July 21, 2023
“For what it’s worth, it’s never too late, or in my case too early to be whoever u want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever u want. You can change or you can stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best of it, or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over” – Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ciao for the very last time,
As our final group departs from the airport today, Garrett and I are feeling all sorts of emotions. This group in particular has challenged us to see things that startled us, feel things we’ve never felt, and meet people with a different point of view. As a group we’ve marveled at staggering mountains that reach up into a perfectly blue sky, trekked through rolling green valleys, glared at starry night skies, and embraced one another as we soak it all in. Throughout this trip, we’ve accomplished a lot and it’s because this group has truly morphed into a family and we couldn’t be happier to leave the summer off on this note.
The last few days of the trip have been some of our favorite, so let’s rewind!
After conquering miles of mountainous terrain, walking through valleys, and summiting peaks, we finally made it through our trekking portion of our trip! Now that the hard work is over, it’s time for some fun! Two days ago, we left our trekking poles at home, and suited up in our wet suits for canyoneering! The best way to describe canyoneering is to compare it to a water park. Imagine jumping, sliding, and rappelling through a natural water park combined with fulfilling your childhood dreams of playing in the creek. As we all squirmed into our wet suits, we laughed and took a couple photos before our guide, Ennio, went over a safety briefing. Luke was super pumped about his two piece wet suit, but not as excited as Marshall whose wetsuit could’ve fit two more people inside! We eagerly headed to the canyon where we all jumped in and began singing and splashing. Soon after, we began our first repel down a 20 ft waterfall. Austin and Mason were the first to clip in and showed us all how it was done with bravery and of course, style. One by one, we descended down the waterfall and into the depths of the canyon. Franny found a frog which she instinctively decided to pick up and put on her nose and Marshall made sure to capture the whole thing on his Go-Pro. Meanwhile, Sidney and Mac were leading the troops deeper and deeper into the canyon by trudging through water and jumping from rock to rock like spider monkeys. Eventually, we got to a huge rock slide that had a drop off and everyone was able to slip down it and then cannon ball into a deep pool of water. Inevitably, we had a splash contest that got quite competitive. In first place was Mason, but MacKenzie and Sophia would’ve rivaled him for first, if they hadn’t been pushed in by our guide. After a great day of canyoneering, the group returned to our accommodation where we celebrated the birthday of Eva- the most hospitable woman that owned our accommodation and a fan favorite. After singing happy birthday, we all enjoyed cold Coca Cola and lemon cake that hit the spot. Later in the night, the rain rolled in and cooled down the valley so we were able to get a great night of sleep before Venice.
The group woke up excited and ready to go to the sinking city of Italy, Venice. Fortunately, we got to sleep in a little bit before packing up, saying goodbyes to our most gracious host, and getting in vans eagerly awaiting the incoming shopping sprees in our futures. Two hours later and we were getting in a water taxi to our hotel to drop our bags off and hit the town. We first grabbed a quick lunch of authentic Venetian pizza and pasta to get fueled up before shopping. On the way, Marshall, Mason, and Austin continued to rave about the “SpiderMan buildings” as part of Spider-Man: Far From Home was filmed in Venice and as avid Marvel fans, we had to see these extra special buildings. Everyone had their separate goals for the day, and whether that was to simply explore the town, try some famous Venetian gelato, or get new fits for the night, all boxes were checked today. Taylor took the girls to Golden Goose where Franny, MacKenzie, Ellie, and Isobel got fresh kicks that all had some sparkle to them followed by a mandatory trip to Zara, of course. Sophia, Libby, and the other girls all got new fits for our banquet dinner that night and everyone, even the guys were determined to look spiffy for the last night of the trip. Lastly, Taylor got some glassware of her own to cap off an amazing shopping day in Venice. While Taylor took the girls to the more popular shopping stores, Garrett and the guys decided to explore the streets of Venice, working their way towards the famous Bridge Rialto, where a major scene from Spider-Man was filmed. On the way, Marshall and Mason just had to get fedoras and linen shirts to wear for dinner, an excellent choice that made them look like native Venetians. Meanwhile, Sidney and Mac stopped in some authentic Italian leather and glass stores to pick up a few souvenirs. Luke successfully escaped a shopping scam by two persuasive Italian women then he and Austin proceeded to get some swag at Levi’s, it’s cool because it’s Italian Levi’s of course. Finally, as the group neared Bridge Rialto, Garrett had the chance to get the espresso maker of his dreams from the best coffee store in Venice. The group took some flicks to remember before all meeting back up in San Marco square to head back to the hotel, show each other our hauls, and get ready for the night.
