July 9, 2023
The airport is quiet now that our last departures have been seen off. While happy to send our kiddos home safely, we as leaders are in disbelief that the trip is already over! Words cannot express the love and gratitude we feel for this group. Let’s recap our last precious days of views, laughs, and sweet moments as CAL 2C.
We left Yosemite on a high note: hiking the Nevada Falls trail. We loaded up the van early to get into the park, scouting out parking spots and making a pit stop at the gift shop on our way to the trailhead. Soon enough, we were loading up our lunches and lacing up our shoes! We crafted our chicken Caesar wraps on the picnic tables and filled our waters and headed towards the trailhead. The trail took us up a beautiful path alongside the waterfall with a steady incline, the perfect amount of shade, and quite the splash! The hike led us alongside the breathtaking view of the waterfall, complete with its strong spray, which even created numerous rainbows. Walking along this scenic route had us pinching ourselves as we ventured through the light and mist of the falls. We definitely got a full taste of the waterfall along the way, the water made its way into our socks, clothes, and even into the book Cici was carrying in her backpack!
As we reached the top we were in awe of the incredible view, sharing the scene with others who had finished the hike with us. We found a spot to enjoy the views, take in the sound of the waterfall, and enjoy our wraps alongside Rice Krispie treats, wheat thins, apples, and bananas. We even shared our lunch with the iconic Yosemite squirrels, who most definitely made their mark on our group. After hearing the squeals from a nearby squirrel, Gus was convinced that the squirrel was trying to send a message. After finishing up lunch we hiked down and saw more beautiful views from a different perspective, including more rainbows. After finishing up almost 5 miles of hiking that left the group tuckered out, James was still ready to go further. Once we got out of our wet shoes we loaded up in the van for one more long and memorable van ride. We had plenty of time for music and Fraser continued to request songs that had the whole van jamming. Inspired by our hike, Olivia’s first sing request in the fan was ‘Waterfalls’ by TLC. As we got closer to our final destination at Half Moon Bay we made a surprise pit stop at a nearby diner for dinner. While waiting for our order, Vikram led the heated discussion debating the proper pronunciation of ‘crayon.’ George was especially enthusiastic about the ice cream sundae that accompanied his meal, while Leslie and Hazel opted for a milkshake. After a successful dinner, we continued to the campsite where we held Moonup and settled in for the night before our final day together.
Our last day allowed for a slow morning, including a breakfast buffet of pancakes, yogurt, and cereal. We enjoyed our beachside campsite before heading into San Francisco to get a better view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Parking our van under the golden gate we enjoyed one last picnic lunch with a perfect view of the bridge and Alcatraz. We even had some seagulls join us who wanted to take part in our delicious lunch. The seaside views also came with the seaside gusts of wind which unfortunately claimed Ansley’s hat as she was trying to capture a photo.
We continued on to our next stop in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, where the group sought out shops to put their souvenir cash to use. Along the walk, Maysey Sims expressed that she loved San Francisco so much that she wants to live there! After checking out all of the vintage stores and gift shops the area had to offer, we completed the spree with a trip to Goodwill. This is a must-stop to buy outfits for our final banquet! Here we told the kids about banquet dinner and the tradition of dressing to impress. This task ended in a few crazy dresses, hats, and mixed prints. Izzy somehow found a way to make Hawaiian shirts and camp cargo shorts work!
Giddy from the selection, we headed back to camp to prepare for banquet. Every single outfit was truly unique and picture-worthy. We then set out for the best Mexican restaurant in Half Moon Bay, where we shared our last dinner together along with many more sweet memories. Energy levels were high at the table, as the combination of new costumes and growing friendships created the perfect atmosphere. We continued this energy on the ride home to camp, blaring our favorite songs and even starting a camp-wide dance party in the van! This was truly a night none of us will forget. Some might say our voices are still a little hoarse from singing. With all of our energy burnt off, we settled under the California stars for our very last Moonup. This circle was particularly special as each leader and student reflected on their takeaways from the trip like moving forward with bravery, living in the moment, and treating others with respect. With warm hearts and bittersweet feelings, it was time to snuggle up into our sleeping bags for the last time. Everyone had the opportunity to “cowboy camp” without a tent tonight, which was the perfect way to bid the Californian air goodbye.
