June 19, 2023
“No no, it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later” – Ella
Checking in one last time from Marco Polo Airport and it seems like we were just here yesterday. 14 days ago, we arrived unsure of what the future might hold. We were excited but nervous to be around new people and new places. Today, we leave each other with heavy but full hearts. We have learned more about ourselves and what it means to be a part of something bigger. Something that cannot be explained unless you were there. Something wonderful and at times a little scary. Something tangible and true. Something real.
The past two days have been incredible! In our last update, we left off on our climbing day at Cinque Torri. The following morning, we woke up a little later than usual and packed up our stuff yet again. We set out on our last trek together. Winding down the backside of the mountain, we crossed streams, snow, and meadows. Our pace was quick, and our energy was up. Up and down, we went for a few hours, stopping on for lunch and a quick coffee. Kat and Amber kept the trail convos moving as William and Charlie charged ahead leading the way. After passing by a beautiful green lake and quite a few resting cattle, we were picked up and driven to a quiet little mountain town that we would call home for the next two nights. We checked in and got settled and hit the town. Ella and Sullivan were dying for gelato and it just so happened an ice cream bar was a block down the street. Alston and Amber led moonup on the benches outside the church in a beautiful little square. We took it easy the rest of the night and got some much-needed downtime.
The following day, we woke to breakfast in the lobby and headed to the town park to meet our guides for canyoneering. We were greeted with wetsuits, harnesses, and helmets. We geared up and took a short walk to the start of the canyon. Anderson and Mak led the charge and were the first to repel down to the water. Alston and Ella convinced the group to jump into the deep part of the river before we even started. There’s this rule that you never pass up jumping in cold water on Moondance, and they certainly weren’t going to break it. The group repelled, slid, swam, floated, and jumped our way from watering hole to watering hole. We had never had more fun in our entire life. Our jaws hurt from smiling so much. After about an hour, we finally popped out at the end of the flow. Everyone wanted to go back and do it again. We ate lunch in the sun and headed back for yet another chill evening. We packed up all our gear for our journey back to Venice and had Moonup on the balcony under the stars.
We woke up early the following morning, in an attempt to maximize our time in the floating city. We were picked up and driven a couple of hours to the airport, where a water taxi would drive us to our new home. The sun was glistening off the water and the city sparkled back. We settled into our hostel and hit the town. We a took water taxi to San Marco to shop and experience the ancient city. We made our way around designer stores and mom-and-pop pizza stands. The group was beaming with energy. Everyone picked out the outfits for dinner and we made our way back to get ready.
For banquet, Gracie and I decided on a quaint canal-side seafood restaurant. It was just like out of a movie. Our final dinner together was full of laughter, shrimp, and good vibes. We wandered the streets after dark and found the perfect little gelato shop. It was the best yet. We made our way to a little dock to have our final moonup. We sat under the stars on the water and took it all in. After some good talks and some music, we just sat there in silence. For about five minutes, no one said a word. We opened our eyes and ears and the universe moved through us. The question of the night was what we would take away from this trip. William and Charlie talked about how next time they will be more willing to open up and have fun right out of the gate, so they could get the most out of every moment. Amber brought the house down with a few one-liners that resulted in a few tears and belly laughs. We walked as slowly as possible back to the hostel and fell asleep in the floating city, soaking up the last little bit of time together. Finally, our time together was at an end.
Gracie and I cannot express how much we enjoyed this trip. It was the opportunity of a lifetime and we wouldn’t change a thing about it. We are eternally grateful for the memories and the time we have spent together. Both of us hope we have impacted their lives as much as they have ours. We cannot wait to see where life will take them and hope we cross paths again. We miss them so much already. To all of you, be happy, be well.
