June 20, 2022
Hello to all from Venezia!
Today marks the last day of an incredible two week trip over here in the beautiful country of Italy. Following our epic trekking and climbing sections of the trip, we hopped in a couple of vans and headed to Claut, Italy. This is a remote, quiet, very beautiful town in a valley located in the northeast. We arrived to our quaint hotel where we would stay for two nights as we experienced the wonderful sport of canyoning. The arrival day was relaxing; we got our rooms assignments and had a peaceful afternoon until it was time to head to dinner. Our plates were piled with lasagna, roasted chicken, local root vegetables, and topped off with tiramisu, which Charlie had no problem cleaning. Following dinner, Ann and William led yet another beautiful Moonup in a grass field surrounded by healthy vegetable gardens. Following Moonup, the group went on a brief exploration of the nearby neighborhoods where Stephen stumbled upon a gargantuan migration of slugs. This occupied the group for a decent amount of time before the crew headed for the beds. Talk about easy entertainment!
The following morning, the group sat down for a beautiful breakfast spread of croissants and coffee as we awaited our canyoning guides, Evaristo and Roberto. Upon arrival, we suited up in wetsuits, harnesses, and helmets to begin the action. Pope especially enjoyed the new outfits as he displayed his superhero-like moves in the wetsuit. This activity was new to all in the group, so everyone was very excited to see what was in store. And for good reason, it started off with a bang! Oliver led the charge rappelling down the first rock face which led us to a little swimming hole. The water was frigid, but our wetsuits masked the cold just enough. We then began heading down the canyon in all sorts of forms and fashions. We slid, climbed, rappelled, and jumped through a wonderland of crystal clear waterholes and silky smooth waterfalls. It was unreal! Eva Rose mentioned early on that it was already her favorite activity. At the end of the canyoning, the guides surprised us with a massive rappel down a magical waterfall. It was incredible! Ashley conquered this challenge, as she lowered down the cliff with ease. It was so much fun!
Following the canyoning, the group ate lunch and had some downtime to shower. After the much needed relaxation time, the group set out for the nearest soccer pitch to play some World Cup! The field was beautiful, with jagged peaks surrounding every inch of the grass. The teams were set, and it was game on. Who knew that we had such a soccer group! Charlie and Oliver had spent the whole trip talking about golf, but they never seemed to mention their soccer skills. It was mayhem. After a long, drawn out fight, the game finally came down to one winning team, which was Ann and Eva Rose playing as team USA. This was no easy task, especially with Ashley and Charlie as goalies. Following the game, the group headed back to the hotel to shower again. We did not realize how dirty we would be after playing! After the showers: dinner time, oh yeah. The group enjoyed a fabulous three course meal which consisted of pasta, veal, and a delicious dessert. Following dinner was another meaningful and heartfelt Moonup under a clear night sky. After Moonup, it was decided that one last hacky sack session was crucial. This session then turned into a newly formed game titled “back-hand baseball”, which the boys jumped feet first in to. Will took a strong liking for the game, as he put everything he had into his swings. The boys were having good ol’ boy time while girls were having good ol’ girl time. The night was incredible! It was the perfect way to close out our time in the mountains of Northern Italy. Following the night activities, the gang hit the beds in order to be up for our morning transfer to Venice.
The next morning the crew split up into two vans and headed off to Venice. We arrived at our hostel, and soon hit the town. Allie led the pack with confidence as we perused through tight alley ways and across many canals. The city was magical. Will especially showed his interest in the city as he stopped in nearly every shop. The group enjoyed gelato, pizza, candy, more pizza, and more gelato. When in Venice, right? We then hopped aboard our water taxi to head to the hostel for our final Moonup by the water. It was a heartfelt, reflective, and intentional Moonup that had everyone’s cups overflowing with appreciation for the bonds formed. Tears were shed, hugs were shared, and souls were seen. We feel so fortunate to be a part of such a phenomenal group of people.
This morning we woke up with the sun and headed to the airport. Nobody wanted to leave, and we leaders certainly felt the same. More tears, more hugs, more thanks, and some more hugs after that. The group moved swiftly through the airport and going through security was a breeze. Although they have left us physically, they will certainly remain in our hearts and minds for years to come.
To our families, thank you. Thank you for sharing your most prized possessions with us for two short weeks – we are eternally grateful to know them. They have touched our hearts in ways words cannot express, and we are so excited to watch them blossom in the garden that is life.
Elizabeth and McKee
June 17, 2022
Hello again to our favorite families!
