June 24, 2022
Dear Big Wild B family and friends,
We cannot believe we are already writing the final trip update of our trip. It truly flew by faster then we expected and were not ready to say goodbye to our incredible group of kids. It has been an unforgettable two weeks full of new experiences, lots of laughter, and getting the chance to step out of our comfort zones with one another. Wyoming and Idaho are must-see parts of the country and we feel so lucky to have gotten to spend significant time in both!
We wrapped up our final days of the trip in Boulder, Wyoming where we got to fly fish and backpack in the Wind River Range. As we were headed out of Idaho, we made one final stop at the Oxbow Diner in Bliss, ID to fill up on a delicious breakfast meal before our travel day ahead. This was without a doubt one of the best diners we had ever been to and many of the kids said the same. The French toast was the fan favorite as it was so crunchy and sweet. We even tried to ask for the recipe which ended up being top secret. Walker and I were so hungry that when everyone else was done we said “bring us the leftovers.” Two sweet elderly locals who were sitting behind us laughed and said how happy they were to see some young people around for once. When we finally arrived in Wyoming, we stopped at The Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale to grab fishing licenses and shop some of their fun gear and souvenirs. This place was awesome! We all wished that we could buy everything. Will, Gavin, and Hammie all agreed to split a fishing net with me and to donate it to “The James ad Walker Fund for a Better Summer.” Here we encouraged everyone to buy warm clothes because the Wind River Range was going to be nippy. The warm clothes ended up coming in handy, as we slept in several layers and would wake up to the ground being white with frost. We spent our first night in Boulder with our backpacking guide Zane (aka Mr. Z). We had a spectacular rainbow appear over our campsite while we cooked yummy burritos for dinner! We had one of our favorite Moonup’s of the trip on this night because we got to hear Emerson, Bailey, and Lydie perform “By and By” for us as we stargazed. Zane told us Wyoming was the #1 state in the country with the least amount of light pollution which was not surprising considering this was the most stars a lot of us had ever seen.
We spent the next morning having a fly fishing lesson from two Rendezvous Anglers fishing guides. We started off the chilly day by waking everyone up to the tune of “Ice Ice Baby” and eating some killer cheesy eggs and hash browns. Elise and Lydie were the biggest hash brown fans of the group and were pumped anytime we made them. Right when we pulled into the parking lot to head to our fishing spot we encountered the biggest moose we had seen on the trip so far. It was only 30 yards away from us! We watched it wander along the riverbank and were excited about this unexpected, but normal sighting to occur in Wyoming. Our kids who loved to fish were fired up to finally be on the water and hoping to catch something. We started off by learning how to identify different nymphs and larva as well as how to tie knots and rig up a fly fishing pole. Carly was a fly fishing star and quickly found her rhythm while casting. Hammie had a fish on during our lesson, and the nice guide thought it was a stick so she didn’t think much of it. Unfortunately, that ended up being the most action we got fishing. The boys spent the rest of the afternoon continuing to fish the same section of the river after stocking up on some new flys at the fly shop in town. We also got some tips from some of the people working there on where the best spots in the area were but they were unfortunately not producing the fish we needed. The girls spent the afternoon jamming out to T Swift in the car and getting some ice cream. It was a fun and relaxing afternoon before we headed into the Wind River Range for our backpacking adventure! We fueled up on burgers and hotdogs cooked by our wonderful chefs for the night Gavin, Henry, and Hammie. Emerson pitched in by cutting up some watermelon that was a huge hit during our cookout meal. Despite some of the initial chaos, the boys were flipping burgers left and right as they got into their grilling groove. This was entertaining to watch and proved that there is never a dull moment!
The entire group was focused in and ready to conquer our final section of the trip: backpacking in the Wind River Range. This iconic mountain range still had snow on top and we were excited to explore it further! While most of the group had never been backpacking before, it was fun to show them all the tricks for efficiently packing your pack and making sure it fits properly before the trek begins. We were all shocked to see our tents, food, and personal gear all manage to make it into a backpack for our big journey ahead. It took us about 5 hours to make it up to our base camp for the night. Despite her recent ACL injury, Lydie was a total trooper on this strenuous hike and we were all amazed by her resilience despite the sometimes tricky terrain. Macy also kept her head up even though she had one of the heaviest packs of the group. After lots of timber and rock, we were so happy to make it to our camping spot which was right on a lake and had a crystal clear stream running all around it. Not only was this a perfect fresh water source, but the lake was also great for a swim. We were so proud of the entire group for remaining positive the entire time we hiked up despite it being a tough trail and having heavy packs on our back. We lucked out with the weather and enjoyed the sunshine for all three days of our backpacking section! This was a huge treat amidst the unpredictable weather of Wyoming.
