June 20, 2023
Hello COT family and friends!
Welcome to ropes course and ziplining day! The kids woke up to the smell of hashbrowns and eggs as a new day began. We all approached the ropes course in awe, as some of the course was mountain high! The guides explained that there were four levels: green, yellow, blue, and black. All the kids started with green, with Henry S and Hudson speeding on through to yellow and blue in no time. Lindley and Owsley impressed all, including the guides, by making their way to the black-level courses and completing them in a seemingly effortless fashion. Henry C., Emme, and Knox continued to face fears by challenging themselves to complete some riskier portions with impressive bravery. After waiting out a short rain shower, our team moved on to the zipline course. Our guide informed us that we zipped down the oldest Zipline in Colorado, built in 2005! The rain chased us as we went through the course and we ended up ziplining parallel on the last course, the perfect opportunity for a race! Dahra laughed out loud as he got stuck in the middle of his zip and had to pull himself in, keeping the spirits high in the rain. After a fun-filled day, we headed towards the famous Great Sand Dunes National Park for our day in the desert!
Our adventure at Great Sand Dunes started long before sunrise, but with a little motivation, the group packed up and headed for what was one of the hardest hikes of our trip so far. We parked near the dunes, only to find the creek we needed to cross had doubled in size due to rainfall. We crossed safely but decided shoes would only slow us down, we all took off in socks and bare feet for Star Dune. The dunes were tall, and hiking was tough when every step melted beneath us. Despite the difficult terrain, we made it to the top of the largest sand dune in North America, just in time to watch the sunrise roll across the dunes beneath us. We sat for what felt like hours, Louise and Lindley took turns writing out Moondance in the sand, and others took naps in the sand. Eventually, we decided to head back towards the van, but not before breaking out some sandboards to shred! We waxed our boards and after a quick lesson on boarding, Genie was the first to shred the slopes followed by the rest of the gang. After about an hour of sandboarding, we headed back to the van for a second breakfast of camping cakes (pancakes)! We had a long travel day following the dunes, so some took advantage of the drive to catch up on some Zs. We stopped in Gunnison, Colorado for a town day about halfway through our drive. For lunch, all the boys munched on Shrimp Po boys, while the girls had an assortment of sliders and chicken. After lunch, the group hit up a camping store along with a thrift store where the girls all got wacky sunglasses in preparation for the backcountry. After some ice cream, we got back in the van for the rest of the drive. While it was another 2 hours in the van, the kids were unfazed as they sang some of their favorite songs for the entirety of the ride. Once at Ridgway, our campsite for the night, we were all blown away by the view. In the distance, we could see a massive mountain range covered in snow, with a bright blue lake sitting below. Although the view was breathtaking, we had to rest up early as the next day was the beginning of our backcountry adventure.
After a good night’s rest at Ridgway National Park, the team woke up to fried eggs and summer sausage on bagels with Louise generously offering to help cook as usual! After the students learned the classic “duffel shuffle” to prepare their hiking backpacks, we took off for our adventure into the backcountry. Our drive consisted of jaw-dropping Mountain views in the San Juans, including frozen waterfalls and ice-capped peaks. Not long into the drive, the van fell silent as kids fell asleep, only to be awoken by the bumpy, winding backcountry dirt roads. Soon, we made it to Kilpacker Trail. At the trailhead, students took turns lifting up the leaders’ packs, and Hudson and Dahra were the only ones to succeed. After throwing our packs on, we hit the trail, only to run into our first obstacle. The snow melts in the Lizard Head Wilderness had made our trails into small creeks rather than clear paths. Henry S. and Enzo lead the line as we traversed the sides of the trail. Time slipped away as we hiked through the pines, surrounded by an endless sea of trees, seemingly in all directions. Soon the trail opened to a small pond and a beautiful view of Mount Wilson, its peak still grey and white from the steep rock and snow cover. We knew we had to set up camp to soak up its beauty, and the kids set up their tents in seconds, full-on experts at this point! We then got to making dinner, where head chefs, Louise and Knox, prepared chicken Alfredo and spaghetti in red sauce. Our kitchen overlooked the pond and the mountain in front of us, making for one of the best dinner views one can find. Soon, the sun set over the mountain and it was time for bed, closing out a long but fulfilling first day.
