July 5, 2023
“The perfect mind employs itself as a mirror, it grasps nothing and refuses nothing. It receives but does not keep. To have no hang up, that is to say, to be able to drift like a cloud and flow like water. Seeing that all life is a magnificent illusion. A playing of energy. And there is absolutely nothing fundamentally to be afraid of.” – Alan Watts
Family and Friends,
I write this final trip update to you with a sad, but full heart. We just dropped off all your wonderful children and we already feel their absence. Although we feel this absence deeply, we know that it is just love in a heavy coat. These past two weeks have flown by, but our souls are filled with love and fullness. Our group in a short span of time went from complete strangers to family. It is truly special to be a part of a group that connects so deeply. These past three days have been full of adventure, connection, and love.
We left off on our last day of climbing. The next morning, we woke up and had an amazing trek out. We trekked through beautiful grassy valleys, steep mountains, and rolling hills till we descended out of the mountains. We spent the last week fully submerged in the Dolomite region and we were all very sad to go. We will forever miss the beautiful peaks and luscious fields that we made our home over the past few days. When we reached the bottom, we were met by our drivers who took us to our next spot. After a short drive we arrive in Claut, a small Italian town tucked away in the mountains. Claut is quiet, beautiful, and has amazing gelato. We wrapped up our night with an amazing dinner, lots of laughter, and some gelato. Our LODs Abigail and Matt lead another amazing moonup where the group continued to grow closer and closer. We soon after went to bed eagerly awaiting our next day.
The next morning, we had a big adventure ahead. Today is the day that we canyoneer. Canyoneering is where we go through canyons alongside a river and repel, slide, and jump off massive rock faces. Our group was beyond excited for this portion. Baker and Atticus lead the group fearlessly down the canyon. They were first to jump, repel, and slide off every rock. They continued to encourage and support the rest of the group with big smiles on their faces. Tierney, Halle, and Bella took up the rear making sure to jump in everybody of water and swim around no matter how cold. The whole group laughed the entire way down the canyon. We as leaders were beyond proud of their ability to get out of their comfort zone, encourage one another in the process, and have a smile on their face the whole time.
After Canyoneering we had a delicious lunch by the river and enjoyed each other’s company. It is finally settling in that we only have a little bit of time with each other left. Every moment has become precious, and we are soaking up every last minute with one another. We all played cards, laughed, told stories, and enjoyed some quality time with each other. We had some dinner, got some more gelato and ended our evening with a wonderful moonup underneath the sunset. We all stayed and watched the beautiful stars together and appreciated the family we had formed within one another. Annie and Frankie closed the evening with music as the rest of the group sang along and enjoyed themselves. The music hummed us to sleep, and we rested awaiting our next adventure in Venice.
The floating city, what a wonder. We hopped in the car and headed towards one of the greatest feats of mankind. Everyone was bouncing off the walls of the taxi. We transferred to a water taxi and traveled the canals in style. We sang the national anthem at the top of our lungs. The one day of the year where being American and being loud and proud is cool. We unloaded our bags and hit the town. We walked, talked, shopped, and took in the sights. The city was humming. After a rather timely stop at Zara, we made our way to dinner. We ate the best meal yet at a quaint little canal side hole in the wall. We filled our bellies and laughed the whole time. After we walked to our Moonup spot. The point at the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute seemed like a good spot. A central lookout at one of the grandest cities in the world. Claire and Carolyn led our final Moonup. We wish it went on forever. Time seemed to stand still even though darkness was falling. The lights lit our way to the water taxi home. We got cozy and sang songs while Annie played guitar for us. We went into a deep sleep. Ready for what we knew would be hard goodbyes in the morning.
Something about Moondance always leaves you wanting more. It’s a taste that never satisfies. An itch that you can’t quite scratch away. If we could do it forever, we would. Without a thought we would. We also understand that it wouldn’t be the same if it was a constant in our lives. We understand that because it is fleeting and because it in fact has an end. It is more beautiful. It’s very nature, forces you to feel everything and to hold on to nothing. It allows you to inhabit a space that gives you permission to be yourself. To be a part of everything that is around. To be a true citizen of the moment. That is why we do what we do. For the people around us. For the environment that we find ourselves in. For the moment. Most importantly it teaches us to be grateful. Grateful for it all. Grateful to be a part of the great unfolding, and to do it together. This group has become one. We are a unit. A team. A family. We thank you all from the bottom of our heart and cannot wait to see you all soon. One last time, we send our love and gratitude. Be well.
