July 27, 2022
Wow. We can’t believe that this trip has come to a close. It feels like just yesterday that we were all strangers that piled into the van together on the first day. Duke and I feel incredibly grateful for this group and all the laughs and memories that we shared together over the past 14 days. Now for a little recap on all the fun we had on our last couple days of the trip!
Day 12: Day hike and town day! After a busy couple of days, we decided to sleep in a bit and make some yummy m&m pancakes at the campsite and fuel up for a fun day. We headed into town to do a short day hike up to the top of Snow King Mountain. The views were incredible at the top and we took it all in while eating our packed lunches and a little treat of sour patch kids too. We took the gondola down the mountain where we started off on our town day exploration. Many T-shirts and souvenirs were bought, and maybe even some ice cream too. After walking around Jackson for a couple of hours, we headed back to our campsite for a little iron chef competition for dinner. Team one consisted of the captain and head chef Harry with Adah, Jackson, Cooper, and Livvy. Team two was headed by captain Eli, with Alex, Julie, and Jack. The rules of the competition were to used any of the left over food we had in the Uhaul and create a dish which received points for taste, preparation, and creativity. The teams were also required to used one specific item in their dish, which was canned corn. After some deliberation and much thought, the teams broke off and started to prepare their meals. Claire and Duke were the judges of the dishes and would decide a winner of the competition. Team one cheffed up a delicious Spaghetti Carbonara with an appetizer of pita cheese pizza where they used corn and peppers as toppings, and a yummy Nutella crepe for dessert. Team two whipped up some nachos with bacon, peppers, beans, and of course cheese as toppings, and for dessert created an impressive three tier cake which was made out of pancake mix and syrup, topped with icing with grape jelly mixed in to create a beautiful pink color and a delicious berry taste. In the end, we decided to go with team one’s spaghetti carbonara as the winner of the iron chef competition and received a box of Oreos as their prize! It was so delicious and definitely not something that I would have thought to make. However, the nachos and the cake were amazing too and we were definitely very full after both meals. We celebrated dinner with Martinelli’s sparkling cider and then did our second to last Moon Up as a group.
Day 13: We woke up early and eager to get on the water for our final activity of the trip: whitewater rafting! After packing up our tents and belongings and saying our final goodbye to our beloved campsite, we hit the road and headed to the Snake River. One of our raft guides was fellow Moondance leader Elizabeth Oakes, who had just returned from leading the Kilimanjaro trip! We were ecstatic to have her as a guide down the river that morning, and we were definitely in for a treat. Adah and Alex decided to be brave and ride the bull through the class 3 rapids called “Big Kahuna,” and boy was it big. Both rafts came out of the rapid laughing and smiling ear to ear. Everyone ended up hopping in the water and earning their “Snake River Swim Team” bracelets. After getting off the river, we headed over to shower at the local rec center, and got all clean before hitting the road back to our campsite in Salt Lake! The van ride was full of laughs and good music, and we waved goodbye to the Tetons as it was our last time in Jackson. We stopped in Logan, UT for a banquet dinner of burgers, fries, and milkshakes at a local burger joint. That night, for our final Moon Up as a group, we shared our favorite memories from the trip and how we feel we’ve grown as people over the last two weeks. We also gave out “nugs” or little shoutouts to each other
Day 14: Airport day! We awoke bright and early this morning to make sure that all the kiddos got on their flights and back home to reunite with friends and family. There were definitely some teary eyes as we parted ways, and I think it was clear that this trip meant a lot to everyone in this group. Duke and I can’t thank y’all enough for raising such amazing kids and we are so grateful for the time we got to spend with them over the past two weeks. We love them to the moon!!! They will be home shortly and tell you all about it!
Claire and Duke
July 22, 2022
We have been on quite the adventure this past week! We entered Yellowstone National Park 6 days ago to begin our time in the backcountry. As we drove through our eager eyes pried upon bison, elk, and pronghorn. We took in the views of Yellowstone Lake as we pulled into our trailhead. We began, led by our fearless LODs Jack and Eli, as we hike along Yellowstone Lake. Along the way, we saw what the kids liked to call a “cheeky bison” at the beginning of our hike, which was an awesome start to our journey. 6 miles later we arrived at our first campsite. Jackson and Alex took a dip in the chilly water to cool off from the hike and enjoyed the sun’s rays. That night we chowed down on some delicious bow tie pasta and marinara sauce. After dinner, we had our daily Moon Up under the most incredible stars ever and called it a night after the long day we’d had.
