July 22, 2023
As our time has come to an end, Cleo and I just want to express our utmost gratitude for the opportunity to spend time with your amazing kids. This group has been so special and means so much to both of us.
On Thursday morning, we packed up our bags to leave the mountains in the south of France. We had a full travel day ahead of us as we made our way north to Paris. We had two buses, two trains, and a metro train. It was an adventure for sure! But once again this group persevered and made the most of it. Our train rides consisted of card games led by Katie and Thomas, journaling led by Caroline and Emma, and catching up on some summer reading led by Kaki and Justin. In between our two trains we had a little bit of a layover in Toulouse, France. Here we had the kids fill out some paperwork that all Moondance students participate in. The first one being an evaluation of the trip which gives them the chance to use their voice to share their opinion on the trip as a whole. The second being a letter to themselves. I think this is an amazing activity that we do at Moondance as kids are able to reflect on their time, experience, and memories by turning it into a letter to their future selves. They will receive the letter at some point in the next calendar year. It was really encouraging to see how everyone took this seriously when we asked them to fill this out. This group has a maturity level and depth that continued to impress and grow as the trip went on. We are so proud of them and they constantly encouraged us to grow and reflect as well. We finally made it to Paris late into the night, but just in time for Moonup led by Thomas and Caroline. We went to bed excited because we got the chance to explore Paris tomorrow!
We decided to sleep in a little bit because of our late arrival into town and sat down to a big brunch around late morning. Cooper tried coffee for the very first time, and actually loved it! Croissants and local ham and cheese sandwiches where enjoyed by all and was the fuel we needed to kickstart our day of site seeing and shopping. We rode the metro into the heart of the city and began exploring! Dustin took us to a local thrift store that he had previously been to and it was a huge hit. Tristan found a cool t-shirt that he sported the rest of the day and Madeleine found some gifts for some of y’all back home. We continued our tour around town stopping by Notre-Dame, The Louvre, and ending our day at the Eiffel Tower. As we walked, we had no choice but to get gelato once last time. We stumbled across a city fair on our way to dinner and Clementine encouraged everyone to go in the “fun house”. While we may have been the oldest and biggest people in the there, we definitely had the most fun. For our final dinner together, we sat down for a nice dinner near the Eiffel Tower. We enjoyed a little bit of everything from escargot, to burrata, to cheeseburgers, to poke bowls, we had it all. It was so delicious. After dinner we made our way over to the famous tower as the sun was setting. It was a perfect evening. As a little surprise, we decided to take the kids to the very top. It was amazing! As the night came to a close, the girls got matching Mona Lisa t-shirts as we headed back towards the metro to head home. Madeleine and Cooper led the group in our final Moonup that lasted into the wee hours of the night. We shared memories from the trip and we encouraged each other along the way.
Cleo and I are now sitting in the airport after watching your kids walk through security and are filled with so much sadness for saying goodbye, but with joy because we know it is also just a “see you later!”. Thank you again for sharing your children with us. It was a genuine joy of both of our lives.
With love,Baker and Cleo
July 20, 2023
We are writing this after just spending the last seven days hiking through the beautiful Pyrenees mountains. This is such a cool trip as we get to go from the mountains, to the beach, and then back to the mountains. It was such a magical time and we can’t wait to recount some memories for you all. Can’t believe our trip is almost over!!
Our first day of trekking started us on the “Trail of the Waterfalls”. We were in a forest following a river up the mountains where there truly were waterfalls around every turn. We stopped for a group lunch that consisted of classic peanut butter and jellies, crackers, and apples. This is really becoming a group favorite meal. In Caroline’s words, the meal is bombastic. At lunch, Thomas and Tristan waded out into the freezing water while the rest of the group enjoyed a nice nap on the rocks by the river. It was a really pleasant lunch break. The afternoon found us climbing some more of the mountains until we found our refuge for the night. Nestled in a valley, looking up at a glacier and mountain top, Refuge de Outellets became our home for the evening. Great food was had, Emma and Thomas led us in a wonderful moonup, and we slept soundly excited for the next day ahead.
The next morning we woke up with a big task ahead of us. A steep uphill climb to start off the day took us to the border of France and Spain. The group powered through the climb with an amazing amount of grit and made it to the top in just over an hour. Caroline and Emma definitely helped out by singing Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” all the way up. After making it to the top, started a long descent into the Spanish mountains. We followed a river in a valley for the rest of the day. It was beautiful! Justin and Tristan pointed out a few marmots far off in the grass while the Katie and Kaki wanted pictures with the cows. A young calf mooed at us as we walked by. This ended up being the longest trek we have had so far strolling into our refuge for the night in the late afternoon. This group is full of trekking rockstars. Dustin played some guitar for the group while we waited for dinner and Justin brought out his handmade chess board. We have tired legs but are ready for a good night sleep and to attack the trail again tomorrow!
