June 20, 2022
Hi there everyone!
I am currently writing this in the windowsill of one of our last mountain homes, and man does it feel straight out of a movie. In fact, I was inspired by Kaitlyn who I found doing the same while writing in her journal! It all seems fitting because these past couple of days have been no short of a dream.
We continued our trekking section with a wonderful circle hike in some of the lushest areas that the Dolomites have to offer. The day hike brought many smiles, especially when we got to see more cows! Sam led our own herd as he energetically set the pace for the whole group. Kaitlyn, Ava, Emma, and Louise kept group spirits high as they moseyed down the trail singing country songs the whole way. The kids also dug deep into their movie vaults and played hours of the movie guessing game where I learned of mine and Stella’s deeply shared appreciation for Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium… a game winner if you ask me. The hike came to a roaring end when we even got to see some awesome dinosaur footprint fossils! Once we arrived at the refugio, they learned a classic Moondance Hackysack game, and man, do we have some competitive players. Ava was a force to be reckoned with while Jack even dove on the ground to make a saving catch! Feeling full from the day’s excitement, we headed into a lovely Moonup led by our LOD’s, Jack and Bridget, and then went to bed ready for what the new day had to offer.
The next day’s hike proved to be a challenge, but man was the view worth it. Our LODs, Boyd and Emma, did an amazing job setting the pace and the energy for the group as we set off on our hike. Bridget’s excitement and optimism really united the group when we reached the first ascents. Kaitlyn and Ava led the pack all while being encouraging and kind to the people behind. We rounded mountains and plunged into valleys all while making sure to look up from our feet every once in a while to take in the unbelievable views. Sam even reflected on this later when he said how important it is to simply look up, and days like this one prove that sentiment to be very true. It was like wherever you looked there was a breathtaking mountain scene- a worthy encouragement to keep going when the hike grew steeper. About midway through the trek, we reached a clear blue lake that left everyone in awe. After Sadie and I shouted echoes across the lake, we continued on, sad to leave the lake, but excited to see what was to come next. We continued on our adventure and gave one more push to get to our refugio at the top of the mountain. We may have been a bit out of breath, but wow was that view well worth the climb. We ate a delicious lunch complete with lemon tea, Jack’s new favorite drink. The hostel dog, Dolly, even paid us a visit and made instant best friends with Sam and Arjun. They would play with that dog 9 to 5 if they could have! We spent our free time in a number of ways that day feeling excited about all that we had accomplished. Colby, Louise, and Kaitlyn played a rousing game of ‘go fish’ while Sadie and Emma danced on the Refugio’s helicopter pad in the middle of the mountainous field. We sat on the field with Stella, Arjun, Jack, and Sam and talked about our favorite childhood memories and what they mean to us now. It was quite an amazing moment seeing everyone light up talking about the places and people that they love and keep so close to their hearts. Emma and Boyd led our Moonup full of grand entrances and a grand exit by the sun as she set behind the mountains around us. We all went to bed feeling proud of ourselves and all that we had accomplished!
Everyone awoke the next morning ready to tackle our last day of trekking! Today’s hike was about 95 percent downhill, which can sometimes be a little tough on the knees. However, all the kids quickly found out that walking downhill in a zig zag pattern makes it ten times easier, resulting in a crazy series of diagonal Congo lines that resembled lines of ants making their way down an ant hill. Everyone passed the time by getting into long conversations with each other covering every topic under the sun. About halfway down we came across a natural water spring with some of the most pristine and delicious ice-cold water you could ever hope for. Jack, Boyd, and Sam made their way down the mountain with impressive speed, even managing to outpace our veteran mountain guides at times! Eventually we all reached the bottom where we sat and ate lunch waiting for our bus. While waiting, Arjun was quick to point out some crazy fast and cool sports cars that made their way past us down the windy Italian roads. Soon, we all boarded the bus and made our wait to a very quaint (and beautiful) Italian town that would be our home for the next two nights. Upon our arrival, all of the kids hopped on an opportunity to get some more delicious gelato, with the fan favorite flavor being the classic chocolate flavor. After an ice cream break, we all explored the town and came across a soccer field. Quickly, a fierce girls vs guys game broke out, and we continued playing for hours until everyone was out of breath. In the end, no one kept track of the score so there was no clear winner, however, everyone had a great time which is all that really matters. We finished out the day with some delicious pasta for dinner, accompanied by some entertainment provided by Colby as he performed a few magic tricks for us. The day came to an almost poetic end as we all sat around a peaceful fountain as Sadie and Arjun lead us through our Moonup.
