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Yosemite 2 • July 2-July 22, 2023

We did it!

July 23, 2023

At this point everyone has safely made it home! We wanted to reminisce for one more time on Yosemite 2!

We have lots to fill you in on, on our last days together!

This trip update begins in the mystical town of Shasta, a tiny town that has 68 declared religions (most which are based on the people known as the Lemurians who live inside the mountain) and is the location of the second most alien abductions in the state of California. I can say with confidence, there is no other place like it. We began our exploration of the town by saying one final goodbye to our mountaineering guides and thanking them once more for such a great time on the mountain. Afterwards, we proceeded to the local organic grocery store where we celebrated with organic, locally made ice cream sandwiches! With our ice cream sandwiches in hand, we headed to check out some of the local stores on our quest for t shirts and stickers! Our first stop was a local gear store, followed by a crowd favorite called “Soul Connections”. We finished off the day with pizza from a local shop, where Charlotte earned her title as the best air hockey in the group by beating Lincoln in their ongoing tournament.

Upon returning to camp, Grady built a fire, and we sat around for s’mores one last time. Lincoln and Skyler, the LODs of the day, led Moonup and asked the group to reflect on some of their favorite moments from the trip. After Moonup since it was still early, the group went to see a local band that was performing at the campsite. Loulee taught the group one of her favorite moves: “light the Christmas tree”.

After the concert, it was almost time to go to bed, but as we were setting up our sleeping bags, we were greeted by a surprise visitor… a bear! A large black bear strolled through the campsite, and at last we were able to use the bear calls that we had been practicing all trip! The bear definitely heard us and moved away from our sight. It was a nice surprise animal spotting to complete such an awesome day. With all that happened today, it is crazy to think that we had been on the mountain this morning!

Yesterday we woke up and got on the road early to get back to Half Moon Bay, back where it all began 3 weeks ago. On the way, Hannah requested and sang a beautiful rendition of Taylor Swift’s masterpiece “Mr Perfectly Fine (Taylor’s Version).” We had some nice stops including breakfast in a Safeway parking lot, lunch in a Goodwill parking lot, and McFlurries with extra M&Ms and chocolate sauce. Speaking of Goodwill, we all went thrifting to pick out fun outfits for our banquet dinner! Some of the highlights were Bennett in a yellow dress and bright orange Bass Pro Shops hat and Cate and Sydney in matching Hawaiian shirts and jorts. Charlotte also immediately put her extremely large shorts on and wore them for the rest of the day. The group decided that the theme of the banquet would be Skyler and Lincoln’s wedding, so everyone was naturally a member of the wedding party.

Once we got to Half Moon Bay, we celebrated our banquet with the best Mexican food in California – the legendary Tres Amigos. We feasted on burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and plenty of chips and salsa. Seager even completed his push-up challenge by doing push-ups and taking a bite of a churro at the bottom of each one! After dinner we went back to our campsite and had a wonderful and reflective final Moonup.

Today, we headed to the airport early in the morning and said goodbye to all the kids. It’s truly been a pleasure hanging out with them and seeing them grow over the past 3 weeks and we are really grateful for all the great memories we’ve made. We had an awesome summer, and it is definitely bittersweet seeing it come to an end – this is YOS 2, signing off.

– Grady and Caroline

Summit Day on Shasta!

July 20, 2023

Hello all! Everyone has made it safely off Mt Shasta with lots of stories to tell! The last couple days have been jam packed with adventures as we hiked to base camp, made our summit bid, and descended back down to the trailhead.


On Tuesday morning we met our wonderful guides Brad, Simran, and Sean and got our important mountain safety gear, harnesses, and helmets. At this point in the season, most of the snow has melted on the mountain so we would be walking mostly on rock as opposed to snow and ice. After a bumpy ride to the Clear Creek trailhead, we began our ascent! Hiking was hard with full packs but everyone crushed it and soon we were at our base camp! The camp was located in a beautiful alpine meadow with a nice spring for water and a great view of the mountains to the South. When we got to camp, we had a slightly unfortunate surprise – one of the tents was missing a pole. No problem, though, for Charlotte, Cate, and Skyler as they creatively rigged the tent with paracord and a trekking pole! Certainly, some future engineers in the making, and a proud moment for us leaders. We went to sleep as quickly as possible to prepare for our summit bid later that night!


