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Alumni Profiles: Garret Meyer

Nov 4, 2020

Garret today at his home in St. Louis

Alumni Profiles: Garret Meyer

In Garret’s era, trekkers convened in St. Louis and began the expedition by driving to the Southwest. He was immediately impressed that everyone adhered to Mr. Howie’s goal that everyone should help everyone else – it was an adventure in communal living and being considerate of others. When his group first arrived in Thoreau, they had to push the trucks through the mud up the Wildcat Canyon road. Everyone pitched in – it was just what you did.

On the road in 1947

The expedition was a mix of work and play – everyone did their details and got the trucks loaded on time, but each trekker
learned to be inquisitive at their own pace. It was great that no one was told to pursue a specific academic or athletic interest – no
homework, grades, or assignments.

When Garret was a trekker, they rode in station wagons, but when he was on staff in the 50s, travel was in “duffel trucks,” pickup trucks with canvas awnings that could be rolled down on the sides when it rained. They loaded duffel bags in the back to sit on. Garret has a clear memory of skinny dipping in Roaring Springs on a hike down the Grand Canyon. Most of the boys climbed back up after the swim, but some continued down to the bottom of the canyon, and didn’t get back to camp until after dark.

One revelation came on a windy, rainy night at Great Sand Dunes. The trekkers were told that once they were in their sleeping bags, they should “strike” their tents on top of themselves, just knock down the poles of the Baker tents to keep the tents, and themselves, from blowing away. This seemed extreme at first, but they quickly realized it wasn’t the end of the world – you were warm and fairly dry.

Panning for gold in 1948

For the road loop the summer of 1948, Mr. Howie took the group to California to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of gold. They stopped in St. Joseph Missouri, where the Santa Fe Trail split off from the California and Oregon trails. In Scottsbluff, Nebraska, they saw the ruts that wagon wheels had made in the sandstone. They would often stop for the night by the roadside, and Mr. Howie would go ask the farmer who owned the land for permission to camp there, which he invariably got.

They passed through Salt Lake City, by Lake Tahoe, and over Donner Pass. They panned for gold with minor success before heading back via Yosemite (which Garret had never heard of before). They visited Death Valley, where Mr. Howie had the boys sleep during the day and travel during the night to avoid the 125-degree heat, which would cause havoc with the vehicles.

Garret’s trek experience awakened an urge to explore – since his adventures on the trek, he has visited over 150 countries around the world. He says, “I support the Gulch because the impact lasts a lifetime. I was a trekker over 70 years ago–Truman was president!–and I can see that it’s still opening vistas and changing lives today.”