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Yosemite 2 • July 3-July 23, 2022

The Saddest Good-bye!

July 24, 2022


This is Ellie and Sam checking in to recap our last few days together. At this time, all the kids are home safely and we are hoping they are spilling lots of stories!

After our big pizza feast and deep night of sleep, we woke up and cheffed up some delicious pancakes, which were promptly doused in syrup and devoured. After we had crushed some good breakfast, we packed it all up and headed back south to the San Francisco area. The van ride was full of singing along, eating left over pizza, and laughing til our stomachs hurt. Upon arrival at our campground, an epic game of flag football was played, and an intensely competitive round of iron chef kicked off. The two teams battled it out, using delicacies like home made guacamole, Oreos in a mysterious sauce, quesadillas, and ramen noodles. Ultimately, the quesadillas took home the gold, although all the food Sam and I tasted was delicious and worthy of prize (maybe not the syrup-soaked granola desert though). After our big night of football and iron chef, we did a quick Moonup and hit the hay.

The next morning was Charlie’s 17th birthday. For the whole trip, he promised us that he would wake us up very very early on the morning of his birthday by crawling into our tent, and he was not lying. When we didn’t budge, all the kids came over, collapsed our tent on top of us, and dog piled. It was a crazy way to start the day, but it got everyone up and moving. Charlie, the LODs and I ran over to a local bakery and picked up some fresh baked muffins for breakfast. Then, once we were fueled up, we all got to work cleaning and organizing the van and u-haul. Once we finished up our cleaning party, we headed down south to spend our final night at Half Moon Bay. On our way, we stopped and picked up some lunch, hit the car wash, and ran through a goodwill to pick out some outfits for banquet. We then headed down to our beachside campsite, the same one where we stayed for the first few days of the trip, and experienced weird deja vu as we played on the beach. Hard to believe how far this crew has come in three weeks — our first nights together at this same campsite feel like a lifetime ago, and it’s hard to imagine that this amazing, tight-knit group of friends were ever strangers. After showers and a paperwork party, it was time to don our goodwill threads and head into town for our final banquet dinner together. We ate at a delicious little taqueria, and soaked up every moment we had left in each others company. Then, after dinner, we put on birthday hats, headed into town, and ate gelato in celebration of our wonderful three weeks spent together, and for dear friend Charlie. When we got down to camp, we headed to the beach for our final Moonup by the crashing waves. We stayed at the beach and talked for a long while, soaking up our last hours together as a whole crew, and laughing about all the memories and crazy times we’ve shared together.

The next morning, we woke up and headed on to the San Francisco airport. It is always sad to watch the kids say bye to each other, and to head off on their separate ways. We are so proud of our amazing crew, and will cherish the times that we have shared over the past three weeks. From the American River, to Hetch Hetchy, to Shasta and beyond, this group was always oozing adventure, spreading kindness, and laughing the whole way. We can’t thank them enough for the awesome three weeks we were lucky enough to share with them, and we can’t wait to see what wonderful adventures these kids get into later on.

Stay adventurous y’all,

Ellie and Sam

Spectacular Shasta Experience!!!

July 22, 2022

Hello from the volcanic landscape of Northern California!

This is Ellie and Sam with an update following our Mt. Shasta mission. Our last update came was we were leaving Yosemite Valley. We drove and drove through California’s Central Valley until we reached the small city of Redding. Here, we pulled off the highway and told the kids we had to “grab some gear” from the airport. When we pulled off, excited screams filled the van as everyone saw Ben (who had to leave a few days before due to his injury) standing on the curb. We are so thrilled to have our whole group back together, and that Ben is well enough to join us for the last leg of our journey. To celebrate the reuniting of our crew, we swung by a California classic while in Redding: In-N-Out. Obviously, this was a huge hit and we all had so much fun catching up with Ben, chowing on burgers, and drinking sodas. After our big dinner, we headed on to our campsite in the shadow of Mt. Shasta, had Moonup, and hit the hay.