After all scratching our shopping itch and getting ready, we set off to our banquet dinner, the last dinner of the trip. Austin pushed his limits eating his whole calzone and then generously offering to help other people struggling with theirs while Libby had a near out of body experience her carbonara was so good. Safe to say everyone left satisfied and many calzones, margarita pizzas, and spaghetti carbonara’s later our last supper came to an end. But of course, what dinner could be complete without a gelato dessert. Even if we forgot, I can always count on Isobel to remind us of our mandatory after dinner tradition, and that we did. Gelato Fantasy was the spot tonight and it had some of the best gelato of the trip, satisfying everyone, but especially Isobel and MacKenzie, our gelato connoisseurs. We stopped once more by Bridge Rialto for those who haven’t seen it then headed back to our hotel for the final moonup of the trip. The last moonup of the trip, but also the last moonup of the summer, had us all laughing, sharing our best memories, highest highs, and lowest lows, and maybe even shedding a tear or two. We woke up today, bittersweet to leave the people who have made this trip a home and family for the past two weeks, but we couldn’t leave without wishing MacKenzie a happy birthday!! She is a shining star and we hope she has the best of birthdays despite the long travel day.
Taylor and I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to the trip and to the summer with this group. Both of us laughed till we cried, lived more in the moment, and appreciated every little thing about this trip thanks to this final group. Parents, thank you again for sharing your kids with us this summer, it was an absolute pleasure and privilege to have been their leaders, friends, and mentors during these past two weeks.
All the best,
Taylor + Garrett
July 18, 2023
Hello from our final few days in the Dolomites,
Our hikes have been hard, but nothing compared to the war that is finishing our five course meals. Fortunately, we have some powerhouses in our group including Luke, Sidney, and Garrett that have been more than willing to help in our times need. Aside from our delicious meals, this group has done a phenomenal job completing every single challenging hike with a great attitude and smiles all around. It definitely isn’t easy, but they have all handled it with poise and togetherness fit of a true Moondance group.
Several days ago, we had our biggest hike of the trip, a challenging, but rewarding 11-mile trek to our next rifugio. Although this hike was difficult, many of us agreed that it had the most grandiose and breathtaking views of the trip so far. As we traversed across rocky mountaintops, vibrant green valleys, and captivating slopes, the group saw some wildlife on this hike that we haven’t seen before. Franny, of course, was the first to notice a harras of wild horses grazing in a meadow that we walked directly next to, close enough to touch, but you know we only took photos. Isobel and Marshall took the opportunity to capture the moment and snap some flicks next to the horses and then we made our way to our lunch spot for the day. Once we got to lunch, Mason and our guide, Loris, noticed a venomous snake hanging out under a nearby rock. Instantly, the group was captivated, and we watched it move around for a little before finishing out lunch then getting on our way. Before we knew it, we arrived at our next accommodation, tired yet satisfied with the work we put into today. The group took well deserved showers, before eating a dinner of our favorite comfort food, pizza, followed by a Moonup then bedtime as everyone was exhausted from the day.
The following morning, we woke up early and locked in for another beautiful day of hiking. Today, we would be traveling by foot to one of the oldest Refugio’s in all of the Dolomite region. This trail is well known for its consistent uphill slopes, emerald alpine lake, and stunning view of the Civetta Mastiffs. Although this is a challenging hike, our LOD’s – Sidney and MacKenzie – were chosen because of their encouragement and positivity and today they led us straight to the top of the mountain with grace and of course laughter. Midway though the hike, we came across the most stunning blue and green lake that was calling to us to cool off. We ran down from the trail and Luke and Libby were the first to jump in followed by the rest of the group. As we swam in the glacial water to cool down, we marveled at the towering rock faces next to us that reminded us of the distance we still had to cover for the day. We fueled back up with prosciutto sandwiches and apples and then made our way back to the trail. After multiple hills and steep sections, we finally reached the top and took in the 360 degree views. For the rest of the afternoon, Garrett and I got to see the groups competitive side as we brought out a deck of cards. Mac, Sidney and Austin played BS. Franny, Sophia, and Ellie played Spit and Luke challenged every single student to blackjack. Later that night, we met for Moonup on the helicopter pad that overlooked the majestic scenery as Sidney and MacKenzie led the group in a hilarious confessional Moonup that had all of us on the edge of our seats. We stayed up a bit later to look at the best stars we have seen the entire summer and marveled at how special and unique this place has been to us.
