July 26, 2023
Hello Canyonlands Friends and Family!
I want to say thank you. Thank you for allowing us to borrow your 10 wonderful students for our two-week adventure. They traded beds for ground-pads, hot showers for lake swims, family for strangers, and in return I hope they received the adventure of a lifetime. One of my favorite quotes by Henry David Thoreau states: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… I wanted to live deep and suck the marrow out of life”. I have always identified this quote because it perfectly encapsulates all that I love about the outdoors. In the desert, our group of 12 had to live deliberately, with intention and teamwork. Simple necessities that we take for granted, such as shelter or water, became prized treasures that our group worked together to cultivate and maintain. In return, nature gifted us the time to reflect, a brief period without a phone or social media. We were with the company of 11 other amazing individuals which we could laugh, cry, and lean upon. We faced daily challenges: heights, heat, dirt, group squabbles, more dirt, but instead of lamenting all that we had lost, we rejoiced in what we had. From this gratitude, and from an emphasis on living in the moment, our group lived deep. I hope each student remembers this feeling and takes it back with them. The joys of home will fade, routine will return, and the woods will become a memory that is a poor reflection of the true thing. However, if the students are willing, this feeling of gratitude and love for pushing one’s comfort zone will last and domino into other areas in their life. At least that is Brita and I’s hope. As amazing as it is to grow more proficient in the woods, Moondance is, at its core, about the people and developing a growth mindset, and I hope you see traces of this in the students as they return to their lives.
That’s enough of that, let us return to the story. The story of 12 travelers adventuring around Utah. This time, we find them leaving the enormous Colorado river and driving up to Salt Lake City in preparation for their departure.
Edwards woke everyone up in his anticipation of breakfast. Brita and I had purchased oatmeal with “dinosaur eggs” in them, and Edwards was so excited to try them again. Personally, this was my first time, but the oatmeal was fantastic, and the sugar eggs really enhanced the flavor. After our morning fuel, it was time to begin everyone’s favorite part of Moondance: the cleanup! We drove to our local car wash and began to clean every inch of Van Gogh and Escargot. Jack and Caroline really took charge, with Jack utilizing our power washer to rinse and scrub the vans, while Caroline expertly lead the other students in our gear organization. As Jack finished his polishing touches, Caroline finished organizing all five tents, and Brita and I were full of gratitude. I also need to shout out Marina and Eloise for helping clean our lovely dishes from the whole summer. Fun! We loaded up into our vans with full laughs and empty stomachs. Carter expertly curated our aux (her music taste is beloved by the whole group!) as we drove to pick up a nice picnic lunch.
Hayes helped me purchase bread, olive oil, cheese, and meat (who knew this was the France Moondance trip), and we promptly found a nice, shaded table to feast. Laughter was abundant as this group has really reached its potential. Robert might hold our summer record for Soda’s down! From there we headed to a Moondance tradition: the thrift store. Each trip we take the students to a thrift store to buy ridiculous outfits to wear to banquet. It seems silly, and it is, but it also is a wonderful opportunity to practice self-confidence. I find that when students wear their outfits, they are practicing expression without fear of judgement from the public, and it is very empowering. Crawford embraced his inner “lax bro” with his Hawaiian shirt and a used lacrosse stick found for $5. Stella went all out, dressed up in a red wig remnant of Annie. We laughed and left the store singing “Tomorrow” for the whole parking lot to hear. Next stop: dinner.
