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Northern Lights 2 A • July 5-July 25, 2022

Sad to Say Goodbye!!

July 25, 2022

Hello once again from the beautiful state of Alaska! We’re writing to you live from the Anchorage airport, where all of your kids have just begun their journey back home to you. As we reflect on the past three weeks, we’re feeling rather bittersweet. We are incredibly thankful for the amazing memories and relationships we’ve developed but are super sad to see everyone go. Before things get too sappy, let us catch you up on the last 24 hours.

Upon our arrival at our campsite in Anchorage, we had lots of work to do! We had to organize and clean all of the gear we’d been using all trip, and Crawford was extremely helpful with getting it all done! Our crew was super-efficient, and we rewarded ourselves with warm showers and pizza from the most popular pizza place in Anchorage, the Moose’s Tooth! We soon discovered that we were not the only Moondance crew around, and Anna was super excited to get to see one of her leaders from her trip last summer! We finished the night with our very last Moonup, where we all reflected on our favorite memories from the trip and the lessons, we had all learned along the way. Eventually, it was time for bed and we all begrudgingly said our goodnights. We retreated to our tents for one last night under the midnight sun.

We awoke early the next morning to head into town! All of our flights weren’t until later in the evening, so we had all day to explore Anchorage! First on the agenda was shopping. We spent a few hours buying various trinkets and souvenirs from the local shops, and Grace insisted that we all check out an interesting looking yarn store. As lunchtime rolled around, we set our sights on a nearby cafe for our banquet! We all feasted on omelets, pancakes, and eggs Benedict while enjoying the opportunity to have one last meal together. That afternoon, we stumbled upon some sort of festival in a park downtown! There was a local band playing, and Turner wasted no time in asking them to play Free Bird. We spent a few hours alternating between exploring the shops and playing yard games. Mason was super excited to find genuine New Orleans beignets, Catherine got her face painted with glitter, and Phillip and Reed made a couple new friends playing cornhole! It was a lovely afternoon, and many students expressed that this was the best possible way to end our trip.

Unfortunately, eventually it did come time to load up the bus and head to the airport. We all lingered before the security checkpoints, unwilling to actually say goodbye, but soon enough everybody caught their flights. Eliza Dunn even had to say goodbye to Patricia, the giant inflatable ball she had bought earlier in the trip. It was a very emotional moment.

In all seriousness, thank you all so very much for trusting us with your kids this summer. It has been an absolute honor to know them and to lead them. We can say with complete certainty that each and every one of them will do amazing things with their lives, and we cannot wait to watch it happen.


Signing off,

Claire, Caroline, & Grady

Four days at Sea!

July 24, 2022

Ahoy mateys! Northern Lights 2A has officially made it back to land after an adventurous four days at sea! Everyone made it through safe and sound, albeit a bit soggier than when we began. We laughed, we sang, and we played in the rain, but most of all we enjoyed spending these last few days together before the end of our trip tomorrow. However, before that happens, we’ve got a lot to catch you up on!

Last we talked, we were just getting geared up to head into Whittier! The town of Whittier, Alaska is a sleepy little fishing town nestled deep into the Chugach mountains. It has a population of less than 300, most of its inhabitants all live in the same building, and it is only accessible by land through a 2.5-mile tunnel that is only open to traffic for 15 minutes every hour. Needless to say, we were very excited to lay eyes on this unique community. We arrived in town early and packed our food up quickly enough that we had time to explore some of the local shops! We donned our rain gear and hit the town! Today would be the first of four very wet days. Whittier is known for only having about 10 days a year without rain, and it sure did not disappoint! However, the rain brought with it a mysterious fog and a slight haze that made the mountains around us just that much more beautiful. After a quick meeting with our kayaking guides and a scrumptious spaghetti & meatball dinner, we fell asleep dreaming of the sea and listening to the sound of raindrops on the tops of our tents.

