spotlight-category: Communication and New Media

Eiryn Reynolds ’17

Eiryn Reynolds hiking the Appalachian Trail

Photojournalism Alumna takes time to pursue dream of hiking Appalachian Trail

“I chose photojournalism, because I have always been extremely passionate about the outdoors and traveling. Photojournalism was the perfect way to combine these two loves.”

After graduating from Gardner-Webb University in 2017, Eiryn Reynolds worked and saved up money for an adventure she had dreamed about for years. A photojournalism major, Reynolds wanted to hike the 2,190.9 miles of the Appalachian Trail before committing to a full-time job.

Eiryn Reynolds Hiking

Being on the trail would also give her a chance to practice her photography skills. “This entire trip was truly a photographer’s dream,” Reynolds shared. “I chose photojournalism, because I have always been extremely passionate about the outdoors and traveling. Photojournalism was the perfect way to combine these two loves.”

She also found that having a photographer’s perspective helped her take notice of things on the trail missed by others. “There would be moments I would be taken aback by a simple scene because I saw it in a photographic perspective,” Reynolds explained.

Despite all the gorgeous views she and her hiking partner experienced, there were also numerous challenges. “In every town we came through, all of the locals would tell us that we had the worst weather they had seen in years,” Reynolds described. “We hiked through record lows, record highs, and record amounts of rainfall.”

About three months into the hike, they began to feel defeated and ready to quit. They shared their struggles with a hiker and followed his advice to take time off the trail and drop some pack weight. The two returned four days later, energized and ready to pick up where they left off. They hiked an average of 17 to 20 miles a day, completing the 2,190.9-mile journey in seven months.

The final ascent to Mt. Katahdin in Maine was the best day on the trail for Reynolds. “The previous night, we had camped out with a group of hikers, all from North Carolina, that we had become very close to. We all woke up early to start our ascent, and you could feel the excitement from each person,” she remembered.

As they climbed, they were joined by other hikers. Usually, the faster hikers pass, but on this day, they all stayed in a line holding the pace of the person in front. “As we got to the infamous Katahdin sign, we passed one-by-one so everyone had a chance to touch the sign before the true celebration happened,” Reynolds said. “It was an unspoken moment between everyone that we were going to finish this together. Thinking about that incredible experience still makes me tear up.”

Since returning home to Wilkesboro, N.C., Reynolds is doing freelance photography. She has pondered the lessons from spending several months in near solitude. “There are so many things I learned about myself while on trail, but the most important thing I learned is that I am capable of so much more than I imagined I could be,” she assessed. “I have a confidence that I didn’t previously have. I would have originally been nervous and timid, but now I have the mindset of ‘I was able to accomplish the Appalachian Trail, I can do this and I can adapt and learn.’”

Previous Bulldog Profile

Collin Helms ’15

Next Bulldog Profile

Bethany Welch ’13

Related Bulldog Profiles

  • Bulldog Profile

    Allison Drennan ’13

    Attributes success to support and guidance of her professors “Through the communications department, I learned that graphic design is so much more than just making images look pretty together. It’s about creating a brand and a unique product for your audience.” Allison Drennan ’13 had no interest in taking art classes, but discovered her passion […]

    Allison Drennancr
  • Bulldog Profile

    Bethany Welch ’13

    GWU Alumna travels the state promoting N.C. ports in Wilmington and Morehead City “As a student, I enjoyed the connections I could make with my coaches, classmates, professors and faculty members. You’re not going to receive that level of connection just anywhere. During my time at Gardner-Webb, I felt as if I really grew into […]

  • Bulldog Profile

    Collin Helms ’15

    Gardner-Webb Alumnus Wants to help students achieve academic and personal success “The excellent liberal arts education I received has helped me transition into the working world. I feel comfortable managing multiple projects at once, and I feel as though I can provide a unique perspective and opinions about the future of higher education thanks to […]

    Collin Helms at graduation