The following day, we woke up to the hot and incredibly bright California sun laser beaming us all in the face. After this warm wake up, Charlie helped fix up some French toast for all of us, then we got to work on some chores before our mountaineering expedition. The kids were all tremendously helpful in getting the van and U-Haul clean and organized — this massive undertaking could not have been completed without them. After our cleaning party, we headed into town to get decked out in mountaineering gear. After we got helmets and boots, we did some light exploring of the strange town of Mt. Shasta, where most stores sell healing crystals, singing bowls, prayer flags, and things of that nature (this is very different from Alabama and Georgia, where many of us hail from). After our fun but interesting time in town, we headed back to camp to prep our things for our upcoming few days on the mountain. Once backpacks were full of gear and snacks, we headed down to the lake for a late afternoon swim. Shep and Harris quickly discovered that swimming out to the middle of the lake led to epic and totally unobscured views of Mt. Shasta, and we all enjoyed floating in the cold water on a hot day and taking in the epic views. We finished off our evening with some well-deserved showers and veggie bowls for dinner to fuel up for our big days ahead.

We woke up the next morning, ate a quick breakfast, and headed into town to meet up with our mountaineering guides. Once we did a quick gear check to make sure we had everything we needed, we drove out to the trailhead and hiked the few miles up to base camp in a speedy manner. We got camp all set up nearby to a gorgeous mountain spring and relaxed in the sun for a few hours, gazing up at the beautiful mountain known as Shasta. For dinner, Kaki, Avery, Mac and Ella helped fix up some chicken pesto pasta, and we all ate together perched up on boulders and watching Shasta cast a huge triangular shadow across the valley as the sun set behind it. We went to bed when there was still some light out — a first for this trip but a necessity to prep for our huge day ahead. The following day, we woke up at 3am to begin our long walk uphill. After crushing some oatmeal, we strapped our headlamps to our helmets and hit the trail. We headed up the trail, gaining thousands of vertical feet in a matter of a few miles. We were treated to one of the most gorgeous and well-earned sunrises of our lives. We continued up the steep side of the mountain as colors were smeared across the sky and the hikers around us were silhouetted by the sun coming over the horizon. As the day carried on, we kept trucking uphill, passing natural features that denoted different altitudes. 11,000-foot rock, then 12,000 pillar, then mushroom rock at 13,000.

Ultimately, we had six summiteers in our group — Charlie, Cannon, Albert, Katie, Katherine Ann, and Harris. We are so proud of these six for reaching the top, and we are also so proud of everyone else for reaching their personal high points through the struggle of long hours walking uphill, high altitude, and fatigue. Mountain climbing isn’t always about reaching the top — if you work hard and leave it all out there, that’s what really matters and we are proud of everyone for doing just that.

We were such speedy climbers, that after the summit crew returned to base camp, we decided to just head on down to the car and back to town. We made it back to our lakeside campground just in time for dinner and decided that a good old pizza party was in order. Innumerable numbers of pizza slices were eaten on that fateful day. After we were all totally stuffed, we took some well-deserved showers, had a wonderful Moonup and then promptly fell into a very deep sleep. We are rounding out our trip now and are looking forward to getting the most out of these last few days with our wonderful crew. Another update from the last few days to come soon!

Signing off,

Ellie and Sam

Back to the backcountry!

July 18, 2022

Greetings from the inspiring landscape of Yosemite!

This is Ellie and Sam checking in once again from the epic landscape of the Sierra. When we last left off, we had just completed an epic morning of climbing and were about to head back down to our campsite to prep for backpacking. When we got to camp, we decided it would be a good idea to give this beautiful area in the  Eastern Sierra a thorough look-around. What better way to do this than a quick walk to a local lake? While “quick walk” might not describe the 1.5 mile hike that climbed steeply for the entire way, we loved every moment of it and were treated to views and swims in a gorgeous alpine lake nestled high in the mountains. Avery led the pack on our expedition, setting a solid pace for the crew as we marched upwards. Upon our return to camp, the kids (as we lovingly call these young adults) were tremendously helpful in getting our meals and snacks all squared away for our upcoming backpacking odyssey. Once this gargantuan task had been completed, we enjoyed a Pad Thai dinner, an excellent Moonup, then hit the hay in anticipation for our big days ahead.

We woke up early to get ready and hit the road for our first day of backpacking. After a quick breakfast, we did a lesson on what exactly to bring, and how to correctly pack our backpacks. After everyone was all ready to go, we hit the road and headed toward Hetch Hetchy, a reservoir in the northwestern region of the park. Hetch Hetchy is a beautiful glacial valley with sweeping views, and massive sheer granite cliffs. The Tuolumne River through the valley was dammed to provide water for San Francisco, so now the valley is home to a large lake. We began our backpacking journey by sauntering across the dam, through an old tunnel, and along the margin of the lake. LOD Harris lead us all day on our hike, and she did a fantastic job motivating the group, setting a good pace, and deciding when water breaks were necessary. She even spotted a rattlesnake sunning themself across the trail ahead and kept a very cool head about the encounter, which helped keep everyone calm. Mac did an awesome job as our caboose, motivating and checking in on everyone from the back, and making sure we all stayed together.