Today, we woke up eager to finish our last day of trekking and move on to new things. We started our hike down to a bus which would take us to our next rifugio. The group was motivated and moved quick this morning, however, it wouldn’t be a day of downhill hiking without a few slips and laughs. Sophia broke the ice early on, causing herself and the entire group to laugh, however she was quickly followed by Taylor, prompting another round of belly laughing to get us all down the mountain in record time. It sure was sad to leave this beautiful place as it is truly the most unique and awe-inspiring place we’ve ever been to, but it’s time to move onto new adventures. We said goodbye to our outfitters for the last time this summer and got into vans to go to our next accommodation. Of course, this drive wouldn’t be complete without a quick grocery store run. The crew got some snacks for the ride, some crowd favorites were Mason’s watermelon, Sidney’s coconut macaroons, Marshall, Franny, and Isobel’s sour cola gummies and of course, paprika Pringle’s. We arrived at our accommodation, all took much needed showers, then explored the town for a but before going inside to get out of a midday storm. After a dinner of pasta, pork, and potatoes, we walked off our dinner to get some outside time just to come back to get a dream gelato dessert. The night rounded out with a Moonup all bunched into one of our rooms and some R&R. The group is definitely excited to canyoneer tomorrow and get some time to play in the water! It’s hard to believe our trip is almost over, but you best believe we’re going to make the most of it with the time we have left! Check back in with us in a few days but for now, arrividerci!
Here are some shoutout’s from your kiddos!
Luke- Hey Fam how are y’all doing? I want y’all to know I’m having a blast. Miss yall. See y’all soon.
Mason- hey mom, dad and nate. Hope yall have been doing well. It’s been pretty great and I can’t wait to see yall soon.
Libby-hi mom and dad. I’m having fun. I miss y’all. Love you and see you soon
Isobel- hey, mom and dad! Love and miss y’all. I’m having a lot of fun, can’t wait to be home and see y’all. Please hug Shammy and Mercy for me!
Fran- Hi mom and Dad I miss y’all so much. This trip has been very hard but it’s is so fun. I am not starving here. I love you guys so much please hug Ellie and Elliott for me (more so Ellie)!!
Mackenzie: Greetings! I am having a great time; as is Frances. We have hiked a copious amount, however it has been quite a blast. I thought I was a skilled hiker, now I am a frayed knot. To thine own self be true, MacKenzie
Ellie- hi mom and dad! This trip has been very fun so far. Miss you and see you soon!
Sophie- hi mom and dad! I love u so much and I’ll see u soon- tell Alex I said hi
Marshall: Hey Fam how are y’all doing? I am having a lot of fun, see y’all soon
Austin: Hi mom and dad love you! Can’t wait to see you in a few days and can’t wait to tell you all about the trip when I get home!
Mac: Hi mom and Dad! Love you guys, this trip has been so much fun! See you guys soon!
Sidney: Can’t believe the trip is almost over, can’t wait to see you all and Henry! Love you all!
July 16, 2023
We hope you are all doing well back home, but I can tell you for certainty that we are all having an absolute blast exploring Italy’s most beautiful scenery. Recently, a Moonup question was asked about our favorite comfort movies. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was answered followed by a quote that perfectly describes the mountains around us. “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention”, and this has remained to be true all throughout the summer. The towering jagged mountain tops, lush green valleys, rolling hills, and everything in between has made this trip truly magical. Every day we wake up to views unlike anything we have seen before and we couldn’t be more grateful to have the opportunity to experience this unique side of Italy.
That being said, we have much to catch up on since our last check in so here we go!
