June 23, 2023
Our last day with the girls was so sad, but amazing as we all said our final goodbyes, and reminisced about how much fun we had on this trip. We started the morning with no designated wake up time, but me, Mollie and Laura were surprised and grateful to find Lila Clarkson and lisle already up and cooking breakfast for everyone. All of the girls spent the morning cleaning up camp and writing in their journals, and writing notes to each other, and to me, Mollie, and Laura. The notes brought tears to everyone eyes, especially ours, as the girls told us with this trip meant to them, and this trip has changed them, and what they have learned. As first year leaders, every single one of these girls means more than we can put into words to us, and saying goodbye was much much harder than we ever expected, but we are so happy to have had each one on our trip.
When we went to the thrift shop to buy our final crazy outfits for banquet, it was so much fun to see the girls buy all of their crazy clothes, and even more fun to go to a public restaurant in our silly outfits, and received the laughs from the other customers.
We went to a delicious fishmarket, and had one of our best meals together, while looking like crazy people.
On our way to the airport, we had an impromptu dance party in a parking lot to all of our favorite songs, laughing, and crying, knowing we were saying goodbye yet thinking back on all of the amazing fun we have had together.
Lila murphy, jade, lisle, Lila Clarkson, abby, sienna, Ella, maggie, mary hollis, an Cora are some of the most amazing people, and souls that my coleaders and I are lucky enough to have known and we are so grateful for the chance we were given to spend time with them and give any experience that might change them for the better. Each one of these girls holds a special place in our hearts and will forever. This trip has been filled with the most amazing memories, proudest moments, highest highs, and tough challenges, but each moment has been one worth remembering and treasuring forever so that we can learn from them and look back with happiness and love.
We miss all of you chickens!!!
June 20, 2023
Hello friends and family! It’s been a couple of days, and we have a lot to share with you!
Today, we had our first day of scuba diving. It was 8 hours in a pool, but as per usual, the girls made the best out of it! As we did our pool dives, we passed the moments in between by playing rock, paper, scissors underwater and playing with a torpedo. Our instructors are wonderful, and though today involved a lot of learning and many pruned hands, all the girls who were breathing underwater for the first time did amazing and loved the new experience. The first night at our campsite was great, and every girl enjoyed spending their first few minutes with Romeo, a horse who was eating his dinner next to our campsite. Ella has stepped up today with random acts of kindness and service in new ways that my co-leaders and I are very proud of, offering to carry people’s bags, offering a helping hand, and giving a random compliment here and there. The group has taken to Mollie’s acoustic version of Hey Ya, and not only did we sing it as a closing to Moonup, but now whenever it comes on, it brings joy and laughter to everyone. Mary Hollis has truly taken to this song and sings it with passion whenever she hears it!
The next day we started our scuba diving portion. Scuba diving today had all of the girls extremely tired, but they pushed through and had one of the most beautiful dives yet. After the dive, Lila C especially remarked how amazing the experience was. In the van on the way back, Abby and Lila M led the song requests in a group favorite of singing “Trumpets,” and Abby again recommended the best of classic rock for all of us to listen to (especially loving “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”). Our Moonup was especially fun, when the LODs, Abby and Jade, picked two wonderful questions, and the girls shared their celebrity crushes (Miles Teller with the mustache was a top one), and a moment in their lives that they believed changed them.
On our next day of scuba diving, we had our first dive in the ocean! As we scuba dived, we were all amazed to see many of the amazing species that lived in the bay, including Red Pencil coral, Trumpet fish, Long-Nosed Butterfly fish (like Gill from finding Nemo), and many more amazing species. During lunch, we had some sandwiches provided by our amazing guides, and the girls enjoyed them after some tanning time. Scuba diving was tiring, but the hard work was rewarding for everyone and breathing underwater was an amazing new experience for most. After scuba diving, everyone came together and decided to get some delicious gelato, before some yummy street tacos that gave us the energy we needed before our Manta Ray night snorkel! Sienna powered through some stomach pain to join and was ecstatic when the first Manta Ray swam by us. Ella was the first to scream when we saw it, banging the paddle board we were all hanging on to, and the beautiful Ray swam right up under us as we watched in awe. Abby got some amazing footage of it swinging by! We then watched the ray eat up some plankton as it swam in small circles within a ring of scuba divers sitting on the ocean floor. The sight was magical, especially at night with the Manta Ray only illuminated by ours and the divers’ lights.
