Explorer Spotlight: Danielle Tourigny


Name: Danielle Tourigny | Age: 24 | Location: Portland, ME.

What’s your day job? 

Currently an ophthalmic assistant in a glaucoma clinic, but I will be starting a Master’s Program for Physician Assistant Studies in June!

What are your favorite things to do outside?

Hiking, backpacking, kayaking, and photography- even if it’s just going for a run around the bay or watching the sun rise from a familiar spot, I am always happy to be outside.

What first drew you to the outdoors?

Growing up in Maine, I’ve always been surrounded by outdoorsy people (even though those people were not my immediate family). When I was in high school, our biology class took a trip to summit Katahdin, and I was hooked. We did it in October, and I had never summited a mountain before. It was difficult, and sweaty, and snowing at the top and overall difficult. But I loved it. When I got to college I found some amazing friends that were happy to drive into the Whites on weekends and my love for the outdoors only grew. I guess I can thank my high school AP Biology teacher for my love of the outdoors!

What’s your favorite hometown adventure? ...and, almost as important, where’s your favorite spot to get a beer after?

Favorite hometown adventure is actually in Freeport, which is about 30 minutes north of Portland. We will either go to Bradbury Mountain State Park or Wolfe’s Neck State Park for a walk. Then we usually finish out the adventure at the LL Bean flagship store staring at the camping equipment and dreaming of the next big trip. And then we drive down the street to Maine Beer Co for some of the best beer in the area, which is really saying something since there are about 40 breweries within 30 minutes of us. Seriously if you are into beer you have to make a trip out to Portland, ME!

What’s your essential gear that never gets left at home?

My buff (seriously every adventurer needs to own one of these) and my camera!

What’s your favorite trail snack?

Sausage and gouda with a bag of cherries. It is everything I want when I’m out in the wilderness. Really working on remembering to cut up the sausage and cheese before I get out there. Balancing food on a rock on a windy summit trying to cut it – not the best.

Any go-to soundtracks when you’re hitting the road?

Three songs always bring incredible memories of adventure so we usually incorporate them into our road trips: Love x3 (ZZ Ward), Unapologetic Bitch (Madonna), and Honey I’m Good (Andy Grammar).

What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened while you were adventuring? And/ or funniest? 

We had one heck of a 24 hours in California, which was scary at the time but looking back on it we always get a good laugh. The day started out in the backcountry of Yosemite where we had an 8 mile hike ahead of us to exit at Tuolomne Meadows (easy!), and then we were going to find a campground and continue to enjoy Yosemite the next day. We were hiking through some trails that had been ravaged by wildfire and were not very well travelled. At some point we ended up losing the trail, but quickly rediscovered it only 200 feet away with big sighs of relief. About an hour later we ran into another couple that didn’t have a map so they asked to look at ours, which is when we all figured out that we were on the John Muir trail (NOT the trail we wanted). It doubled our day. So now instead of a casual 8 miles out with 1000 ft of elevation, we had a 16 mile day with 3000 feet of elevation. We spent the entire time picking the other up when they were down and discussing food options in detail (we’d already been in the back country for 4 days and my sleeping pad started deflating on the first night so we hadn’t been sleeping). We decided burgers were a must. At first the burgers in the park seemed acceptable. The longer we hiked, the more we figured that we needed to have In and Out. So we finally stumbled out of the backcountry at sunset, drove over an hour to the nearest In and Out and went nuts. So it was 10pm and we sat there happy and full. Next step: where are we sleeping tonight. UGHHH. We knew our next destination was Sequoia National Park, so we looked up the cheapest campground in that area and set it to the GPS. The drive there was about 45 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes of it was down a narrow, bumpy dirt road at the edge of a cliff. Too tired to care. We got to the site and set up in the dark on auto pilot (we’d been on the road for 2 months at this point). Finally got to go to sleep at midnight only to be woken up by very loud sniffing at our heads in the dark. SNIFF (it sounded like a vacuum), THUMP, THUMP, SNIFF. Opened my eyes to see a very large outline of an animal by my head in the moonlight. That’s definitely a bear. Neither of us moved or breathed or talked to each other or acknowledged that the other person might be awake. After 10 minutes or so the animal finally moved on and we went right back to sleep (it was probably a good thing we were so exhausted). The next morning in the light of day we saw that the fire pit of our campsite was full of trash and watermelon rinds and random food items. And at the end of all this a lesson: please don’t leave your trash or the exhausted hikers who roll in at midnight might be eaten alive! I would not relive that 24 hours for any amount of money in the world.

Who’s your number one adventure partner-in-crime? Who inspires you?

My girlfriend Kelly is my life partner-in-crime. She has made my life so much happier and more adventurous. She introduced me to backpacking and showed me how to not only like, but REALLY like IPAs. She encourages me to eat burgers at midnight and then wake up for sunrise the next morning. She pushes me to summit peaks I didn’t know I could. She keeps me warm when we are in the backcountry and the temps drop below freezing. She always remembers to clean the bug guts off of our windshield when we stop at gas stations. She makes life exciting and I am so grateful for that.

What are your top destinations for adventure travel?

My favorite National Parks are Grand Teton, Yosemite, Acadia, and Zion in that order. If I had to return anywhere though, it would be to Alberta/British Columbia. We spend two weeks there but it really didn’t feel like enough time.

What's on the top of your must-do adventure list right now?

We sometimes joke how it’s hard to pick our next adventure because we just want to go EVERYWHERE! Topping out our list right now is Patagonia/Chile in general, Italy/France (Tour du Mont Blanc!), and New Zealand.


Show us your most memorable photo, and tell us about it!

This was our view from our backcountry site in Grand Teton National Park. We had a private beach and there were only 3 sites on the entire lake that were several hundred yards apart. I woke up our first morning there at dawn and saw this incredible view. I grew up in Maine and had never been out west before. I had never even seen mountains like this. Never mind mountains like this on a perfectly still and reflecting lake with clouds slinking around the bottom looking majestic as can be. I quickly woke up Kelly and we stared at it for probably an hour, just taking it all in. I took a few seconds to take this one picture, but other than that we just enjoyed the view. I have never been more awe struck by my morning view!

And last but not least…What’s your personal motto?

I would say my personal motto is “Let’s just give it a try!” There is no way of discerning if something is too difficult unless you try. Park rangers are telling you that you that “Paintbrush Divide may be too difficult of a trek for you ladies.” Hmm… Let’s just give it a try! “The two of you are going to travel by yourselves for three months? Are you going to bring a gun?” Nope. We’re going to give it a try. And giving it a try has led me to so much adventure that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I am so grateful every day for my sense of adventure because I know life will never be boring and I’ll never be held back by other people’s opinions.


Published: January 5, 2017

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