July 24, 2022
Wow! We have had an amazing end to such a memorable trip. On Friday morning, we woke up to blue skies in Olema, feeling super excited for our day of exploration in Point Reyes National Seashore. After breakfast, we packed up camp and set off for Chimney Rock. Along the way, we stopped at a small, family-owned market in Inverness to get some delicious turkey sandwiches, cookies, and chips to pack for lunch. Once we arrived at the trailhead, we donned extra layers to prep for the California coastal windchill! We took the most beautiful crest ridge pathway along a narrow peninsula. The water on either side was stunningly blue, and the jagged cliffs and wildfire-dotted hills made for some of the most picturesque scenes of the summer. Once we reached the Land’s End, we devoured our lunches, snapped some photos, and then trekked along another path to see the southernmost cliffs of Point Reyes. It was incredible! Once we arrived back at the trailhead, we set off on our last drive of the summer, this time toward Half Moon Bay. Soon enough, we found ourselves crossing the Golden Gate Bridge! Elizabeth was a huge fan of the fact that we blasted the Full House theme song as we made our way across. We then stopped for a nice beach walk at Baker’s Beach, which has great views of the bridge from the southwest side. Hunter said seeing the Golden Gate Bridge was his favorite part of the day, and the girls were happy to get some iconic San Francisco pictures. The crew piled into the van for the last leg of our journey toward our campsite in Half Moon Bay. It is an awesome campsite at Francis Beach, just steps from the Pacific Ocean. We wrapped up the night with a warm pasta dinner (shoutout to chefs Ty and Jack for some perfect al dente noodles), a stunning sunset over the water, and, as always, MOONUP!
Yesterday morning we woke up nice and early for our final full day together as a group. We set off toward Pacifica for surfing! The weather was a particularly chilly as well as slightly rainy this morning, so the surf guides gave the kids the option to opt out of surfing and instead to watch from the sand. Hunter, Ty, Jack, Caroline, and Elizabeth were not going to let anything get in their way of catching some waves, so they suited up in their wetsuits and hit the water! The five of them did a fantastic job out on the water, and they were so fun to watch. Caroline caught the group’s first wave within the first 5 minutes out there! Annie laughed so hard about how happy she was to have stayed on dry land, while also loudly cheering for everyone whenever they caught a wave. After a few hours on the water, our surfers came back in, and we headed back to our campsite for lunch. We spent the afternoon packing up, taking warm showers, and enjoying quality time together. We then made the highly awaited THRIFT STORE TRIP!! When the kids left Goodwill, Millie had on a shirt that said, “I’m Mom’s Favorite,” KJ rocked stretchy pregnancy jean shorts, and Kate had some bright purple sunglasses to match her purple pajama shirt. With everyone dressed to the nines, we made our way to our group “banquet” at a local hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant. Mimi finally got the tacos she has been wanting all trip long, and Henry and I had the best time talking to Millie and Elizabeth about all sorts of crazy topics at the end of the table. It was such a happy evening, and seeing everyone’s smiles around the big table was super gratifying. We are going to miss our time with this crew!
We woke up at the CRACK of dawn this morning for airport day. We did a “Sunup” in the car on the way over, during which we did our final prized high-low-buffalo group reflection. To give some more context, we started every Moonup of the trip by going around the circle and having everyone share the highlight of their day, the lowest point of their day, and their “buffalo,” which is a funny or bizarre moment or interaction. Throughout our time together, we found that the kids were essentially collecting and creating buffalos: mentally logging the times that made them laugh so hard their stomachs hurt and seeking out the silly situations that would get them there in the first place. They realized that these times were repeatedly some of the best parts of their days- oftentimes making buffalos hard to distinguish from “highs.” This is a subtle, unspoken lesson Moondance teaches students: life is good BECAUSE life is weird. We are so glad this group left with lots and lots of buffalos, because with them come hilarious memories. We are also glad they learned to acknowledge their lows, because there is so much to learn through them.
