June 20, 2022
Our dear Colorado Trail 1A friends and families,
We have officially wrapped up our trip out here in the Wild West and have sent everyone on their way!
We hit the Arkansas River bright and early Saturday morning to put an exclamation point on the last two weeks, and it did not disappoint. The Royal Gorge is one of the most coveted rafting spots in North America and we were lucky enough to have some incredibly knowledgeable guides to take us through it. We saw everything from the tallest suspension bridge in the United States to a water pipeline built in the 1820s intended to bring water to Cañon City. The cherry on top of the fun facts was that all the while we got to raft some epic class three and four rapids! Paddling through waves named “Sledgehammer,” “The Narrows,” and “Boat Eater,” you can imagine the fun we had! We had splash wars and even got to jump off a rock into a deep part of the river! Michael R. and Johnny braved the front as we paddled through the biggest rapids of the day and they took them like champs. It was a great way to wrap up our activities together, and many said it was their favorite day of the trip yet.
We got off the River in the afternoon and made a quick pitstop for some supplies to support our next mission – a cookout. After securing the goods, we loaded back into the van and headed to our campsite. With an appetizer of chips and guac followed by cheeseburgers and hotdogs, we braved a rainstorm and ate ourselves full. Problem-solving skills were put into play when the rain started to really come down, as Hayes and Will jumped into action to help us put up the tarp and protect the food. Being the first time all session we had rain, everyone took it as an opportunity to decompress a little and reflect. Addy finished her entire book, some “meditated,” and others played games under the cover of the bridge. Greysen and Emory teamed up as the “Aca Rockas” and made up a dance to Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus. Overall, it was an awesome evening.
We woke up Sunday morning with an exciting to-do list and all the time in the world to get it done. After driving into Colorado Springs to do a little car-washing, we ate sandwiches for lunch and finished the drive up to Denver. It proved a cool sightseeing adventure, as we passed the Air Force Academy from I-25 and got to see all the runways they practice from. After arriving in Denver, we set up camp and got ready for the next morning. After some gear cleaning and showers, we all headed out for our final banquet.
For banquet, the first stop was Goodwill for some fun outfits. Hayes took the cake as most creative, while Johnny beamed with pride in his oversized Ralph Lauren chaps suede jacket (that is currently wearing on the plane). Greysen, Addy, and Emory all brought it in different ways, with Addy going for bridal slippers and Emory rocking some sweet sparkly shades. Overall, everyone looked awesome. We headed to the Denver Central Market, a leader favorited spot, for dinner and ice cream and everyone got to pick which food vendor they wanted to buy from! It was an awesome way to end our trip. After returning to the campground and having a quick dance party following a successful last Moonup, we tucked into our sleeping bags one last time and got ready for our big departure the next morning.
We arrived at the airport this morning bright and early and said our final goodbyes. We cannot thank you enough for sharing your kids with us this summer, and we truly hope they had just as much fun as we did. They are some of the bravest and most incredible kids and we couldn’t have asked for a better start to the summer. For now, that’s all from us.
Until next time,
Lizzie, John, and Grace.
June 19, 2022
Another beautiful couple of days in Colorado!
These past few days we have found ourselves in and around Crested Butte for both some epic rock climbing and some well-deserved town time. We continued our Western Colorado adventure by driving from Telluride to the beautiful campground. Elk Creek was nestled on the banks of the Blue Mesa Reservoir, a huge man-made water source stretching for miles. It was truly a beautiful spot and to top it all off, we were greeted by a sunset of all colors.
We woke early on Thursday morning with one thing on our minds, showers. The Gunnison Parks and Recreation center came in clutch with a last-minute save. After showering, we hopped in the van to travel the country roads to Taylor Canyon. Our guides were awesome as they showed us the ropes (pun intended) of climbing. Will took to the rock first, scaling one of the harder pitches with ease. From there, the bug was contagious. Michael R. took on the left pitch like it was nothing, and the girls climbed side by side and made it to the top! It was the perfect way to kick off our day in Crested Butte, as our guides had many recommendations for what we needed to do next.