The next morning we woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the lake and ate a filling breakfast of grits and oatmeal. We began our longest day on trail led by our awesome LODs Julie and Alex. Along the way we spotted a few Bald Eagles and even some wolf tracks! We stopped for lunch in a dry creek and fueled up on sausage and cheese wraps. We continued on and finally made it to our campsite for the night. It was a beautiful location that overlooked the Yellowstone River Valley and the surrounding mountains. This would be our home for the next two nights. That night we made a tasty dinner of red beans and rice with summer sausage. Everyone filled up as we watched the best sunset of the trip so far. We had Moon Up and headed to sleep. Everyone crashed early after the 11.5 mile hike that day.
We had a chill day the next day and hung out at camp and had a nice zero mile day after our long hike yesterday. We started out the morning with some M&M pancakes topped off with Nutella and honey. Our LODs for the day, Livvy and Jackson, voted that we go hang out by the river and fish while we eat lunch. We gathered our things and made our way down there to enjoy the riverside and munch on some tortillas with summer sausage and cheese, or a sweet option of peanut butter with Nutella and honey. Jack, Eli, Adah, and Alex tried catching some fish, but they were unfortunately unsuccessful at bringing home dinner for the night. Luckily, we happened to have all the right ingredients for some yummy chicken quesadillas instead! We cheffed up the ‘dillas as the sun dropped into the mountains and gave us the most beautiful alpine glow that glistened on the valley below us. We ate and laughed until it was finally time for another Moon Up where we grew closer to one another and to this special place.
The next day we were off to our next campsite of our backcountry section. Our LODs of the day, Jack and Harry, did a fantastic job of keeping our spirits high and making sure the group stayed optimistic through the long hike. We stopped midway through the day to eat some lunch and marvel at the beautiful place we’ve had the privilege to call home for the past couple of days. We shared some good belly laughs in a field of gorgeous wildflowers as we ate our sweet or savory tortilla wraps. We continued on with the hike, crossing some small rivers and streams, with Harry creating a new game of trying any way possible to not get his feet wet, and several others joined him on his quest. The day was beautiful and sunny, with just a touch of mosquitos here and there, and we got to our next campsite tired but still in high spirits because of our beautiful spot! We set up tents and the kitchen area and began making our tasty dinner of tacos on none other than Taco Tuesday. We take our tacos very seriously, and made sure to load the, up with chicken, rice, cheese, and chopped veggies. After dinner, we decided to treat ourselves to some hot chocolate to conclude the big day we’d had. We completed our Moon Up by the lake and gazed up at the stars, and even saw the Milky Way and some shooting stars!
We awoke the next morning to the birds singing and the sun shining in our tents, and we knew it was going to be an awesome day. In the cards for today was only a 3 mile hike, which was quite the chill day for us as we’d become basically pro hikers at that point. We got to our next camp in record time thanks to the help of our LODs Cooper and Adah, and had some down time to chill, swim, and spend some quality time to hang out and laugh together. That night we whipped up some delicious pepperoni and cheese pizza and had a leisurely evening together by the lake. We decided to have some hot chocolate again to celebrate our last night in the backcountry and everything that we had accomplished thus far. Duke and I are so proud of each and every one of these kids for pushing themselves and stepping outside of their comfort zones these past few days. We concluded the day with Moon Up and got to bed early in preparation for our hike out the next day.
The next day we hiked out of the backcountry and back to the comfort of the van, our trusty steed. We started our hike back and did so with a pep in our step. We sang songs and played trail games as we came back the same path that we had taken just days earlier. When we finally made it to the trail head, we hugged the van and went to the general store to get some snacks that we’d been craving.
We write this as we are traveling through Yellowstone seeing all the lovely sights such as the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Old Faithful, and keeping a close eye out for bears, bison, and other wildlife! We can’t believe that this trip is already more than halfway over, and we can’t wait to share more stories from our rock climbing and fishing adventures that are in store!
