Instructor Spotlight: Daniel Clifford and Courtney Johnson

AT Staff01 Dec, 2022

Our students will agree that Adventure Treks instructors are pretty incredible people. From planning 30-person meals for 30 days to fixing broken tent zippers to tending wounds to making sure we’re in the right place at the right time, AT instructors are constantly working to make sure our students are having the best and most fun summer program possible. This passion for empowering teenagers’ personal growth, fostering a fun and cohesive community, and exploring beautiful places with new friends is what makes our instructor team so strong and impactful.

Because our instructors are at the heart and soul of the Adventure Treks experience, we’d love for you to get to know them a little better. How did they end up at AT? What do they do in their free time? What are some fun facts people don’t know about them? We interviewed two of our summer 2022 instructors and are happy to share more about their lives below!

Courtney Johnson

What keeps you coming back to outdoor education and working with teenagers outside? The connections you make with the students and nature. Getting dirty, being drained of sleep, creating connections with students and staff, and life-long memories are some of the many reasons I am drawn to continue this work.

What is a favorite memory from last summer at Adventure Treks? One of my favorite memories was in Alaska. We were taking a break on our last backpack at this beautiful bridge. I had bought a stuffed animal otter that we named Prince William, after the place we sea kayaked. He had become part of our family. One of the students was taking care of Prince William and had set him on another student’s head for a cute photo. She, however, did not know this and as she looked up, Prince William escaped and went down the streams below. Everyone gasped, got up, and started running along the bank, except me. I started taking photos of him to honor his memory. Prince William was caught in a strainer for a couple seconds, before breaking free and moving further downstream. We almost lost him, but Connor had somehow spotted him, ran into the water, and retrieved him. We were all extremely happy that he was saved.

What do you do when not working at Adventure Treks? I just started working full-time as a medical receptionist and will continue to work my part-time job at a rock climbing gym! I love to rock climb, but I am scared of falling. I am going to try to go skiing this winter and not fall as much, and I am learning to sew and roller skate.

What you are hoping to learn over the next year? Communication is something I believe we are always developing and changing. We watch each other and pick up on their habits and behaviors. I am hoping over the next year to develop better ways to communicate and listen to others. My first step is to continue to work on tuning out the voices in my head that like to talk over people who are talking to me.

Fun fact? I recently watched Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time! Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are still on my “must watch” list!

Daniel Clifford

What keeps you coming back to outdoor education and working with teenagers outside? Overcoming challenges together, some of which my students (and myself) weren’t sure we could take on!

What is your favorite memory from last summer at Adventure Treks? Summiting Mt. St. Helens! The magical trek through the dark forest from basecamp before dawn to the rocky, lifeless slopes as the sun began to rise, illuminating our path and the surrounding mountains, to the slog up the infamous vertical beach! Sharing the range of emotions as we climbed from sleepiness to determination to despair to euphoria and then the reverse order on the way back down was very special. I was so proud of my group for making it, and I could see very quickly how much they had grown having overcome that.

Do you have any exciting life plans for the near future? I am heading to Costa Rica for three months to get my PADI divemaster certification, the first level of becoming a professional diver. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time, having always been fascinated with coral reefs and having worked in marine conservation around the world. This will hopefully open up lots of avenues for me, including greater opportunities to work in marine conservation and in the diving industry.

What is a book or article you read recently that really stuck with you? I was captivated by Touching the Void, the well-known story about the first attempted summit of Siula Grande and the unlikely survival of Joe Simpson in getting down the mountain. Reading the book really made me feel like I was there with him… I couldn’t imagine overcoming what he did.


View All Posts