July 9, 2022
HI FAMILY AND FRIENDS!
Writing to you from the Anchorage airport to announce that’s all of our kiddos have fled the coop and our headed home to you in the lower 48.
Our time together has surely been eventful, and we would expect nothing more for our final day. We woke up this morning and served up some cinnamon roll pancakes with a side of fresh strawberries. We had a few tasks to complete on our last morning. Davis headed the thorough cleaning of group gear, and Charlie was a wizard at loading the U-Haul with everyone’s duffels. Then it was time to head downtown to kick off banquet, Hannah shared some paper plate awards that she’d prepared while recovering. We shared a delicious meal of fried chicken and burgers at the lucky wishbone (with a side of malted milkshakes of course!). It was a real treat to dine at an Anchorage staple established in 1955. Ella and Lexie convinced the group to order Shirley Temples, and Quentin fulfilled his Nutella craving with a Nutella shake. Then it was time for… drumroll please… the long awaited shower. The kids were perplexed by how this was there one and only shower while in the state of Alaska. MC was particularly surprised by how different her haired looked post shampoo after almost 2 weeks in the backcountry. Feeling and smelling refreshed, we were ready to do some shopping. Maggie and Amelia were ecstatic about our souvenir shopping expedition; especially finding gifts for their families to enjoy. Meanwhile, MC dawned her new “moose craft” t-shirt. While Wyatt and Lexie proved to be pro shoppers, Davis and Wilder enjoyed sitting in massage chairs to help recover their tired muscles. After the excursion, we made our way to the airport where many hugs were shared and tears shed. Just as the trip began, we had a few moments to chill with Rem as he was the one with the first flight in and the last flight out.
Cheers to the longest visitor of second session! We want to thank you for sharing your children with us for the past two weeks. This group created a special bond in such a short amount of time! We wish them them a wonderful, relaxing remainder of the summer.
Frankie and Fran
July 8, 2022
“Life is not a problem to be solved, rather a reality to be experienced”
What an experience this has been. I am eternally grateful to have been a part of this group the past couple days. They have been nothing short of incredible.
The last time we checked in, I was writing from 4,000 ft on a bush plane leaving backpacking. It is now our final day. Rafting is over and today we explore Anchorage for the final time. Last night was our final Moonup and it sure was a special one. We sang songs, shared our favorite moments of the trip, and talked about what we would bring home with us. Everyone’s answer was fairly the same.
“I learned to truly live in the moment” or “I became comfortable being uncomfortable.” There has been quite a lot of growth not just on a group level but at an individual level as well. We have all learned a little about ourselves and how far we can push ourselves. Maggie shared a quote to open up Moonup one night that is as follows “When the pursuit of natural harmony is a shared journey, great heights can be attained.” We have seen our fair share of heights these two weeks.
We started rafting 4 days ago and it might as well have been 4 years ago. Everyone says time flies when you’re having fun. I am of the opinion that when the magic is really happening, time slows down. Though it has felt like a lifetime, no one can believe the trip is ending. We all feel like we are just getting started. At Moonup Davis said we should run it back and just stay in Alaska. But just like the current moment, nothing is here to stay. We have been through low lows and high highs, but this trip certainly has produced higher valleys. On day one of rafting, we had to say goodbye to Hannah and Fran because Hannah was feeling just awful. We rushed her to Anchorage for medical treatment. Let me tell you, that was certainly a low for all of us. Though we finished rafting without them, our reunion last night was all the sweeter. I think MC and her hugged for 10 mins straight when they saw each other again. She is feeling so much better and it sure is nice to have Fran back.
The past couple days other than that, have been very relaxed. A huge contrast from backpacking earlier in the trip. Our only objective was to get to Chitina in three days. Not a bad life when you only have one thing to do for three whole days. We were absolutely pampered by the guides. We hopped on rafts and headed down the mighty Copper River stopping to eat and sleep on sandy river bars. Some of the greatest campsites I’ve ever been to. On day two of our lazy river experience, we found ourselves at war. Amelia, Quentin, Ella, and Lexi raised a pirate flag and filled buckets with water. The boy’s boat was their target. Wilder, with the help of Wyatt and Charlie, prepared to return fire. By the end of a rather short conflict, no one was dry. Well expect for MC, Maggie, Rem, and I. Who were happily watching from a distance, playing guitar and singing songs, dry as could be. Our boat was also lucky enough to see a lone black wolf on the side of the river. It was literally huge and apparently extremely rare to see so close to the river. It was such a cool day.
