July 22, 2023
Last trip update for CROB:
The time has come for one last trip update before you reunite with your kids. Though the trip has come to a close, there was no shortage of adventure the last few days-let’s get y’all updated!
The sun was beating down when we got to the island, so after arriving at our campsite and dropping our bags, we immediately went to the nearby beach. Frank S and Evans did not hesitate to jump off the stone wall into the sea water, and Albert, Bennett and Dash followed closely behind. We spent the next few hours swimming, playing catch with the football, and strumming the guitar by the water. Lila taught Elle how to play Angel from Montgomery on guitar while Evans and Julia passed the ball back and forth into the water. After we had our fill, we headed back to camp and Elle, Vee, Ellie, and Laudie got started on pesto pasta and salad for dinner while the other students set up a hammock city. With good company and good views, we enjoyed our first dinner together at Camp Lovor. After dinner, we celebrated our arrival at the island by treating ourselves to ice cream and ping pong at the nearby restaurant. We ended the great day with Moonup on the pier and got to bed early before our next day’s adventure.
After getting a good night’s rest in our hammock city, we awoke to a yummy breakfast at camp, consisting of eggs, yogurt, and fruit. We loaded into the van and headed to our destination for the day. The kids thought we were going on a hike, but the leaders decided to surprise them with a day trip to a sandy beach on the island! The trip leaders tried to keep the secret, but Laudie knew something was up when they told everyone that we wouldn’t need hiking shoes. The music was bumping on the speaker as we pulled up to the pristine sandy beach, and energy was high as we made our way down to the water. We spent the day enjoying the hot sand and crystal clear water, taking advantage of any chance we got to jump in and stay cool. Myatt and Frank C spent loads of time exploring the ocean with goggles, and Frank S dominated in Tips, a game where you have to catch and throw a ball in a circle all while you are mid-jump. After a full day at the beach, we headed back to camp for dinner. Martina, our outfitter, prepared the main meal-vegetable risotto. For the appetizers and desserts, we had an Iron Chef style cook-off: boys versus girls. To start, the boys made an impressive tomato salsa that earned them a 7.9 out of 10, but the girls tomato, salami, and mozzarella bruschetta gave them the edge with an 8.1. For dessert, Frank C led the boys in making ice cream sandwiches, while Ellie spearheaded Nutella roll-ups with roasted pears on the girls side. Some technical errors (namely, a non-freezing freezer) set the boys team back, and the girls ended up winning in a landslide! After enjoying our dessert, we headed to Moonup on the beach where our LODs Evans and Julia led with some great questions. After a great Moonup, we all stayed on the beach and stargazed, skipped rocks, and enjoyed the cool night air before heading back to hammock city for another night’s sleep.
We awoke in our hammocks rested and refreshed, ready for a day of sea kayaking. Another breakfast of eggs, yogurt, and fruit went down the hatch before we headed out to the sea. We partnered up in kayaks and began paddling! Myatt and Julia were naturals, leading the group through the water and encouraging everyone to paddle strong. Frank C and Evans headed up the rear. After an hour of paddling, we stopped at our first swimming spot. Elle and Laudie immediately jumped in the water and battled each other to a contest. The goal? Who can stand on an overturned kayak longer. The winner? Laudie by a landslide. Frank S jumped on to battle next, and ended up beating the next three students that dared to challenge him. After enjoying the cool waters, we hopped back in the kayaks and paddled to our next stop: snorkeling! Myatt, Bennett, and Frank C in particular had an absolute blast and couldn’t get enough of exploring the underwater world! As much fun as we were having, we were getting hungry for lunch, so it was time to paddle back to shore. Once there, our kayaking guide Luksha treated us to a delicious and fresh spread of meats, fish, and cheeses. We happily ate the meal before driving back to our campsite. Once there, we all spent the afternoon relaxing in our hammocks, exploring the sea, and playing card games before dinner. We walked to a nearby restaurant for a delicious dinner. After filling our bellies, we took advantage of the ping pong table outside the restaurant and played an elimination style ping pong tournament. Ellie, Julia, and Frank C showed off some incredible skills, but ultimately Chris and Elle defeated Evans and Julia for the championship title. With the tournament complete, Ellie, Vee, Lila, and Elle headed back to camp to recreate the Nutella roll-ups from the previous night while the others stayed back to play more ping pong.