After a perfect morning of climbing, we headed down Main Street for some shopping, ice cream, and quality time together! Hayes already knew some great spots, including Secret Stash Pizza, where the kids dined on fresh pies. Crested Butte proved a great stop, as we went in great local shops, and some treated themselves to local souvenirs. After roaming the streets, we made a much-needed pit stop to do laundry. The laundry mat proved itself a great reset, as we were all able to repack duffels, do some spring cleaning, and prepare for our final couple of days. After a great dinner of “chicken Alfredo”, we had a great Moonup (which, per the usual, included stargazing) where we talked about our dream cars and gave Nugs to a great day in Crested Butte.
We woke Friday morning ready for our last day of climbing and then to make the transition back east towards Salida. We packed up camp and headed out towards Taylor Canyon one last time. Emory was our climbing champion of the day as she conquered every single pitch successfully. We’re thinking there may even be more climbing in her future! Will had a huge wow moment of the day as he could’ve easily tuned back at the hardest pitch but decided to keep going and eventually made it to the top. It was such an awesome show of courage. Jonathan maneuvered a crack in the rock like he had done it a million times, and Addie and Greysen climbed side by side on one end conquering the heights! It was a very successful second day of climbing, and so we just had to celebrate with ice cream.
Now, we back off towards the Arkansas River for our last days together. We can’t wait to raft the famous rapids of the Royal Gorge while savoring these moments together.
See y’all soon! The COTA crew (Lizzie, Grace, and John).
June 17, 2022
Greetings from Kilpacker Trailhead!
We have successfully completed our 4-day backpacking trip and are ready to scale some climbing walls. Our adventure began Saturday, as we made the drive from the Sand Dunes to Ridgway, our campsite for the night. The evening was full of quesadillas and backcountry lessons as we learned how to pack a backpack, proper bear protocol, and what a “trowel” is. After a good night’s rest, we awoke ready to hit the trail. With our packs on our backs and a cool Colorado breeze, we took off down Kilpacker Trail in the San Juan Forest just outside Telluride. We hiked in a few miles and then decided it was time to set up camp. Greyson and Jonathan, our LOD’s, helped us make crucial decisions as we had to quickly find a site because of the setting sun. Despite seeing a few possibilities for camping early on, the verdict was to move forward until we had found a durable surface to camp on, one of the seven “leave no trace” principles. Eventually, after some searching, we found the perfect flat valley to camp in for the night, with access to a great water source. Hayes wowed us with his knowledge of the stars as we had an epic view of them, and we dined on mac and cheese and salami before quickly hitting the sack for a well-deserved nights rest.
We awoke the next morning to a crystal blue sky and the entire day to explore. We had a leisurely morning spent sitting in circles and talking about life, after which we eventually decided it was time to hit the trail. We decided the first item on our agenda would be to find a different campsite, as the wind had moved in, and it was time for us to move on. We packed our packs and cheerfully moved on down the trail. After about 30 minutes, we began seeing wildflowers everywhere. Following the signs, we stumbled upon what we had no idea we had been missing — a campsite situated perfectly next to the river under lots of big trees. We decided we’d stay awhile and set up our tents. Veggies and noodles were on the menu for dinner and Addie, Greysen, and Emory jumped right in to help. After a successful Moonup led by our LOD’s Grace and Michael R., we nestled in for a good night’s rest. The slight chill in the mountain air made for a cozy night in our tents and we awoke the next morning ready for our last official day in the backcountry.
Our third day was packed full, as we had to make the most of what time we had left in the San Juan National Forest. We set out for our day hike and stopped briefly for lunch and to regroup. After lunch, we decided to try out a “solo hike” model, where we sent the kids down the trail 5 minutes apart, sandwiched by leaders for safety, to give them a taste of what being truly alone with the wild feels like. Reviews were great, especially from Addy and Will, as some said it gave them time to think while others merely appreciated a little “alone” time during such a busy schedule. After returning to camp, we cheffed up some fried rice and prepped to head out of the woods the next morning.
Wednesday morning, we woke up bright and early ready to take on the day. We packed up and got moving towards the trailhead. After a brisk walk, we arrived and loaded the van up for Telluride. Good tunes bumping, we headed back down the road we’d traveled days before in search of one thing and one thing only… food. We took Steamies Burgers by storm as we ordered up burgers and fries and stuffed ourselves full. It was the best way to end a backcountry extravaganza.
We are so grateful for your kids and are so looking forward to these last few days with them. Until next time, it’s off to the rocks and the rapids.
Check in soon!
Lizzie, Grace, and John.
