July 1, 2022
Well folks, that’s a wrap for Northern Lights 1A. All of your strong, brave, determined children are officially in the air and on their way back home to you. We know they’re excited to be back home in their warm beds, but we also know that we will miss them dearly. We did have a fun filled last 24 hours with them, and we’re here to tell you all about it.
After getting ashore and unloading all of our kayaks, we all made one last trip to a local Whittier Cafe where we all had the opportunity to buy a couple of souvenirs and some ice cream. Soon after, our bus arrived to drive us back to Anchorage! The hour and a half ride sped by with all of the singing and laugher filling the vehicle the entire time. Upon arrival to the campsite, we enjoyed one last dinner together. Feeling sentimental, we decided to get pizza just like that very first night, and to celebrate all of our accomplishments we added some ice cream & pies for dessert. We then shook off our sugar rush with a group-wide dance party before settling down to pack our bags and get ready for our final Moonup. Lucy packed up her bag quickly enough that she even came to help us clean out our van, which was much appreciated. Our LODs, Margaux and Seager, planned a special Moonup for us that began with a “funeral” for Seager’s camera, affectionately known as the “XP140” (to clarify, the camera was not broken, it just needed a charge). We all went around in a circle and shared our favorite memories with the renowned camera. We followed that up with an activity where we acted out our favorite moments from the trip without talking and everyone else had to guess which moment it was. Most notable was Olivia putting on a backpack and performing a flawless summersault to the ground to represent one of MJ’s more famous tumbles on the trail. We rounded out our very last Moonup with a set of “mega-nugs,” where we called out things, we appreciated about each other spanning the entire three weeks. With the sky growing dim, it was then time to go to sleep. Not wanting to be apart any more than they had to, all of the students opted to sleep outside on some tarps together instead of crawling into their individual tents. Eloise’s camouflage tarp was a crowd favorite.
In the morning, we loaded all of our gear into the van before heading out to spend the day in Anchorage! The long-awaited town day had officially arrived. We spent the morning popping in and out of various gift shops where most of us bought wacky Alaska themed t-shirts to commemorate our trip. Mercer was particularly interested in the $8,000 stuffed moose displayed at the front of one of the stores, and Jennings spent time putting together personalized gifts for each of her family members. When lunch time rolled around, we made our way to a local diner and enjoyed some delectable burgers and fries. Then, it was time for the most highly anticipated event: showers! We walked to a nearby rec center, and everyone finally got to feel clean again! We all left saying that we have never felt better. After showers, Cole and Caroline did one last set of their daily pushups. On our way back downtown, we had one final surprise ice cream stop for our crew. It was the least we could do after how amazing they had been the entire trip.
We stopped into a couple more shops before loading up the bus to head to the airport. Taylor had us all laughing with her glamorous flight set-up that included an inflatable neck pillow! Thankfully, we got to spend a little bit more time together before security before our first flight left, but eventually we had to start saying goodbye. This part is always hard, but we rest easy knowing that the goodbyes are only tough because of the incredibly strong bonds our students have made with each other throughout our time together. We cannot thank you all enough for trusting us with your kids this summer. Each and every one of them had such a profound impact on ourselves and the group as a whole, and we feel incredibly blessed to know them.
That’s just about all we have for you. We can’t wait to see what incredible things your kids accomplish in the future. With that, we are signing off.
With love, Claire, Caroline, & Grady
June 30, 2022
Ahoy mateys! Our stellar crew has made it safe and sound back to the mainland! We’ve spent the last four days paddling around Prince William Sound and enjoying the quirky little town of Whittier, Alaska. We had heard a lot about this place in anticipation of our arrival. Whittier is a tiny fishing town where 85% of the 300-person population lives in one apartment building, and the only access by land is through a tunnel that only opens to vehicles for 15 minutes every hour. We also learned that the town typically only gets about 10-15 days of sunshine a year! So, as I’m sure you can imagine, as we drove through the tunnel, we prepared ourselves for a gloomy arrival on the other side. To our immense surprise, we popped out on the other end to a beautiful sunny summer day! We settled into our campsite and got to work preparing ourselves for a four-day paddle. Lucy was instrumental in making sure our food was all accounted for and packed correctly. With dry bags packed, sleeping bags waterproofed, and stoke high, we hit the hay.