When the two of us think back on this group, we will remember their spirit for adventure, steady kindness, absolute goofiness, and wide smiles. Our two weeks with them taught us, among other things, that there is a lot of joy to be found in the ridiculousness of life. Our hopes for them include that have learned a lot about themselves, both as individuals and as friends; that they have an increased appreciation for the world around them and perhaps even a decreased appreciation for the phones that have been returned to their hands; and that they somehow feel the increase in confidence and independence we watched them experience over the past two weeks. We are so proud of them for getting out of their comfort zones, trying new things, and turning strangers into family. We hope they continue to seek out the highs and the buffalos, and to learn from the inevitable lows, as well. We adore this crew of 10 humans, and we are better off from knowing them! Moondance is a special experience, and we hope you get to see glimmers of its positive influence on your child. Thanks for taking a chance on the two of us and for sending them along for a truly unforgettable journey. We couldn’t have done it without your trust!
Big nugs to y’all for everything.
Over and out,
Grace and Henry
July 22, 2022
Hello friends, family, and other followers of California 3A!
We are absolutely mind-blown that these kids will be on their way home in just three short days. This trip has flown by and we feel like it was just yesterday we were meeting everyone at the airport. We have had a fantastic time living and exploring California alongside this group, and we are sad that our time together is coming to a close. However, if we know anything about this group, it is that they’ll finish off this trip so strong and with such wide smiles that we won’t have time to think about anything but the positive!
Picking up where we last let off, we feel it is absolutely necessary to mention our beautiful Moonup location on Tuesday evening. Our group took a quick hike up to the summit of Eagle Rock on the west shore of Lake Tahoe to enjoy the sunset over the water. This spot is one of our favorites on the lake, as it offers absolutely stunning panoramic views of the water. We brought our crazy creeks with us, with plans to stay a while, and the views of the pastel sky and blushing mountains from the top made it well worth it. The Moonup conversations were great, and the company even better!!
Wednesday was a memorable day full of lots of surprises. We woke up and had donut holes alongside our typical breakfast spread, before setting off to meet our kayaking guides on the north shore of the lake. After getting into pairs for our tandem kayaks, we splashed our boats and made our way to Waterman’s Landing, which is rock skipping heaven. Henry attempted to explain the abundance of perfect flat stones on this beach to Jack, Ty, and Hunter before we arrived, but they had to see it to believe it. The stellar rocks skipped here will go down as hall of famers in the boys’ memories. While on the beach, Elizabeth and Millie did some hot rock massages with the flat stones, while Kate and Mimi took a polar plunge in the water! After having lunch and relaxing in the sun for a while, we did a Chinese fire drill so everyone could get a new ‘yak partner, and we made our way back to our starting point. Although paddling a long distance was challenging at times, it was well worth it to enjoy some time on Tahoe’s crystal clear water. We then returned to our campsite for some warm showers and time to reset before our next surprise of the day: getting takeout pizza for dinner and having time to explore the adorable nearby mountain town of Truckee! The kids had so much fun running into all of the cute shops on Truckee’s cowboy-like main strip, and many of them visited a quaint little diner for milkshakes and ice cream. After wrapping up our time in town, we surprised the group again by going to a local music event at a park. A southern rock cover band called Everyday Outlaw killed it up on stage while we hung out in the grass and danced down by the front! Elizabeth, Kelly Jane, and Annie were the stars of the show when it came to the best dance moves. One of everyone’s highlights of the day was watching Hunter and Caroline make friends with an adorable four year old boy at the event. He absolutely loved them, and it brought so many smiles to our group watching them goof around! Wednesday was one to remember for sure.
This morning, we woke up to the sounds of birds chirping and squirrels running around at our beautiful campsite on Lake Tahoe. After having oatmeal and pancakes for breakfast, we packed up camp and headed to the north shore to paddleboard! The lake was as blue as the sky, and the warm sun and light breeze made for the perfect conditions for paddleboarding. We paddled off the shore and then found a nice space among some anchored speedboats and sailboats to hang out. It’ll come as no surprise that a water war quickly broke out- everyone found themselves being pushed into the water within the first ten minutes out there (probably by the boys). After lots of shenanigans and a round of Big Booty, we shifted gears and everyone laid down to float, nap, and enjoy the mountain views on their boards. It was the perfect relaxing afternoon to wrap up our time in Lake Tahoe.