Tomorrow will be canyoneering and we cannot wait to share how it goes. The days keep on getting better and better!
Until next time!
George and MC
June 20, 2022
Ciao to all of you out there!
Our final couple of days here in Italy have been absolutely amazing! We set out early for our day on the canyon filled with excitement and fresh croissants. At the top of the canyon, we got fitted into our wetsuits. Some lucky people like Jack and Stella had more stylish wetsuits than others, rocking a gorgeous two piece look. Ava volunteered to be our camera woman for the day and took her job very seriously as she recorded all of the day’s events with her signature wit and goofiness. We strode through the canyon floor, repelled down waterfalls, and we jumped off rocks into the deep water below. Colby was the first to repel down the falls and showed us how it’s done! Emma and Bridget even got to repel down together, now that’s a dynamic duo! Kaitlyn showed off some of her cheer skills and executed a perfect toe touch in the air before landing in the water below. We laughed the entire time as we floated through the water, eager to see what the next turn of the canyon would bring. It was so incredible seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces as they encouraged each other through the water. We reluctantly got out of the water, but we ended up having a warm, sunny picnic to bring the activity to a fitting close. Once we got back, we got some local gelato and relaxed together, recounting stories of our trip that truly feltlike a lifetime ago. It really is special to be able to make so many lasting memories in such a short amount of time. After a delicious dinner, our LOD’s, Colby and Stella, led a wonderful Moonup under the setting Italian sun. We got to talk about items that we hold in our hearts, and I loved watching everyone light up as they talked about these true treasures that they keep. Eager for a fun day in Venice, we went to bed early and awaited what was to come in the big city.
Our day of canyoning brought a sense of adventure that surely carried us into one of the most jam packed town days I have ever been a part of! We left for Venice early in the morning and caught a water taxi to our hotel. The LOD’s, Ava and Sam, led the way as we learned the streets and canals that connected this crazy city. With lunch on our minds, they found a delicious local spot that surely had something for everyone. Sadie got a calzone as big as her head while Arjun satisfied his seafood craving with an impressive calamari platter. We walked towards St. Mark’s plaza feeling stuffed, but we definitely weren’t too full for some authentic Italian gelato. Louise came out of the store first with a big smile and an even bigger scoop of chocolate ice cream… pictures to follow! We slurped down gelato as we weaved our way through the streets into the beautiful St. Mark’s plaza. There, we got to see a beautiful procession coming from St. Mark’s Bascillica including the Patriarch of Venice! We split up into two groups, and the girls shopped until they dropped while the boys explored the scene. Kaitlyn came out on top for most shops visited in the shortest amount of time, but Sadie’s bedazzled hats really stole the show. Stella gets an honorable mention for finding the world’s smallest violin for her tiny but mighty mini instrument collection. We strutted up to the boys eager to showoff our new matching bracelets, but we were all outshined by Boyd’s statement sunglasses. They also got to see the professional NBA player, Zach Lavine, expertly spotted by Arjun! After exploring the streets, we felt ready to tackle the canals and headed for the gondolas. We piled into the boats in small groups and set sail in a genuine Italian fashion. Our Gondolliers pointed out the sights as we floated through some of the most historic and beautiful canals in all the
world. All the excitement left us famished, so we set off for our waterfront banquet dinner spot; a true Venetian hidden gem. After we filled our bellies till they just about burst, we headed back in the direction of our hotel for the night. Somehow though, everyone managed to save just enough room in our stomachs for another round of gelato (there really is no such thing as too much gelato)! Once we got back to the hotel, the LOD’s picked out a beautiful spot by the water for our final Moonup. It was a very heartfelt Moonup, filled with lots of warm smiles and kind words as we reflected on the amazing couple of weeks we have shared together. It’s amazing to think that what started out as a group of strangers now seems like a close family, and no one wanted the day to be over because it meant that our time together truly was coming to an end. We said goodbye through a tearful group hug and headed to sleep, feeling so grateful for the friendships forged and memories made. In the airport the next day, we said goodbye to the group and even got to sit with Bridget and Jack for an extra but if time before their parents picked them up. We talked music and reflected on the trip while our time together wound down. Now, everyone is off on their way, and we just want to say thank you. Thank you for giving us the chance to get to know each and every one of your amazing children. We feel so lucky and grateful for these past two weeks, so thank you 1B for an unforgettable time together. Take care everyone! Ciao!
