July 1, 2023
Hi friends and family!
JP and I write to you from the Seattle airport as all of our kiddos have gone through security and are on their way back to you. We are filled with so much joy from the past three weeks that we spent together as a group and we can’t believe that it’s already over. We want to thank you for gifting us with your incredible kids, I can’t express enough how special each and every one of them are. JP and I are so proud of them for all the hard work they put in throughout the trip and for just being their amazing selves.
We ended our PNW adventure yesterday with a great day of whitewater kayaking and it was such a joyous conclusion to this trip. Everyone hopped back in the van once we got off the river and we began our journey back to Seattle. We spent the car ride laughing and listening to our favorite songs, and we began to feel a but nostalgic about our time spent together as reality started to set in that it was coming to a close. Once we neared our campsite we stopped at a thrift store to get some silly outfits to wear to our banquet dinner. Everyone looked absolutely amazing as we stepped into a local diner in Tacoma, WA, and we enjoyed some burgers, fries, and sodas in celebration of the past three weeks. After finishing up dinner, we continued on to our campsite where we packed up all of our gear and prepped for a busy travel day. Once everything was ready to go, our last LODs of the trip, Henry and Vivian, led us in an amazing final Moonup where we reminisced on our favorite moments and memories from this trip and everyone shared what they loved about each other and how much we all appreciate one another.
Thank you again for sharing your kids with us and for following along on this journey. We are so grateful to have met these kids and we know they will all do amazing things in life. We love you PNW 1A!!
Claire & JP
July 1, 2023
Hello PNW friends and family!
Day 18: kayaking & exploring hood river
We had a slow start to the morning today, resting up from our big adventure on Monkey Face the day before. whipped up some breakfast burritos to be ready for all the kids once they woke up. We enjoyed each other’s company and the incredibly comfortable couches at our campsite. Around midday we headed out to begin the next section of our trip. We met our kayaking guides Lynn and Justin at the bottom of the Hood River and hopped into the boats. We paddled up stream and took in the views of the river while searching for bald eagles. Ward ended up going for a little swim by accident, but the water felt amazing! We reached a turnaround point and floated back down stream, stopping at a beach spot to swim and skip rocks. Then we slowly made our way back to the starting point and enjoyed basking in the sunshine on the river. Our LODs Bryan and Durland helped us make a delicious dinner of chicken nuggets, max a cheese, and fruit salad! The kids decided to make s’mores for dessert as well!
Day 19: rafting
We woke up at our new favorite campsite yet again, and this morning we made some chocolate chip pancakes and got super excited about white water rafting. Once we got to Wet Planet, we put on our wetsuits and PFDs and took a bus to the raft launch. For the whole day, we were having an absolute blast being splashed and riding the intense waves of the White Salmon’s whitewater. White water rafting today was a major highlight of the trip for the kids, as they all said it was one of the most fun parts of the whole trip. For dinner, LODs Ishan and Gray threw down on the grill, making everyone a couple delicious cheeseburgers. It was our last night at this awesome Tipi campsite, so we all wrote the owner, Jim, aka “Big Dawg” a nice thank you note for the campsite and the great service. Our LODs Gray and Ishan helped grill some delicious burgers for dinner and Roby led the charge in make s’mores for dessert!
Day 20: whitewater kayaking
For our last full day of the trip, we got an early start to the day and headed back to Wet Planet, this time for some white-water kayaking. This was a new adventure for most of us, and everyone ended up totally loving it. We picked it up quickly, and soon enough we were all zooming through class 2 and 3 rapids. Our LODs Vivian and Henry encourage us to be brave and go through the rapids. Kackie and Bryan even went down the biggest rapid backward! It was the perfect fix of adrenaline for the conclusion of our trip, and the guides were all thoroughly impressed by the skills this group displayed by picking white water kayaking up so fast. Then, we headed to Tacoma, where we all went to a Goodwill to pick up our special costumes for the banquet. Once dressed in our proper goofy attire, we headed to Bob’s Burgers and had a scrumptious final dinner together.
June 28, 2023
Hey there friends and fam of the PNW! Today we woke up at an absolutely beautiful camp site. Situated right on the Deschutes River, we ate plenty of delicious chocolate chip pancakes right before gearing up to head to our base camp in Smith Rock State Park. On the way, we stopped by the Redmond airport to pick up our friend Owen Roberts who works in staffing at the Moondance office in Nashville. Office staff are able to come visit various trips during the summer, and Owen was able to come and join us for our climbing section! Owen brought gifts with him, surprising the kids with a nice bag of different candies. Bryan and Vivian helped Claire and JP out with dinner, and we had a great Moonup at our new campsite with Owen as our special guest.
