June 22, 2023
Hello, Family and Friends of Canyonlands!!!
At the beginning of the trip, I warned the students that our first few days together would feel slow and then the next ten would fly by. We all agree, sitting here together at the airport, that that is exactly what happened. Acquaintances turned into lifetime friends, a bond formed out of hiking, cooking, sleeping, and laughing together for two weeks straight. Brita and I are so proud of how far this group has come. Each, regardless of previous experience, is leaving better versed in the outdoors and how to enjoy our great planet. More importantly, they were each incredibly kind, thoughtful, adventurous, and caring to one another. Brita and I are happy to have spent these days getting to know them, and we left them with a promise: if they ever need us for anything we are only a text or phone call away. Text me next week or in 5 years, I will be there faster than you can say “Nugs!”.
Now for a recap of our last couple of days together. We got off the river soaking wet. Not from rapids, but from Lauren throwing everyone in the water like it was her mission (I believe this was talked about in our previous trip update, but it is worth mentioning again. She has some competitive spirit in her!). Kirk and Edmunds CRUSHED the gear cleanup with the guides. Edmunds was running around with his bandana and handmade sleeveless shirt on, carrying more gear than anyone else. The guides really appreciated their help, and I was so proud of their selfless group attitude.
We loaded up in the van for another roundtrip, this time back up north towards Park City. At the beginning of our trip long van rides were sometimes accompanied by awkward silences or a smattering of small talk. No more. Jack had us jamming out to our unofficial official artist of the trip: Taylor Swift. Andrew sparked conversation whenever it started to die down. All of us enjoyed the scenic views of snow-capped mountains with deep red canyons below. The variety here in Utah is incredible, and it has quickly become one of my favorite states ever. We arrived at camp late, but we NEVER miss a Moonup. We all bundled in our sleeping bags and the LODs lead us through a quick but thoughtful conversation. The stars beckoned us to sleep, and we rested and recovered from the past four days on the water.
Birdie, our LOD for the last day, organized a camp sweep early in the morning. We had places to be and sights to see. She did a terrific job directing everyone as we gathered our belongings and headed to the van. Henry helped me cook delicious breakfast burritos with avocado, and then we hit the road. Stopping at a local coffee shop, Brita and I passed out the famous Moondance paperwork. Each student wrote themselves a letter and a “25 Things” list which spells out 25 things they want to do in their lifetime. These letters will be mailed to them next year, and it is always amazing to see the growth in each student in that short amount of time. After cleaning the van (and giving out new hairdos courtesy of Isabella and a vacuum) we went to the student’s favorite place: a shower. We cleaned up and bought ridiculous outfits at a thrift store. My personal favorite was Will. He opted for the classic look of a tie and scuba goggles, which he wore almost the entire dinner. Willa impressed all with her uncanny ability to remember hometowns, birthdays, and full names. Seriously, she did not get a single detail wrong about the entire group and it is a testament to her thoughtfulness. Carlisle and the rest of the girls had a great deal of fun putting mascara on my eyes mid-dinner. I have two sisters; I’m used to it.
For our final Moonup, we pulled over to a scenic overlook in the Aspen tree forests outside Park City. The sun set over the green mountains still sprinkled with snow patches, the orange light danced through the clouds, and we circled up for the last time as a group. Caroline led us through a ten-minute version of “Follow You to Virgie”. Each time she tried to wind down the song, we begged her for another verse. Andrew and Birdie asked our final questions, and we ended Moonup with a giant group hug and wolf howls from William.
To lead your kids on a Moondance trip is such a privilege. The location is irrelevant. We could lead Moondance trips in a field on a farm and still have these impactful, lasting changes. The only ingredient us leaders need is a group of students that are selfless enough to try new things and share their wonderful personalities with each other. Combine that with a beautiful landscape with panoramic views on every bend, and heart-racing exciting activities that push our comfort zones, and you are left with the trip of a lifetime. To provide a safe and loving space for each student was Brita and I’s goal, and we are so excited for them to share their stories. Buckle in, there is a lot to tell. Please reach out to Brita and I with any questions or comments about the trip. I LOVE to hear from parents after the trip and how their kids are doing after the trip. My Moondance trip was a life-changing moment for me, and I hope to have had the same impact. Students, please stay in touch. We are here for you always.