We found a nice sandy shore to pull our boats onto and made a quick fire line to separate gear. At this point the group is absolutely dialed when it comes to setting up camp. It was up and ready in less than fifteen mins. The guides introduced a game to the kids that I still don’t quite understand but they played for hours into the night. I could hear them laughing as I was falling asleep and nothing makes me happier than that.
The next morning we broke down camp after some bacon and egg bagels and hit the river. The sky was absolutely clear. Not a cloud in sight. Our views of Mt Drum, Wrangell Mt, and Blackburn were truly incredible. They looked huge despite being some 60 miles away. We stopped for lunch on yet another sandy paradise and ate sammies in the hot sun. Even in Alaska you can get a tan. We continued on and found a spot to settle in for the night. We had the best dinner yet. Chicken burritos with all kinds of sides. It was the perfect night to end rafting. We made a fire next to the river and listened to music for hours. The sunset was beautiful. Too many colors to count. The sky was like a canvas decorating space. Music decorated time as we talked and laughed about everything. This was no doubt my favorite moment of the trip. I am not alone in that either. Charlie and Quentin also said that they felt very whole and present in those moments. Happiness is best shared, and we have shared everything this trip.
Being back in civilization sure feels funny. Today we celebrate Ella’s birthday, and I cannot wait to hit the town. The rest of the group is just as excited as I am. Showers and restaurants are in our near future and that feels so good to say. We will check back in after everyone has left. We love and miss you and will see you soon.
Frankie and Fran
July 5, 2022
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward”
These past couple days have been absolutely incredible. Clear skies and clear minds. I write this with a full belly and a warm heart. The halfway point is upon us. Wondering if this high will wear off. Holding on for dear life.
The last time we checked in, we were camped at the toe of the root glacier getting ready for ice climbing. We slept in and had our first slow roller of a morning. We woke up to bacon and eggs, Wyatt and Wilder were so pumped. A perfect way to start a perfect day. We packed our packs with the essentials and started down the path towards the ice. Kelly and Alec, our guides, did a glacier travel lesson and taught everyone how to lace up their crampons. Once sunnies and gloves were on, we stepped out onto the ice. The cool air coming off the surface was the perfect counter to the heat of a cloudless day. We walked a couple hundred yards to a massive compression fin. A huge white and blue frozen wave. The other guides had already set up our top ropes. Wilder and Hannah were the first to attempt the climb. Both made it with flying colors. We took turns climbing and just hanging out on the ice. A glacier melt stream ran right through our little dip. Rem and Davis were freaking out about the crisp, clean glacier water. Truly some of the purest water in the world. We climbed all afternoon till no one could feel their forearms. Just when everyone was ready to head back. MC decided she wanted to try the hard route on the left side. The upper section of which bends inward past completely vertical. We all watched as she slowly crept higher and higher. She topped out and everyone went crazy below. We all couldn’t believe she still had more in the tank. After lunch on the glacier, we headed back to camp. We went to sleep early in preparation to travel across the whole glacier to reach the lower section of the Donoho Basin.
