July 12, 2023
Our final leg of the Big Wild adventure took us to Idaho to raft the Salmon River. Our day of travel there was on the Fourth of July, so we celebrated along the way with American flags, leas, and cracker games. We also broke the drive up with a stop at Chick-fil-A, which Mills and Addison said made them feel right at home in Atlanta. At our campsite that night, we sang campfire songs beside another one of Huck’s bonfires and ate a good ol’ American breakfast for dinner. Addison cooked up some of the best scrambled eggs most had ever had, and Huck flipped flapjacks while Andrew grilled some sausages.
The next morning, we drove to the put-in on the Salmon River, introduced ourselves to our guides Claire, Philip, Emma, Hayden, and Rachel, and paid attention to our safety talk before buckling our helmets and life jackets and setting sail. Our first day was a long paddle of twenty miles with several exciting rapids along the way. The dry heat of the western Idaho mountains called for frequent dips into the brisk waters when we weren’t drenched by the class four rapids. After a few hours, we beached up for a nice lunch where Addison, Catherine, and Izzie tanned while Mills and John took a swim. We departed again, and after a few hours more arrived at the beach where we would camp for the night. The crew helped our guides set up their kitchen equipment and then set up their own sleeping arrangements. Everyone decided to cowboy camp, ditching their tents for an unenclosed date with the stars. For most, this was the brightest night sky they had ever seen. We used the NightSky app to distinguish the constellations while Michael talked to the crew about existentialist philosophy.
Our next day was even more exciting. Attempts to cool off in the river became games for both boats. We played pirates, where the girls’ boat, led by Amelia and Sophie, attempted to force the boys to walk the plank, then each boat resorted to pushing people off their own crafts. While Brady and Mills were pushed into the waters, John could not be knocked into the river no matter how hard his boatmates tried. Later, Huck and Andrew tried to “ride the bull,” standing on the bow of the raft while our captain Philip violently rotated the boat. Once Philip knocked the boys off, he taught them the T-bar game, where two students interlocked their paddles at the T-bar and leaned back in the boat to try and get horizontal. Though none of the kids were able to get fully extended, Brady and Andrew were quite close. We were able to play these games until we arrived at our beach that evening, where John, Brady, and Andrew dug holes and made sand castles while Amelia, Mills, Huck, and Sophie had a contest to see who could run the greatest distance into the water before falling over. Mills was the eventual champion. Everyone sat and dried off in the sand where Izzie, Catherine, and Addison were already soaking up some afternoon rays. Afterwards we enjoyed a delicious meal of pork chops, mashed potatoes, and veggies at the edge of the river.
Waking up early the next morning, we were able to pack up and pack out quickly enough for the team to swim through the Cottonwood rapid. The gang was thrashed about in the whitewater, but after fifteen seconds of adrenaline-laden chaos, everyone resounded with whoops and hollers of excitement. We hopped back into the boat and entered Blue Canyon to go through the infamous Slide rapid and soon after Checkerboard rapid. Shortly thereafter, we flowed from the Salmon River into the Snake River, which flows all the way from the Jackson area into the Pacific Ocean. This water was much slower due to the damming of the river, but the crew enjoyed playing more games on the raft, as well as swimming and tanning in the warm sunshine. Our lunch stop was on a wide beach adjacent to some craggy boulders, which Huck, Andrew, and Michael climbed. We also stopped at a riverside orchard, where we got to pick apricots, grapes, pears, and apples right off the trees. At camp that evening, Huck and Andrew moved some massive rocks while we had a fiesta waiting for our scrumptious tacos. After dinner, we held moonup with our raft guides, which Brady capped off with some more stories. Then we all retired to our beds under the stars.
To make the drive back east more manageable, we had an earlier wake up call in the morning. We packed up, loaded the boats, and took off for our final stretch of river. Along the way, the gang got to jump off an intriguing basalt column into the river below. The girls did not hesitate to all jump in together and catch some awesome footage on their GoPros. After several rounds of exciting jumps, we moved on down the river to the take out spot, with Andrew and Huck alternating as captains of the boys’ boat. We landed at the boat launch in Washington state, packed up, and bid our guides goodbye. On the way back east, we stopped at the Idaho Capitol Asian Market to grab some ingredients for lo mein that evening, and the kids got an assortment of snacks and treats to enjoy along the way. At camp that night, all the kids rejoiced about getting to shower and later exchanged phone numbers and social media handles in their journals. We ate a scrumptious dinner and held a long and deep moonup.
Another early morning allowed us to knock out the last bit of the drive to Jackson before noon and so allow us to go cliff jumping at Phelps Lake in Grand Teton National Park. John and Brady led the way down the trail to the jumping rock. Huck was the first to jump, immediately proclaiming how frigid the waters were upon impact. Everyone else followed suit, hopping multiple times beneath the gorgeous Death Canyon. We then drove into town to wash the van and pick up our food for the banquet. We grabbed barbeque and drove to picnic atop Signal Mountain for a panoramic view of the Teton Valley below as the sun set behind the Tetons. At camp, we held our final rituals and final moonup with cookies, whipped cream, and Dr. Pepper. We all shared our favorite memories from the session and crafted plans for a reunion down the line.