It was time to say goodbye to Mljet and Camp Lovor, so we packed our things after waking up and headed out after breakfast. The ferry ride from Mljet to Dubrovnik flew by: Chris taught everyone a new card game, and we all had a blast playing. Once we arrived in Dubrovnik, we dropped our stuff at the hotel and headed to a pizza lunch nearby before taking the bus to Old Town. We entered the historic city walls and marveled at the historic city structures. For the next few hours, we shopped and explored the city, buying souvenirs and trying as much gelato as we could. The group reunited to go to a basketball court in the old town where we played ball and got amazing views of the city in all its glory. Hot and sweaty from the basketball, we headed to a cliff jumping spot to cool off! Led by Frank S, the kids jumped fearlessly into the water, impressing many spectators. Next up was an incredible banquet dinner to celebrate the trip. Afterwards, we hit one final gelato spot before heading to our last Moonup of the trip. We reminisced on our two weeks together, laughing at the memories that we’ve and feeling grateful for this experience and each other.
At the moment, your kids are flying back to the United States to reunite with you all. We feel so grateful to have gotten to know and love them over the past two weeks and are excited to see how this group continues to grow from this experience. This trip turned twelve kids and two trip leaders into a family, and we are certain that the friendships and memories made in Croatia will last for years to come.
Signing off one last time,
Elle and Chris
July 18, 2023
Dear families and friends,
Here’s a glimpse into our past couple of days full of unforgettable moments:
We kicked off the day with an early start, setting our alarms for 5:10 am to catch the breathtaking sunrise from the peak behind our hut. Spearheaded by Albert, Dash, Myatt, and Julia, the entire group woke up and made it to the top. 360 degree views of stunning colors were on display as we marveled the stunning surroundings.
After a quick breakfast, we said a sad farewell to Zavizan Mountain Hut and set off on a drive down the winding mountain roads towards the coast. We were immediately met by the summer heat and some excellent pizza for lunch.
Our next adventure took us into Paklenica National Park where we spent the early part of our afternoon rock climbing! Frank S came within 2 seconds of breaking the Moondance summer record on the most difficult wall, and everyone had a blast scaling the rocks. This group couldn’t go without some climbing races, where Frank S narrowly edged out Evans and Elle left Chris in the dust.
The trek uphill to tonight’s mountain hut proved to be quite demanding due to the scorching heat. Evans, with his always inspiring speeches, motivated us to push through as we began the uphill journey. Our group’s mental toughness continued to shine through, well exemplified by Julia, Laudie, and Bennett. Along the way, we found a perfect opportunity to cool off with a refreshing swim. A brief walk through the trees led us to the oasis we needed; a picturesque swimming hole with the perfect rock to jump off of into the water! Albert and Bennett fearlessly led the way, helping others navigate up the rock waterfall. Lila and Vee took the final leaps into the water, and our group felt reinvigorated to tackle the rest of the hike. Despite the challenging heat, our group persevered and conquered the uphill climb to Ramica Dvori- known well by Moondance as Mario’s Hut. We were warmly greeted by Mario and were treated to showers and a bocce ball game. Official bocce rules were taught, and Frank S and Evans showcased some impressive skills. For dinner, we were treated to a Croatian delicacy reserved for special occasions – Peka. Mario took us to “the black kitchen,” where he swept hot coals off of the pan cover and revealed the traditional Croatian dish of veal, chicken, and potatoes, slow-cooked for over four hours.. We eagerly watched as Mario unveiled the masterpiece. The incredible dinner left us stuffed, but there’s always some extra room for birthday cake! Mario came out of the kitchen playing happy birthday on the accordion for Chris as his wife carried out the cake behind him. Homemade chocolate cake sure tastes better after conquering a tough hike. In a surprising turn of events, Myatt showcased her talent as a hairstylist by fearlessly giving Chris his wish of a birthday mullet. We closed out the full day with a spectacular moonup under the stars. Albert spotted out the starlink satellite train, and we were treated to an unbelievable display of shooting stars.