The next morning began bright and early because we had a ferry to catch! The plan was to take a ferry deep into the Prince William Sound, where we would have the opportunity to see just a few of the hundreds of breathtaking glaciers that call the Chugach mountains home, and paddle back to Whittier over the course of a few days. The ferry dropped us off directly in front of the campsite we would call home for the next two days. We unloaded the boat, set up camp, and soon enough we were on the water again – this time in kayaks! We were anticipating some bad weather that would prohibit us from getting on the water the following day, so we took advantage of the relatively calm seas to go take a look at some glaciers! With empty boats and high spirits, we took the seas by storm and made it to Beloit glacier in record time! We took a moment to appreciate its magnificence before turning around to make dinner.

In an attempt to keep ourselves and our belongings as dry as we could, we opted to take a layover day the next day and stay out of the rain. Everyone enjoyed a leisurely sleep in before a warm chocolate chip pancake breakfast. After that, it was tarp time! While we couldn’t really go anywhere because of the weather, we all kind of enjoyed being stuck under a tarp together all day! It gave everyone the opportunity to just sit down and bond as a group, which is not something we get to do very often with our jam-packed schedule! When lunchtime rolled around, Reed volunteered to chef everyone up some yummy grilled cheese sandwiches! The warm meal really helped to boost group morale! Eventually, the rain let up a bit and Philip was not about to waste that opportunity! He grabbed some of his friends and led everyone on a scenic walk along the beach. They came back telling tales of gorgeous moss-covered caves and interesting rock formations. Everyone felt lucky to have had a bit of time out from under the tarp.

With everyone itching to get moving, boats got packed up quickly the next morning. All that pent up energy really showed today as our crew absolutely flew to our next campsite. We paddled along the shore for a while before we stopped to begin our crossing to the other shore. When you cross from one side of the sound to the other in a kayak, you must do it all in one push because it can be dangerous to stop in the middle. As we began the push, the sun decided to show itself for the first time in 3 days! We even saw a bit of blue sky! This was all the encouragement our crew needed, and before we knew it, we were arriving at camp. We had an eventful evening full of yummy food and good music. Grace was very excited to find out that there was a new Kid Cudi album out, and Eliza Dunn & Catherine enthusiastically made everyone quesadillas for dinner! After dinner, Anna and I were cleaning out our bowls in the water when we saw a shadowy animal swimming just a few dozen feet from where we were standing! Unsure what it was but excited about our discovery, we ran to get our guide to help us identify it. Eventually, we concluded that it was a river otter, a relatively rare find out in the ocean! At Moonup that night, all the students received personalized friendship bracelets to remember the trip by, and Mason excitedly showed us all how good hers looked next to all of her other bracelets! No one wanted our last night in the backcountry to end, but unfortunately, we all eventually had to say goodnight because we had one more day of paddling in the morning.

And that brings us to today! We spent this morning paddling back to the beautiful town of Whittier. About half an hour before arriving, a few students decided to pull over to the shore to try to catch salmon! In an astounding team effort, Turner and Crawford managed to catch one with their bare hands! It was very impressive.

We’re now on the bus heading back to Anchorage, where we’ll have one more night with your amazing kids before we send them back to you. Thank you so much for allowing us the pleasure of leading and caring for your children these past three weeks. It has been an absolute joy. We’ll check back in one more time once all your precious cargo is in the air, but for now that’s all we’ve got for you!

Claire, Caroline, & Grady

Backcountry, bears & birthdays!

July 19, 2022

Hey y’all! Long time no see! We are pleased to announce that everyone has emerged safe and sound from the Alaskan backcountry! We’ve been keeping super busy these past ten days backpacking, rafting, and hanging out around camp and we can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Last time we talked, our crew had just finished up our last day on the glacier and was celebrating with a well-deserved ice cream stop. After taking the time to relish in our accomplishments, it was back to work! We spent the next day deciding what to bring on our backpacking section, learning how to pack our backpacks, and repackaging all the food we’d bring on the trip with us. Before we knew it, gear was distributed, bags were packed, and it was time to hit the trail!

