June 22, 2021
On our first full day back in the front county, the group got a peek of Wyoming from a tourist point of view. Pierce was quick to master frying eggs for breakfast sandwiches, the group’s favorite breakfast. We made the short drive from our campsite to Old Faithful, and we forgot what it felt like to be around so many people! The group patiently waited for the geyser to erupt, and once it did we got plenty of photos doing the Moondance “WOW” pose. The group scoured the gift shop for souvenirs, and then we got on the road back to Jackson. Tsehay started a game of word assassin, a sneaky game that lasted the whole car ride. Pierce, Brown, and Mason played cards in the front row, while Ellie, Bryson, and Sofi sang along to the music behind them. It felt like home when we arrived back at Crystal Creek campground, and the group set up camp like a well-oiled machine. Some ingenuity with dinner just so happened to create one of the group’s favorite nights yet. We lit some charcoal on a grill and made cheeseburgers. Bryson and T got the group swing dancing again, so Hastings and Suzanne taught the group their moves.
Bryson and Baker were named LOD’s for their fly fishing enthusiasm and skills. The group was thrilled to reunite with our fishing guides from last week, and we split into groups of three to start our float trip! We got to see two bald eagles playing with a fish on the bank, and another sitting in its nest. As we passed each other on the river, the group shouted to each other with updates on their luck catching fish. As a group, the students caught 44: Pierce with 7, Brown with 2, Mason with 4, T with 4, Bryson with 2, Ellie with 1, Baker with 15, Claire with 2, Lars with 1, and Sofi with 6. Every person came off the river raving about our all-day float. We surprised the group with an ice cream stop in town, and the group favorite was the local huckleberry flavor. The last meal we cooked together was fajitas, which felt like a breeze with our new Coleman stove! After dinner we had a field day, playing spikeball, hacky sack, and frisbee. The night ended with a competitive game of kickball with the other Moondance group in town, Yellowstone A, and a heartfelt moonup.
The last day of our session filled up our hearts as leaders. Breakfast burritos for breakfast, the group’s favorite, felt like the perfect last camp meal. We rode to rafting belting out songs the group loves the most. Not a dull moment occurred as we bounced down the Salmon River, switching between tearing through rapids and joking around on the boat. The students braved the cold water, swimming with grins on their faces. Once we were back on land and in dry clothes, our town day in Jackson Hole began! It wouldn’t be a banquet night without a thrift store stop, so everyone sifted until they found outfits that made the group laugh. No one hesitated to strut around Jackson Hole in their ridiculous outfit, because who cares what other people think! The group wandered into stores and galleries, our favorite find being a furry bear hat that Ellie sported. Bryson did a stellar job recommending Hand Fire Pizza for dinner because it was a huge hit. We stuffed ourselves with pizza before headed back to Crystal Creek Campground for the last time. A final dance party erupted as the sun set and the emotions began to roll in as the night came to a close. Our final moonup perfectly captured the joy and freedom these past two weeks has fostered. Every student shared a piece of themselves with the group, and with the leaders. We are so proud of the way each student challenged themselves and drank the Moondance Kool-Aid. We learned not to take ourselves too seriously, how to appreciate the dirt under our fingernails, and what it means to live in the moment.
Tearful goodbyes ensued at the airport, but that did not stop us from having all sorts of fun and laughs in our final moments together. We are thrilled by the relationships the students made with each other and are thankful to have met each and every one of them. Yellowstone B had a trip of a lifetime, and we are sorry to see it come to a close. Nugs to all of our students for being caring, positive, funny, energetic, mature, and an absolute pleasure to be around. Nugs to the best two weeks a leader could dream of!
Father’s Day shoutouts:
Pierce: Happy Father’s Day! Check my brown bag in my room for your present.
Brown: Happy Father’s Day pops, live it up!
Mason: Happy Father’s Day, can’t wait to see you when I get back!
Ellie: Happy Father’s Day, I am going to buy you a gift at the leather store during town day!