Frankie + Gracie
July 2, 2023
“Decide what to be and go be it”- The Avett Brothers
Friends and Family,
All we have to say is wow. These past couple days have been even better than the ones before. At the time we did not think it was even possible. Yet here we are! This group has truly hit its stride. We are movin’ and groovin’. We look out for each other like siblings, laugh like childhood friends, and love like family.
Last we left you, we were about to trek our way to our climbing spot. We woke up earlier than usual, packed light and headed off to the tunnels. During the First World War, the Italian and the Austrian front line was right where our refugio sits today. The Austrian line was atop the mountain, so the Italians used the cover of the overhanging ledge. They dug a labyrinth of tunnels up the entire side of the mountain to undermine the Austrian position. After a history lesson from our guide Marco we geared up for the long descent through the tunnels. We hooked up to the Via Ferrata and began our exploration. Our LODs of the day Halle and Annie led the way. We saw old barracks where the soldiers slept and the officers quarters as well. We went all the way down the mountain through the tunnels and were actually inside the rock face! Once we made it down the mountain we sat in a lucious, grassy field and had sandwiches and fruit for lunch.
Once we finished our meal, we started our final trek to our new refugio that would be our home for the next three nights. This refugio is on top of a mountain and surrounded by peaks which make for some amazing views! Every way you look you will see incredible mountains and be in absolute awe. Once we got to the top we settled into our new home, had some dinner, did moonup, and got some much needed rest.
We woke up rested and ready for the big day we had ahead. Today we mountaineering and summiting one of the larger peaks in the Dolomite ranges. We got into ropes teams, clipped into the mountain, and began our ascent. The group was lead by ropes team one consisting of Matt, Tierney, Carolyn, and Gracie. The rest of the teams followed one after the other. The climb was long, steep, and hard, but every single one of us made it to the peak! Once we got to the peak we all celebrated and signed our names at the top in a notebook so for years to come everyone will know that this Moondance group made it. After making it to the top the hard part was not over yet, we still had our descent down. Our descent consisted of repelling, down climbing, and lots of steep terrain. Carefully each group descended back to the base successfully and safely. We were all thrilled and celebrated with a big lunch and some hot drinks!
After lunch we went to the world famous climbing destination that was right outside of our door, the Cinque Torre, or Five Towers. Our guides set up some top ropes and Atticus and Baker were the first to step up to climb. We had multiple routes set up and every single person in the group climbed. There were lots of fears faced today. Along with climbing, the group also learned how to belay. By the end of the climbing expedition Tiereny belayed pretty much every student. After lots of climbing the group headed back to the refugio with sore arms and happy hearts. We had another amazing dinner and then we’re led by our LODs Abigail and Bella in moonup. Annie and Frankie played guitar and sang as we all watched the sunset. It was another incredible day in the Dolomites.
We got up the next morning extremely excited for what the day had in store for us. Today was a full day of climbing at the Cinque Torre and the group could not wait. Today our guides decided to not only set up top rope climbs but also multi-pitch climbs. Multi-pitch climbing reaches much higher peaks than top rope climbing. Bella and Abigail were the first two to try the multi-pitch climb. They both made it to the top of the tower and then repelled the backside of it. Following them two was Atticus and Baker. They also made it to the top of the multi-pitch climb as well as Carolyn and Claire. We were so impressed with them all for doing this hard climb and repelling off the back of one of the towers. Right before we left, Halle, who is terrified of heights, got the courage to do the very tall multi-pitch climb with Annie! With Annie’s encouragement, Halle and her both made it to the very top and repelled off the back. We were so proud of both of them! Halle faced a fear today and Annie encouraged her the entire time. It was incredible to witness. We ended our time at the towers filled with memories that will last a lifetime. We couldn’t be prouder of each one of our students for doing something that gets them out of their comfort zone and being so brave. We ended our wonderful day with moonup led by Atticus and Claire, music, and an amazing sunset. The Dolomites are incredible, your children are incredible, and we couldn’t feel luckier.