Day three of trekking was magical. We slept in until a whopping 7:45am!! We enjoyed a great breakfast where Katie made toast for everyone. Our hike continued through the same valley as yesterday headed down towards the town of Torlo-Odesa. The morning went by fast as we cruised through the shade of a forest. We found our best lunch spot ever by a beautiful river. We ate chicken-salad sandwiches provided by our Refuge from the night before. Justin ate about five empanadas for dessert! After lunch we all enjoyed a dip in the freezing ice water. It was such a good refresher. We rolled into town around mid afternoon and found a little cafe where we got coffee and soda! Emma and Kaki ordered mozzarella sticks for the table. They didn’t last long!! After some downtime and nice showers, our mountain outfitters treated us to a nice dinner. Madeleine and Cooper led us in moonup and to bed we went!! A long hard day of hiking tomorrow was ahead of us.
We had a wonderful night sleep in our little Spanish town, but it was time to head back into the mountains again! We had a lovely breakfast at our hostel and then caught by the bus to ride into the Pyrenees National Park. We walked through a gorgeous valley that led to a huge waterfall! After a short little photo shoot, we had a steel uphill climb to our refuge for the evening. Madeleine and Katie led the way and we made it up to the top in no time. We had an amazing view waiting for us at our refuge. Once we arrived, we got settled in to our dormitory and then had some quiet time. I read a chapter of “To Kill a Mockingbird” out loud as the group fell asleep for an afternoon nap looking out over the mountains. After dinner, Emma and Dustin led us in a magical moonup as we were treated to the most beautiful sunset. We talked late into the night and the “altitoots” were in full force after our big ascent. It was a wonderful day!
We had a couple surprises waiting for us today! Our end goal was a refuge back on the France side of the mountains. Mattheo, our guide, took us on a special trail today, where we were able to see some wildlife! The Izard is the native animal in the Pyrenees that is similar to a deer. We saw almost twenty! Mattheo caught a local lizard and jokingly put it in his mouth acting like he was eating it only to spit it out a few seconds later. Emma said she was next! A couple hours of walking later, we stumbled across a cave. Justin and Tristan led us with headlamps into the darkness. It was filled with ice and rocks. Madeleine has now faced her fears of caves in the water while sea-kayaking and on land in the mountains! As we climbed up to the Spanish and French border, we were filled with excitement to get back into France, a country we have all come to love. When we were descending down to our refuge for the night, there was snow on the mountain. We all enjoyed letting our feet have some rest by sledding down the mountain instead of walking. Tristan and Caroline were especially talented at this. Right after the snow, we stumbled across a glacier lake where Thomas braved the cold and took a polar plunge. Justin and Cooper skipped rocks in this most picturesque place. We made it to the refuge and had another wonderful evening soaking up the views and enjoying time with one another.
We woke up to a beautiful sunrise as we started our descent to the French town of Gavarnie. The morning was difficult and long but once again this group persevered with wonderful attitudes. As rolled into town, we sat down at a cafe and enjoyed fresh sodas and coffees! We walked to a shady park next to the river and enjoyed Nutella and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Dustin was crazy enough to put Oreos, potato chips, and Nutella on a sandwich. Crazy. Thomas bought everyone mango popsicles which were enjoyed by all. After our long break, Mattheo led us to a four star hotel that overlooked one of the tallest waterfalls in Europe! Then we started an intense uphill section that led to what became our favorite refuge of the whole trek, Espagettes. Once we got to the top, we rested and celebrated our completing of the day. Another photo shoot led us to successfully completing the pyramid photo. Katie was brave enough to be the tallest point of the four section pyramid. It truly is a wonderful photo. Uno was played and memories were made until we fell asleep to the first mountain storm of the whole trip!
Time has flown by and we have made it to the final day of trekking. The morning began with a final steep ascend to another mountain pass. Rain was starting to fall as we arrived at the peak. After two hours of steep downhill, we found a lovely lunch spot by the river as the clouds parted and the sun started to shine. Thomas and Tristan found some frogs and made everyone hold them. As this was our last chance to polar plunge, everyone got in. It was so much fun. We are going to miss these gorgeous mountains. Our trek ended as we arrived at a parking lot by a huge lake. We were greeted by more wonderful Pyrénées Mountain Tours guides and they drove us down the mountains to the lovely town of Luz for the evening. After showering and getting organized we hit the town for a dinner of local pizza and crepes. The exhaustion of seven days of trekking started to hit the group as we did an early moonup and went to bed!
