June 19, 2023
Garrett and I are writing this trip update from the Venice airport as all our students are headed back to the States. We are filled with joy for having the pleasure of being able to meet some of the most incredible people, but we are also filled with great sadness from saying goodbye to people that mean the world to us. Garrett and I truly couldn’t have asked for a better first group and to say we will miss them is an understatement.
Let’s rewind to our final days together…
Two days ago, we left behind the cold mountain air and rocky top views in exchange for sights from the bottom of canyons amidst jaw-dropping waterfalls. As we pulled into our accommodation, we were warmly welcomed by the host, who despite not speaking English, has warm hospitality that was easily understood by our group. We explored the surrounding town and eventually found ourselves playing a game of soccer with some locals where we saw for the first time Walker’s competitive side come out as he was adamant at keeping up with the natural-born soccer players of Italy. Fortunately, we had our superstar goalie, Lucy blocking shots left and right from our opponents for the night. We went to bed tired but excited for the next day of canyoning, a popular extreme sport for the locals of this region.
Our guide, Ennio, guided us through our day of canyoning while one of our fearless LODs, Olivia, led the charge, going first on every rappel, jump, climb, swim, and hike through this vast, pristine canyon. Cal and Mikey managed to keep the entire group laughing despite the cold water through their hilarious reactions and commentary throughout our adventure. As we traversed through the canyon, we stumbled upon a great watering hole to jump into where Lilly bravely and elegantly made her way up the wall for our second jump showing the group how to jump into the water in style. Fortunately, our Georgia peach, Sarah, was in a prime spot to catch our jumps on video, capturing this memory for all of us. Overall, today was an awesome day and a great way to end our time in the Dolomite region. We’re all sad to leave this special place we’ve called home for the past 12 days but so so excited to travel to the underwater city of Venice!!
Our group woke up excited and eager to begin our travel day to Venice. As we arrived, we took a private water taxi to our hotel accommodation where we grabbed some much-needed authentic pizza and gelato and then checked into our hotel for the night. Venice is a much-appreciated change of scenery from the mountains as everyone in our group appreciated the warm weather, sunny skies, and sea breeze. We soon left our accommodation and made our way toward San Marco Square to do a little shopping and sightseeing. To prepare for our banquet dinner in the only way possible, Julia, Elise, Sarah, and Emerson got matching dresses which they proudly wore around town, recreating their very own “Mama Mia” moment. Garrett and the guys got their banquet outfits from a local street vendor, experimenting with the unique European clothing style before deciding to outdo the girls with their new polos. We capped our night off with an amazing pizza and pasta dinner and frolicked the night away in San Marco Square as it began to flood with the incoming tide. After, our group walked back to the hotel where we had our last Moonup for the trip.
This morning we woke up and ate our very last chocolate croissant before catching our water taxi back to the airport. Garrett and I are filled with immense gratitude and joy for the time we’ve spent laughing and living in the moment and will keep this group close to our hearts long after our trip ends. Because of this group, Garrett and I have smiled wider than we ever thought possible and we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Parents, thank you for sharing your kids with us for the summer, and kids thank you for choosing to jump into the goofiness and spontaneity of Dol 1B.
We love and miss you already,
Mom and Dad
June 17, 2023
Sarah- love u so much Dad thank u for all you do can’t wait to see u so soon please pick me up from the airport!!!!
Emerson- Happy Father’s Day to the family that dreads it the most! lol seriously tho I love you so much Dad (and Mom ps short layover pls) u guys are my favorite people and I can’t wait to see u guys soon I miss y’all so much!!
Julia- hi family! Happy Father’s Day Dad! I love you and thank you sooo much for sending me on this trip! Miss you lots and can’t wait to see y’all soon!
