July 22, 2022
Hello to our favorite families! Our final stretch of the trip was our canyoning section in the marvelous town of Claut. Claut is a very local, dainty, slow paced town halfway between Cortina and Venice. Our canyoning section was kickstarted with a jump in to a refreshingly cool, crystal clear swimming hole. Celia and Hunter’s facial expressions and yelps made it seem like it was frigid, yet Aspen and Julian’s calm demeanor said otherwise. Ashley put it perfectly: it was very manageable on the body but as soon as the head went underwater you could feel the chills. In any regard, the water was a bit chilly and breathtakingly beautiful! We spent our morning sliding, jumping, belly flopping, and rappelling down pristine canyon water routes, laughing and screaming like little kids – it was so much fun! Izzy proved to be the best mid-belly-flop photographer as she snapped shots of nearly everyone mid-jump; these are hilarious photos, I’m really excited for you to see them. I’m not sure if you can have perfect belly flop form, but if so, it’s certainly Ann – it looks like it’s out of a cartoon!
After flopping around some more, lunch time was soon upon us, so we made our way out of the canyon and scarfed down the delicious lunch our hotel packed us. Basking in the sun and thawing our cold bodies made for a perfectly relaxing lunch hour, and then the crew moseyed their way back up to the hotel to change and hit the local soccer field for some kickball! Hudson and Diego took this game by storm and threw their whole bodies into it with full effort. We sure do love ourselves some harmless competition!
As the mid-afternoon sun beamed down on us, we decided it was time to grab some gelato to cool off. Everybody got 2 flavors of their choosing and ate it outside a beautiful church in the local square. A couple hours later was dinner, and then we ran back to the soccer field for some sunset kickball! Brandon played outfield this time and ran with more effort than a running back, sweating loads and laughing even more. This night was so much fun! We went to bed with tired bodies and full bellies, excited to hit the city the next day!
Our journey to Venice began with a 2 hour van ride, then once we settled in to our hostel we took a water taxi over to the main hub of Venice to discover all the hidden gems of the ancient city! Addie was outstandingly happy when we stopped for gelato at one of the best places in town: Suso. We all got 3 scoops and demolished them with ease. Our afternoon consisted of walking the streets of the more local parts of the city, playing around in a park, and even briefly stopping to listen to a woman practicing her cello. Before we knew it, dinner had arrived and we shared our final meal outside, eating a mix of Italian and Asian foods. It was delicious! More gelato followed, because when in Italy, right? After watching the sunset atop the bell tower in San Marco’s square, we headed back over to our little island where we shared a deeply moving Moonup full of gratitude and reflection.
As we part separate ways, we would like to extend our greatest thanks to all of you, families and friends, for sharing your most prized possessions with us this summer! We feel so very fortunate to have been their leaders, and we hope the rest of your summer is wonderful!
All the best,
Elizabeth and McKee
July 19, 2022
Hello again to you all, from Italy!
We are writing to you after a couple of rock solid days of climbing in the Dolomites! After four nights of trekking through the magnificent mountains and fields of flowers, we arrived to our final rifugio, which would be our home for three nights during our rock-climbing section. The rifugio lies on top of a grass hill, surrounded by 360-degree views of mountains. If I also directly next to Cinque Torri, which is where we would be climbing for the next two days. Cinque Torri translates to “the five towers” in English, which can be explained by the sight of the rock formations from afar- although close up it can be seen that there are many more than five rocks. To Celia, Cinque Torri was the rock formation that illustrated the five toes of a foot from down the mountain five days prior.
After arriving at the rifugio, the group settled in for some relaxing downtime filled with showers and chocolate. Diego got the card games rolling once again, with games of poker using candy as chips. Hudson was racking up the candy until it was time for dinner. Dinner was up to the individual for what was served, which mostly consisted of the mix of dumplings called “Knödel Fantasy”, that seemed to win over the crowd. Julian especially took a liking to these German delights, eating any that were left over on anyone else’s plate. Following the delicious dinner, the group headed outside to the hills to do our first Moonup of the climbing section under an unbelievable sky. The clouds were huge and intense, with vibrant pink and orange colors filled with the occasional lightning. It was absolutely stunning. Before Moonup, Brandon noted that the hill was definitely a hill worth rolling down. This initiated a brigade of boys running and rolling down the flower-coated hill, under the beautifully colored sky. It was such an amazing time. Following the laughs and rolls, yet another meaningful Moonup was delivered. Following the Moonup, the group stayed out under the sunset and listened and sang to Tyler Childers- per Hunter’s request. It was the perfect way to close out a fantastic day.
