June 23, 2022
HI FAMILY AND FRIENDS!
Reporting to you live from the Anchorage airport to let you know all of the kiddos have officially taken off and our headed home to the lower 48.
What a special trip it’s been, and the final hours were just the cherry on top. Upon arrival in Anchorage, everyone enjoyed their long awaited shower! I think Sophie was most excited for that one. Once we were all settled in our clean pajamas it was time for our final moon up, where our LODS Sawyer and Lily helped us recount the best moments from the back country. Everyone was reluctant to go to bed knowing it would be our last night with our tent mates.
We woke up this morning and served up some pancakes so delicious that sawyer’s cozy eno was left swinging as he rushed to the Coleman! Then, Leo led a swift and thorough clean of group gear before heading downtown for the day.
Henry and Lucas were ecstatic about our souvenir shopping expedition; however, Mary Marshall, Emmy, and Corrine may have made out with the best souvenir of all — matching T shirts. We headed to the Fat Ptarmigan to celebrate the last day in the best way possible, with FOOD! Ben and Jordan each devoured a mouthwatering wood fired pizza. Across the street we heard live music coming from a local park. We grabbed some ice-cream from Wild Scoops and basked in the Alaskan sun while listening to the band.
Although we planned a different pickup, we ran into Brooklyn’s family on the streets of Anchorage as they embark on an Alaskan family vacation. Her face just lit up when she spotted them across the crosswalk. We wish we could see everyone’s smiling faces as they hug their parents after a tiring two weeks away from home.
Thank you for sharing your lovely kids with us for the past two weeks. We wish them the very best for the remainder of the Summer and in their following endeavors.
BIG LOVE, Frankie and Fran
June 22, 2022
“When the pursuit of natural harmony is a shared journey, great heights can be attained” – Lynn Hill
The past couple days have been incredible. The West Copper River feels like home. From water wars to beachside camps, we have seen it all. Everyone has loved the contrast of rafting and backpacking. Slow rolling mornings, sleeping in, and relaxing on riverbanks has become our new norm. We are absolutely bummed it is over. We are writing this in the van on the way back to Anchorage, desperately trying to hold on to these last moments together.
Last time we checked in, we had just finished our backpacking section. We had no idea what to expect next. We woke up early to cinnamon rolls and fruit before loading in the van with all our gear. Our guides, Jake and Caroline, drove us up to the airport where we said goodbye to them and to McCarthy. Lily, Brooklyn, Sawyer, and I, flew over the 4th of July Pass. We were flying around massive peaks when the pilot told us that 10,000 years ago, even at our height we would have been underwater. Back then there were two absolutely massive glaciers that fed into one of the biggest lakes to ever exist. Hard to believe McCarthy, Kennecott, and Chitna would have been under 3000 ft of water and ice. After an exhilarating full flap landing, we drove an hour to our drop in point. We met up with our rafting guides who had sandwiches ready to go upon arrival. After a delicious lunch, we loaded up and set out. Sophie and Corrine opted for full rain gear which would later be known as the smartest decision ever. The Copper River averages 8-12 mph and is extremely powerful and COLD. It is fed mostly by the glaciers around Mt. St. Elias. From the river we could see everything. Drum Mountain looking dangerous as it cut through clouds that came too close. Our home for the night was a beautiful rocky/sandy river bank. The Copper runs through a massive basin which leads to the river splitting into multiple different passages. We made camp and settled in for the night. Our guides surprised us with a three-course meal, followed by dessert. Spirits were high and bellies were full. That night everyone slept well under the midnight sun.
The following day, we woke up refreshed and ready to greet the sun. Our guides called us over to feast on pancakes and bacon. Leo and Jordan were stoked to have so much to eat. By this time our group was dialed. We had a rhythm and we’re absolutely performing. Assembly lines organized by our LODs Brooklyn and Lucas, were loading the boats in record time. Our guides were expert watermen and women and knew the river like the back of their hand. They even let Brooklyn, Ben, and Henry row us around rocks and rapids. After stopping for lunch, we logged another 5-7 miles on the river. The landscape was always changing, and you never knew that to expect around the next bend. At Moon up that night Lucas asked, “if you could live in any time period what would it be?”. Sawyer responded, “right here and now”. Nothing embodies the Moondance spirit and magic more than that right there. Living in the moment has been a major theme of our trip. At first the group had a hard time not knowing the schedule or the time of the day. They slowly adjusted to taking each moment as it is. That’s where life exists. The pure essence of existence. We all have learned a little more about what it means to be completely present and to not a being removed from its environment but the environment itself.
