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Yosemite 1 • June 9-June 29, 2022

One Final Update!

June 29, 2022

Hello from California, and we can’t believe we are at the end!

Picking up where we left off with our last update from Lake Siskiyou, we woke up the next day and enjoyed a slow morning at camp. We woke up to an all-American breakfast, where Peter wowed us all with his bacon-eating abilities and lots of fun trivia. After breakfast, the kids packed up their bags to head towards rafting while Isabella and Sarah curated the perfect morning playlist to motivate and relax us before our next adventure. We also took a quick trip to the awesome Lake Siskiyou General Store, where we picked out souvenirs and gifts before going back to camp to play cards and hang out for a little longer. Hayden established himself as the reigning champion of Speed, the card game, going at least 5 rounds without being beaten. After a lunch of good ole sandwiches, we loaded up our gear and hopped into the van, heading toward the American River in central California. We couldn’t leave our awesome Siskiyou campsite without a tasty treat though, and all had a ball hanging outside of the general store as we crushed some soft serve.


As we headed south toward the heart of gold rush territory, we enjoyed many a sing along, hilarious jokes, gummy snakes, and each other’s company in the van. We arrived to our site after dark and quickly got things all set up and had a wonderful dinner of burrito bowls. This campsite felt extra special because it was the first time in quite a while that the ground was cushioned by grass. This may seem like a minor detail, but we all took a few moments to appreciate the feeling of the silky blades between our toes as we gathered in our Moonup circle. Mae and Charlie led an excellent Moonup that evening, and then the group enjoyed a great night’s rest (cushioned by the grass) before our big days of rafting began!


The next day, we woke up and had a wonderful pancake breakfast and a semi-leisurely morning before our day of rafting on the South Fork of the American River.

Our first day of rafting was simply sublime as we floated our way down the middle fork of the American River, whose class II and III rapids allowed us plenty of time to chat. As Mae and Peter piloted one boat, they had the most epic wipe out of the day, falling feet over head out of the boat and (safely) into the water. We had a terrific lunch (featuring some very, very, very spicy Dijon and many giggles) on the banks of the river before continuing our adventure in the afternoon, ending our paddle with the epic Hospital-Bar rapids.


After a big day of rafting, we hopped back in the van and went to a local park on the river to enjoy some more time outside. Then, we headed back to the outfitter headquarters to enjoy an amazing meal prepared by our awesome guides on the patio. Salad, penne pasta, and chicken — the right way to end an unforgettable day. We spent the night under the stars and woke up early for one more epic day of rafting, this time on the Middle Fork.


We woke up early, had a good breakfast, and drove to meet our guides. We then loaded up a bus and headed down to the put in. We carried our three rafts down to the water just below the dam, and off we went. Our first rapid was a cool class 4 called Cold Cup of Coffee, which was a fitting name — really jolted everyone awake first thing in the morning and got the day going. The Middle Fork was pretty gnarly and had of class 4 and a few class 5 rapids, which kept things very exciting. Luckily, our group loved the excitement, so they were all over it! Less than an hour into our day, we got to our biggest obstacle yet — the tunnel chute. This was a big ole class 5 rapid that rockets down through a narrow chute and then through a tunnel blasted by gold miners back in the day. Our group pulled off to the side and got out to scout the rapids we would soon face. We watched a few other boats go through, talked about the game plan with our guides, and finally it was our time to hop back in the boats and give it a go. I was lucky enough to be on a boat with Louis and Ry, two very strong paddlers, and we made it through tunnel chute in perfect form. We were so stoked, and shared fist bumps and paddle high fives as we floated lazily through the tunnel to the pool on the other side. Other boats made it through with success as well, and Thomas had the special treat of getting to swim this behemoth of a rapid before we could pull him back into his boat for more laughs and high fives.