On the boat ride back from the manta ray dive, I sat on the bow on the boat with Lisle, Ella, Jade, Cora, and Lila C, enjoying the multitude of stars and the warmth we brought each other. Lisle continues to amaze me with her wisdom and steady sense of self, and hearing her talk about her life makes me excited for what is to come for her. Lila C was cracking jokes all day, keeping us laughing with her amazing sense of humor and spot-on impressions, and even though she hates my Forrest Gump impression more than anything, I always love doing it and hearing her amazing laugh. Jade absolutely loved scuba diving and seeing her in the water again shows us how at home she is there. The whole day, Maggie was struggling with some seasickness, but her positivity radiated throughout the group. Maggie, being the first girl to arrive in the airport and spending hours alone with me, still surprises me with her amazing attitude and willingness to push herself outside of her comfort zone despite her trials with seasickness during our water activities.
The next day, we had our last pool dive. After being in the ocean and going through the lessons, all the girls wanted to do was tan, which we got the chance to do after finishing up at lunchtime. Everyone went to a beach close by and laid out after eating some refreshing ice and smoothies! We have enjoyed our trip so far, and we are so sad that it is coming to an end soon!
Anna, Mollie, and Laura
Notes from the girls to their parents:
Mary Hollis- I miss y’all so much, but I am having the time of my life! I love y’all so much and I can’t wait to see y’all soon!(ps buy Routt waterproof camera)
Abby- Hi!! I love and miss y’all so much and I’m so excited to see u super soon!!! Also having so much fun and I can’t wait to tell u all about it!
Sienna- Hi I miss you guys a lot but I am having an amazing time here! I can’t wait to come home and tell you guys all about it!
Lila M- Hey hey!! I miss y’all so so so much! Cannot wait to see y’all shortly. Tell everyone I say hi! I’ll call y’all right when I get my phone back! Lots to tell
Lisle- I miss y’all kind of, but I’m having a blast and I can’t wait to tell y’all about it when i get home! There are some pretty good stories, so prepare yourself. I love y’all so much and see you soon.
Cora- Hey guys!! I love and miss y’all lots! See you so soon and call you even sooner!!
Jade – Hey!!! I’ve had the best time this past two weeks and I’m sad to leave but I can’t wait to see you guys!!!! Miss you lots 🙂
Ella- hey I’ve had the best time but I miss u so so much and I can’t wait to see u guys. I don’t wanna leave but I’m so ready to come home and see u. I have so much to tell u about my ups and downs but overall I had a blast but please come pick me up at the airport I love u mom and dad
Lila C- Hi!!!! This has been the best trip EVER! I don’t wanna leave 🙁 but I miss you guys a lot and I am excited to see you!!!
Maggie – Hi Mom and Dad! I miss y’all so much! I am having so much fun and can’t wait to tell you all about it. I love you and can’t wait to see you!
June 17, 2023
Hello!! We hope everyone is well back home!
Our next day began with the 10-mile sea kayaking journey along the beautiful, rippling green Na Pali Coast. When we launched from the beach, we were immediately met and surrounded by a pod of around 500 Hawaiian spinner dolphins and were able to see around 100 of them as they swam through our group, periodically coming up for air within reach. The babies were adorable to see as they swam close to their mothers, some underneath our kayaks. My co-leaders, Mollie, and Laura, and I laughed as we heard Abby scream as a few swam directly under her and Sienna’s kayak. All the girls later remarked that this was one of the most amazing things they had ever seen, and Laura, Mollie, and I agreed.
As we paddled further down the coast, Jade heroically went on a rescue mission for Mollie’s hat after it blew away in the wind, and if it wasn’t for her help, it would have been lost along with her towel. We paddled strenuously further and further down the coast, the strain beginning to get to us, until Lila C and Sienna noticed everyone was feeling tired after hearing Annie say that we had 2 miles left until lunch and decided we should all sing songs to pass the time, immediately lifting everyone’s spirits with fun songs. Cora got the whole group to sing Fearless, and before we knew it, we made it to the beach for lunch (we have a big group of t swifties). Maggie powered through some seasickness, and always had a smile on her face despite her nausea.
The girls paddled harder than ever once the beach came into view, and as we landed on the beach, they all celebrated and had some of the biggest smiles on their faces yet. We ate lunch on the picnic tables on the beach resting at the bottom of a giant cliff which towered over us and sheltered us as we ate delicious sandwiches, and the best, most fresh pineapple we have ever had. Cut in a serving style by our guide Adam and Annie, who both told us how amazed by our girls spirit they were, fighting against difficult headwinds for the last mile and a half without a single complaint.