The next morning, the group woke up in time to eat a fantastic breakfast filled with croissants and watermelon before heading out to the base of the peak named “Averau”, which is where we would do our second via ferrata of the trip. Although the first via ferrata was beautiful, this one was much more vertical and hands-on. It took us up the wall nearly to the top of the peak, where we would then scramble to the top. After a brief period of accomplishment and laughs, Celia brought out the logbook that was kept in a box to begin decorating a page for our summit group. Because what goes up eventually has to come down, the crew got ready to head back down the via ferrata after a brief photoshoot. After touching down back on the ground, the group headed back to the rifugio for a delicious pasta lunch before heading towards Cinque Torri to do a great number of climbing routes. Aspen was the first to spring up the wall, reaching the top of every route with ease. To everyone’s surprise, this was his first time ever rock climbing. He is a natural! Everyone ended up climbing that afternoon, which served as a bit of a warmup for the bigger climbs the following day. We returned back to the rifugio in time for another amazing dinner, with another amazing Moonup shortly after. The group was fairly exhausted after the action packed day, calling it earlier than most evenings.
The gang woke up the next morning to another great breakfast, revved up and ready to go for the new and bigger routes, including a massive multi-pitch climb accompanied by a large rappel at the end. Ann and Addie were the first to tackle the multi-pitch, which took some courage early in the morning! They absolutely dominated the routes, proving their skills to everyone else in the group. While they were on the multi-pitch, the rest of the group tackled the other four routes that the guides had set up for us. Izzy noted that her belaying skills increased significantly throughout the day, and she was not kidding. She ended up belaying nearly everyone else in the group, proving her selflessness. After a fantastic morning of climbing, the crew headed back to the rifugio for another pasta lunch, followed by raspberry ice cream. After lunch, we headed back out to the faces to climb even newer and higher routes as the folks that had not yet done the multi-pitch conquer the beast. Ashley was at first skeptical of doing the multi, but she soon pushed her limits and absolutely crushed the climb with our fantastic guide, Marco. It was so amazing! After everyone got their fix of climbing, the group headed back to eat our last dinner at our lovely Rifugio at Cinque Torri, followed by another pink sunset Moonup. It was magical!
The next morning would sadly be our last day of trekking in the Dolomites. The day was relatively easy, allowing ourselves to have fun on our last day on the trail. Along with the laughs and jokes, the group set aside a specific 20 minutes of silent walking in order to reflect on our time in these beautiful mountains. We are so fortunate to be doing what we are doing, and it is so important to recognize that! We thank you, families of these wonderful young folks, for allowing us to create such a memorable trip out of these past two weeks! We still have a few days to go, so we will get back to you later down the road!
Until next time,
Bibs and McKee
A word from your kiddos…
Celia: hi mom and dad, thank you so much for sending me on this trip I’ve had the best time ! Love you guys! Please don’t forget to hug daisy for me.
Hunter: Thank you so much for sending me to the Dolomites! This has been a trip of a lifetime! Can’t wait to tell y’all about it! See you soon!
Addie: hey mom and dad, thank you so so so much for sending me on the coolest experience! I have had the best time and I am so incredibly glad I got to come here. The views are awesome and everything we have done is so much fun and so cool! Love y’all see you soon!
Ann: Hey guys! Thank you so much for sending me on this trip! I have had the best experience so far and I cannot wait to tell y’all all about it. I have met the coolest people and have even tried lots of new things here! See you soon, love you guys!
Izzy: mom and dad, thank you so much for sending me on this trip. I have had so much fun! This has been such an amazing trip. I love y’all so much!
