Where does my trip start?
Pacific Northwest Exposure begins in Seattle, Washington. You’ll meet your leaders and other Moondancers at the Seattle airport baggage claim before embarking on either your backpacking or sea kayaking section!
What happens in a typical day?
There is no typical day on a Moondance adventure! You may be rock climbing one day, whitewater rafting the next, or backpacking along ridgelines in North Cascades National Park. Some days you may have the chance to relax by a mountain lake and fly fish or toss a Frisbee; other days you may be weaving through Class IV rapids. Either way, each day will be filled with a new adventurous activity. After a day of fishing, learning how to belay, or summiting a peak in the area, your group will find a beautiful site to set up camp for the evening and enjoy a warm meal with a hot drink. No matter what adventure you choose, each night ends with ‘moonup;’ a chance to debrief the day, talk about upcoming adventures and challenges, and just hang out.
Where are the San Juan Islands?
Also known as the “jewels of the Pacific,” the San Juan Islands are located just north of Seattle and extend all the way to the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. Approximately 780 islands are uncovered as the tide recedes, exposing sandy beaches and an abundance of kelp, sea stars and barnacles.
What if I’ve never been sea kayaking before?
No experience required! You and your friends will learn basic paddling strokes together from professional sea kayaking guides as you learn to read the waters near Lopez and Orcas Islands. To ensure the safest possible experience, everyone is required to wear a Personal Flotation Device (or PFD) at all times on the water.
Do I need any special gear for rock climbing? What about experience?
There is no extra gear required for any climbing section on Moondance. It’s great if you have your own climbing shoes-bring them!-but our professional guides will supply us with everything we need including ropes, harnesses, shoes when necessary, and helmets. Absolutely no experience is required to have fun on the rock. Once you try it, you’ll realize that the learning curve is high! For our more experienced climbers, there are plenty of routes at Smith Rock to test your skill and to help you advance to the next level.
The Tyrolean traverse looks a little scary — what’s that all about?
The Tyrolean traverse – called “The Monkey’s Face” – does look a bit intimidating, however even the beginner climber will have no trouble crossing the bridge between the two rock outcrops at Smith Rock in Oregon. After successfully climbing Monkey’s Face, students will clip in and “traverse” to the other side. As with most Moondance sections, the mental energy required will outshine preconceived notions, enabling you to surpass physical limitations.
Do I need to break in my boots for the backpacking section?
Absolutely! The most common medical injury we face in the backcountry is blisters. Though that may not seem like a big deal, blisters can turn a 6 mile hike into a nightmare if not properly attended. The best way to avoid blisters is to buy boots that fit you properly and to wear them often in order break them in. Leather boots can take 1-2 months to break in so start early! Once your trip begins, your leaders will show you how to care for your feet to avoid any unwanted blisters!
How many miles do we backpack in a given day?
During your time in the backcountry, you will find that the weather can change both frequently and quickly. Thus, your itineraries could vary, and your instructors may decide that it is safer to set up camp early rather than continue hiking. Your group will begin to read weather patterns and will start to make these kinds of decisions too, with your instructor’s help. In any case, this may mean that some days you only hike a couple of miles, while on other days when the weather is ideal and your group feels strong, you knock out 7-8 miles.
What else do we do during our backpacking section?
You will be backpacking through the vast Cascade Mountain Range that is home to sheep, marmot, deer, and moose, so keep your eyes pealed! You will fine-tune your map skills as you navigate through forests and mountain valleys as well as be able to perfect your backcountry culinary talent at breakfast and dinner. There will be plenty of panoramic views atop peaks just beckoning to be summited. Most of all, though, you will experience the simplicity of life that accompanies backpacking: carrying your belongings on your back and laughing harder than you will have in a long time.
What kind of wildlife will we see?
The pristine waters surrounding the San Juans are home to porpoise, otters, sea stars, herons, and their most famous resident, the orcas, or killer whales, may pass by you! While backpacking in Desolation Wilderness, don’t be surprised if you come across deer, cougar, grouse, marmots, and the occasional bear!
What’s the weather like in Washington?
Washington State experiences a mild climate during the summer with temperatures near the coast regulated by its marine climate. There are days when it may rain, so be sure to bring proper rain gear; however, you’ll most likely experience sunshine and temperatures around 70°F on most days.
What will I learn by the end of my trip?
By the end of your Moondance experience, you may learn how to cook a great meal, how to find your way using topographical maps and a compass, or how to belay a new friend who is climbing above you. Most of all, you’ll learn that life’s lessons are often camouflaged as a brilliant rainbow that follows a storm, a challenging mountain and a heavy pack, or strangers that become family at the end of 21 days. The self-confidence that one gains by exploring the unknown provides a constant foundation for life’s adventures down the road.