Bryson: Happy Father’s Day! Can’t wait to see you soon. Love you.
Tsehay: Happy Father’s Day, I miss and love you! Happy belated anniversary, I can’t believe it has been 40 years.
Baker: Happy Father’s Day! Miss you and have fun in Steamboat.
Claire: Happy Father’s Day! See you in a couple of days.
Lars: Happy Father’s Day! Ready to hug y’all when I get back.
Sophie: Happy Father’s Day! I Miss you and mom a lot. Love you and can’t wait to see you soon.
We miss you already,
Suzanne and Hastings
June 18, 2021
Hello from the West!
To gear up for our first day in the back country, we rose early and had hearty breakfast burritos. The group piled into the van for a scenic drive through Grand Teton National Park and to Yellowstone National Park. The students snoozed on each other’s shoulders as we made our way to the Northeast part of Yellowstone where our trailhead waited.
Once at the trailhead, the students got lessons on bear protocol, how to read topography maps, and the ABC’s of packing a backpack (accessibility, balance, compression). We started towards our first campsite, 3.3 miles away and across a plane, past thermal pools, and into a valley. The group practically ran to our campsite when we spotted the markers and bear hang. Brown and Ellie were quick to suggest a plunge in the river by our campsite to reenergize ourselves before setting up camp. Everyone dunked in the icy river, and then we got to work setting up our first back country campsite! T, Bryson and Pierce were our first back country cook crew, and they cheffed up pasta with marinara sauce and summer sausage. We had Moonup around a lantern constructed of a Nalgene and headlamp. Full and hydrated (thanks to cold river water and aqua-mira purification), everyone fell fast asleep.
The second day in the back country, we filled up on oatmeal, peanut butter and dried fruit for the 6 mile hike to the next campsite. In the back, T led a tough game of 20 questions. Bryson shared stories about her family and her favorite things to do with her free time. When a student lost their inhaler on the trail, Pierce and Brown leaped at the challenge to retrace our steps in search of it. While they were in pursuit with Hastings, the rest of the group had an impromptu dance party on the side of the trail and Sofi taught the group a foot dance. Suzanne gave the group a more in depth map lesson, and Claire showed off her skills with triangulation and coordinates.
The group was buzzing when we got to our campsite, a field tucked in a valley along Cache Creek River. Baker rigged up all the fly rods, his fishing skills shining and impressing the group. The cook crew of Sofi Brown and Baker cooked the group delicious backcountry pad Thai. Our moonup question was “What is your favorite memory and why”, which brought out wonderful stories and lots of smiles after a tiring day. The students stayed up to play cards under the stars, and we didn’t mind the noise because it reflected how close the group has grown.
Day three in the backcountry was an off day! Everyone slept in, the last student clambering out of their tent at 9. Brown, Pierce, and Mason made the group chocolate chip protein pancakes, and even though they were far from pretty they tasted just as good. Baker, Mason, Brown and Lars waded upriver with the fly rods to test their fly fishing skills. Baker successfully caught two cutthroat! The group lounged by the river, swimming and playing games. Pierce challenged the group with a riddle game, and some are still trying to figure it out. Claire and Bryson lounged in the freezing river like it was a swimming pool.
Dinner was an experiment, our first time cooking back country pizza from scratch. The cook crew was patient and determined, waiting for the dough to rise and cooking individual pizzas for everyone on whisperlite stoves. The card games persisted until it got dark, with Claire and T dominating at speed and Egyptian rat slap. The LODs, Baker and Sofi, led us in Moonup and chose the question “what are three things you love about yourself”. It was a pleasure to each of the students answers followed by agreement and snaps from the others. After Moonup, Suzanne showed the group how to hear their real laughs and the group favorite was Brown’s contagious laugh.
Rested from our off day, the group was rearing to get on the trail led by LOD’s Pierce and Claire. They led the group on our most successful day of backpacking yet, doing six miles in less than three hours! Pierce, Brown, Mason and Baker passed the time with non stop trail talk, ranging from sports to their goals for the coming year. We arrived to our campsite before lunch, and the group truly understood what backpacking is all about and were hyped up by our success.