Waking up in the desert is always a special feeling, and we all felt that mystical aura coming from the Earth as we crawled out of our tents to stoke ourselves for the first day of rock climbing. One of our best breakfasts yet, we cooked up some bacon breakfast burritos with the help of the LODs Ishan and Roby. We drove to the North Point of Smith Rock State Park, met our climbing guides, and got all of the gear we needed for this climbing section. Once at the rock wall wearing our harnesses, helmets, and climbing shoes, we learned all the important knots and techniques for rock climbing. We spent the whole day climbing different routes and learning how to better our climbing skills. Afterwards, to celebrate our first day of climbing, we all got to go get some ice cream at the local ice cream shop right next to our campsite, “Huckleberries.” Once back at the campsite, we made personal pizzas that were a total hit.
We had a little more of an early morning this time, waking up and eating a quick breakfast so we could get climbing as soon as possible. We got to a new rock wall after a beautiful approach in the state park that involved a river crossing and lots of magpie sightings. We also get a sweet close-up view of a golden eagle’s nest, and our guides informed us that it was actually about 12+ feet and weighed nearly 3000 pounds!! Today we all learned repelling, so we would all be confident in our abilities during tomorrow’s Monkey Face rappel. After sending a couple routes and honing our rappel skills, we headed out in the afternoon for a town day in Bend! We drove to Bend and let the kids hit some shops and food spots in town. Then, we all headed to a park where we completed a Spikeball tournament set up by Ward. The undisputed champions were Henry and Bryan!! Kackie and Durland also did super well in the tourney, making it to the semifinals. Then, we did an awesome exercise where we found all of our specific leadership styles. It’s a NOLS exercise that shows four varying leadership styles and traits, and how we can learn more about becoming better leaders. Then, we headed home to a dinner of ‘JP’s famous Mac&Cheese’. We had a great Moonup where Owen had us psyched up and ready to conquer the send of Monkey Face the next day.
Game Day. Monkey Face time. We awoke much before the sun even dared to show its face. As we gathered all of our gear and ate breakfast in the early morning darkness, our guides were already busy setting up today’s adventure. We hiked an intense 2 miles of steep elevation to meet our guides at 6am on the mountain. Once at the top, we took some pictures and got ready to send Monkey’s Face. One by one, we all scrambled to, traversed, rock climbed, and then rappelled down the Monkey’s Face, a truly daunting accomplishment. Everyone was in great spirits during the whole feat, and everybody crushed it!!! Gray and Henry particularly impressed us, conquering some major fears and nerves. Everyone did so incredible, and we were the fastest group to get through the traverse and rappel that our guides had ever seen!! After lots of high-fives and sighs of relief, we headed back to camp, packed up, and then sent it one last time to Huckleberries for some well deserved celebratory ice cream. After our sweet treats, we then headed back to Washington, where we’ll gear up for our last section, white water kayaking and rafting! The campsite we’re staying at is the most magical and radical one yet, as it’s essentially a tricked out patch of forest with all of the coolest amenities. A fully functioning tipi, “actual beds” in tents, outdoor couches, grill, and most cherished, a beautiful outdoor shower. Ward and Vivian, the LODs of today, cheffed up some amazing quesadillas for our entire group, ensuring we were well fueled for tomorrow’s adventures.
June 23, 2023
Hello from the San Juan Islands!!
Day 9: travel to sea kayaking
After finishing up the backpacking portion of this trip, we got all showered and clean at our next campsite and relished in our accomplishments of trying new things and conquering new mountains. We had a slow and restful morning filled with chocolate chip pancakes and some soccer and frisbee games, led by our LODs Kackie and Gray. We then hopped into the van and headed to the ferry terminal where we took a scenic ride from the mainland to San Juan Island and docked in Friday Harbor. We found some ice cream on the ferry which was absolutely delicious! Finally, we made it to our campsite for the night after a long travel day. We played some volleyball and tetherball before having Moonup and climbing into our tents for the night in preparation for our first day of sea kayaking!