We just made it to our campsite near Point Reyes National Seashore, and we are settling in for the night. We’ll check in one last time from the airport on Sunday for our final update of the summer, but in the meantime, please know your kids are having fun, solidifying friendships, and experiencing the beauty of the west coast in such a unique way.
Touch base soon!
Grace and Henry
July 21, 2022
The past few days have been incredible, especially thanks to our awesome group and their admirable spirit for adventure and FUN! White water rafting on the South Fork of the American River was a great experience filled with many smiles, laughs, and even some thrills. We woke up to laughs (and the sound of the boys continuing their ongoing wiffleball game) on Monday morning and immediately knew it was about to be a great day. After enjoying some top-notch chocolate chip pancakes crafted by Henry, we went up the road to All Outdoors Rafting to meet our amazing raft guides and get suited up in helmets and life jackets before hopping on the river. We split into two rafts: one with Henry, the boys, Mimi, and Caroline, and the other with Grace and the rest of the girls. After a quick introductory lesson on the different paddle strokes and the importance of working together as a team, we set off on the river! The group got some good practice paddling in sync on the tamer lower section, so that we’d be ready for the big waves to come after lunch. Millie and Elizabeth bravely led the girls’ boat by sitting in the front of the raft, setting the pace for the others to follow and getting the most direct hits from the white water. Ty and Jack were the intrepid leaders of the boys’ boat, and kept everyone in unison with their “heave-ho” chants and other rafting shenanigans. After getting warmed up on the lower section, the group stopped for a luxurious sandwich spread and got a quick debrief on the bigger, more technical class 3 waves to come. Post-cold cuts and cookies, we donned our life jackets and brain buckets and set off again. The groups cruised through Current Divide and Bouncing Rock, the first of the class 3 rapids, and were soon approaching the chaotic Satan’s Cesspool with big grins on their faces. Mimi, Caroline, and the boys made it through with minimal issue, whereas the girls found themselves lodged on a rock. While guides scrambled seriously to free the raft, Annie, in particular, and the rest of the girls found the situation quite comical. After an unloading of the raft and some help from other guides, everyone soon was headed down the river again toward the biggest drop of the day, the fabled Hospital Bar. As we got closer, we were able to see boats ahead of us disappear into the wave, and adrenaline started to pump. Before we knew it, we were being told to “HOLD ON!” by our guides, and the wave toppled over top of both of our boats in *rapid* succession. Everyone heeded these directions and we made it through with big cheers and paddle high-fives to follow. As we neared the end of the lower section of the river, our guides pointed out a great spot to jump in and float down some small rapids. Everyone had the best time bobbing beside one another to cap off day one on the river, and the group was giddy for day two on the upper section!
The next morning started bright and early with delectable guide-prepared breakfast croissants. With bellies full, we quickly suited up at the All Outdoors HQ and hopped on a bus headed for the top of the upper section this time around. This section is laid out opposite to the lower, with the bigger class 3 rapids coming right off the bat. The group jumped right in and did a fantastic job getting through Meat Grinder, Racehorse Bend, and the rest to follow! Kelly Jane and Kate sat in the front of the raft this time around, and somehow Kate managed to get drenched by every single wave, while KJ stayed virtually dry! The Class 3 section was just as fun and exciting as the day before, with the grand finale of the day being a rapid called Troublemaker. The boys (+ Mimi and Caroline) boat easily cruised through the whirlpool-like rapid, but Grace’s boat bounced off of a rock and spun down the white water. All the girls had the biggest smiles on their faces once we got to the bottom- it was so much fun! After a well-deserved lunch break, we continued down the river on a more relaxed Class 2 section. It was perfect for lots of water fighting, slow floating, and raft games. Hunter found himself in an intense water battle with raft guide Dakota, while the girls had lots of fun “riding the bull” by sitting on the very front of the raft. Spirits were high and laughs loud throughout the Class 2 section! We ended our time on the river back where we began at the AO headquarters, where we got dried off and hopped in the van to travel to Lake Tahoe. We made it to our lakeside campsite just in time to cook a delicious pizzadilla dinner, get tents up, and watch the most stunning sunset from a small pier right off of our campsite. We played a group favorite game of Big Booty on the pier before having a nice Moonup. Tahoe is awesome and the group is feeling so lucky to be here!
