June 22, 2023
Wow. We are writing this from the SFO airport with everyone safely en route home! It feels wrong to have twelve empty back seats in the van.
Yesterday was our last full day enjoying California! We enjoyed our last slow morning and breakfast at our Half Moon Bay campsite before jumping in the van to explore San Francisco! Our first stop was a beautiful lookout above the Golden Gate Bridge. We took pictures in our matching tie-dye shirts and marveled at the beautiful day! Whitt bought his last round of stickers at the nearby gift shop, adding to his ever-growing collection. Gazing out at the waves and rocks surrounding the island, Beck and a few friends did some conspiring about the famous escape from Alcatraz. Then, we drove to another more secluded spot for a picnic. At our new pull-off overlooking a marina and the bridge from new angles, we enjoyed a cliffside view and munched on our lunches. From there we held a small dance party, watched boats go by, and soaked in the ocean air.
Next stop, Pier 39! After our picnic time, we drove across town to enjoy the shopping, entertainment, and goodies at the iconic San Francisco Pier 39. The kids were able to make use of the souvenir money they had left for more fun! Haven set out on the hunt for special gifts for each member of her family, while Margot and Hattie committed to getting placards with their dogs’ names on them (of course). Obviously, during shopping, we found an ice cream and candy store. Both were raided. The boys stumbled upon a magic shop where they received demonstrations of true wizardry. James is still reeling from the coin that somehow appeared in between his hands, and Walker is determined to figure out how the magician kept pulling his card from the deck! Meanwhile, Alexandra led the girls to the carousel. Everyone was excited to jump onto their carousel animals and enjoy the music and views of the pier. Even Alli took part in the wild ride, laughing alongside Lydia on her dragon and Maya on her horse.
Hey Moondance kids, can we go thrift shopping!?
After our time at Pier 39, we made a surprise stop at Goodwill while blasting “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore: a group favorite. We gave the kids a budget and told them to pick out some very important outfits! Tonight is our last supper together, so it’s time to dress to impress. From nightgowns to poofy dresses, everyone showed out. Rhodes was spotted wearing a new pair of women’s jean shorts and his new San Francisco sweatshirt that he took the time to tie-dye!
Then back to the campsite to get a few chores done… Massive van cleans out, camp sweep, duffle shuffle, the works. We can’t believe it’s time to wrap this trip up! We worked in enough time for everyone to get dressed up for dinner. Ava proudly wore her bright yellow polka dot dress along with the various outfits that hurried to the van for our feast! We dined at a local Mexican restaurant on the patio with only a few confused looks from other patrons. Our last full meal together ensued, complete with plenty of laughs, memories, chips, and salsa.
Back at camp, we had our sweetest and final Moonup. Words cannot encompass the gratitude and love that exuded from that circle! With everyone gathered in the grass under the stars, we shared our main takeaways and gratitudes from the last two weeks. In honor of our last night, the group committed to “cowboy camping” without tents. This night of stargazing was the perfect way to bid the California sky farewell.
Only a few hours later, it was time to rise and shine in the wee hours of the morning for departure day. Sleepwalking, we packed up our last things and loaded the van. Though energy levels might have been low before the sun came up, you could feel the satisfaction and bittersweet feelings coming from everyone. As each student was escorted to their gates, goodbyes got harder and harder. Tears were shed, hugs were shared, and numbers were exchanged. We, as the leaders of this group, cannot express enough how much each child is valued. It has been a true honor to lead these students through the most amazing 14 days possible! Here’s to “see you later” instead of “goodbyes.”
Andrew, Alli, and Eleanor
June 20, 2023
It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is our last full day with this incredible group. What a time it has been with each of them, we are sad to begin the first of the lasts but grateful for the time spent together!
We arrived at our next campsite after a fun day filled with paddle boarding and car karaoke. The campsite was beautiful, with a proximity to the beach that the sound of crashing waves puts us to sleep at night. With a wind chill in the air, we decided to have warm tomato soup and grilled cheese for dinner. It was a hit, and they couldn’t get enough of Alli’s famous grilled cheese. Excitement at the campsite was high as we had the other CAL group join us at the campsite! Spike ball tournaments and passing the soccer ball took us into the night, we gathered for Moonup and crawled into our tents.
We woke up with the excitement of a new activity – surfing! We gathered for a breakfast of oatmeal and fruit and got pumped up for the morning ahead of us.