Day 10: sea kayaking
We woke up to the sounds of the birds chirping and light rain on our tents as we fueled up for our big day. We cheffed up some breakfast sandwiches consisting of sausage, egg, and cheese, on a toasted bagel. After packing up camp and making sure we had everything for sea kayaking, we headed out to Roche Harbor to meet our guides for the next couple of days. San Juan Island is an incredibly beautiful place that we felt so lucky to be able to share with the kids, and it would only get more and more beautiful as we ventured farther out. We met our kayaking guides Lily and Clayton at the dock, where we helped them load the boats with our gear and gave us a lesson on how to paddle and successfully get into the kayaks. After getting comfortable with the boats, we were off! After the first 30 minutes of paddling, Clayton and Lily set up a delicious sandwich bar for us, and after lunch the kids explored the island. At this time it was low tide, which exposed so many interesting creatures for us to look at, like hermit crabs, starfish, and even some eels! It was really awesome seeing the kids so interested in searching for wildlife in the tide pools, and they couldn’t get enough of it. We also saw some incredible bald eagles which were spotted by Durland! This was a first for many in the group. We got back into our kayaks and continued on to our campsite for the night, located on Jones Island. We set up our tents and got everything organized while our guides put together a delicious taco dinner! Afterwards, Ishan spearheaded the effort to make a nice fire for us to sit around and make s’mores for dessert! We had Moonup led by our LODs Virginia and Bryan while gathered around the fire which was so lovely. Some of the kids even stayed up after Moonup to see the glowing bioluminescence in the water!
Day 11: sea kayaking
Our second day of sea kayaking! We would be doing a day kayak trip today and exploring nearby islands, so it was imperative that we fuel up! Our guides made us an awesome breakfast of potatoes, eggs, fruit salad, and toast! We got dressed for the day and started paddling around Jones and looking at all the critters along the side of the island. One highlight was seeing a sea cucumber! After about a 2 hour paddle, we returned to shore for lunch and to play a few games together. Our kayak guide Lily brought her slack line that all the kids were trying out, and Ward was particularly determined to master it! We made another fire and sat around for a little while, laughing and getting to spend some quality time together as a group. In the afternoon, we went on a little hike around the island to get a new perspective of it, and we were able to watch the sunset from the West side in the evening. It was a lovely closing to our sea kayaking trip, and we felt so thankful for sharing this rare experience together. Clayton and Lily made us a delicious dinner of spaghetti and chocolate peanut butter bars for dessert! After dinner we walked to the West side of the island to watch the sunset which was beyond beautiful. Ward and Henry led Moonup together as the LODs and we all went to bed happy, ready to conquer our paddle back to the mainland the next day.
Day 12: final day of sea kayaking
We woke up early today in order to beat the currents and get back to Roche Harbor to finish out the sea kayaking section. We traveled across a large channel between Jones Island over to San Juan Island and ate the last meal with our guides, Clayton and Lily before saying our goodbyes and thank you’s to them! We stopped in Roche Harbor for some yummy ice cream and then hit the road back to our campsite near Friday Harbor. Along the way, we found a restaurant named “JP’s Restaurant and Grill, so after dinner we had to stop in order to honor our leader JP’s namesake. After having a fun treat, we went to look at the bioluminescence one last time before departing the islands in the morning. Heading back to the campsite, while we were tired, we were also all filled up with joy as our LODs Vivian-Grace and Roby led us in the nightly Moonup and climbed into our sleeping bags.
Day 13: ferry and travel day to Oregon
Today we are taking the ferry back to the mainland from the San Juan islands and traveling down through the state of Washington and into Oregon to begin our climbing section of this trip! We can’t wait to tell you all the stories about climbing, as it will undoubtedly be an exciting adventure!
Claire, JP, and PNWA!!
Vivian: Hi mom and dad (and lulu, audray, and leroy), I miss you all so much but I am having sooo much fun! I have met a bunch of really fun people and love it here. Can’t wait to tell you more later xoxo also happy late fathers day I will see you soon but just know that I am having the best time ever, with the best people ever including my two new besties Durland and Kackie!
Durland: Hi mom, dad, carter, and davis I miss y’all so much but I am having so much fun here. I’ve met a lot of new friends and I am really excited to go white water rafting soon. Happy later fathers day dad! Love y’all and can’t wait to see you when I get home! And tell Dixie and Harley I say hi!
Bryan: He mom, dad, mimi, and Greer, I am having a lot of fun on moondance and can’t wait to see y’all. Tell the dogs I love them!
