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A marvelous trip thanks to Moondance

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By Laney Devers
Sopris Sun Intern

For fourteen days last July, myself and eleven other students from across the country, embarked on  an adventure of a lifetime through the rocky Dolomite mountains on a Moondance trip.

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Moondance Adventures is an adventure travel company for middle and high school students with trips in five different continents, seventeen countries and eleven states in the US. The program’s philosophy incorporates a strong belief in the power of the outdoors with the ideas of positivity and “living in the moment.”  

I once again stuffed my oversized backpack with quick dry clothing, dirty hiking boots, a new passport and all the outdoor equipment I managed to recover from my last adventure the previous summer with Moondance, trekking across the Laugavegur trail in Iceland. The same anxious excitement once again boiled in my chest at the thought of another life changing trip.

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I met the other eleven 15-to-16-year-old trip participants at our gate in the Atlanta airport. We made quiet, jittery small talk about school and where in the country we were all from before boarding our overnight flight to Venice.

After a seemingly endless night of struggling to sleep in between inflight movies we finally arrived and were introduced to our two incredibly enthusiastic trip leaders, Abbey Dahl of Southern Pines North Carolina and Hoke Smith of Nashville Tennessee.

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We then drove approximately two hours from the Venice airport to the Dolomite mountain range. Once there, we would spend the next fourteen days hiking, climbing, canyoneering and bonding with one another.

We began with the rigorous trekking portion of our trip. It was during this time that I, for the first time since my previous experience with Moondance, in Iceland, watched complete strangers metamorphose into second-family members.

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The hikes, which often consumed entire days, were strenuous and usually up steep, rocky terrain. We played trail games and talked about everything from music to pets as we trudged uphill, until we reached our next “Refugio.”

Refugios are mountain huts, used as hostels in the Italian Alps. They are complete with running water, electricity and comfortable rooms stacked to the ceiling with bunk beds.We would continue to hike from one Refugio to the next for the several days.

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Moondance has many traditions, one being “moon up.” At the end of every packed, exhausting day, we would close the night with a series of events. First the “leaders of the day,” who had been chosen the night before by the previous day’s leaders, would select a quotation from a book provided by Moondance that they would read aloud to the group.

Then they each ask a question that the group members individually would take turns answering.

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These questions range from trivial, such as one’s biggest pet peeves, to deeper ones, such as a trait you look for in a significant other, or what’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to go through. It’s answers to questions like these that tie a group together for years and years after a trip has ended.

Each day our trail conversations grew more and more meaningful. So by the time we made it to our second and third activity, rock climbing and canyoneering, we all knew each other on an entirely more personal level.

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So you can imagine how difficult leaving each other was. We traded hugs, gathered contact information and said our teary goodbyes. All of us had changed for the better, we returned home, soon to be begging our parents for another Moondance.