Lila M and Abbey always pick the best tanning spots, and after lunch the girls laid out for a little before getting back into the kayaks to head back. The second half of our journey was just as hard, but everyone was thankful for Lisle’s kayaking skills from her summer camp — she greatly helped the group with helpful tips and tricks. Lisle had the least graceful landing on the beach after kayaking (she wants this to be included) and was lightly pummeled by the waves after she tipped over getting out of her kayak before I came to rescue her, which she was extremely grateful for before we had a sand fight (which she won).
Maggie and I had an amazing conversation on the kayak back from the lunch spot when we switched so we could be together, and she talked fondly about her class, about happiness and the impact it had on her. Her beautiful soul and wise words were inspiring to me, and I loved hearing about the science behind happiness and how it has changed her life and taught her to always be thankful and more.
We all enjoyed floating in the waves after kayaking, there was a drop off right in front of the beach that was perfect for floating, and the big waves gently relaxed us after a long, strenuous, and rewarding trip. The girls all kept high spirits during the entire kayak trip, in ways we and the guides have never seen before. Our kayaking guide Annie said that this group of girls was the most respectful and fun group she has ever had the pleasure to lead, and she has been leading guided tours in many different outdoor activities for 15 years. She said this was the best group she has worked with in her time as a guide, filling our hearts with immense pride for this group.
After the sea kayaking, we all enjoyed a refreshing outdoor shower on the beach that our entire group monopolized, only slightly annoying the other beach goers, but ultimately appeasing them with the girls’ happy spirits and kindness towards them. The group shower was a mess of shampoo and bubbles, but was very necessary after the ridiculous amount of sand and salt water we were covered in.
The girls got the most excited when we surprised them with Paco’s Tacos and had the most delicious tacos ever. We then enjoyed the drive back, blasting fun music like Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield, singing at the top of our lungs and enjoying the beautiful ride to Poipu beach where we were lucky enough to see some Green Hawaiian Sea Turtles sleeping on the beach. After this, we went back to camp where we made s’mores, and Sienna was in charge of cooking them to golden or burnt perfection, depending on how you like your marshmallows cooked. We were all delighted to discover that Mollie’s idea of putting Reese’s cups in our s’mores created the most delicious s’more any of us have ever had, and we all agreed we are never going back to the old ways.
The sea kayaking day was filled with many difficult challenges that each of the girls faced with courage, heart, and gratefulness for the opportunity to see the coast from what our guides said was the best way to see it. We were so proud of them, especially after hearing the glowing compliments from our guides about their attitude, respect, and behavior.
The next morning, we woke up for our second surfing lesson which all the girls were so excited about! The weather was cloudier, and we were showered intermittently by light rain, but this did nothing to dull the girls’ excitement and spirit, which again was optimistic and positive. My co-leaders and I are often caught off guard by how special the dynamic of this group is, and how they always look on the bright side and enjoy the challenges they are faced with.
During surfing today, Jade absolutely crushed it again, and even came to the decision that the second she gets home, she is getting a surfboard and beginning to surf the waves on Tybee Island because she not only loves it, but her skill shines and she is a natural on the waves. Jade is always so lovely to have conversations with, I love listening to her and the stories she has to tell. She also always gives the best song suggestions for the music in the van! Ella and Mollie were able to tandem surf a couple of times, demonstrating Ella’s skill and is just one example of the multitude of fun and creative ideas that she has (including a tortilla fight).
On this day, our instructor Cole confided in me that Lisle has been known within their group as “ripper” due to her skill and ease while surfing to our amusement. She loves this nickname now, and she makes surfing look easy, as does Mary Hollis. Lisle consistently impresses us with her kindness, thoughtfulness, and genuine love for life and all people around her, and we are so happy and lucky to have her on our trip. Mary Hollis’s laughter always brings a smile to everyone’s face, and being in her presence is enough to make anyone happy.
After our surf lesson ended, we spent the remainder of the afternoon and lunch time eating delicious açaí bowls and doing some local shopping. We even got the chance to meet and speak with an artist who is a quadriplegic, and who paints with a paintbrush in his mouth. His stunning and wonderfully detailed art with a gorgeous use of colors depicting many beaches and sea turtles shocked some of the girls into silence while bringing out many questions and search for understanding from the others. With him, we discussed his life before his accident, why he paints, and what it makes him feel when he does. His inspiring story made everyone think about their lives and how grateful we all are.
