Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail

by Ben Montgomery

Hardcover, 2014

Status

Available

Publication

Chicago Review Press (2014), Edition: 1st, 288 pages

Description

"Emma Gatewood told her family she was going on a walk and left her small Ohio hometown with a change of clothes and less than two hundred dollars. The next anybody heard from her, this genteel, farm-reared, 67-year-old great-grandmother had walked 800 miles along the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail. And in September 1955, having survived a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a run-in with gangsters from Harlem, she stood atop Maine's Mount Katahdin. There she sang the first verse of "America, the Beautiful" and proclaimed, "I said I'll do it, and I've done it." Grandma Gatewood, as the reporters called her, became the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, as well as the first person--man or woman--to walk it twice and three times. Gatewood became a hiking celebrity and appeared on TV and in the pages of Sports Illustrated. The public attention she brought to the little-known footpath was unprecedented. Her vocal criticism of the lousy, difficult stretches led to bolstered maintenance, and very likely saved the trail from extinction. Author Ben Montgomery was given unprecedented access to Gatewood's own diaries, trail journals, and correspondence, and interviewed surviving family members and those she met along her hike, all to answer the question so many asked: Why did she do it? The story of Grandma Gatewood will inspire readers of all ages by illustrating the full power of human spirit and determination."--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Othemts
In 1955, 67-year-old Emma Gatewood of Ohio set out to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Completing the hike, Grandma Gatewood became the first woman to through-hike the entire 2168-mile trail and became a pioneer for both elderly and ultralight hikers. With the hike as the centerpiece, Montgomery tells the life story of the proper and hardy farmer's wife, a life in which she endured severe domestic abuse. Grandma Gatewood's hike also captures a time when the Appalachian Trail was poorly maintained, little-used, and through-hikers were in the single-digits. Grandma Gatewood's celebrity would help bring attention to the AT. Highlights of the book include Emma Gatewood hiking through Hurricanes Connie and Diane, and sharing a cabin with a church group from Harlem which Gatewood never realized were actually members of rival street gangs. The 1955 is the focus of the biography, but Montgomery also writes about Gatewood's two later hikes on the AT, her cross-continental walk on the Oregon Trail, and her uneasy relationship with the attention she got for her walk.… (more)
LibraryThing member sandra.k.heinzman
What a good book! Emma Gatewood was quite a woman. She was the mother of 11 and a victim of horrible physical abuse by her husband, until she finally got the strength to leave him and her remaining children behind. When she decided to hike the trail, in 1955, she didn't tell anyone where she was going or for how long. Her family was used to her going for long walks and were not worried. She went with tennis shoes and a bag she made herself to carry her few items she carried. Unbelievable, after comparing with what hikers take today. Despite her age and bad feet and inappropriate footwear, she made the arduous trek from Georgia to Maine. When reporters discovered her and articles starting appearing nationally about her undertaking (the first woman to hike it the whole way through), is when her family found out where she was! At the end, I think she went through five pairs of shoes and met quite a few people (not other hikers) along the way. Grandma Gatewood ended up doing the entire trail a second time and then a third time, but in sections. Then she walked the Oregon Trail! It was nothing for her to walk 5-10 miles just to visit somene. She just loved to walk! She is truly an inspiration, not only for "senior citizens" but for everyone.

I read this book with the Women's Adventure Book Club on Facebook. I highly recommend this book!!
… (more)
LibraryThing member sandra.k.heinzman
What a good book! Emma Gatewood was quite a woman. She was the mother of 11 and a victim of horrible physical abuse by her husband, until she finally got the strength to leave him and her remaining children behind. When she decided to hike the trail, in 1955, she didn't tell anyone where she was going or for how long. Her family was used to her going for long walks and were not worried. She went with tennis shoes and a bag she made herself to carry her few items she carried. Unbelievable, after comparing with what hikers take today. Despite her age and bad feet and inappropriate footwear, she made the arduous trek from Georgia to Maine. When reporters discovered her and articles starting appearing nationally about her undertaking (the first woman to hike it the whole way through), is when her family found out where she was! At the end, I think she went through five pairs of shoes and met quite a few people (not other hikers) along the way. Grandma Gatewood ended up doing the entire trail a second time and then a third time, but in sections. Then she walked the Oregon Trail! It was nothing for her to walk 5-10 miles just to visit somene. She just loved to walk! She is truly an inspiration, not only for "senior citizens" but for everyone.