The next day James led Henry, Hammie, Will, Gavin, and Georgia up to the top of Atlantic Peak which is one of the highest points in the Wind River Range at 12,490 feet. They hiked almost 4 miles and climbed 2900 feet of elevation from the base camp! Other than feeling the accomplishment of summiting this steep and rocky peak, their biggest highlight was getting to make ramen for lunch at the top and having a snowball fight. The rest of us enjoyed a restful day at camp hanging out in the sun and soaking in one of our final days together. Watson was the aquamira man and was always there to help us out when we needed to purify water while hiking or cooking. Hydration was key at this high elevation! We woke up bright and early the next day and had a record time of two and a half hours for how long it took us to hike back out. Our entire group was cruising down the mountain and ready to see civilization once again. Overall, the backpacking section was the most challenging, but also the most rewarding part of the trip. The spectacular views made it memorable and a fun section to end on!
We traveled back to Utah for a much needed shower and a magnificent banquet dinner at In-n-Out. We all decked ourselves out in their paper hats and devoured this gourmet meal. Our final night of camping was a Big Wild party as all three of our Moondance groups stayed at the same campsite. It was fun to share stories from each of our trips and reflect on the AWESOME two weeks we have had together!
As leaders we want to say thank you for sharing your incredible kids with us. We learned so much from each one of them and wish we could have spent more time together. They are the reason this job is special and are what create the magic of Moondance. We will miss them all so much and hope to continue to stay in touch even though our trip has come to a close! We hope this is a trip they will never forget and we cannot wait to see the fantastic people they continue to become. We hope they continue to explore and appreciate the valuable lessons learned by getting outside and going on unforgettable adventures like these.
We miss you already! And remember sure does, hey peter, and I’m not a fighter 🙂
James and Walker
June 19, 2022
We are back and checking in from IDAHO! Wow! This place is SO awesome. We have truly had the most incredible past four days rafting on the Salmon River. It exceeded our high expectations, and we were sad to leave this beautiful part of Idaho we have just discovered.
Our journey to this great state started before the sun had risen in Wyoming. While the kids all slept in the van, we began our 10-ish hour drive to McCall, Idaho. Once the kids woke up, we surprised them with a trip to Chick-Fil-A for breakfast. As expected, the kids were pumped. It was a total crowd pleaser and fun to stop at one of the only ones in Idaho! After filling up on nuggets and French fries, we continued our trip through the mountains of Idaho and along the big white water of the Payette River. We all agreed the drive went by faster than expected because of the beautiful scenery, good music, and opportunity to catch up on some sleep. We arrived in McCall and stayed at our group’s favorite campsite so far. Not only did it provide our first chance for hot showers, but we were also steps away from the breathtaking Payette Lake. We all noticed a shift in the landscape of Idaho compared to Wyoming and were eager to explore the new spot we had arrived in. The docks all along the lake quickly got the boys fired up to fly fish and Will, our fly fishing pro, helped everyone get their rods set up and ready to go. While the boys freshened up on their fly-fishing skills, the girls enjoyed listening to Emerson sing and play her guitar for us. Bailey also jumped in to harmonize with Emerson, and Gavin showed off his ukulele skills by playing “Here Comes the Sun.” We are blown away by the many talents of this group, especially the musical ones! After pita pizzas for dinner, we closed out the night with Moonup on the dock as the sunset behind the mountains surrounding the lake. To make the night even better, we had our first bald eagle sighting as we watched one dive to catch a fish. We wished we could have spent more time in McCall, but were eager to head to Riggins the next day for day 1 of rafting!
We started our first day of rafting on a section of the Salmon located right next to Riggins, Idaho. We met our awesome raft guides from Wild River Adventures named Catfish and Matt. The kids loved them right away and after a safety talk, we were ready to hit the river! With the Salmon being a free-flowing river, the high-water levels caused us to switch around some of the sections we were planning to do, however the ones we got to go on were SO fun! We all rocked some snazzy wet suits and started the morning off with some huge rapids. There was lots of laughter and excitement as we paddled along the big white water of this famous river. We were surrounded by the mountains that made up the Salmon River canyon. We truly felt like we had the river all to ourselves since we did not see any other raft groups the entire day. Our LODs for the day, Elise and Will, prepped lunch for the entire group on a sandy beach. On the slower sections of the river, we enjoyed getting trucks along the highway to honk at us and relaxing in the boat with one another. Once setting up our campsite for the next three days, we enjoyed the luxury of our guides cooking dinner for us. We devoured hamburgers and s’mores after a tiring, but great first day on the river. The boys got the entire group hooked on a game called stick ball (which is basically baseball with a stick as the bat). The game ended up entertaining the group for at least three hours the first night, and every afternoon after that.