Day one on the trail was certainly not for the faint of heart. With heavy packs, uphill terrain, and many miles to go, this day would prove itself to be the most difficult of our eight-day journey. However, before setting foot on the trail it was of utmost importance to teach our students one of the most crucial aspects of backcountry travel in Alaska: bear calls. In order to not catch any of our furry friends by surprise, we would make lots and lots of noise on the trail so that any nearby bears would have ample time to scurry away before we arrived. With this important lesson in mind, we began our trek. The first few miles consisted of relatively easy terrain, but soon enough we began to trend uphill. Unfazed by the difficult terrain, our super strong students forged ahead with nary a complaint the entire time! Towards the top of our ascent, mother nature awarded us for our hard work with an absolutely breathtaking view of the valley below. We took a lengthy break here to take in the scenery, which even included a moose off in the distance, and to rest our weary legs before continuing on. The next part of the day’s hike offered a relatively flat trail along a ridge before a steep descent into the riverbed below. We followed the river for a few miles before arriving at our lakeside campsite! We could not have been prouder of our students after making it to the lake. Very few Moondance groups make it all the way here on their first day of hiking, instead opting to camp about four miles back at the base of the steep descent. We had no doubts that this sturdy crew could make it, and we got to reap the rewards of our hard work by sleeping in the next morning.

Time at camp that day included the making of many friendship bracelets and a lengthy four-hour discussion about the merits of Taylor Swift versus Kanye West. Turner is very firmly in the Kanye camp, while Catherine is most definitely a Swiftie. Eventually, it was time to don our backpacks and get back on the trail. We left our lovely little lake and headed deeper into the backcountry. We enjoyed a relatively easy hike through rolling hills and rambling creeks, upping our bear call game as we hiked through thicker brush. We arrived at camp sometime in the early afternoon, and everyone was feeling grateful to have had a relatively easy hiking day. We used our extra time in camp to our advantage by spending some quality time together and creating a flawless playlist to listen to during dinner. We finished up the night with some delicious burritos for dinner and surprise candy bars for dessert! We went to bed feeling accomplished and content.

In the morning, we packed up camp yet again! We had another relatively short day ahead of us, so we took our time this morning with a leisurely pancake breakfast. The boys packed their bags faster than the rest of us today and, to everyone else’s confusion, passed the time waiting by finding the most creative ways to lift logs of wood into the air. Once on the trail, Eliza Dunn and Crawford took the lead! They were our designated LODs today and would be the first students to lead the pack! It is not an easy job, as the person in the front must navigate, choose the least muddy path, keep a pace that the entire group can maintain, and decide when and where to take our breaks. They both did an amazing job and got us to our next campsite without a hitch!

The next day we treated ourselves to a leisurely layover day at our new favorite campsite. We slept in as long as we wanted under a cool overcast sky and eventually awoke to the smell of hash browns cooking on the stove. We all gathered around the kitchen and had our fill of breakfast, which also included oatmeal, grits, and hot chocolate! We offered an optional hike to the top of a nearby mountain and to our excitement most of the students took us up on it! While the hiking crew geared up and left on their adventure, the rest of us bundled up in our warm clothes to hang out at camp. We made friendship bracelets, listened to music, and chatted until our friends returned with tales of their adventures! We rounded out our night with a backpacking delicacy: backcountry thanksgiving! We enjoyed a classic thanksgiving feast complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, and even gravy! We went to bed that night feeling thankful for our full bellies and happy hearts.

Over the next couple of days, we began our retreat from the backcountry and back into civilization. On the first day of our hike back, we arrived at camp early enough to offer another day hike up into the mountains! While several students participated in the hike, the rest of us stayed at camp to hang out. We had a jam-packed afternoon planned, which included a very serious study session to learn all of the words to a few of our favorite songs. At one point, Anna even led us all in a yoga class! It felt amazing to stretch all those muscles out after so many days of hiking. We also had a very exciting event happening the day before our pickup: Grace’s birthday! We had an all-day celebration planned, beginning with waking everyone up to a carefully crafted birthday playlist. After we feasted on special fruity pebbles pancakes and Grace donned her birthday headband, ribbon, and new hiking socks, we picked up our light packs and made our way to our very last backcountry campsite! We had one last birthday surprise and ended the fun-filled day with a freshly baked red velvet cake complete with candles and cream cheese icing.