Oftentimes in life, we find ourselves longing to be somewhere else. Doing something else. Being someone else. Tired of the past and scared of the future. Worried about our place in it all. We don’t long to be anywhere else in the world. With anyone else. Doing anything else. We are all our best selves! We have faced fears, and conquered heights we did not know possible and we’ve picked up a few things along the way. Most importantly we’ve done it together. As always we love and miss you all dearly. We will check back in again after canyoneering and our Venetian adventure. Until then, be well.
Frankie + Gracie
June 29, 2023
“You can be the master of your fate and the captain of your soul but you have to realize that life is coming from you and not at you and that takes time” – TC
Friends and Family,
We have had quite an amazing past few days full of lots of laughs, trekking, and beautiful views. The past couple days have been some of the best of the summer. The weather has been incredible. Bluebird days, one after the other. We have not seen this many stars in all our life. The full Milky Way band sure is something to see. We started our trekking journey with a long and beautiful hike up to our first Refugio that is situated in between radical jagged peaks. The trek was beautiful and a perfect introduction into the stunning scenery that we will see in the next few days. Once we got to our Refugio, we were greeted by a lovely herd of cattle, or grass puppies as we like to call them. After hanging out with our new friends for a bit our group decided to enjoy the sun and sit outside. We sat and listened to Annie and Frankie play the guitar and sing songs. Music has been a huge part of this trip. Ever since our first Moonup they have played multiple songs every night. A little concert just for us. The group listened attentively and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. Later on Halle, Baker, Matt, and Atticus went up and explored a cave sitting on the side of the mountain. Up at the cave there were the most beautiful views of the mountains and stream that runs by our Refugio. The entire valley is visible from the ridgeline. Once they got back down we indulged in a delicious four course dinner that nourished our bodies and left us feeling full and happy. After dinner we headed up the mountain a little ways to a beautiful overlook of a valley. Atticus and Carolyn, our LODs, chose to lead moonup at this beautiful spot and it did not disappoint. The sunset was absolutely gorgeous. After a thoughtful moonup the group headed back to our rooms and got ready for bed.
The next morning we woke up to the smell of coffee and delicious pastries. We fueled our bodies with some breakfast, packed up, put on our boots and headed out for the day. We descended 2,000 ft into the canyon that would then open up and lead into a sprawling farm with another Refugio. Our guide showed us fossils in the layers of limestone. If you read our past trip update you’d know that the Dolomites are a relatively young mountain range. That at one time was a beautiful tropical paradise with coral reefs, sandy beaches, and countless islands. After a brief stop and a quick bite, we headed on upwards. We ascended the opposite side of the valley and climbed nearly 2,500 ft to our next home. Our Refugio was tucked away behind a mountain and surrounded by luscious, green, grass where cows would graze all day. A gorgeous emerald green lake was just a two min walk from our front door. After we ripped off our boots, the guides checked us in and the group went for a swim. We found a rock to jump off of, and one by one found the courage to brave the freezing water. As we all know, you can never pass up a cold body of water on Moondance! We nearly ran back home to shower and get cozy. We ate the best dinner yet, and were laughing so hard, the waiter thought we were crying! Later that night the energy continued into our best Moonup yet. We danced and sang next to the lake and became a family for the first time. We shared our thoughts on how we could push ourselves to be more comfortable being uncomfortable. The twins, Tierney and Matt, led the best Moonup of all time. They had us laughing all night. It lasted nearly 2 hours. We headed back home in the dark. Surrounded by countless stars.