Our alpine start began with waking up at 3AM sharp to pack our bags with snacks, water, and layers. We then broke into rope teams and began climbing. We started in the dark under the stars, but before we knew it, the sun was rising and casting a beautiful light over the mountains. Bennett and Loulee found a great rock outcropping to watch the sunrise from and lead their rope team up to it.


Meanwhile, the two other rope teams met up to pass an icy snow patch which to safely cross, the guides put each member on belay and carved out steps to follow. Otherwise, the climb involved mostly walking through scree (loose rocks) uphill until you reached a section known as “the chute” which proved much more technical and challenging. One rope team with Charlotte, Lincoln, and Seager, and Caroline were super stoked on climbing and made it to the summit! At the top, they each did 5 pushups to finish out their push-up challenge.


Some other highlights from the day involved Hannah’s photo shoot at the aptly named “Chicken Nugget Rock” and Sydney reaching new speed records on her glissade as she slid down the snow patches on the descent. After everyone had returned to camp, we shared stories from the day and ate some delicious mac and cheese before heading to bed exhausted. The next morning, we woke up early and descended down to the trailhead and drove back to our campsite at Lake Siskiyou. Today we are planning to explore the town of Mt Shasta and prep for heading home in two days! It’s been a great three weeks and we’ve had lots of fun adventures. Until next time,


– Grady and Caroline

Post backpacking check-in!

July 18, 2023

Hey everybody! We have made it out of the Yosemite backcountry! The group crushed a 40+ mile backpacking route through a really cool part of the park. On day 1 of backpacking we started from the Alder Creek trailhead and had a big hill right off the bat. The group did a great job, even with their heavy first day packs, and soon we made it to a beautiful campsite across from the Alder Creek falls. That night we had a delicious meal of mac and cheese and fell asleep under the stars. You could even see the Milky Way!

On day 2, Seager and Charlotte decided that the hiking was not nearly hard enough, so they needed to do 100 pushups every day. Seager even impressed the group by doing a number with his pack on! Our second day took us on a short 3 mile walk through lush green forest from Alder Creek to Deer Camp. Given that the water levels are high in Yosemite this year due to large amounts of snowfall this winter, the group quickly got a few chances to practice crossing rivers after learning the proper technique. Another skill we learned was bear calls – the art of making loud noises to scare off any bears or other wildlife that might be ahead of us on the trail. Skylar managed to make a noise that I didn’t know could come out of a person and certainly scared everything away! Deer camp was a beautiful campsite tucked away in the woods complete with a fire ring and stump stools. That night, we had a nice campfire and worked on friendship bracelets. Hannah impressed everyone by working very diligently on (and completing) a super complicated diamond shaped design with many colors. Once again, we feel asleep under the stars and woke up rested for a big day of hiking.

Day three of backpacking was our first really big day, with about seven miles to get us from Deer Camp to a much higher elevation, rockier campsite near the Chilnuaulna lakes. As we climbed, snow piles started to appear in the shade of the big pine trees. We had some tricky route finding as we navigated this snow and quite a few downed trees through an area called Turner Meadows. After a nice lunch of tortillas with summer sausage and cheese, we started climbing again into a much dryer, rockier area. Large boulders and granite slabs started to appear as we got higher and eventually found a beautiful campsite near Chilnuaulna Creek. The river even formed a nice pool that everyone took turns dunking themselves in to cool off – Bennett led the way and was so excited he accidentally slid in on his butt!

The next day was a well-deserved lay-over day where we slept in and cooked pancakes to celebrate our accomplishments so far. Pancakes, though delicious, are quite messy, and Skylar and Sydney really took one for the team by cleaning the nasty pots and pans. After breakfast, we embarked on a day hike with very light packs up to Buena Vista Pass. It was a challenging 4 miles and 1000 feet of elevation to the top of the pass, but well worth it! We were rewarded with a beautiful view that spanned the Clark Range and some of the big granite walls of the Yosemite Valley, including the back side of Half Dome. After a photo shoot and some lunch, we jumped in an alpine lake to cool off and hiked back to our camp. Lincoln kept the front of the line very entertained by running an intense game of trivia that’s spanned subjects such as Biology, British history, and Lincoln facts. That night some smoke rolled in from forest fires in the northern part of the park which made the sunset especially red, a beautiful way to end our day.