We officially finished our backpacking section with a short hike out to the trailhead the next morning. Upon reaching the road, we all dropped our packs in a combination of exhaustion and celebration. Eight days in the backcountry is no joke, especially when you’re carrying everything you need to survive on your back. We are so proud of everything our amazing students have accomplished and planned a super exciting day today as a reward! First on the docket was a local food stop! Backcountry food can be absolutely incredible, but there’s nothing quite like sitting down at a restaurant and being served a nice hot meal! We all chowed down on burgers and tacos while enjoying each other’s company by the fireplace. Back at camp, we hurried to set up a couple of big tarps because it had started to rain while we were gone. The rain couldn’t dampen our spirits though because it was time for showers! A rare occurrence on a backcountry Moondance trip, we savored the opportunity to be clean again! We ended the night with some delicious tacos and a thoughtful Moonup before hitting the hay in anticipation of our rafting trip in the morning.

The next morning started with a bang because we had another birthday to celebrate! We decorated our van with banners and balloons before waking up the students with music and pancakes to celebrate Mason’s 19th birthday! As soon as she emerged from the tent, we decked her out with a tiara, sash, and clip on earrings so that the whole world would know what a special day it was! After packing up camp, we suited up in our dry suits and hit the river! The first half of our day was about to get spicy! This section of the river is full of class 3 and 4 rapids, so we spent the morning getting splashed left and right! Thankfully, our suits kept us nice and dry. A few brave individuals even dared to “ride the bull,” which means sitting up on the front of the raft instead of in the boat. Around lunchtime, we pulled our boats ashore to swap our dry suits for rain gear and enjoy a delicious sandwich spread laid out for us by our guides. The rest of our day consisted of a relaxing float down the river until we reached our picturesque campsite. At camp, the birthday festivities were not over! Our incredible guides baked Mason a birthday cake! After we added some personal touches with icing and candles, Reed organized the surprise reveal by blindfolding her and guiding her to the cake as we all sang happy birthday! We concluded the day with a costume party before Moonup and fell asleep to the sound of the rushing river beside us.

And that brings us to today! We had a leisurely morning, lingering over our breakfast and skipping rocks into the water. Our guides even gave Philip some tips on his technique! We spent the morning back on the water, and made it into our next campsite just before lunch. Our guides provided us with one more meal before saying goodbye and we spent the rest of the afternoon playing cards and listening to music. For dinner, we split the students into two teams to compete in the legendary Moondance Iron Chef competition. Each team worked together to create the best meal they could using just the ingredients we had left in the van! The competition was fierce, but ultimately the girl’s team took home the trophy with their chicken pasta, garlic bread, and fried Oreo combination. However, the boys did receive an honorable mention for their scrumptious brownies topped with pop tart crumble.

That’s all we have for you for now! We asked your kids if they had any updates they wanted to send your way, and here’s what they had to say:

Reed – Hi Mom and Dad the trip is going great!

Turner – I am having a great time in Alaska! I cant wait to show yall photos.

Eliza Dunn – Hi mom and dad I am having so much fun and Alaska is the coolest place ever!! Love y’all

Anna – Hi Mom Alaska is so cool! hi Lyle I met Coffee and he’s my favorite person ever I hope you’re having fun in Peru. Say hi to Bodhi and Gunner for me. I love you all and maddy

Grace – Hi family! Having so much fun in alaska, cant wait to see yall soon! say hi to the dogs for me

Mason – Hey mom, dad, and carter! I’m having a great time, tell piesie and popsie hi!  Love y’all!!

Phillip – Hey Mom and Dad, Alaska has been incredible so far! I can’t wait to tell y’all all about it! Love you!

Crawford – Hey Mom and Dad. I love it up here it’s so beautiful! Give Rocket and Sadie a big hug for me!