Nugs to All,
Layton + Brita
Thank You Messages from students:
Henry: Thank you Mom and Dad for letting me experience this amazing trip! I love you all so much!
Edmunds: Thank you Dad and Mo for the awesome trip and experience. I love you so much!
William: Thank you so much mom and dad for giving me the opportunity to go on moondance because
this trip would not have been possible with out you guys. I love y’all see you soon.
Kirk- thank you so much mom dad and grandma I love you so much
Lauren- Omg, hey mom and dad thank you so much for such an amazing experience in Canyonlands. I
can't wait to tell you all about it when I get back. Love yall.
Caroline – Hi guys! Thank you so much for this trip. It was so much fun and I met some amazing new
friends! Can’t wait to see you and tell you about it.
Andrew – Thanks for sending me on this trip! I had a lot of fun.
Will – Hi Mom and Dad! We had so much fun on our trip and I cannot wait to tell you all about it!
Jack – Can’t wait to see everyone! I made a lot of new friends here and we had so much fun. See you
Birdie – HEY GUYS! Miss you and I am on my way home soon! Excited to tell you about everywhere we
went in Utah and Colorado. Thank you so much for this trip.
Willa – Thank you so much for allowing me to go on this trip! I had so much fun and am so excited to tell
you about our experiences!
Isabella – Love you all! Can’t wait to be home and see you. We all became so close and had so much fun
over these past two weeks. Thank you so much for providing this opportunity for me.
Carlisle – Hello fam! Miss you so much and cannot wait to tell you about all the hikes and rafting and
everything else we did. See you so soon!
June 21, 2023
Helloooo family and friends!!!! We are back from rafting! What an amazing experience!
We boarded our rafts 4 days ago and met our amazing guides, Ian, Louis, Jeff, Amanda, and Adana, and journeyed down the Dolores River! On the first day of rafting, there were lots of raft naps, talks, and concerts. Lauren, Willa, and I, Brita, shared some amazing conversations on the raft and then rested our eyes to the sound of waves crashing against our raft. All three of us agreed that it was a magical experience. We had friends singing us to sleep, as we heard an intense rap battle from another raft. After conquering the first day on the river, we arrived at our first camp. After we made our campsite home, the amazing guides prepared a wonderful spaghetti dinner for us. We all filled our bellies and reflected on an amazing day. Isabella and Edmunds led us in an incredible Moonup around the fire. We stayed up a bit longer after Moonup, and William was cracking some jokes alongside the crackling of the fire. After we convinced Layton that everyone was tired and went to “sleep,” Lauren, Birdie, and Caroline stayed up with me for an extra five minutes to help decorate camp for Layton’s 22nd Birthday tomorrow!!!!
The next morning arrived, and it felt like Christmas morning! We all sneakily got out of our sleeping bags and went to sit around the fire. We had googly eyeglasses on and sat there waiting for the birthday boy to make his appearance. Within a few minutes, Layton emerged and was greeted by the Happy Birthday song and silly-looking humans. That was not the end of the Happy Birthdays though! We all thought it would only be appropriate to sing him Happy Birthday 22 times in order for him to have an amazing birthday. So that is what we did! The day was filled with lots and lots and lots of singing, birthday wishes, heartfelt gifts and letters from the kids, and quality time. We boarded the raft for another adventure on the water. We all rotated paddling and resting on the rafts. Carlisle was an all-star paddler. Our guide, Adana, joined one of our raft concerts by singing the whole Ice Ice Baby rap. We all applauded her in awe. We started falling in love with the river. We had a yummy lunch picnic on the side of the river and shared all the riddles we had memorized with one another. In the afternoon, we conquered a few class 3 rapids and Adana applauded Jack on his natural paddling skills. We then arrived at our second campsite. Willa, Lauren, Birdie, and Caroline showed us how it was done by immediately jumping into the river once we arrived at camp. It was a polar plunge due to the ice-cold temperature. A few others followed in their footsteps! Everyone settled in and the games began! Jack led us in a game of intense Uno that was never finished because everyone had a million cards in their hand. We all accepted our own defeat. Layton led everyone in a card game of Presidents. We then filled our bellies with yummy chicken tacos. Our hearts and bellies were full. Again, we built a fire, and Caroline and Kirk led us in a heartfelt Moonup under the stars, to the sound of the river waves and lit up by the glowing campfire. We all gifted Layton a mug that said “The legend – best dad” filled with heartfelt letters from everyone and topped off the day with one last Happy Birthday song.