Mary Claire and George
June 15, 2022
Buongiorno from the Dolomites! What an action-packed couple of days we’ve had. We got things started with a long and beautiful hike up and down the windy trails that are located a short drive away from the town of Cortina. Boyd and Kaitlyn were our fearless LODs, leading everyone along the path and keeping them entertained with lots of trail games like the one where you give the initials to a movie and a brief description to it and everyone has to try and guess the name of the movie that you are talking about. During our hike, we took in countless breathtaking views, and just when we thought things couldn’t get any more beautiful, our guide pointed out the Marmolada glacier, which is the Dolomites’ only glacier that also happens to sit on top of the tallest peak in the mountain range. While on the trail, Emma pointed out some moving creatures off in the distance that turned out to be marmots! After traversing across a rock field and making our way back down into a valley, we finally reached our Rifugio for the night. We filled up on some fine Italian cuisine before beginning a deep Moonup as the sun set behind the towering peaks that surrounded us. With happy hearts and full bellies, we all climbed into bed for a good night’s rest.
The next day we woke up early and suited up in harnesses and helmets for our first day doing the Via Ferrata, which translates to the “Iron Way”. The via ferrata is a series of iron cables spanning across various mountainsides that were originally created as a primary means of travel for soldiers during World War One. Jack led the pack up the mountain as we all climbed upwards clipping into each checkpoint one at a time with our carabiners. At the top of the mountain, we came across some old WWI trenches and bunkers that Ava, Sam, and a few others explored. Sam and Louise even found a secret rocky window in the trenches that led to an unforgettable view! Afterward, we hiked to our next Rifugio, and while most opted in for a well-earned nap upon our arrival, a few, including Colby, Sam, and Boyd, joined Mary Claire and me for a short trek up to another Rifugio. This Rifugio is actually the oldest in the Dolomites with its construction completed in the mid 1800’s. The Rifugio sits on top of a peak and has an incredible 360-degree view that simply cannot be put into words. Once again, we all ate like kings, feasting on a 3-course meal, followed by delicious desserts. Louise and Jack were our LODs and lead us through a Moonup filled with so much laughter as we shared some of the weirdest food combinations that we secretly like.
Waking up early to a beautiful sunrise as we ate our buffet style breakfast, everyone once again dawned their harnesses and helmets for our first day of rock climbing. Stella was the very first to volunteer to climb, and she scaled the mountain like an absolute pro! I’m proud to say that not only did everyone attempt to climb, but everyone reached the top of whichever route they chose to climb. It was truly surreal getting to climb these gorgeous rocky mountains surrounded not just by scenic views, but by new and good friends as well. Today we also did a shorter, but equally exciting via ferrata up to the peak of a mountain that sat right next to our Rifugio. At the top, we found a metal box, inside of which was a book containing signatures of everyone who had made it to the top of the peak. Everyone signed their names in the book, forever leaving their own little mark on Italy! Climbing definitely took a lot of energy, and so we surprised everyone with some delicious ice cream upon our return to the Refugio, and I can say it is some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted! At dinner, everyone shared riddles with each other. Some of them were solved quickly, others, like the riddle about two penguins canoeing in a desert, took a little bit more time to figure out, but through extravagant reenactments of the riddle and many, many guesses, they all figured it out!
On our second day of rock climbing, we set out by heading down the mountain to an area called Cinque Torre, meaning ”Five Towers.” Cinque Torre is a popular climbing location in the Dolomites containing five tall rocky spires that resemble towers (hence the name). Arjun was one of our LODs today and he was so supportive and encouraging to all of us as we attempted some more challenging climbing routes today. Sadie managed to make one of the most difficult routes we did today look easy. One moment she was at the bottom of the rock, and after looking away for what felt like only a few seconds, she was at the top! We also had the option to do what is called a multi-pitch climb where 2-4 people climb together on the same route and are attached to the same rope. This climb was a favorite among the kids because none of them had ever done this type of climbing before and because of how well it balanced difficulty and fun! Once they reached the top, the kids even got to repel down on the other side of the rock. In between high fives and celebrations, Stella told me that the climb was one of the most fun things she had ever done, and I have to say I agree! We hiked back to our Rifugio with our heads a bit taller, proud of what we had achieved out there in the towers. Arjun and Ava led a wonderful Moonup under one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. Bridget even had mini photo shoot to remember the gorgeous pink and purple hues that welcomed us into the night. Needless to say, everyone went to bed with a smile on their face.