We are coming at you fresh off the stunning rocks of Cinque Torri, aka the Cinque Terre for cool kids (like us). We started Day 9 with a technical via ferrata up a peak right beside Cinque Torri that offered a jaw-dropping panorama of the Dolomites around us. It was no simple task getting up there, and Oliver’s enthusiasm for having completed such a technical feat helped the group realize just how proud they should all be of themselves! Many pictures were taken up there as it was perhaps one of our best views yet. After signing our names in a summit guest book, we started our descent to our rock-climbing location. It was many people’s first time ever rock climbing, but you could hardly tell – we’ve got some monkeys on our hands! The collective attitude was electric, and Ann jumpstarting the “I’ll try that route” train got everybody moving on to the next big challenge! One of the most notable moments was Charlie’s grit and determination nearing the end of our activity. He attempted one route 3 times before reaching the top, but he never once gave up – heck yeah! The rain rolled in so we had to roll out, but since when did the rain stop us from having fun? Never. One of our climbing guides, Matteo, showed us the art of table bouldering, and it is exactly as it sounds. The goal was to go all the way around a picnic table without touching the ground, and Pope soon became the physicist behind it all. Being upside down on a picnic table is rather discombobulating, but never fear! Pope gave concise instruction on what foot/hand to put where so that everyone came out successful. Stephen holds the record for 5 revolutions around the table, a stat that’s hard to beat! Once the rain passed, the dinner plates were cleared, and the sun fell asleep, we held a meaningful Moonup under the stars, one that certainly brought the group closer than ever. We went to bed very thankful for this day, and even more excited for our rock climbing the next!
Our second day on the rocks was a showstopper. Cinque Torri breeds fun climbs, and we certainly had our fair share. The group split up into groups to tackle a multi-pitch climb and rappel, and Eva Rose spearheaded this ascent with ease. She danced up the rock, and after a couple of screams to get the nerves out, she zoomed down the rappel, too! Although the intimidation of this massive rock was a speed bump in excitement for many, the entire group completed it and we could not be prouder! On the single-pitch routes, Allie took the gold for the fastest ascent up the hardest route of the day. A lot of us tried this pitch and couldn’t figure it out, but she read the rock right and crushed it! The rain came in again, but Will’s witty humor kept spirits high as we scurried back to our rifugio. Following another unbelievably delicious meal, we rested our heads with sore arms and happy hearts.
The final trekking day was a relatively easy one, so we had plenty of time to meander, play games and laugh all the more. Ashley and William were champs at our 1.5 hour hacky sack playoff at lunch, dodging throws here and there and always keeping themselves in the game. We all must know their strategy! Our guides, Matteo and Christine, joined in on the fun and proceeded to write down every rule so they could teach others in the future. Love it! Trekking concluded at a site with adorable baby donkeys and lazy cows, and after looking at them for a bit we all hopped into vans to head off to Dolomiti Friulane where we will be canyoning tomorrow! These past days have been the definition of fun, and we could not be any more grateful to have shared this marvelous time with your children.
<3 Elizabeth and McKee
Here are some notes to let you know how thankful they are, too!
Ann: Hey mom and dad, thanks so much for letting me go on this trip! It’s been amazing and I’m so excited to tell y’all about it! Love you
Ashley: Hello parents thank you so much for letting me go on the Dolomites trip, I’m having the time of my life! Can’t wait to see y’all but this is super dope!! 🙂
Eva rose: Hi!! I am having the best time ever. I don’t want to go home but I cannot wait to see you all! Thank you so much for this opportunity:)
Allie: Hi guys thank you so much for letting me go on this insane trip!! I’m having the best time and can’t wait to see y’all. Please pet Mabel and Hazel for me. Can we please go to la hacienda straight from the airport?! :))))
Pope: I cannot thank my parents enough for letting me go on this trip! I have had such a great experience in Italy, especially with this great group. The views on the hikes are incredible and the rock climbing was awesome. I want you both to know how grateful I am!
Stephen: What up guys. This has been the best time ever so far, I am loving it. I miss y’all so much and I love y’all so much. Thank you so much for letting me go and sending me on this trip. It is so cool and pretty. Thank you and love you.
Oliver: Thank you Mom and Dad for everything you do for me. I really appreciate all the sacrifices you make to make me have a great time. This trip is a lot of fun and I’m so thankful you let me have these opportunities. Thank you guys and I love y’all.
William: Thank you mom and Dad for letting me go on this great trip. I have had a great time meeting new people, seeing very cool views and doing many fun activities. Also thank you for everything you guys do for me. I love you guys and will see you soon.