We hiked and hiked along the margin of the lake, passing one particularly massive waterfall cascading down from the top of the valley over a thousand feet above. Finally, as the sun was setting and turning the sky above the cliffs bright pink, we sauntered into camp nearby a beautiful stream and waterfall. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, Ben hurt his ankle and needed some help to get up to camp. Huge shoutout to Cannon, Charlie, and Albert for taking all the weight out of his pack and into their own, and helping support him for the last little bit. Once at camp, we got Ben resting his ankle and all enjoyed a dinner of chicken Alfredo pasta, then Moonup, then all collapsed into our sleeping bags after a big day of prep and hiking under the California sun.

The following day, we slept in a little, which was very well deserved after our huge day before. We enjoyed some oatmeal for breakfast, then headed on our way back toward to trailhead in order to get Ben to civilization and some medical care. He was at the front of our group setting the pace, and did an awesome job tackling the hike and motivating his peers despite the injury. We hiked back along the margin of the res and under towering cliffs like we had the previous day. When we reached the thundering waterfall, Shep jumped down to a pool and dunked her head in, and we all immediately followed suit in this genius idea and cool down technique. As we neared the tunnel just before the dam, we saw a rustling in the bushes ahead and realized it was two black bears: a mama and her cub! What a treat it is to see bears on a backpacking trip — to me, it is always a sign that you are in a pristine and truly wild environment. After seeing the bears, we walked through the tunnel, across the dam, and back to the van, and got the heck out of Hetch Hetchy. On our way out, LOD Katie spotted a general store and thought it would be a great idea to grab everyone Gatorade’s and popsicles as a pick me up after our long day hiking in the hot sun. This was such a welcome treat — thanks Katie for thinking this one up and helping to lift everyone’s spirits! We stayed the night at a nearby forest service campsite, and ate pita pizzas for dinner that evening. After Moonup, we all gladly crawled into our sleeping bags after another long day on the trail.

The next day, we woke up and headed into the nearby town of Sonora to run Ben through an urgent care. Meanwhile, the rest of the group went and checked out a local state park. This was no ordinary state park though — it was a persevered historic mining town that still had businesses and a Main Street operating as they had during gold rush times. How cool! We had a great time killing a few hours checking out the ghost town and bustling square, checking out the local shops, and enjoying some ice cream to cool down. Afterwards, we went to grab Ben and Sam from the urgent care, then headed into historic downtown Sonora to check out this cool spot, too. It was a day full of culture. Mac kept the group conversing in riveting conversations throughout the long day. That evening, we headed to a campsite on the margin of a lake, swam for a bit, enjoyed a big old mac and cheese dinner, had a wonderful Moonup under the stars, then headed to bed.

We woke up the following morning, ate a good breakfast, packed our bags and headed into Yosemite Valley to do some exploring. We marveled at the massive walls, took incredible crazy views, and swam in the Merced River. That night, we stayed at a beautiful campsite in a forest of towering trees nearby to a park entrance.

The next day, we woke up early and excited — we were finally going to get back into the backcountry today! We busted it over to a ranger station to try our luck with a walk-up permit for an overnight in the wilderness, and lucky we were! We scored a permit to hike up into an alpine basin full of beautiful lakes and rimmed with sheer granite walls. We headed to the trailhead after the ranger station, shouldered our packs, and headed up the trail. Our hike was gorgeous — we wound over slick rock, through ancient forests, lush meadows, and fields of vibrant wildflowers. After a few miles, we reached the base of a pass where the trail took a sharp turn uphill. Perfect training for Shasta! The group turned uphill and started grinding up the trail, no complaining and no problem. Nothing gets the blood pumping like a good uphill section, and this was no exception. We all hiked at our own pace and regrouped at the top under a shady tree. Katherine Ann was one of the quicker hikers, and was sure to cheer on and high five everyone as they arrived to the top. After we topped out on the pass, we dropped down into a basin full of forests, wildflowers, and alpine lakes. The trail switch backed down into this basin, then we found a lovely campsite nestled in a forest between two lakes. After a quick swim, we gathered for a beautiful thanksgiving dinner under the stars. Although the air was thick with mosquitoes, nothing could bring down our mood as we went around and talked about what we are thankful for. Sam and I (Ellie) are extra thankful for adventures outside in beautiful places like these, and with great company like our current group of wonderful kiddos. After dinner, we cleaned up camp and got our tents all set for the night. Kaki did everyone a huge solid and took charge of the water purification station and made sure we all had two clean bottles of water before retiring into bed. After some stargazing and Moonup, it was time to head to bed.

