July 9, 2021
It goes without saying our first full day back in the backcountry brought many smiles. We slept in until a whopping 9 A.M. before cooking a fan favorite breakfast of breakfast sandwiches. Christian was determined to perfect his egg frying skills, swapping turns at the Coleman with Henry T. A scenic drive through Yellowstone took us past thermal pools, through canyons, and between herds of bison. We got to West Yellowstone in Montana in what seemed like the blink of an eye and treated ourselves to smoothies and milkshakes from a F’Real machine. The next stop showering, the kids. Switched between buzzing about ridding themselves of their layer of dirt and admitting they enjoyed a break from showers. We barely recognized each other without the dirt under our nails and with clean hair. Clean and content, we cruised down the border of Idaho towards the Idaho side of the Tetons. Gray mentioned she loved the opposing view of the stunning mountain range. Kiki picked out some songs to get the group energized during the last stretch of our drive, winding through the pass and over the Tetons. They were thrilled when we upraised them with a local food stop for dinner at Rations and were equally as thrilled when they discovered the restaurant had a resident black lab. It felt like home again when we arrived back at our campground, and we set up camp next to the winding river. Henry T and Emily led us through a stellar Moonup, where Emily chose one of Suzanne’s favorite quotes: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ The Moonup question, “where do you feel most at peace”, drew the students to open up about what brings them peace and where they feel most comfortable.
An early morning had the students bleary-eyed after they couldn’t resist staying up late talking and taking advantage of their dwindling time together. Henry H admitted the drive from camp to town is always a highlight of his day, especially as we drove towards the Tetons at 6 AM, the sun still rising and painting the sky behind them. Any residual sleepiness shook. Off as we met the guides for today’s float fishing trip split into groups of two or three on rowboats, everyone set out confident and giddy about the day of fishing ahead. Emily caught the biggest fish of the day, at 17 inches! Gray swapped stories and music with her guide, discussing their subjects of interest and mutual friends. Charlotte didn’t put down her rod the whole day, impressing her guide Bryan with her cast and witty humor The day was hardly over when we took out at 4 PM because the leaders had a few surprises up their sleeve. Because the Fourth of July passed while we were in the backcountry, we created a vivacious celebration. It started with a cookout in the local park, where KiKi and Lauren took charge of seasoning and forming the patties. The group assembled some impressive burgers consisting of fried egg, guacamole, grilled onion, ketchup, Dijon mustard, and cheese. The next stop of our pretend Fourth of July remained a surprise until we pulled into a gravel lot with horses meandering and cowboys sauntering around. The group erupted into whoops and “yee haws” when they realized we were going to the Jackson Rodeo. We settled in for the show, and Alex jumped at the opportunity to buy an impressive cowboy hat. The rest of the students followed suit until everyone was sporting a cowboy hat. Rowdy from watching bull riders and wranglers, we bounced back to camp jamming to county music.
The last full day of our trip started with a reflection on how quickly our trip flew by. The students ate up every last moment with each other, knowing how special the group is. We treated ourselves to a slow morning, listening to groovy music and sitting around the camp kitchen. Christian and Charlotte, our trusty chefs, jumped at the offer to cook breakfast. The final breakfast was a feast: eggs benedict with Canadian bacon, plain and cinnamon raisin English muffins, hollandaise sauce, avocado, fresh fruit, cold brew coffee, and orange juice. Cook crew worked like a well-oiled machine, taking orders for eggs from over easy to well-done. The van burst with energy as we drove to the town of Jackson, every student singing their throat sore to songs from our playlist. Slightly overwhelmed by the shock of the real world, we wandered through town and into varying stores. By noon, the day had barely begun, even though Lauren commented our brunch felt like ages ago. Ready for white water rafting, we piled onto rafts to bound down the Snake River. Suzanne shared a boat with Gray, Henry T, Alex, Kiki, and Charlotte. Between jumping in the cold water, we laughed and chatted down the beautiful canyons. Henry T eagerly rode the bull, which entailed sitting on the front of the boat down a bouncy rapid. Following his lead, every student ended up riding the bull. They even convinced Suzanne to do it, although it didn’t take much work. Cool from the river