When the Reynolds High School Class of 1970 reunites this weekend for its twice-delayed 50th reunion, there’s sure to be a lot of talk of the old days – the big football wins, the dances, the thrill of cruising Stratford Road with Three Dog Night car stereo blasting.
Cathy Blevins Howe, Sally Thomas Huntley, Stephanie Wilson Havenstein and a few of their friends are sure to join in the memories, but they also plan to spend part of the meeting discussing their next big hiking adventure in depth.
All friends or at least friends with each other while they were students at Reynolds, the women have only relatively recently become a close-knit circle of hiking buddies. The group also includes Christie Taylor, Sally Marr, Deborah Pratt Tacon, Margaret Yearns Lucas and Pogo Davis.
At an age when many people look back on adventurous pursuits, women have hiked mountains in Alaska, Italy and France, with more travel on the horizon.
“Travelling with women, I never laugh again,” Havenstein said. ” I do not know why. It’s just hilarious stuff. The women you went to high school with, you watch something, and you’re hysterical.
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Havenstein and Huntley met in fourth grade at Whitaker Elementary School in the 1960s and became close friends.
While at Reynolds, they were both part of the school’s famous Dancing Boots team.
“I became a cheerleader and Stephanie continued with Dancing Boots,” Huntley said.
The two took divergent paths after graduating in 1970. Havenstein went to the University of Maryland and worked in human resources in Washington, D.C. She stayed home for several years to raise her children, then returned to work for a school in Bethesda, Md., the area where she lives.
Huntley started at Peace College then transferred to the University of South Carolina. In 1978, she and her husband moved to Alaska, with the idea that they would stay there for a few years. Huntley fell in love with the state, its abundant beauty turning her into an avid hiker.
“I live in the biggest national park in the country, so going there is what you did,” said Huntley, a longtime travel agency owner.
Working in the travel industry, she gained expertise in travel planning. Eventually, news of his all-female little backpacking adventures got back to some of his old Reynolds pals, including Howe, the only one of the eight still living in Winston-Salem.
“I was close with some of the women and peripheral friends with others, but our groups grew over the years,” said Howe, who worked as a revenue management analyst in the aviation industry.
Along with several or all of the eight women, Howe has traveled to the Pyrenees, Big Bend National Park in Texas and Alaska, each trip requiring a level of fitness that Howe says is worth the pains.
“I love these women. They inspire me to come out,” Howe said. “If I want to play with them, I have to do what they do.”
A regular walker, Havenstein steps up her game in preparation for the trips, spinning the treadmill to the highest incline so she can climb up and down mountains.
“It’s a spiritual awakening, what my body can do,” she said.
The trail is a zone without competition. The women are supportive, acknowledging that each has different levels of stamina. This supportive atmosphere, punctuated by lots of laughter, made the outings memorable, even life-changing for some.
“For me personally, they’re kind of a lifeline,” Howe said. “You look ahead and not just behind.”
Although their time at Reynolds is the common denominator, the women rarely talk about their teenage years while on the track, Havenstein said.
“We kind of talked about this before,” she said. “When we do these trips, it’s more about living in the moment, and there’s also 50 years of life to catch up on, kids, grandkids, spouses. I’m sure this weekend, being a twice-delayed meeting, there’ll be a lot of talk about the good old days.
The reunion, by the way, has been renamed “The Class of 70 Turns 70”, since this year marks the 52nd year since graduation.
After the official reunion festivities conclude on Sunday, the women will spend several days hiking in the Blowing Rock area with Howe as their guide.
Huntley, the usual trip leader, laughed that she’s never hiked the mountains of North Carolina, which will be much gentler than the rough terrain she’s used to in Alaska.
“It will be a welcome relief,” said Huntley, who arrived on Wednesday and has spent the past few days walking around town with Havenstein and wondering what happened to the Thalhimers department store and other stores from the years 1960.
If her former classmates ask for advice on how they can follow the trail, Huntley is ready with an answer.
“You have to have a reason to live, to get in shape,” she said. “I’m more goal-oriented like that.”