This morning started early as we loaded the van and headed straight to SFO. From there, the waves of departures began. Only a few students were eager to get their phones back, while others expressed their reluctance to return to “the real world.” Though the goodbyes grew increasingly harder and more surreal, each group member has a beautiful potential to carry this Moondance experience back with them. Through each farewell hug, exchanged phone numbers, and “see you later,” we felt the true love and warmth that flows through this group. We might be sad to see them go, but we’d be selfish to hold onto these amazing kids forever. Thank you for sharing a piece of your kids with us, we will always cherish the memories from these two weeks together and we hope they will as well.
We miss everyone already!
Andrew, Alli and Eleanor
July 7, 2023
Greetings from Yosemite! The California crew has been busy admiring our nation’s gorgeous national park since you last heard from us.
Starting with our drive to Bass Lake, we took a surprise stop to In&Out for some famous burgers and shakes! Eleanor pulled the van off of the freeway towards a Walmart, convincing the kids we had sandwiches waiting at home before pulling into In&Out for the best pit stop yet! The van filled with cheers as we pulled into the parking lot, and everyone even got In&Out paper hats to sport at the restaurant. Satisfied with our yummy dinner, we loaded back up to make the rest of the drive to our campsite at Bass Lake. We got settled in our new home for the next few days of adventure!
The next morning, the kids got to sleep in for some well-needed beauty rest before a new day of hikes. During our preparation and breakfast, we encountered one small bump in the road: a flat tire on the van. Our favorite vehicle (named Toby by Gus and James) has been with us through many miles, so Andrew came to the rescue to change the tire and give it the care it deserves. After a morning of basketball games, passing the volleyball, and changing tires, everyone was warmed up and ready to go down the road to our Willow Creek trailhead. After explaining the signal word for a break or water stop, “watermelon,” we started the scenic hike. The sun was warm, but watermelon was used rarely. We made it to a beautiful water hole that was safe for swimming and we decided it was the perfect spot for our picnic lunch. Every single member of our group was brave enough to make the polar plunge, and a competition of skipping rocks began. After cooling off and laying in the sun to dry off we made our way back down the mountain.
Back at camp, our campsite neighbor challenged all of the boys and Olivia to a competitive game of basketball. George was able to put his impressive basketball skills to the test along with his teammate, Olivia who put up a fierce fight as the only girl on the court! George and Olivia’s team finally claimed victory as a dinner of make your own pizza was being prepared. Everyone got a personal crust and filled it with cheese, tomato sauce, and pepperoni. Cici was extremely enthusiastic about the pizza, jumping up first to make her masterpiece. We even had some broccoli carrot slaw that ended up being a hit with the girls, and Maysey Sims even asked for the recipe!
The Fourth of July morning came quickly as we loaded the van early to head into Yosemite National Park. We enjoyed breakfast in the car and a little more sleeping, but once we entered the park everyone’s eyes were out the window. The rock formations and greenery are truly breathtaking, so much so that we all decided El Capitan must be a green screen. We arrived at the Yosemite Mountaineering School where we did a quick survey of the gift shop before getting fitted for climbing shoes and meeting our guides. Soon enough, we were looking up at our first slab of climbing terrain, being shown the ropes and belaying technique. The kids picked up on things quickly! Vikram was our star climber out of the gate, scaling each new route and even asking to be timed on his progress! Hazel also loved the challenge of climbing and nearly mastered every climbing route with few breaks. We enjoyed a quick lunch of chicken Caesar wraps at the bottom of the rock, but no one stayed out of the harness for long. We spent the rest of the day climbing, belaying, and cheerleading. Olivia was a star belayer, helping even Eleanor climb up one of the routes at the end of the day. Exhausted from our first day of climbing, we loaded the van and headed back to Bass Lake, complete with a patriotic playlist and plastic American flags lining the headrests. Back at the campsite, we organized a water balloon toss that quickly turned into an all-out war! The water balloons couldn’t be filled up at the rate they were being thrown, as Isabelle continued to throw them at the boys, dodging their balloons. Ansley and Leslie weren’t the biggest fans of the battle, seeking shelter in the girl’s bathroom until they had no choice but to join the fight. Continuing the fun games, we held an egg toss. With each toss the groups moved back a step trying to keep their precious egg alive, in an intense competition Gus and James were victorious and are waiting on their winning prize.