We woke up to another amazing day on the river! We woke up to a pancake breakfast and anticipation for what was to come. Today was the day we would attack the class 4 rapid called … snuggle tooth. We were ready! We boarded our boots, scouted the river, and made a game plan. The rapid didn’t know what was coming! We all chanted “I AM THE RAFT THE RAFT IS WITH ME,” as we started our journey. Drum roll please…. we all CONQUERED this rapid. The only thing that we lost was Henry’s hat to the great River Gods. We know that in some underwater kingdom, a sea creature loves their new hip hat. Andrew and Edmunds sat front row of the paddle boat and led the group with confidence. It was very similar to the log ride at Disney World, a rollercoaster ride filled with lots of water. After killing the rapid, we arrived at our third camp. We all thought this afternoon was going to be filled with reading and raft naps, but that changed very very quickly thanks to Kirk. As I sat on the boat, peacefully, very peacefully, calmly discussing the day with Willa, Kirk initiated a rafting civil war. I was bombarded with buckets of ice-cold water. Everyone scurried to find their own weapon, aka a bucket and began running through the campsite to make alliances, find good hiding spots, and drench one another in water. The whole afternoon was filled with screams and laughter. William tried being Switzerland to be neutral, but that quickly changed when Isabella dumped a bucket of water on top of his head. Andrew was a lone soldier against a group of four girls. It wasn’t long before the girls had him in the air and launched him into the river. After peace was established on the great Dolores River, with the help of the peacekeeper, Will, we all dried off by the river and ate a yummy hamburger and hot dog dinner. We topped off the day with s’mores and an amazing Moonup led by our Leaders of the Day, Will and Carlisle. The rafting guides joined in on this Moonup and shared advice with us all. We all slept under the stars, ever so grateful to be on the river.
We woke up to bagels and a few frowns because it was our last day on the river! We loaded up into the rafts and enjoyed our own last adventure on the river. Again, it was not the most peaceful ride because Lauren was tossing everyone into the river. No one was safe, except Carlisle managed to stay dry! Winner, winner chicken dinner! We arrived back at home base with some sun on our faces, amazing memories, and respect for the river. We all loaded up into the van and headed toward Park City. Henry kept the energy high by having everyone raise the roof while we sang our hearts out to some classic songs. We will miss you, river!
Father’s Day wishes/shoutouts:
Edmunds: Hey Dad, happy Father’s Day. I hope you had the best day ever.
Henry: Hey Dad, I hope you are having a lovely Father’s Day. I’ll see you soon.
Lauren: Hey Dad, I miss you so much. I am having the best time. We just finished our 4 day rafting trip today, and now we are on our way to park city!!! I love you and just wanted to wish you the happiest Father’s Day. Couldn’t ask for a better one!! See y’all soon!
Birdie: Happy Father’s Day!! I miss you so much and I can’t wait to see everyone when I get back! This trip has been fun! Lots of hiking and we just got back from rafting! Love and miss y’all!
Willa: Hi Dad! Currently, we are driving back from our four day rafting trip which you would’ve loved. I hope you had a good day and I’ll see you very soon.
William: Hey Dad I’m at camp right now and it is fun. I will see you very soon but I just wanted to wish you a happy Father’s Day see you soon.
Kirk: Hey Dad and Mom I am having a lot of fun. Happy Father’s Day Dad. I will see you in a few days.
Andrew: Happy Father’s Day Dad!!!!