After Tunnel Chute, we had a few more gnarly rapids before the pace slowed for the rest of the morning as we floated down the river with just a few riffles. We pulled off and stopped for lunch prepared by our wonderful guides, then hopped back on and got ready for an exciting afternoon. We still had a few more exciting rapids ahead of us. In the afternoon, I joined another boat with Logan, Ellie, and Ayanna. We had so much fun playing Trust, which involves locking together the T-grips of our paddles, leaning back, and relying on your partner to not let you get dunked. In one rapid, we repeatedly had to leap from side to side to keep the boat from flipping, which was super fun and exciting, got our adrenaline pumping, and showed us all how rafting can be a little spicy. As we floated further, we stopped a few times for swim breaks, which were much needed after our many fun hours in the California sun. As we neared the end of our float, our guides told us that we could swim a rapid, so halfway through everyone bailed out of their boats and floated the home stretch. This ultimately turned into a big old water fight, and people were getting splashed, pushed, and pulled into the water all around. After we all regained our composure and seats in the boats, Logan guided our raft down the last rapid, then we pulled the boats out and took the shuttle back to our van. What an epic two days on the water we all had together!


Once we got back to the van, we loaded up and headed to the local store in the small rafting town for some ice cream, which helped us cool down from a long day in the hot sun. Then, we headed back towards the coast for the very last leg of our trip. As we drove from the foothills of the Sierra and back to the coast, we enjoyed great conversation, sing-alongs, and time with good company. We rolled into our campsite for the evening and enjoyed a dinner of Mac and cheese (a heavily requested item from the crew) with a side salad. After Moonup, we all were eager to crawl into our tents after a big day out in the sun.


We woke up the next morning and had a leisurely morning with French toast for breakfast. We got camp all packed up and then headed west into Point Reyes National Seashore. We stopped first at the visitor center to get our permits all lined up and learn a little more about the area we were about to explore. Then, we loaded up the van and drove through foggy rolling hills, past secret beach coves, and by sweeping coastal cliffs.


We ended up at the very southernmost tip of Point Reyes and ate a great lunch together in the windy parking lot. We walked out along a very narrow strip of land and looked out across the Pacific in every direction. The wind was strong, the fog was rolling, sea birds were flying, and it was not hard to imagine that the water below this blustery landscape might be full of sharks and whales and all kinds of other creatures. We looked down on a historic lighthouse sitting right on the shore and spent some more time looking across the ocean enjoying this beautiful and wild place with a beautiful and wild group of friends. After a while, the wind got more biting, and it was our sign to go. We headed back to the van and turned towards San Francisco on Highway 1. As we drove, we saw more hidden beaches, seaside cliffs, and seals hauled out to warm up in the sun. The California coast is incredible, and it was nice to be back after our time in the mountains.


Approaching San Francisco, we stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge and admired that beautiful feat of engineering. After we agreed on what song to listen to when we drove across (Tongue Tied by GroupLove), we got back on the road and headed south. We arrived to Half Moon Bay just before dusk. It was a funny feeling — this campsite is where we spent our first night together as a group. The kids ran down to the beach and played in the sand just like they did on our first night. Fully exhausted from a big day, we sat at picnic tables and ate burgers and hot dogs for dinner while watching the sun set over the Pacific. We had a great Moonup under the stars, then got in bed for a good night’s rest.


We woke up early yesterday and enjoyed some pancakes for breakfast, then threw on bathing suits and sweatshirts and headed for Pacifica to surf one last time. We reunited with our awesome guides from our first surfing session, donned wetsuits, and headed out into the sea. Everyone seemed to really remember the skills we learned here on this same beach three weeks ago, and the kids were catching waves left and right. We were even lucky enough to have a visitor in the cove — there was a humpback whale swimming and feeding back and forth across the cove all morning. We were treated to watching it repeatedly surface, breech, and dive right in front of our eyes. After a big morning of surfing and whale watching, we headed back to our campsite to eat lunch and finish up some chores, like cleaning the van and the U-Haul, organizing our gear, and generally prepping for airport day tomorrow. Everyone was amazingly helpful in completing these boring but essential tasks, and once we finished up, we hit the local Goodwill to stock up on outfits for our Banquet that evening. After our thrift shopping adventure, we all took well deserved showers and donned our new threads then headed to a local taqueria for one last feast together. This was truly a dinner of epic proportions, and it was so wonderful to sit at a long table together with our whole family. We’ve been through a lot together over the last three weeks, and I am so glad we had the opportunity to take this evening and celebrate our time and the turn from strangers to a family. After dinner, we enjoyed one last Moonup together, sitting in almost the exact same spot where we had our first Moonup just a few short weeks ago. It’s crazy how time flies, and it’s crazy to think that our group was once a bunch of strangers because now, it feels like we’ve all known each other for a lifetime.