We woke up the next day, ate breakfast, and packed up camp. Kaki again came in as MVP and made sure everyone’s water was good to go before we headed out. We had the short climb out of the basin to wake us up and kick our butts right off the bat — there is nothing like a walk uphill to knock the rust off first thing in the morning. We met again on top of the saddle under the same shade tree, then headed down to the meadow at the base of the pass and enjoyed lunch amongst the wildflowers. For a two mile stretch between this meadow and a creek, we sent the kids off one-by-one with a few minutes between them so that they could all have a bit of solo time to reflect on our trip or do anything else that they might please. We then all met up on the banks of the creek, splashed the sweat off our faces, and finished the hike out strong as one big group. We got back to the van, exchanged high fives and fist bumps, then loaded up and headed back down to the Valley. We set up shop at the backpackers campground, using our wilderness permit as our ticket in to this super exclusive spot. We then headed to swinging bridge, a picnic area on the banks of the Merced River with stunning views of meadows, Yosemite Falls, and the valley. Here, we enjoyed a celebratory cookout of hamburger and brats, and had a great time swimming, frolicking in the meadow, and playing in the sand. LOD Ella had the wonderful idea to have Moonup on the sandy riverbank. We all had great conversations under the stars and next to the river — I couldn’t imagine a better spot for Moonup than in this beautiful spot under the Milky Way in the iconic Yosemite Valley. We rounded out our evening with stargazing and a dance party under the stars in El Capitan Meadow.

Today, we are driving north toward Mt. Shasta for our final chapter of our California adventure. We can’t wait to face this challenge as a group, and hope to write next about 14 safe and successful summiteers! More tales of adventure to come soon!

Best wishes,

Ellie and Sam

Harris: Hey Mom and Dad! This trip has been unbelievable and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for y’all. I have swam in some crazy lakes and hiked in some insane places. Our group is so amazing and I have made incredible friends. I can’t wait to share all of my experiences with y’all. Thank you so so much for letting me go on Moondance, I couldn’t thank y’all enough. Also, I made friends with an otter and saw Half Dome and El Cap, y’all would love it!  Heading to Shasta now, wish me luck! Love, Harris

Albert: Hey Mom and Dad! We are driving to Mt. Shasta now. I have had so much fun the past few weeks. I loved rock climbing, backpacking and rafting. Although we only got 2 days of backpacking it was awesome. Dad el cap was insane! I have added climbing el cap to my bucket list. Half Dome is beautiful too. Love y’all, thanks for everything. See y’all in a week. Love Albert

Katherine Ann: Hi family! We are on the way to Mt Shata right now and it looks kinda like Zambia and home. They just played Stairway to Heaven and it made me miss Lainey and Dad. We did a silent hike yesterday at this beautiful alpine lake and I prayed for all of y’all. Thank you so much for letting me come on this trip! I’ve been reflecting on how close our family is and I am so grateful that we are the type of family we are. This has been one of the coolest things ever and I am so grateful that y’all let me come. I can’t wait to tell y’all all about it. The schedule has gotten all messed up cause someone’s ankle got hurt and they had to come home, but it has been so cool! I love and miss y’all! Tell my sisters I love them!

Shep: Hey family! I’ve been having such an amazing time! The past few days we’ve gone on some super cool hikes and got to see El Cap and Half Dome. I wanted to thank y’all for letting me come on this trip! Love and miss y’all so much… tell Mal Mal I say hi! Love Shep 🙂

Cannon: Hey mom and dad, this trip has been so much fun!! We are on the way to Mount Shasta! We backpacked at Hetch Hetchy and Ten lakes, both were super pretty. The views are amazing. I hope Elle is having so much fun at camp. Tell Poppins I said hi. Love y’all, Cannon

Charlie: HEY MOM AND DAD! I miss y’all a lot but have been having so much fun and really don’t wanna leave. I am excited to get home though and see you guys. Please text Bridget and tell her I hope she’s feeling better after her surgery. So mad Kyrigos lost to Djokivic. Can not wait to get back and celebrate my birthday with y’all and be back in my bed! About to summit Mt Shasta! See you soon

Ella: Hey Som and Dad. I’m really enjoying my trip, thank you guys a lot for sending me. I’ve needed this time to reflect on my past and to think about my future more than I thought I did. So thank you for that. I’ve made a ton of great friends that I feel like I’ll keep in touch with. Please give Zipper a big nice rub for me and tell him I miss him a lot. Tell the boys I say hi too. I miss you guys a lot. From, Ella.

