Wilderness Guides

Ascend Wilderness Guides are Wilderness First Aid, CPR, and water safety certified as well as Ascend trained to make sure safety is priority on outdoor adventures. They thrive in the backcountry where adapting to changing conditions and group dynamics is critical to providing a meaningful wilderness experience. Our Guides are devoted to Ascend’s mission of providing opportunities for enhanced awareness of and connection to self, others, community and environment through wilderness adventures, environmental education and stewardship.

Learn more about our Wilderness Guides!

Danyel Aglipay

Danyel Aglipay went on stewardship backpacking trips in the Trinity Alps Wilderness in 1996, 1997 and 1998 as a youth participant in a program that was a precursor to Ascend.  Those opportunities in her teenage years to assist in building water bars and clearing trail sparked a sense of responsibility and care for the Trinity Alps Wilderness that she still carries today.  She is also now married to a fellow backpacker that she met when she was sixteen on her very first Trinity Alps stewardship backpacking trip in 1996.  Danyel has led dozens of hiking and backpacking trips for youth into the Trinity Alps and was part of the Ascend Administrative team from 2016-2021.  Danyel works much of the year as a musician and music teacher but looks forward to backpacking season all year long. 

Elizabeth McGee-Houghton

Liz is a young 64-year-old nature driven soul. She started backpacking in High School and the outdoors has been her happy place ever since. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a Masters in Natural Resource Managment. She worked for the Forest Service for 15 years as a wildlife technician, backcountry ranger, wildland firefighter, botanist and plant ecologist.  Most recently she taught soils, wildland fire and watershed management at College of the Redwoods. She is looking forward to discovery and fun on the Ascend trips. 

Andrew Nelson

Born and raised in Humboldt County and being fortunate to soak up lots of quality time playing under Redwoods as a youngun, Andrew has had a love for trees as long as he can remember. This love matured in adulthood, finding tree work while living in Colorado and eventually settling into a life filled with time spent outdoors. Andrew has lived in Trinity County for the past three years and is very passionate about the mountains, waterways, flora and fauna of the Coastal and Klamath mountain ranges.

When he’s not leading trips for Ascend, you can find him caretaking a ranch and managing the vineyard on site, and doing tree work. Some other hobbies include reading, listening to and discovering new music, and playing Magic the Gathering. He is also a proud partner to his fiancé, Carly, and parent to their 17 year old cat Buddy. Andrew relishes the opportunity to take kids backpacking to hopefully inspire future outdoor enthusiasts.

Andrew on a day hike (2022)
Dave leading a team-building game (2005)

Dave Johnson

A Trinity County local, Dave first encountered Ascend on a hike with his dad, running into Ascend Founder Scott LaFein on the trail. He would later sign up and attend his first pack meeting at 10 years-old, totally soaked after jumping into a creek beforehand. He would go on to participate in an Ascend trip every year until he graduated high school, becoming Ascend’s first Junior Guide and later returning as an adult to lead trips, playing games and creating space for the meaningful conversations and revelations that emerge around a campfire.

When he’s not playing games in the backcountry with youth and adults, Dave coordinates and supports crews for the Trinity County Resource Conservation District, works on his family’s land, and can be found exploring the vast dirt logging roads around Trinity County on his dirt bike. When asked what his favorite thing about Ascend is, Dave says it’s seeing how the kids shape their own experiences when given the freedom of undirected time outdoors. 

Naomi Underwood

Naomi moved to West Marin County when she was 9 years old from Laguna Beach, in Southern California, where she was born. While in Marin County, she lived in Tomales Bay State Park, and later, on the ranch lands along the Point Reyes National Seashore where she was free to run wild and explore. There, she learned about the importance of preserving wild places and protecting endangered species of plants and animals.

She developed a sense of responsibility and love for nature early on, participating in walks led by naturalist Elizabeth Terwilliger, where she learned about the “magic” of the plants and animals they saw along the trails in the parks, and from the park rangers in the National Seashore as they rescued animals and birds caught up in plastic debris or oil and tar slick. On family vacations, her mother’s partner, who worked for the state parks, took the family camping and hiking in nearly every state and national park in California, teaching Naomi and her siblings the importance of Leave No Trace ethics.

Jenn Wall

Jenn was born and raised in Northern California, spending her childhood in Mendocino County where she spent her days climbing trees, exploring the redwood forests, and falling in love with nature. After moving around the northstate a few times with her family, she graduated from Burney High School and went on to get her Bachelor’s degree from CSU, Chico.

In 2017, she thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and her life was forever changed. Since then she has spent the majority of her summers thru-hiking all the big trails throughout the US, racking up over 12,000 miles. Jenn loves connecting with others and sharing her passion for backpacking and the outdoors by teaching others the skills to empower them to feel comfortable in the wilderness so that they too can experience the same joy and peace that she has found through her hikes. When she’s not backpacking, you can find Jenn kickboxing, mountain biking, trail running, and dancing… anything that gets her blood pumping! 

Zach Sullivan

After performing a Search & Rescue for Ascend and being one of the most graceful humans through the process with our youth participant, we knew Zach Sullivan would be an AWE-some addition to our wilderness guide team! Originally from the backwoods of Mt. St. Helens in SW Washington, he currently lives in the East Trinity Alps near the Long Canyon trailhead. He enjoys skiing, backpacking, and volunteering with various local organizations. As a bonus, Zach is a nationally registered EMT and has tons of experience in the rescue and EMS fields. Fun facts: He speaks English & Thai, love cats, and collecting old glass bottles.

Sasha Jurchak

Sasha, who sometimes goes by her trail name “Sass,” is a Pennsylvania native and a world wanderer. She has experienced nature as something spiritual from a very young age, and intense wanderlust since her teen years. Following work in education, travel sales, and international medical case management, she pursued a MA in International Communication in Europe. Post-graduation she decided to soul search by embarking on several treks in Hungary, Croatia, The Netherlands, Germany, and her home state of Pennsylvania; totalling 1,400+ miles in solo long-distance expeditions. The desire to bring others through similar experiences in the great outdoors then drove her to become a wilderness guide for youth and adults in North Carolina, Utah and now in several locations across California.