Walking more than 2,000 miles in tennis shoes, camping without a sleeping bag or tent, no stove to cook food, no GPS. None of that mattered to Emma Gatewood.
Well, it mattered to some extent, but the lack of what we would consider necessary provisions to hike the Appalachian Trail didn’t deter her.
Her story comes to life in the book Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail (Chicago Review Press Incorporated, 2014) by Ben Montgomery.
Gatewood at age 67 became the first woman to through hike the Appalachian Trail. This was in 1955.
This year marks 50 years since she died. And this is the first time I have heard about her. She got a glancing, unflattering mention in Bill Bryson’s book A Walk In The Woods: Rediscovering America On The Appalachian Trail. I didn’t remember it until Montgomery mentioned it.
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk just keeps getting better. The abuse at the hands of her husband was necessary to understood some of the obstacles that Gatewood overcame. I’m glad I pushed through that part. I enjoyed the second half of the book much more than the first.
But the first is necessary to understand Gatewood. After all, this isn’t a book just about the trail. It’s about Gatewood and her experiences on the trail, as well as what was going on in the world during her excursion. That makes it a bit of history piece, too.
She is credited with bringing worldwide attention to the trail that goes from Georgia to Maine. Now thousands of hikers do part or all of the Appalachian Trail each year.
Anyone who has an interest in hiking is bound to enjoy this read.