The morning after, we woke up early to begin the long drive to the 8-mile hike on the Nuaolo Trail. This hike brought us through many different climates, and Maggie commented how amazing and cool it was to see how different the environment around the trail was as we continued and increased in elevation. The beginning of the trail appeared as a tropical rainforest, with huge leaves covered in dew and blackberries brushing up against us as we walked single file. As we progressed, the surroundings changed, with less mud and more tall trees surrounding us, predominantly the Koa tree, which our guide Sarah explained that the crescent moon shaped leaves are believed to have inspired the invention of the fishhook on the islands, along with many more facts about the history, geography, and culture of the island. Once we reached our lunch spot, we were stunned by the beauty of the Na Pali coast as we ate lunch on a cliff that overlooked it. We enjoyed the view and took many, many pictures as we watched the boats sail by and the helicopter tours fly by our heads. After the hike, which the girls completed with enthusiasm never before seen by our guide Sarah, who couldn’t stop talking about how impressed she was with our girls’ attitudes, we surprised the girls with some delicious shave ice from Jo Jo’s, after which the girls laid out and got some sun on the cement seating area for a little more time in the sun.
Today is travel day, and now we are flying from Lihue (which we now know is pronounced lee-hoo-ee) to Kona on the big island to embark on our scuba diving journey! The girls are in high spirits, all super excited to scuba diving and ready to jump right in!
June 13, 2023
Hello Hawaiian Island Friends and Families!!!
As the girls first arrived at the airport, we spent our time playing the Rock Game, Big Booty, and getting to know each other. We had our first Moonup on a beautiful dock by the ocean with some pizza, and our Co-Leader, Laura even surprised everyone with some delicious Hawaiian soda! We got to camp late at night so we couldn’t see the beach, but Abbey, Lila M, and I ran down to the beach anyways to do our nighttime routine. After Jade sprayed our faces with her spray bottle and we washed our faces in the ocean, it was time to set up camp! Lila C’s confidence in the outdoors rubbed off on all the girls, and we were excited to be camping, especially first-time campers like Maggie. The first thing she did when she woke up was talk about how well she slept and about how much she enjoyed her late-night tent talks with Lisle, Mary Hollis, and Sienna.
On our second day, we began the day with surfing. It was an early morning, but most of the girls were already awake and excited for the day. We fueled up for the big day with some muffins for breakfast and then got off to surfing! Our surfing guides Mitchell, Shaun, Jake, and Cole were amazed at how quickly the girls took to surfing. Mary Hollis was the first to get up in her group, and she got the hang of it faster than anyone we’ve seen. Mary Hollis and I joked that we are now fully surfer girls and have found our calling. Abbey also took to surfing quickly, but Mitchell decided to teach her to get up in “child’s pose”, which she only needed to use for one wave before she caught on quickly and was high-fiving Lila M on the waves. Abbey’s contagious joyful spirit has been wonderful to be around, and she has been eager to take advantage of every opportunity in front of her. While we waited for the first surfing group to finish, we walked down the beach to watch a bit of the canoe race going on further down. Sienna was catching waves like it was no big deal and waving at everyone as she passed them with a huge smile on her face. Her excitement for all the new activities and willingness to do things out of her comfort zone has been inspiring to the group!
Cora and I took longer to get the hang of surfing, but we did not give up! Once Cora got it, she began to surf like a natural. Cora is also an excellent listener, as she will remember details and stories the other girls tell her and surprise them when she remembers later, exemplifying her thoughtfulness and listening skills. Her kindness has helped create a loving dynamic in the group that we are so lucky to have. She is a calming and beautiful presence that the girls rely on. Maggie was so much fun to watch surfing, and it was amazing to see her laughing and having the time of her life on the waves. She was the first person to get up on the surfboard in her group and consistently improved as the lesson went on. She also took control of her role as leader of the day on day two along with Mary Hollis. Their awareness of the group and kindness toward everyone has been amazing to see.
A highlight of the day was when Mary Hollis caught a wave and grabbed the GoPro from Mollie’s hands as she flew by, taking the best footage we have yet in an amazing move! Jade was also a pro and surfed almost every single wave that she caught! Her spirit during the surfing definitely encouraged the other girls when they were struggling. Laura, Mollie, and I were happily surprised to see the natural talent for surfing that all our girls have! Lila M has continued to impress us by making friends with everyone she meets. Donna, who runs Kumu camp, loves her, and Lila now says they’re best friends. Donna has warmed up to us in ways she has never before with other Moondance groups, and all of the girls have been more than willing to help out around camp, especially during the service portion. Lila M is always supporting the other girls by giving out compliments and her enthusiasm is a center point of the group that we all have begun to count on.