Tuesday morning, we took an opportunity to sleep in a bit before having a big breakfast. We then set off for the other end of the lake where we hiked the Vikingsholm trail on the famous Emerald Bay. The group swam, laid and played in the sand, and had “pressert”(dessert before the meal) popsicles. After a while, everyone scarfed down their sandwiches and started back up toward the parking lot. Everyone was tired and a bit sunkissed from our lazy beach day, but spirits were high. We left the south end of the lake excited to have gotten in the crystal clear water, but we were really just excited to get out on the water the following day in kayaks! We want to give a huge thank you to y’all for raising some great kids, and furthermore for trusting us with them this summer.
Below are some thank you’s from each of them to you!
Grace and Henry
Kelly Jane: Thank you! I love you, thanks for sending me on Moondance.
Kate: Hey! Thanks for sending me on Moondance, love you!
Mimi: Thanks for sending me on Moondance, I miss you!
Caroline: Love you guys so much, thanks for sending me on Moondance!
Millie: Thanks for sending me here, love you!
Annie: Hey! Thank you so much for sending me on Moondance, I’m having so much fun. Miss you and see you so soon!
Elizabeth: Love and miss you! Thanks for sending me on Moondance
Ty: Hey thanks for sending me on Moondance, love you!
Hunter: Hi! Thank you for sending me to Moondance, I can’t wait to see you
Jack: Thank you for sending me on Moondance, I’m having fun. Love you
July 17, 2022
We hope this trip update finds y’all well. We are enjoying a slow, easy morning at our campsite on the American River before we kick off our two-day whitewater rafting experience. Since we last checked in, we had the best time rock climbing in Yosemite, as well as exploring the Mammoth Lakes and June Lake areas of the Sierra Nevada’s. We are feeling super thankful for our time with this group. They are an awesome crew with bright outlooks and loud laughs, and they’ve made every experience we’ve had the absolute best it could be!
Thursday was a fantastic day, with a perfect balance between challenge and relaxation. After fueling up with oatmeal, we took our morning commute into Yosemite along Tioga Pass (look it up-it is the most stunning drive ever!). We met our climbing guides, who helped us get fitted for climbing shoes, harnesses, and helmets, and then taught us the basics of climbing and belaying. The guides set up four different routes up the wall for the group to choose from. The kids jumped in eagerly to climb up the wall, as well as to belay each other. There were definitely some nerves surrounding rock climbing, but the group’s enthusiasm for the day outweighed their nervousness, and they all did a great job trying out rock climbing. Hunter absolutely crushed it all day long, trying out each route, and even practicing climbing with no hands! Caroline blew us all out of the water with her climbing skills- we are all convinced she is a super-human. Throughout the day, everyone did such a good job of actively cheering one another on, which is one of the best signs of a strong support system developing.
After a long day on the wall, we made our way down to June Lake for some quality time by the water. The kids beat Henry and I to the sand by a few seconds, and by the time we caught up, all 10 of them were already dipping their feet in the frigid water of the alpine lake. In this moment, we knew we had the absolute best crew of kids because getting in the water despite the cold is what the spirit of Moondance is all about. For the record, it is not every day every member of a group gets into the water, but it is honestly a Moondance leader’s dream. We all went for a polar plunge and ended up doing some interesting water aerobics and water karate as a group (shout-out to sensei Henry). These were many of our highlights of the day, and the smiles and laughs seen among the group were so sweet to see! We went to shore and dried off in the sun before enjoying some Caesar salad and Coleman grill hotdogs for dinner. We finished the night with a nice Moon-up on the beach, where we shared hilarious stories and talked about our friends at home. I remember Annie and Kelly Jane confidently saying it was their favorite day yet, and I am sure that others (like myself) felt the same way!