and re-energized from the adrenaline, we returned to town for banquet. Clad in our funky and silly thrift store outfits, we ignored the funny looks from passing tourists and laughed down the street. If it had been a competition, the girls would have won. They all sported outrageous dresses with paired accessories to make the outfits even more absurd. We chose Hand Fire Pizza for dinner and reveled in the opportunity to build our own pizzas. Although our camp kitchen has had a stellar menu and great reviews, getting to compile exactly what we craved was practically heaven. Everyone resisted their food comas as we drove back to camp and raged to the playlist we made for the last day. On the way back, we had no choice but to pull over because of how distracting the beautiful sunset was. The sky was painted shades of pinks, purples, and blues as the sun silhouetted the Teton mountains. An impromptu photo shoot ensued, and everyone struck goofy poses. Back home, no one wanted to pack their bags because it meant accepting their departure tomorrow. As leaders, we cherished the last Moonup with this very special group of kids. It was long and full of happy memories and stories of growth. It was immensely rewarding to hear what each student learned about themselves during the trip, and what they want to take away from these past two weeks. The maturity and reflection shown came as no surprise to Hastings and Suzanne but hearing the life-changing realizations aloud was powerful. Each student on our trip has been remarkable, and every student drank the Moondance Kool-Aid. No matter the reason everyone had for being on session two of Yellowstone, every single one of them gave themselves to the experience and opened themselves up to it. Two weeks of leaving the comfort zone, living in the moment, and being ourselves have genuinely created a trip of a lifetime.
Airport day is never easy, but we did not fail to make it fun. The sun rose as we drove to the airport at 4 AM, belting songs and gazing out at the rising sun. Not a moment went to waste this morning. Watching the students say goodbye to each other was difficult, but also a telltale sign that they created lifetime friendships. Each student gave themselves wholly to the experience and to their peers, and it shows. We already miss every single student, and some are just on the other side of security in the airport. The life, joy, laughter, and growth we saw as leaders were more than we ever could have asked for. Thank you to every student and parent from this session!
Lots of love,
Hastings and Suzanne
July 1, 2021
Day four of our trip was an all-around hit. Our LOD’s Henry T and Charlotte got the group rocking and rolling in the morning before rock climbing. Henry H was quick to offer his help as we packed up for the day, and the group has begun to get the hang of early camp mornings! Gray shared her expert music taste with the group in the van as we listened to music to wake everyone up and get them buzzing for the big day. If they weren’t awake yet, the view of the Tetons as we approached the climbing school surely woke everyone up. We took a breezy boat ride across Jenny Lake to the base of today’s climb. The guides walked us through our gear, how to tie knots, and proper technique while climbing the sweet pitches we were about to face.
We began the morning meeting our awesome guides— Billy and Jeff. Billy was eager to get the group warmed up with some pitches to get the feet moving that made it very apparent that Alex would excel the rest of the day. Jeff then sat the group down for some very important knot-tying lessons. We had an all-out race to test our newly acquired figure eight knot on a bight. Lauren properly laid out the rope, secured her harness, and tied the knot in groundbreaking time. We took a break prior to climbing the more vertical pitches that the afternoon would bring, watching marmots and ground squirrels chasing after each other. After some delicious Mediterranean pita pockets, we were ready to begin scaling the granite. The group learned to rely on the F1 grade rubber soles that Billy assured us would grip to anything. Henry T raced up the wall, and it was clear that he had climbed at Jenny Lake a time or two. Christian volunteered as the first one to repel down the final pitch. Everyone was quick to jump into the cold river back at camp, and pretended it was an ice bath for their sore muscles. While drying off, everyone enjoyed each other’s company while cook crew started on dinner. Henry T, Charlotte and Kiki made a delicious meal of chicken and broccoli pesto pasta. Using our mosquito candle as a vicarious campfire, the group gathered for Moonup. Everyone shared three things they love about themselves, and as leaders we enjoyed encouraging everyone to celebrate themselves. The group sang songs in their tents before bed, making us grin and laugh as they closed the night with the star-spangled banner.