It is so crazy that our trip is coming to a close as we are heading to Paris today. This is such a special group of kids and we can’t thank you enough for sharing them with us! We are so excited to explore Paris for the day. Talk soon!
Baker and Cleo
July 12, 2023
We’ve had an incredible past three days in Spain kayaking on the Mediterranean Sea and soaking up the sun on the beach! Each day with these kids keeps on getting better and better.
For our first full day in Costa Brava we had absolutely nothing on the agenda which meant lots of time to relax and enjoy the gorgeous weather. After sleeping in we had some breakfast and headed down to the pool. Tristan joined the water aerobics class and was an instant natural! From there we headed down to the beach to grab some lunch. While it wasn’t the best meal we’ve ever had it definitely gave us something to laugh about. After lunch we saw a Pro-Kadima set and knew we had to buy it! Dustin and Katie were the Pro-Kadima stars and we had an absolute blast playing on the beach. We were still full from our late lunch so we went back to the campsite to shower and relax before having PB&J’s and a salad for dinner – it was a huge hit. We concluded our day with an awesome Moonup lead by Justin and Caroline and then fell right to sleep.
For our second day in Costa Brava we woke up a little earlier to catch a taxi to head out to meet our guides for our first day of Sea Kayaking. After a short instruction we were ready to hit the water. With Cooper’s background in rowing, he was an instant natural. After kayaking down the shoreline and into some caves we were all ready for a lunch break. We stopped on a beach and prepared our sandwiches while having some of the best lemonade we’ve ever had thanks to our sea kayaking guides. Kaki was a huge help in making and dealing out the sandwiches. After lunch we got back in our kayaks and headed towards the beach. After a long day we enjoyed some much deserved ice cream and got in a taxi to go back to our campsite. Clementine has introduced the whole group to the delicious ice cream combo of Nutella and Caramel. After a quick shower and change, we headed down to the beach to our cooking class for dinner. Thomas took the lead on preparing our main course, paella. Emma did a fantastic job preparing our lettuce, pesto, and cheese appetizers. After an incredible dinner we stayed on the beach for Moonup lead by Katie and Dustin then headed back to our campsite. This was such a lovely day and are continuously reminded of how great this group is.
Our last day in Costa Brava began with an early wake up as we headed down to the beach to meet our guides for our final day of sea kayaking. We headed out on the water and enjoyed the advantage of waking up early – smooth water! We went through some natural tunnels and into more caves. Madeline was very proud of herself for going into the caves as this was a major conquering of her fears. One of the caves was home to a family of bats and our guide said it was the most bats he had ever seen – gross and cool at the same time! While kayaking, I am pretty sure I never saw Tristan without a smile on his face. When we arrived at our lunch spot everyone was hungry and ready to hang out on the rocky beach. Our guides had brought snorkels for us to use during our break and Thomas and Caroline could not get enough of looking at all the fish while snorkeling! Snorkeling and kayaking is quite exhausting and everyone ended up taking a nap in the sun on the beach. After this much deserved rest, we headed back out onto the water to finish our sea kayaking. When we arrived back at the beach we couldn’t resist but to get ice cream one last time before heading back to our campsite. For our final night in Costa Brava we participated in a Moondance tradition: Iron chef competition! We split the kids into three groups as they prepared a three course meal. While we were thoroughly impressed by everyone’s cooking abilities, we are proud to announce that Caroline, Justin, and Cooper’s group has been declared the winner! They prepared a mango salsa for their appetizer, a bacon and turkey grilled cheese for their main, and sweet bread with Nutella and strawberries for dessert. It was a tight battle all the way to the end and we are proud to say that all of your kids can prepare a meal for themselves!
We are now in a van headed to Lourdes, France where we will start our Trek in the Pyrenees tomorrow. It is crazy to think we are already about to start our final activity with this group. We feel very lucky to be able to spent this time with them. We know they miss you all though! Here are a few words from all of them.
Cleo and Baker
Dustin: Hi mom and dad I miss you guys a lot and i’m so grateful i’m able to go on this trip. The views have been unbelievable and the trekking has definitely been challenging and we’re not even done. Julia, I hope you’re happy with your AP scores, made progress on your math class, and had a good pole vaulting camp. Aiden, I hope you’re feeling better and making lots of money. Make sure to give Cali some love for me.