The Independence Day celebration continued with hot dogs, burgers, and bratwurst on the grill. After filling up on the American classics, we walked down to the town docks to watch a firework show over the lake. With red, white, and blue glow sticks around our necks, we enjoyed the festive town as we watched a wonderful array of fireworks. We headed back after a full day of fun for Moonup before bed.
We had another morning of rising early for more rock climbing! Despite waking up early, everyone was excited for the new climbing routes, offering more challenges and higher altitudes. Everyone was ready to get climbing again and we heard from Camden, our climbing guide, about the history of climbing and climbing technology in Yosemite. Fraser waited patiently for his turn on the highest climb of the day, having no issues and climbing easily to reach the top. After a successful day on the rock we made our way to the lower falls, getting a clear glimpse at one of the biggest waterfalls in the North America. We even got a little wet from the mist, but it felt great after a hot day in the sun. We arrived back at camp afterward and had a relaxing afternoon of showers and even some laundry in the sink. We gathered for a dinner of chicken and cheese quesadillas with Caesar salad and fruit, a crowd favorite!
We circled up under the stars for our final Moonup in Yosemite and everyone shared heartfelt answers about their favorite characteristics of their family. We will hit the road to Yosemite for one more hike before making the drive to Pacifica. It is truly hard to believe how quickly time has flown, and boy do we love this group! Thank you for allowing us to spend two weeks with each of them.
Eleanor, Alli, and Andrew
July 3, 2023
Hi again from CAL 2C!
Lake Tahoe has been so good to us, and we are sad to say goodbye! The group was amazed by the grandeur of the lake and all it has to offer. We spent the last two days soaking up all its sunshine and views!
Day one of Lake Tahoe was for kayaking! Everyone woke up ready to go for a breakfast of champions and headed straight to the lake. After smothering on the sunblock and a quick safety briefing, we hopped into tandem kayaks with our wonderful guides, Alana and Bailey. We paddled out to see the clear water from all angles and played a few water games! Tag and sharks and minnows were some group favorites. Fraser and James started out as our sharks, quickly taking over the fleet. Later, Izzy was our first “it” in tag, which ended in only a few collisions and sneak attacks! After tiring out on the water in the morning, we paddled back to shore for a picnic before more fun in the sun. Olivia and Hazel found the perfect rocks to perch on at the end of a jetty near the beach, while George and Vikram perfected their rock skipping and sand “meatball” making technique. After drying off, the fun continued in Tahoe City. We stopped for some surprise ice cream (cookie dough was the group favorite), then hit the town shopping scene. The group hit the jackpot for all things stickers, sweatshirts, tees, hats, and even Pit Vipers – sunglasses that have become the group’s favorite. Toting the mother-load, we headed back to camp to prepare for dinner and play in the creek. Though George’s football took a swim downriver, Gus was quick to run down the shore and rescue it! We celebrated this victory over fried rice for dinner. As the sun disappeared and the bright near-full moon came out, we had yet another reflective Moonup before bed.
Lake Tahoe Day 2 brought paddle boarding! We packed up camp, had breakfast, and hit the lake. As we paddled out on our stand-up paddle boards, Cici suggested that we stay in Tahoe for the entirety of the trip! She’s full of great ideas. A little unsure of the technique, Leslie started with an alternate approach of swimming with the board in tow. However, it didn’t take her long to get the hang of things and stand tall! She even strategically attached her board to Ansley’s, harnessing both of their paddling power at once and working as a team. Also, in the caravan of boards, Maysey Sims, Hazel, Isabelle, and Cici all managed to fit (and paddle) with four on one board! Olivia kept us all entertained with her various water tricks and yoga moves like headstands, the “watermelon roll,” and even a cartwheel into the water. After a fun morning of paddling and relaxing on the boards we headed in for one last beach picnic before hitting the road. We sunbathed on the rocks once more and rinsed in the outdoor shower before loading in the van for our drive to Yosemite. No one knows it yet, but a surprise dinner at In&Out is to come!
It is hard to believe we are nearly halfway through this awesome trip. We thank you for allowing us to spend two weeks with your wonderful children, they all wanted to share their appreciation for you in the shout outs below!
Andrew, Alli, and Eleanor
Isabelle: “Hi Mom and Dad, I miss you! Tell Millie I said hi. Happy Fourth of July!”
Fraser: “Hey family, I hope everyone is happy and healthy. Miss you and love you. Can’t wait to see you when I get back!”
George: “Mom, Dad, and Gracie,I miss you and I’m having so much fun. happy Fourth of July!