Our first day of sea kayaking greeted us with another day of absolutely gorgeous weather! Our incredible guide Natalie taught everyone how to properly pack a kayak and before we knew it everyone was partnered up and loading up their new boats! Margaux adorned her kayak with our new group mascot: a barbie doll affectionately dubbed Olivia (surprisingly, not after our own Olivia but after a popular TikTok star who has become a household name to our students). Once boats were packed, it was time to hit the high seas! We paddled all morning, enjoying the gorgeous views of snowcapped mountains on all sides as we glided over glassy blue water. We eventually stopped for lunch on a nearby beach, and some of us may have even taken a nap or two. We continued with our paddle after lunch until we reached our home for the night. Our new campsite was definitely a crowd pleaser. It boasted tent platforms, a boardwalk, and even a rustic bathroom! We got dinner brewing pretty quick, and Seager helped out by preparing the tomato soup to go with our grilled cheese. The concoction was eventually dubbed “zoup” by the whole crew and Eloise ended up eating 8 bowls! We’re all still very impressed. We rounded out the day with a Moonup by the beach and went to sleep.
The next morning rolled around, and we woke up the kids with chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast! It was time to say goodbye to our new favorite campsite in order to head deeper into the bay, and closer to the glaciers. MJ impressed us all this day with her map skills. She’s truly a natural and kept us on course all day long as our lead boat. We took a few breaks on various beaches along the way, and Jennings always took every opportunity to lay down and soak up the sun! We had multiple reports that today’s lunch was the best lunch of the trip! We all feasted on tortillas with all of the toppings: hummus, bell peppers, cucumbers, salami, cheese, and even peanut butter and jelly! We arrived at camp that night feeling exhausted, but also proud of what we had accomplished that day. We unpacked our boats and set up camp before enjoying a yummy dinner and Moonup.
Day three was glacier day, and LOD Cole sure brought the hype! Today we would base camp, meaning we wouldn’t have to pack up camp because we’d be returning later that day. We set out deeper into the bay to get a close look at some of the glaciers out there, and it was absolutely breathtaking. The closer we got, the littler icebergs were floating in the water, and we all were eventually completely surrounded by them. We were all very impressed today by Olivia, our other LOD. She showed exemplary group management and decision-making skills all day long and made it very clear that she always had the best interest of the group in mind. Back at camp, we started putting away our kayaks, but our guide had a surprise in store for our friend Mercer. He had been asking all week if he could try to roll one of the kayaks, and today was the day! Rolling a kayak is a skill used when you flip your boat upside down but want to flip right side up without having to exit the boat. We all watched from the shore, and to everyone’s excitement he succeeded on the first try! We were all very proud of him. We then enjoyed a gourmet mac & cheese dinner cheffed up by our one and only Taylor before saying goodnight.
And that brings us to this morning! We had a short paddle out to where our water taxi would be picking us up. We yet again had absolutely perfect weather, but the lack of wind was not going to stop us from trying to sail to our destination! We all rafted our kayaks together and our guide tied a tarp to two paddles to create a sail! We’re sure it would’ve caught a lot of wind, had there been any. We had a lot of fun with it regardless, and before we knew it we were on our water taxi saying goodbye to the sound altogether.
Now you’re all caught up on our seafaring adventures! We’re in packing mode now to get ready for airport day. We’ll check back in one more time once your precious cargo is in the air, but for now we are signing off.
Claire, Caroline, & Grady
June 26, 2022
We are pleased to announce that we have officially emerged unscathed from the wild Alaskan backcountry! We are so incredibly proud of everything your super strong kids have accomplished, but before we get ahead of ourselves let’s rewind back to day 1.Last we left you, we had just finished our ice climbing adventure and had begun preparations for our backpacking section. We woke up the morning of our first day with a lot to do, and spent the first half of the day going through our “Duffle Shuffle” and “How to Pack a Pack” lessons so that our packs would be looking and feeling fabulous once we hit the trail. After divvying up group gear and food, it was finally time to load up the vans and head out! The first few miles of our adventure consisted of relatively flat & easy terrain, which gave us all a great opportunity to chat as well as practice our bear calls! In order to not surprise any large furry friends along our path, our group has to make a lot of noise to alert them of our presence. Fortunately, this didn’t seem to be a problem for our rowdy crew! After a while, our flat & easy trail started trending upward and we began our first steep ascent. On the first day of hiking and with very heavy packs, this incline was no small feat. However, to absolutely no one’s surprise, our team absolutely crushed it! The trail even rewarded us towards the top with a show-stopping view of the valley we had come from, complete with snow-capped peaks and a crystal clear lake in the foreground. We eventually topped out onto a ridge and our trail leveled out, but mother nature had a few more surprises in store for us. The weather had been sprinkling on and off throughout the day, but once we reached the top of our climb the rain really started coming down! For a few minutes, we swear we even saw small pieces of hail! A little bit of weather wasn’t enough to dampen our spirits though! We donned our rain gear and pushed on to camp. Upon arrival, our cheers of joy could be heard for miles around! We had successfully completed our first day of backpacking! This day was honestly very challenging, and we are so incredibly proud of each and every one of our students for pushing themselves to get it done and for keeping positive attitudes throughout the entire day. The growth we saw today was tremendous and made us even more excited for the seven days ahead of us.