I write this final update from the San Francisco Airport. All our wonderful friends are through security now and heading home, and I can’t believe how it feels like we were just here, meeting them all for the first time. It has been such a joy to get to lead them on this adventure; they each brought so much to the table, and every one of them was an essential part of our family. I am so proud of this crew for sharing themselves with us, being comfortable with being uncomfortable, trying new things, overcoming difficult times, supporting each other, going with the flow, always being kind, and joining us on the true adventure that we’ve had for the past three weeks. To the parents — thanks for raising awesome kids and sharing them with us. And to the kids — we miss y’all so much already. Thanks for it all.


With love,

Ellie and Jack

Spectacular Shasta Experiences!!!

June 25, 2022

Hello, friends and families of our California mountaineers! 

This is Ellie and Jack checking in again, this time from the Mt. Shasta region of Northern California!

Our last update left off with our wonderful Moonup under El Cap in Yosemite. The next morning, we rose early to make our pilgrimage north toward Shasta, but not before returning our bear cans and doing some souvenir shopping in the Valley. Everyone was dripping in their new Yosemite gear, and we enjoyed stretching our legs out front of the store before our long drive. Finally, we piled into our trusty van and pointed north toward the beautiful volcano known as Shasta. Our drive was long, but we punctuated it with exciting breaks along the California countryside.

First, we stopped in Coarsegold, a cute little old western town where we did some light shopping and grabbed lunch materials. Louis has a knack for always finding the best souvenirs and stickers in any store where we stop, and this was no exception. Then we kept trucking along through golden hills. We stopped at a scenic overlook for lunch and an impromptu dance party and lots of other silliness, then continued on our way. After a few rest stop stops (with laps run around them to alleviate jitters), we made it to the NorCal city of Redding.

Here, we stopped for another delicious meal at In-n-Out to celebrate our friend Katherine, who unfortunately would leave the following morning and not continue with us on the rest of the trip. Katherine was an important part of our family and team. She always was offering to help anyone in need, was a leader by example, stayed positive, and was not afraid to do the right thing even when it was difficult. Huge shoutout to Katherine, we all miss you dearly, and thank you for sharing yourself with us and always setting the bar high. The group will not be the same without you!

After our delicious In-n-Out dinner and wonderful celebration, we ran some laps around the parking lot, then a rest stop, then finally made it to our beautiful lakeside campground near Mt. Shasta. We set up tents in a hurry, then had an amazing Moonup under a starry sky to cap off the evening.

The next morning, we slept in a little, all tired from our backcountry adventures and trans-California travels. Jack whipped up some cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and we spent a lazy morning lounging around the campsite and doing some chores, like tidying up the van and U-Haul. It was nice to relax a little after such an action-packed first half, and this campsite had another luxury up its sleeve that everyone was super stoked about ….. SHOWERS! Nothing feels quite as good as that first shower coming out of the backcountry, and this one was worth the wait.

Freshly clean, we spent some time as a group prepping our gear for our Mountaineering section, then we headed into the hippy dippy town of Mt. Shasta City. In town, we ran through a local gear store to rent some essential equipment for big mountain climbing — crampons, ice axes, and helmets, and we hit the local laundromat to get our clothes nice and clean too, then we spent an hour or two exploring the downtown area. This town is too cool and we are so glad we had time to scope it out as a group.

We headed back to camp with our new clean clothes and fun purchases (a lot of crystals) from this funky town, and finished up getting our gear together for the morning. After a big dinner of stir fry noodles and veggies, we did Moonup and cannonballed into our sleeping bags to get ready for our big first day of mountaineering.