Olivia: “Hey Mom and Dad, hope the move went well. I love you and happy Fourth!”
Maysey sims: “Mom, Dad, Ellen, Walker, and Zach, it’s amazing and I hope you guys are doing well. See you soon!”
James: “Hi Mom and Dad. I’m having the best time, I hope all is well. Happy Fourth!”
Hazel: “Mom, Dad, and Tatum. I miss you guys and hope you’re doing well!”
Vikram: “Simrin and KK, imagine being in Greenwich right now… L. I’m having so much fun! Miss you!
Leslie: “Hi Mom and Dad, I miss you guys and I’m having fun. Tell Evelyn I hope she had a good birthday!”
Cici: “Hey Mom, Dad, and Hazel. Having fun and I miss y’all so much! Happy Fourth of July!”
Gus: “Hi Mom, Dad, Anna, Ellie, Georgia, Greenie, Captain, Maisey, and Joe! It’s very fun here and our leaders (Master Oogway, Shaniqua, and Kim K) are great. Pit vipers & takis are lit.”
Ansley: “Hi Mom and Dad! Camp is fun and I miss y’all so much! Have a great Fourth of July!”
July 1, 2023
Greeting from CAL2C!
Alli, Eleanor, and Andrew here with an update after an awesome two full days of rafting! As we drove towards the American River everyone watched as the thermometer in the van rose 96 degrees! After leaving chilly Pacifica the whole van cheered as we entered the heat. Upon arrival we quickly unloaded tents and duffels and changed into our swimsuits to check out the river.
The sun was shining, deceiving us into thinking the water was a little warmer than it actually was. Alli tried in vain to encourage the kids to brave the polar plunge with her, until finally Olivia and Maysey Sims jumped in to tread water with her. Tough girls!
The swimming built up everyone’s appetites for BBQ chicken on Hawaiian rolls, mac & cheese, and broccoli. With full stomachs we gathered around for Moonup. Our fearless LOD’s Fraser and Isabelle led us in a reflective Moonup and the “nug” jug was overflowing with gratitude. We settled in our sleeping bags and tents without rain flys, allowing for open air and a view of the stars.
Everyone woke up eager to get on the river. We had a delicious breakfast of English muffins, cheese, and bacon accompanied by some yogurt and pineapple – everyone was fueled up and happy. We loaded in the van for a short ride to the river center we jammed out to get ready for a fun day. We lathered on the sunscreen and had the option to wear wetsuits – George didn’t think twice before grabbing one but did his best to get a tan regardless. We met our awesome guides Reece and Wilder who brought great energy to the water.
The first morning of rafting started out calm, as we learned paddling technique and how to work as a team. Our LOD James was the lead paddler on one boat, guiding the crew with strong strokes and braving the first of the rapids. We stopped on shore to share lunch and bask in the sun before hopping back in to head down the river. The afternoon brought more white water and class 3 rapids! After an action-packed day of rapids, we headed back to the campsite where we enjoyed a few competitive rounds of Blazo and tug of war. Hazel fought to the very last inch in a serious tug of war match that had the whole group hollering! With tired arms and rosy cheeks, we enjoyed a beautiful dinner together and (of course) Moonup before bed.
The next morning was an early wake up call to pack up camp, have breakfast, and head back to the river for more rafting! This morning of rafting had many more and bigger rapids to offer. Gus as an LOD in one of the boats did a perfect job leading his group, helping sync everyone’s paddle strokes to optimize the power. One of the rapids was so big it even swept Vikram straight out of the boat! This offered everyone a good laugh, but also cost him one of his crocs. We had some boat swapping after lunch, followed by some time jumping in the water and swimming. After a short time in the water the boys and girls ended up swimming to opposite boats, creating a friendly splashing competition. Cici sat at the front of the girl’s boat leading us in some classic Disney songs like ‘Let it go’ and classic tunes from the Little Mermaid.
After a quick shower, it was time for the drive to our newest campsite at Lake Tahoe. During the ride, Leslie revamped her friendship bracelet making skills. She is starting with the classic ‘candy stripe’ style and hopes to work her way up the ‘Chevron’ bracelet. Upon our arrival to camp we set up tents once more and found another river! We spent the afternoon by the river before a big dinner of Greek pita wraps, which were a huge hit. After finding out her headlamp had died Eleanor was in need of some help setting up her tent as the sun went down. Ansley and Leslie quickly stepped up, Ansley sharing her headlamp and helping put together the tent. After, we settled in a circle under a sky full of stars and had surprise popsicles for dessert! Everyone is looking forward to the first day on Lake Tahoe tomorrow!
