July 9, 2021
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” -Winnie the Pooh
This is my favorite airport day quote, and it is so true. Airport day is by far the hardest day of the trip. Saying goodbye to each student is heart wrenching, but it shows us how deep and meaningful this trip has been. The bonds that we created on this adventure will last a lifetime and I intend to keep in touch with each student.
Molly and I are sitting here with our final students, Ashley, Erika, and Cooper. We have given their phones back and are getting to see glimpses and pictures of their life back home. Reality is setting in and we are remembering the world that exists outside of the Moondance magic.
Since our last update we white water rafted, enjoyed our banquet dinner, and had a long and silly night. Rafting was exhilarating! While the class three rapids were frightening, we braved them with no problem while chanting The Pirates of the Caribbean theme song (credit to Tommy for coming up with this idea). Shoutout to Charlotte, Sarah, Ashley, and Bobby for “riding the bull”. This is when you sit on the front of the raft through the rapids.
With so many rapids the rafting flew by. There was only one slow section where Ice Man Michael used his mental toughness to dive into the frigid Snake River water for a swim. Ward and Reagan led the charge in our boat as front rowers keeping us all in sync as we rafted. Eventually, we made it back to the boat ramp and were driven back to the van.
After rafting, we hit up the local thrift shop and purchased silly outfits for banquet. Tommy and Michael found some spiffy PFG’s and Khakis to impersonate Moondance Founder, Hayes. Ashley, Sarah, and Reagan scored some sweet Jackson jerseys. Charlotte and Erika dressed up as local funky cowgirls and the rest of the group got silly and random items. We looked ridiculous and got some strange looks, but it just added to the fun of our group.
After taking some much-needed showers we headed to a local restaurant recommended to us by many of the guides as well as Bobby’s infamous brother, Rad. We indulged on some classic burgers and fries while making the most of our last dinner together. We headed back to camp after dinner, packed up our bags and had our best Moon up yet lasting over two hours, reflecting, and laughing about all our favorite moments from the trip.
The students stayed up into the early morning and we had to get going around 4:00am to make it to the airport for the first flight. Apologies if your child is exhausted upon arrival, but I promise they will sleep well tonight and remember this last night forever.
I cannot fully express my gratitude for trusting us with your precious children and giving us the opportunity to lead them for two weeks. They are all incredible young humans, and I am amazed at how deeply we bonded in such a relatively short time. The challenges we faced together, laughter we shared, and memories created will shape our souls and truly made this the adventure the trip of a lifetime.
July 8, 2021
Greetings from the Tetons!
We’ve seen and done so much since our last update it’s hard to know where to begin.
After backpacking we spent a day in Yellowstone hitting all the iconic spots. On our way out of the backcountry we got stopped by a herd of bison? Wow! What amazing creatures. On our way to camp we stopped in West Yellowstone for showers and a local meal and finished off with ice cream to celebrate our successful backpacking trip.
The LODs, Erika and Cooper helped lead us through the overwhelm of entering back into civilization. After a nice afternoon in town we stopped at the infamous Old Faithful Geyser, and watched as she erupted close to 100 feet into the air. We all screamed and contemplated nature’s complexity. We then enjoyed a photo shoot and headed to a front country campsite in Yellowstone.
The next morning we had the luxury of sleeping in and woke up the students to a big breakfast of eggs, sausage and hash browns. Reagan and Bobby brought us together in a huddle and created a plan for all the sights we wanted to see on what we nick named “iconic day”.
First we explore the geysers of West Thumb and were amazed by the display of colors in over a dozen geothermal pools. Equally beautiful was the view on Jackson Lake which was enormous! After West Thumb we explored Black Sand Basin and then finally Lewis Falls.
Content with our exploration of Yellowstone we made our way back through Tetons to our campsite. Here we chilled out, Wil and Ward fished while the rest of the group played spike ball and cooked dinner. Tired from a long adventure, we hit the hay early to get some good rest before a big day of climbing.
Early The next morning Ashley and Michael led the charge as we met our Exum Mountain Guides in Teton village. We rode a very long Gondola 4000 feet up to a rock face where we learned the ropes of climbing. We picnicked at the top of a multi pitch climb and repelled down the rock face. All the students excelled as they stepped way out of their comfort zones.
After climbing we headed into town to celebrate the Fourth of July with a hamburger cookout and then finished the day with a trip to Driggs Idaho to watch fireworks. We even decided to Moonup on the Wyoming/Idaho border!
