July 5, 2023
“I have heard many theories about why we are here on this planet, but I think my favorite is that we are simply the universe wanting to experience itself. We’ve made life so complicated and stressful but maybe we are just the stars curious about the earth. A little piece of the galaxy wanting to feel the dirt beneath its feet. Wanting to fall in love and feel it’s heart beat. Maybe our purpose here is to simply be and enjoy what unfolds.”
Ciao for the last time this summer:(
It’s been a couple days since we last left but eventful and fun, nonetheless. Rewinding a couple of days, our group woke up ready and excited for a new change of pace, canyoneering, an exciting combination of hiking, sliding, jumping, and rappelling through a canyon or “natural water park” as our guide describes it.
Canyoning is an experience that varies with the weather as rain can influence how high or low the water is for our experience. Fortunately, we had a nice rain shower the night before, so the canyon was perfect for an awesome day of hiking, swimming, rappelling, and all-around goofiness throughout the day. As we get to our starting point, we all put on wetsuits and wet socks to keep us insulated in the chilly glacial water. Some of us, including Sarah and Lauren, however, had the cooler wetsuits that included a hood which completed then entire canyoneering look, subjectively more awesome than the non-hood wearing wetsuit wearers. Nonetheless, our group was pumped to get into some water after a long few days of trekking, yet nobody was more excited than our resident Texan, Bayley, who made the most of her time canyoning, jumping, slipping, and sliding through the canyon causing the whole group to belly laugh as we traversed this natural water park. Fortunately, aside from the videography taken from our leaders, the student cinematographer, MC continuously captured the moment while living in the moment herself jumping over rocks and swimming in natural pools. As we fulfilled our childhood dream of playing in a creek, all the students laughed and splashed as we made our way through the depths of the Dolomite canyons. how cool to be able to see Italy from the highest peaks to its lowest valleys!
After a long day on canyoneering, we enjoyed a mouthwatering dinner of Mac-n-cheese and country fried steak that had all of us wishing for seconds. We then spearheaded a game of fútbol with some of the locals where Sarah proved to be a spectacular goalie. After a great Moonup with an awe-inspiring orange full moon in the distance, our group settled in for the night, ready and excited for a full day of travel and adventure in the sinking city of Italy, Venice.
Th next morning we woke up and the first thought of the girls’ mind was…SHOPPING SPREE! We all dressed in our Italian best and headed in a taxi to our first big city in 12 days. We made our way to Venice in a water taxi as the students took in the sights and smells that Venice has to offer. After we dropped off our bags, Greer led the charge to Zara to help all the girls find white dresses for our Mamma Mia inspired dinner while Garrett led a group to San Marco square to shop at all the tourists’ kiosks. After no time at all, John, Caspar, Cooper, and Chelsea spotted some colorful babushkas that they just had to have. They pranced around the square in their new attire and looked as if they were Venetian celebrities. When they met up with the rest of the group, we had a photo shoot in front of Doge’s palace before showering and heading to our final dinner. There’s no better way to end a trip to Italy than pasta and pizza, so we headed to the most authentic place we knew and ordered everything off the menu. Post dinner gelato hit different as we went to one of the best gelato places in Venice, Gelato Fantasy. As we frolicked around Venice for the night, we stumbled upon a formal quartet playing the national anthem for the 4th of July which truly capped off the night in the best way possible. As we walked back to our hotel, we finished the night and trip off with the best Moonup yet as the group reminisced on the whole trip and shared laughs and great memories all around.