The following morning, after a quick breakfast and a hello to Mario’s donkeys, we headed back down the trail to the base of the national park. Our next adventure: a day of rafting on the Cetina River! The journey was divided into three parts, each offering its own excitement. The first provided a mild introduction to the river. It didn’t take long for the raft wars to begin. Before you could even blink, everyone had pulled each other into the water where we enjoyed a refreshing float. The second part offered more challenging rapids, with the final rapid requiring us to huddle in the middle of the boat as we soaked up the thrilling waterfall drop. The third section brought intermittent rapids surrounded by breathtaking cliffs in a beautiful canyon. We had the chance to climb up and take a 20-foot cliff jump into the water, an opportunity nobody could resist! We hopped off the river, changed into dry clothes and headed towards our camp for the night – Camp Sirena. Situated on the cliffs overlooking the Adriatic, this campsite is a true gem. Dinner was a treat; fresh fish, calamari, anchovies, and fries awaited us. Even our more cautious seafood eaters, Laudie, Vee, and Ellie, stepped out of their comfort zones and tried some fish! Chris, Albert, Crump, and Evans were in heaven, pulling fresh fish right off the bone. The restaurant musicians came over, and after playing some Croatian songs, treated us to their rendition of country roads, to which we enthusiastically sang along. Moonup and a quick swim on the beach before dark capped off another amazing day. We laid out on the beach afterwards and saw what seemed to be endless shooting stars. Finally, we settled into our hammocks back at camp overlooking the coast, and drifted to sleep.
The next morning greeted us with strong winds, signaling the time to pack up and head for breakfast. We enjoyed croissants, Croatian donuts, eggs, and juice to fuel us for the day ahead. We boarded the bus and continued our journey further south. After a beautiful coastline drive with an abundance of beautiful sea, mountain and delta views, we arrived in the small town of Ston for lunch on the water. Cuttlefish risotto, shrimp linguine, and spaghetti with meatballs were on the menu. Everybody tried the fresh ink-black risotto and there were no complaints at all! After lunch, we found the basketball court that Albert, Frank S and Evans had been waiting for, and had a quick group pickup game before hopping on the bus and heading for the ferry.
Our next destination is the island of Mijet, a stunning and green jungle-like island just off the Dalmatian coast of Croatia.
We can’t wait to share more stories and adventures with you soon!
-Chris & Elle
July 17, 2023
Dobre dan to family and friends! Let’s catch you up on our last few days:
A short drive to camp followed our dynamic river adventure. Brief bus naps were in order, recharging the group for an action-packed afternoon. First things first, the group assembled a small village of 10 hammocks in our camp spot. Crump, our aspiring architect, built himself a third story penthouse above two others. From there, murmurs of a rope swing into the river next to camp couldn’t keep the kids from getting back into the water! A quick walk beyond the camp restaurant and beyond the trees led us to the river. Frank S and Albert started the fun as they fearlessly swung right in! After jumps from all and a bit more swimming, we found a warm and relaxing spot to dry off in the sun. Just when we thought the days action was over, we broke out into a full group football game. Bennett starred as quarterback while Julia’s big touchdown catch came just a bit too late as her team fell short. A delicious dinner of chicken risotto followed, and after dinner, a couple great rounds of mafia were played; Albert and Frank S came out on top as the victors! A good nights sleep was in order as the hammocks were put to good use to cap off an excellent day.
