An Experience Literally Like No Other

Savannah Midgette was part of the first GALS trip in summer 2017. In this blog post, she describes what she saw and what she learned at Duke GALS North Carolina.


GALS was an experience literally like no other. I expected this program to be a camping trip that incorporated science topics, but my expectations were far exceeded.

Before GALS, I had never been backpacking. Learning that I wasn’t going to have running water, indoor plumbing, fresh fruit/vegetables, AC, deodorant, and contact with the outside world was terrifying at first. Once we started the trip and I learned that I was stronger than I thought I was, I forgot about all the things I didn’t have and focused on all that I was given.

I was immediately overwhelmed with the beauty of nature that I had seen only on a small scale before. Hiking on the edge of the woods, camping on a grassy mountain plain, backpacking alongside a river and then sleeping right next to it, and climbing to the top of a mineral mountain made out of quartz was breathtaking. I still picture the view when we stood on the edge of the mountain and I can still feel the cold touch of the iridescent quartz. It was the beginning of summer, and I was wearing a jacket and pants! The temperature helped us cool down from our hikes as we stopped for lessons.

I knew a lot about science after taking AP Biology, so much of what we learned was easy for me to understand and apply to my surroundings, like the geological and evolutionary aspects. I loved doing the research project and being able to take time to observe my surroundings in a more detailed manner, especially on a topic I chose myself based on what we learned and saw along the trails.

One of my favorite memories was looking along the tree trunks for fungi or lichen and finding slugs instead. Taking those slugs, I then encouraged 3 people to lick them (because it makes your tongue go numb for a good half hour). It was hilarious, and everyone referred to me as the slug-hugger.

It may have seemed weird, but that trip was full of all kinds of weird, silly, and memorable moments that I wouldn’t have traded for the world. I definitely can’t wait to go backpacking again–and I hope it’s with my gals!

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