Elise- Happy Father’s Day Dad!! I love you so much. Thanks for being the best dad in the world and putting up with me. I hope you and Mom are having a blast in Iceland! See you in the Atlanta airport! love you -Lisi
Lilly- Happy Father’s Day Dad, love you so much! Thanks for everything you do for me! Also hello to the rest of the family, miss you all very much. I have had the best time in the Dolomites and can’t wait to see you! Also please bring me Chipotle :)- Lils
Lucy- Happy Father’s Day Daddy!! Thank you for being the best dad ever, I love you so so much! Happy Father’s Day Lance, thank you so much for being an amazing step-dad! Hey to everyone else too! I miss y’all so so much and as sad as I am to leave Italy and my new friends, I’m so excited to hug y’all when I get home! I’ve had the best time in the Dolomites and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. P.s. (yes Harris this is for you) my group is amazing and I can’t wait to call you once I get my phone back so we can catch up. Love y’all all so much! – Lucy
Walker- Happy Father’s Day Dad. I love you so much. Hey Mom and Austin hope y’all are also doing well and love all y’all so much. The Dolomites are so pretty, wish y’all could be here. I can’t wait to see y’all and tell you all about it. Love you -Walker
Mikey- Happy Father’s Day pops. To the rest of my family, miss you guys. Sincerely, Mikey.
Cal – Happy Father’s Day Dad! I love you. Hope y’all are having fun in Japan Can’t wait to see y’all and tell y’all about it when I get home. love you, Cal.
Olivia – Happy Father’s Day Father!! I love you so much. I miss all of you guys so much. But I miss Phoebe the most. She’s so sweet. I’m having such a great time and I’m so sad to be leaving this amazing group of people and this amazing place. Mother, love you so much and I cannot wait to show you all the photos. Ya Ya, I cannot wait to hear if you have any funny babysitting stories so far! Into the Night by the one and only Benny Mardones played the other night in the Refugio we were staying at. Don’t forget that I’m getting my license the day I get back!!! Make sure you guys are up when I get my phone cus I will be calling you all right away. Can’t wait so see all of you in a few days. I love you all so much! – Warmly I remain, Your youngest family member.
June 16, 2023
Ciao from the Dolomites!
Although it hasn’t been too long since we last gave an update, much has happened and Taylor and I have an easy time bragging about how great our group is. Since we last chatted, our group began our three day trekking marathon, covering quite literally a marathon’s worth of miles with smiles all around. We started our journey with two summit hikes on the same day, where our creative storytellers Mikey and Garrett (myself) kept the group laughing with our tale of battling 8 billion zombies with our superpowers, weapon, and animal companions. As the cross which marked our first summit came into view, our group hurried up to the top where the girls, Emerson, Julia, Elise, and Lucy were the first to take some amazing pictures before the clouds rolled in, covering the valley with a blanket of white. The early bird really does get the worm. We all signed the summit book, took a much needed water break, then continued to our next summit of the day. This day was super rewarding as the group hiked through two summits, rolling green fields, beautiful rifugios and farmhouses, all while laughing and learning more about each other through trail talk. We all had a big sleepover in our cozy 12-person room where Taylor and I really learned how much some members of our group loved reading. Lilly, Olivia, and Sarah proved to be speed readers, with each finishing at least one book at our short time here. It’s safe to say Colleen Hoover has taken over our group and has infected everyone with the reading bug.
The next day our group began a long trek to the next rifugio on our Italian journey, a Rifugio high up in the Dolomite mountains with a magnificent view of Monte Civetta, the “wall of walls”, a rock face over 1200m high and 6km long! Although the hike was challenging, Walker and Cal consistently stayed at the front of the pack, motivating and leading the group throughout our journey. Once we reached the top, our group was warmly met by the family who runs the rifugio and their dogs and cats that instantly cheered everyone up. We truly have been blessed with some amazing pets at each of the rifugios we’ve stayed at, a pleasant surprise nobody was expecting. After a hot meal, a good night’s sleep, and some luxurious R&R, our group woke up ready to win the day as we hiked down to a local town where we would get transported to our next accommodation.
As always, Lucy motivated the entire group with words of affirmation and cheers as we journeyed down the mountains and valleys to reach our ride. Lucy has been a beacon of positivity the entire trip and the group has absolutely benefitted from her encouragement. After a long downhill hike, our group gratefully ate lunch and then we were on the road where many of us (myself included) took a restorative nap as we rode to our next accommodation. We rounded out the day with a trip around town to the local church and soccer field and played an electrifying game with some locals followed by a great dinner from our most welcoming host, then Moonup leaving everyone excited for our day of canyoneering tomorrow. Although it isn’t the same as being here, I hope these updates have allowed you to live vicariously through our group as we continue our unforgettable Italian adventure.
June 13, 2023
Hello from the beautiful Italian Dolomites!