Brandon: hey mom and dad thank y’all so much for sending me on this Moondance. I have had so much fun and am so grateful that y’all sent me and can’t wait to see y’all soon. Thanks again and love y’all
Diego: sup parents thanks sending me on this. I know this trip wasn’t cheap and I appreciate all you did to send me here. Thanks Diego.
Hudson: Hey, Mom and Dad thank y’all so much for letting me go on this trip. I have had the best time and love and miss y’all
Julian- hey mom and dad, thanks for sending me on this trip. I’m having a ton of fun but also miss you both. See you soon.
Aspen- Hey Dad and Mom. Thank you guys for sending me on this awesome trip I have had so much fun. I hope you guys are doing awesome and having fun to see you guys soon! Love you!
Ashley: Hey guys! Thank you so much for allowing me to experience this place through Moondance. I’ve enjoyed every second of it and learned so many new things. My Italian isn’t so great though…anyways see you fellas soon! Love you much.
July 17, 2022
Ciao from the Dolomites!
Our trekking section began on a beautiful day, with blue skies and cool crisp mountain air. After a motivating quote given to the group by our leaders of the day, Hunter and Diego, we hit the trailhead in Cortina d’Ampezzo. Right off the bat, Izzy displayed her unconditional love for animals as she pet multiple cows in minutes. The crew then charged against our first uphill stretch, which everyone absolutely crushed. At the top of the hill, our wonderful guides, Marco and Giovanni, showcased their knowledge of geology and history with a short and sweet brief of our unbelievable surroundings as we took a snack break. Following the break, the trail riddles began rifling through the group’s brains. Ann was the first to solve the two trickiest ones, the road-trip riddle and the “where’s your paddle” riddle. The group was incredibly impressed. This would not be the last time the riddles would make an appearance during a trek.
After several marmot and cow sightings, it was time for the first lunch on the trail, which was followed by the debut of the classic Moondance game, “Big Booty”. Hunter would be our first champion of the newly loved game, she really is very good at the game. After a few rounds, the gang soon dove into a surprisingly efficient lesson of Italian, as Addie suggested that we play the game in the language of the country we were in. Marco gave us a crash course lesson on how to count to 12, which everyone seemed to catch onto fairly quickly. After the games, we hit the trail to finish our first day of trekking at a lovely family-run Rifugio by the name of Fodara Vedla. We relaxed with some deserved sodas and chocolates, until Ashley, Hunter, Ann, and Celia found themselves in a surprise Austrian dance circle thanks to a fantastic band that was playing such instruments as the accordion, upright bass, guitar, and a strange percussion stick that was very new to all of us. It was such a blast! That night, Diego led a fantastic Moonup that wrapped up our first day of trekking.
The next day, we suited up and filled our bottles to hit begin our second day of hiking. Aspen and Ashley were our next leaders of the day, giving another upbeat quote to kickstart the day. We hiked down into a beautiful valley before a strong uphill push to our lunch spot under some beautiful pine trees. The lunch consisted of laughs, sandwiches, and another game of big booty before our final stretch to our next Rifugio named Lavarella. Izzy was especially excited about this spot, because of the countless cows and a Shetland Pony. As soon as we arrived, we dropped our packs and headed to the nearby lake, which held crystal clear snowmelt water. Julian was the first to jump in, which served as a chain reaction as everyone else was right behind him. This act of bravery really got the energy high within the group! Following the swimming, the group headed back to dry off. To Hunter’s surprise, there was a guitar hanging on the wall asking to be played. Our guide, Giovanni, first picked up the guitar and played many songs per Celia’s request. These included songs from the Beatles, Neil Young, and a surprisingly great amount of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The guitar was then passed to Hunter, who then displayed her amazing guitar abilities as the rest of the group sang along. The jam session was followed by nap time, which led us to a delicious dinner of spinach gnocchi and fried turkey with potatoes. Ashley and Aspen then led an amazing and meaningful Moonup under the beautiful sky at Lavarella. This Moonup was special because it was our first deep discussion as a whole group. This Moonup served to bring the group even closer than they already were.