The next morning, we set out early and broke down camp in record time. Sadly, we also had to say goodbye to Fran and Lexi. Lexi had bumped her head a couple of days before so we decided she and Fran would get some much-needed rest back in McCarthy. Ella and Lexi hugged for a good long while before we finally set off. The rest of the group and I laced up our crampons and hit the glacier with much heavier packs than the day before. There was not a single cloud in the sky. Little did we know that would become somewhat of a theme for the rest of our backpacking. Kelly taught Maggie and Davis about “glacier mice” which is a type of moss that moves and is the only living thing that can survive on the glacier. So, Davis and Maggie gave the rest of the group a lecture on the travel habits of the mysterious green furries. We continued on being led by our LODs Charlie and Amelia. They took turns leading the group around massive crevasses and moulins. Treacherous cracks and holes lead to nothing but a dark cold. We winded our way keeping our distance from such places. We finally spotted what looked like a good spot for lunch. Turns out it might have been the coolest lunch spot of all time. A massive dark blue pool. One side a shallow, almost beach-like calm, the other a very very very deep hole. Quentin told us all he promised his mom that he would jump into the blue hole and that he would be the first to go. He prepared his mind and body for a chilling 32.5 degree polar plunge. He jumped in and immediately swam to the edge. He hopped out with a smile from ear to ear and others were quick to follow. Maggie, Hannah, Wyatt, and Rem would also test the waters. Davis and MC led the rest of the group cheering them on from the edge. We dried off and threw every layer we had on before saying goodbye to one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen. We finally made it to the lateral moraine on the side of the glacier after another hour’s push. We had about 500 feet of elevation gain to scramble up till we reached our campsite at the top of the cliff. We crushed it in like 20 minutes. I was unbelievably impressed. We made camp and set up tents ready to settle in for the night, until out of nowhere a dark rain cloud parked itself out over the glacier we had crossed just an hour earlier. It didn’t stay long before retreating back into the south, but it left behind a complete rainbow right over all the white ice. It was a beautiful way to end the day. Warm chili in our bellies and a perfect rainbow to look at. We went to sleep proud and ready for the morning.
The following day would prove difficult yet we were determined. Ella and Quentin were our LODs and without their positivity and bright attitudes, we would have been lost. As the crow flies it is two miles from lower to upper Donoho Basin. In Alaskan miles that is four miles. Four miles of mushy marsh, biting bugs, and whacking willows. Alaskan bushwhacking is quite literally the gnarliest activity out there. This group pushed through every branch, tree, and thicket that was thrown their way. As we passed by pristine alpine lakes the group got more and more excited about what lay ahead. As you move further up the basin the lakes become bluer and bluer. Snow melt from the spring creates some of the most beautiful lakes in the world. We finally made it to our spot. It would be our campsite for two days. Base camp. Home. We were all itching at the chance to wash off the sweat of the bush. Although the lake isn’t as cold as our glacier blue pool jump, it sure didn’t feel all that much warmer. Alec, Kelly, MC, and Maggie led the charge and I followed. The rest of the boys were trying to talk themselves up to take the dip. I turned on the GoPro and that was all they needed. One by one they did their best long jump into the blue. At a certain point, your body becomes completely numb and it actually feels warm. The water feels warmer than the air. We swam around for about twenty minutes. Much much longer than any of us expected. After drying off we all gathered for a special ridgeline Moonup where we talked about the food that reminds us of home. The food that reminds us of you. Of mom and dads cooking or our family’s favorite restaurants. We have all become very comfortable with each other and with that, each Moonup has gotten better and better. We settled in for the night, truly believing we could accomplish anything together.
The next morning was the slowest of rollers. We woke up super late to breakfast bagels and bacon prepared by our wonderful guides. I led a morning meditation lakeside with the whole group. As most of you probably know, living in the moment is a very important part of Moondance. We learned about how sometimes just sitting down and just being is all you need to reset. Not trying to not think or think of nothing, but just be. Experiencing the experience. We learned how thoughts and feelings do not define self. Both good and bad will pass. Nothing is constant. Everything everywhere is in motion all the time and sometimes all we need to do is sit and just be for a second. We all sat for a good long time in complete silence just staring at the mountains in the distance. We left that ridgeline feeling a little calmer, safer, and in touch with the world around us.
The rest of the day was filled with various activities. Day hikes to distant ridgelines and glaciers, swimming, and the doing of absolutely nothing. Baking away under the sun, without a care in the world. We had Thanksgiving dinner (stuffing and mashed potatoes) for dinner before calling it an early night. The next day would be our true final test. We had to travel the entire way back. All the way back to McCarthy in one day. Everyone was slightly nervous but ready to get started.