Frankie + Gracie
June 18, 2023
“Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss only to find that it is a feather bed”
Family and Friends,
Wow oh wow, the last couple days have been mesmerizing. We are in the groove. Right in the slot. Our group is humming. We can’t be stopped. The last time we checked in, we had just finished our trekking portion. Now we are writing to you on our last day in the mountains. Our spirits are high, but the ever-looming goodbyes are all too close at hand. But we’re not there yet so we won’t dwell on it. We are so incredibly grateful for this experience. DOL A1 will go down in history as one of the best groups of all time. That’s no lie.
We left off at the top of our last rifugio, which would become our home for the next three nights. After yet another incredible dinner high on the mountain with 360 views, clouds rolled in, and the cold came with. We got all bundled up after warm showers and hot tea. Cozy in our beds, Alston and William led an amazing moonup in our dorm. With full hearts and full bellies, we headed to bed excitedly awaiting our adventure tomorrow.
We woke up the next morning ready for a full day of climbing and mountaineering. We had a delicious breakfast of yogurt, pastries, and fruit. We put on our gear, strapped up our boots, and headed out for a full day ahead. We started the day by mountaineering. William, Charlie, Alston, and Mak were in the first ropes team and led the group. We scaled up the side of a snowy mountain hooked onto one another and the Via Ferratta. Hooking in hundreds of feet off the ground is thrilling, terrifying, and meditative all at the same time. It is a state of complete focus. Tens of thousands of mindful steps. All with the same goal. It was a long and cold trek up, but we pushed on until we reached the peak. We summited the impressive Avarua peak. A prominent tower of limestone rocketing into the clouds. Although it was cloudy it was still breathtaking, and we were very proud of ourselves for what we had accomplished. We had lunch on top of the summit and appreciated what we just did. It was impossible not to smile. Going up was not the only hard part though going down had its own challenges. Two years ago, the great climber Ed Viesters told us “Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory.” We sloshed and slid through the snow and ice and repelled massive rocks and cliffs to get back to the bottom. Once we made it to the bottom, we walked back to our rifugio for a much-deserved rest. We drank tea, had snacks, warmed up, and dried our feet back at the rifugio. Some of us got horizontal and took midday siestas and others played cards and relaxed until our next big excursion.
Later that afternoon, after some much needed rest and relaxation, we set off on the first part of our climbing expedition. We took a short walk from our rifugio to our climbing spot for the afternoon and the sun decided to peer out. The guides set up our ropes and taught everyone how to belay. Kat was the first one to start climbing. She scaled the wall at an impressively fast speed, and we were all very impressed. She went on to climb every route as well as Sullivan, William, Amber, and Charlie. Everyone else also tried at least one route. Today was our warmup for what we would be climbing tomorrow. After a few hours of climbing and playing games we headed back to our rifugio for dinner and some well-needed sleep. We ate some delicious pasta as our first course and then had a variety of choices for the second and then cake for dessert. Once we were all full and content, we got into our comfies and did moonup run by our LOD’s Kat and Ella. After moonup we got tucked into our bunks, told ghost stories, and had an amazing night’s rest.
The next morning, we woke up to the sun shining and smiles on our faces ready for the amazing day ahead. Today was our big day of climbing and the group was ready for it! Today we would be climbing at a world-famous sightseeing destination and world renowned climbing destination the Cinque Torres or Five Towers. We would be climbing at the first tower which was massive. We did a short trek down to these towers and geared up. First, we started with some shorter warm-up climbs. Amber started us off on these climbs and also belayed her friends on multiple climbs. Once we felt loose and ready, we moved to the bigger harder climbs. Up to this point we had been top roping and belaying one another, but we were about to move to multi-pitch climbing. Multi-pitch climbing meant a much taller peak to reach. William and Charlie were the first to try the multi-pitch climb. They made it all the way to the top and then had to repel down the back of the tower. After them Ella and Anderson braved the challenge. They as well defeated the challenging climb. Once Ella and Anderson did the climb Sullivan and Kat decided to join in on the multi-pitch climbing fun. They as well made it to the top. Once at the peak of this tower you would have to walk backwards to the edge and then repel what felt like an endless amount of time back to the ground. We were beyond impressed with the bravery of these students to not only attempt and achieve this climb, but then repel back down to the ground. Lots of fears were faced today and we could not be prouder of our students. They continue to impress us with their courage and willingness to go out of their comfort zones and try new things.
