July 6, 2022
Ciao, from Venice!
Sadly, today is the last day of an incredible two-week trip to the Dolomites. After an amazing trekking and climbing section, the group hopped on our transfer to Claut, Italy which is a beautiful and quiet little town in the southern Dolomites mountains. This is where we would do our Canyoning section, with our guides Evaristo and Tom. We arrived at Claut in the afternoon, allowing us to arrive at the hotel and recharge before dinner. Following our delicious lasagna, Wallace and Bennet led a great Moonup under the beautiful night sky. Charlie led the charge of card games after Moonup, with games like spit and speed before the group decided it was time for bed.
Happy Fourth of July! The next morning, we would wake up on our nation’s birthday in order to meet our canyoning guides to get suited up for the cold and beautiful water in the deep and rocky canyon of Claut. Nate and Bennet were the first to descend into the canyon and were also the first to jump into the brisk and clear water. No need for coffee with water that cold! The group rappelled and slid our way down the canyon, all the while splashing and laughing surrounded by beautiful mossy limestone. About midway into the canyoning adventure, the crew stumbled upon an amazing little swimming hole, where Lane would display to the group her fearless belly flop skills. This would soon turn into a group-wide ordeal, where all 12 of us would end up following suit. Also in this little swimming hole, Nate stumbled upon probably the largest salamander that any of us in the group had ever seen combined. It was out of this world! The crew continued down the waterfalls, moseying our way through the natural playground. The adventure in the canyon ended with a bang, as we all rappelled down a massive waterfall. Graham and Lane stepped up to descend first, and the group followed. Charles pointed out that as he was lowering, he was surrounded by rainbows as the mist from the waterfall engulfed him. It was magical! After the canyoning was finished, the crew rounded up at the parking lot and ate our lunch in the sun. Lunch was soon followed by yet another game of mafia until it was time for the group to go and get changed for our Fourth of July festivities.
After a quick change and turn around, the group grabbed our soccer ball and headed for the local pitch. The field was beautiful and green, surrounded by lush and jagged mountain peaks. The weather was phenomenal, as cloud cover rolled in to provide us with cool air as we began choosing teams for kickball. Lucy and Charlie would be the team captains, as they were our Fourth of July leaders of the day. Our teams decided on American themed team-names, and it was game on. Lily and Wallace were the pitchers for game 1. After an intense and rest game, the American Heart Association beat the Rabid Roosevelts 15-12. What a game! Following kickball, the gang began a game of Capture the Flag, which Graham and Wallace would be team captains for. Sara and Charles were the steel curtains of defenses, while Bennet, Lane, and Charlie would wear everyone out with their impeccable speed. Team Wallace would take the crown, as the group began to be too worn out to play another round. The sweaty and tired group would then peruse our way to a surprise gelato stop next to a beautiful church to cool us down. After gelato, it was time for us to rinse off and get ready for our American style dinner, which consisted of large hot dogs and French fries. The group then got ready for Moonup, which Charlie and Lucy drafted up American style. Following our second to last Moonup, the group was introduced to the mighty game of “Smotus,” which consisted of countless belly laughs before heading to bed.
The next day would be our transfer day to the beautiful city of Venice. The crew split into two vans and took an early start on our roughly 2-hour ride. Upon arrival, we split up our bags at the hostel and hit the boats to ride to San Marcos Square. It was nearly everyone’s first time in the city, so everyone was wide-eyed and energized. We walked through the narrow and scenic streets of the city until we found ourselves at a fairly remote park, which the gang decided was a good place to rest our feet for a bit. Sara jumpstarted an intense game of pinecone toss, which grew rapidly. This got the blood flowing for the group to get moving back into the heart of the city, where we would eat a great deal of pizza. After the pizza, we headed our way back to the pier where Charlie would show us his bargaining skills. After several now affordable purchases within the group, we hopped back on the boat and headed back to the hostel to commence our final Moonup. This Moonup was a very special one, beginning under the sunset and lasting almost two hours to the clear night sky. It was a beautiful way to wrap up the trip and share our appreciation for one another. We could not be more pleased with just how connected this group was with one another.