Day 4 we woke up early and eager to hike up to the World War 1 tunnels that are hidden inside 8,000 ft peaks. As we walked out the door, we were greeted with some liquid sunshine and quickly threw on our rain jackets and pack covers as we made the one mile hike to our gondola that would take us to the top of the mountain where we would begin our descent down the tunnels. Now, this was no small gondola. This large chair lift fit our whole group and was the size of a space shuttle. Marshall and Francis made sure to vlog the experience and before you knew it, we were at the top. While we waited for the weather to clear, we played a game where one person makes the weirdest noise they can possibly think of, and the rest of the group has to go in a circle and imitate it. Isobel started us off strong with a loud noise that came from the depths of her stomach as the rest of the group giggled and attempted to copy her. Not long after, Garrett stole the show with a noise none of the group could replicate without dying of laughter. Fun little games like these were perfect to pass the time while we waited out a rain shower. Eventually, the storm passed and we soon were on our way to our next rifugio. We took a detour due to some mud and ended up hiking up a ski slope below a chairlift leading up to our accommodation. No surprise to anyone, Mason led the group up the challenging, but scenic slopes to our end destination with enough spare energy to cheer the rest of us in as we crushed the final push of the hike. Soon enough, we got to the top of our slope and arrived at our accommodation, one of the most beautiful spots of the trip where we all ate a rewarding lunch with some of the best views so far. After a good lunch, much needed showers, and some R&R, we all decided to explore the area around us. The group enjoyed a jam sesh with some of musics greatest hits cued up by our resident music expert, Marshall while Luke and Mason threw the tennis ball around and Ellie and MacKenzie taught the group how to do head stands and the proper way to roll down hills. A truly great afternoon turned into one of the best dinners we’ve had yet followed by a Moonup to remember and then some much needed sleep. Tomorrow, we summit!!!
The next day we woke up energized with a phenomenal breakfast and excited to do our second via ferrata leading up to the summit of Monte Averau. Lead by our fearless LODs Mac and Libby, the group crushed our hike up to the via ferrata and were all pumped to summit the highest peak in the area. Encouraged by Isobel and Libby, Sophia crushed her via ferrata and rappel back down despite only being the slightest bit afraid of heights. Her witty humor kept her group laughing the whole way up and back down the mountain. After a short break at the top and just enough time for a few pictures, the group came down at a record pace then took a breather before continuing our hike around Monte Averau. Mackenzie and Francis practiced their French with one of our guides while Sidney, Mac, and Luke snapped incredible photos at every turn. Soon, we were back at our rifugio eating a lunch of authentic pasta and dessert. According to Austin, this was some of the best pasta he had ever eaten and I think the rest of the group would definitely agree. For the rest of the afternoon, the group enjoyed day hikes around Cinque Torri, lots of music, and some of the best homemade Italian snacks we’ve ever tasted. That night was the best dinner we have had so far with group favorite meals including gnocchi, goulash, polenta, tomato pasta, and plenty of cheese of course. Mason, Sidney, Garrett, and Taylor laughed so hard sparking water came out their noses and the rest of the group belly laughed until they grew abs. Quickly after we had a Moonup followed by stargazing and then went to bed excited for a day of climbing.
Finally, the day that Austin had been waiting for the whole trip had arrived, Rock climbing the beautiful Cinque Torri rock formations. We hyped it up a lot and Austin likewise hype up his climbing skills so naturally we had to put them to the test. Both our resident climbers, Austin and Marshall, scaled the walls with ease, fulfilling the climbing itch that had them patiently waiting the entire trip. Honorable mentions to Sidney, Mac, and Sophia for crushing their climbs despite not being the climbing type as they would put it. The group did so well that towards the end of the day our guides let us do the first multi-pitch climb of the summer. Francis, Luke, and Mason were some of the first climbers to go up, showing the rest of the group how it’s done. However, it was Libby and Austin who went by theirselves with a guide to really demonstrate true courage and sense of adventure, scaling the three-pitch climb easily. Mackenzie and Ellie also fearlessly scaled the daunting rock face as Isobel, Luke, and Mason cheered them in from the top of another nearby rock wall. As a group, Garrett and I were impressed by everyone’s bravery and were proud of everyone for getting outside of their comfort zone. After a long day of climbing, the group had yet another mouth watering dinner followed by crème brûlée for dessert that surly didn’t disappoint. As the sun started to settle behind the mountains, we had a great Moonup where we reminisced on some hilarious, but embarrassing moments from our childhood…just ask Ellie about her pillow case. Soon after, the sun creeped behind the mountains and the world dimmed to a deep navy blue before turning fully dark. We bundled up in our blankets and made our way outside to look at the best stars we had seen all trip. With little light pollution, we were able to see thousands of stars, the resemblance of galaxies and even what we think was a planet. After being in awe of how big the world is around us, we tucked ourselves in for the night and dreamt of the long hike in the day ahead.
Bye for now,
Garrett + Taylor
July 12, 2023
We’re four days into our Italian adventure and our group is having an absolute blast! Everyone has been incredibly enthusiastic and excited to experience the beauty of the Dolomites and Taylor and I can’t wait to show them more of just how amazing this region truly is. Already we can tell this group is something special and we are more than ready to conquer the Dolomites!