In our second day of rafting, everyone was feeling more confident and prepared to conquer another day on the river. We fueled up for the day with chocolate chip pancakes and bacon. Once again, this was a delicious meal cooked by our fantastic guides. Our LODs of the day, Emerson and Watson, lead us with positive energy and enthusiasm. As a group, we crushed it on the river and spent most of the day puzzled by a tough riddle James shared with us that morning. Georgia was the first to crack the riddle and gave helpful hints to the rest of the group who were getting fed up by hours of confusion. Once arriving at camp, Gavin, Henry, and James bravely polar plunged into the chilly Salmon River water for an afternoon swim. They loved it so much that they did it each morning and afternoon for the rest of our rafting section. They even convinced Hammie and Watson to jump in as well! It is safe to say that they probably smelled better than the rest of us who preferred the warmth of the wet suit when venturing into the water. While the boys were swimming, Elise and Lydie gathered the girls for a journal, hair braiding and reading circle to relax during free time. At camp, we also welcomed one of our favorite raft guides Seth into our group for games and Moonup. Seth quickly bonded with all of us. Later tokened with the name “Uncle Seth,” our group will definitely miss his humor and friendship that made rafting even more fun and memorable.
On our final day, we faced the biggest white water we had yet to see. The fun started right away with two class IV rapids within the first 10 minutes of hopping on the river. Despite some nerves beforehand, our group absolutely CRUSHED it! Their ability to listen and follow the directions of our guides kept us all safe and allowed us to run them as planned. We soaked up our last day on the Salmon with some more wildlife sightings and swimming. In addition to lots of snacks, Macy and Carly also enjoyed mixing a variety of unique crystal light flavors in their water to stay hydrated on the river. That night we shared a campsite with another Big Wild Moondance group who we had the chance to talk about our trips so far with. We had fun playing in a spikeball tournament together and seeing Henry reunite with his twin sister, Ellie. Our LODS, Gavin and Carly, led us in a special Moonup to wrap up this section of our trip and get us on track for what was next to come.
As leaders, it was special to sit back and see how close the group grew together over the past few days. Whether it was sharing stories in the raft, or playing stickball together, you would not be able to tell that this group of kids did not know each other a week ago. We left Idaho with even closer friendships and memories that will last a lifetime! While rafting was a huge highlight, we cannot wait to head back to Wyoming to fly fish and backpack during our last part of the trip. We hope to catch some fish and cannot wait to explore the Wind River Range. We will be soaking up our final days together and can tell that it is not going to be an easy goodbye. I know everyone at home must miss these awesome kiddos, so we have a quick shout-tout to share from each of them!
Carly – Hi!! I miss you! Tell Marls I say hi too! Happy early Father’s Day! Love you!!
Elise – Happy Father’s Day dad! I love and miss you so much!
Gavin – Hi guys, I am having a great time so far! Happy Fathers Day! See you in a week!
Macy – Hi mom and dad!!!! I miss y’all so much, happy Father’s Day dad I can’t wait to see you I hope u have a great day, sorry I am missing it, love y’all
Emerson – hi mom hi dad I miss you guys so much & I am so bummed to be missing Father’s Day but am having so so so much fun here & y’all were so right. Sending you both hugs and butterflies for tomorrow & we are both with you even if neither of us are home, I love yall and savvy
Lydie – hi guys! Happy Father’s Day! I miss y’all but I am having such an amazing time and can’t wait to tell you guys all the amazing things we’ve done. Tell carter and my friends I say hi also. Love you all and have the best day ever
Bailey – Hey guys!! I’m having a super good time so far. Happy Father’s Day, I can’t wait to see y’all next week and tell y’all everything. I hope Baxter is doing well and sorry for missing Father’s Day.
Georgia – Heyyy!! I miss you guys. Happy Father’s Day, love you!! Tell the doggies I love them and miss them!!!
Will – hey guys! Hope you are doing well. Happy Father’s Day dad! sorry to miss it see y’all soon!!
Hammie – Hello parents! I hope you guys are having a great time. Happy Father’s Day dad. I’m doing well.
Watson – Hi mom and dad I miss y’all, I’m having a great time happy Father’s Day I love y’all.
Henry – Hi mom and dad. I am having a great time. Happy Early Father’s Day Dad. Tell Alexander I said hi. Love y’all.
Sending lots of love,
Big Wild 1B
June 14, 2022
Hello from the Tetons!