We call ahead to our restaurant to ensure they know we will be coming dressed up and a bit loud. This restaurant is more than okay with it, but we still attract some eyes as we burst open the front door to the venue. Our group of twelve strode past the other tables with shoulders held back and full confidence. Arriving to our table, we sat down and eagerly looked over the menu. We can order food today and have lemonade for all, what luxury! After delicious meals of mac and cheese, salmon, and burgers are finished we returned once again to our vans for our last ride of the day. We zoomed past Aspen trees as we progressed through the Wasatch mountains to our campsite. The views were incredible, with a blazing sunset painting a rainbow on far away rain clouds across the valley. We even saw a MOOSE!!!!! I have been wanting to see one all summer, so I was flushed with excitement. We parked the vans, unloaded our gear, and sat around for our final Moonup. Eloise and Marina passed around sticks and smores as we settled down in our last circle. I can’t share much about what is said, it is a sacred time, but there were songs sung, triumphs celebrated, woes shared, and above all, love and respect given to all. With the final tears wiped out we stood up for a final group hug. In that moment, it was evident that whoever we were before these two weeks had been altered. We had morphed into a single unit, a group of friends and family whose bonds will be everlasting. We had sucked the marrow out of life. Physically we will be apart tomorrow, but the love for one another will persist and will shape these students lives in the future. I look forward to hearing all about it.
With Love and Gratitude,
Layton and Brita
Caroline – Thanks so much for letting me go to moondance, it was a blast. Love y’all and excited to see y’all when u get back.
Carter- thank you so much for letting me go to moondance it was so fun and such a great experience love you
Crawford/ Jim- Thank y’all for giving me this opportunity to try something new and meet new friends.
Marina- thank you so much for letting me go on this trip I loved it so much and I can’t wait to see you guys! Love you!
Eloise- thank you for giving me this opportunity to go on this trip! It was so much fun. See you all soon. Love you
Robert-thank you for this trip. It was a unique experience and I’ve never done anything like this before.
Jack- Although at first I may have resisted your attempts to get me on this trip, I have realized that it was an amazing decision made by you to send me here so that I could meet 11 amazing people
Stella- Dear Mom and Dad,
Thank you so much for paying for this opportunity for me I am so excited to tell you about all of the friendships I’ve made and all of the experiences that happened! Love you!!
Edwards- Dear Mom and Dad,
Thank you for setting this trip up and paying for it. I have made great friends on this trip and will never forget the memories I made while in Utah. Love you guys.
Hayes – mom and dad thanks for the trip
July 25, 2023
Hello Canyonlands lovers!
Mars has been treating us so well! Yesterday we got back from four days on the river! It was INCREDIBLE! The rafts were filled with OOOs and AHHHs, singing, sleeping, reading, and chit-chatting. We were guided by our four wonderful raft guides Abo, George, Mike, and Nathaniel. The first day on the river was nice and relaxing. We loaded up on the boats early in the morning and were oozing with excitement. The first few hours on the raft, I braided the girls’ luscious locks, we all read our books, discussed our favorite movies and why, and fell asleep to the crashing waves. We were in awe of the vast beauty that Cataract Canyon had to offer. Abo was also part geologist, so we had the opportunity to learn the history of what surrounded us! After we had an exhausting morning of relaxing, we made a pit stop on the side of the river for some yummy sandwiches and a swim break. The ground was half sand half clay, so Hayes took it upon himself to start a… MUD WAR. Before we knew it, everyone was covered in clay and mud. We were all a mix of muddy handprints, tic tac toe, and unrecognizable muddy artwork. Carter turned the mud war into a mud spa. Caroline, Stella, Eloise, and Marina followed in Carter’s revolutionary footsteps. The girls all waited patiently for their sandwiches, while their mud face masks dried. After our bellies were full and mud was everywhere, we loaded back up into the rafts to continue our journey down the canyon. That evening we pulled up to our very own private beach, which we called home for the first night! Crawford and I drew “MOONDANCE” in the sand to establish our territory and scare off any other river travelers. We ate a yummy pasta dinner, enjoyed the beach, and had a Moonup around the fire. Crawford and Stella led us in a wonderful Moonup, the raft guides joined us, and we discussed our favorite seasons and life lessons. We fell asleep to shooting stars and the sound of crashing waves. It was a perfect day!
The second day on the river was very similar to the first day! We napped, read, talked, jumped into the water, floated down the river, and laughed at the jokes that Robert would bless us with. For lunch, we feasted on some yummy wraps! It was not until we loaded up onto the rafts that I realized that this group was filled with bookworms! The reading continued, books were shared, and storylines were compared. It was another perfect and relaxing day on the river, prepping for our 28 rapids tomorrow! We arrived at our private beach, made it home, and played some card games. Crawford led everyone in a round of hearts. He and Layton claimed the hearts titles! After a few rounds of hearts, we played a few rounds of Presidents where Jack became the President of the beach in Cataract Canyon. We ate some yummy chicken tacos and followed that up with an awesome Moonup led by Caroline and Edwards.