We woke up early, ate some breakfast and hit the road. We were all business. Even with lighter packs (less food), the bush would be tough. We were making our way back and got a bit lost and had to backtrack. A normal group would have complained and had bad attitudes. That was not the case. We made it back to our previous campsite and ate lunch. With a view of our final destination in sight we laced up crampons and stepped out on the ice for the last time. We crossed as straight as possible. The wind was at our backs. Towards the end of the root, we found a massive moulin and we’re able to look down into it. Super scary. We made our way up the steep banks of the other side and hit the flat straight away back towards the Kennecott Mine. We were moving so fast we were almost running. After a short somewhat smelly van ride we were back in McCarthy. Which meant the much-needed reunion with Lexi and Fran. Everyone was sooo happy to see them. We shuffled all our gear around for rafting. After one of the craziest duffle shuffles ever, we finally made our way into town for some food. We are at the famous “Potato.” Live music and 4th of July festivities were in full swing. We ate well, very well. Real good. First soda after a 6-day backpacking trip is a wild thing. We nestled in for the night. Eyes were closed immediately after hitting pillows. We slept like we never had before.
This group is simply amazing. I’m at a loss of words. We have become a family in less than a week. Big and wild Alaska sure does funny things to us little people. I cannot wait for rafting and I’m certainly not alone in that. We will check back in the next couple days.
Until then be well! We love and miss you all!!
Frankie and Fran
June 29, 2022
HI FRIENDS AND FAMILY,
Frankie and Fran here writing from our cozy sleeping bags, peeking out of our tent that’s overlooking the root glacier. We couldn’t imagine a better start to a trip than the one we’ve had. It’s been an absolute blast!
The night everyone arrived in Anchorage, we ordered pizza to the airport before boarding a bus to our campsite. Our tent was eagerly awaiting our arrival. We had our first moon up where we discussed the multitude of reasons, we want to be a part of moondance and why we chose to travel to the last frontier state. Then it was time to get some shut eye.
On our first full day, we munched on a breakfast of fresh berries and pancakes. We broke camp and departed for Chitna. Our wonderful friends at St Elias Alpine Guides (SEAGS) drove us in their van. Although our car ride was long, it was a great time to bond and bump to some tunes. Ella and Lexie started a great queue for us to enjoy. After a couple bathroom stops and some peanuts butter and jelly sandwiches, we made it to our next destination. Then we decided it was time to change up our mode of transportation, it was time for the bush plane ride! Maggie and Wyatt rode as co-pilots in their respective planes and asked many engaging questions. Our pilots were so knowledgeable and answered them all. They pointed out Mt Blackburn, Bona, and Wrangell as well as Castle Mountain. We even got a glimpse of our backpacking route from the air. Our guides picked us up from the airport and drove us to Kennecott. We toured the hundreds of years old Kennecott mine. Charlie helped our guide, Kelly, demonstrate how the machinery operated. After a long, hot day, we got ice cream from the McCarthy Mercantile. MC and Hannah were super excited for this sugary pick-me-up. They decided to be super adventurous and order the bubblegum flavor. Then We headed to camp at a beautiful river bar next to where the SEAG guides live. Our guides Kelly and Alec cooked us a scrumptious spaghetti dinner. We had moon up next to the river led by our LODs MC and Davis then Frankie brought out his guitar. We hung out under the midnight sun before catching some Zss.
Today was also a BIG day! We woke up to breakfast prepared by our guides—pancakes and oranges! Then it was time to prepare for backpacking. We learned so many valuable skills, what and how to pack and how to fit our packs to our bodies. Then we drove to Kennecott to start our trek. We grabbed ice boots and crampons from the SEAG office before hitting the trail. It took a little while to adjust to walking with a load on our backs, but we eventually settled in. There were beautiful wildflowers surrounding the trail and multiple outcropping that gave us a view of the mountains and the glacier. We crossed amazon creek, where we took a break to splash some cool water on our faces to help us beat the heat. Once we arrived at camp, we had a few chores to do before we could fully relax. Quentin and Rem assisted our guide Alec with a water run. Amelia was super helpful with knot tying when we set up the cook tent. We enjoyed lovely pizza burritos for dinner and topped it off with s’mores for dessert. We circled up for moon up where our LODS asked us to pick a day in our lives that we would want to relive (without changing anything). Wilder had a crowd pleaser answer, he said he would go back to the day he was born! We ended the night listening to music while looking out over the mountains.
We will write soon to tell you about our upcoming adventures on the glacier!
Fran and Frankie
June 27, 2022
Hello Midnight Sun Families!
We just heard from our leaders that the group landed safely last night 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!