Will: Happy Father’s Day Dad! I am currently on my way back from our four day rafting trip. I am having an amazing time, and I’ll tell you about it in two days!
Isabella: Happy Father’s Day Dad, you’re the best! Love and miss you guys so much. Having a ton of fun here but can’t wait to see everyone!
Jack: Happy Father’s Day Dad you are an awesome dad and I miss you so much. We just got back from the rafting trip and the water was so cold but it was fun! See you soon Dad!
Carlisle: Hey Mom and Dad! Miss y’all so much and happy Father’s Day Dad!!! Right now we are driving back from a rafting trip that was four days long and so fun. So excited to see you guys so soon and love you!
Caroline: Hey Mom and dad! Miss you!! Happy father’s day dad!
June 16, 2023
Friends and family, we are back!!!
My co-leader, Layton, and I are excited to report that we have made a home on Mars! We spent two nights in Zion National Park and slept under the beautiful red rocks. When we entered the park, we drove through a 5-minute tunnel through the rocks. As the light started to approach and the tunnel grew lighter and lighter, the anticipation started to build. By the time we emerged out of the tunnel, the OOOOOs and AHHHHs filled the van. We quickly pulled over to snap some pictures of the incredible landscape. We drove to our campsite nestled in the middle of the National Park and settled in by cooking some yummy stir fry for dinner. After our tummies were full, we circled up under the stars and by the rocks that were as tall as skyscrapers. We had a wonderful Moonup, led by Isabella and Jack.
The next morning, we woke up and caught the early shuttle to go explore the Emerald Pools in Zion! It was as amazing as it sounds! We started off the day by listening to Enchanted, by none other than Taylor Swift. Jack knew every word, and his love for T-swizzle has had a domino effect on this trip. We have decided that Mrs. Swift is now an honorary member of this trip. Lauren and Andrew used the map and navigated us through the trials in Zion. We gasped in admiration at not one, but THREE Emerald pools. Trail talk consisted of how to pronounce unique words like bagel, bag, and baguette, and the consensus was that South Dakota residents, like myself, are incorrect. This led to Jack, Lauren, Edmunds, and I creating our own language consisting of English words pronounced utterly wrong. Once we returned to camp, the afternoon was filled with games and a yummy pasta dinner.
The next morning, we woke up and hit the road! The car ride consisted of naps and jam seshes. Hats were turned sideways, and bug spray bottles were used as microphones. It was a full-on van concert! It was a production. Caroline even blessed us with her rapping skills. We made a pit stop at the park for a picnic lunch and then arrived at Arches! We hiked up to the arch just in time to see the golden sun start to hit the beautiful arch formation! Willa and Kiki exclaimed how this hike was the best hike of their lives! We explored the nooks and crannies of the many rock formations and took many selfies with the camera. Isabella hyped everyone up when they posed under the arch and took the infamous selfies. We could have stayed there all day, but we made a short venture to our AMAZING campsite. We camped in the middle of the Arches Park, and we were stunned by the beauty of the campsite.
Layton, Edmunds, and I cooked dinner as everyone used the rocks that filled our campsite as a playground. Will proved to all of us he would be a rockstar on American Ninja Warrior as he ran up and down the walls of the canyon. Henry also showed off his amazing rock-climbing skills. Before dinner, we all ventured to the edge of one of the rocks we called home to watch the sunset over the whole park. The orange, pink and yellow light of the sun reflected off the red rocks and we all concluded it was a green screen. It was too good to be real! We reflected on our perfect day over dinner. We didn’t think the day could get much better but… it did! We all climbed up into the canyon of one of the rocks to enjoy a Moonup! We saw the glow of each other’s faces with the help of a headlight attached to a water bottle and it was perfect. Caroline and Layton played the guitar and sang for us as we all soaked in the day. After the subtle talent show, Kirk and Carlisle, our LODs, led our unforgettable Moonup. To finish off the day, we all laid in the canyon searching for shooting stars.