This morning we woke up to catch the boat back to the airport. The group was certainly not thrilled with leaving each other, including the leaders. Tears, hugs, and thanks were exchanged all morning, as the group swiftly moved through the airport to get to security where we would have to stay behind as the group marched on.
Thank you, families, for sharing your children with us for the past two weeks. This trip has been truly incredible, and we are especially thankful for you all for making it that way. We hope that the group will continue the adventure!
Ciao for now,
McKee and Bibs
June 30, 2022
Hello from the heights of the Dolomites!
Elizabeth and McKee checking in with an update for the books! Our trekking section has been nothing short of perfect, to put it simply. From the second this group’s feet hit the trail, we knew the next four days would be phenomenal – we’ve got some true hikers on our hands! Our first day in the mountains started with a steep uphill before flattening out, eventually leading us to Refugio Fodara Vedla. Our LODs, Charles and Lily, led the pack with utmost enthusiasm and set the tone for the day. Their unwavering positivity, patience, and fun conversation starters helped our 5-hour trek feel like 1! Following our sprint-through-the-flower-field-and-do-cartwheels lunch break, we soon found ourselves at the beautiful Fodara Vedla. Bennett spotted two caves in a neighboring mountain, and quickly spread his energy to all group members to go explore the caves! They provided us with a stunning view of the Refugio and the vast cow fields surrounding it. We shared a moment of silence up here, just pausing for a second to take it all in. After our mini-meditation, dinner was on the horizon. We made our way downhill, nestled into our seats at the table, and shared our first true dinner together. The food was, to no surprise, some of the best we’ve ever tasted, and we could not be more grateful for the service and hospitality of the Refugio workers. Once we finished our meal, we had a meaningful Moonup then soon rested our bodies, excited for the second day on the trail!
The next day started with a spread of pastries and homemade jams which Graham kept talking about for hours after breakfast. “That might have been the best breakfast of my life” and all renditions of the phrase was the topic of conversation up until it was time for lunch. We munched on our prosciutto and cheese sandwiches among the trees, and Nate discovered that putting Nutella on apples is one of life’s greatest gifts. This trick spread like wildfire, and soon enough everybody was pulling out their saved Nutella packets from breakfast and smothering them all over their apples. We can verify it is delicious! Upon our early arrival at Rifugio Lavarella, we beelined it for the nearby lake. The water certainly wasn’t warm, but that didn’t stop this crew! Not only did everybody jump in immediately, but Charlie spearheaded the swim across the lake. He swam Olympian speed to get across the chilly water; it was very impressive. The spontaneity of the moment led to Graham, Lane, Wallace, Nate, and Charles swimming all the way across, too! We don’t know how they did it, but it sure was fun to watch. After thawing in the mountain sun and doing some squats to get our blood pumping again, the group headed in to put dry clothes on and play cards until dinner. We shared another noteworthy meal together, and then had Moonup by the quaint chapel. An early bedtime was happily welcomed tonight, and we all slept hard. What an awesome day!
Our third day of the trekking section was a day hike to the Fanes Plateau; talk about extraterrestrial. The rock formations and scree fields felt other-worldly! Sara Catherine took particular interest in the geological history, eating up every word that our guide Marco shared. Did you know the Dolomites are predominantly part of the African tectonic plate, and that’s why most of the rock is sandstone? Fascinating! We ate a meal at the viewpoint of the plateau before booking it back to the Refugio to beat the storm. Before the rain came, Wallace and Lane joined Elizabeth for another quick lake splash, and then everybody scurried inside to stay dry! Lucy and Nate led a powerful Moonup, one that we will not soon forget. It certainly brought the group closer than ever before, and we are very thankful for their intentionality with their questions. Day in and day out, we are more impressed by this group of students! We fell asleep to the sounds of a thunderstorm and rested up for our big day to come.