P.S.: Some thank-yous!!
Hi parents thank you so much for sending me to Moondance, love you.
Hi mom and dad, thank you for allowing me to participate in Moondance this summer. I’m having fun! Love, Will
Mom and dad, I would like to give you all the deepest of my thanks for letting me in-bark on this once in a lifetime experience, love you
Hi mom and dad thanks so much for sending on this one in a lifetime opportunity on sending me to moon dance! Love, Michael
Hi mom and dad thank you so much for taking me to Moondance it has been really fun.Michael
Hey mom and dad, love you so much and thanks for sending me to Moondance I’m having so much fun!
Hey mom! Thank you for sending me to Moondance I’m having lots of fun! I miss you
June 12, 2022
We are off and running with our activities and having a blast. We woke Friday morning bright and early ready to take on the day. After devouring some oatmeal, we packed down camp and were back on the road! We cruised down the highway to some awesome jams recommended by Addy, and we were so excited when we arrived at Captain Zip-line. Little did we know we’d end up laughing all day with our hilarious guides, Josh and Preston, as they took us on an animated and lively ropes course and zip-line tour. Emory absolutely thrived on the ropes course, tackling some of the harder routes with ease.
After a morning of conquering heights, we sat on the back porch of Captain Zip-line and ate sandwiches and chatted about the morning. From there, we piled back into the van and headed to the zip-lines. Josh and Preston made us laugh harder than we had in a long time with their commentary and games. We must’ve played the “artist game” for hours where you had to come up with an artist’s name that started with the first letter of the last name of the artist the other person said. Everyone got really into it, yelling “Elvis Presley” as we ascended to the zip-lines. The lines progressively got more exciting, as we zipped over canyons and soaked in the views. Michael R. and Hayes were always up first ready to zip down and it was awesome watching them love the activity so much. Addy automatically bonded with Josh and Preston and even had a job offer to be a zipline guide by the end of the day! We told her we unfortunately had to head to our next campsite and couldn’t leave her there, but we hope she gets to return when she’s a few years older!
As the end of the day rolled around, we piled back into the van and hit the road for Great Sand Dunes National Park. Watching the terrain change was incredible, and before we knew it we had arrived at the park. We stopped at the store to rent sand boards, and cooled off with cold drinks and some ice cream! From there, it was a speedy set up at camp and a mini-pizza dinner so we could get some much needed shut eye before our big morning!
At a bright and early 2:50 AM, we woke the kids and exclaimed that “it’s time!”. We were so excited for our sunrise climb on the Great Sand Dunes. When we made it to the trail, we suddenly realized something a little surprising – there was water! Streams of water seasonally stream past the dunes, we got to experience it! Will was so helpful in helping us to make a plan and we made the decision to watch the sunrise over the dunes and cross over later to sand board. After eating brownies and watching the sun slowly show its face, we grabbed our boards and headed out for the dunes again. This time, we successfully crossed, and the kids boarded, slid, and jumped down dune after dune, truly having the best time. Johnathan was an absolute pro at the stand-up sand board. Graysen made it her mission to bury Emory in the sand and had us come “find her”. Needless to say, things are a little sandy in the van these days.
After an epic morning on the dunes, we headed back to camp and whipped up some delicious M&M pancakes and scrambled eggs. After a feast and a good shower for everyone, we hit the road again for our big drive to backpacking! The downtime was much needed as many naps were had and good tunes were played. We arrived last night to our campsite for backpacking prep. We ate some quesadillas, and learned all about the ins and outs of good backcountry etiquette.
From here, we’re off on our three-night backpacking excursion! We know it’s going to be full of laughs and more bonding. We’ll check back in when we emerge on Wednesday, but that’s all for now!
See y’all later,
Grace, Lizzie, and John
Here are some shout-outs from the kids! 🙂
Hi, this is Will. I am having fun, and you will be pleased to know that I have sand in half of my clothes haha. I am currently in the van, and we are about to go backpacking. Bye, Will
Hi, I am your son in the white van in Colorado. So far, I have been camping for 7 nights and I have been white water rafting and ziplining. I also tried sand-boarding! Bye!
Hi mom and dad so we’re gonna have to do some good laundry when I get home! I really miss you guys and am counting down the days until I get to see you. But I have made the most out of every situation. I’ll tell you about the great people that I’ve met when I see you all! Can’t wait to see you all, love you Addy.