Thank you for sharing your wonderful children with us this summer. It was sad to send them off after such an incredible two weeks, but we hope that they got as much out of the trip as we did!
Caroline and Michael
July 5, 2023
Hello Big Wild Families!
We’ve just completed our rock climbing section of the trip, which took us to some of the coolest spots in the Jackson area. The night before our climbing sessions, we attended the Jackson Hole rodeo, where the kids sang, danced, and watched some of Wyoming’s best try to last eight seconds on a bull. Andrew, in his freshly steamed cowboy hat, made some friendly wagers with Sophie on which riders would go the distance. Meanwhile, John and Mills went wild trying to win the Yeti tumbler given to the fan of the night. Unfortunately, nobody won the grand prize, but we all had an incredible time dancing to YMCA and rooting on the cowboys.
On first day of climbing, we traveled to Teton Village, which encompasses the Jackson Hole ski resort to meet with Exum Mountain Guides. After some introductions and gathering equipment, we took the gondola up into the low hanging clouds. We soon ascended past the clouds into a clear blue sky with magnificent, panoramic views across the Wyoming mountain ranges. While everyone soaked in the vista, Brady and Addison snapped some great photos on their GoPros, then we hiked down the hill to our climbing area. There, we learned how to tie figure-8 knots and to stack our climbing ropes. Catherine and Huck were quick to master these skills and helped the rest of the group untangle their knotted ropes and get their “8’s” too. We then started up the rock slab, with Huck and Andrew fearlessly leading the way. Izzie was not far behind, overcoming her initial fear of heights with the help of Catherine and Addison, soon ascending the face with ease. After a mountaintop lunch break, the crew got to rappel down and climb back up several times to fine tune their skills. After saying goodbye to our guides Garrick, Tyler, and Dylan, we drove to the banks of the Snake River to cool off after a long day in the sun. Amelia and Brady were the first to test the waters, while Sophie, Huck, Andrew, and Mills followed to explore the river’s braids. We returned to camp, where Caroline and Michael taught the kids to swing dance before dinner, s’mores, and moon up. Mills and Izzy promptly made the pretzel look easy peasy and leveled up to a quartet dance with Catherine and Andrew.
The next day brought us to Grand Teton National Park to climb beside Hidden Falls, tucked nicely into Cascade Canyon on the other side of Jenny Lake. After taking the ferry across the lake, we began with some bouldering. Izzie gained a few battle scars, but was unfazed for the vertical climbing later on. After a few hours of bouldering, we hiked on to the steeper rock face. This terrain was certainly more daunting than the day before, but the kids rose to the challenge. Mills and Addison courageously navigated the difficult routes up the wall with the help of our new guides. As nearly everyone reached the summit, Michael and John were on their final pitch when a fleet of dark clouds rolled in splattering them and their guides with a brief flash of hail and rain. However, on the hike down, the sun and blue skies returned to give us a gorgeous walk back around the lake to the Exum office. We then visited the famous Moulton Barn and slurped up some homemade ice cream at Moo’s in town. Upon returning to camp, Andrew and Izzie helped cook Spaghetti for the gang while we listened to some Louis Prima and Dean Martin beneath a gorgeous Teton sunset. After dark, we went back to Teton Village to watch the pre-Independence Day fireworks show.
We cannot wait to get on the Salmon River for our next adventure!
Caroline and Michael
Sophie: Thank you so so much mom and dad for letting me go on this trip it’s sooooo fun!!!!
Amelia: thank you so much mom and pops for helping me go on this trip. Especially for all the gear hunting y’all did for me so I would have the stuff to go on this trip. Im having a ton of fun out here!
Izzie: Thank you momma and dad for allowing me to go on Big Wild! It’s so much fun! Plus my group is awesome! Love you guys and miss you so much! <3
Catherine; thank you mom and dad sm for letting me go on big wild! It’s supes fun and I love it here! Tysm and imy sm!!!
Addison: Thank you so much mom and dad for letting me go on big wild!!! Im having the best time! Love you see y’all soon!
Andrew: thank you mom and dad for letting me go this trip. I am making so many friends and having so much fun. See you soon Andrew
John: thanks mom and dad for sending me on this trip
Mills: thank you mom and dad for sending me here because it has been so fun to rock climb and fly fish. Right now we’re about to go white water rafting and we are driving to Idaho so I’ll see you when I see you.
Brady: Hi mom and dad. Thank you for sending me on this trip. I have made so many great friends, I really am very happy. We are on our way to rafting right now. Only five more days until I see you guys, love you!