On day 2, we rewarded our efforts the day before with a much needed sleep in. After resting our weary bodies, we enjoyed some cheesy bagels and rejoiced at the fact that we woke up to a shining sun and blue skies. After breakfast, it was time to pack up and hit the trail once again! We seemed to have left the steep inclines behind, because today our path was more of a pleasant stroll through some rolling hills with a few small creek crossings along the way. At one of the creeks, we took the time to teach proper river crossing technique in preparation for some of our bigger river crossings later in the trip. Before we knew it, we had arrived at our lunch spot: Hick’s Lake! We enjoyed some summer sausage & cheese tortillas beside the picturesque mountain lake before getting back on the trail. We followed a creek the rest of the way to our campsite, an established hunting camp alongside a river. We gathered around and enjoyed some delectable pita pizzas before having our Moonup and falling asleep to the sound of the raging river.
The next morning, we packed up camp quickly in order to start hiking a bit earlier than the day before. We hiked alongside the river for a bit before cutting left up into the hills. We enjoyed a relatively easy day today, totaling only about four miles. We followed our trail up and down through gentle rolling hills until we reached the day’s lunch location: a flat hilltop with gorgeous views and – to everyone’s delight and confusion – some abandoned mining equipment in the middle of the wilderness! We enjoyed a leisurely lunch complete with a photoshoot and a short nap. Before continuing, Seager impressed us all by doing 15 pushups with his full pack on! We finished our day’s hike with a short walk down to the creek that we’d be camping next to for the night. Everyone was happy to have had a relatively easy hiking day, and many students said this was their favorite day of the trip so far! We finished the night with creekside burritos cheffed up by the one and only Cole, who has the burrito folding ability of a seasoned Chipotle employee.
The next day, we treated ourselves to a leisurely layover day in order to rest up for our big push into the tundra. Margaux and Olivia teamed up to fry us all up countless chocolate chip pancakes, and we all ate to our hearts content! Later in the afternoon, we offered up an optional day hike to the top of a nearby peak, and to our delight several students accepted! The hiking crew headed out shortly after our big brunch, and the rest of us hung out at camp! We lazed the day away reading, napping, and making friendship bracelets. The rest of our friends returned just before dinner and regaled us with tales of the beautiful views and wildlife they saw, which included a porcupine! Soon after, we enjoyed a backcountry delicacy: Thanksgiving dinner, complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, turkey, and even gravy! With full bellies and feeling thankful, we hit the hay.
In the morning, we arose with excitement because today was finally the day we would be leaving the trail and heading up into the tundra! We followed our ATV trail until its end, and from that point on it was just our group, the mountains, and our trusty map & compass. We hiked up and over ridges, into and across drainages, and through fields as we marveled at the stunning views around us. At one point, the whole crew came to a halt to appreciate the magnificent moose that had wandered across our path. MJ kept everyone laughing the whole time by shouting “who lives in there??” into every single marmot hole we passed. After a full day of hiking, we arrived at what was without a doubt the most scenic campsite of the trip. The towering peaks all around absolutely dwarfed our tents set up at their base. Since we got to camp early, we treated ourselves to a delicious brownie scramble after dinner before having a bit of a longer Moonup. We all reflected on events in our lives that changed us for the better, and by the end of it we all felt even closer than we already were (if that’s even possible).Day six was by far the coolest day of our trip. This was pass day, the day that we climb up and over two different mountain passes before dropping back into the valley we had been walking through just a few short days ago. We spent all morning on our ascent and had lunch at the top of the first pass. We were quickly rewarded for our efforts by the most magnificent view of the valley below. We stopped here for a bit of a photoshoot, and you simply must have your student show you a picture because we truly could not do it justice attempting to explain in writing. We continued along our way in search of our second pass, and eventually came to behold a sheet of snow blocking our path! We followed each other’s footsteps through the snow to reach the top of the pass, and the most difficult part of our trip was over! During our break at the top, the group decided to open our “Dragon’s Egg,” a surprise treat that we instructed the students to open either at their highest high or lowest low of the trip. We all feasted on the sour patch kids we found inside before beginning our decent. We spent a few hours bushwhacking our way back down the opposite side of the mountain, bear calling the entire way. Eventually, we arrived at our lakeside campsite and fell asleep almost immediately after dinner and Moonup, exhausted after our long day.