Kaki: Hey Mom and Dad!!! I am having an amazing time! We just finished our backpacking section and it was awesome. Yosemite is so pretty and we have seen so many cool rivers and flowers. I got to see El Cap and Half Dome! Thank you so much for sending me on this trip, it has really been a great experience. I am glad I came! Crazy that it is almost over. Everyone on my trip is so so nice. We are on our way to Mt. Shasta today and I am so excited to summit it. Can’t wait to tell y’all about it. Missing y’all lots and can’t wait to see y’all soon! Hope the beach is fun and that Ja and Mu are having a good time. Tell everyone hey for me! Love, kaki

Katie: HEY mom and dad!!I am having so so much fun in Yosemite and I can’t believe that it is almost over! We got to see half dome and el cap and Yosemite was literally so pretty with all the lakes and wildflowers! We just left Yosemite and are on our way to Mt. Shasta for the final section of our trip! If you talk to Maggie before we get home tell her to bring me some Fiji water from Fiji! Missing y’all and I hope you had so much fun at Rabun and Como! Can’t wait to see bai bai and moo moo!! See you in a few days!!

Mac: Hey mom and dad!! I’m having so much fun, I appreciate you guys sending me on this trip so much! Our group has gotten so close!! We were in Yosemite this past week and the views were insane. We saw El Cap and Half Dome. Last night after dinner we went over near El Cap and laid down on the ground staring up at the stars. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life, it was so cool! We hiked up Hetch Hetchy for 2 days then took a 2 day break and then hiked ten lakes and it was so pretty! There were so many meadows filled with colorful flowers and the mountains looked so pretty! We’re on the way to Mt. Shasta now. Can’t wait to see you guys and tell Lili I said happy late 13th birthday!! Give the dogs hugs for me. Miss and love you guys. Love, Mac

Avery :Wassup family! Having a blast. Will let y’all know more when I get home cause I don’t want to explain it all right now when I’m 3000+ miles from home. People seem to appreciate my music tastes, which is good; they have even liked a couple of the songs I requested. The music they normally play is also pretty good anyway so I don’t complain. There are great guys and girls in my group; we have really bonded and care for each other. The son of Mrs. Key from 7th grade, Albert, is also here; I had a great talk with him and another guy named Cannon about life n stuff. I think this trip is changing me and I’ll be doing things differently when I get home. We are on our way to mount shasta and I will be summiting that mountain for you guys and to say that I did it. It will undisputedly be among my greatest physical accomplishments. Until I see you guys again, tell everyone (including, but not limited to, the dogs) that I’m doing great and will see y’all soon!

Hello from the Great State of California!

July 11, 2022

Chapter I: whitewater excitement.

We have just finished our two-day whitewater rafting section and our two day climbing section, and man was it an amazing trip. We began our adventure with a big old pancake breakfast by the beach to celebrate Sam’s birthday! He is an amazing leader and co leader and we loved getting to celebrate with him. After the morning festivities, we jumped in the van and headed east toward the American River to prepare for our rafting trip. As we travelled from the misty coast to the dry and hilly interior, our excitement grew. We stopped at a park along the American River and tested the waters, enjoying lunch on the bank while we were at it. After our swim and picnic, we went over to check into our campsite and enjoy a relaxed afternoon. After indulging our sweet tooths with some popsicles, we headed down to the river to float a bit and relax on the shore. These more relaxed afternoons have been invaluable in helping our group bond and get to know each other better — it really feels like we are on our way to becoming a family. We had an awesome dinner of burrito bowls, and an Oreo birthday cake for Sam. Afterwards, LODs Katherine Anne and Albert led us in an amazing Moonup under the moonlight on the banks of the river. We slept like babies under the stars in eager anticipation for our big days of rafting ahead.