Huck: Thank you mom and dad for sending me on this trip. It’s been so fun
July 1, 2023
Hello Big Wild Families!
This first leg of the trip has been absolutely amazing and we cannot wait to share our adventures with you thus far!
Thursday started off with a relaxed morning as we prepared for our next three days of backpacking. Our wake up call was musical as usual, this morning’s song of choice: Ooh La La by Faces. The crew filed out one by one and it was time for lessons on how to pack a backpack. In the meantime, Andrew and Caroline whipped up some chocolate chip pancakes for the team to enjoy. Once bags were packed, we all munched on our pancakes and loaded up the van. We met up with our guide for the trip, Riley, and drove to our trailhead. Our LODs (Leaders of the Day) were Andrew and Izzie who were in charge of taking hold of the map, and surveying the group on who needed water breaks. Our hike into our campsite was not long, leaving Huck plenty of time to make a fire while Mills, Brady, John and Andrew climbed the rocks and explored the area near our campsite. Addison, Izzie, Catherine, Amelia and Sophie all enjoyed their time by the fire, ready to answer Huck’s demands for more fire wood or assistance in blocking the wind! Lunch was on the way, some of us sitting by the fire while others quickly took their sandwiches and continued on their adventures. Some chose to read, nap, spend time by the fire, or continue climbing.
As the evening clouds began to roll in, we decided to start the night a bit early! Tonight’s dinner of Ramen Bombs were a huge hit, especially from self-proclaimed Ramen expert, Mills! Next up was our nightly Moonup before the summer showers began, which led to us taking shelter in our tents! Soon after, the sky had cleared up and the kids all huddled around the fire as the sun began to set. The sky was a radiant, neon pink color, making everyone pause to watch the clouds move with the mixing hues. After warming up from the fire, we piled into our tents for a good night’s sleep.
We woke up as the sun began to warm up our tents, made a delicious breakfast and started a fire. We walked to a nearby lake for some swimming, fly fishing and more rock climbing! Caroline took Amelia, Sophie, Andrew, John, Mills, and Brady up the bluffs along the lake, taking in the breathtaking landscape before them. Michael, Izzie, Catherine, Huck, and Addison stayed at the lake to set up their fly rods. The group on the bluffs began their descent down to join those fishing, and were excited to hear that Huck had caught a fish! John, Brady and Mills continued adventuring up on the rocks, while Amelia and Sophie took a walk around to the stream, and made sure to get in the water for a nice swim. Andrew stayed behind to chat with Michael, Caroline and Riley, Izzie and Catherine not too far aside, enjoying the sunshine. Everyone came together from their escapades as lunch was on its way. Huck caught two more fish and Addison took her shot at casting. Once we all finished with our chosen activities, we walked back to camp for a fire along with some journaling & reading. Huck made another fantastic fire for us all to enjoy, sitting around playing trivia and listening to music. Dinner followed, then Moonup and a long conversation by the fire. All nice and warm, we filed into our tents for bed.
This group is equally a team and beautifully independent, as each student was fully content in their chosen activity for the day. We had a blast backpacking, full of conversation and laughter around the fire. The trip is off to a strong start and we cannot wait for what is to come!
Until next time!
Caroline and Michael
Catherine: Hey mom and dad! Miss y’all and love y’all see u soon
Izzie: Hey Mom, Dad, Arabella, Hawky, Britt and Bridger and Ty!!! Miss y’all so so much can’t wait to see you soon! Love you guys!! <3
John: Hi Mom and Dad I miss y’all!
Huck: Hi Mother and Father. Will see you soon. Love y’all.
Brady: Hi mom, Hi dad! Miss you guys a lot. I finished the book you gave me so I started one my counselor, Caroline, gave me. It’s called “All the Light We Cannot See” and I like it a lot.
Love you guys, I want Chik Fil A when I get home.
Mills: What’s up Mom and Dad I am having a ton of fun and we’re about to go white water rafting which is gonna be awesome. I miss Sky and y’all too.
Sophie: Hey Mom, Dad, and Mark!!! Im having soooo much fun but I miss showers and Winston. I miss you guys too tho don’t worry. Love you guys!!!
Amelia : Hey Mom and Dad. Going days without a shower ain’t all too bad im just a lil bit crusty. Sleeping in a tent isn’t as bad as I thought either except it looks like a bomb went off in there because of how much of a mess we made. Lowkey missing my bed tho. Missing you guys.
Addison: Hey fam im having the best time out here! I’ve met some super fun people! I love and miss y’all so much! See y’all soon!!!!!
Andrew: Hi Mom, Dad and family, miss you all & love you. I am having so much fun, not showering is tough. I can’t wait to get home and see you guys soon. Love you
June 27, 2023
Hello Big Wild Families!
We heard from our leaders and the group has landed safely in Jackson Hole! 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!