The next morning, alarms went off early while Chris and Crump motivated the group for a morning cold plunge into the river. Attendance was an impressive 100%! After a short swim and a few final jumps off of the rope swing, we ran on back to camp. Breakfast was at the camp restaurant, where we enjoyed some unbelievable croissants and eggs. We’re all still jealous of Myatt and Elle’s luck in getting the chocolate ones. We packed up the van with our sails set for the mountains. Our next stop, Zavizan Mountain Hut in the Northern Velebit Mountain Range. A brief grocery store visit was necessary before our adventure. Today’s LoDs, Crump and Julia, were tasked with helping Chris in the grocery store, and navigated the all Croatian isles with composure finding each item on their list. A long winding uphill road led us to our home for the next 3 nights. Upon arrival, jaws dropped at the scenery. After dropping bags in our rooms, the guys immediately ran up the hill to the mountain peak directly across from the hut. The remarkable 360 views from the top gave this group an early glimpse at our adventures to come. To one side, the expansive Velebit Range seemed to go on forever as the limestone peaks cut dramatically through grassy hillsides. To the other, 6 miles and 6,000 feet of elevation drop separated us from the Adriatic Sea, where modest islands dotted the picturesque seascape. The eagerness and excitement encouraged some extra exploration of the trail. Another half mile through the mountain trail, an Albert recommended steer to the right and a short boulder climb brought us to an uninterrupted cliffside view of the Adriatic and rolling hills below. We all sat for about an hour, sharing laughs, telling stories and revealing in the moment. As some wind, clouds and hunger began to roll in, we headed back to our hut. The plentiful cooking opportunities for our group makes this a unique international Moondance trip. Dinner tonight called for chicken burrito bowls. Evans, Crump and Chris put on a clinic in the kitchen, making some of the best chicken and burrito bowls the group has ever had. Evans’ sugar for salt slip-up in the guac went unnoticed, and it turned out superbly. Moonup was surely a memorable one. We were visited by some wild horses as we overlooked the sunset down the grassy hillside sloping towards the sea. The guys, led by Crump and Evans, couldn’t go to bed without some pranks on the girls. I’m sure there will be more to come on that front.
A busy first few days merited a much needed sleep in day. French toast by Bennett and the Davis were in the works for breakfast. The Davis is a delicious blend of sautéed apples with brown sugar and cinnamon topped with peanut butter, honey and granola. The idea to top the French toast with the apples was well received, and we were fueled for the day. After we prepared our packs for the trek, we were met by LoD Evans and his inspiring motivational speech. We began with a walkthrough of the Velebit botanical garden. Flowers were in full bloom, creating an outburst of color within the high grasses. Next, we were met by an uphill trek to the highest peak in the Velebit Range. Evans brought us some more inspiration as we began our climb. We’re not sure if Evans’ speeches really hit home or if there’s some delusion from the elevation, but this group seems to prefer hiking uphill to flat! Their mental toughness is genuinely impressive. As we neared the peak, we were met by glimpses of the spectacular through the trees. The group kept on pushing and relished in their success at the top. Immense beauty in all directions was augmented by the surprise of Nutella biscuits! Crump and Dash explored around the peak and found the perfect rock to perch up on to take in the view. Plenty of pictures were taken, and the mental images will last in this group’s minds forever. Like the classic Babe Ruth home run moment, Evans pointed our group to a mountain peak in the distance which we would head to next! Without fear or complaint, the group charged down the trail and headed towards our new goal. A quick PB&J break was deserved, and we continued on. Despite the even tougher uphill climb, the group managed the test and enjoyed the riches at the top. In one direction was the beautiful Adriatic, yet in the other appeared a new spectacle- the towering Mosor mountain range to our southeast. We began our trek back to the mountain hut feeling accomplished while being treated to the beautiful meadows and towering limestone spires surrounding us. Cards and music were played as dinner was prepared. Tonight’s creation: sausage, peppers and onions, but the main dish, Mac and Cheese! Lila, Myatt, Julia and Albert were tonight’s chefs. Albert and Julia grated the cheese, Lila chopped the peppers and onions while Albert and Myatt took over to make sure the Mac and cheese turned out perfectly. Sure did! Despite portioning for a group of 30, we put a pretty good dent in it thanks to our football player Dash’s herculean appetite. We finished up dinner just in time to catch the sunset during Moonup. Us leaders led the group down, over and up to a hill 10 minutes from camp that perfectly placed us to watch the sun set over the sea. Lila, Frank, and Chris started out with some music while what felt like 30 minutes became an unforgettable 2 hour Moonup. Our walk back required many pauses thanks to the stunning display of stars above us. Walking back up to camp is easier when shooting stars are dashing across the sky!