We woke up early the next day to finalize our packing for Shasta. After we sang happy birthday to Hayden, we ate a big breakfast to fuel up, we headed into town to meet up with our awesome guides. After they did a gear check, we cheered the birthday boy on as he showed a piñata who’s boss, then we piled our stuff back into the trailer and headed down a long, gravelly, bumpy road leading to the base of Mt. Shasta. The packs were heavy, boots stiff, and the trail steep, but we eventually made it to base camp and set up near a beautiful and cold mountain spring. This cold and delicious mountain water helped hydrate us for the long and hard climb ahead. After we got camp set up, we had an early jambalaya dinner, a quick Moonup under the setting sun led by LOD Peter, and an early bedtime to prep for our summit bid the next day.

Alarms woke us all up at 2am! After a quick oatmeal breakfast, we filled our backpacks with only the essentials and began our uphill trek. With only headlamps and the faintest hints of sunrise illuminating the trail ahead, we worked our way up the mountain. As altitude and blisters from stiff mountaineering boots wore our bodies down, some students made the difficult but correct decision for themselves to turn back to base camp rather than risk injury, illness, or thrash their bodies more than necessary. Regardless of the elevation reached, we are proud and impressed by every single student for taking on this daunting task, giving it their all, and doing their best — that’s what climbing mountains is really all about in my opinion.

Ultimately, we had 6 students stand at 14,179 feet — Ellie, Logan, Isabella, Thomas, Ry, and Charlie impressed all of us with their physical and mental toughness and the grit they showed climbing Shasta and reaching the summit. They were greeted by warm hugs and cheers from the rest of the crew upon their return to base camp. Special shoutout to Mae, Ayanna, and Sarah for making sure to be around to warmly welcome every wave of climbers back to base camp, even when they themselves were tired and battered from a long day on the mountain. We had a very early dinner, a quick Moonup, and then all got in bed while the sun was still high in the sky.

After a very long and very well deserved night of sleep, we woke up, ate some grits, and cleaned up base camp to head back to our trusty van in the trailhead lot. We headed into town, returned our rental gear, shopped for souvenirs in town, and treated ourselves to some well-deserved burgers at Yak’s, a local Mt. Shasta City restaurant. We headed back toward our former campsite and swam in the lake to cool off and celebrate a successful mission in the mountains. We ate a big dinner of quinoa, chickpeas, and lots of fresh veggies to replenish the nutrients we certainly left on the mountain.

Jack and I are so proud of this crew for being an amazing and supportive team and tackling all challenges head-on with big smiles. As we head into our last week, we can’t wait to soak up every last moment with these wonderful young adults.


Another update to come soon,

Ellie and Jack


PS: here’s some thank-yous from the kiddos!

Hayden: thanks parents for letting me come on this trip

Ellie: Dear mom and dad thank you so much more for letting me come on this trip!! Tell Lucy I said thank you for convincing me to choose Yosemite! Miss and love y’all so so much

Thomas:  Thank you mom and dad for letting me go on this incredible trip to Yosemite. I have loved every second of it and it is all thanks to y’all. I have also made many new friends during this trip. I hope we can all come to Yosemite because there are just so many beautiful areas and views in the area. I miss y’all so much and I am excited to see you soon.

Louis: Thank you so much for convincing me to go on this trip. The experiences that I have been able to participate in are like nothing I expected and have been extremely fun. The people I have met have also been amazing and lasting relationships are sure to come out of it. See you on the 29th.

Sarah– Hi mom and dad thank you guys for letting me go on this. I know it’s been stressful for you guys and I have been thinking a lot about how everything is doing. I hope it’s good. I am having a lot of fun. Izzy and I have been doing some really difficult things we have never experienced. Ultimately, it’s been really mentally and physically good. I love you guys a lot.

Isabella – hi daddy I love you thank you for working hard so that I can do stuff like this. Doing things like Shasta made me realize everything isn’t as easy as it seems. I have thought about you a lot. I have done everything you wouldn’t want to do in a million years so thank you for letting me experience that. Tell mommy I say thank u for helping get ready and that I love her. Love you both thank you so much see you both soon.