Sincerely, the Yellowstone squad + Duke and Claire
Here are some shoutouts from the kids!
Hello mom and dad, I am good. We are rock climbing today -Jack
Hey mom and dad. I’m having a ton of fun and could stay out here a while longer. See you soon-Eli
Hey guys, I’m having a great time. Say hi to Charlie for me – Cooper
Hey y’all I am having the best time. Hiking the back country was incredible and the fishing was so fun -Livvy
Hey Mom and Dad I miss y’all so much! I’m having the best time in this place with the greatest people. Make sure Fonzie is sleeping in my room 🙂 See y’all soon- Ade
Hey mama hey dad i miss y’all so much and I’m having a great time out here. Tell Lewis and zack I miss them too and I’m staying out of trouble. And tell dad to let the cats in and not to be mean to them. I love y’all see y’all next Wednesday – Julie
Hey mom and dad I miss you guys a ton! I’m having a great time in Wyoming getting to see Yellowstone. See you guys soon! -Jackson
Hey mom and dad I am having fun out west, seeing all the places I’m Yellowstone and Tetons is crazy. Can’t wait to see y’all soon. – Alex
Hey mom and dad I’m having a lot of fun. We showered yesterday for the first time and boy did I need it. Luna would love it here. – Harry
July 16, 2022
Hello Family and Friends of Yellowstone 3!
We are writing to you as we travel from Jackson, WY through Grand Teton National Park and into Yellowstone where we will spend the next 6 days hiking, fishing, and enjoying the trail as we travel through one of the most remote places in the lower 48. We are thrilled to have such a unique experience ahead of us. The kids have their packs ready and are excited to learn all the skills necessary to survive and thrive in the wilderness.
Our first day together started in Salt Lake City at the airport where we all met for the first time as everyone arrived from their respective homes. Alex and Harry were the first ones to arrive, and they began their journey in becoming master hackey sackers while we waited for the rest of the group to arrive. Today was not only special because we were starting the trip, but it was also Adah’s 17th birthday!! Once she arrived, we brought out the cake and the group sang happy birthday! Cake is the best way to start a Moondance trip! Once everyone arrived, we made our way to Jackson where we enjoyed a fantastic pizza dinner courtesy of the famous Pinky G’s pizzeria. While we ate on Jackson Square, we also played a few games to get to know each other. Afterwards, we headed to our campsite where the kids learned to set up tents. Soon after, we had Moonup (our nightly debrief) and headed to bed.
Our second day started with some super tasty egg, cheese, has brown, and bacon breakfast burritos. Shortly after we headed to the Snake River where we met up with our guides for an in-depth fly-fishing lesson. Cooper and Adah were our LOD’s (leader of the day) and they did a great job of keeping the energy high and everyone in positive spirits. First up was a fly lesson. The guides taught us all the different kinds of flies and bugs that the fish in the river eat. After that, we had a wonderful casting lesson where the guides perfected our cast so we have the best chance at getting on a fish. We got a quick sandwich lunch before heading out to the river. Eli, Julie, and Jack all caught nice fish and made sure to give them a kiss before releasing them back into the crystal-clear waters. Jackson spotted a big Bald Eagle sitting in a tree just across the river and we all marveled at its elegance as we watched the majestic bird scan the river for a big meal. After our day of fishing, we headed back to camp to prep for the backcountry. First, we taught the kids what they need to bring and how to pack their backpack. Livvy packed her bag perfectly in record time, even beating the leaders! Once everyone was done, we cooked up an extra cheesy batch of southwestern mac and cheese. After dinner, we had Moonup and hit the hay.
The third day we woke up a bit later to ensure we were rested for our big day. We packed up the U-Haul and started our way to the trailhead in Yellowstone. Jack and Eli are our LOD’s for the day and they will lead us along the trail as we make our way to our first campsite. We can’t wait to share all the memories and experiences that we will have in the backcountry. We will return in 5 days with more stories to share and an even deeper connection to each other and to this beautiful place we get to call home for 2 weeks
Love from Wyoming,Duke, Claire, and the Yellowstone 3 gang!
July 15, 2022
Hello Yellowstone Families!
The whole group arrived safely in Salt Lake City yesterday and they are on their way to their first activity. We have heard from our leaders this evening that 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