After all of our climbing we worked up a big appetite and headed to a restaurant with more 360 breathtaking views. We got warm sandwiches, hot chocolate, and dethawed our hands before hiking back up to our rifugio. At our rifugio we relaxed, showered, and played Euchre. Our dynamic duo Charlie and Amber remain undefeated which is very impressive given the stiff competition. We then headed to dinner and had another delicious two course meal and dessert. The vanilla gelato with raspberries and chocolate sauce was the biggest hit! Once our bellies were full, we had another beautiful moonup led by our LOD’s Mak and Anderson. We got fuzzy blankets from our rifugio and sat on a rock staring out at a beautiful sunset while doing moonup. It was one of our most special moonups yet and we left that rock feeling closer than ever. Every day we become more and more like one big family.
Something about nature, uncertainty, and travel brings people together like no other. Moondance attracts beautiful and curious people, and this group is the perfect example of such. Each individual is incredibly strong and as a group we are truly unstoppable. We have all learned more about ourselves, about our world, about love. We have grown into a family. Being apart is going to be hard. Everyone can already feel it. The love this group has for each other is something special. We can both say confidently, this is the best trip we have ever been a part of. We don’t hold onto anything here besides a smile. But these past two weeks will be hard to let go. Though the thought of parting saddens us, we are beyond excited to see all of you. We love and miss you all dearly. We’ll check in one more time after canyoneering and our time in the floating city. Until then, be well!
Frankie + Gracie
June 14, 2023
“Life is not a journey, it’s a dance” – AW
Family and Friends,
Wow. What an incredible few days it has been. Writing this will prove difficult, being that there are few words, if any, that can describe what we’ve experienced. Yes, we can give you a day-by-day description of activities or events, but to feel how we feel now—to be here in this moment—I fear only we will understand. Nevertheless, we will try our best to relay these sentiments and are so excited to share where we have been and where we are going.
We last checked in at the start of our trekking section. We said goodbye to Cortina and made our way, full of excitement, into what the future of our next few days would hold. We got to our trailhead and began our trek to our first rifugio and it had the most spectacular views. The type of views where pictures don’t do them justice. About five miles into our trek we stopped for lunch in a beautiful valley. We had delicious sandwiches and fresh fruit. Everything here is so fresh. We then continued the rest of our trek—ascending into beautiful mountains before descending back down into stunning valleys. A little over 8 miles later we arrived at our beautiful rifugio. A quaint mountain home tucked away in a valley surrounded by stunning peaks. A creek is running through luscious green grass that empties out into a massive canyon. Charlie and William spotted a cave on our way in. Once we settled into our rooms some of the group headed up the side of the cliff to explore the caves. There are many caves throughout the Dolomites that were created during WW1. They were used as shelters, storage, and barracks for the Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers. From the cave there was a beautiful view that the group was able to take a moment to appreciate while listening to some music. After some much needed showers we gathered in the dining room for our first Alpine dinner. We had venison, gnocchi, and mushrooms as our main course followed by a bread bowl and Bolognese and then finished off with a delicious dessert. Some of the students even said this was the best meal they ever had! Moonup and music followed dinner. William and Anderson hosted moonup at sunset outside of a mountain chapel—our guides Marco and Karin joined in on the fun! It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