The next day our climbing skills were put to the test as we climbed some harder routes. Our LODs Ward and Sarah did well at motivating the group in the morning as we headed to our ferry across Jenny Lake. These might have been our most spectacular views yet. The ferry dropped us off at hidden falls trailhead where we hiked up to a beautiful cascade that we would climb right next to.
The climbing was challenging but again our group impressed us with their ability to push their limits. Sarah and Bobby took on our hardest route and completed it! It was amazing to see them make it to the top. After climbing we headed back to camp and had a delicious fried rice dinner.
The next morning we were given the chance to sleep in and enjoy a slow morning of R and R. We feasted on some pancakes and eggs and then headed to a spectacular glacial fed lake in the Tetons. We picnicked with a view of the Grand Teton and then got some local ice cream at Dornans. We ate in inside a tipi overlooking the mountains and talked about how sad we are that things are coming to an end.
Upon arriving back at camp the students competed in iron chef, using all of our leftover foods to create a dish for group. It was Team Erika vs Team Michael. Both teams showed intense focus and creativity. They presented their meals with hilarious skits and had us rolling on the ground laughing. We were amazed when their meals were quite tasty. It was a close competition especially after Tommy handed out moist towelettes but team Michael pulled off the victory with their Pasta dish and avocado pita appetizer. It was Charlottes impression of the Moondance CEO, Hayes that really won them the prize.
This morning we are headed to our last activity of rafting led by Cooper and Reagan. It’s heartbreaking to imagine leaving these amazing students tomorrow, but we are thankful for such and amazing experience with new and deep friendships.
Charlotte: Hi!! Best trip ever love y’all and can’t wait to see u!!:)
Erika: hey family!! So excited to see everyone soon. I’m having a lot of fun and lovvveeee Jackson. Miss y’all<3
Tommy: Hi, I’m having a blast. See you soon in St. Louis
Ward: Hey!! So excited to see y’all soon. Can’t wait to tell y’all all about the trip!!
Bobby: Hey there, I’m having so much fun I do not want to leave, but I’m excited to see y’all! See ya soon!!
Reagan: Hello Fam!! Thank you so much for sending me on this trip, it’s been AMAZING. Miss you guys a lot, but miss Zuzu the most — see y’all soon!
Cooper- sup having a awesome time living dream life of showering once a week. Get me some fireworks can’t wait to see y’all.
Michael: Hi, I’m having so much fun! I can’t wait to see you all soon!
Ashley: what up home dawgs. I’ve been seeing some pretty cool rocks: some small some a little bigger. To the fam: love and miss u lots! Be ready to hear all about the trip! To the boy: miss u lots and can’t wait to see ya at the airport!
Sarah: Hi family!! I’m having so so much fun and I love this group. I miss you guys and can’t wait to see you!
July 2, 2021
Hello, family and friends!
Checking in from the beautiful Yellowstone National Park. These past few days we have been backpacking through the back country— unplugged and very in-tune with our wild side. Our first day out we hiked 3 miles to our first camp site where instead of setting up tents, Tommy, Cooper, and Michael set up an outdoor oasis they named “Tarp City.” The group was also intrigued with Erika’s commitment to her skincare routine in the back country and took notes of her techniques and products.
The second day was our longest trek yet: 8 miles to our next camp site. On the hike, Reagan, Charlotte, and Erika spotted a fully intact deer skull and grabbed a quick photo lifting it up. We arrived at our second camp site tired and hot, prompting us to quickly rush into the river that ran along our camp site. Sarah, Ashley, and Reagan collected rocks and pieces of petrified wood; Micheal, Cooper, and Tommy set up a “hot tub” out of rocks. When we returned to our campsite, we found out we were not alone: some deer and ground squirrels joined us as the sun began to set. Ashley saved the day with her infamous itch stick. When we started cooking dinner, Cooper proved to be the group master chef, taking over the stoves, cooking the meat, and sautéing the vegetables. That night at Moonup, Tommy led the group in a passionate conversation about whether aliens existed, which led Bobby to share a few spooky paranormal stories. We ended the night with stargazing around the fire and with the contentment that we would have an off day tomorrow.