We woke up early the next morning and crushed some Davis burritos (cooked apples, peanut butter, and granola), then hopped in the van to go meet our guides at the middle fork. When we got to their guide base, we loaded up dry bags, grabbed helmets and PFDs and hopped in a bus to head down to the put in. After helping carry gear down to load up the gear boat, a few rounds of the paddle game, a few rounds of mafia, and a safety talk, we were finally ready to hit the river! Our flotilla included 3 rafts of people, and 1 boat carrying all of our gear. After just a few moments on the river, we hit our first class III rapid, aptly named cold cup of coffee. Hoots and hollers filled the air as we were splashed by cold water and given a taste of what’s to come. Charlie and Katie definitely had a little more pep in their paddle after some serious cold-water splashes.  We had a slack water section where we practiced paddling technique and prepped for our most formidable challenge yet — Last Chance rapid and Tunnel Chute. These two back-to-back class IV rapids run through an arrow chute and then a tunnel blasted by miners during the ole California Gold Rush. This was Mac’s first white water rafting trip, and she paddled like an absolute champ through these two massive rapids and helped her boat to achieve a safe (and very fun) passage. Many screams of excitement and paddle high fives later, we were back in slack water. As we ran through a few more rounds of flat water to rapids, we stopped for a good ole cliff jump. Everyone sent it off the ledge into the cold water and floated back down to the rafts, where Avery and Ben were tremendously helpful in helping pull everyone back into their rafts so we could continue our journey. A few more rapids later, it was time for another excursion, a hike through a slot canyon and up to a gorgeous waterfall. Shep and Harris had an awesome time wading through the slot, soaking under the waterfall, and filling the whole canyon with laughter. We floated on, stopped for a delicious lunch, and floated on some more. Kaki guided her raft for most of the afternoon, and maneuvered rapids so skillfully that our guides were suggesting she may have a future in the industry. Finally, we beached our rafts and arrived at our campsite for the night, on a beautiful bank around the inside of a bend. While our wonderful guides made quick work of setting up a kitchen and getting dinner going, we made quick work of napping in the sun and skipping rocks. For dinner we had an awesome meal of pasta, salad, garlic bread, and chicken, and huge nugs to Ella and Cannon for demonstrating fantastic EB by gathering and cleaning everyone’s plates. We had an awesome Moonup next to the river, we’re bamboozled by some magic card tricks, then laid out our sleeping bags in the sand and hit the hay after a big day in the sun.

We woke up with the sun the next day and enjoyed a leisurely morning at our awesome campsite. After we got all our stuff loaded into dry bags and had the gear boat weighed down, we hit the river for another day of whitewater excellence. We hit the river and were greeted with more cold-water splashes, exciting rapids, and bonding time on the river. This day held several class IV rapids, an exciting CLASS SIX rapid (we walked around this one, don’t worry), and another awesome hike up a stream to a gorgeous waterfall swimming hole. We were able to enjoy another awesome cliff jump, swim a rapid, float through slow pools, and generally just enjoy being outside, together, having an awesome time. Eventually, we eddied out at the takeout, hauled out the boats, and loaded up to head back to the van. Although it was sad to wave goodbye to the beautiful river and our wonderful guides (shoutout to Reagan, Gator, Fisher and Claudia!!!), we are excited for the adventures to come. We pointed our van toward the famed Yosemite and loaded up to head toward our next objective: rock climbing. We were mesmerized by the views as we drove from the rolling hills of central California, into the Sierra Nevada and the Tahoe area. We cooked dinner at a beach on the lake, tossed some frisbee, and continued on.

Chapter II: Rocks

Finally, we arrived in the granite wonderland of Yosemite. After resting up after our drive, we ate a big ole breakfast to fuel up, met our guides, headed to the trail head, and headed straight in and rappelled off of the park’s incredible granite rock faces. Avery, Cannon, Katie and Shep were some of the fastest climbers we’ve seen in a while, crushing the hardest routes and making them look deceptively easy. Charlie was a huge help in belaying and helped many friends successfully send. We spent the afternoon climbing and ended with a tough but short uphill hike to a beautiful hidden gem of an alpine lake. After relaxing at this gorgeous lake for a while, we headed back down hill, headed back to camp, and cooked up a delicious dinner. Kaki, Mac and Ella helped chef up our Thai noodles, which were a huge hit, and Ben was super helpful with the cleanup. After a wonderful Moonup, we hit the hay and all enjoyed sleeping under the stars, either in hammocks or laying out on tarps. Our second day of climbing began with a chilly wake up, some granola PB breakfast burritos, and another gorgeous drive up the pass and into the park. We met our guides again and headed to the crag to climb. This time, we did a bit of a different style of climbing — crack climbing! Harris, Shep, and Katherine Anne took up this new technique naturally, showed us how it’s done, and all scrambled up the hardest routes, no problem. Albert climbed every route set, some even twice! What a crusher. We crack climbed our little hearts out and enjoyed taking in the beautiful views of this magical area of the earth.