Ishan: Hi mom, dad, Ayanna, and Chloe, I miss you guys so much. I’m having so much fun and making a lot of new freinds. I hope you all are enjoying your time without me. Treat yourself to a tuna crisp for me, and give chloe a treat for me. See y’all soon. (Dad hope you’re happy with the bucks draft and happy fathers day)
Henry: Hi mom and dad, happy late fathers day. The trip has been a lot of fun so far and so far we have been backpacking and kayaking. Kayaking was really cool and there are a bunch of cool animals like seals and one day for backpacking we woke up at midnight to climb desolation peak. I’m writing this in the van on the way to Oregon to start climbing then after that we do white water rafting. JP told me and Ward that the Hornets drafted Brandon Miller instead of Scoot Henderson which was really stupid. Last night we all went to a place called JP’s restaurant. I’m not sure if Lillian’s gonna see this cause I think she’s already left for her trip but if not tell her I said hi. Love you and see you soon.
Ward: Hey mom and dad (happy fathers day and I have a present for you if it doesn’t break) and I am having so much fun. We just finished kayaking and have already done the 6 days of backpacking (light work) and my boots were broken in. Next we’re going to rock climbing and I’m excited. Yesterday was awesome but I heard that the hornets selected Brandon miller instead of Scoot Henderson. Tell Murray and Mo I said hey and I guess tell walker I said hey too.
Gray: Hi mom and dad (happy fathers day) i’m having a lot of fun and we just finished kayaking and we are heading to rock climbing, backpacking was a lot of fun. Yesterday we went to a restaurant called JP’s and later we saw some bioluminescence. Tell Eleanor that I said have fun at camp.
Kackie: hey mom and dad! Happy late fathers day! I love and miss y’all so much but I am having so much fun here. I love my group so much!! We have done so many cool things. We are heading to Oregon right now to white water raft and rock climb. Last night we went bowling at a diner and it was so cool. Can’t wait to see y’all soon! Oh and tell sugar I say hi.
Roby: Hey mom, dad, and brothers! I am having so much fun here! The views are beautiful and my group is awesome. I can’t wait to tell you all about it. I have read all my books already which is a bummer. I loved shoe dog, the alchemist, and earthspeaks. I also re-read the hunger games trilogy and I would love to watch the movies. Also, I’m excited to see the new Indiana Jones movie! Anyway, I love y’all so much and I can’t wait to see you again!
June 19, 2023
Hello friends and family! We are so excited to update y’all about everything we have been up to!
We welcomed the kiddos at the Seattle airport with open arms before climbing in the van and heading to our first campsite. We introduced many things to the kids once we reached our campsite, including Moonup and LODs (leaders of the day). Moonup is a time where we gather as a group at the end of each day to reflect and grow closer to one another through questions picked by the leaders of the day. After a long day of travel, we were happy to get settled into our sleeping bags and get some much-needed rest.
The next day, we woke up to the sound of the birds chirping and hopped out of our sleeping bags. We all got into the van and headed to our new campsite in order to prepare for our backpacking section. We spent the better part of the day packing, which started with a lesson on what to pack and what to keep out of the backcountry. We covered lessons in LNT, packing light and efficiently, staying warm and dry, and other backcountry basics. We took a break to eat lunch and play card games and our LODs (leaders of the day), Vivian-Grace and Roby, led us in a fun group game. Then, the kids had an hour of free time while we packed the U-Haul and van, while they played soccer and frisbee. We went to bed early once everything was all packed, after a great Moonup covering everyone’s goals for the upcoming backpacking section.
For our first day of backpacking, we woke up at our campsite and got ready quickly as we had a boat to catch! Once we packed the van and locked up the U-Haul, we were on the road headed to Ross Lake. When we arrived at the national recreation area of Ross Lake, we headed down to the lake to hop on the ferry to take to Rainbow Point. It was a beautiful boat ride, completely surrounded by towering mountains and lush sets of pine tree forests. When everyone was at Rainbow Point, we said goodbye to civilization and headed into the backcountry of the Pacific Northwest. We began our journey with a short hike through the Ross Lake backcountry, ending at our first campsite after two short hours. The LODs for today were Virginia and Ishan, and they did amazing leading us along the beautiful trail. They also helped us cook a delicious dinner of pita bread pizza! We ate our personal pita bread za’s and enjoyed a peaceful evening before climbing into our tents for the night. After doing Moonup, we went to bed in our tents deep in the woods, with nothing but the real raw PNW magic to set us up for an awesome adventure.