The next day was our day-hike to the magnificent Plateau de Fanes, with Julian and Ann as LOD’s. The hike is truly incredible. The green grass and the ancient rock formations create a seemingly extraterrestrial landscape, making the hike breathtaking in its entirety. Along with the beautiful hike to the summit of the plateau, the view from the summit itself was absolutely stunning. We had a panoramic sight of an amazing mountain range, including the queen of the Dolomites, Marmolada. After we returned to Lavarella, the crew once again headed to the clear blue lake to refresh ourselves after a long hike back. The crew had another relaxed afternoon, until it was time for an intense rally of hacky sack before dinner. It is amazing how good the boys have gotten at hacky sack! Brandon and Hudson especially showed their skills in the game, implementing several cool tricks to spice things up in the sack circle. Later that night, Hudson and Addie were chosen as leaders of the day for what would be the longest trekking day of the trip.
The next day we woke up ready to tackle the day, with a motivational speech to get the gears going for the hike. We trekked all day, passing over two amazing saddles that directed us to the highest Rifugio in the Dolomites, Lagazuoi, which is where we would spend the next night. The rifugio sits on a mountain top at nearly 8,500ft high! We had 360 degrees of views, which were out of this world. The massive clouds made for an incredibly unique sky, making for a fantastic sunset with lightning visible in the distance. It was truly spectacular! After an amazing meal, the group had another powerful Moonup on top of the mountain. Izzy and Diego were chosen as leaders of the day, which wrapped up the night.
Finally, that brings us to today. Our route down from Lagazoui consisted of hiking down a World War 1 tunnel, which I believe I can attest for the entire group when I say it was one of the most unique experiences of our lives. It was rich with history, and the group will surely never forget it! The hike felt especially easy today due to the big trek that the group accomplished yesterday. Our pace is getting faster and faster by the day! This evening we had an amazing Moonup in front of Cinque Torri, which is where we’ll be climbing tomorrow. The sky tonight was incredible, with massive pink clouds with lightning dancing all throughout. It was surreal!
Stay tuned for more updates as we begin our climbing section tomorrow!!
Alla prossima (until next time)!
Bibs and McKee
In the meantime, here are some shoutouts from everyone!!
Ann: Hey Moomz Dad Allie Robert! We haven’t done much here. ALL jokes! Today I had the best meal ever and saw the prettiest view ever. I made friends too! Very thankful for you guys sending me here. Mom- Celia’s mom went to Hollins too! OH tell Reece and Jill congrats and I love them! ILY MUCH
Celia: hiiiii mom, dad, and will!! I am having an AMAZING time and the food here is amazing. Thank you so much for sending me on this trip. Mom you might know Anns mom from Hollins. Love you guys!! And give daisy a big hug for me.
Ashley: Hey Mom and Dad! I’m having such a great time!!! I’ve almost face planted into a rock a few times but we are chillin. Hope all is well on your trip and I can’t wait to see you guys. Love you much!
Hudson- Hi Mom and Dad I miss y’all and I am having the best time, I forgot to text y’all before I left and can’t remember the keyword for the way back but I am saying it, love and miss y’all.
Izzy- hey mom and dad! I miss y’all guys so much. I am having so much fun the views are crazy. Thank you for sending me here. I lost both my cards I’m very sorry. If you could please cancel them and maybe order me a new one if you’re feeling nice 😊. Please don’t be mad. Anyways I love y’all so much. See you soon xoxo.
Addie- Hey mom and dad I miss y’all so much! I am having so so so much fun, I have met so many people and done so many cool things. Thank you for the best experience. I love y’all see you soon!!
Julian- Hi mom and dad. doing good. Having a lot of fun but exited to come home too. Just had the best dumplings. Food and the Refugio’s have been great. See you soon.
Aspen- Hey Mom, Dad, Sage, Lake, and Cedar. I am alive and having a blast! The food is very good and the views are crazy. I have been getting lots of sleep and have been taking a lot of pictures for you Mom. Also I have been showering almost every day. Thank you for sending me on this trip it is very fun. Please bark at Ivy for me. Miss you guys and I Love you guys, see you guys very soon!