We woke up bright and early the next day for yet another perfect day on Mars! We ventured into Moab to rock climb today! I was unaware that Spiderman was on this Canyonlands trip, but Andrew and Will absolutely scaled the rocks multiple times. Everyone did an incredible job and stepped outside their comfort zones and dominated this activity. Birdie showed us all how it was done by overcoming some fear of heights and then climbing the most difficult route! Everyone played the role of the climber and the cheerleader. Carlisle continued to encourage her friends with words of affirmation. We then followed our successful morning with some walking tacos! It was up for debate if we were eating a “walking taco” or “taco in a bag.” After lunch, we played an insane group game of Uno. This game was considered insane because it lasted as long as a good game of Monopoly and Kirk, the Uno King, managed to play a +15 card. Even though I was the lucky person who got to draw 15 cards, I was so impressed by this play. Competitive Uno spirits were high, and Kirk claimed the Uno-winning title. His win was so well deserved. This evening we were reintroduced to civilization, as we decided it was necessary to fill our bellies with burgers and milkshakes. We screamed our favorite songs in the van back to the campsite. After arriving at our campsite for the evening, we took a drive to the horse-shoe bend to have Moonup with a view. Birdie and William led us in an awesome Moonup as our hair whipped in the wind and we sat high up looking over a huge canyon.
The next day, we went canyoneering! Thanks to our guides, Kate and Aaron, we explored the beautiful canyons of Utah. We were waist-deep in ice-cold water and then repelled a 120ft drop. It was no joke, but everyone had a blast! The rocks turned into slip and slides and the native berries in Utah turned into a morning snack. Willa showed us how to repel like a rockstar. The Mars landscape still managed to impress us as we climbed, hiked, swam, and repelled through its beauty. The weather has been treating us so well. Our guide, Aaron, emphasized how this summer was the perfect summer to be in Utah! After a successful morning, we found a local park where we ate some lunch and played volleyball and hacky sack. The volleyball game went into overtime, but we finished it off with friendly handshakes. Henry was the winner of our favorite game, Psychiatrist. We then put on our swimsuits and went on a small hike to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It was a swimming hole…WITH A WATERFALL! Everyone quickly got in the water. William showed us how it was done by dunking his head under the fast-moving water. We all got our hair wet and felt alive. We swam, splashed, and stood under the waterfall all afternoon! After we finished up with the natural waterpark, we loaded back up in the van and made it back to camp for a yummy dinner and some smores! It was a great day for a good day!!
We are so excited for what’s to come and we can’t wait to update you with our next adventures!
-Brita and Layton
June 12, 2023
Hi Canyonlands Friends and Family!!!
My name is Layton, and I am so grateful to be one of your student’s coleaders for Canyonlands. Together with my Rockstar coleader Brita, we hope to help your kid explore Earth’s wonderful creations, feel empowered as leaders, and embrace their wonderful and unique personalities. All while having fun along the way, of course. We are so excited to be with this special group. Their energy and closeness as a group is already apparent. Laughter and smiles have been more abundant than the red rocks around us, and we cannot wait for the adventures the next twelve days will bring us. But first, let us recap the first 48 hours!
We started our trip in the Salt Lake City airport. Andrew was the first student to arrive. He is so positive and energetic, and he made sure to make every following student feel included from the start. The awkwardness that normally comes with every airport day was instead replaced by his welcoming personality. Kiki, Willa, Lauren, and Edmunds were the next batch of students to join our group, and they quickly dove into an energetic game of “Presidents”, while also sharing stories about our hometowns and hobbies. Caroline and Carlisle then came walking in from their flights with Brita, each with competing smiles. The morning quickly turned to afternoon, and we had twelve of our thirteen outstanding students. As we waited for our last evening arrival, we decided to trade the tile floors of the Salt Lake City airport for grass at the Sugarhouse Park. William, Andrew, Will, and Edmunds designed a brilliant game called Ultimate Basketball. Like Ultimate Frisbee, the person with the ball cannot move their feet, and instead must rely on athletic throws and catches to deliver the ball to the other end of the court. We played beneath the snowcapped Wasatch mountains for over an hour as Henry and Jack shared book recommendations and talked about writing. They really inspired the rest of the group to dive into a great book this trip with how captivating they described their most recent reads. Birdie meanwhile decided to rest from the long day of travel with a catnap in the sun. Lauren, Caroline, Carlisle, and Willa followed quickly after. Then the rest of the group. We basked in the sun until it was time for dinner.