All the best,
Taylor + Garrett
July 3, 2023
Hi mom and dad, I hope you and everyone else are doing well! I am having so much fun here In Italy. Love you and can’t wait to see you soon! -Caspar
Hey mom and dad, thank you guys so much for sending me on this trip. I have had a blast and have learned so much about myself. Can’t wait to see you guys soon. – John
Hey mom and dad, I hope y’all are doing good. I am having so much fun here! Love y’all and can’t wait to see y’all soon! -Sarah
Hi mom and dad, I am having so much fun In Italy! This trip has taught me a lot about myself along with various life lessons. Im so thankful that I was able to go on this trip! Can’t wait to see you guys soon. Peace and love – Bayley
Hey mom and dad, I am having so much fun on this trip. I have truly changed as a person and I am so thankful that I was able to have this experience, it has helped me grow. See y’all soon, love y’all. P.S I made it to chapter 3 of my book! -Greer
Hey guys! This trip has been absolutely amazing – everything I hoped for and more!! I can’t wait to tell you all about it! Love you guys – see you soon! -Chelsea
Hey mom and dad, I am having so much fun here this place is amazing. I am so thankful that I got to come on this trip. Love and miss you guys so much and can’t wait to see you soon! P.S I made it to page 40 of my book! -Lauren
Hey dad and hey mom! Hey BroBro and hey to all of my pups! Being here in my dream destination of Italy has been an absolute blast with how authentic it is. This is basically everything I could have ever wanted and more with all the new experiences I would have never been able to do elsewhere. I’ve learned and am still learning so much about myself, mindsets and goals that have allowed me to grow not just physically but mentally too. Also I’ve loved wearing Grandmother’s jacket. (10/10-inspired by Avery last summer). I love y’all all so so much and I can’t wait to be back for a few days! With all my love – MC
Hey mom, dad and Bella. I am having so much fun here right now and can’t wait to see you guys. I know you are jealous, but don’t worry I will be home soon. Tell Louis I said I love him and I will see you guys soon. -Cooper
July 2, 2023
Buongiorno from Italia!
It hasn’t been too long since we last checked in but so much amazing stuff has happened! Let’s hit that rewind button and get into it! After an incredibly challenging but beautiful 11-mile hike, we settled into our cozy accommodation that looks up at the staggering Pelmo Mountain. We showered off the dirt and sweat that was caked onto our legs and fell fast asleep as the clouds rolled into the valley. The next morning, we woke up to a slight drizzle of rain and fueled our bodies with food before preparing for yet another day on the trail. Since we had hiked almost a half marathon the day before, today was considered an easy, active recovery day… but we still managed to hike to a summit and trek 5.5 miles. On this day, we took recovery very seriously and decided the best way to replenish our energy was by consuming copious amounts of pizza and chocolate cake. After dinner, we were teeming with energy as we blasted childhood songs like “what does the fox say,” and laughed until our stomachs hurt. Eventually, we were able to calm down and John and Sarah led us in a great Moonup. The next morning, we woke up with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for another strenuous, but rewarding hike. At breakfast, conversations were chirping, smiles were wide, and bellies were full as we got ready to trek to our next rifugio, which is only accessible by helicopter and of course, hiking. As we started our first steep uphill of the day, Greer and Lauren were absolutely crushing it, with energy to spare as they endlessly cheered everyone on, motivating the group to keep on pushing and summit each steep section. Although the weather was a bit overcast, hiking through the clouds was a surreal feeling, especially when we rose above a cloud to sunny skies and a great view. MC pointed out the natural beauty at every turn of the hike, but one of her favorite views was summiting a steep uphill section that bottomed out to a gorgeous glacial lake surrounded by mountains and clouds. As we continued to hike, eventually seeing our rifugio looking like a floating island surrounded by clouds, the group felt a magnificent sense of accomplishment to be staying at one of the most unique and breathtaking places in the entire Dolomites. Of course, the accommodation was quite busy for being so popular and we even made friends with local travelers. Bayley, Cooper, and Casper made friends with some local hikers and the rifugio staff, prompting conversations that kept us laughing the whole night. After dinner, Chelsea, Garrett and I walked up about 500 more feet to the top of the mountain to see the grandest sunset yet. Bold colors stretched across the sky as we stood high above the clouds taking it all in. Chelsea remarked that this was the most beautiful place she had ever been, and she hopes to come back one day and do a rock climbing trip. Although it was chilly being 7000+ feet above sea level, we all shared one big room with bunk beds for everyone and then some. It was bittersweet to leave what was one of the coolest places we’ve stayed yet but we’re all excited to finish our trekking section on a high note. After the best night of sleep yet, we woke up to an awe-inspiring view of the Civetta Masstifs that towered high into the blue sky above and began our descent back into town. Today, we were feeling grateful to be going downhill and to give our weary legs a break. As we embarked downward, the views continued to be astonishing at every turn and left us feeling proud of all the miles we have trekked over the past 10 days. When we finished the hike, we hopped into the first car we’d been in for the whole trip, and headed to our next accommodation for canyoneering. It’s surreal to think that we’ve finished our trekking section and that our trip is coming to an end soon, but Garrett and I couldn’t be happier with our group! We’ve hiked 50+ miles, summited two mountains, and seen some of the best views the world has to offer! As we finish each day, we are filled with a sense of accomplishment and adventure as we reflect on all that we’ve done as a group! BUTTTT, The trip isn’t over yet, and the best is yet to come!