We arrived at Pacifica beach and hopped out of the van to meet our next set of wonderful outfitters: Al, Tarla, Alice, and José. They brought a fun energy to our group and shared with us key surfing etiquette tips, safety in the water, and of course the strategies needed to shred the gnar. After getting fitted in our wetsuits we headed down to the beach to begin the surf lesson, starting with a body polar plunge to get used to the chilly water. After that, we body surfed to practice paddling before a big wave, then perfected our form for standing up on the boards. It was time to hit the water for real practicing our new stance, and our group looked like naturals. Hattie stood up like she’d done it 100 times before! Everyone was close to becoming professionals when it was time to leave the water. We were eager for tomorrow’s lesson and to finish what we started!
We took off our wetsuits proud of what we had accomplished, then set out for a special lunch. We had a picnic feast at Land’s End Park of baguettes, watermelon, carrots, and hummus with a beautiful lookout of the water and the Golden Gate Bridge. We arrived back at the campsite for an afternoon of fun and surprises, including new Moondance T-shirts to tie-dye. Everyone was hyper focused on the perfect strategy, the best colors to use, and everyone is excited to bring home a new souvenir that will forever remind them of their Moondance trip. Lydia by far had the most vibrant T-shirt as she utilized every color of the rainbow.
After tie-dye, we played yet another epic game of capture the flag. With a large field in the campsite and the room to run, there was plenty of space for friendly competition. We formed teams of boys versus girls; even Eleanor and Andrew joined in on the fun. As night fell, the wind picked up, so we reinforced our tents and hunkered down for a cookout. Burgers, hotdogs, salad, watermelon, and the kid’s favorite – mac n cheese! Margot and James were eager to help wash each dish, they even took on the Mac n cheese pot and washed the personal bowls that were left behind. We closed the day with Moonup and hot chocolate to keep everyone warm.
The next day we had a relaxing morning prior to our next surfing lesson. This gave us time for a big hardy breakfast as Rhodes gathered the group for a morning huddle. Ava was our number one fan of blueberry pancakes, most everyone else goes for the m&m’s. With full bellies we loaded into the van to meet our outfitters for another full afternoon of surfing. This time around, we got right into the fun part of catching the waves. Today’s waves were full of action! It seems like every time we turned around, Beck was riding another wave with grace. On the way back to camp, we made yet another ice cream surprise stop. We particularly enjoyed the music in Baskin Robbins, where Alexandra sang her heart out to Bruno Mars. Maya was excited to order her favorite: the famous mint chocolate chip. Then onto the campsite where the group prepared for a talent show against the other two CAL groups all staying at our campsite tonight! Haven choreographed the girls killer dance moves to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” while Rhodes and Whitt took the spotlight with their boys as backup dancing to “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. After a dinner of DIY pizzas, the talent show ensued. Each team had amazing entertaining acts, and of course we finished the night with a special performance from Walker himself! Exhausted from laughter and time in the sun, we zipped back up into our tents, dreaming that this trip never ends!
Your kiddos wanted to thank you all! Here are some messages from them:
Hattie – “Thank you for sending me in Moondance, I love y’all!”
Beck – “Having the most amazing time, thanks for sending me! Love you.”
Haven – “I had so much fun, thank you guys so much. Love y’all!”
James – “Thank you so much for sending me on this trip. It’s been awesome, I’ve had so many amazing experiences and made so many new friends.”
Lydia – “Thank you so much mom, dad, and Gigi! I’m having the time of my life in California.”
Rhodes – “Thank you mom and dad for sending me on this awesome trip. I had a blast! I love you guys.”
Alexandra – “Thank you for sending me on Moondance, I love it here. Love y’all and tell Robert I say hi.”
Whitt – “Thank you mom and dad!”
Margot – “Thank y’all so much for letting me come on this amazing trip. I love you and I can’t wait to see you!”
Walker – “Best camp ever! I want to stay here forever.”
Maya – “Thank you mom and dad, I had a blast on this trip!”
Ava – “Thanks for sending me – love you!”
June 18, 2023
Greetings from Lake Tahoe! Pictures don’t do this destination justice – the lake was stunning, and the weather was incredible. The clear blue water, sunny skies, and fun activities of Tahoe left us with big smiles, full hearts, and even a few pieces of clean laundry!