Kirk and Henry accompanied me on the quick walk to pick up the pizza. Bonding over our shared love of cheese pizza, everyone swapped stories of hometown friends, sports, adventures, and of course pets. Isabella, our final arrival, walked in like a local celebrity, with the other twelve chanting her name and dancing with joy. She was bombarded with questions about her life, and she had the chance to answer them as we took the pizza to go on our drive to our first campsite. Lauren and Birdie helped organize a group playlist with everyone’s favorite hits, and we jammed out the rest of the evening. After arriving at our campsite, we quickly bundled up in sleeping bags and held our first Moonup. Moonup is a nightly tradition at Moondance where students ask and answer questions, share positive moments from the day, sing songs, and really start to develop a strong bond. It is what makes a Moondance trip a Moondance trip. After sharing a bit about what brought everyone to this trip, we quickly fell asleep. The students elected to forgo tents and camp cowboy style under the beautiful starry Utah sky. What could be better?
We awoke the next morning to a new view that was shrouded by darkness the previous night. Towering red rocks carved by ice and water seemed to beckon us to abandon our breakfast and run to our first stop: Bryce Canyon. Unfortunately for the rocks, Brita, Kirk, and Will had cooked an amazing breakfast consisting of cinnamon apple tortillas with honey, granola, and Nutella. We figured that Bryce Canyon was 35 million years old, it could wait on us another hour. After finishing our meal, we packed our water and lunches, and set off in our van.
Andrew and Jack lead the pack to our first hike of the trip: Navajo loop + Queens Garden + Wall Street. These three sections of trails are filled with rock canvases painted by water and time. White flows into red into yellow, and the landscape is unlike anything I have ever seen before. William and Isabella kept the group entertained and motivated the entire hike through conversation and the occasional motivational word. Before we knew it, we had closed the loop and arrived back at our van. The afternoon sunlight was still ours to enjoy, so we headed back to camp for naps and group games. Caroline and Lauren helped everyone make friendship bracelets, while the cook crew of William, Jack, and Willa cooked a delicious Mexican taco dinner. While everyone was cleaning their plates, Brita and I schemed on a plan. We told everyone to get in the van for a little dessert. As we drove back towards Bryce, instead of pulling into a nearby ice cream parlor we turned left to an old ranch. There a wonderful Rodeo was waiting for us, and we had tickets! We grabbed cotton candy and popcorn and watched professional cowboys handle bucking broncos and bulls, encapsulated by a setting sun over the Utah grassy planes. After a wonderful Moonup back at camp, we slept through the night. The next morning was brisk. We broke down camp, did a quick sweep practicing our new Leave No Trace principles, and set off for another day in Bryce Canyon. Brita and I gave the new LODs, Jack and Isabella, the power to go talk to the Park Rangers in the visitor center and design our daily hike. They settled on driving past Natural Bridge and hiking a loop trail near the top of Bryce Canyon. This hike was no joke, despite the distance only being two miles. We were at nearly 9000 feet elevation, so each breath felt shorter, and each step felt longer. Edmund and Carlisle were fantastic at pushing the group to the final push, Edmunds with his natural ability to lead a group through a tough situation, Carlisle with her infectious positivity. As we reached the summit, we were rewarded with views of Hoodoos and valleys, and we promptly sat down to eat our sandwiches.
As I am writing this, we are currently on our way to Zion National Park. We seemed to have skipped the acquaintance level of friendship. Conversations are getting deeper, laughter is coming from the belly, and our trip is diving headfirst into adventure. Soon our van will enter the tunnel into Zion National Park, and our group will feel as if they landed on Mars. We will report back with our findings very soon, and until then wish you all the absolute best!
Layton + Brita
June 9, 2023
Hello Canyonlands Families!
We heard from our leaders this afternoon and the group has landed safely in Salt Lake City! 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!