After a much-needed rest we woke up early the next morning and set off on our next hike down the canyon. We headed to our next rifugio on the Fannes Plateau. As we weaved our way through valleys and canyons, we were able to see millions of years of geological history embedded in the rock walls. The Dolomites, millions of years ago, used to be a tropical paradise before the oceans receded and the mountains jetted up. Our guide Karin gave us a detailed history of the Dolomites and we learned more about the chemical makeup of the rock formations. Once we made it to our next rifugio—settled next to a beautiful lake and insane peaks—some rainy weather rolled in and we took showers, got cozy, and watched the rain from our balcony. The following day was a sort of choose your own adventure type day. We slept in and had a delicious buffet breakfast, packed what was needed for the day, and headed off on a 6-hour loop on the Fannes Plateau. The entire group was awe struck by the jagged peaks and beautiful colors even though it was cloudy outside. It is impossible to look anywhere around here without seeing something beautiful, it’s almost overwhelming. Over-stimulated, a bit tired, and content we ate lunch in the pouring rain before making our way back to our cozy home for the night. Any regular group would have had a hard time, but not us. We were laughing, shouting, and stomping through the rain. By the time we made it back to the rifugio the sun had come out just in time for our polar plunge in the lake. At a strikingly cold 34 degrees Fahrenheit the snow melt-fed lake was so cold it almost burned. After no less than five seconds in the water everyone ran to bask in the sun and could honestly say they never felt better or more energized (even after a six-hour hike)! We took this energy into the rest of our evening as the thunderstorms rolled back in. We had a simple dinner of buttered noodles and Ella said it was the best meal of the trip so far. Our LOD Amber led the group in a cold, but hilarious moonup. Once moonup was over Charlie, Amber, Alston, and William played an intense game of Euchre. Euchre has become a main staple of the trip and is played just about every afternoon and evening!
The following morning was our earliest morning yet. We woke up to another buffet breakfast with lots of pastries and then set off on our biggest day thus far. After setting out across flat plains and walking through farmland and luscious green pastures we made our way up the side of the mountain and over a saddle. This was our hardest push so far, and Kat with her radiating energy and unique humor, kept us entertained and distracted the entire way. After an hour grinding up a steep mountain, we reached the peak which overlooked a beautiful green lake. Off in the distance we could see our destination, a rifugio on the peak of another mountain we would have to overcome. After two hours of switchbacks down the back side we reached a bright green lake at the bottom of the valley and ate lunch and rested in the sun before we would begin our final ascent of the day. The final push proved to be a lot longer than anticipated because our oath was covered in a thick layer of snow and ice. Our group was forced to become mountaineers to successfully summit the last peak. Anderson bravely found her way to the front of the pack. Even our guides fell behind and Anderson led the final charge to the top. Amber and Mak said climbing through the snow was one of the coolest things they’ve ever done. Once we found our room, unpacked, and warmed up we headed upstairs for snacks, good conversations, and lots of laughs. After another delicious dinner Charlie and Sullivan led our best moonup yet. We could not stop laughing because Ella had the greatest case of giggles ever and it was contagious. This group has truly come together in the past three days, and we cannot wait to see how much higher we can go. We both truly hope this never ends.
It’s days like this that we never let go. We might forget what we did, who we talked to, or where we went, but we will never forget how we felt. We are in between the seconds. Floating an inch off the ground. Holding onto nothing but a smile. Although we miss you all very dearly, we are exactly where we are supposed to be. So, thank you. Thank you for everything. backheck back in soon.
Frankie + Gracie
June 8, 2023
“Travel is not about the destination, some say it’s about the journey, we say it’s about the company”.
Family and Friends,
Greetings from across the world!! It is so surreal for us to be back again for another magical Moondance summer in the most beautiful place. These past three days have already been nothing short of amazing and we are just getting started. Having done this a few times, it feels so amazing, so natural, to be back leading. To be back doing what we love. We are in awe of the beauty that the Dolomites have to offer and we haven’t even left town yet. Such a special place is sure to be the vessel of our life changing experience. Thank you for sharing your wonderful kids with us! We love them already and cannot wait for you guys to get a glimpse into what the past three days have been like.