Charlie– Hey y’all I hope Huntsville is good I miss y’all so much! Can’t wait to see you soon this trip had been so much fun with so many adventures and I’m enjoying it a lot but I do miss y’all and I’m looking forward to being back with you guys. Hope you guys are having fun see u soon!

Ry– Hey Mom and Dad, hope you guys are doing well. I miss you guys so much and can’t wait to talk to you guys soon. I have had such an incredible time and would love to come back with you guys to experience such a beautiful place. I hope everyone has had a great start to summer! Love and miss you guys so much.

Peter: To my mom and dad: thanks for sending me on such an awesome trip, I’ve met some really awesome people and loved almost every second of it. Can’t wait to see you in a couple of days and get back to normal life. As exciting as a trip like this is, I’m looking forward to getting back to normal life and seeing you all. Tell Natalie, Charlie, and Forest I love them

Mae: Hi Mom and Dad! I miss y’all so so much!! I am so thankful for y’all and the opportunity for this trip! It’s been truly life-changing I cannot wait to tell y’all all about it! Tell Phineas and Frances I said hi, see y’all soon!!!

Logan: Hey Mom and Dad!! I miss y’all so much I am having the best 3 weeks of my life!! Thank y’all so much for letting me come on this trip and experience new things!!! It’s truly been life-changing I have met the most amazing people and learned so much!! Can’t wait to see y’all and tell y’all all about it!!! Love y’all so much and see y’all soon

Ayanna: Hey Mom and Dad! I hope you both are doing well! I am literally having the best time of my life. Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity. I’ve met the best people ever and every day is a blast. We’re going rafting tomorrow and I’m so excited! I miss y’all so much (almost as much as I miss Chick-fil-A) and think about you all the time.  I am so excited to see you guys soon! Love you all!!!

Jack and Ellie: Hey YOS parents thank you so much for sending us your amazing kids!! They are all so special, unique, and wonderful in their own ways. We’ve loved every moment with them and can’t wait for an epic last week

Salutations from the Sierra Nevada!

June 19, 2022

Salutations from the Sierra Nevada!

We have just completed our backpacking section, and man was it action packed.We rose early on Monday morning, ready to hit the trail for our backpacking trip! In the morning, everyone threw everything they would need for the next 6 days into their packs, we put together some delicious personal GORP (good ole raisins and peanuts) bags, then we loaded up the van and hit the road. Our 3-hour drive to the trailhead was nothing short of inspiring. The road wound through Yosemite, revealing lush meadows, towering trees, waterfalls, and granite domes at every turn. We were even lucky enough to get a glimpse of the famous Half Dome (I personally got full-body chills multiple times due to the sight of this amazing rock). Finally, we made it to our trailhead, eager to get going. We parked our van, grabbed our things out of the U-Haul, and sauntered into the Wilderness of southern Yosemite. I will not lie — this first day was difficult. The trail was steeply uphill for the entire time, and our packs were heavy. But this team took it like absolute champs. Thomas set the pace and led us on our way, and we were glad to have our fearless LOD and a skilled outdoorsman showing us the way. During a break, Ry and Charlie found a beautiful pool by the river and showed us the proper way to beat the California heat — a good old fashioned head dunk. Finally, we saw a huge waterfall off in the distance and knew we must be getting close. We hopped off the trail and found a beautiful campsite by a babbling brook and decided we would make this our home. After a lesson on backcountry cooking and safe stove use, Ellie, Mae, and Logan helped me (leader Ellie) cook up a delicious meal of chicken pesto pasta, and I must say I’m not sure I’ve ever had more fun in the kitchen.