Day 5 we woke up ready to move camp again to the top of Chilnuaulna Falls. Our hike was about 7 miles, but all downhill, and our packs were starting to get much lighter as we had eaten most of our food! Soon we made it to the majestic falls and camped on a big granite slab that looked out into the mountains. It was probably our most beautiful campsite yet, and the sunset was once again incredible. Our last night in the backcountry was bittersweet, as we were excited to return to the van and get to Mount Shasta but sad to leave such an incredible place.

Our final day was a doozy – we had 10 miles of tough hiking to get back to the trailhead. We woke up early, ate some oatmeal, and packed our bags. Cate’s backpack was once again perfectly packed and fitted, proving for the sixth day in a row that she was a real backpacking pro. The first section of the trail was a 2500 ft descent down into the valley, where we then walked through the small town of Wawona for about an hour. Then it wastime for our final push: a grueling 4 mile, 1000 foot climb back to the van through fairly intense heat. Loulee kept the group entertained with crazy stories about camp and boarding school as we pushed through the almost desert like terrain. Even the heat and mileage couldn’t stop this group though, and soon we were back at our beloved van! A short drive to a little gas station and we were rewarded with fresh sandwiches, cold sodas, and lots of water. Little did the group know, another surprise was in store…ice cream! We stopped on our way to our campsite at Lake McClure where we had a variety of milkshakes, sundaes, and ice cream scoops. It was a wonderful way to end a really awesome backpacking section.

Tomorrow, we embark on the final step of our journey up Mount Shasta. Your kids have done an excellent job and are now experienced surfers, rafters, climbers, and backpackers. All that is left is to turn them into mountaineers! See you in a few days!

– Grady and Caroline

Here are some shout outs from the kids:

skyler- hi fam!! i’m having such a great time. so sorry for the big purchases totally wasn’t prepared for this trip. we are about to climb a mountain and just got done backpacking. miss y’all see ya soon. happy late birthday anna i miss you!

cate- hi guys!! i’m having the best time ever and i’ve seen the coolest views these past couple weeks. love and miss y’all so much and i’ll see you soon!!

bennett- hey guys! i’m not dead and haven’t gotten kicked off the trip yet! we just got done backpacking and seeing some of the most amazing sights i’ve seen in my life. PS Happy late birthday grandma love you 🙂

lincoln- what’s up fam! yosemite was incredible and i’m having the best time. Tell Calvin not to catch all of the big fish whilst i’m gone.Miss you all very much, Love you all.

seager – what’s up. i hope you’re not missing me too much but i’m having a lot of fun. i love you. happy early birthday ashley!

loulee- hi mom and dad!! i am having so much fun but i miss y’all and can’t wait to see you soon! give vince and grover some hugs for me and tell AB and Jackson i say hi! love y’all!!

hannah -hi mom and dad! i miss you so much!! and clara and sam love you guys. send smokey my love. Also happy late birthday ashley hope u see this roomie!! love everyone

charlotte – hello mama and dada and maggie and harry (although ik they’re at camp) and momo and the fish! i love you and miss you <3 having a blast 🙂 happy late birthday mama! give momo a hug for me.

Sydney – hi mom and dad and gwennie! i love and miss you lots!! i’m having tons of fun and don’t forget to give maudie my love. wish me luck on shasta and see you soonish 🙂

Yaho Yosemite Valley!

July 11, 2023

What’s up everybody! Yosemite 2 has had lots of adventures the last 4 days as we rafted the South Fork of the American River and climbed the epic granite walls of Yosemite valley.

On day 1 of rafting, we met our guides Wes and Dakota at the All-Outdoors River Center and after learning some important river safety and boating skills, we took to the water! Cate and Sydney were so stoked to get going that they both jumped in the front row of the boat ready for some whitewater action. Our first section of the river was some smaller Class II rapids that were great for practicing our new paddling skills. Soon we could paddle our rafts forward, backward, and turn any direction on a dime! One rapid was called Swimmer Rapid because it was a great one to jump in the water and float down. Seager was the first one to fearlessly hop in the fairly frigid water and send it down the rapid! After a nice fresh sandwich spread from the guides, we were ready to take on the bigger Class III rapids in The Gorge. Some highlights included The Meatgrinder, Satan’s Cesspool, and Hospital Bar. Despite the somewhat intense names, everyone had a blast as we got tossed around the river.