First, let’s rewind a couple days to the start of our trip. On the day of arrival, we soon meet our first student Libby in the airport a little bit before the rest of the group arrived. It can no doubt be difficult being the first student to arrive, but Libby’s positive energy and outgoing personality made our time pass by in the blink of an eye and before we knew it, the rest of the group had landed. First to get out of baggage claim we’re our enthusiastic dynamic duo Francis and MacKenzie, who quickly rushed to the cafe to get some much-needed coffee after a long and tiring flight. These two have quickly become our impromptu videographer and vlogger extraordinaires with their natural hilarious and skillful storytelling abilities. Soon, the rest of the group came out and we were on the road to our first accommodation in the beautiful mountain town of Corvara. After checking in to our hotel, we got everyone outside for a walk around the town to fight off the jet lag. As the group enjoyed getting to know each other, we made our way back to the hotel for some free time which included a sauna session, naps, and watching sumo wrestling before dinner. Pizza was the specialty tonight and truly no better place to get it than in Italy. Luke and Garrett showed off their impressive eating abilities by taking down more pizza and appetizers than everyone in the group – we need the energy for what’s to come! Taylor and I finished the night with our first Moonup of the trip and everyone waited for some much-needed sleep for a busy first day of activities tomorrow.
The next morning, we woke up to an Italian breakfast buffet and espresso before jumping right into our first activity- a via ferrata. A via ferrata is basically a metal cable that goes up the side of the mountain that you clip in and clip out of with a carabiner. In order to get to the via ferrata, we had to hike up about a half mile of steep switch backs which Mason and Mac absolutely crushed. Garrett and some of the girls- Sophia, MacKenzie, Francis, and Isobel- took the scenic route while Taylor, Ellie and Libby took their time and soaked in the views. When we finally made it up to the wall, we split up into rope teams, suited up in our harnesses and strapped on our helmets. As we inched our way up the wall, the students quickly learned that via ferratas can be challenging, but never fear because the energizer bunny and elite encourager, Sidney was there at every turn to boost the group’s morale. Austin, our expert rock climber, was also a shining star in the second rope team and did a great job showing other students’ creative footholds and places to put their hands. Honorable mentions to Sophia who totally destroyed her fear of heights and confidently made it to the top! After an hour of grueling work on the wall, we enjoyed a fantastic lunch at the top with the best views the group had seen yet. A couple hours of easy hiking back to our hotel left the group ready for a polar plunge in a nearby stream. Luke and Francis led the charge, floating down the stream of ice-cold water while Sidney channeled his inner David Goggins, laying in the water with no reaction of cold whatsoever. The cold plunge was definitely much needed for our sore muscles and to cool off on a hot day. Later, some of the group went back to the sauna for a bit but we all went to the store to stock up on some snacks and supplies for the trip. After an amazing dinner of pasta and fish or pork, we had our last Moonup in Corvara and settled in for the night, excited for a long trek tomorrow.
A good night’s sleep and an even better breakfast buffet had us excited and prepared for our first long trek to a new rifugio. Our LODs for the day, Marshall and MacKenzie, led the charge throughout the day, conquering hill after hill along Campologno Pass. There were definitely some challenging uphill climbs today, but the group as a whole passed through them with ease, encouraging and supporting each other as a whole. Throughout the day, we got to know the group more, including Isobel and Francis’ cartwheel and handstand abilities, and a couple new nicknames, Shiggity Shalk, Space (Mason), Franny, and Gator (Garrett). This hike is truly a favorite amongst the students, leaders, and guides with its amazing views and great journey. A few wrong turns, animal sightings, and friendly local encounters later we finally arrived at our newest rifugio. The group enjoyed a rejuvenating cold plunge at a lake next to our home, the last one for a while sadly, but we made the most of it. We had a relaxing afternoon exploring the area around us, playing games, and drinking hot chocolate before an authentic Italian dinner of pastas, meats, and polentas. However, we couldn’t finish dinner without celebrating the birthday of our Richmond girl, Ellie!! Happy birthday Ellie, we are so grateful to have her in our trip:) As rain came in and we had to change our Moonup plans to an inside Moonup, the group talked about their favorite childhood memories and future TV show/movie ideas. We closed it out and settled down for the night; tomorrow we explore the historic World War One tunnels and journey to our next rifugio! More exciting stuff to come soon, so be sure to check back with us in a couple of days!!!
Bye for now,
Garrett + Taylor
July 9, 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!