Catherine- Hi family!!!!! i am having the most amazing time in alaska. I love it here and yall would too. Also hi Sam hows it going. love yall so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Next time you hear from us we’ll all be seasoned sea kayakers!

Until next time,

Claire, Caroline, & Grady

Greetings from Alaska!

July 9, 2022

Hello everyone and greetings from the great state of Alaska! All of your precious children have made it here safe and sound and we have had an absolutely incredible past few days ice climbing on the famous Matanuska glacier! Before we hit the trail on our next activity section, we’re here to tell you all about what we’ve been up to!

Our adventure started off in the Anchorage airport where all flights and bags made it on time and without a hitch! Once everyone arrived, we loaded up into our bus and headed out to our very first campsite. Upon arrival, we all enjoyed a delicious pizza dinner before heading to bed to rest our weary, jet lagged bodies. We spent the next morning back on the bus on our way to our first activity location! Everyone enjoyed getting the opportunity to spend a few hours getting to know each other before hopping into our jam-packed days. Our afternoon consisted of hanging out at our riverside camp ground, learning how to set up a tarp shelter, skipping rocks, and many games of Can Jam. We finished out the day with dinner and our first student-led Moonup, and retreated to our tents feeling excited to really get the trip going in the morning. Our students impressed us thoroughly the next morning with how speedy and efficient they were! Everyone was up and out of their tents almost immediately and we were ready to go almost a half hour early! Can you tell they were excited to hit the ice?? We made our way over to the “Glacier Shack” to get fitted for all of the gear: boots, crampons, micro-spikes, and helmets. Before we knew it, we were in the vans about to get our first look at the glacier! Let us tell you, the view did not disappoint. As we drove closer, we were awestruck by the towering glacial peaks with sparkling clear lakes at their base and snowcapped mountains in the background. We unloaded from the vans and enjoyed a short hike to our climbing site. Along the way, our guides regaled us with stories about how glaciers work and how this one in particular got here! When we arrived at our climbing location, we took a quick break for lunch while our guides set up our anchors and taught us the ins and outs of ice climbing. Soon enough, we were tying into the ropes! Everyone made it up to the top multiple times on different routes! Reed, Crawford, and Turner even got to try their hand at belaying! Eventually we all tired ourselves out and decided it was time to head back to camp. On the drive back, Catherine and Grace stumped us all with their riddle about a man in a SCUBA suit! We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and preparing for our upcoming backpacking trip.

Day two on the glacier was a big day! Today we would hike deeper into the glacier in order to find a more remote section to climb in. Eliza Dunn shared that the hike to and from our climbing spot was her favorite part of the day! We hiked up and over countless hills in the moraine before finally arriving at our destination: a crevasse in the ice that we were all about to be lowered into! Instead of climbing first and then lowering back to the ground, today we would start by being lowered and then climb our way back out. Just like the day before, we took our lunch break while the guides built our anchors, but this time Phillip went over to learn how to build one himself! We climbed the day away, enjoying the new challenge that this part of the glacier posed and spending quality time together at the top while we each waited for our turn on the rope. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay on the glacier forever and eventually had to say goodbye. However, we couldn’t leave before Anna got a picture of herself doing a headstand in front of the glacier! It’s her personal goal to do a headstand at each of our locations. Unbeknownst to our students, our day was not over quite yet! We surprised them all with a trip to a local ice cream store! We all feasted on moose tracks and caramel caribou before heading back to camp for dinner. It appears that on Moondance, sometimes dessert happens first! We finished the night with a fun Moonup where we all shared our hidden talents. Mason impressed us all by doing the splits right then and there!

That’s all we’ve got for now! We’re currently in full preparation mode for our big push into the backcountry tomorrow. The next time you hear from us, we will all be seasoned backpackers!


Until next time,

Claire, Caroline, and Grady

Arrived in Anchorage!

July 7, 2022

Hello Northern Lights Families!

We heard from our leaders late last night 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!

-Moondance HQ


  • Anna
  • Catherine
  • Crawford
  • Eliza
  • Grace
  • Mason
  • Phillip
  • Turner
  • Reed