Day two started early as the trip leaders left their tent, only to spot Emme and Genie hiding in the trees attempting to scare us. Having been spotted, they joined the breakfast crew for some apple cinnamon oatmeal to combat the morning frost. The boys took off into the woods to explore, finding waterfalls and marsh-like ponds teeming with life. Bird songs and frogs croaking filled the silence of the woods as they ventured. When the group returned to camp, we all fueled up on Nutella and PBJ tortillas, a backcountry staple. For dessert, we emptied a bag of mandarins, the perfect pick-me-up for an afternoon full of games. We started with a round of hide and seek; Henry C. disappeared in the woods finding trees low enough to hide him from the seekers, “just like the deer spots back home” he remarked. As the first game ended, we found ourselves back in our kitchen rehydrating and were suddenly surrounded by a hailstorm! As Colorado weather has proven, the storm quickly passed, and the peace was broken with the first hurling of snow from a melt pile. War broke out as a full-on snowball fight commenced. Owsley tossed snow bombs the size of his head and soon everyone had their hands as cold as ice, laughing the whole way. After the excitement, we settled down with Lindley’s trusty deck of cards, which are truly looking like some backcountry cards in the best way possible. The girls then went to collect water from the creek in preparation for a comforting meal of jambalaya with pan-seared summer sausage. The perfect backcountry meal warmed our bellies as we ate watching the sun fall behind the snowcapped mountains. While the girls continued their card game in their tents, the boys sat by the fire for hours enjoying the starry sky and making a creative dessert of bagels and Nutella.
The next morning, the group was awoken to quite the sunrise: a snowstorm! Massive snowflakes were falling from the sky and as we awoke there were already about 5 inches covering our tents and group gear. Although the weather had been brutal in the backcountry, the vibes remained high as some kids rarely get the chance to see snowfall. While we had fun in the snow, it was also a great concern as all gear was wet and cold. As the snow continued to pour from the sky, the leaders made the hard decision of evacuating the backcountry. After a quick breakfast of warm grits, tents were taken down, group gear was distributed, and packs were filled. The leaders were extremely proud of the group, as camp was taken down in no time with no complaints about the cold and wet weather. Lindley was the first to fill her pack, so she helped her friends with theirs, true EB (expedition behavior)! The hike back was hard, as there was snow covering most of the trail, yet riddles were told, and songs were sung. Once back at the van, gear was taken out and put back into duffels before having the classic backcountry lunch of summer sausage and cheese. As the leaders looked for a new campsite considering the evacuation situation, the kids grabbed ice cream and some souvenirs in the beautiful Telluride. Because of a bluegrass festival in the area, most of the campsites were full near Telluride, so we made a last-minute decision to head 2 hours northwest to the high desert. While it was a tricky day logistically, the gang remained extremely positive and in return got pizza for dinner in Montrose, CO. After a long, long day, we finally arrived to our campsite as the sun was setting. Even after all of that, the kids were energized, playing a new game they called, “Runway.” Moonup was conducted around the stove as the leaders prepared a cookie skillet rewarding the group for their positivity and patience. We woke up in the snow and fell asleep in the desert – whatta day!!
Katherine, Kai, and Trip
June 15, 2023
Hello from the Arkansas River!
We just wrapped up two epic days of whitewater rafting and are still buzzing! We had an early, crisp morning and our LODs, Hudson and Knox, made us all delicious M&M camp cakes to fill our bellies before our big day. The rafting began just outside the town of Buena Vista, where we suited up in our wetsuits and set off on our adventure! We rafted 8 miles while taking in the stunning Brown’s Canyon Mountain range the entire time. Dahra bravely “rode the bull” aka sat on the front of the raft and laughed in delight the whole way! Although our group was split, we moved as a unit and had a playful competition passing each other the whole way. Splashing was included, with Enzo and Henry S. as our main competitors, it’s tough to say who won! Enzo then took a solo jump in the river like a true adventurer! We eventually stopped for a delicious lunch consisting of build-your-own croissant sandwiches and delectable caramel brownies. After we fueled up, we continued down the river. Owsley and Louise laughed in delight as we moved through some exhilarating Class III rapids, paddling like pros the entire way. After another 6 miles, we arrived at our beautiful riverside campsite. Genie and Emme splashed in the river and enjoyed a river shower using biodegradable shampoo! After we set up camp, we immediately jumped into several rounds of Mafia and only took a break for our amazing burrito bar- some would call it a riverside Chipotle! We resumed Mafia, even playing through the rain, until the sky cleared, and we gathered for Moonup. With a sky full of stars, Lindley dove into a spooky story and had us all on the edge of our seats. After Moonup, which included a discussion of our dream places we’d like to visit one day, we fell asleep to the sound of thunder, safe and dry in our tents!