We woke up the next day after a great night’s rest and headed to yet another delicious breakfast. We filled our bellies with hot chocolate and coffee, pastries, bacon, yogurt, and fruit. Today we are doing a beautiful day hike led by our wonderful LODs. They looked at the map and helped choose the route that we would take. We started by ascending up what was called the “Marmot Parliament”. This grassy uphill is home to hundreds of adorable little creatures called Marmots. We were lucky enough to spot a few of the very shy creatures and watch them scurry around. After ascending up a mountain Annie and Halle chose a comfortable place for lunch that had 360 views of mountains all around. We were completely surrounded by magnificent mountains and we all shared how lucky we were feeling to be here and to experience something this incredible. We ate our lunch of sandwiches and fruit and admired the beauty around us. After enjoying our surroundings and each others company Halle and Annie lead the trek back to our Refugio. The trek back was filled with beautiful wild flowers of all different colors. We stopped and admired the different flowers and plants that we had never seen before. We eventually made it back to our home for the evening, showered, and got comfortable for dinner. We had delicious pasta, salad, and tiramisu for dessert. After dinner we watched the sunset and Annie and Halle lead our moonup. We then went to bed and rested up for our next big day.
We awoke the next morning excited and eager for the hike we had planned. Today would be our biggest hike with the longest distance and biggest elevation gain. We were buzzing with excitement for what this challenge would hold for our group. We ate some breakfast and fueled up for the day. We got our packs ready, put on our boots and did our morning huddle. Abigail and Bella lead us in some pre-hike stretches. Once we felt loose and ready we began trekking. We descended down a mountain and then back up the other side and headed through a beautiful grassy valley. At the bottom of this valley we grabbed a snack and prepared for the hardest part of our trek. We ascended up a steep mountain step by step led by Baker and Atticus. Once we arrived at the top we felt like we were on top of the world. From the top of this mountain you could see the Austrian Alps. After we enjoyed the views of the top we descended down the backside of the mountain and arrived at a beautiful Emerald Lake. Here would be our lunch stop before our final push. We ate lunch, chatted, and enjoyed the scenery. Once we felt satisfied we began our next big push to our Refugio. We were at the bottom of the mountain and our Refugio was at the very top. The only way to get there was through a long, steep, climb and lots of switchbacks. The group pushed through step by step. Claire kept our spirits up the entire time and had the whole group laughing even at the steepest parts. Finally we made it to the peak and where our rifugio was. We got snacks and hot chocolate to celebrate our big accomplishment. After, we all took a siesta and had some much needed relaxation before dinner. We had a delicious dinner filled with laughter. Then Abigail and Claire, our LODs of the day found the perfect spot for moonup. We watched the most beautiful sunset while Annie and Frankie played guitar and sang. We were all in agreement that it was one of the most beautiful views that we had ever seen. That evening was an evening that none of us will ever forget. Once the sun went down we headed to our rooms and got some much needed sleep.
It’s day six and it feels like we’ve known them our whole lives. This group is something else. You have raised, shaped, guided, and brought into this world, wonderful human beings. People that will bring light, laughter, and kindness into the world. So we thank you. From the bottom of our hearts. We look forward to sharing more of our journey with you! Until then, be well.
Frankie + Gracie
June 26, 2023
“Travel is the best form of education” – everyone ever
Friends and Family,
Ciao!! Greetings from the Italian Dolomites. We are so grateful to lead yet another Italian adventure and are beyond excited to share the next two weeks with you. Even if it is virtually. These past few days have been nothing short of amazing. It’s just the beginning of what we believe will be a magical two weeks. This group is already forming into something beautiful. Even though we have only been together for two days, this group has already created meaningful friendships and has been laughing non stop. We can’t even begin to express our excitement for what this trip will bring. We are truly grateful for the opportunity to share it together.
Two days ago we waited at Marco Polo airport eager and beyond excited to meet your wonderful kids and take them on an adventure of a lifetime. Once they showed up we quickly met our bus driver and set off on our journey to a small and beautiful mountain town right outside of Cortina. The drive was stunning and we had our eyes plastered to the windows. We passed beautiful green pastures, massive mountains, blue streams, and spotted lots of cattle. This was just a preview of the beauty that is to come in the following days and we are bouncing off the walls with excitement, ready to show them this beautiful country.