We’ll spend this afternoon planning and learning about backpacking in anticipation for our 6 day saunter into the backcountry. We are so stoked to get out there with this awesome group and enjoy the solitude and wilderness experience. We may even have a very special guest joining us! Whooo hoooooo. More to come in the next update.

Stay adventurous, Ellie and Sam


Katie: HEY MOM & DAD!! I’m having so much fun and it’s literally so pretty here! I miss y’all but I love my group! Tell Maggie I say hi if you here from get in FIJI!! Also say hi to Bailey and Murph for me! ok toodles!!

Charlie: Hey Mom and Dad! I am having so much fun and miss y’all so much. Tell Bridge I say hi and I miss her. I just got down a rappel where we were rock climbing. Miss y’all a lot!

Albert: what’s up mom and dad. Having a great time. We are now rock climbing which is my favorite. Can’t wait to see y’all.

Ben: Sup Mom and Dad! I am having so much fun but I miss you’ll so much. Tell Daisy, Jill, and Doc I said hi and I miss them. Can’t wait to come home but I will miss all the fun I am having. I miss you’ll so much!

Ella: hi mom and dad. I’m having a really good time, we’ve gotten through most things on our itinerary and are currently rock climbing, meaning we have backpacking and climbing mount shasta left. Our group has become close super fast, which is great for everyone. And my leaders are seriously cool, they are very understanding if my situation from my file and encourage me and everyone else in the best ways possible. I miss you guys a lot, Zipper especially. Please tell the boys I say hi and give Zipper a nice neck rub for me. love you guys.

Cannon: Hey Mom and Dad, I’m having the best time ever in California!! The group is great! We white water rafted the last two days and we are rock climbing today in Yosemite! There was a wildfire near us so it is hazy. Miss y’all! Tell the fam and Poppins I said hi!!

Avery: pretty gud trip 10/10

Harris: HEY FAM!! Missing y’all lots but I am having the BEST time. Tell Tibbs I miss her and to have so much fun at camp. Hope the Assembly is missing me and tell my crew that I can’t wait to see them. Also tell Fielding I miss him. Officially a pro climber if y’all are wondering, talk to y’all after I summit Shasta! LOVE YOU. PS my group is unbelievable, love u Mom, Dad, and Tibbie. Your favorite daughter,  -Harris;)

Katherine Ann: Dibs! I’m guessing Claire and Elaine are at camp right now, but if you send them a letter, tell them I am having fun! I’m having so much fun and my group is great! So far we have surfed, done a bit of rock climbing, white water rafting, lots of swimming, and cowboy camping. This is the coolest trip ever!!! Give googie a kiss for me. Love y’all!

Kaki: Hey family! I am having a great time on my trip. Missing y’all tons but having even more fun. We have gone surfing and white water rafting(my fav). My group is the best ever, love them all. We are currently rock climbing so I will be a pro when I get home :). Ja and Mu- have the best time on your trips! Mom- have a great time with the roomies, tell them all hey for me. Dad- hope work is going well, missing watching sports with you. Love you all!!!!

Shep: What’s up fam! Having a great time… the group is awesome! Just finished rafting and I’m currently climbing. Tell Wit Mallie and Tman I say hi!! Love y’all!

Mac: hey mom, dad and lili! We went surfing on the 3rd day and I face planted a couple of times but it was so fun. We saw Joey the otter and a seal. We went rafting yesterday and the day before and it was awesome!! We all jumped out at the end of the rapids and floated with the current. Right now we’re in the middle of rock climbing and we got some super cool pictures! Miss and love yall!! Hi to Maxi and Ollie for me!

Ellie and Sam: hey YOS dos parents! Thanks for sending your lovely kids to hang with us. We are having an awesome time and can’t wait for an amazing two more weeks out here in Cali with this great crew.

Surf's Up Cali!

July 7, 2022

Hello from the beaches of central California!