Until Next Time,
Alli, Eleanor, and Andrew
June 29, 2023
Howdy from California 2C!
It’s Alli, Eleanor, and Andrew with your first update from the trip. It’s been an action-packed first three days for this crew! Our journey began on arrival day, where our excited group got to meet each other and enjoy the anticipation as everyone’s planes touched down at SFO. Luckily, everyone’s bags arrived safely, except Hazel’s, which made a small detour. While we waited for her duffel to arrive, we made a quick town trip into San Francisco for a surprise ice cream stop. We were able to use this time enjoying a sweet treat to learn everyone’s names and share stories about our pets. Then, back to SFO where Hazel was gratefully reunited with her checked bag. Soon enough, we were en route to our first campsite. Obviously, we stopped on the way for a classic first Moondance meal: pizza! After sharing this meal, we headed to camp where we learned about basic camp setup and etiquette. We pitched our tents, with help from none other than Fraser, who has been the ultimate help with setting up camp without even being asked. Once settled, we had our introductory Moonup under the stars before enjoying our first full night’s sleep in the tents.
The sun of day two rose quickly, as did our kids who were eager to see what California had in store. We ventured into Point Reyes to soak in the breathtaking rocky coastline. Our Leaders of the Day [LODs], Cici and George, met with the local park ranger to scope out the best spots. First, we hiked to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, descending, and ascending over 300 steps along the way! Next, we hiked down to the beach for some sea lion watching and listening. Everyone enjoyed watching them play around and lounge in the water, but a few did have an opposition to the fishy smell… We finished the morning with a picnic under the cypress trees. We couldn’t leave Point Reyes without poking around the quaint downtown area first. There we enjoyed the various thrift stores and surf shops. Back at camp, a few matches of football ensued before chowing down on our Taco “Tuesday” dinner. We followed up with the nightly Moonup, thanks to George stepping up to the plate with a quote and “nug jug,” used to express gratitude. Not long after it was time to rest up for surfing the next day!
And now, the dawn of Cici’s birthday is upon us! Newly 12 years old, Cici woke up to streamers, balloons, and donuts accompanying our bagel, bacon, and fruit feast. After singing happy birthday and fueling up, we packed up camp and headed to Pacifica! The rest of the afternoon was spent tearing up the waves in Pacifica thanks to our amazing outfitters who gave us a surfing lesson. Gus was the first to catch a wave on his board, quickly followed by Olivia who ventured the furthest from shore for bigger waves! Wiped out from our time riding waves, we headed to our campsite at Half Moon Bay. After setting up camp, Ansley and Leslie led a group of girls in a spikeball tournament while Vikram tried in vain to help Alli and Eleanor set up a community tarp. It only took another hour and putting a few heads together, but soon enough we had built a shelter from the wind where we had Moonup later in the night. With camp settled, we explored the beautiful beach area just steps away from our tents. James and a few boys threw a football, having to fish it out of the water countless times, as the rest of the crew gathered around for an intense game of mafia. We walked back from the beach for Andrew’s delicious pasta dinner, followed by a warm Moonup with hot chocolate, birthday cake, and a huddle underneath our sturdy tarp.
This morning was an early call to action to get to the beach for more surfing! It was a cold and windy morning, but the kids absolutely rocked it. Our instructors were so impressed by their amazing attitudes and impressive ability to keep soaring through the waves despite the chill in the air. Isabelle caught some of her best waves this afternoon and expressed her excitement along with a request for a long soak in a hot tub afterwards. We showered off the salt water and bid our surfing outfitters goodbye. As a reward for our group’s success and positive attitudes, everyone got a taco from the coveted beachfront Taco Bell.
Next stop: American River! The ride there was full of jams, snacks, and a few naps with a picnic stop in the city along the way. Upon our arrival we went down to the river as a group. Almost everyone took the polar plunge into the ice-cold water, and Maysey Sims was one of the brave souls that dunked her head and stayed in to tread in the chilly water. Now settling into our new campsite, we are getting ready for another day of wetsuits, except this time we will be on rafts! Stay tuned for the next update about our adventures white water rafting!
June 25, 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!