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Grandma Gatewood and her Inspiring Story

Have you ever heard of Grandma Gatewood?  She was the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail by herself.  She also was the first person to walk it three times.  Even more surprising is that she did all of this after age 65!

Ben Montgomery’s book “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk:  The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail” http://www.amazon.com was published by Chicago Review Press in 2016.  This is the story of a great-grandmother who left her small Ohio town with a change of clothes, a pair of thin-soled sneakers, and less than $200.  She did not have a tent nor any professional hiking gear.  By September 1955 she was standing atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin proclaiming “I said I’ll do it, and I’ve done it.”  Emma Gatewood had lived through poverty, an abusive husband, and raised 11 children before she began her walk.  

Grandma Gatewood utilized the healing powers of physical activity and natural beauty.

The Appalachian Trail is a 2,180 mile long public footpath.

On the trail she faced fierce storms and saw the beauty of nature.  She walked up steep ridges and down treacherous ravines.  She often relied

on the kindness of other hikers or community members to keep going.  It is not only a tale of grit and determination, but also of the healing power of nature.

The author interviewed family members and others that Gatewood met along her journey.  He also had access to her trail journals and diaries as well as media coverage of her amazing journey.  

Grandma Gatewood Benefitted the Trail

Gatewood became a celebrated hiker.  She appeared on television programs with Groucho Marx and Art Linkletter.  Her celebrity brought public attention to the Appalachian Trail.  She was not shy about voicing criticism of parts of the trail which were not well-maintained and hence difficult.  This public spotlight led to enhanced trail maintenance.  Many believe that this attention very likely saved the trail from extinction.

At age seventy-one she hiked the 2,000 mile Oregon Trail.  By the time she passed away at age 85, she likely had hiked more than 10,000 miles!