First and foremost, our group has finally crossed a huge item off the bucket list – IN&OUT. On our drive from Bass Lake, we made the surprise stop for lunch. We told the kids we needed a few things from Home Depot before pulling into the parking lot, the cheers were priceless! Whitt of course predicted this move; he’s been keenly investigating for the burger opportunity. We left the restaurant with numerous t-shirts, hats, and full stomachs. After an entertaining van ride with more live concerts from Walker himself we arrived at a beautiful new campsite. This area is known for bear sightings, and Beck got a good view of one through the window on our drive into the sight! After setting up tents and doing the daily duffle shuffle, we loaded in the van once more to enjoy a pizza and salad dinner by the Lake. With the sun just beginning to set, an attempted human pyramid which failed many times, and the freedom to run around and laugh, this was a core memory for many. We returned to camp for a Moonup under a sky full of bright stars, sharing who inspires us most in our lives.
After a night of rest, we packed up camp to drive to the highly anticipated day of kayaking. We fueled up on egg burritos and yogurt and hit the road. We met our guides Will and Elena and were briefed on the day’s activity. Tandem kayaks made for a fun day in the lake, learning to paddle in sync and learning many fun facts about Lake Tahoe. We first learned that at the deepest point of the lake it is the same measurement as the Empire State Building! Additionally, we learned about the watershed and how Lake Tahoe has remained so clear and fresh. The water was a little cold (50 degrees!) and our fierce Alexandra was the first to take a dip. Brrr! Haven’s arms got a little tired on our trip, so she and Hattie tied themselves up to Andrew’s kayak to hitchhike for a while. We ended the morning of paddling with a game of sharks and minnows to show off our new paddling skills and share some friendly competition. We paddled back to the beach to eat lunch, warm up basking in the sun, and swim in the lake. We even had the chance to have a dance party with CAL A listening to – you guessed it – more Taylor Swift!
We drove a short distance to our next campsite with an incredible lakeside view and some cute camp dogs! Margot ended up making good friends with most of the dogs in our camp’s vicinity, including a yorkie named Willow. We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon sitting on the pier, swimming, and finished the night with chicken fajitas. As part of cook crew, Lydia schooled us with her proper onion slicing technique. James was the gracious leader of our dish crew tonight, helping scrub everyone’s bowls and the pots until spotless. The final surprise of the day was S’MORES cooked in the fire pit under the stars. Maya worked hard to perfect her marshmallow, toasting the top just slightly. We gathered around for Moonup sharing our favorite memories from the trip, laughing so hard we worried about disrupting camp’s quiet hours, but no worries we had no noise complaints! Sweet Ava offered her tent-mates’ massages until they were able to fall asleep after being so wired.
The next morning, we headed right back to Tahoe Adventures for paddle boarding! We were quick to explore the lake’s coast further, and even struck a few yoga poses on our boards. Rhodes impressed the whole crew with his head stand! We also played a few rounds of “life jacket tag” throughout our paddle. Though it was hard to leave the water, we beached our boards to have lunch. Then, another few hours of paddles, tans, and swims!
With sun on our cheeks and happy memories we are on the way to the next leg of our trip – surfing in Pacifica! Read below to hear from the kids! They are all super grateful to you for making this trip possible and we thank you for giving us the opportunity to spend two weeks with these wonderful individuals.
James – “Hey mom and dad, I’m having a great time! Miss you so much!”
Whitt – “Hi Mom, Dad, Elizabeth Anne, and Lacey! Lake Tahoe is the best and In & Out is amazing!”
Walker – “Hey Mom, Dad, Marissa, Cole, and Katie! I have been having so much fun paddle boarding, rafting, rock climbing, and kayaking. My favorite has been rock climbing and the campsites have been really good!”
Rhodes – “Dear Mom, Dad, and Brooklyn, I’m having a great time and I miss you guys! “
Beck – “Love you Mom, Dad, Palmer, and Bodhi, see you soon :)”
Haven – “Hi Mom, Dad, and Tripp. Miss y’all and I’m having fun! Love you”
Maya – “Hey Mom, Dad, and Kathan! I’m having so much fun, thank you so much! Love you guys.”
Lydia – “Hey Mom, Dad, Owen and Miles, I’m having so much fun! I really miss you and hope you have a good day!”
Alexandra – “Hi Mom and Dad. Miss y’all and love y’all! You better be feeding the fish.”
Ava – “Love you Mom! I’m having the time of my life and I don’t want to leave so cancel my flight back! Haha”
Margot – “Hi fam jam! Love you, miss you, so excited to see you. I’m having so much fun!”
Hattie – “Hi Mom and Dad, How’s Barkley? Can we get a cat?”
June 16, 2023
Hello from CAL C! Nugs to a wonderful three days at Bass lake and Yosemite! We are currently on the way to our next stop (Lake Tahoe) and reflecting on our favorite parts of the trip thus far: a consistent winner has been rock climbing!