Everyone jumped in the river, then napped in the shade. Baker and Bryson went out with the fly rods, and again Baker caught a cutthroat! Suzanne taught the group a new card game, we played ninja, and played death sack. After a dinner of BBQ chicken quesadillas with chickpeas and broccoli, a spontaneous swing dancing lesson erupted. The group reveled in each other’s company until bedtime, and fell asleep dreaming of showers and real toilets.
It was easy to wake the group up with our beloved van and showers awaiting us after just a 3.3 mile hike. Our last day in the backcountry, the group worked as a team to quickly get out of camp. Mason saw every opportunity to help his peers pack up. Lars, Brown and Claire stepped up to carry every extra piece of gear that needed to be claimed. We hiked at a lightning pace, and somehow went even faster when the van was in sight.
We had our first interactions with other people as we passed groups on the trail, and they quizzed us about our journey, sparked by our large packs and dirty clothes. Cheers erupted as we reached the van, and we passed out Mots and Oreos to the group as a much-deserved reward. We played everyone’s favorite songs in the van as the group soaked in AC. On the way to tonight’s campground, we saw a baby grizzly bear, a baby black bear and a mama black bear! When we arrived to camp, we treated the group to ice cream and they showered off.
In clean clothes, we hardly recognized each other as we settled back into the front country. It is beginning to set in that our trip will soon come to the close, and the group is grasping every opportunity to make the most of these final days. As leaders, we are immensely impressed with every student and their attitude, performance and grit over the past five days.
More updates to come,
Suzanne and Hastings
June 14, 2021
Our second day of climbing had no shortage of jitters, but the group was excited and positive about the summit climb. Everyone worked together with ease in the morning, and we got out of camp with Mason taking initiative and taking on any undone tasks. Once in Grand Teton National Park at Exum, we split up into groups of three, with four guides ready to lead us up Inspiration Peak. Equipped with new knowledge and techniques from the day before, every student felt prepared despite any nervousness. Bryson took every step with a smile on her face, even when facing a difficult pitch or daunting move of foot or hand. Ellie, Baker, and Pierce arrived at the top of the summit raving about their climbing guide they nicknamed “Spidy”. Ellie is the master of nicknames on our trip, giving out some such as muffin, more, and salza. Sophie shouted words and encouragement from every stopping place she found, even on cliff edges and in the middle of a pitch. While Claire has never rappelled before, she didn’t want it to end after our big rappel. She gracefully, and quickly, made her way over the edge of our rappel and into a cave. On our walk back, Brown raved about his first experience climbing outdoors. Even though he said it terrified him, when I asked said, he would do it again in a heartbeat. He said. “it was a good kind of scary.” After a challenging day of climbing, we surprised the group with a town dinner at Stage Coach in Wilson. We squeezed onto one picnic table, out of desire not necessity, and exchanged stories from our day in the Tetons over a delicious local meal. After, we made our way to the Jackson Hole Rodeo! Some of the boys bought cowboy hats that they are sporting even on our way into the backcountry. The group went wild for the theatrics and excitement of the rodeo.
The next morning, we rose early with sun to head to our first day of fly fishing with the Jackson Hole Fly Fishing School. On their property, we got an intriguing lesson about the kind of flies we might need here in Wyoming and what we might see in our home states. The guides equipped the students with everything they needed to fly fish in the backcountry! Every student had impressive catches by the end of the lesson thanks to the instruction and support of our energetic guides. T kept the group’s energy up at lunch, cracking jokes and swapping stories with everyone. After the students ate lunch by the river, we split into groups of three, strapped on our waiters and spread out along the Salmon River with our guides. Lars caught a jaw dropping seven fish, which had the guides buzzing and the students hyped up. Baker’s experience with and love for fly fishing shined as he threw graceful casts. With a panoramic view of the Tetons, every student reveled in the peacefulness of casting on the water.