The longest day yet was trekking from Lavarella to Lagazuoi. With over 3000 feet of elevation gain, we had a big task to tackle. Storms were still a threat, so we set out bright and early. The rain came, but luckily no thunder! A little rain never hurt, right? The dances in the rain – literally and metaphorically – kept the energy pumping and the spirits high. Rain can’t slow us down! The group absolutely smashed this hike, finishing over 7 miles of uphill in less than 6 hours! Lagazuoi was quite the reward. Standing as the highest rifugio in all of the Dolomites, the views couldn’t be beat. We relaxed for the remainder of the day, kicking our feet up until dinner. The food at this place brought actual tears to Sara Catherine’s eyes – that’s how good it was. We savored every bite, and soon it was time to watch the sunset! The group zoomed over to a nearby lookout, where we tried our best to absorb all the beauty around us. Moonup was a funny one tonight, with Wallace and Charlie making us all die laughing. Today was long, fun, challenging, and 100% worth it. What a day to remember! We went to bed with sore bodies and thankful hearts, proud of all that we had accomplished.
Day 5 of this section was as lovely as could be! We made our way down the mountain through WWI tunnels, which every group member found fascinating and intriguing. Marco and Filipo answered any and all questions asked, and there were many! The final push was up a mountain to reach our destination for the night: Rifugio Scoiattoli. This hike felt like nothing compared to our day yesterday, and everyone practically danced up the mountain, singing and laughing like we were stars of our own show. We made perfect timing, too! A storm rolled in right as we reached our rifugio, so we snacked on chocolates and breads and watched the storm. This trekking section has blown our socks off, and we are so thankful for this group’s positive attitude in the face of challenge!
Tomorrow, we begin our climbing section – stay tuned for more updates! Below are some words from your favorites!
Ciao for now,
Elizabeth & McKee
Lane: Hey mom and dad! I hope all is well. Thank you so much for this amazing trip. The views are wild! Love y’all.
Sara Catherine: Hey mom dad and Jim!! Hoping y’all are all good. Thank you so so so much for sending me on this awesome trip. The food and the views are stunning! Say hi to the dogs and Agda for me!! Love y’all.
Lily: Hi mom and dad!!! I am having so much fun on this trip and I can’t wait to tell you all about it! Thank you so much for sending me on this trip! I love you both!
Lucy: Hey Mom, Dad, Alan, and Teddy!! I Hope Wilmington is awesome! I am having a freaking great time! Everything is so beautiful, and the views are incredible! I must say I’ve never felt more out of shape! However, I am loving the Dolomites! See you guys soon!
Wallace: Hi mom and dad and Doug and Annie! I am having the best time ever! Trekking was a struggle but really cool at the same time! The food is insane and everything is so pretty. I can’t wait to tell y’all everything! See you soon!
Graham: Hey mom and dad!! I am having so much fun! The views and food are amazing. Thank you so much for sending me on this trip. I can’t believe that we won the CWS!!! That must have been so exciting. Tell OC, B, Murphy, and Sugar I said hi! I love and miss y’all!!
Bennett: Hey fam. Having the time of my life and don’t ever want to go home if I’m being honest. Missing y’all a bunch and hope y’all are having a great time. See y’all soon! Can’t wait to tell y’all all the fun stuff I’ve been doing!
Nate: Hey guys! The views here are LITERALLY insane, like I can look to my right and see something that looks like it could be on the cover of National Geographic. The people on the trip are also super cool and I’ve found a great group of friends. Missing you all a bunch and make sure to give Addie a kiss for me! P.S. I started to get back into the guitar so prepare yourselves for some noise pollution !