After Moonup under the full moon, we all got into bed and immediately fell asleep, definitely a well-earned night of rest if you ask me. We slept in a little the next morning, which was definitely well-deserved and much needed. After filling our bellies with warm oatmeal, we were ready to take on the day. Unfortunately, Katherine was feeling the effects of the altitude rather acutely, so her and Jack had to hike down. Self-care and listening to your body isn’t always easy, especially when it means sitting out from the group, and the whole crew was so impressed and inspired by the maturity and self-awareness that Katherine showed. We were sad to see them go and will miss her and Jack dearly as we push on into the backcountry. After breakfast and a quick swim under a massive waterfall, her and Jack headed down while the rest of the group took a relaxing day to take care of ourselves and explore our local area for a little longer. We spent the whole afternoon exploring this wonderful waterfall area. The further we hiked up, the more waterfalls we found. After some thorough exploring, Hayden and Louis revealed to the group that there was not just one waterfall, but many. In fact, the pool where we were swimming was just the very bottom of a 5-tiered waterfall system. Each cascade fell into a deep plunge pool, then spilled over the rim to the next waterfall and pool. These pools were amazingly deep, and some with vertical walls, making them ideal for cliff jumping. We spent all day adventuring in this amazing area; swimming, soaking up the sun, enjoying each other’s company. Finally, it was time to head back to camp and get dinner going. Ayanna helped develop a system to most efficiently make pizza quesadillas, our meal for the evening. She took lead of the kitchen and was crankin quesadillas out like nobody’s business. The meal was a huge hit, and we all gathered around for Moonup under the Milky Way with full and warm bellies. Unfortunately, Thomas tweaked his ankle jumping around on some rocks by the campsite, so the next morning the group gathered all of our gear and headed back down to get him to some medical attention. Although it was disappointing, Katherine and Jack met us at the trailhead with Gatorade’s and cupcakes which instantly helped lift our spirits. We headed into Fresno to hit an Urgent Care, and while Jack and Thomas took care of that, the rest of the crew went and spent a few hours playing in a local park.

On our way toward our campsite outside of town we ran through a California classic — In-N-Out Burger!! It was a huge hit and many of the crew declared it was the best fast-food burger they’ve had. We rolled into our campsite and, in order to take advantage of our low elevation warm weather, laid out tarps to cowboy camp. After a quick Moonup we all cannonballed into bed after a big day. We woke up early the next day and re-packed our backpacks to head back into the field, while Thomas, Katherine and Jack rested up. Although we missed them dearly, we know this is what was right for their health to get them back feeling 100% for the rest of the trip. They kindly dropped us off at our new trailhead and after a few games of Mafia and a few PB&Js, we hit the trail. Huge shoutout to the Moondance operations team for finding us a new 3-day backpacking route to round out the rest of our trip, in spite of many plan changes. Our new trail was a little spicy, with many dead fallen trees across the trail, but the crew took this as a fun challenge and easily maneuvered over, under, and around these obstacles. After a pretty big first day on the trail, we found an amazing campsite in a meadow surrounded by towering trees, with a babbling brook just a little ways down. Many games of Mafia were played in this meadow, with Peter’s hilarious narration keeping us all laughing through it all. We had an excellent Moonup under some of the most beautiful stars I’ve ever seen, and all cowboy camped under the glittering night sky. We slept in big time the next day, which was much needed. The next day, we had a leisurely breakfast of granola with powdered milk, then hit the trail. Huge shoutout to Isabella for helping motivate her fellow students to get packed up quickly so we could get back out onto the trail! The trail today was absolutely gorgeous — a nice narrow single-track winding through towering forests, fields of wildflowers, and along creeks and one massive waterfall to top it off. Another pair of hikers passed us and warned us that they had just seen a big ole black bear, but unfortunately, we weren’t lucky enough to spot him. We found a campsite a little ways off the trail on a big, flat chunk of granite slickrock with a gorgeous view of the sunset. We cooked up a wonderful Thanksgiving meal of green beans, chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing for dinner. Sarah helped chef up this wonderful spread and had the wonderful idea to spice up our instant mashed potatoes with some Old Bay, which was absolutely delicious. Feeling thankful and stuffed, we laid out or tarps for one more night of cowboy camping under the stars in the wonderful Yosemite backcountry.