Once we arrived at our hotel which would be our home for the next two nights we dropped our luggage and immediately walked down the road to the local pizza joint. Baker said it was the best pizza he has ever had and none of us were in disagreement. After walking around the small town and admiring the 360 views, we returned to our luxury mountain retreat. Abigail and Claire had the brilliant idea to head to the pool. The entire group decided to join and we all headed downstairs to the indoor heated pool which happened to have stunning views of the mountains. We all swam around in these hilarious hair swim caps that they made us wear. We soon figured out the hotel was also a spa and had free amenities for the guests. We decided we could not pass up an opportunity to relax before our big trek began so we took full advantage. We got in the steam room, the sauna, the ice showers, and relaxed in the salt room. We felt like we were famous and were feeling very fancy. After the spa we got into our comfy clothes and headed to dinner. For dinner we had a four course meal consisting of salad, pasta, cheese, and dessert. Everything was delicious and our bellies were full.
After our family dinner, we all circled up outside under the stars for our first moonup. Moonup is a debrief of the day and briefing of the next day. It is our group’s time to share music and poems, get to know each other better, and laugh a lot. It is also a time to reflect inward and learn more about ourselves. Every Moondance trip has Moonup every night and we believe it is one of the most important things we do. It is also a nice thought that all around the world, in the future, in the past, across oceans and continents, in different cities and countries, all summer, people are connecting through this practice. Since it was our first Moonup, we kicked off the festivities, but after this evening the students will fully take control of this space. We chose the leaders of the day or LODs for tomorrow which were Baker and Bella.They will be in charge of leading the group tomorrow, keeping up the energy, and leading our moonup. Once moonup was over everyone was exhausted after a long day of travel so we headed off to bed.
The next morning we woke everyone up after an amazing and much needed night’s rest. We headed down to breakfast and fueled our bodies with eggs, bacon, croissants, pastries, yogurt, and fruit. Once we were done eating breakfast we headed upstairs to put on our hiking clothes for the day and then met up with our amazing guides. Our guides briefed us on the day and what we would be doing. We were to hike Via Ferrata or “iron road”. It is a hike through a mountain where you clip in the iron cables along the way because you are walking on a cliff side and scaling up parts of the cliffs. We packed our day packs, grabbed lots of water, and grabbed our sack lunch and headed to the trailhead.
Once we got to the trailhead, we were ready to begin our big adventure for the day. We started walking with Halle leading the pack with her knee brace on and everyone was jaw dropped by the views we were seeing. It’s impossible to look so where and not drop your jaw where you’re standing. We were walking along a clear blue river that was surrounded by mountains, massive pine trees, and wildflowers. At the top of our trail we geared up with harnesses, ropes, carabiners, and of course, helmets. We were ready to clip on to the cables that were guiding us through the canyon.
Atticus and Matt bravely took the lead and they were the first to clip into the Via Ferrata. They lead us to a big wall that the group would have to scale up. This was very intimidating, but Tierney encouraged the group with her positive attitude and eased everyone’s nerves with her light hearted sense of humor.
Once we got to the top of this rock wall there was a breathtaking waterfall waiting for us. We then had to walk underneath the waterfall getting sprayed by the water. This water was extremely refreshing and cooled us all down from the hot sun. After the waterfall we walked along the edge of a cliff that looked over into a valley with a gorgeous river flowing through. After all this hiking, climbing, and scaling we worked up an appetite. We parked ourselves for lunch in the shade of a pine forest. We had ham and cheese sandwiches, apples, and granola bars. Once we drank lots of water, ate our lunch, and had a good rest we started our hike back down.
We got back to the trailhead and headed back to our hotel for the rest of the evening. The group chilled, swam, and continued to get to know each other until dinner. Dinner was delicious and we could not stop laughing. This energy carried through the night and into our moonup which was also full of laughter and amazing conversations.
Our LODs led Moonup. Annie opened up with an incredible rendition of Put Your Records On. Her voice is truly angelic. Everyone had full body chills. We talked about our role models and the people in our life who we look up to. I’m sure a lot of you reading this now were mentioned. Before we closed moonup our next two LODs were chosen which was Carolyn and Atticus. After we headed off to bed, eager to begin the chapter of our journey.
As we said earlier this group is starting off incredibly strong. Something magical is happening. The stars are aligning. We find ourselves here again and couldn’t be happier. We have the greatest job in the world. Thank you for making it a reality. We love you all. We will check back in after our trekking section. Talk soon!
Frankie + Gracie
June 24, 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!