More to come!
Taylor and Garrett
June 30, 2023
Ciao from the Dolomites!
We’re halfway through our Italian adventure and the days just keep getting better and better! To start from where we left off, our group started the day with a short hike to take a gondola ride up to the hundred plus year old World War One tunnels where we would learn a bit about the rich history surrounding the Dolomite mountains in this time period. But of course, we had to take some quick photos at the top of the gondola to capture the moment of the breathtaking 360-degree views surrounding us from all sides. Truly, it is hard to describe in words just how beautiful and amazing this area is, we can only hope to try by capturing the moment at all times. As we hiked down the tunnels, the group was entertained by our singing trio, Caspar, John, and Cooper as they sang popular theme songs like the Castaways, SpongeBob, and Phineas and Ferb intro songs, causing everyone to laugh the whole way down. As we exited the tunnels and hiked to our lunch spot, we quickly noticed the slippery terrain taking its victims as Lauren, Sarah, and Greer were playfully sliding down the trail. Fortunately, it proved to be a nice rest break from hiking and as we know, the best way to recover from slips is to laugh it off, which they did spectacularly. Soon we were off to our next rifugio with a challenging but rewarding uphill hike that had spectacular views of towering mountains in the distance. Our comeback queen of the trip, Bayley absolutely has crushed every hike and is quickly becoming one of the top hikers in our group. She always entertains the group on the trail with interesting conversations that lead to belly laughter and good times. The group soon arrived at our next accommodation, ready for a nice break from hiking to enjoy come climbing for the next couple days.
With Cinque Torri to our left, the towering monte Averau to our right, and awe-inspiring views in front and behind, we were always left mesmerized looking in any direction. We woke up energized and ready to start our first summit hike of the trip. Looking up at the top from afar definitely set a more serious tone for the day, a suspenseful buildup that continued to grow as we did our second via ferrata to reach part of the trail leading to the summit. At the top, everyone felt an indescribable sense of accomplishment as looking around, we felt like the kings and queens of the world, able to look around and point out every place we had been so far on the trip and some others that we would be heading to soon. We came back down, still in disbelief of what we had completed, yet exhausted and in need of some much-appreciated nap time. The meals at this place have been some of the best our group has eaten all trip, and everyone has thoroughly enjoyed the authentic Italian cooking. Our resident food expert, MC, has been teaching the group all about different cooking facts and were all grateful to have her help explain many new dishes foreign to us. After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to begin a full day of rock climbing, but nobody was as excited as our professional climber, Chelsea.
As we started climbing, she quickly showed us how it’s done, amazing the group with her seemingly effortless and methodical way of scaling each wall with ease. However, we also had other surprise climbers for John, Cooper, and MC, all of them doing the harder climbs of the day and attempting just about each and every climb. Overall, the group had a great time today and were super grateful to our wonderful guides for all the work they put into teaching us and setting up routes and really appreciated a solid break trekking. As usual, our afternoons are filled with taking a much-needed nap after activities, music on the ukulele or speaker, and of course, intense hacky sacking. Leader extraordinaire, otherwise known as “The Distributor”, Garrett, will facilitate big group hacky sacking games by standing in the middle kicking the sack to each person as everyone knows, the bigger the circle, the harder it is to effectively sack. Of course, this only works best with his partner-in-crime, fellow leader extraordinaire, DJ Taylor, is playing the best tunes the east side of the Italian Alps has ever seen. After an amazing dinner as usual, we ended the night with one of the best Moonups yet, led by our climbers MC and Chelsea. This dynamic duo has always brought a smile to everyone’s faces and is extremely thoughtful and intentional with their Moonup and all-around conversation. Overall, our group had a great time staying at this accommodation, taking in the views, hiking less, climbing more, and we all felt rested and ready to begin a few days of trekking through the Dolomites.