We awoke the next morning with a bit more pep in our steps than usual because today would be our last big day of hiking! The goal for the day was to retrace our steps back from the lake to our trailhead, where we would look for a spot to spend the night before our scheduled pickup in the morning. With light packs and mostly downhill terrain, our seasoned crew flew down the trail. For reasons incomprehensible to the rest of us, Mercer decided his pack was too light today, and decided to start picking up huge rocks along the trail to carry with him. Along the way, we looked around for familiar sights and reminisced on our first couple of days in the backcountry. It is truly astonishing how much you can grow in just one short week out in the wilderness. We set up camp in an established campsite about two miles from the trailhead and enjoyed one final backcountry dinner and Moonup.
The hike out to the road the next morning was quick and easy, and we all rejoiced upon seeing the pavement. Eight days in the Alaskan wilderness is no joke, and we are immeasurably proud of all of our students for the strength and positivity they each exhibited throughout the trip. With that being said, we took the time today to reward everyone for their hard work. First on the agenda was a huge crowd pleaser: showers! The students had no idea there were showers at our campsite, and jaws hit the floor when we made the grand reveal. Taylor’s face in particular was one for the books, and we’re pretty sure Jennings shed a tear or two. After showers, we loaded up the van and made haste to a local cafe for our local food stop! We enjoyed a delicious meal together, feeling immensely grateful to eat something we didn’t have to cook ourselves. We then retreated to our campsite for some much needed rest and relaxation before our big rafting trip in the morning. We hopped out of bed the next morning eager to get on the water! After 8 days of carrying everything on our backs, the thought of giving our legs a rest while floating down a river was incredibly enticing. We packed up our gear, threw our bags in the boats, and started our trip down the Matanuska! We donned drysuits for our morning paddle because things were about to get spicy! The first few hours on the water met us with one rapid after another, and we all had an absolute blast! Eloise was an pro, and ended up being the only one in her boat to manage not to fall in the water! Our guides gave us the opportunity to “ride the bull” through some of the rapids, which meant sitting on the front of the boat with our feet dangling over the edge. Lucy was the only one in her boat to take the offer, and spent almost the entire time up there! After the rapids, we pulled off to the side of the river for lunch and swapped our drysuits for rain gear before getting back on the water. We passed the rest of the afternoon with entertaining conversations and games while we floated towards our campsite. Along the way, we even got to see two baby moose and a few bald eagles! We spent the night on a giant sandbar on the riverbank. We enjoyed a warm meal provided for us by our lovely guides, and they even surprised us with a freshly baked cake for dessert! It was such a treat to be able to just relax and enjoy each other’s company, and we all went to bed with full bellies and smiles on our faces.And that brings us to today! We woke up this morning to the smell of breakfast sandwiches and hash browns, which we absolutely demolished before throwing our bags back on the boats for another day of rafting! Today was another chill day full of laughter, many games of “contact,” lots of songs, as well as some hydrology lessons from our guides! We pulled the boats out around lunchtime and enjoyed one last meal prepared by our guides before saying goodbye. We’re now all hanging out around camp and preparing for our travels to Whittier in the morning.
Here are some updates straight from your kids:
Eloise: Hi fam! I miss you guys. I’m having so much fun here. Can’t wait to see y’all (and Sammy) Love you
Lucy: Hi mom & dad! I have had so much fun the past 2 weeks. I can’t wait for you to come see it. Love, Lucy
Cole: Hey mom, the trip has gone by so fast I can’t believe it’s almost over. Rafting was fun & cold. Love you
Jennings: Hola mi familia! Having an awesome time in Alaska! It’s flown by! Miss and love you guys more than anything! Can’t wait to see everyone
Taylor: Hey fam! Hope all is well back at home. Alaska has been so fun, but also very challenging. Can’t wait to see y’all and tell y’all all about it! Love, Taylor
MJ: Hi family! Missing you guys lots. Tell Dixie that I’ll be home soon. Love you!