Our final day of trekking began with an 8am wakeup. Vee and Laudie took responsibility over the pancakes, and they sure got them right. Presentation and taste were perfect, however they even more impressively perfected the pancake flip using the pan! After breakfast, we packed our bags for the long hike. Today’s LoDs, Dash and Myatt, were next-up in providing morning inspiration. Despite having some big shoes to fill, they handled the job with energy and success and we dashed off on the Premuzic trail. 4 miles moves quickly with this crew thanks to their genuine bond and enjoyment in being around one another. With a few stops for water, pictures and view appreciation, we made it to a new uphill challenge. Our dirt and rock path turned into boulders, yet the group scaled the final wall with ease to reach the Gromovaca peak! This just could be the most beautiful mountaintop one can find in the park. With few high mountaintops close by, there are completely uninterrupted 360 views of the Adriatic to the west and the never-ending limestone peaks to the east. A flatter area at the top makes for an excellent place to lounge to enjoy the warm sun. Meanwhile, there was some more exploration to be had as the guys -led by Dash and Bennett- found some exceptional spots to take in the view. We all feel so much gratitude for the sheer beauty of our surroundings. The balance this group is able to find between keeping moving and taking in the surrounding beauty is excellent. A highlight of our trek back surely was the monk walk. Our LoDs chose 20 minutes as the duration for where we would spread out and walk in silence with just one group member visible in front of each of us. This gave each group member an excellent opportunity for reflection.
We arrived back and enjoyed chips, pineapple and.. pushups thanks to Crump and Dash. Lila and Chris entertained with some guitar as we laid back and relaxed after the hard day. Once we mustered up enough energy, part of the group went down for some soccer. There is a mini field which sits at the base of a picturesque valley with goals made of sticks just a quarter mile below the hut. Elle’s team- led by Evans and Frank S- took care of business. Back at camp, card games were played as we waited for dinner. Our local guide, Martina, prepared a traditional Croatian dinner of Stew and Burek- a cheese pastry dish. It was delicious! Parents- this dish may be requested at home. After dinner, we climbed to the top of the peak behind our hut to enjoy Moonup and the sunset. Not only may this have been the best view yet, but it was also possibly the best sunset we had all ever seen! The light fell over what seemed to be the never-ending Adriatic with a light show incomparable to anything we had seen before. Yet another outstanding Moonup had to be followed up by a fierce competition. It was time for a whipped cream can race! First team to finish their can wins. Bennett, Lila and Frank S captained our teams as the laughs and whipped cream began to spill. With trumpet fanfare playing on the speaker, Bennett’s team claimed victory. However, an asterisk must be placed on their win due to Albert wearing half of their bottle.
The memories at Zavizan Mountain Hut will live on with us forever. We all agreed it is the most beautiful place any of us had ever been, and it will surely act as the crucible moment in our trip where a true group bond was developed.
Here is a message from each of the kids; they miss you all!
Albert: Hey Mom and Dad, I am having a great time in Croatia, we have a great group and I am super happy to be here right now. The places we have been are so pretty and I can’t wait to tell you all about this trip. Thank you so much, Love you!
Bennett: Hey mom and dad, I am having so much fun an I can’t wait to tell y’all all about it. I have a great group and I’m having such a fun time I can’t wait to see y’all.
Dash: I’m having a-lot of fun at this trip. We are hiking and swimming and all that. It is really cool.
Ellie: Hi mom and dad I am having so much fun right now. We have been doing a lot of hikes and we are supposed to white water raft today! I really love my group and I can’t wait to see y’all!
Evans: Hey mom and dad! Im having a blast with my group everyone is awesome. We have seen many beautiful places and stayed in very cool places. I’m miss y’all and cannot wait to tell y’all all about my experience. Love Y’all!
Frank C: This is pretty cool and I’m having a great time. Don’t forget that my birthday is in a couple of weeks.
Frank S: Hey mom and dad! I’m having a great time and have met so many people that are incredible people and I enjoy being around. I love you both so much and can’t wait to tell you about all the memories I have made on this trip. See you soon!
Julia: Hey guys!! We are having so so much fun in Croatia! The views are amazing here and this is such an awesome group! I can’t believe it’s already halfway through I am not ready to leave. Love and miss you all!!
Laudie: Hi mom and dad. I’m having a great time here and the views are amazing. I miss y’all so much and I am excited to tell y’all all about Croatia. Also my group is very fun. Love y’all!!
Lila: Hey mom dad and Leo! Croatia is so fun! I’m having a great time and the views are beautiful. I can’t wait to see y’all soon! I love you!
Myatt: Hey guys!! I love my group and I am having so much fun! It is so pretty here. I cut 3 guys hair last night I gave Chris a mullet! Love y’all!!