After yet another slow roller of a morning we made our back into the boats. The bottom of the raft is surprisingly an excellent spot for a nap. Emmy and Mary Marshall took full advantage of the bottom of the raft, and fully relaxed. We travelled around 12 miles total till we made landfall on our coolest campsite yet. The river split in two around this huge point which we would later find out was a massive island. We found our places in the sand and set up tents. The guides made quick work of some burritos with chips and salsa. It was by far the best meal yet. We made a fire next to the riverbank and nestled into our chairs. We started Moon up with the quote above, which Corrine picked out. It certainly set the tone for the rest of the night. As the fire sent ashes floating up into the sky, our LODs Jordan and Corinne asked everyone what’s the best compliment they have ever received. Sophie said someone once told her she smiles more than anyone they know. I’d happen to agree with that statement. Her smile is contagious. Our group really hit their stride today. It has been absolute pleasure to spend the last 11 days with each and every one of them.
We will check back in tomorrow with a final check in and farewell. We miss you all and cannot wait to see you.
Frankie and Fran
June 18, 2022
HIII FAMILY AND FRIENDS
We have just returned from a long but rewarding backpacking section and are nestled in our tents in McCarthy. Small town luxury has never been so welcomed. We are tired but find ourselves excited about what’s next. For now, we peacefully lay next to a flowing creek as the sun hides behind the mountains. Eager for tomorrow and calm of the river that lies ahead.
Last we wrote, we were gearing up to go ice climbing. The morning of day 4, we woke up to our first backcountry breakfast of fruit and granola. Who knew powdered milk was so tasty. After breakfast and a glacier safety talk the group packed a day pack and headed down the ridge to the edge of the glacier. We strapped on our ice boots and crampons and stepped out onto the ice. We traversed a ways and found a nice steep fall nestled next to a beautiful glacier blue waterfall. Ben conquered his fear of heights, even volunteering to climb first. Emmy took a slew of her own personal pics of the group and the landscape. We had a great time cheering everyone on during their turn. With the help of our guides everyone had the opportunity to climb twice. We even had a go at it! After eating lunch on the ice, we headed back up to camp to rest our exhausted muscles. We played music on the backcountry guitar and shared great conversations. Our guides Caroline and Jake served a scrumptious dinner of Mac and Cheese. Afterwards, we enjoyed s’mores for dessert. Then it was time to moon up and get some shut eye for our second backpacking day.
Day 5 started with a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs. We strapped on our packs and headed back to the glacier. After a few crampon fumbles, it was smooth sailing. Our guides showed us a few Mulan pools and shared some of their favorite glaciology facts. With the assistance of our guide, Jake, Jordan and Leo were the first to peer over into the pools that fell hundreds of feet down into the glacier. We pulled out crazy creeks and made wonderful veggie hummus wraps to eat on the ice. We filled up our nalgenes with fresh glacier stream water and went back to hiking. Once across the Root Glacier, we climbed up towards the Donoho basin to camp. Our yummy dinner of chilly warmed us up at the end of a cloudy day. Our LODS Sophie and Henry asked a very thought provoking question during moonup. We all shared something that we have been struggling with over the past year. It took a while for everyone to open up but once they did, we all felt a little better, a little safer, and a little more loved. Deep connections were forming. Those moments are what this is all about. It is often said it is not about the destination but the journey. We believe it is the company that matters most.
We slept in a little on day 6 to make sure we were prepared to move camp once again. We tried a new breakfast recipe from St Elias Alpine Guides (SEAG) called brekkie couscous. We devoured the hot breakfast of couscous topped with berries before lacing our boots and strapping our packs. Although frustrated by bushwhacking, we powered through the swampy basin to beautiful lakes and views of Donoho peak, Mt Blackburn, and the Gates Glacier. Brooklyn, Emmy, and Corinne even took a polar plunge in one of the lakes. We rested for a bit before celebrating Ben and Henry’s birthday with pesto pasta and Oreo cheesecake. Mary Marshall and Lily gathered the girls to show off their camp baking skills by helping Jake make the dessert.
To rest our tired legs, we used day 7 to enjoy the basin without our packs. We woke up and ate a slow breakfast of fruit and granola while enjoying some hot drinks. We lounged around chatting and reading. Lucas especially enjoyed Frankie’s guided meditation out by the lake. To shake out his muscles, Sawyer joined our guide Caroline on a short day hike to a nearby ridge alongside Jordan, Ben, Emmy, and Brooklyn. We concluded our last night in the backcountry with a celebratory thanksgiving dinner and lemon cheesecake. We went to sleep early in preparation for our most daunting task yet. Getting back. It took us 3 days to reach the upper basin, the next day we would hike 10 miles in one day. 1 mile in Alaska is much different than any normal mile. As the bird flies the town of Kennecott is 4 miles away from our campsite. But between us and civilization lies bogs, cliffs, endless bush, a glacier, and a mile straight away that leads to town. We would need all our strength and more. We needed each other.