We woke up the next day and quickly packed up camp. We were all eager to get back to our exit point because that is where we would be reunited with Katherine, Jack, and Thomas! We beat them to the trailhead, and all laid out for siestas until they came to scoop us, feeling good after completing our backpacking trip. When they pulled into the lot to pick us up, the reunion was glorious. After many hugs and high fives, we loaded up, happy to be all back together again, and headed into the valley. On our drive, we were treated to epic views of El Cap, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and other amazing valley sights. We pulled into our campground, which is for VIP wilderness backpackers ONLY, and then headed to Swinging Bridge Picnic Area for a cookout, epic views, and swimming in the Merced River. We had an epic Moonup under El Cap, watching climbers’ head lamps working their way up the face as they climbed into the night.

Yosemite is an absolutely awe-inspiring place, and I’m so glad we got to experience so much of it with this wonderful group of friends.

We are now heading north toward Mt. Shasta. Can’t wait to see where this next leg of our adventure takes us!

Best wishes, Ellie and Jack

Greetings from the Granite Wonderland! 

June 13, 2022

Our travel day to Yosemite was a day of extremes. From beginning our day splashing in the pacific to our trusty van taking us all the way to 9,640 ft on Sanora pass. From the thermostat reading 111*F on the freeway to 50*F in the mountains, California threw a lot at us, and it was all greeted with smiling faces. Part way through our drive, we stopped at a beautiful picnic area by a lake in the High Sierra. Katherine, Logan, and Ayanna made quick work of chopping vegetables and getting our stoves set up while Charlie honored his Italian roots and whipped up some tortellini. We continued and eventually made it to our campsite on the east side of Yosemite, where we all cannonballed into bed after a jam-packed day.

We rose early the next morning, eager for our first day of climbing in the legendary Yosemite National Park. After munching on some delicious peanut butter and cooked apple burritos (known amongst Moondance as the Davis), we all loaded into our van and hit the road toward the park. We met up with some awesome climbing guides and headed out to the crag. The first climb set the tone for the day, and we all watched in awe as Louis tied in first and persevered up a difficult slab, empowered by shouts of encouragement from below. Isabella climbed more than anyone else, hit every route the guides set up for us, and seems to have a natural knack for the sport. Thomas made light work of the climbs, ascending with ease. Even the hardest routes couldn’t phase him — it really seems like this guy can climb anything! We are especially proud of Sarah for conquering her fear of climbing and showing her route who’s boss. Around midday, all tuckered out by the climbing and time in the sun, we hopped back in the van and headed for a swim. As we wound down the road from above, gasps filled the van as soon as we got our first glimpses at the incredibly blue water and white rock beach. We all ran into the cold and crystal-clear water and welcomed being a little chilly after a big day in the sun. After stretching out for a very brief siesta on the beach, we headed back to our campsite to finish up the afternoon.

At camp, everyone was extremely helpful, and we cranked through some chores — all our dishes are sparkling clean, and the U-Haul is an organizational masterpiece. After chores, Ry and Peter kept the energy up (as always) and started up a few games of Spikeball and frisbee jackpot. After a big dinner of pasta with sausage, we sat around and laughed for quite a while, soaking up the joy of being in a beautiful place with a beautiful group of people. After an excellent Moon up, we hit the hay, ready for another day of climbing.

Today, we woke up early and had a big bacon and egg breakfast before day 2 of climbing. LODs Hayden and Ellie woke up the group and got everyone stoked to get back out to the crag. Today, we tried a little bit of a different climbing style, as we were climbing cracks rather than slabs. After a crash course on a variety of different jams (when you stick your hands or fingers or feet into the crack to pull yourself up the wall), Mae put all that new knowledge to the test and showed that crack who’s boss. She flew up the wall so fast, you would have thought it was horizontal! After our big morning of climbing, we headed back to camp for a few hours of relaxation, but not without stopping first at the general store for some ice cream! Then, we went through a few lessons in preparation for our backpacking section. This crew is so stoked, and we cannot wait to spend the next few days out in the beautiful backcountry. Another update to come following our expedition!