After an exciting time rafting the American River, we traveled to Bass Lake to begin the next section of our trip. We had an entertaining car ride with several jam sessions with few naps scattered in between after fun in the sun on the river. We arrived at our Bass Lake campsite with enough daylight to set up tents and cook tacos for dinner! Taco night was a hit with several toppings to choose from. We had a Moonup under an open sky full of stars and headed to bed with excitement for the next day’s hike.
We had quite a few early risers eager to get going for the days hike! Everyone fueled up on their personalized bagels, fruit, and yogurt before loading up the van for the day. After a quick dance party at the trailhead, we hiked the Willow Creek trail, an area recommended by locals. The winding trail of trees and water features led the group to a beautiful waterfall called Angel Falls. We followed the water all the way to the top, conquering some challenging hills and climbing down the trail for a better view of the waterfall. There were plenty of opportunities to get our feet wet, and we had some brave souls who took a polar plunge. Rhodes took it upon himself to be the first to dunk himself into the chilly water, followed by a few other tough cookies. After a quick sun bath to dry off, we continued down the trail.
After a day full of trail time, we headed back to camp to take a dip in the lake. The slightly higher water temperature was refreshing for those who had no desire to brave the cold of Angel Falls. Some played football in the lake, some lounged in front of the scenery. Maya adopted this as her vantage point of choice to do some journaling. Once everyone was waterlogged, we played a competitive game of capture the flag, using Whitt’s near-broken Nalgene as one of the flags. For dinner, Andrew whipped up his famous chicken fried rice, followed up by another starlit Moonup and bedtime.
We had an early wakeup call on day 6!! The van wheels were rolling at 6:30 am to head to Yosemite for our first day of rock climbing. Though sleepy, the kids were eager to get started with this new activity. Our amazing guides quite literally showed us the ropes of climbing, belaying, and the rappelling technique. Pretty soon, everyone was scaling our designated slab of slick rock, it took some convincing to get everyone on the ground for lunch! After a full morning reaching for the clouds, we ventured out to see more sights of Yosemite. Lydia marveled at El Capitan through her window as we approached the largest waterfall of North America! We hiked a trail up to the falls, where each of us was completely soaked with spray.
We bid the park farewell for the night, and headed back to camp, where the kids took advantage of nature’s shower: the lake. With everyone smelling a little better, we enjoyed BBQ sandwiches & bratwurst hotdogs. As the sky began streaking with orange and pink, we piled into the van in a race to tell the sun goodnight. At a beautiful nearby beachfront, the girls AND boys belted a few Taylor Swift songs as we admired the sunset. This movie moment was made complete with a group picture, and even a few tears shed by Haven and Hattie who realized they won’t be on this trip together forever. To top it off, we headed into a nearby town for a surprise ice cream stop. Our group-voted favorite duo, Margot and Whitt, held a killer Moonup in a town green space as we reflected on our memories and enjoyed our scoops. The sugar rush allowed for a quick turnaround for bedtime, ready for another full day of climbing.
Yosemite climbing day 2 had even higher summits waiting for us. Before meeting our guides for a new mountaineering spot, the kids eagerly hit the gift shop. After stashing a few flat pennies, stickers, t shirts, and Alexandra’s stuffed bobcat in the van, we set out for climbing. The only souvenirs that did not make it back to the van were James’s super cool new hat, which we are still looking for, so fingers crossed it turns up before departure day! Don’t worry, James’s loss could not touch his positive attitude and fun climbing! Beck was one of the first to scale the day’s new rock feature, over 100 feet! Margot courageously tried two different sections of the mountain, with Haven cheering her on. Even Eleanor and Andrew got the chance to climb, being belayed with help from Walker and Rhodes. Everyone was pretty sweaty after conquering this awesome feat! After another exciting day of climbing, we headed back to camp. Our car rides have been full of giggles thanks to Walker, who has taken up comedic rapping and songwriting to keep all the passengers entertained! Back at the campsite the kids went for – you guessed it – another dip in the lake. Then Alli and her hard-working cook crew helpers whipped up her *slightly* too spicy jambalaya followed by Moonup! Nugs to one of our LODs, Ava, who took it upon herself to facilitate dishwashing after this meal, given that everyone’s climbing arms were a little less than motivated for scrubbing. Then, everyone went off to bed and enjoyed our last night under the Bass Lake stars.
Signing off for now, looking forward to the next few days of Lake Tahoe!