The day of days had come, and group sprung outta bed ready to go. Camp was buzzing as we made breakfast and packed up our tents and stuffed our bags. We started at an amazing pace, which we and the guides did not think was sustainable. We were very wrong. The group charged through the bush and around the lakes of the basin. We made our way back to the lower basin campsite and prepared to cross the glacier. We strapped on crampons and descended down a rockslide and out onto the ice. Our pace was unmatched. Hikes that took us 3 hours each were clocking in around 2 hours. We were cruising. We ate lunch on the glacier with an absolutely stunning view. It was perfectly clear without a cloud in the sky. We finished up the hike with the same drive even with full bellies. Today, Corrine’s positive attitude helped us through our last and longest day of backpacking. Our whole group dynamic took a turn yesterday. Everyone’s energy was infectious. Once we were back in McCarthy, we stopped at a local joint called “The Potato” and celebrated Ben and Henry’s birthday yet again with a giant meal. We all headed home full of burgers and fries and smile on our faces.
Tomorrow we will be headed to rafting. We have only heard amazing things about the Copper River and cannot wait to get there. Until then, be well. We will check back in 3 days from now. We love and miss you all.
Frankie and Fran
June 13, 2022
FAMILY AND FRIENDS!
We hope this finds you happy and healthy. It is day three and our hearts are full and spirits are high. Midnight Sun officially has their gears turning! This is Fran and Frankie writing to you from the edge of the Root glacier. Alaska is absolutely insane. Everything is massive. Being out here sure is humbling and really puts everything into perspective. It has been an absolute joy to get to know these kids over the past three days. Watching them form real connections from those first awkward meetings at the airport is one of the greatest joys of being a moondance leader. This group is incredible, and we cannot wait for what lies ahead.
Our journey started off in Anchorage. After a long day in the airport, we indulged with a local favorite, Uncle Joe’s pizza. We made our way to our campsite, where the kids experienced their first taste of Alaska’s seemingly endless summer daylight. We discussed the moondance philosophy and started to dial in for the next two weeks. We introduced the idea of Expedition Behavior and what that looks like day to day. EB is essential to the health and efficiency of a group. Good backcountry EB is helping clean dishes when no one asks you, leading the charge and filling up others water bottles, an overall positive attitude. Spreading sunshine and good cheer just for the fun of it. We are excited to see how and when this group ceases be a team and becomes a family.
On the morning of day 2, after a nice breakfast of eggs and bacon, the leaders of the day (Lucas and Emmy) led charge on breaking down camp. The LODS made sure the gang was ready for our van ride. We had a long journey into the frontier ahead of us and truly didn’t know what to expect. As we winded our way through mountain ranges and alpine forest, Ben and Leo kept the energy high by blasting music the entire way. Henry helped me keep everyone well fed by making sandwiches in the back of the van. We finally made our way past the copper river to a gravel airstrip nestled between the river and the forest. The passage creates a wind tunnel perfect for bush planes. Our awe inspiring pilots took us on an air tour of the Wrangell mountain range before dropping us of in the quaint town of McCarthy. Emmy and Mary Marshall were absolutely speechless by the views from 3,000 ft. Upon arrival, we were headed over to McCarthy’s sister town Kennecot. This -straight out of a movie- ghost town is home to a Copper Mine that operated for decades up until the 1940s. It produced around 200 million dollars worth of copper and silver back in its day. The National park service maintains this wonder in a stated of suspended decay. Our group descended down 14 flights of the old mill learning about its history and production processes. After, our guides drove us back into McCarthy and introduced us to our base camp for the next week. We set up camp on a river bar sanwhiched between to two massive mountains. Even as it started to rain Brooklyn and Sophie were exploring the river side and taking pictures of the beautiful scene. Lucas and Emmy led our first real Moonup and talked about the importance of appreciating the little things. How much it means to someone to check up and ask how their day is going. How far a little conversation can go when things get tough. We briefed the group about what the next day would bring and the Lucas and Emmy selected Corinne and Ben to be LODs for our first day of backpacking.
The following day we woke up to pancakes prepared by our guides. After some delightful munching, it was time to get to work. We participated in a “gear explosion” where they learned what items are backcountry necessities and how to pack a backpack. Everyone took initiative when it came to carrying their share of group gear. Then it was time to hit the trail! Our two mile trek to camp brought rolling terrain, beautiful flora and fauna, and breathtaking views of the Wrangells. Arriving to the campsite, we found ourselves with a incredible view of Mt Blackburn. Our guides were very knowledgeable about the history of the mountain. While taking in the scenery, Sawyer and Jordan were rockstar members in our game of Rock Rock. We chilled to music and enjoyed a peaceful afternoon at camp before eating some delicious pizza pockets for dinner. We all shared what we wanted to do with our lives. Lily shared that she wanted to be an aerospace engineer which sparked an hour long conversation about space. After a couple laughs and a couple snacks, we brushed our teeth and circled up for moon up. We talked about our favorite meals and listened to some music as the sun fell behind Mt. Blackburn. We nestled in for the night and got some much needed rest for the day ahead.
We are absolutely stoked about the next couple days on the glacier. Ice climbing is about to be a dream. Best wishes from the middle of nowhere. Thinking of all of you. Talk to you soon!
Fran and Frankie
June 11, 2022
Hello Midnight Sun Families!
We just heard from our leaders that the group has landed safely in Anchorage. 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!