Hey mom and dad, it’s me writing on the way to our backpacking portion of the trip. Right now, it’s Sunday so we’re almost a week in. I hope the boys are having an amazing time at camp and I can’t wait to see you all again soon. I miss you all so much and am having so much fun with Graysen here in Colorado! Can’t wait to see you all soon, sending lots of love and can’t wait to get home and shower!
I am having such an amazing time. The leaders are super fun and sweet. I am having lots of fun with Emory. So far, we have white water rafted, Ziplined, sand boarded down the great Colorado sand dunes and finally took showers yesterday. I’m so glad I went to Moondance. Colorado is beautiful. I miss you, Shelby, and Cindy. I can’t wait to sleep in my bed again and take a nice hot shower. Xoxo, Graysen
Hi mom and dad, I’m having a good time here. We travel a lot and sleep in different places. I am happy that I went to Moondance, and the food here is pretty good so far. I am in the van going hiking right now, also I can somehow sleep with three other people in the tent! It was really nice to take a shower. Michael
Hi mom and dad, it’s me, Michael, and 2 other kids in a tent. Every night when I get bored, I look up to the stars and just lay there and stare. I have seen 2 shooting stars and when we woke up at 3am to go to the sand dunes, I pointed out every planet and when we got there we could see the Milky Way. White water rafting was really fun! We all have no sense of time, so I learned (by myself) how to know what time it is using the sun. I’m always about 5 to 10 min off but I’m still working on it. We go to Crested Butte in 5 days and I’m really excited. Pls order my custom cleats if you have not already. Tell C to update my Xbox. Thanks, Michael Hayes
June 10, 2022
Hello from the beautiful Arkansas River!
First we would like to start by saying THANK YOU! We are so grateful that you are sharing your children with us for these two precious weeks, and we can’t wait for all the memories that will be made.
We began our journey win the Denver Airport with lots of smiles and hellos. It wasn’t long before we were off in our van “Bessie” and headed towards our first campsite of the night. Upon arrival we learned how to set up a tent and then put our skills into practice. We had our first Moonup of the trip and all discussed why we chose Moondance and what brought us here. Our LOD’s (leaders of the day) were announced as Emory and Jonathan, and before we knew it we were fast asleep in our sleeping bags!
We awoke bright and early to hit the road and meet our rafting guides. Our LOD’s led a great morning huddle where we discussed the events for the day and went over how to be good stewards of the river. We then loaded the rafts and hit the river! Addy and Greysen jumped at the chance to be in the front of the raft, while on the other raft Michael Ryan and Michael H. (Hayes as we call him) took the helm. They led the charge through some class III rapids all morning! From there, we made a quick pit stop on the side of the river for lunch, and had some awesome sandwiches prepared by our guides. After sunning ourselves on the rocks and feasting on some caramel brownies, we floated down to our campsite for the night. Upon arrival, we had some time to chill out, which for all parties involved sitting on a rock of choice and continuing to get to know each other. For dinner we had some delicious tacos and then a great Moonup and then it was early to bed so we could hit the river again in the morning!
Our second day of rafting kicked off and we were ready to tackle some even bigger rapids! Hayes and Greysen, our LOD’s for the day, led our morning huddle and then we were off. Emory and Will were at the helm for the “7 Stairs” rapid, where they battled seven class III rapids in a row! They were all smiles as they took wave after wave – we were all soaked! It was awesome.
After breaking for lunch, we battled a few more rapids and then arrived at our take out location. We boarded the bus and headed back to the River Runners headquarters to be reunited with Bessie and get some dry clothes on! After arriving back at our campsite, Grace led a fly fishing charge and everyone jumped in! Hayes really put his mind to learning as Grace taught him how to rig and cast a line. The boys took the reigns for dinner and cheffed us up some amazing Fajitas! After playing a quick game of “Ghost in the Graveyard”, we had an awesome Moonup where we discussed our families and named our family members. With every day that goes by we get to know each other a little bit more.
We are so grateful for the time we’ve had together so far, and can’t wait to make more memories. For now, it’s off to Captain Zipline and the Sand Dunes!
We’ll check back in soon,
John, Grace, and Lizzie
June 7, 2022
Hello Colorado Trail Families!
The whole group arrived safely in Denver 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