After getting out of The Gorge, we headed back to Camp Lotus where the guides prepared a feast of chicken, steak, two types of salad, pasta, garlic bread, grilled peppers, and brownies. And it was all incredibly delicious. We went to bed with nice full stomachs and woke up bright and early for our second day of rafting.

Once again, we had a wonderful treat from the guides… a full hot chocolate bar with whipped cream! and muffins! And this wasn’t even our breakfast, for which they had cooked egg and sausage bagels. After we ate, we were ready to hit the rapids one last time. In the morning, we ran some big Class III rapids before stopping for lunch. In the afternoon, the rapids got smaller and there were long sections of the river where the water was deep and slow, and we could play around on the boats and in the water. Lincoln quickly started a raft war and pushed everyone out of his boat into the water, though he was immediately defeated as they banded together to take him down as well. Skylar and Bennett also took advantage of the slower water to try, with the guides’ instruction of course, guiding and steering a raft down the river. They both picked up the skill quickly and were able to navigate some small rapids!

Sadly, we soon had to say goodbye to the river and piled in the van to head towards Yosemite. We had about a three-hour drive, so on our grocery store stop we took the LODs Hannah and Loulee inside to pick out some snacks for the group. The group was surely not disappointed by their choices of pringles, sun chips, and most importantly, double stuffed Oreos. Soon after we arrived at our campsite at Lake McClure, made some quesadillas, and went to sleep under a blanket of stars.

The next morning, we drove into the park for the first time to climb in the stunning Yosemite valley, the original home of rock climbing as a sport and one of the most beautiful places in the world. Our guides from Yosemite Mountaineering School showed us the ropes (get it) as we learned how to climb and belay in a safe and efficient manner. Then we were climbing up some famous Yosemite granite! The kids had a great time hanging out by the rocks and scampering up the different routes the guides had put up. After we got our fill in, we headed to the Yosemite Backpackers Camp, a campground in Yosemite valley where everyone got their first taste of backcountry camping. Since we were so thankful to finally be in Yosemite National Park, the namesake of our trip, we cooked a Thanksgiving feast with chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, stuffing, and even gravy!

The next day, we returned to the crag once more for a second day of climbing. We practiced our knot tying and at last were ready to rope up. The guides set up 5 routes for people to try, and each person climbed at least 3 of them! Lincoln was so excited he climbed all of the routes and got the guides to show him how to modify the routes to make them more difficult. Shoutout to Grady for griddying down the wall!

After climbing, we spent the afternoon exploring Yosemite village. A highlight was definitely passing a spectacular viewpoint of the roaring Yosemite falls. The group amazed at the sight amongst all of the surrounding granite peaks. We visited the village store where the group bought souvenirs to remember our time in the park and afterwards the wilderness center where we picked up some extra bear cans to protect our food and discussed our route with a ranger. We returned to the van excited to get to explore the park some more over the next view days!

However, before our backpacking sections begins, we had one final surprise for the group… pizza! On our way back to camp, we stopped at a local pizza spot called Roundtable pizza. While the tables were not round, and the service was not great (they dropped one of our pizzas on the ground) the pizza was amazing and definitely Michelin star level. And if pizza wasn’t enough, we finished the night with 24 ginormous cinnamon sugar twists. In the parking lot, we celebrated Seager’s “birthday” with the feast and sang to him the birthday song. We arrived at camp, and in preparation for backpacking, cut string to make new friendship bracelets. At this point, most of the group has perfected the basic candy striped and chevron patterns, so Charlotte was teaching a new one and showed people how to cut pieces of cardboard in order to make the new design.

We cannot believe that the trip is not even halfway over. The group is already starting to feel like a family, and we cannot wait to begin our backpacking expedition tomorrow! Talk to you soon!

– Caroline and Grady

Surfing in the U.S.A.

