In 2018, High Garst ’20 and Meira Ruben ’20 led a group of eight students on a five-day GRAB (Gettysburg Recreational Adventure Board) expedition through New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Two years later, they would return to the very same mountain range as part of a longer trek—a “flip-flop” hike of the Appalachian Trail.
Just a month after graduating, Garst and Ruben set out to pursue their lifelong dream of completing the 2,190-mile trail. Garst, an environmental studies and religious studies double major, remarked, “It’s been a dream of mine my whole life and I couldn’t think of a better time to do it—after graduating and before starting my career.”
But amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the journey would require careful planning. Ruben, a sociology major and political science and peace and justice studies double minor, explained: “We… never expect[ed] a pandemic to get in the way of this dream! We both knew we’d probably never have another chance to take six months off life and hike the AT, so we readjusted our plans in order to accommodate COVID and hike safely this year.”
Their thoughtful preparations paid off and made for a fruitful trip with unforgettable memories. Reflecting on the experience, Garst recalls returning to the White Mountains once again, where they had led their GRAB peers just years before—this time completing the entire presidential traverse in a single day. “Watching the sun set behind Mount Adams from the peak of Mount Madison” was one of his favorite memories of the experience.
Their journey was made even more memorable by all those who came out to support them. Former College president Janet Morgan Riggs ’77 and her husband, Ed Riggs ’77—who had also recently completed the infamous thru-hike and shared his gear list and good advice—came to see them off. Garst and Ruben are also grateful for the many others who provided food, gear, lodging, transportation, and other “trail magic” along the way including: Jack Burns ’20, Alex Darby ’20, Katharine Ellis ’20, Emily Evans ’18, Noah Fatzinger ’18, Kyle Flagg ’21, Madison Fox ’19, Sarah Francisco ’17, Callie Fucarino ’20, Kasey Higgins ’20, Caroline Keenaghan ’22, Stephen Macary ’19, Pat McKenna ’20, Elizabeth Miller ’19, Maura O’Neil ’19, former Director of Experiential Education John Regentin, Todd Sammis ’19, Sam Sheldon ’20, Ally Schultz ’20, Connor Stafford ’21 and Kaitlin Wingard ’15.
Garst and Ruben completed the northern leg of their “flip-flop” hike over the summer, setting out on the trail just outside Gettysburg and heading north to Maine’s Mt. Katahdin. They finished the southern leg in the fall, departing once again from Adams County and heading south. The two friends fulfilled their shared dream on Nov. 6, 2020, when they completed the southern leg of the trek by summiting Springer Mountain in Georgia.
As the two now look ahead to launch their careers, they will always look back with fondness on their memories of the trail and the community that supported them, each step of the way.
By Anya Hanna
Photo courtesy of Meira Ruben ’20