02 Aug Getting To Know Your Yosemite Guide: Alice Ajango
As a top-rated National Parks tour service, Lasting Adventures is family for some of the best backpacking guides in the biz. Spend a day with one of them on-trail and you’ll find, in addition to making the most of your experience in the backcountry, they are fascinating individuals with more to share than a wealth of backpacking knowledge and skills. To help you fully appreciate all your guides have to offer, we created this blog series that spotlights our staff members and showcases the individual nuances that make them the extraordinary guides, and humans, they are.
Getting To Know Your Guide: Alice Ajango
Name: Alice Ajango
Position: 2nd-year guide
Hometown: Cedar Rapids, IA
School/Degree: University of Central Florida, English-Literature
Certifications: Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Wilderness First Responder (WFR), CPR
How did you get into backpacking?
I grew up loving to play (barefoot) outside, enjoying walks in the park, and always hoping to someday explore America’s beautiful country. The sun and fresh air have always been my biggest motivators, but I wasn’t exposed to all that the outdoor world has to offer until fairly recently. I sort of fell into the outdoor industry about three years ago while looking for seasonal jobs. An opportunity with AmeriCorps came up— building new trails, maintaining old trails, and doing habitat restoration in Santa Cruz, CA. I hadn’t known before that job that you could get paid to work and live outdoors!
The experience ignited a flame within me and I realized all that we are physically and mentally capable of…
I’m now following my desire to hike and see as much of our natural world as I possibly can!
What do you like about guiding for Lasting Adventures?
I love that guided trips bring people together. People come on trips to see indescribable beauty, and get to connect with people as they’re experiencing the humbling beauty of Yosemite—specifically taking the time to appreciate the heck out of the earth— which is a uniquely special thing to be a part of.
What’s your spirit animal?
A hummingbird: a little hyperactive, floating all around, continuing forward…and always eating sweets.
What are your other outside hobbies/passions?
Walking, picnicking, jumping in Yosemite’s water sources, stretching, admiring flowers, tye-dye, playing cards, playing, drinking beer on patios, reading, exploring. I am willing to try to learn hypothetically any new thing, so I climbed for the first time this season and would love to continue pursuing that. If there’s anything you normally do inside that you can do outside— I’d prefer it.
What’s one song that gets stuck in your head most often on the trail?
Anything Queen. Everything Queen. Always Queen.
Describe your favorite meal to cook on guide service in the backcountry.
Penne pasta, goat cheese, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes. Simple, hearty, involves cheese = my favorite sort of food, anytime.
In your opinion, what’s the most important piece of gear for a guest to bring?
What’s one thing they should leave behind? Most important piece of gear: camp shoes/sandals. As much as I love my hiking boots, there’s nothing like getting some fresh air (or cool water) on your feet after a day of walking. Leave behind makeup, hair products, anything that attempts to tame your wild goodness while you’re out on the adventure. Not only is there no judgement in the park, but fighting the inevitable ruggedness of a trip is probably a moot point.
Describe your favorite view in Yosemite.
Near Indian Rock there’s a beautiful site that gives an awesome perspective of the grandness of the valley. You can see for miles and the whole park turns pink at sunset.
It inspires even the most rambunctious groups of summer camp kids to be stunned silent, attempting to take in the layers of peaks, hills, trees, snow-caps, and overall formation of this glacier-carved space.
In your opinion, what are the most valuable services guides do for guests?
In my opinion, the most valuable services a guide provides are motivation and encouragement. It’s not bringing strength to the table that guests don’t already have, it’s reminding them of what they’ve got within. Everyone always deserves a designated cheerleader, but I feel pretty lucky to provide a space of total openness for guests. I love to remind guests—adults and youth—to appreciate and revel in their surroundings, while being gentle with and kind to themselves.