Brandon- hey guys I am having so much fun and can’t wait to see y’all. The views here are amazing and have made me appreciate the views in Montana much more. My group is great and there are lots of other people with bama dads. The food is amazing here and I am very excited for what’s to come. Love y’all and see y’all soon.
Diego- hi guys, time and space are weird, people are nice, and Refugios are sick. The only thing I miss is the cold and eating when I want because the food schedule is kinda regimented. Anyways I’m way too fortunate, see you when I see ya.
Hunter: Ciao mom, dad, bonbon, and pat!! I have loved being in this amazing place with amazing people!! Please give Rudy and Halo kisses! I love and miss y’all!! 😊
July 11, 2022
Ciao from across the pond! Elizabeth and McKee here checking in from the beautiful boutique town of Cortina d’Ampezzo. The group is happy, healthy, safe, and looking forward to all that is to come!
Our first memories together began at the airport when Diego, Aspen, and Julian showed up about an hour before the rest of the crew. To pass the time, we jumped right into playing a good ol’ game of hacky sack. Aspen’s soccer skills, Diego’s competitive spirit, and Julian’s fast feet made for an impressive first go at the sport! Not to sound too arrogant, but we very well might have set the Moondance world record for longest rally… just saying. Ashley was the next to roll in, and we bonded over our amazement at how delicious the gelato is here. She’s tried over 20 different gelato shops in Venice!? We blinked and the Atlanta flight had landed, so we welcomed the rest of the group with some warm croissants and fluffy pastries! After a seamless transition from the airport to our bus, the students took some much needed naps as we made our way to Cortina. Passing vast wheat fields and scenic mountain valleys had us eager to see all that Italy has to offer. A quick 2 hours later, we arrived! We threw our bags in our rooms and beelined it for the nearby soccer field. Sitting just below the long jump from the 1956 Winter Olympics, the soccer field was full of locals playing with their friends and families. We found ourselves a corner of the field and got the games rolling. Hacky sack was the fan favorite (as it should be) and Hudson’s enthusiasm for a new athletic art showed; he was running around like an energizer bunny chasing that thing – heck yeah! Running around for an hour and a half wore us all out, so what better way to refuel than with some authentic Italian pizza? We shared our first meal together near the hotel, and wow, was this food good. Izzy had a special affinity for the breadsticks, let alone the pizza. She kept saying how delicious everything was, and she tried some of each flavor pizza we ordered – props to her for trying new things! Soon after dinner we had our first Moonup, then it was quick to bed to rest our tired eyes. What a stellar first day.
Then came Monday, our via Ferrata day. Yes! The first LODs (Leaders of the Day) of the trip were Brandon and Celia. They set the bar crazy high for all we hope our LODs to be: excited, aware, engaged, and responsible. Once we got to the mountain, we hiked for about an hour before reaching the starting point of our via Ferrata. We geared up and got going. Addie’s verbal love for heights, views, and nature got all our blood pumping as we realized just how incredible this activity is. Just imagine: you’re clipped into the side of a mountain, traversing the crags, gazing around, jaw agape, marveling at the waterfalls and rock formations surrounding you. What a fortunate life we live. As we forged on, Hunter and Ann began to trust the ropes and their feet and snapped some incredible photos leaning backward off the edge with their hands in their air! What’s more, the backdrop was a majestic waterfall. We’re excited to see how these turn out, no doubt. The journey soon came to an end, so we hiked out of the valley and then it was time for… GELATO! Hunter was at a loss for words upon her first taste, and Diego was pleasantly surprised with his choice of cantaloupe gelato. McKee can attest: “melone” is one of the best. Following our sugar fix, the group rested for a bit before hearing a lesson on how to properly pack a backpack. Once they got it down, they split ways to go pack their packs for our trekking section ahead of us. Another pizza dinner tonight, another solid Moonup, and another great day in the books. We are all so excited to kickstart our trekking excursions tomorrow!
That’s all for now, be sure to stay tuned for our next update in several days!
Elizabeth & McKee
July 10, 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!