Tristan: No, I don’t miss you guys. (JK) Please give reepy and poppy a treat from me!!
Justin: Hey mom and dad I can’t wait to get home to go to the beach with you guys. I just left Spain and i’m excited to go trekking in the Pyrenees. I miss you all a lot and I hope nala and biscuit are doing good. see you soon!
Cooper: Hey Mom and Dad! I love y’all and miss y’all so much! I hope y’all are having a great time. I’m having a blast. I’ve loved every moment and have enjoyed getting to know my group and experience life to the fullest. Tell everyone that i say hey and miss them. I can’t wait to see y’all! Love you!
Thomas: Hi mom hi dad I miss you and love u guys ps- dad i’ve gotten better and stronger and I’m coming back for that alpha spot harder than ever. and happy birthday mom I can’t wait to get back and cook with you. Tell reid I have a surprise for him and I miss him, love you all and I hope you are all safe.
Caroline: HI DAD AND MOM! This group and trip is soooooo much fun and I am having the absolute best time! best group and trip by far. we are currently on the way to the pyrenees from sea kayaking and I am so excited! I miss y’all so so much but also I never wanna leave these people and place. I love y’all so much
Clementine: hi momma and mink!! i am having THE BEST time ever and my group is so amazing. I miss y’all but I never wanna leave! love y’all!!
Emma: Hey fam!!! I miss y’all tons but i’m having the absolute BEST TIME EVER. we just finished sea kayaking in Costa Brava and we are headed to the Pyrenees. this trip is just so awesome and my group & leaders are incredible- I can’t believe I have to leave them in 10 days. i’m so excited to tell y’all all about this amazing experience!!!! also please tell my friends I miss them. Love y’all so so much
Madeleine: hi family I miss and love y’all so much! this trip has been incredible i’m having an amazing time and I love my group so much! tell my friends I say hi. happy early birthday mom and chris, also mom tell grandma happy late birthday!
Katie: hi mom and dad!! love and miss y’all so so much but I never wanna leave! i’m having the best time and my group is so much fun! tell bailey, murphy, and maggie I say hi!
Kaki: hey fam!! i miss y’all so much! Mu and J, I hope y’all had the best trips and groups. I am so excited to hear all about it and see pictures. mom and dad, I hope y’all had a great time at the beach! happy early birthday mom!! I hope you have a great day. tell all the roomies hi for me! we just finished sea kayaking in costa brava which was one of the coolest things I have ever done. the hiking has been fun and rewarding with the most amazing views. this trip is awesome and I am having a great time! please tell everyone hi for me! I love and miss y’all sooo much!
July 9, 2023
Bonjour from the TMB!!
What a wild and wonderful last five days it has been. These kids are not only incredible trekkers, but are rockstars when it comes to attitude and energy! In five days of trekking, our relationships have grown closer and our calves have gotten bigger. Here is a little look into what the day by day has looked like.
We began our first day of trekking by taking a bus to a gondola that took us up the trailhead up in the mountains. As we were getting our feet underneath us, there was a nice cloud cover for the majority of the morning. We were thrilled however when the sun came out right as we reached our hostel in the early afternoon. The rest of the day was spent lounging by the river. Most took naps, journaled, and read their books while Dustin and Cooper were off writing a song and playing guitar. We concluded the day with a delicious dinner and a beautiful MoonUp.
While our Fourth of July may not have been conventional, we made sure to include some festivities throughout the day. We handed out red white and blue necklaces and Emma wrote “USA!” on everyone’s knuckles. Trekking day two started with an uphill climb that led us to some amazing views of the French Alps and very high energy from all of us. We took our mid-day break in the small ski town of Les Contamines where Madeline and Katie purchased water guns and stickers. After a lunch of baguettes and an assortment of meats and cheeses, we were re-energized and ready to finish out the day. After hiking past many cows, we arrived at our hostel where we were greeted with more amazing views, a delicious dinner of vegetarian lasagna, and apple pie for dessert! I can’t wait for everyone to see the “Daily Vlogs” that Caroline has been giving the audience (you!) on our GoPro. She is very excited about it.