Our trip is off to a fantastic start, and we are SO happy to finally all be together as a group. We hit the ground running in the Salt Lake City airport where our group quickly bonded. The van was filled with positive energy as we hopped into the van for our drive to Jackson, Wyoming. As we travelled through Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming we were surrounded by the most beautiful vast mountains and rivers. The kids enjoyed counting how many potato farms we saw in Idaho and listening to Tyler Childers, a group favorite, in our first of many fun van rides. Once arriving in Jackson, we picked up the famous Pinky G’s pizza, our final group member Hammie, and headed to our first campsite. We arrived right in time to see a beautiful pink sunset over the breathtaking Tetons. The pizza was a hit after a long travel day, and everyone helped set up the tents for our first night. We gathered for our first Moonup of the trip where we each shared what we were most excited about and hoping to get out of the trip as a whole. Despite only knowing each other for a few hours, we could tell right away that this was a special group. Everyone was fired up about our first day of climbing and quickly went to sleep to be prepared for our next morning ahead.
To start off day 2 of our trip, we had Gavin and Lydie as our first Leaders of the Day (LODs) and they absolutely crushed it. They motivated everyone to have a great first day at climbing school despite the rainy weather we had that morning. Once arriving at Exum, we met our rock star climbing instructors who got us fitted in our proper climbing shoes, harnesses, and helmets. We then headed over to the spectacular Jenny Lake for a boat ride that took us across to Inspiration Point. Even though the weather was overcast, we still got a chance to see Hidden Falls and hike along this iconic hiking spot. As a group we practiced the knots needed to tie into our harnesses for climbing and participated in a rappelling demonstration to prepare ourselves for being on the rock. Emerson showed her skills when tying knots at our first day at climbing school. She was super helpful teaching everyone because of what she learned from sailing school. We were disappointed to not get on the rock because of the weather conditions, but still enjoyed and benefited from a day of helpful preparation. We appreciated the flexibility and go with the flow attitudes of the entire group!
As we headed back to camp, the sun finally came out in true mountain weather fashion. As a group, everyone enjoyed having some time to relax and spend time with one another. Hammie aka the spike ball pro taught everyone in the group to play as well as showed his skills around the net. After some down time, we headed into the town of Jackson to explore and get some ice cream. Bailey, Lydie, and Emerson have been rocking their cowboy hats they got in town! After our fun outing, we stopped on the side of the road two miles from our campsite where we had our most exciting wildlife siting of the trip. Will was the first one to spot two pronghorn antelope, the first wildlife of the trip, but then a family of three moose! We all got to watch and take pictures of the moose which was a definite highlight of the day. We headed back to camp for our first cooked dinner together… fajita night!
Georgia showed her chopping skills on fajita night and didn’t even cry while cutting multiple onions. Not only could she chop it up, but she played a huge part in doing the dishes quickly before the hail storm. Carly also took initiative when cooking chicken and helped out tremendously by seasoning it well. We enjoyed our first delicious meal together and jammed out to some music as we cleaned the dishes afterwards.
Henry and Macy were our LODs chosen for Day 2 of climbing school. Both led the group with energy and excitement as we conquered our first chance to rappel and climb on rock. Macy did the cliff rappel into the cave not once, but three times and Henry spent at least four minutes hanging out in the cave in the middle of his repel to take in the spectacular view of Cascade Canyon overlooking Jenny Lake. Elise blew us away with how speedy she could climb up all three different climbing routes. Her calm and confident composure on the rock made it look easy despite the unique challenges of each route. It was an awesome day overall!
For our last night in the Tetons, we made breakfast for dinner which was a huge hit for the group. We needed all the help we could get cooking because of the complexity of the meal. We made eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, chocolate chip pancakes, peppers and onions, paired with some delicious fresh fruit. Watson is definitely one of the most helpful around camp whether it’s organizing all the gear or setting up a clothesline to keep drying out all of our sleeping gear because of the long night of rain. We appreciate him being so thoughtful and generous when anyone needs a helping hand. Bailey has been the glue for the group of girls. She started the “hot girl walk” to brush their teeth every night and even the boys have joined in! It is actually hilarious.
Our last night in Jackson was a special one with one final pretty sunset following our delicious breakfast for dinner spread. We are now headed to McCall, Idaho bright and early. The entire group cannot wait to start our rafting section on the Salmon and are looking forward to this next part of our adventure together!
BGW 1B (B for best group ever!)
June 11, 2022
Hello Big Wild Families!
We just heard from our leaders that the group has landed safely in Salt Lake City. The trip is off to a great start and headed to their first campsite in Wyoming, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventures.
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!