Charlie: Thank you mom and dad so much for sending me on this amazing trip. I am having more fun than you can imagine and also learning a lot. Can’t wait to thank you in person! Love you so much!
Will: I really appreciate you sending me on this trip. I’ve had an awesome time and met so many awesome people. I’ll forever be happy for what you do for me every day and can’t wait to see you in a couple of days
June 14, 2022
Hello our beloved Dolomites 1A friends and family!
Our trekking section began on a crisp, bluebird morning just outside of Cortina d’Ampezzo. Stephen and Allie were our LODs today and they did a great job helping to keep the group morale high as the first hour or so was a steep incline. Allie kept us intrigued as she shared her affinity for 3D printing, and Stephen set the standard for expedition behavior by picking up any piece of trash he saw! The trail soon simmered down to gradual ups and downs, and we knew we’d found our lunch spot when Eva Rose and Ann started belting the Sound of Music soundtrack like there was no tomorrow. The hills were ALIVE; lavender, deep yellow, indigo, Carolina blue, and white baby flowers surrounded us as we rested in the lush green fields, taking our sweet time to eat. Trail laughs made for a zippy final stretch to our Refugio where we basked in the sunshine while waiting for our rooms to be ready. With still some time for fun before dinner, the group decided to play — yep, you know the one — hacky sack. Down by the river, up by the chapel, also out by the patio, we played until our meal was served. Salad, roasted pork, pasta, and apricot tart filled our bowls and souls, and we fell into a deep slumber after Moonup under the stars. What a day!
The next day began with a beautiful descent into an incredible valley, where we refilled our water bottles, ate apples, and watched Charlie form new bonds with 3 cows. We then began our ascent up towards Refugio Lavarella, where we would stay for two nights. The Refugio was alongside a stunningly clear emerald-like lake, which every single person eventually jumped into! It was freezing cold, which we quickly learned from Oliver’s ecstatic reaction. The award for the longest time in the snowmelt water went to Will, who had to swim out to retrieve his hat. Following the polar plunge, many set out to chase some waterfalls for a peaceful late afternoon hike. Pope displayed his affinity for marmots as he was able to spot seven before anyone else was able to see one.
After another marvelous dinner and breakfast the next morning, the crew set out on a day hike to summit the beautiful plateau de fanes. Ashley led as LOD, and kept spirits high as can be as we trekked through the extraterrestrial landscapes to reach the plateau. At lunchtime, we arrived to our once in a lifetime destination where we would munch sandwiches and chocolate. William described on several occasions that the view was the best he had ever seen by far, which others seemed to agree with easily. Upon arrival back at Lavarella, the gang headed back towards the lake, where we would swim again. Charlie and Stephen both displayed their fly-fishing skills at the lake as well, as they casted the rod across the glasslike lake. This made for a relaxing afternoon following our summit.
The next day would be our longest and most difficult trek of the trip, heading to Refugio Lagazuoi. William and Will were the LOD’s for this adventure, which the group absolutely demolished! Ascending over 3,000 feet in elevation throughout 7.2 miles, the group maintained an incredibly positive attitude with no complaints. The views were unearthly, and the destination was sweet as could be! Lagazoui held 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains, at an elevation of over 9,100ft. This made for an unforgettable sunset, with countless laughs from the group. Truly an incredible evening in the Dolomites!
Our final day of trekking sparked interest in the whole group because we got the great fortune of touring through WWI tunnels and barracks! Descending from Lagazuoi, we went through the entire mountain in a tunnel. Talk about a real-life history lesson. WOW. Following our lunch & lounge, we put the packs back on and booked it up the final stretch to Refugio Averau. Chocolate on the porch while overlooking the natural greens and blues enveloping us, the group could not be prouder of themselves and each other! We look forward to our upcoming via ferrata and rock-climbing section!
Check in soon,
McKee and Elizabeth
Here are a couple words from your beloved Moonchildren:
Eva Rose: Hey! I am having the best time but miss you all and Oli so much! The Dolomites are so pretty. I hope all is well in Nashville! Happy early Father’s Day!
Ann: hey mom and dad, I’m having so much fun! The views are absolutely AMAZING and the food is awesome. Tell the dogs I miss them! Hope y’all are having fun at home and happy early Father’s Day!
Will: Hi mom and dad I have been doing great this week and have been eating well. Tell George that I will see him soon and I miss burgers 🙂
Ashley: Hi parents I am having the dopest time in the Dolomites, the food is so good and we are staying at super great rifugios with great views. The group is dope and we have amazing views. Love and miss yall ok bye
Pope: Howdy mom and dad! I’m having a great time in a place with awesome views. The rifugios we stay in are super nice with showers and everything. When I come back I’ll be fluent in Italian.