There is no better place to be and no one better to be with! Every day we’ve woken up with a sense of gratitude to be looking at the incredible snowcapped peaks of the Dolomites and breathe in the clean mountain air.
The other day, we had our first long hike of the trip, spanning 10 miles across the incredible Campolongo pass. We strapped on our hiking boots and mentally prepared for a long but rewarding day with great views. A couple hours into the trek, Michele, our experienced outfitter, led the “no mercy” group at the front of the pack which included all our Alpine athletes- Cal, Elise, Mikey, and Lilly. As the no mercy group fearlessly blazed the trail, the rest of us maintained a chill pace, with hilarious trail talk, and belly laughter that echoed around the mountains. 3/4 of the way through the trek, we stopped and had lunch at the top of a panoramic viewpoint where we jokingly had all the students point to their favorite mountain. On our hike back, Olivia saw a marmot that she mistook for a fat squirrel and also pointed out a couple rock climbers high in the cliff faces above us. That definitely got the whole group excited for the upcoming days of climbing that awaited us.
The next day we took a gondola up to a Refugio 9000+ feet above sea level that was tucked into the snowy mountain face. From there, we were able to see 360 views of the towering mountain tops around us and all the way to the snowy mountains of Austria! We took a couple pictures at the top before energizing the group with a hype speech from Garrett and a big ole squeeze of Mio energy from myself. We then suited up in our harness, helmets, and headlamps, before descending down the World War 1 tunnels. As we made our way down the steep and dark steps, we hit a patch of ice where Emerson slid through my legs with elegance like she had planned it! The tunnels were eye-opening to the life of WW1 soldiers back in the day. None of us could imagine doing this hike every day, much less with 100lbs on our back, and were all amazed at the historical significance we personally experienced. After that, we continued our trek from the bottom of the tunnels to our next Refugio, which was nestled in between astonishing snowy peaks and Italy’s oldest Refugio. The hike to the Refugio was a challenging uphill grind, but after a quick water break, Mikey, Sarah, Cal, Walker and Elise blessed us with ballads from Adele and Tyler Childers, which boosted morale just enough for us to reach the top of the mountain. Julia had a great idea for us to celebrate our climb with hot chocolate and the best view we had seen yet!
The next day, clouds rolled over the mountain tops, and we prepared for a summit hike of the cliffs directly behind our Refugio. We hiked up the steep mountain face and clipped into a via ferrata. Since it was our second time around, all the students killed it, but honorable mentions to Lilly and Walker who continued to face their fear of heights and effortlessly conquered the “iron path.” As we trekked upwards and through the snow, Lucy continued to be the heartbeat of our group as she yelled encouragements up the mountain to the rest of the group. When we summited the mountain, we threw our hands in the air and marveled at the view and the teamwork that it took to reach the top! We then rested and recovered with the most authentic and delicious Italian meal yet! Most of the group tried the homemade pasta, but Walker, Cal and Mikey expanded their pallets with the special of the day, the blue cheese gnocchi.
Yesterday, we woke up and took in the gorgeous view from our Refugio one last time before hiking down to Cinque Torri where we would rock climb for the day. After a safety briefing from our guides, the students were eager to start climbing and belaying one another up the wall. Walker, Mikey and Cal were the first to attempt the three routes, but the girls were close behind them. Every time I looked at the wall, Emerson, Lucy, Julia and Lily were blazing routes through the cracks and up to the top with breath taking views of the mountains below. We ate lunch with yet again, another gorgeous view before Garrett and I freestyled a popular rap song that had the whole group laughing. We then ended the day with a Moonup led by Olivia and Julia where they asked the question, “Are you the best version of yourself, and if not, what’s stopping you from becoming it?” As a group, everyone really opened up and we talked about how each day is an opportunity to chase and grow into the person we desire to be.
As a whole, Garrett and I are really proud of this group for the laughs and optimism they’ve shared. As a group, we’ve pushed our physical limits and challenged each other to be grateful for the opportunity to wake up every day and accomplish something great as a team. This group sure is special and it’s hard to believe we are already halfway through our trip! Until next time, Ciao!
-Taylor and Garrett
June 7, 2023
Hello Dolomites Families!
We heard from our leaders early this morning land 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 are headed to Alta Badia!
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!