proved resilient by keeping high spirits and displaying great patience.
After fly fishing we returned to camp, prepped for backpacking, then went on a spontaneous adventure up a nearby mountain. As the trees opened up, we were surprised by a spectacular 360 degree view. Alice especially loved the view, and really took it all in! We easily agreed this is the most beautiful place we have ever been and are grateful and excited by the opportunity to continue exploring this corner of the country. Here we had a hilarious and fun photo and video shoot in the scenic Wyoming wilderness.
We winded down with a delicious quesadilla dinner. Shoutout to AC for volunteering to help the Leaders of the Day on cook crew. After dinner Lilly and Virginia led a wonderful Moonup sharing the perfect quote: “The best climber is the one who has the most fun.”
We are now approaching our backpacking trailhead where we will trek through the backcountry of America’s first National Park, Yellowstone. Today’s courageous LOD’s, Knox and Robin, will be empowered with the task of leading us along our trail, a big responsibility that they are the perfect duo to carry. We will return in five days with many more stories to share and an even deeper connection to this beautiful place and each other.
Molly, Wil, and The Yellowstone Fam
June 9, 2021
Hello Yellowstone 1A Families!
The whole group arrived safely in Jackson Hole 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 we are up to this summer!!