Eleanor, Alli, and Andrew
June 12, 2023
Greetings from CAL C! Andrew, Eleanor, and Alli here with your long-anticipated first trip update. Arrival day ran relatively smoothly: the leaders were PUMPED to meet the kiddos, who hit it off quickly. Pretty soon the boys were playing games in the baggage claim, ending with a frisbee and a hacky sack trapped in the ceiling tiles. Unfortunately, we waited patiently for Margot’s duffel to appear on the baggage claim to no avail. Thanks to Eleanor’s persistence at the Delta service desk plus Margot’s positive attitude, the bag was found! After Andrew took the rest of the group on 3 laps around SFO in the van, Margot happily welcomed her duffel back into her arms. She handled the situation with such grace!! The kids enjoyed the view of the beautiful city of San Francisco on our drive to the first campsite. We crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge and pulled off to a vantage point to enjoy the view and snap a few pictures. Now off to Point Reyes! Along the way, we stopped for a yummy bite of pizza for the group’s first dinner together- we even had some brave souls try mushrooms on their pizza! The campsite was a few minutes down the road, where the group learned how to properly pitch tents and set up camp. Then time for our very first Moonup to close the day. Ava shared her gratitude for the group by sharing the most “nugs” during Moonup. The “Nug Jug” is a key component of Moonup where we encourage everyone to appreciate positive things that others have done throughout the day.
Our first morning was made complete with yummy sausage, egg, and cheese sandwiches before packing up and heading out to explore Point Reyes. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the coastline, complete with a few miles of hiking down to the Point lighthouse. Along the way, Alexandra discovered a rotten banana in the depths of her day pack. This, of course, allowed for many jokes and giggles for Alexandra and her friends who helped clean the mush out. We had a post hike picnic under the Cypress Tree Tunnel before heading to the town of Sausalito for some sightseeing. We explored a few shops along the scenic coast before making our group-wide stop for ice cream. Off to our next campsite! We enjoyed pasta night with green beans for dinner followed by another lovely Moonup.
Day 3! BECK’S BIRTHDAY! Started the day with celebratory blueberry and M&M pancakes made with the help of master pancake chef, James. Then a morning huddle to get pumped up for our first day of white water rafting on the American River. We loaded into the van and drove a short way down the road to the river site. Our wonderful outfitters, Fred, Courtney, and Claudia met us with smiling faces ready to get us fitted in wetsuits, life jackets, and helmets. After hearing a briefing on the safety protocols in place while rafting we eagerly hopped in the boats. The river began with some class II rapids, giving us time to get comfortable in the water and gain confidence in our strokes. The morale was high beginning this new activity, and the mood got even better when the sun came out. After a morning of paddling, we earned our lunch. We all enjoyed various deli meats, peanut butter and jelly, vegetables and hummus riverside. With full bellies everyone was ready to conquer the more challenging class III rapids ahead. Lydia suggested her raft go by the nickname “rapid wranglers” and they did just that, paddling hard in the front Lydia and Beck led the wranglers down the river with ease.
After a fun day on the river, our group showed great teamwork and helped carry up three heavy rafts to the trailer. The fun for the day was only beginning as we headed back to camp for an afternoon full of spike ball, card games, and ENO hammock lounging. Beck’s birthday was celebrated in style with a delicious meal including steak, chicken, pesto and plain pasta, salad and to finish a funfetti cake. After a filling dinner we gathered for Moonup and settled in for a well-deserved night of sleep. And we can’t forget to mention we had our first set of Eno sleepers – Beck, Walker, James, and Rhodes enjoyed a night of sleep under the stars in their hammocks. They reported raving comfort reviews in the morning!
The early wake up call for day two of rafting was easy as everyone was eagerly awaiting more class III rapids. After packing camp and a hardy breakfast, we made our way back to the rafting center and went into the day with confidence of skilled paddlers ready to take on some intense rapids. Our Leaders of the Day (LODs) Maya and James led the way in our morning huddle and shared an inspiring quote that set the tone for the day. The class III rapids made for awesome action shots, which our camera whiz Whitt happily captured with his GoPro chest strap. Our guides taught us a new skill towards the end of the day called surfing, where the boat is swept into and held a circulating wave. Hattie’s raft was the first to test out this skill, which she fiercely paddled through and enjoyed with her raft mates. Haven especially loved the game of “trust fall” played on the rafts where two people locked paddles and tried to stay on the boat the longest. Overall whitewater rafting was a great success and we’re looking forward to the next few days in Yosemite!
Until next time!
Andrew, Eleanor, and Alli
June 8, 2023
Hello California Families!
We just heard from our leaders and the group has landed safely in San Francisco! 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!