Rapid day!!!! We divided into our rafts and based on a unanimous vote we went with a girls raft and a boys raft. This led to some natural competition on the river based on who was more in sync, faster, and better paddlers (the girls obviously won – not that I am biased or anything). The girls named our wonderful and precious raft, Amelia. Amelia kept us safe the whole day and we fostered some of the best memories with her. About five minutes into our journey, the boys started a splash war, which they won. Eloise and I sat in the front of the raft and protected our friends from the huge waves that tried to flip Amelia. Rapid number 20 put Amelia to the test, Carter, Caroline, and I went swimming. This unexpected swim was our favorite memory of the day! We emerged from the water dying with laughter. After our first swimming experience, we decided to voluntarily swim rapid number 23. It was SO AWESOME. We all linked arms and floated down the real-life wave pool. For lunch, we made some homemade pizzas and then continued down our TWENTY-EIGHT RAPIDS. That evening, we recapped our amazing and adventurous day, ate some hot dogs and burgers. With heavy hearts, since it was the last night on the river, Robert and Marina led us in one final Moonup. We discussed our future plans and what our B+ superpowers would be. I learned that Caroline hopes to sneeze 100-dollar bills, Hayes wants pick-up trucks to appear on command and Jack would be invisible when he closes his eyes. It was a wonderful trip down the beautiful Cataract Canyon! The next day, we thanked our amazing guides and loaded back into our vans. We belted out Shallow and drove out of the gorgeous canyon. We all left a bit of our heart in Cataract Canyon. Here is to one more amazing day together and safe travels home!
July 21, 2023
Hello Canyonlands Friends and Family!!!
My name is Layton, and I am so grateful to be leading your kids during these two weeks in beautiful Utah. We have already experienced so much: three national parks, a state park, rock climbing, and canyoneering. From snow caped mountains to red rock canyons, we have been laughing and smiling our way across the state. I am already so proud of this group. Their growth has been tangible, you can see it in the way they beam with pride as they stand next to their perfectly set up tent or as they serve a wonderful camp meal. We are learning unknown sides of our personalities, exploring our capabilities as vast as the landscapes around us, and enjoying the natural beauty that wakes and sets us to sleep each night. Without further introduction, lets recap the past few days!
As we left Bryce Canyon behind us, we set off for beautiful Zion National Park. It is one of the most popular parks in the nation. As you enter the park, you immediately understand why. Rocks shaped through millions of years of wind, as smooth as a pool table and varied in colors, dominate the landscape. To either side is a mountain that could be its own national monument. Seriously, plop any of these in the Southeast and people would drive hours to see it. And we have hundreds of them circumnavigating the highway. The students were in awe as we set down into our campsite, nestled in the valley of this great wonder. Crawford remarked that this was one of the most beautiful sites he had ever seen, and Robert retold stories of his last time here with his family. He was beaming with joy as he remarked that he has now seen this park in the springtime, with its snow-covered peaks, and the summer. After turning around to see the views until we all got dizzy, we crashed in our tents.
The Narrows is a once-in-a-lifetime hike that is set in the heart of Zion. The Virgin River has carved this landscape for millions of years, and we were set to hike directly upstream to see its results. As we entered the river, we all laughed and grimaced as our toes became numb to the cold water. We enjoyed the cold; it provided much needed contrast from the desert heat. Jack had a field day looking for his favorite rocks in the river, and Hayes took every opportunity he had to wade in the water. We are beginning to think he is half fish. Our group eventually encountered a fork in the river, and Crawford told us to head upstream to the right. It was a small, unpromising stream. Hardly comparable to the flowing river we were currently in. However, Crawford raced off, and we were to follow. What lied beyond was heaven on earth. We encountered waterfall after waterfall, and our guide Crawford was there to get everyone up and over each 3–5-foot waterfall as we pushed further into the canyon. Sarah was an absolute trouper and kept the vibes high as she expertly traversed each obstacle. Edwards was always available for a supporting boost or hand. The group could not have carried on without him. After a few miles, we took in our surroundings, and then headed back down the river, enjoying the current working with us this time.