This is Ellie and Sam reporting to you live with our first trip update of Yosemite 2! Although it has only been a few days since we got our group together, the crew is firing on all cylinders and our trip is off to a wonderful start.

We began our trip where all good trips begin — the airport. Once our crew was all together (except one student who arrived the following day, and Sam who would arrive that evening), we headed out to a nearby park to hang out and get to know each other as we waited for Sam to come join us. At the park, we had an awesome time enjoying each other’s company, hacky sacking, and playing spikeball and frisbee. Shep acted humble about her spikeball skills, and then proceeded to play spike ball better than anyone I’ve ever seen. After she served up continuous beat downs, we moved on to a big game of ultimate frisbee, where Ben showed off his frisbee hucking abilities during the kickoff, and then lots of hacky sack. Finally, it was time for us to move on, and we hit the road and headed north to our first campsite. We had an important stop along the way — the San Francisco Airport to pick up our second leader, Sam! After we collected this very important human from SFO, we headed up to Olema, where we spent our first night. On our drive there, we picked up some local pizza and chowed down upon arrival. Once we learned tent set up and got camp ready to go, then closed our first night like we close every night — with Moonup. We went around and shared our goals and what we hope to get out of our three weeks together, and I must say I think this trip is going to be one for the books based on the kindness, ambition, and intentionality this group has shown just in the first night. We woke up the next morning and enjoyed a breakfast of grits and eggs. We headed out of Olema and back towards San Francisco, where I (Ellie) hopped out to go pick up our last student, Avery. Meanwhile, Sam took the crew to a beach with gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, where they played an intense pickup soccer game.

Once we got the whole crew together and everyone warmly greeted Avery, we loaded up the van and hopped on the legendary Highway 1. We all oohed and aahed as the highway wound along the coast, by hidden beaches and cliffs rising from the sea, through forests and tunnels. We got to our beachside campsite, set up, and enjoyed a relaxed Fourth of July afternoon swimming, throwing frisbee, kicking the soccer ball, and playing spikeball on the beach. For dinner, we enjoyed all the holiday classics: burgers, hot dogs, watermelon, and a salad, and we finished it off with delicious apple pie and ice cream. After desert, LODs (leaders of the day) Harris and Charlie led us through an amazing Moonup. We are so stoked to have these two superstar alums on our trip and as our first LODs, they really showed what LOD means and set the Moonup bar high. Following Moonup, we all cannonballed into our sleeping bags to prep for an early morning of surfing the next day.

We woke up with the sun the next day and ate a quick breakfast before hopping in the van and heading south on Highway 1, heading towards Santa Cruz to meet up with our surfing guides. We arrived in Santa Cruz, donned our wet suits, grabbed our boards, and, after a quick lesson on the sand, paddled out next to the pier. We could hear seals barking off in the distance and the fog was thick in the bay, but that couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm and excitement. We paddled out to a break around a point, and unfortunately, the waves didn’t really get the memo, but we had tons of fun splashing around together and even got lucky enough to see some sea otters hangin out. We were able to practice our “pop-ups” and had some paddle racing contests. Albert and Mac were crushing the paddle race games! At the end of our surfing excursion, we were able to catch some smaller waves. Avery was almost able to surf all the way to the beach.

After surfing, we hopped back into the van and headed north back to our campsite. After a quick stop in some local Santa Cruz shops, Ella emerged with a super cool hat! All tuckered out from our big morning in the water, we had a pretty chill afternoon. Of course, soccer was played, frisbee was thrown, and spike ball was spiked. We are overjoyed to already see the kids hanging out and bonding all together, being super-inclusive, and really getting to know each other. For dinner, LODs Katie and Cannon helped chop veggies for tortellini while Katherine Anne and Kaki helped cook everything up — it was a huge hit!

We are currently headed east to the American River for our rafting section. We can’t wait to spend more time together, get out onto the water, and run some gnarly rapids! Another update to come soon.


Ellie and Sam

Safely in San Francisco!

July 3, 2022

Hello Yosemite Families!

We just heard from our leaders that the group has landed safely in San Francisco, minus one member who will be arriving tomorrow! We cannot wait for them to welcome him with open arms! The trip is off to a great start and they are 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


  • Albert
  • Avery
  • Charles
  • Charlie
  • Harris
  • Kaki
  • Katherine
  • Katie
  • Mac
  • Sara
  • Shepard
  • Stewart
  • Ella