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Lucia Daranyi finds challenge, adventure and the utmost rewards in nature

Lucia Daranyi’s love for the outdoors has led her from her own backyard to destinations around Maine and as far away as the Alps. While many young people are choosing to interact with the world around them through a digital filter, Daranyi, a sophomore at Casco Bay High School in Portland, chooses to throw herself into nature.

Being outside was important as a child, and her love of nature was encouraged by her parents. She grew up playing in the woods on Peaks Island, camping with her family, going on day hikes and skiing at Sugarloaf.  “My dad put me in a backpack and went hiking,” she says. “So I’ve been hiking pretty much forever.”

A member of Casco Bay High School’s Outing Club, Lucia Daranyi has been hiking and camping most of her life. And while a steep ascent can be a struggle, the reward of the summit is worth it. Photo by Lauryn Hottinger

Daranyi is a member of Casco Bay High School’s Outing Club, which was revived a few years ago and currently has about a dozen members who hike and camp together at various locations around Maine. Last year, she was part of a group that not only hiked Katahdin, but also helped to clean up and winterize Baxter State Park. The club is small, and most of them are young women. “It’s really great to have so many powerful, incredible girls on trips,” says Daranyi.

She has written about the gender bias faced by women who guide in the outdoors in her school newspaper, but says that the men in Casco Bay’s Outing Club do not show that prejudice. She says a good way to combat such bias is to go on trips with equal numbers of men and women and to have power shared equally between male and female guides.

In addition to venturing out with her classmates, Daranyi also takes part in summer trips led by Apogee Adventures, a local company that leads summer trips for teens.

While she’s had many outstanding experiences in nature, there are a couple that really stand out. The first was a bike trip from Freeport to Quebec City. On the last day, she says, “we got into Quebec City and had to go up a huge hill. We stopped traffic—we weren’t showered and had huge things on the back of our bikes. It was the first time I camped without my parents, and that was when I really fell in love with camping.”

Photo by Lauryn Hottinger

Another memorable adventure: hiking the Tour de Mont Blanc, a 110-mile trail around Mount Blanc through France, Switzerland and Italy, last summer. “On the most rigorous day, we got to the top of the saddle and we saw a big pile of rocks stacked by people who made it to the top,” she says. “The feeling of looking down on the trail we’d come from and all the people there was just magical. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and the most rewarding.” Did she add a stone to the pile? “Oh, definitely!”

While far from determined, Daranyi’s future holds “a school with a strong Outing Club—St. Lawrence University, Colorado College, Prescott College, Sarah Lawrence University. Definitely somewhere with mountains. I realize that it’s not necessarily how to pick a school, but you have to think about student life and how you’ll fit in,” she says.

Daranyi would like to study education (with a focus on environmental education) and hopes to one day become a guide for Apogee Adventures so she can share her passion with another generation of young explorers. She’d also like to hike the Appalachian Trail.

“Nature is a really great way to relieve stress,” she says. “It’s incredible what you can do just with willpower, giving yourself the chance to struggle, then look down at the end of the day and say ‘I just hiked that mountain.’”

Teens to Trails is a Brunswick-based non-profit that helps to foster outing clubs throughout the state and leads weekend trips for interested clubs, providing them with the experienced guides they need. They have the goal of establishing an outing club at every high school in order to ensure that all teenagers have access to nature. For more information about this fantastic organization visit teenstotrails.org.

Lucinda Hannington is a transplant to Maine from Vermont. She is an avid reader, cook, eater and lover of all things historical who lives in Portland with her husband and dog.

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