The climbing guides excitedly geared the group up for our second day of climbing, knowing everyone was not only skilled but also stoked. The pitches today were significantly more difficult, but only because the students asked to be challenged! Charlotte easily put her skills to the test on the hardest pitch of the day, followed by Lauren and Alex. The guides made a point to tell the leaders what a wonderful group we have, and that everyone exceeded their expectations. Suzanne climbed with Henry T, Christian and Gray, and did some climbs that put skills to the ultimate test. Hastings climbed with Kiki, Emily and Henry H., and their guide was especially impressed with their performance today. Proud of their achievements, every student buzzed through their exhaustion as we played our “party van” playlist on the way back to camp. After our ritualistic dunk in the river, we cranked it into high gear to prep for the back country tomorrow. The students learned what to pack during the “Duffel Shuffle” and how to pack their bags with food and group gear. We assured them they would not need deodorant in the back country and are sure their dismay will be forgotten once we start hiking. As LOD’s, Christian and Emily helped keep the group focused and energized. We surprised the group with queso and chips as an appetizer as we finished up with a bear safety lesson. Everyone concluded tonight was their favorite dinner yet, not just because it was mouthwatering fajita bowls. Beyond that, everyone forgot about their food because we were so busy exchanging climbing stories and laughing. It turned out that the moments that were the most challenging for the students were also the stories they told with a grin on their face and a joke to follow along with it.
A busy morning ensued as we began our journey to Yellowstone! Everyone loved the breakfast sandwiches early in the morning, and we started towards the trailhead at Yellowstone Lake. We will bring you many updates and stories when we re-enter the front country in five days, hopefully not too smelly!
See you on the other side,
Suzannne, Hastings, and Yellowstone B
June 29, 2021
We are thrilled to welcome our nine students to Yellowstone session 2. It was an exciting and action-packed day at the Jackson Hole Airport. Gray was the first to arrive, and her outgoing and bright energy fed our excitement as leaders. The group brainstormed nicknames for Henry T and Henry H. We played a game of cards while waiting for the rest of the students to arrive, and Alex quickly caught on to the new game. Hastings took the students to the park for some duck duck goose and death sack (a competitive hacky sack game) while Suzanne picked up pizza for dinner from Pinky G’s. While munching on the delicious pizza, we played two truths and a lie to break the ice and learn a little about each other. We drove to camp, nerves dissipating, and had our first moonup. We love to hear why each student is on this trip, and every student shared an honest answer. Alex and Kiki were named the next leaders of the day (LODs), and everyone climbed into their tents to end our first night in Wyoming.
The students got their first taste of rising with the sun, and without their watches they were unfazed by the early wake up. Today’s cook crew (Lauren, Henry T and Gray) did a fantastic job cheffing up delicious French toast. The group ate in a circle, sharing about themselves. Energy was off the charts as we picked up our last student, Christian, from the airport. He quickly started chatting with the group and has already forgotten his late arrival, as has the group. We took in the breathtaking views of Jackson thanks to the Teton village gondola. A short but steep hike took us to the top. We ate lunch at the top of the mountain and planned the games we would play back at camp. Tucked away in our new campsite, the group gathered into a circle to play the “moo game”. This game always creates a lot of laughs, and it was a great way to get the group comfortable around each other and acting silly! Cook crew happily cooked the group a dinner of Alfredo pasta with chicken and broccoli. While they waited, the rest of the group played spike ball and cards. After a filling dinner, we got competitive playing death sack, again, and Alex stood out as the sniper of the group.
Day three had everyone full of energy and curiosity as we rose early for fly fishing. Christian, Alex and Emily made the group oatmeal and hot drinks to shake off the early morning frost. At the Jackson Hole Fly Fishing School, the guides were blown away by the groups’ knowledge and engagement during the lesson. With new and refreshed knowledge of flies and fish, the group started wading to hunt for fish. Charlotte quickly mastered the knots, tying every one she had the opportunity to. Every student caught a fish, which made the group buzz with excitement! Gray had the highest tally, with nine fish. After a round of high fives and compliments from the guides, we piled back into the van. The group made a Spotify playlist of their favorite songs, which has now reached over eight hours long, and growing. Back at camp, we swam in the cold water before starting a hearty dinner of chicken curry with fresh veggies! Today’s LODs, Gray and Henry H, helped the group stay on track throughout the day and were at our side to help the leaders in any way. Satisfied with a delicious dinner and lots of fish stories, the group easily went to sleep in the tents we now call home.
Talk to you soon!
Suzanne and Hastings
June 26, 2021
Greetings Yellowstone Families!
The group arrived safely in Jackson today, and they are off on their adventure! One more student is arriving late and they are all excited to greet him tomorrow! 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 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!