Charlie V: Hey everyone!!! Hope you guys are having a great time at camp in Chicago! I’m having an absolute blast, the views are crazy (unlike anything I’ve ever seen). I feel like I am in a movie hiking up these World War I mountains. I’ve found some pretty cool stuff while trekking which I’m excited to show you. I’m definitely missing all of you and can’t wait to tell and show you all the things I’ve done and seem. Love you all!
Charles: Hey y’all!!! I’m having a great time out here in Italy and I hope you’re having a great time back in NC (except for the fact that I’m not there). The views are insane and activities fun, but I’ll be coming home in just a few days. Say hi to the dogs for me. I love you more!!!
June 25, 2022
McKee and Elizabeth here, writing from the vibrant ski town of Cortina d’Ampezzo. Day one of Dolomites 2A started off with a swift travel day, in which all 10 students safely joined as a team. In the airport, Charlie provided the group with a much needed introduction to the world of hacky sack. We have a strong inkling that hacky sack will be mentioned in the trip updates to come – stay tuned! We cruised out of the airport and hopped in our bus to Cortina, where most of the group caught up on some much needed z’s. The transit was calming, inspiring, and gorgeous. It’s certainly hard not to feel grateful when you’re passing vast wheat fields blowing in the wind with the blues of the Dolomites cascading in the backdrop. Graham shared this quiet time with us, acknowledging the beauty around us and anticipating all the beauty ahead of us. Once the nappers arose from their slumber, the group unanimously decided to stop for some lunch, which would be our first of many grand sandwiches. After our meal, Lily initiated the fun for the remainder of the bus ride with the popular trail game “Got It”. She and Graham became masters; it seemed like they could read each other’s minds. Upon arrival to the hotel, the group nestled their belongings into their 2-night home and got ready to explore the shops of Cortina. This is where the boys would first dip their toes into the world of Italian candy. Bennett made a vow to himself to try a new Italian candy any time he gets the opportunity – seems like they must be tasty! After our brief shopping trip, the group escorted their empty stomachs to Il Ponte, an authentic Italian pizzeria in which the group would clean 10 pizzas with ease. Charles tried every type of pizza that was offered, including a prosciutto and pineapple pizza, which he enthusiastically noted as delicious. Following the wonderful dinner, the group gathered around for our first of many Moonups. It was a meaningful and fun conversation, and showed promise for the ones to come. Sara Catherine and Charlie were chosen as our first student Leaders of the Day (LODs) for their immediate display of active leadership and Moondance enthusiasm. What a duo!
Our next day started off with our first breakfast together, which consisted of many delicate pastries, homemade breads, DIY boiled eggs, and local jams. The orange + carrot juice was a hit, thanks to Lucy encouraging everyone to try some even though, yes, there was a vegetable in it. Who knew carrots and oranges complemented each other so well? Following breakfast, the crew got ready for our very first via ferrata! This was the entire group’s first time doing one except for Sara Catherine, and they could not have tackled the challenge with more eagerness and excitement! Our guides, Marco and Filipo, took us up, down, and around a narrow canyon with a raging waterfall at its center. The water was chilly, but refreshing nonetheless. We even got to go behind the waterfall! Nate led the pack through the whole via ferrata both literally and mentally, showing us the way with his athleticism and positive attitude. Lunch soon followed, and Wallace was baffled by how good a ham and cheese sandwich could be. Italy certainly does not disappoint. A spontaneous polar plunge concluded our time in d’Ampezzo Park, and everyone dunked under the cold mountain water. What a memorable first day of activities! To no surprise, we got competitive with a hacky sack session before dinner with Lane dominating the majority of the game (4 outs in a row!). Her strategy is a professional mystery, but all of us know to keep an eye out for her next time.
Dinner and gelato filled our bellies, and now we rest our heads with excited anticipation for all that is to come on our trekking section the next 4 days! This group is already knocking our socks off. Thank you for sending your children on this trip with us! We can’t wait for what these days hold.
Check in soon,
Elizabeth and McKee
June 24, 2022
Hello Italian Dolomites Families!
We heard late last night from our leaders 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!