Our first morning in the backcountry was so exciting! We woke up to the full unfiltered sound of nature, no other humans or noises to be heard for miles. The only people out there were us, and we were ready and excited to attack the day. After a quick and filling breakfast of oatmeal and grits, we began our day of hiking. Crossing streams, sitting under gigantic ponderosa pines, and breathing in that fresh alpine air. We stopped for lunch at a scenic spot and enjoyed the sunny PNW day. After finishing our hike and settling in at our campsite, the LODs, Durland and Henry, helped us cook a delicious dinner of chicken quesadillas, which was clearly a fan favorite across the board. We concluded our day with a touching Moonup and climbed into our tents nice and early to prepare for the day ahead.
The next morning, the big day had finally come, and everyone was a little tired but excited to summit Desolation Peak. We started climbing in the dark so that we could watch the sunrise from the top. It was a difficult but very fulfilling hike, and everyone was very appreciative of the experience. The peak consisted of amazing 360-degree views of the beautiful North Cascades mountains. Our LODs, Gray and Kackie, led the group extremely well, helping to carry waters and snacks for their friends. After some reflection time and picture taking at the top, we descended down again. Once back at the campsite, we whipped up some incredible chocolate chip pancakes to fill our hungry bellies. We then took a dip in Ross Lake and took naps in our hammocks and on the beach. The day concluded early with dinner of penne pasta with red sauce and chicken, did our nightly Moonup, and were eager to climb into our tents for the night.
We awoke the next morning to the sound of birds and climbed out of our tents to see some deer in our campsite! We made a quick breakfast and started back on the trail continuing our way through the backpacking section. Our LODs, Ward and Bryan, did an incredible job reading the map and figuring out where we needed to go. After a few river crossings and some tough uphill sections, we finally made it to our campsite for the night. The site was situated next to a roaring river, giving us refreshing and cold water to drink. Ward and Bryan helped us whip up some chicken, cheese, and veggie tacos that definitely hit the spot. We were exhausted after the last two days of hiking, so we did Moonup early, heading to bed filled up and happy.
We woke up for our last full day of backpacking ready to go. After a large breakfast of hashbrowns and oatmeal, we headed out of our camp and began our 6-mile trek. During our hike, we saw lots of varying terrain. We went from deep woods, to high mountain forests, to swampy marshes, to lakefronts. The campsite we ended at, Hozomeen Lake Camp, was by far one of the most beautiful campsites we’ve been to so far. We were situated right in between a glassy calm lake and intense rocky mountains that dominated the sky. As a celebration of being done with the hiking, everyone dropped their packs as soon as we arrived and ran into the lake. As the kiddos were swimming around in the lake, we went back to our backpacks and retrieved the 10 candy bars we had hidden in our packs throughout the whole trip. We gave the kids their sugary surprise and continued to hangout lakefront. We then started a small campfire to warm up, where we taught some fire safety lessons and precautions to keep in mind when starting a fire in the backcountry. Our LODs, Durland and Roby, helped us prepare a delicious dinner of jambalaya with sausage, and it was a major hit! After another great and fun Moonup, we ended the night around the fire with a game called ‘Fishbowl’ that everybody loved to get competitive with.
The next day we hiked out of the North Cascades National Park to conclude our backpacking section of this trip! We ended backpacking by hiking out to the dock near our campsite. While waiting for the boat, our LODs Vivian-Grace and Ishan led us in a group game called “Dude, don’t touch my rock.” We loaded our bags into the boat taxi and enjoyed the ride as we traveled back to where we started. The backcountry is one of JP and my most favorite places to be, and we were thrilled to get to introduce this incredible form of life to all these awesome kids. In total, we hiked around 40 miles over the past six days, which is an amazing accomplishment that the kids should feel extremely proud of! We know that we are so proud of their effort and positivity while trying a new and daunting activity such as backpacking. After getting back to the parking lot, we loaded into the van and headed to our next campsite and stopped at a local Mexican restaurant and adjusted quickly back to civilization. We are preparing for our next activity, sea kayaking, and we can’t wait to tell you all about it in our next update.
Until then, happy trails!
June 11, 2023
Hello Pacific Northwest Families!
We heard from our leaders and the group has landed safely in Seattle! They are going to set up camp and return to the airport to welcome Vivian-Grace this evening with open arms. 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!