The next morning, we woke up early for a big hike that was sure to bring some unforgettable views and memories. Sadie and Stella, our LODs for the day, led with encouraging and positive spirits as we set off on our adventure. We came to our first ascent and took it in stride! There were even some original songs made in order to push through to the top. The climb was tough, but man was the view incredible. Upon reaching the top, Emma reminded us all that the view is always worth it, and we all woohoo’d in agreement. We continued our journey and descended into valleys and walked ridges of some of the most impressive mountains I have ever seen. Colby, Kaitlyn, Ava, and Sadie even posed for handstand pictures after the climb. Midway through our hike, we stopped for lunch and shared stories of the day through belly laughs and big bites of chocolate. I even caught Jack taking pictures of him eating his food because he “just wanted to remember that he got to eat there.” As we continued on, we came across a herd of cows that seemed to really excite everyone in the group. Sadie and Bridget took some great solo shots that are surely ‘Instagram worthy.’ We finished up the hike in high spirits and arrived to our Rifugio in great time where we all sat in the same room and shared some quiet time to reflect on the day and rest our legs. After dinner, Sadie and Stella led a Moonup full of favorite movies and moments when we felt ourselves grow. Reflecting on the jam- packed couple of days, we just can’t express to you all how proud we are of this group’s positivity and closeness. We just can’t wait for the days to come!
Until next time, Ciao!
Mary Claire and George
Colby: Dear Mom and Dad, I’m having a great time and I’m making so many new friends. I can’t wait to come home and see y’all!
Kaitlyn: Hey mom and dad! I’m having soooo much fun, and I’m making so many great friends. I miss y’all so much.❤️❤️
Louise: Hey mom and dad!! I’m having an amazing time in Italy with my new friends! Pet Millie for me and I cannot wait to see y’all soon! Love y’all sooo much!
Jack: Waddup mom and pops, Italy is dope, I’m doing fine without Stephen. My group is really cool. There’s a ton of hiking and the uphill can be hard, but overall, it is so worth it and I’m feelin good!
Bridget: Hey mom, dad, and Audrey! I miss you guys so much!! Italy is absolutely insane, and my group is absolutely amazing. Can’t wait to see you all and show you photos, pet Hank for me! LOVE YOU GUYS!!
Sam: Yo mom and dad Italy is awesome. We’ve hiked a bunch some of it has been tough, but the view is amazing. Overall it’s been super, and I’m having fun! Give oak a hug for me love you guys.
Arjun: hi mom and dad. We are doing a lot of walking and it’s very tiring. My group is cool, they are all really nice. Excited to see you soon and tell you everything. Love you
Boyd: Hey Mom and Dad! Hope y’all had a great time on y’all’s trip; I’m having a great time on mine. Say waddup to Pam and Harry for me.
Emma: Heyy mom and dad! I am having the best time in Italy. My group is so fun and my leaders are amazing! We have done lots of hiking to new Refugio’s and I’m having a blast! Love y’all see ya soon
Ava: Hello parents, I’m alive! My leaders are amazable. The Dolomites are quite beauteous. The hikes are uphill but I am mad chuggin. Love you guys so much and have fun in Portugal. I hope Chief didn’t kick the bucket. See you soon.
Sadie: Hey mom! Miss you a lot. It’s been challenging but really fun. My group and leaders are really great, and Italy is sooooo gorgeous. Tell Gilby I said hello and I miss him and love him and give him lots of love in case he is feeling sad without me. Can’t wait to see you and tell Connor I said I miss him and love him too. 💗💗💗
Stella: Hey mom and dad! Italy is great, and I’m having just the best time! Give Wilson lots of hugs and cuddles. Love y’all!!