We had a late wakeup call the next morning and spent the morning relaxing in our crazy creeks and eating m&m pancakes. As the sun rolled in, we returned to the river again where Wil led the group in breathing meditation exercises. Ward and Bobby brought lunch down, and the group enjoyed tortillas with either peanut butter and jelly or summer sausage and cheese as the cool breeze from the creek provided an escape from the heat. For dinner that night, we did make-your-own pizzas where Michael discovered a love for hot honey on pizza. We turned in early that night to prepare for a 5:30 wakeup call that Cooper suggested to beat the heat hiking the next day.
We made it out early the next morning for our second 8-mile hike back to our first camp site. To pass the time, Bobby, Sarah, Ashley, and Ward played a fast-paced game of Contact where they had to guess the word the other person was thinking. The wildflowers were at their peak this season during our hike; Erika, Reagan, Charlotte, and Sarah stopped to pick a few and put them in their hair. We arrived at our campsite tired from our long trek. The group settled in a spot in the shade, but before long, rain clouds approached and we rushed to set up tents and tarps to protect our bags and food. Once the rain past, Bobby, Ward, Sarah, and Reagan went down to the river to fly fish. Ward and Sarah were lucky to both catch a cutthroat trout— a fish local to Yellowstone’s rivers. Up at the campsite, Ashley found a knack for tarot card readings and interpreted the card’s meaning for everyone. We had our final dinner of taco bowls to energize us for our the final stretch out of the backcountry in the morning.
Our last morning in the backcountry was met with an overwhelming sense of achievement, a sadness to leave the comfort of the mountains, the cool rushing of the river, and even ambitious ground squirrels who were trying to steal anything that resembled food. The group was determined to complete the 3 mile hike back to the van in 1 hour and set a fast pace for the hike from the very beginning. Michael was the MVP of the hike, volunteering to carry all of the trash from the past 5 days on his own.
In the last stretch of hike, a resting bison caused us to have a short detour, but even so, we completed our goal and reached the van in an hour. Everyone was extremely excited to reach the van and u-haul and indulged in snacks of popcorn, pirate’s booty, and Oreos. Now, we are heading to our next campsite in Yellowstone, passing the long van ride with a playlist compiled of the group’s favorite artists: Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Morgan Wallen, The Chicks, Pop Smoke, etc… Quite a mix! We have many fun activities ahead of us— rock climbing, rafting, and more fly fishing— and will check back in soon to update everyone on the exciting, funny, challenging experiences our group has!
– Yellowstone A Team!
June 28, 2021
Hello to all the family and friends following along from afar! This trip is off to a great start. We kicked it off with all the students flying in to the stunning Jackson Airport with the picturesque backdrop of the Tetons. We went straight from the Airport to our first pizza dinner – with a panoramic view of the Teton range right on the edge of the park.
We have been very impressed at how engaging the group has been right of the bat. Tommy, Michael, Ashley, and Cooper were all on the 2019 Iceland trip together and their familial bond quickly broke the ice and eased the awkwardness that can often be present on day 1. We have a big crew of Moondance alumni’s – Cooper, Reagan, Tommy, Michael, Bobby, Erika, Sarah, Ashley, and Ward! After dinner we enjoyed a scenic drive past alpine lakes and rivers to our campsite. Here we hung out, got to know one another and started our first Moonup.
Moonup is Moondance’s daily ritual giving the group the opportunity to reflect at the end of each day. After Moonup we hit the hay after a long day of travel. We woke up early and made our way to Jackson Hole Fly-fishing school where we learned the art of fly fishing. We then were given an opportunity to put our skills to the test where Bobby and Ashley our first leaders of the day impressed us by each catching a native cutthroat trout. Bobby caught two!
After fly fishing we made our way back to camp for dinner and to prep for backpacking. Cooper, Michael, and Tommy found the perfect spot to put up their enos. Sarah, Ashley, Ward, Erika and Bobby took some much needed chill time and journaled in their new Moondance journal. Molly, Reagan, Charlotte and Wil tossed the frisbee around until it was time to make some dinner.
Raegan, Ashley, and Bobby helped cook some delicious quesadillas. After dinner the crew prepped there backpacking gear. Fortunately much of the crew has plenty of outdoor experience!
Today we are driving through the Tetons and up into Yellowstone to start our backpacking section! The group elected Cooper and Reagan to help us as we embark onto this new leg of the trip. We can’t wait to catch you up to speed when we are done. It already feels like we’ve known each other forever.
Until next time Moon-fam!
June 26, 2021
Hello Yellowstone Families!
The whole group arrived safely in Jackson today and is on their way to their first campsite. We have heard from our leaders this afternoon 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 up to 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 shout out mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!
– Moondance HQ