Oliver: Hello Mom, Dad, Oscar, and Bea. Hope everything is going well back in clt. I’m having a lot of fun in the Dolomites. There are a lot of some really cool views. The rifugios we stay in are really nice. I’m having a great time. Happy birthday Oscar.
Stephen: Hey mom, Mary Thomas, and Markland. This has been so awesome so far. We have hiked the past days, and it has been the best experience ever. The views and everything is amazing. The mountains are huge and super cool. I hope y’all are doing something awesome. I love y’all. See you soon.
William: Hi Mom and Dad, I am having the best time on this Moondance. I have met a lot of very cool people, seen many cool views and done many fun activities with more to come in the couple days that I have left. Also happy early Father’s Day dad, sorry I can’t be there to celebrate it with you. I love you guys and miss you. See you soon.
Charlie: Hello parentals. I am having a wonderful time on this Moondance adventure. In all seriousness I am having a great time and miss everyone a lot, I cannot wait to see all of you. LOVE YOU. Happy early Father’s Day Shad
Allie: Hiii whoever is reading this, I am having an awesome possum time in the Dolomites!!! The weather is perfect, and the people are great! We have had gourmet food the entire time in boujee rifugios. Miss y’all and pet Mab and Haz for me please! The views are insane they look like out of a movie. Love y’all and happy Father’s Day <3 lil angel
June 9, 2022
Ciao from across the pond! Elizabeth and McKee checking in here. Our Dolomiti dabbles began shortly after a smooth travel day from Atlanta to Venice. We breezed through the airport and met our perfectly kind driver who would be our transporter from the airport to Cortina d’Ampezzo. The drive was scenic, restorative, and promising for all that is to come! Stomachs were grumbling the second that food was mentioned, so we made a pit stop for some authentic prosciutto and cheese sandwiches at a deli right off the highway. You heard that right: curbside cold cuts. After taking a group vote, we all agreed it was one of the best sandwiches we’d ever had! Charlie especially loved how much prosciutto was on his sandwich; the ratio of meat & cheese to bread hit the spot. Once we scarfed those down we hit the road to finish our journey to Cortina.
Following some much needed mid-day shut-eye, we walked down the road to check out the remnants of the 1956 Winter Olympics ski jump rig. Some parts are missing, but the majority of them are still intact which was super fascinating to see. There was a group of local boys playing soccer at the base of the rig, and Eva Rose, Ann, Allie, and Stephen had a lovely time watching them play! Eva Rose suggested we all go play the following day and that was quite well received. There are certainly a handful of athletes in this group which makes for a competitive (all in good spirits of course) game of hacky sack! We play pretty much any chance we get, and Will has fully established himself as the one to look out for because he is always, and I mean always, one of the last three players in.
After our Olympic-soccer-sack sesh, we met up with the rest of the group for a pizza dinner and William showed us how it’s done! He was open to trying any and all flavors, and he made sure everyone had gotten enough before he went in for seconds – nice! Of course, this day wouldn’t be complete without the birthday boy, Oliver! McKee bestowed a captain’s hat upon him the second he arrived in Italy, and he wore this birthday souvenir with pride all day. The surprise chocolate cake after dinner was the perfect ending to a wonderful day, and we feel so lucky he wanted to celebrate his birthday with us!
Day 3 was via ferrata day – YES! Not a soul in our group had ever done one before, so experiencing something new all together was special and exciting. After meeting our guides Marco and Enrico, we went on a short hike up the ridge to our via ferrata starting point. Pope showed us the ropes (literally)! He scaled up, down, and across the rock with ease and precision, it was very impressive. We eventually reached a roaring waterfall that doused us with some cool mountain water; Ann and Allie stood behind the waterfall longer than any of us! On our way back down we played games and got to know each other more, and Ashley wowed us with her skiing accomplishments and avid love for the sport. Enrico is a professional skier, so he was all ears to her experiences. Cheers to skiing!
After our exceptional first via ferrata, we returned to our hostel mid-afternoon for a lesson on how to properly pack a backpack, and then dinner shortly followed. We go to bed with full bellies and happy hearts, dreaming of the magic our trekking section holds the next several days! We have absolutely loved our time here so far, and cannot wait for all the many more memories we will surely make!
Elizabeth and McKee
June 8, 2022
Hello Dolomites Families!
We heard from our leaders late last night that the group has landed safely in Venice. 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!