I read this book with the Women's Adventure Book Club on Facebook. I highly recommend this book!!
… (more)
LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Finally a biography of Grandma Gatewood. I've been crossing her path since the early 1990s, first in Ray Jardine's ultralight bible. Nearly every book about the Appalachian Trail has an obligatory reference to the 67 year old great-grandma who hiked the trail in 1955 making her the first woman to do so. Who was she, why did she do it? The story turns out to be pretty good. Given the difficulties of her early life, there are some parallels with the more recent book Wild. The trail provides freedom from an unhappy life, but also a clear direction and asks nothing in return but one step. Gatewood's story turns out to be more than just an old lady who did good, but she found redemption and happiness after years of abuse.… (more)
LibraryThing member jbarr5
The Story of Grandma Gatewood
Was interested in reading this because it's about the Appalachian trail which I've been on a few feet of it in TN and MA.
At 67, in 1955 she left Ohio and took a bus to WV and onto Georgia where she started her trail hiking.
Love hearing of all the nature and can picture it all in my mind. Amazing that my family has relatives that live in the same town as where she was from.
Lots of history with politics and events that happened over the days: first major highways made...
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device).
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LibraryThing member memccauley6
Most people have no desire or intention to inspire others, they simply do what their conscience deems is correct for them. I suspect this was the case with Emma Gatewood, who became the first female "thru-hiker" of the Appalachian Trail in 1955, and then continued her lengthy hikes coast to coast until her death in the 1970s. Her treks inspired generations of hikers and the publicity she generated "saved" the Appalachian Trail.… (more)
LibraryThing member eduscapes
An inspiring story of sixty-seven year old grandma and great grandmother Emma Gatewood who in the spring of 1955 set out with a home-sewn pack and a change of clothes and less than two hundred dollars. She traveled to Georgia and the base of Oglethorpe Mountain to begin an unprecedented journey. In September, she reached the summit of Mt. Katadin in Maine to become the first woman to hike the 2,050 mile Appalachian Trail alone. Her story encompasses the hardships of raising eleven children during the Great Depression and surviving the physical abuses of a brutal husband. (lj)… (more)
LibraryThing member Bookish59
A wonderful story of a simple, laid-back woman who took life in stride. Her confidence, energy, strong work ethic and optimism carried her through a VERY demanding life. She was happy with her fate but when dealt a very bad hand, she didn't complain but just made the best of it. Many, too many wives suffered as Emma did, and had much less resources than women have today to change their circumstances. But...shockingly this problem continues at dangerously epic levels today!

After children are grown and independent, Emma reads an article in National Geographic magazine which changes her life; allowing her to fortify her innate strengths and find fulfillment and peace within nature. She gets to meet lots of kind, curious people while helping the country recognize the importance of improving and maintaining our natural resources.

I enjoyed Montgomery describing Emma's adventures in the context of US history, how the car compelled the creation of highways, and how that changed daily life for millions of Americans in both positive and negative ways, and the ensuing push back to invest in America's stunning hiking trails, shelters and parks.

Grandma Gatewood is a national treasure. She remains level-headed and humble throughout her experiences.Her hard work as a daughter, wife, mother and hiker and activist are a celebration of life, and her legacy to us.

Well paced, a compellingly great read.
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LibraryThing member dele2451
This great grandmother sure had true grit. I'm glad Montgomery saw fit to share her amazing story so she can keep inspiring future generations.
LibraryThing member theeccentriclady
One of our book club ladies' son had just finished his through hike of the Appalachian Trail. We chose to read this account of Mrs. Gatewood's amazing story of her time on the Appalachian Trail before it became the popular things it is today. Our friend's son gave a presentation to us showing all the modern equipment and trail food people utilize today. It is a far cry from the simple almost unbelievable way Grandma Gatewood took to the trail so many years ago. Her story is inspiring and I think many young ladies should read this story so they can be inspired to be who they are and do what they dream.… (more)
LibraryThing member konastories
"Grandma Gatewood's Walk" by Ben Montgomery. Joy's review: Grandma Gatewood had 11 children, an abusive husband, wound up being the first woman to through hike the Appalachian trail. Oh, and she did it three times... a pretty amazing story. Montgomery does a good job of including just enough of Gatewood's voice and just enough context of the US at the time. Quite inspirational.… (more)
LibraryThing member NewsieQ
I haven’t read a book that was as much fun as this book – and as inspiring – in a very long time. It’s about Emma Gatewood, a 67-year-old great grandmother from Ohio who, in 1955, became the first woman to walk the entire Appalachian alone. And, I might add, with “equipment” we’d use today to walk to the grocery store.

Always a hard-working, no-nonsense, no-drama woman, she had eleven children and survived many hellacious years with an abusive husband – until she dumped him. The author very adeptly weaves the story of her earlier years with a wonderful narrative about her hiking adventure, along with the story of the Appalachian Trail itself. It’s the kind of book I won’t reveal a lot about so readers can make all the discoveries themselves.

In the Age of the Selfie, it’s refreshing to read about someone who could not have cared less about what the world thought of her and who wasn’t in it for anything except a very personal quest. A fun, quick and inspiring read.
… (more)

Language

Original language

English

Original publication date

2014

Physical description

288 p.; 6 inches

ISBN

1613747187 / 9781613747186

Local notes

travel
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