We returned to camp to get ready for our backpacking section in Yellowstone. Everyone was attentive and eager during the “duffel shuffle”, a lesson to teach them what to pack and what not to pack (time to part ways with our deodorant!). We sent the students to bed early and heard excited chatter about fly fishing and backpacking from the tents. Sofi’s 17th birthday is on day 4 of our backpacking trip, so we are sneaking a surprise for her and the other students into the backcountry.
We will fill our next trip update with stories and news from the backcountry!
Suzanne and Hastings
June 13, 2021
Our trip began in the Jackson Hole Airport, with the breathtaking Teton Mountains as the backdrop. Ellie was our first arrival, and she brought wonderful energy and exciting stories about her last Moondance trip. Tsehay, Claire, and Sofi were the next arrivals! Tsehay was quick to get a card game going in our camp at baggage claim. As the rest of the students arrived, we played a modified version of mafia and two truths and a lie to start getting to know each other. The Jackson airport quickly filled with laughter and chatter as everyone eased into the trip and the anticipation grew. Our last arrival, Mason, jumped right into the group as if he already knew everyone! During the van ride to pick up local pizza at Dornan’s in Teton National Park, we watched as the nerves dissipated and everyone bonded over the playlist we made of their favorite songs and artists. We got settled at camp and cooked the students an extra dinner of Greek pita pockets. We got a game of “Death Sack” going, and even though it was Bryson’s first time she picked it up quickly. Before bed, we had Moonup under the stars. We named Brown and T (Tehay’s nickname) the Leaders of the Day (LODs) for the next day. They took on leadership with ease, with initiative and confidence.
Our first morning of the trip was cool and peaceful as we geared up to go on a day hike. Mason, Claire and Ellie were our first cook crew of the trip, and they cranked out delicious breakfast sandwiches for the group. Spirits were high as we rolled into Teton Village. We found a field and played our first game of Big Booty, and it will certainly not be out last. Brown taught the group a new game, that they continued to play all day, even in the van. Sofi quizzed the group with a riddle, and we are still trying to figure it out! The group was begging us for more riddles, so we are using every riddle we have memorized! After making it back to the campsite, we faced a little wind, but Baker was quick to show off some knot tying skills so the cook crew could chef up pasta, baby arugula, chicken, and tomato sauce. It was an impressive first dinner, filled with every spice imaginable.
Pierce and Bryson were selected as the new LODs and woke up the group to announce the day’s plans— climbing. Any residual sleepiness from the early morning quickly dissipated as the scenery we would quickly be climbing rose in the horizon: The Teton Mountains. We began with a figure-eight knot tying lesson in order to ensure that harnesses were properly secured, and Mason excelled and impressed our guides, Matt and Bill, as he assisted the rest of the group in perfecting the knot. Claire claimed a fear of heights but blew the guides away with her climbing skills and grace. Even though it was Lars’ first time climbing, he moved calmly with confidence and sure feet. Pierce was quick to volunteer as the first one to repel down the pitch that everyone completed and showed no fear with a rapid descent. We relaxed over some much needed GORP (our homemade trail mix) and lunch, soaking in the breathtaking views of Teton National Park and feeling accomplished after our climb. One of our guides, Bill, guided with the first Moondance trip in 1996 up the Grand Teton! All of the climbing took one of Lars’ soles clean off the climbing shoes, and he still managed to speedily hike down the trail to a fresh pair of shoes. Cook crew (Brown, Sofi and Lars) out did themselves and cooked a feast. We had tikka masala curry with chicken, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, rice, and chickpeas. We took a step back as the full stomachs and new experiences revealed a group of students who have quickly bonded. They spent the evening sharing stories about home, comparing their favorite restaurants, and asking each other about their families. Needless to say, the group is ready for the challenge of our summit climb tomorrow and we are eager to watch them continue to bond.
P.S. Tehay says happy 40th wedding anniversary to mom and dad!
Hastings and Suzanne
June 9, 2021
Hello Yellowstone 1B Families!
The whole group arrived safely in Jackson 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!!