We woke up on Friday excited for day two of rock climbing in Yosemite. This day started with a unique twist, because rather than walking to the base of a rock wall and climbing up, we actually hiked to the top and rappelled down! The thought of rappelling from the side of a cliff was definitely nerve-racking for the majority of the group, and there were lots of comments of dismay at the start, but the two of us could not have been happier that our guides decided to start the day with a challenge. Jack and Ty bravely went off the cliff first and shouted back up affirming remarks that the others could do it, too. Kate and Millie were slightly hesitant to rappel down, but after becoming more confident about the best way to go down, they made it to the bottom and felt so much relief! Watching these kids get out of their comfort zone and accomplish something this big was the best part of my day. Once we made it to the bottom of the wall, our day looked pretty similar to the day before, just with more practice under our belts. Elizabeth was open about her doubts surrounding climbing, and she really thought she’d end up watching from the base of the wall most of the day, but she ended up climbing every single route (with the help of master belayer partner Mille). It was so impressive to see all the kids challenge themselves.
After climbing, we decided to explore somewhere new on the roadmap of our summer: the Mammoth Lakes Basin. It is a stunning sight nestled in the Sierra Nevada’s, full of clear blue lakes surrounded by bright green pines. We chose Lake George as our destination for the day, and we could not have been happier with our decision. We took a beautiful little trail along the lake’s perimeter, through wildflowers and below towering pines, until we reached the perfect rock to jump from. It was so fun taking the plunge into the cold water and then climbing up the rock to hang out in the sunshine. Annie, Mimi, and Caroline excitedly jumped in multiple times, and their smiles and happiness radiated onto the rest of the group! We capped our evening back at our campsite with delicious fajita bowls crafted by the talented cook crew of Hunter, Mimi, and Caroline, and, after a nice campsite Moon up, we went to bed with full bellies!
Saturday was a really incredible day of challenge, fun, and lots of ooh’s and ahh’s! This was because we went on one of the most beautiful hikes of our lives. The twelve of us took Rush Creek Trail from Silver Lake up to Agnew Lake. From bright blue water, waterfalls, and stunning views of the valley below, to wildflowers, huge granite peaks, and a bluebird sky, our hike looked like something from a postcard. It was a steep climb with lots of switchbacks, and the group was definitely out of their comfort zone on the ascent, but we were rewarded by such awe-inspiring sights at each turn. At the top of our climb, we reached a small lake called Agnew Lake, where we sat atop stunning obsidian boulders and enjoyed our lunches. After skipping lots of rocks and enjoying a nice break, we headed down the mountain again. The descent was much quicker and easier, but it still felt like an accomplishment to reach our van and consider the hike conquered. With spirits high, we hopped in the car toward the American River. We sang along to some group favorite songs, including American Pie and Just a Little While, to pass the time. The end of the car ride included an exciting surprise for the group: our In-N-Out dinner!! Burgers, fries, and milkshakes were icing on the cake for an awesome day. We soon made it to our campsite, took some long-awaited showers, and went to bed super excited for rafting! Things are great in California, and we can’t wait to share more with y’all so soon. For now, here are some shout-outs from your kiddos. Thanks for all y’all have done to get them here; we love them.
All the best,
Grace and Henry
Jack: I’m having fun! And it’s really hot out here! Tell dogs I say hi. I love you
Ty: Tell Benji I say hello
Hunter: Hello family tell Champ I say hi
Mimi: Hola, hope you had fun in Maine!
Millie: Hi love you, miss you, can’t wait to see you soon!
Caroline: The only thing I miss is the dog! Love you though
Kelly Jane: I’m having fun, love and miss y’all
Kate: Hey love and miss you
Elizabeth: Hey love and miss you guys!
Annie: Hey, how was colorado? Love and miss y’all, having so much fun!
July 15, 2022
This is Grace and Henry checking in for our first trip update of our California adventure. We have had a great past few days getting into the swing of things as a group! Our 10 students are funny, inclusive, energetic, and adventurous. We have such a good feeling about our group’s trajectory for the remainder of the trip, and we are super excited to share some of our experiences with y’all through these updates!