We got up early this morning well rested and well fed, pumped for our longest trek of the trip from our current accommodation to the next one. It definitely was sad to leave as collectively, it was the group’s favorite place so far, but we all know bigger and better things to come. We still have so much to explore and so many more great memories to make! Today’s hike was truly the longest we have done yet, but also the most beautiful, seeing every aspect of the Dolomites one would think of, including wild horses grazing in a valley by our trail! Rolling hills, snow-capped mountaintops, prehistoric geography, and even local wildlife has made today one of my favorites. Taylor and I are extremely proud of this group with their constant positive attitude and mindset as each new day passes and our excitement to share our love for this trip with the group grows each day. Although we are at the halfway point, there is still much laughter left to be had, many more memories to be made, and of course, much much more delicious food to be eaten.
Until Next Time,
Taylor + Garrett
June 25, 2023
Bongirno from the beautiful Italian Dolomites!
A few days ago we picked up our incredible group of nine students – Cooper, John, Caspar, MC, Bayley, Greer, Chelsea, Lauren, and Sarah – and drove from the Venetian countryside to the crisp and cool mountains. Nestled in the valley between towering peaks, rests the small town of Alta Badia where our adventure begins. After a mouthwatering dinner of authentic Italian pizzas and a sunset Moonup, we headed back to our accommodation and settled in for a good nights sleep after a long day of travel.
The following morning, we woke up to a buffet breakfast and prepared for our first activity of the trip, Via Ferrata Les Cordes. Our leaders of the day (LODS), Lauren and John, helped us get the group packed up and downstairs on time to meet our outfitters. We took a short drive up the mountain where we would start our trek up to the via ferrata. Greer, Chelsea, Caspar, John and Cooper were absolute machines on the steep hike up and attacked the switchbacks with ease. Although it was undoubtedly challenging, their hard work laid off as they got to see a rare mountain goat native to the Dolomites as it ran down the mountain. The rest of us dillydallied in the back and talked in-between exasperated breathes about how beautiful the views were. When we got to the wall, our guides, Michele and Giaciamo, went over a safety briefing on how to clip in and out of the via ferrata. Our group’s own rock climbing legend, Chelsea, showed us how it was done by keeping pace with Michele. Honorable mentions to our short queen, Lauren, for finding creative footholds to the top and to Bayley for taking the scenic route with me. At the top of the climb, we took in the panoramic views and enjoyed a lunch from 8,000 ft. After a beautiful day on the mountain, we went back into town and threw the football and played hackysack. For dinner we enjoyed a first course of truffle pasta and a second course of steak. At dinner, MC enlightened us about her exquisite cooking abilities before we enjoyed a lava cake for desert. With full bellies and a happy heart, we went fast to bed ready for the day ahead.
This morning we woke up and fueled our bodies for a long, challenging, and beautiful 8 mile trek through Compologno Pass. With the sun at our backs, and great views all around, our group started our hike ready to seize the day. We trekked through vibrant, lush forests, vast green fields and exposed towering rock-fields and ridge lines. Soon we arrived at one of our hardest sections of the day, a towering hill that seemingly had no end but Sarah showed us all how it was done by crushing this uphill and cheering everyone on once the rest of us reached the top. This is one of the most beautiful hikes we do and our group was so glad to get to see all the views and even see off in the distance where we will be going later in the trip! We arrived to our new accommodation tired, but full of a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that is hard to replicate. After a quick break, we walked down to the lake below the rifugio where the boys, Caspar, John, Cooper led the charge for a much-needed polar plunge into the glacier water, quickly followed by MC, Garrett, and myself. Today was definitely a long day so we refueled ourselves with some fresh pasta Bolognese, salads, and pork chops, a meal fit for kings and queens. We capped our night off with a scenic Moonup followed by a quick hike to a nearby mountain peak to watch the best sunset of the entire summer. Tomorrow we are going to the WW1 tunnels so stay tuned for more! Arrividercci!
-Taylor and Garrett