Day three started out with a major climb. A few long hours later, we made it to the top of the mountain where we celebrated by eating our apples and taking in the view. Justin and Tristan found a patch of snow nearby and had some fun by sliding down the hill on their stomach. After traversing along the ridge line we stopped in a perfect spot for a lunch that included a wonderful charcuterie spread. Because the morning was so tough we had a longer lunch break, Thomas entertained us by being the narrator in several games of mafia. A couple hours later we arrived at our beautiful hostel for the evening. What used to be an old cheese factory turned into our home. The late afternoon was filled with music and hanging out as Dustin and Cooper performed their new song for the group. Louis, our guide, made us a delicious fondue dinner that we all thoroughly enjoyed. Madeline and Katie were the rockstars of the evening as they took control of the dishwashing duties. We were treated to a beautiful sunset and our wonderful day ended.
It was an early wake-up call on day four as we had to race down into a valley to catch a public bus to our next trailhead. This morning ended up being the toughest part of our whole trek. It was steep uphill to the top of a mountain. I can’t say enough good things about how these kids kept pushing through to the very end. When it was most difficult, they kept pushing themselves and each other. There was a surprise for us at the top of the mountain however. This was the border between France and Italy! It was a really cool moment stepping into a new country for the first time. We descended down into the beautiful town of Courmayeur, Italy. This quickly became our favorite place of the trip thus far. We were treated to a beautiful hotel and a dinner out on the town. Charcuterie, pasta, pizza, and dessert were all on the menu. A wonderful MoonUp later, our full and tired selves went happily to bed.
For our final day of trekking the Tour du Mont-Blanc, we completed a nice loop that started and ended in Courmayeur, Italy. Our hike provided us with incredible views of Mont Blanc and the Italian Alps. Spirits were high on our last day of trekking in the TMB as Clementine talked about her dream of meeting the Survivor cast and Kaki showed off her cross country stamina. After concluding our hike in Courmayeur, we grabbed some ice cream before getting on a bus back to Chamonix. It was such a comfort to be back at the place we spent our first ever night together as a group! It was fun to see how much closer we had become since the last time we were there. Before heading back to our hostel for Moonup after dinner, we stopped in the Chamonix town square where the climbing world championships were being held. We watched the speed climbers in awe as Justin enlightened us on some of the typical rules and regulations at speed climbing competitions.
We said goodbye to the mountains and are now on our way to enjoy some much deserved relaxation on the beaches of Costa Brava, Spain. We are enjoying every second with your kids and cannot wait for the rest of our time together!!!
Baker and Cleo
July 4, 2023
We have an absolutely incredible first couple of days in France. These kids have gotten close and bonded faster than we ever could have imagine and it has been so fun to see these friendships flourish.
Our airport day was a bit stressful, but honestly, when is the airport not stressful. After a change in our train schedule, we faced a long wait in the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris. Thomas and Tristan entertained the group by buying a pack of tennis balls and playing catch. Card games and mafia also passed the time as it quickly became time to load the train. We had a three-and-a-half-hour train ride to Geneva, Switzerland where time went fast again as some took naps to help with the jet lag while some kept getting to know each other. Upon arrival in Geneva, our transfer company picked us up and drove us the short drive to famous Chamonix. We moved into our cozy little hostel and had a lovely first dinner, fantastic first Moonup (a pillar of Moondance) and then fell fast asleep.
The next day was full of fun. Caroline and Tristan were our first Leaders of the Day (LOD) as we took off on foot to explore the town of Chamonix. The beautiful streets are host to ski shops, local stores, cafes, and wonderful restaurants. Clementine and Madeleine led us into a cafe where we enjoyed some fresh coffee and pastries. Justin found some great souvenirs at a shop, and Cooper found a soccer ball that would provide us with much entertainment later. Katie showed off her soccer skills, we found a public field and quickly split up into teams. She put on a defensive masterclass and inevitably helped her team pull out the win. For lunch we found ourselves at a local burger place that gave us a little taste of home. After lunch, we walked back to the hostel and began the strenuous, yet fun, task of packing for our upcoming trekking section. Honestly, this can be very stressful, but I can confidently say that this group killed it. We introduced a new game to the group involving trickery and quick decision making. It has quickly become a fan favorite. Emma and Dustin continuously dominated. After dinner Caroline and Tristan led us in Moonup. Kaki helped all the girls get ready for trekking by taking time to braid everyone’s hair. She is such a helper! Our energy is high, and everyone is doing great. Can’t wait to hit the trail tomorrow. Be in touch soon!
Baker and Cleo
July 1, 2023
Hello Chamonix Families!
We heard from our leaders this morning and the group has landed safely in France! 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!