Happy adventuring,

Ellie and Jack



  1. Ellie: hey mom and dad I miss y’all a lot! I’m having a blast. Love, Ellie
  2. Isabella: hola mami the extrano hey daddy love you tell Nicholas I say hi miss y’all
  3. Ayanna: hey mom and dad, I’m having so much fun and my group is amazing! Love you so much miss you!
  4. Katherine: hi mom, dad, Peter, and Griffin! I’m having a lot of fun in Yosemite! I miss and love you guys. Pet Moose for me
  5. Ry: having a super great time! Love the group! Love and miss you
  6. Peter: love you! Tell Forrest I love him, and Nat I love her. Miss you
  7. Mae:  hey mom and dad, miss y’all tons but having the best time ever
  8. Logan: hey mom and dad! Miss y’all. Going to become a pro surfer now. Tell Bleu Kitty I miss him
  9. Thomas: Hi mom and dad, I miss y’all and wish you could see these beautiful views! Tell my brother that I said hi!
  10. Charlie: miss y’all
  11. Sarah: hi mom and dad I love you and miss you
  12. Hayden: Hey mom and dad, love you and miss you guys! Tell thunder and the brothers I said hi!
  13. Louis: Hey mom and dad, love you guys! Tell Harriet I said happy birthday!

Howdy-do, Yosemite Families!

June 11, 2022

Howdy-do, Yosemite families!

Greetings from the Golden Coast. This is leaders Ellie and Jack checking in for our very first trip update of the summer. Yesterday, we spent the morning receiving all of our lovely students from the San Francisco airport — a moment we have been looking forward to for many months. After we had our whole fam together, we piled into our awesome 15 passenger van, the mystery machine, and hit the road towards the coast. Luckily, we quickly got away from the hustle and bustle of SFO and hopped onto legendary highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. We were quickly treated to epic views as the road wound its way down the coast. From towering forests to hidden beach coves to tunnels blasted through the mountains, every turn held a new surprise. After a short while, we found our beautiful group campsite nestled in a eucalyptus grove on the coast.

Before dinner, Mae and Ellie led the way across a field of succulents, down the bluff, and onto the beach. Thomas and Charlie showed off their skills by scaling a little ways up the bluff like a couple billy goats — can’t wait to see how well these guys do on our climbing section in the next few days. After our time on the beach, we had our first skills lesson: how to set up tents! Despite the wind blowing their tent over as they were trying to set it up, Ry and Hayden persevered and, with a little help from the group, their tent was secure and kept them warm and dry all night. After all the activity, we were very hungry, and it was time to order the traditional first meal of a Moondance summer: local pizza! After a spirited debate about the merits of pineapple on pizza, Katherine led the charge to get everyone fed and helped pick up the food and bring it back to the campsite. After dinner, we settled into camp and had our first Moonup. We all shared our goals for the trip — Ayanna wowed the group by challenging us to commit ourselves to simply be good humans to each other during the trip, while Peter did the same by emphasizing the importance of hard work to the group dynamic. We are already so impressed by this group for setting awesome intentions and goals for the next 3 weeks — this is bound to be a trip for the books. As we closed our evening with hot cocoa, our leaders of the day were announced. Louis and Isabella were chosen as our inaugural leaders because they both served as huge group motivators and servant leaders.

On Friday, we woke up to a beautiful crisp morning overlooking the Pacific. We did a quick lesson on tent breakdown, fueled up with some yogurt, fruit, and granola and hopped into our trusty van. Sarah did a fantastic job motivating the group to wake up and pack up, helping us get going on time. We hopped on highway 1 for one last time and turned north for a morning full of surfing. We had a fantastic surfing lesson with our awesome local guides, with and all caught some gnar waves — Logan was the standout surfer of the day, impressing us all with her balance and coordination. After lunch on the beach, we hopped back in the van and headed for our namesake destination …. Yosemite — yippee! Can’t wait to explore this granite wonderland with our amazing crew.

Best, Ellie and Jack

Safely in San Francisco!

June 9, 2022

Hello Yosemite Families!

We just heard from our leaders that the group has landed safely in San Francisco. The trip is off to a great start and headed to their first campsite, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventures.

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


  • Ayanna
  • Ellie
  • Hayden
  • Isabella
  • Logan
  • Louis
  • Mae
  • Ry
  • Sarah
  • Thomas
  • Peter
  • Charlie