Goodbye Zion. Hello Moab. A couple-hour van ride took us across the state. Carter was on aux duty, and provided an amazing mix of Zach Bryan, Mt. Joy, Caamp, and T-swift (I have now memorized several Taylor Swift songs this summer courtesy of my campers). Marina made sure the hype everyone up and sing along to each song during our travels. We finally pulled in to Arches National Park, and set off for our evening program: Delicate Arch. Caroline was our LOD and she guided us like an expert to the natural wonder. Along the way we stopped for a sunset Moonup, with a view of the La Sal Mountain range. One of my favorite Moonup spots I have ever had.
We went to sleep quick, as we had an early morning waiting for us. It was time for ROCK CLIMBING! We arrived early to beat the heat, and our guides took us to a fantastic location. We scrambled up the dirt hills to reach the red rock cliffs jutting out of the ground like a fractured bone. Asa wowed the crowd by summiting almost every route the guides set up. Eloise also tackled the rocks like a champion. Edwards and I did a speed-climbing challenge. I won, but not by a lot, and I really enjoyed the competition.
After rock climbing, everyone was understandably a bit tired and sweaty. That meant it was the perfect time for a hike! Or at least that is what Brita told everyone. In reality, we were on our way to get showers. Everyone cheered as they realized the misdirection, and we all ran to the rec center. There we swam, enjoyed the sun, and finally got clean after days of being in the wilderness. Stella led us all in group pool games, and we had a blast just acting like kids and splashing around.
Such a special day needed a grand finale. So we got hamburgers, fries, and shakes at our favorite spot: Milts. Everyone feasted like kings and queens as we retold the day and laughed at our new inside jokes. However, a food coma quickly joined our table, and we rushed off to our sleeping bags. Adventure is hard work y’all.
Wishing you all the best!!
Layton and Brita
Jack – Hey mom and dad! The trip has been really fun. I am having a lot of fun here in Utah and with the other campers!
Caroline: Hey mom, just letting you know that you were right about the shoes my feet are blistered, but I don’t regret the high tops cause they look cool. I’m having fun I met a few really great friends that I can’t wait to tell you about. Love you!
Carter- Hey mom, I’m having the best time it’s so pretty here and everyone is so nice. My ankle still hurts but it’s getting better. Love you!
Stella – Hey mom and dad, I have met so many genuinely amazing girls and boys on this trip who I have connections with and hope to see again soon. My favorite part of this trip was either hiking in the narrows or going to the pool/water park. Love you!
Eloise- Hey Mom, Dad, T and C. I am having so much fun here! I have met so many amazing people who I can’t wait to tell you about! It is pretty here but really hot. I miss you all and love you guys so much! See you in a couple of days❤️
Edwards – Dearest birth givers, I am enjoying my time with my new friends in Utah. I am excited for Blowing Rock but do not want to leave moondance. See you soon.
Robert- Dear mom and dad, I’ve been having fun on moondance has been fun and I’m looking forwards to seeing you again. Bye.
Crawford/ Jim- Dear family, I am loving my time with my new friends and exploring new things. I am taking y’all to the narrows at some point in the future. See you soon Jimmy.
Hayes – Dear ma and pa I am having fun on this trip.
Marina- Hi mom and dad I am having so much fun on this trip! I have met fun great people and see such cool and pretty things. I love you guys and I miss you so much!
July 16, 2023
Hello Canyonlands family and friends!