July 7, 2023

Hello from sunny California! Yosemite 2 has landed and has been surfing some radical waves the last couple days around Half Moon Bay. On day 1, we met the kids at the airport and rejoiced when everyone arrived with no delays and no lost bags! We then headed to camp where Charlotte, Hannah, and Joie Beth used their extensive combined past Moondance experience to teach everyone how to set up tents and get their sleep gear set up. After playing some name games and solving Caroline’s numerous riddles, the group enjoyed some local pizza (with crust made from chickpeas) and Caesar salad (gotta get those veggies) and went to bed early for an exciting day of surfing ahead!

We woke up nice and early the next day and met our surfing guides at the scenic Taco Bell Cantina at Pacifica State Beach. Our groovy guides took us through some important safety and surfing skills, and then we took to the waves! Bennett was very excited to surf and quickly caught on, catching some waves and taking them into the shore. We were blessed with a rare and beautiful Bay-area blue sky and the group had a great time laughing and playing in the sunny waves. After surfing, we decided we had to try this legendary Taco Bell and quickly learned it was better than all other Taco Bells and had rightfully earned it’s fame. After heading back to camp and having dinner and moonup, we quickly went to bed early once again as tomorrow was a very important day: the Fourth of July!

The celebrations began in the morning as we made blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes and listened to patriotic staples like “TRUCK” by Hardy and plenty of London drill. Soon we were off to Point Reyes, a beautiful National Seashore north of San Francisco where we did a 5 mile day hike up into some misty pine trees and wildflower filled meadows. The drive back took us along the famous California Highway 1 and had beautiful views of the oceanside cliffs. On the way back, we stopped to get some extra Fourth of July decorations and desserts that our LODs Skyler and Lincoln picked out, though Lincoln (our resident Brit) made sure to remind us of our country’s roots by adding a King Charles Magazine to the pile. Upon our return to camp, we finished our day of Independence in the best way possible: a cookout! Cate grilled up some delicious burgers and we ate an entire watermelon.

The next day, we woke up ready to conquer our second, and final day of surfing. For breakfast, we had our very own omelet bar! Each person had a choice of mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, onions, cheese, and bacon in their omelets. Not to brag, but this was definitely a Michelin Star worthy meal! After breakfast, we packed up the van and headed once more to the scenic taco bell to meet our guides. We suited up in our wetsuits and set out to the beach with our surf boards. First, the guides taught us some techniques for paddling out into the waves. The group caught on quickly, and soon enough were ready to go!

Let me tell you, Yosemite 2 surfed some sick waves! Not only did everyone stand up and ride at least one wave, but a couple people even did a headstand on their boards while riding a wave! The vibes were immaculate, but eventually it was time to say goodbye to our surf guides. After such a great morning, we celebrated with some cinnamon delights from the scenic taco bell and returned to camp.

We spent the afternoon hanging out at camp. For dinner, we had a gourmet meal of grilled cheese and tomato soup. After everyone had finished eating, we realized that we had an obscene amount of tomato soup remaining. Bennett and Lincoln, both confident in their human sumping abilities (drinking any food waste) impressed the group by finishing the soup while the others watched and cheered them on. We capped off the night with moonup where the LODs, Sydney and Loulee, dressed up in funny costumes. Sydney wore XXL neon blue joggers with a denim tank top and Loulee wore a disco, patterned button down with a red and white striped tie that she tied around her head. It was quite the sight to see!

Today we got ready for our rafting adventure by driving to Camp Lotus, a cool campsite on the American River where we cheffed up a delicious meal of spaghetti and meatballs. The night was still young, though, so Seager led the charge in making a fire and we had some s’mores while Grady serenaded the group with his mandolin! All in all, we’ve had a great first couple days and can’t wait to get on the river tomorrow! Until next time,

– Caroline and Grady

Safely in San Francisco!

July 2, 2023

Hello Yosemite Families!

We just heard from our leaders that the group has landed safely in San Francisco with all of their bags! The trip is off to a great start and they are headed to their first campsite, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventures.

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!

-Moondance HQ


  • Bennett
  • Cate
  • Charlotte
  • Hannah
  • Lincoln
  • Loulee
  • Skyler
  • Sydney
  • Seager