Day one jitters are real. We were bouncing off the walls of the airport eager to meet our group! We could not wait to see all their shining faces and get the ball rolling. When they arrived, the energy was high and the excitement was contagious. We scarfed down some fresh croissants from a local bakery and eagerly headed to our van. Our driver took us on a beautiful drive from the airport, across the flats and eventually into the lower part of the Italian Alps. Eventually the road became windier and windier and the peaks got taller and taller. We had officially entered into the Dolomite Mountain Range. Our destination was a beautiful alpine resort called Cortina D’ampezzo where our fun would begin.
Once we arrived in Cortina we immediately went to explore. On our way in we spotted an old ski jump course, and started to see remnants of older parts of the resort that hosted the Olympic winter games in 1957. After setting up shop in a stunning alpine hotel, we walked around the town. Cortina is completely surrounded by mountains and there is not a single direction that won’t drop your jaw. Our tummies were soon very hungry, so naturally we found ourselves at an absolutely delicious local pizza stop. Cause you know, Italy. Kat, Amber, and Mak could not get enough of the “world famous” spinach ricotta pizza. Although they were all delicious the group decided that the spicy peperoni was the best. Maybe the best of all time. It was our first group dinner together and it was already feeling like family. After getting settled, we all sat down at a park at the end of the street. Surrounded by old mountains and new friends, we had our first moonup. For those of you who don’t know, moonup is a reflection, debrief, briefing, goofy, laughter filled, heck of a time. Because of their wonderful attitude and their love of the Moondance culture, Ella and Charlie were made the leaders of the day (aka LODS you’ll see that again) for tomorrow.
The next day, Ella and Charlie set an amazing tone as the first LOD’s and did an incredible job leading the group on our first real adventure. Our group went mountaineering/traversing on the Via Ferrata Giovanni Barbara. After a quick bus ride and 30-minute hike through a literal magic fairyland Disney forest, we found our trailhead. The overlook we came to was without a doubt the most beautiful view Gracie and I have ever seen. And we’ve both seen a thing or two. Everyone was in awe over its sheer beauty. It was mind-bendingly gorgeous. Our guides taught us how to gear up and get strapped into our harnesses. We put helmets on and set off. Clipping into cables on the side of a mountain we ascended and descended steep cliffs. The guides had told us earlier on that there was a surprise waiting for us. And boyyyy were they right! An absolutely massive waterfall was standing between us and the rest of the path. Each of us charged forward through the massive spray being thrown from the impact zone. William and Charlie couldn’t wipe the smile of their faces even if they tried. We all got soaking wet, but it was a great way too cool off. Amber kept the group laughing all day long and kept asking if we could do it again!! Once our mountaineering adventure was over, we headed back to town to grab some dinner.
Surprise! We had more delicious pizza! Sullivan ordered the best gnocchi and the rest of the group had to get some as well! Alston was the photographer of the dinner and made sure to capture the moment with some some great pictures of all the food. After another delicious dinner, the group still agreed the classic pepperoni pizza was the best. As if the day could not get any better after dinner we went and got some gelato to cap it off. The limone flavor was voted the best by our group and it did not disappoint. After gelato, we had moonup run by Ella and Charlie. After a little music, some goofy games, and some good laughs, they chose Anderson and William to be the LOD’s for the next day because of how willing they were to help the group today. The new LOD’s have a huge day tomorrow, given we begin our first day of trekking. The group is thriving and we so ready for our next adventure together.
These past few days could not have been better. Our hearts are all so full and we all feel so lucky to be in such a beautiful place with such amazing people. We can already tell that these friendships forming will last a lifetime. And it’s only day 3! Something magical is happening, and we can all feel it. Love and miss you all. We will check back in a couple days to catch you up. Until then, be well!
Frankie + Gracie
June 7, 2023
Hello Dolomites Families!
We heard from our leaders this morning that the group has landed safely in Venice! The trip is off to a great start, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventure as they dance around the Dolomites.
Please remember our leaders and students will be unplugged during their trips but we will be posting trip updates throughout the next week! This will allow you to follow along with the trip. You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to!