June 9, 2022
Mary Claire here with some incredible updates for you all!. After meeting everyone in the Atlanta airport, we embarked on our long journey to the magical city of Venice. Bridget was quick to point out an incredible sunset from the plane window while others rode in style with eye masks and movies galore. Once we arrived, we said hello to George who greeted us with a variety of delicious pastries. Louise was first to give it a go and chose a swirl of chocolate and vanilla goodness. Feeling the effects of the time change, our energy may have been a bit low, but our spirits certainly were high. We jumped on the bus to take us to our first destination: the gorgeous mountain town of Alta Badia! Through sleepy eyes, we marveled at all the massive peaks and luscious green valleys the ride had to offer. We got to our hotel eager to see more and quickly found ourselves frolicking in a field straight out of a fairytale. Kaitlyn and Sadie guided our group through The Sound of Music soundtrack as we lived out all our musical dreams dancing in the field. Arjun and Jack led the boys up a large hill until they looked like ants exploring in the distance. When we asked how everyone was feeling at that moment, Boyd put it perfectly: “small.” We recounted times when we simply felt small and really understood our place on this earth. At that moment, surrounded by such massive and beautiful peaks, it was hard to feel anything but small! There are so few times when people can appreciate the wonder that exists around us… I am unbelievably proud of this group and their gratitude for this beautiful place; Stella and Emma even dunked their heads in a nearby creek! Not only is it a great way to wake up, but also proved to be a stellar skincare routine. Frolicking had us a bit famished, so we decided to go to a nearby store to get a family-style lunch. We sat by the river munching on local Italian foods… and of course lots of chocolate. Passing around food and laughing together really did feel like we were one big family. After our late lunch, the boys had some relaxation time while the girls hung out on Bridget and Kaitlyn’s beautiful wrap-around balcony with the best view of the mountain ahead. We gathered for an amazing, Italian pizza dinner at the hotel. Colby kept everyone laughing with hilarious conversations on every topic under the moon. After dinner, we partook in our first ever Moonup. Moonup is a special time when we gather every night to reflect on the day and get to know each other better. To start the trip out, we asked one another “what brings you here?” Although everyone’s answer differed, it is evident how grateful we all are to be here! During this time, we also choose our LODs or “leaders of the day” for the next day, Sam and Bridget. These are two people in the group who are chosen to take on extra responsibility and practice their leadership skills. We went to bed dreaming of flowers and pizza and fell asleep with hopeful hearts.
The next morning, our LODs woke everyone up, and to our surprise, there was fresh snow on the mountains above. We were stirred awake by a great breakfast and started preparing for the day ahead. Because of the weather, we had to change some plans, but everyone was so flexible and excited to see what the day had to bring. After talking with our guides, we decided to explore the WWI caves today instead of via Ferrata (don’t worry, we will definitely be doing this later once the weather warms up a bit!) Our LODs led a layering party and did a great job of ensuring that everybody had what they needed for our historic, snowy adventure. We started at the base of the mountain and quickly gained elevation as we discussed favorite songs and tv shows. Not only was our steep hike breathtaking, but so were the views! Because of the crazy weather, you wouldn’t even know a mountain was there until the clouds moved. We entered the caves, and our guides explained that these caves were carved out by Italian men no older than 19 years old during the First World War! They wanted control of the peak, so they decided to wormhole their way up and blow the Austrians right off the top of the mountain. Moved by the history of those walls, we walked in silence in remembrance of all the lives lost while in those same caves. While most of the walk was dark, there were occasional openings where the views of the mountains were surreal. Ava took advantage of the cool rock and rested her head while marveling at the sights right outside. Jack and I got to stand nearby and were speechless at what those natural windows offered. Sadie said it well when she said that she never thought she would get to do something like this, and the whole group agreed. When we popped out of the top of the cave, we were met with a total whiteout! Snow swirled around us as we made the final push to the summit. Everyone hooped and hollered as we reached the top of that snowy peak. Emma and Louise shared a double high five as Colby and Boyd took their jackets off and braved the weather in short sleeves. After a photo op, however, they quickly went back on! We marched into a hut on the top of the mountain and ate our well-deserved lunch and even got to sip some incredible hot chocolate. Ava and Sadie entertained at lunch sharing stories of past adventures and their experience today. After a long lunch, we took a gondola ride down the mountain. Sam and Arjun had a professional-grade photo shoot at the base with some pretty nice poses. Once we got back to the hotel, we quickly warmed up and got some hard-earned R&R. We played games and laughed until all of our hearts were warm. At dinner, we were treated to a fabulous three-course meal to end our day in style. In the words of Ava: we earned this. Feeling stuffed, we headed to Moonup led by Bridget and Sam. Sam shared an inspirational Michael Scott quote to get us started, and we got to hear about everyone’s life goals. After hearing the ambition and joy that these kids speak with, I cannot help but smile and think of how excited I am to see what they do in this world, however, I am just grateful I get to be with them right now. Needless to say, it has been “perfetto!” Your kiddos have already amazed us with their intentionality, humor, kindness, and flexibility! What an unreal group and amazing beginning of the trip of a lifetime!
Ciao for now,
Mary Claire and George
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!