Seager: Ashley and Weyman – I’m having fun don’t worry
Margaux: Hello family – the trip has been awesome + I love my group! Can’t wait to see you guys and the warm weather. Love you so much
Mercer: Hello family – I’m having so much fun and I’m so glad I came. My leaders and group are amazing and for Alaska we are having very peaceful weather
Olivia: Hey fam! I sure do miss y’all! I am having the best time and I’m really loving it! See everyone soon! Love, Olivia
That’s all we’ve got for you for now! It’s been a long, fun, exhausting, exciting, and worthwhile past ten days, and we feel so blessed to have been able to share them with your incredible kids. We’re off to master the art of sea kayaking! Can’t wait to tell you all about it!
Until next time,
Claire, Caroline, & Grady
June 15, 2022
Greetings from the great state of Alaska! The Northern Lights 1A crew has been having an absolute blast the last couple of days, and we cannot wait to tell you all about it!
Our adventure started with the arrival of our team at the Anchorage airport just three short days ago. It’s hard to believe this tight-knit group has only known each other for a few days! We welcomed all your lovely children with a pizza feast before heading to the campsite for a good night’s rest. In the morning, we packed up camp and hit the road to our very first activity! Upon our arrival at our new home, we jumped at the opportunity to spend a few hours hanging out by the nearby glacial-fed river. We skipped rocks, told riddles, and even watched MJ build a world-class cairn! We’re all still wondering how Seager managed to solve all the riddles almost instantly! We rounded out the afternoon with some lessons on bear safety, tarp building, and Leave No Trace before settling in for a delicious dinner and a thoughtful Moonup. Moonup is our nightly tradition to reflect on the day prior, get to know one another better, practice leadership skills, and prepare for the day to come.
Yesterday began with Olivia and Eloise preparing the group a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and cinnamon roll pancakes. With bellies full, we made the trek across camp to meet our guides and get outfitted for our first activity: ice climbing! After collecting our boots, helmets, and crampons, we all loaded up into the vans and made our way to the Matanuska glacier! The glacier did not disappoint, as the view of the glacial lake backdropped with towering ice peaks and the Chugach Mountains in the distance was absolutely breathtaking. We spent the morning exploring the ice, with lessons from our guides along the way about glaciology and proper ice travel. We arrived at our climbing site around midday, so we took a quick lunch break before getting a climbing lesson from our guides! After learning the proper technique, we hit the ice! Every single one of our brave students took a shot at the wall, and we couldn’t be prouder! Kinsey and Mercer took the lead and climbed a grand total of four times each! On the hike back to the vans, we stopped for a photo op in front of what our guides referred to as the “Ice Fall”. Back at camp, our exhausted crew spent the evening listening to music and teaching each other how to make friendship bracelets. Taylor impressed the whole group with her funky dance moves. We finished out the day with a Moonup led by our first Leaders of the Day (or LODs), Margaux and Jennings, where we all reflected on what drove us to come on this trip. After Moonup, we all retreated to our tents and were lulled to sleep by the soothing sound of raindrops falling on our tents.
We awoke early this morning to meet our guides for our last day on the ice. They had a jam-packed day planned for us, and we could not have been more stoked! Upon arrival back at the beautiful Matanuska glacier, we strapped on our crampons for an extended hike to a more remote section of the ice. We spent most of the morning hiking in the moraine, taking in the stunning views around us. We even got to see a helicopter fly overhead! Arriving at our climbing site was extra exciting today because we realized we would actually be rappelling down into a crevasse before using our new skills to climb our way out! Everyone gave at least one of the three routes a try. While we were waiting, our guides even taught everyone how to build an anchor! After a long hard day of climbing, our weary crew began our hike back to the vans. We all discovered today how much we love Cole’s laugh and spent the rest of the hike making jokes just to hear it! Fortunately for us, our day was not over quite yet! We had one more surprise up our sleeves for our amazing students! Instead of heading straight back to camp, we made a pit stop at a local ice cream store! It was a huge hit, and everyone ate their fill of moose tracks and caramel caribou.Back at camp, it was back to work! We had a lot to do to prepare for our backpacking section starting tomorrow. Lucy, one of our LODs, was crucial in keeping everyone on track. In the midst of cooking dinner, packing GORP bags, and organizing food, mother nature rewarded us with a magical sight: a mama and baby moose wandering around camp! Our savvy students knew to keep their distance, but it was such a treat to see them even from afar. That’s all we’ve got for you for now! Next time you hear from us, we’ll all be seasoned backpackers!
Until next time,
Claire, Caroline, and Grady
June 12, 2022
Hello Northern Lights Families!
We 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!