Vee: Hey guys! I’m having so much fun here and my group is so fun! The views here are really pretty. I miss y’all and I am excited to show you all my photos when I get home. Love y’all!
-Chris & Elle
July 12, 2023
Dear Moondance friends and family,
Bok (Hi) from Croatia! We are Elle and Chris, your kid’s trip leaders for this session. We are absolutely thrilled to spend the next couple of weeks in Croatia with this special group of people. Let’s get y’all updated on what we’ve done so far!
Our first day together in Croatia was an eventful one. We met ten of our twelve students in the Zagreb airport (due to some travel delays, Bennett and Julia got caught up in Atlanta for the night and would be meeting us the next day). After loading up the van, we headed out to a comforting pizza lunch before arriving at camp Korana, our home for the next two nights. We settled into our bungalows then walked to the camp restaurant for a delicious dinner of chicken and fries. Bellies full, we sat on a grassy hill for our first of thirteen Moonups together. Everyone was quite worn out from all the travel, so after Moonup we headed to bed early.
Our first full day together was spent at Plitvice Lakes National Park, a stunning park filled with unique waterfalls and crystal waters. While Elle headed back to the airport to pick up Bennett and Julia, Chris and our local outfitter, Martina, led the students through the park. The group quickly showed off their athleticism, even electing to hike around the longer route instead of taking the ferry shortcut! Frank C., Myatt, Vee and Dash led the charge hiking, and Chris, Frank S, Albert, and Evans had some great conversations in the back of the line. Everyone had a ball enjoying the beautiful waterfalls and lakes, but excitement was high to head back to camp because Julia and Bennett would be there! We all joined forces down by the river at the campsite and spent the next few hours playing soccer (special shoutouts to Ellie Tellie, Evans, and Julia for their soccer skills) and swimming in the river. Chris surprised us all with ice cream bars to cool us off, and we soon headed back up to camp to shower and change before dinner. We headed back for a fantastic dinner at the same restaurant and enjoyed local Croatian cake for dessert! The same Moonup spot awaited us, and our LODs (leaders of the day) Albert and Vee kicked us off by revealing a secret: for the ENTIRE day, the group had convinced Julia and Bennett that Lila was not from Nashville but from Wales! And boy, were they convinced! Lila had pulled it off seamlessly, talking in an accent all day and never letting the secret slip. After a good round of laughing and some great Moonup questions, we listened to Chris play a couple of songs on guitar. Following Chris’s lead, Frank S played us a song or two and then handed the guitar to Lila, who performed a few amazing songs for the group. We ended the night with a crowd favorite-Wagon Wheel-before heading back to camp. The students ended the day by lying down and gazing at the beautiful Croatian stars before heading off to sleep.
The next morning would be our last at Camp Korana, so we packed our things after breakfast and said goodbye to the bungalows. We drove to our excursion for the day: whitewater kayaking! We arrived at the Mreznica river excited for the day’s adventure. After listening to the safety briefing and splitting into groups of two, the adventure began! We started out with some wicked stuff- a 10-foot waterfall drop in kayak, and a high jump from the top of a waterfall into the river! There were two heights to choose from when jumping into the water, but the entire group showed great bravery by immediately choosing the higher jump (25 feet!). We agreed that Laudie screamed the loudest going off the jump, but that didn’t stop her from going back for a second drop! After everyone had their fill jumping in the water, we found ourselves in some pretty exciting splash wars (that quickly turned into kayak flipping wars). After 8 waterfalls, 3 rapids and one jump into water from the top of a waterfall, the group arrived back at the van which would take us to our new campsite.
Though this trip has only just kicked off, we can feel how special this group is. Each and every student is curious and open to new experiences, cares for one another, and is genuinely a pleasure to be around. The friendship, love, and acceptance in this group is uniquely strong, and we are only three days in! We are so excited to see what’s to come.
Elle and Chris
July 10, 2023
Hello CRO 3B friends + fams,
We just heard from our leaders that the kids have made it to Zagred and are with Chris + Elle. The group anxiously awaits the arrival of two students who unfortunately got delayed but will unite with the group tomorrow! They are so excited for the group to soon be complete and to get this adventure started!