We are writing from Mars, aka Zion! It is “my favorite place on Earth,” according to Robert. This afternoon we had a beautiful and scenic drive into the park. We sang some Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna, Pitbull, and Taylor Swift mixed with some classical music for the ambiance. It was a surprisingly wonderful mix of music and did not give everyone music whiplash as you may have assumed. After we arrived to an intergalactic wonderland, we settled into camp but who knew that Mars was incredibly hot? Not us! We decided to cool down in a beautiful river near our campsite. Everyone jumped in, via rope swing or with their two legs. It was a perfect way to cool down and have some fun. Stella, Marina, Carter, and Sarah led the group in “un-tie the human knot” and clapping games. After we played around in the river, we ventured back to camp to drink some Capri Suns, ate some appetizers, and enjoyed each other’s company. Robert dug into the temporary tattoos and is now rocking a skull on his right cheek. The other students (and leaders) followed. Edwards is rocking a nice collarbone tattoo and some, as in six, awesome and colorful hair clip-ins. Edwards inspired Eloise and they are now colorful hair twins. While temporary tattoos were being applied and colored hair was being clipped in, Hayes was thrilled to eat some local Utah beef jerky. It’s the little things. This morning we woke up and hiked in Bryce Canyon National Park! It was orange, unearthly, and incredible. Carter showed off her griddy-ing skills and Sarah captured all of the beauty on her Go-Pro.
Airport day was only two days ago, but we feel like we have known each other forever! Jack was the first student to touch down on Mars and Eloise’s and Hayes’s spaceship was not too far behind. After playing rounds of card games at the airport, everyone arrived safely. We were off! Our first stop was Yuba Lake. Before we had unloaded the van, everyone was running at full force, towards the lake. Crawford played some frisbee, Caroline led the group in some Marco Polo and Edwards rallied some friends to play hacky sack. It was a perfect evening on the lake! After we splashed around for a while, we set up camp and had our very first Moonup! We talked about our dreams and aspirations and Layton, and I sang a slow (very sentimental – aka not sentimental) rendition of Hotline Bling. It was INCREDIBLY moving. At the end of Moonup, the new LODs (Leaders of the Day) were nominated. Congrats to Eloise and Crawford! They took on a bit more responsibility the next day, got the group hype, and led by example. After Moonup, everyone was exhausted after their long travel day, so we all snuggled up into our sleeping bags, watched for shooting stars, and fell asleep. Eloise saw our very first shooting star of the trip!
The next morning, we awoke to the bright sun! We started off the day by making a Moondance classic breakfast – the Davis. This yummy and scrumptious breakfast is similar to a breakfast burrito, but it includes cinnamon apples and any toppings of your choosing. Robert made a double-decker tortilla glued together with Nutella and peanut butter, with of course, apples on the inside. Sarah helped whip up this amazing breakfast. Thanks Sarah! With some full tummies, we loaded up into the van and headed toward Pine Lake National Forest. Stella led everyone in some van dance parties. Upon our arrival at Pine Lake, similar to the day prior, we ran into the lake before we could even unload the van. Asa, Caroline, and I found a GORGEOUS crystal-clear creek with light blue water rushing into the large lake. We decided to make this picture-perfect spot our home for the afternoon. We talked about our favorite books and some fun childhood memories. Everyone quickly picked up on the beauty of our secret spot and joined us! We all decided to journey down the creek into the lake to have a … MUD FIGHT. Hayes, Caroline, Asa, Jack, Layton, and Robert participated in the most intense mud war. Luckily, we did not have any fallen soldiers, just some muddy soldiers. Once our bellies started grumbling, we walked back to camp to eat some chips, guac, salsa, and make-shift Chipotle bowls. Jack helped cook this amazing dinner! Chipotle chefs better watch out for the Jack attack, aka chef genius. Once we were full, we all loaded up into the van to “go get ice for the cooler,” which quickly turned into a surprise trip to the rodeo!!!! We talked on the bleachers, braided each other’s hair, and watched the cowgirls and cowboys do their things! It was a perfect evening! Marina and Eloise, with their perfectly braided hair, led everyone to the van and our van concerts continued all the way home to our campsite.
We are so excited to see what the next 11 days have in store for us!
Peace and love from Mars,Brita and Layton
July 14, 2023
Hello Canyonlands Families!
We heard from our leaders last evening 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!