Lisle set the tone and took her role as the first leader of the day very seriously. She has been a wonderful example for the group and is always helping even when she’s not asked. Once, as a 5-minute downpour came upon us with no warning, Laura ran to put everyone’s belongings away, and Lisle came out of nowhere and began to help. Lisle has shown incredible expedition behavior, thoughtfulness, and kindness. Her consistent willingness to help others around her has been a wonderful presence and gift to have in the group.
Later in the day, we went to Tunnel Beach, which had beautiful coral reefs just offshore and a seemingly never-ending coastline that framed the ocean. The girls took some adorable group pictures, and then the group played a riveting round of Big Booty, which Mary Hollis won after performing a hilariously accurate impersonation of an “excited squash.” After eating a yummy salad lunch, the girls laid out on the beach for a little before my co-leaders and I decided to give them a choice for what to do with the rest of the afternoon: stay out on the beach tanning or go on a hike and go cliff jumping. They immediately decided to go on the hike and ditch the tanning for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The hike was a short walk through a luscious, green tropical forest that the girls loved taking pictures of. At the end, there was a stunning waterfall with a 10-15 foot cliff jump into the basin. After Mollie, Laura, and I jumped first, Cora was the first to take the leap off the cliff after us, eager to get in the bubbling water. Sienna was a little apprehensive to jump off and did not want to go at first. With some encouragement from her new friends, she took the leap and jumped off with everyone, and popped up out of the water with the biggest smile on her face. The girls were so happy to have made that choice to go explore and said that it was one of the best days of their lives.
We spent the night making delicious BBQ chicken sandwiches on the Coleman grill that Lila M and Lisle totally took control of, running the kitchen with an iron fist and cooking some of the most delicious sandwiches we have ever eaten. Their cooking skills were incredible and got 5-star reviews across the board. They then led a wonderful Moonup where the girls shared their favorite personality traits about themselves, and it was beautiful to hear both the incredible self-awareness the girls possess and all the things they love about who they are.
The morning of day three was slower and more relaxed than the previous morning. As I woke up at sunrise to begin writing this update, Lila C woke up and came to join me on the beach and journal before everyone else was awake. She said that she didn’t want to forget anything and was so excited to write down everything. Ella is a quiet, yet strong presence who is quick with a joke, and we love the ways she lights up when we speak with her and watch her with the other girls. Her smile makes us want to smile and we love seeing her personality as she comes out of her shell. Ella’s sense of humor and witty comments keep us constantly entertained.
We started off morning three at Waimea Canyon, which many call the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. We started at a gorgeous overlook and then took a short hike to another lookout, which was somehow even more breathtaking than the first. Everyone’s jaws dropped in amazement! After our hike, we took off for our zip-lining adventure! Ziplining was an exhilarating and unique experience that all of the girls loved. We even got to go upside down on one of the lines! Our guide Timmy was so much fun to be around, and if you ask the girls about him when they get home, I am sure that it will cause some laughs when they remember how much fun we all had together. In between the third and fourth zip line, we got the chance to go off a rope swing into a swimming hole that looked like it was straight out of a Planet Earth documentary. The girls loved swinging into the water, and Mary Hollis even led Jade, Laura and I in doing flips off of the swing. Sienna even braved the higher platform after contemplating if she wanted to jump or not, but with Laura, they braved the jump together and were so happy that they took the leap! As we did the last grand finale horizontal zip line, I laughed as every girl came to the end of the line of our 4000-foot zipline and flew into the landing in a Superman pose, with Ella being the one starting the trend. Our guides kept us entertained with many fun facts about Kauai and they even pointed out different wildlife and plant species. One of these plants was a strawberry-guava tree, which luckily for us, was in season and gave us the chance to pick some delicious fruit!
We are so amazed at how much the girls have come together as a group and how much fun they are having. It’s unbelievable to see this as they have only known each other for a few days, and we as leaders are looking forward to the next few days in Kauai before we head to the big island! Talk to you soon!!!
Lots of love – Anna, Mollie, and Laura
June 10, 2023
Hello Hawaiian Island Families!
We heard from our leaders and the group has landed safely in Hawaii! The trip is off to a great start, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventure.
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!