Day one began in the San Francisco airport, where all the kids slowly trickled into our home base at the Delta baggage claim. While waiting for sweet Mimi to arrive after some unfortunate delays to her arrival out west, the rest of the crew kept busy by talking, playing card games (shoutout to Millie), and just enjoying one another’s company in a super interesting setting. We got pizza delivery and had a floor feast for dinner, and soon after, our group was finally complete! We set off down the road to our first campsite of the trip at Portola Redwoods State Park. Along the drive, we watched one of the most stunning sunsets we have ever seen over California’s golden hills. We soon made it to our cozy little campsite full of impressive redwoods, where we set up tents, held our first Moonup, and settled in for the night.
The next morning, we woke the kiddos up for pre-surfing bagel sandwiches and then hopped in the car to the ocean! What we saw when we got there was incredibly exciting for the two of us: the best surfing day of the summer! Typically, skies are gray and swells low in Pacifica, but this time, we got some sunshine and curling waves! After a safety and surfing 101 lesson from our awesome guides, the group hit the water with boards in hand! Before we knew it, Jack, Elizabeth, and Hunter were absolutely shredding wave after wave! Sweet Annie cheered everyone on loudly the whole surfing lesson, keeping everyone in good spirits even after they got knocked by some big waves. The kids did a fantastic job stepping out of their comfort zone to get out on the water even though the waves were on the larger side. Watching them all paddle and surf made us so excited to come back for our second day of surfing on the last day of the trip! As our session came to a close, Ty still had not quite caught a wave as seamlessly as he wanted. Then, when the guides signaled to ride in just one last wave to the shore, Ty absolutely nailed it! The biggest smile crossed his face and he shot his arms up in a triumph as many of us cheered from the sand- it was an incredible moment.
After getting dried off, we got in the van for our long ride to Mammoth, which would be our home base during our time exploring Yosemite. Although the ride was tough, the group stayed in high spirits and especially enjoyed the gorgeous mountain views along the way. To the kids’ surprise, our route took us through Nevada, and it was so gorgeous that Mimi joked she decided she’d like to move there someday. When we arrived at our campsite in Mammoth, many of us decided to “cowboy camp,” or sleep tentless under the stars. Caroline set up her Eno and said she got a great night’s sleep hangin’ in the trees! Not having to break down tents in the morning was a huge help as we had a sunrise wake up call to make the most of our day in Yosemite Valley. Even though they probably would’ve loved to sleep in a bit more, the group brought some really appreciated energy and excitement for the day! We decided to explore the Mist Trail, one of the more popular hikes in the Valley. Kate said the hike was her favorite part of the day! Our group picture was taken on a bridge along the route, but the views were absolutely amazing around every corner. After our hike, we went to check out El Capitan, which is the huge granite rock formation made famous by the movie, Free Solo. Millie was amazed by the story of how someone climbed all the way up it with no ropes. We took a quick trail to get up next to the wall, and some of the kids climbed up it (only about 2 feet off the ground, but that’s got to count for something!). Yosemite Valley is one of the most beautiful places in the country, so we felt so lucky to get to experience alongside this awesome group. Their positive approach to all kinds of experiences is what Moondance is all about. We want to give a special shout-out to Kelly Jane for her tremendous spirit, composure, and positivity although she had a bit of a rough day in Yosemite; she is an amazing girl, and we just think the world of her!!
Halfway back to our campsite, we stopped off at a viewpoint called Olmstead Point, still in the National Park. It was a super beautiful spot and the perfect place to stretch our legs! Once we made it back to the campsite, our first (and best so far) cook crew of Elizabeth, Jack, and Ty made us a lovely meal of chicken and beef kebabs with rice and naan. We had all worked up quite the appetite after a day of exploring, and it totally hit the spot. After a nice Moonup, we got some great rest before two days of rock climbing in Yosemite! Things are going great and we are feeling thankful. Stay tuned for another update soon.
Henry and Grace
July 12, 2022
Hello California Families!
The whole group arrived safely in San Francisco and had a blast on their first activity today. We have heard from our leaders this evening 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