The next morning, we all woke up prepared for our next day of rafting by munching on some bagels and fresh fruit. We noticed clouds forming and realized that we would be increasing the intensity with a bit of rain, or at least we thought it would be rain. As we boarded our rafts, the hail started to fall, and we were pelted by balls of ice the size of small grapes. Despite this seemingly event-ending weather, we buckled down and hit the river. The lead boat took off directly into class 3 rapids with Lindley in the front center, braving the cold for a go-pro shot and the rush of hitting the rapids head-on. After stopping at our lunch spot, we packed up our rafting gear and headed to the Buena Vista visitor center to warm up with a shower. In the parking lot, Henry C. threw the football with Trip and some new friends they met at the park, showing a bit of Moondance hospitality. We closed out the night at Ruby Mountain where we ate some chicken quesadillas under the rain tarp while the rain rolled through. Despite the inconsistency of Colorado weather, the skies cleared up long enough for the team to gather firewood and make smores by the fire as the sun disappeared! We headed to bed shortly after with dreams of our ropes course and ziplining coming the following day!
We are so excited for what is to come and can’t wait to share the rest of our adventures with y’all!
-Kai, Katherine, and Trip
June 11, 2023
Hey there! We’ve finally gathered our crew in the Wild West and are off on our tour of the great state of Colorado!
After airport pickup and rounding up all the troops, we took the long road south out of Denver towards our first campsite at Elk Creek near Taylor Canyon. We took a spontaneous trip to THE South Park and got to see where the show’s location is modeled after! While there, we had a delicious pizza feast that we all devoured in approximately two minutes or less, no exaggeration! Once our bellies were full, we continued our journey towards Taylor Canyon and watched a stunning orange and pink sunset as we arrived at camp. After arrival, we started by going through how to set up tents and then circled up for our introductory Moonup under the stars! We kept it short and sweet in preparation for our big day of rock climbing the next day. We chatted about how Moonup is meant to be a time to reflect together at the end of the day, whether that be about our favorite food or much larger concepts like our values and dreams. The leaders shared how our personal Moonup experiences together during staff training fostered our bond and friendship! We also introduced the concept of Leaders of the Day, which is where students get the opportunity to take on leadership roles such as communicating our schedule to their fellow students, as well as taking lead on meals. Our first LODs were Lindley and Enzo!
Our first morning was bright and early, but excitement filled the air as we prepared to rock climb. After breakfast and our morning huddle led by Enzo and Lindley, the team headed towards Taylor canyon for day 1 of climbing. Right off the bat, Henry Siegel and Hudson scaled the cliff without hesitation, proving both their confidence and skill. After some lunch, the group cheered on Knox as she conquered her fear of heights and reached the top of the rock face! It was a special moment for both the leaders and the group as a whole. Owsley proved his skill later in the afternoon as he climbed with speed up the rock not once but twice. After climbing the gang was surprised with slushies and their very own Moondance synthetic shirts! Once back at camp, Emme and Genie showed off how good they are at spikeball. For most of the evening we were hanging out by a gorgeous lake carved between two stunning high desert peaks. As part of the LOD responsibility, Enzo and Lindley helped cook dinner. The menu for day 2 consisted of pesto chicken pasta with broccoli. We ended the day under the stars next to the lake reflecting on our day and preparing for the next.
Campers woke up to the smell of eggs, hashbrowns, peppers, bacon, avocado and black beans. LODs Owsley and Louise woke up extra early to help prepare breakfast burritos for the group. It was a perfect way to start off our big day ahead! After cleaning up camp and practicing our LNT (Leave No Trace) principles, we hit the road for day 2 of climbing! Spirits were high as we met our climbing guides in the mountains outside of Gunnison, CO. The view from our climb site was unbelievable as snow capped mountains lurked in the background from all sides. Henry Coker, who also shared his fear of heights, won MVP of climbing for day 2. He finished all routes on the rock face not once but twice, accounting for a total of 12 completed climbs! While Henry was scaling the cliff all day, right beside him was Dahra, who seemed extremely interested in the sport as he learned the details of the climbing community from one of our climbing guides Jaden. After our long day in the sun climbing, our guides let the leaders know that they have never seen a group of kids so excited and eager to climb. They mentioned that our group was the longest total climbing time they’ve seen from a group of kids!! I think we have found a lifelong hobby, especially Ed, of a;; our campers. After climbing we headed to our second campsite in Buena Vista, CO. But before we arrived we stopped in Salida for a dinner by the Arkansas River, catching a glimpse of the running water we take on the following day rafting. Our campsite in Buena Vista was right by the river, as we played games (a lot of Mafia led by Owsley!), held moonup, and chatted alongside the roaring sound of the Arkansas River. Rafting begins tomorrow, and the gang is more than excited for this activity! But first, we must rest up for a full two days of hitting the rapids!
-Katie, Trip, and Kai
June 8, 2023
Hello Colorado Trail Families!
We just heard from our leaders and the group has landed safely in Denver! 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!