“I channel Emma Gatewood when I find a challenging section of trail.” That’s what a fellow hiker said to me during an Appalachian Mountain Club sponsored hike. “Have you heard of her?” continued this 70+ hiker walking beside me. “She hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in sneakers and a skirt at 65 years old. So when I’m hiking a tricky section of the trail I think, ‘If Emma Gatewood could hike this in sneakers and a skirt, I can hike it too.’ ”
He then told me about a recently published book by Ben Montgomery called Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail. I just finished reading it. It turns out she didn’t hike in a skirt, but it makes for a good story. She did thru-hike (hike a long-distance trail end-to-end) the Appalachian Trail (AT) twice, the first time in 1955 at 67-years-old. This achievement made her the first woman to hike the entire trail, from Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, 2050 miles. She hiked the AT again in 1960, and again at age 75 in 1963. The completion of these hikes made her the first person to hike the trail three times. Her final hike was completed in sections, and all her hikes were done in sneakers.
If you’ll go with me to the mountains
And sleep on the leaf carpeted floors
And enjoy the bigness of nature
And the beauty of all out-of-doors,
You’ll find your troubles all fading
And feel the Creator was not man
That made lovely mountains and forests
Which only a Supreme Power can.
When we trust in the Power above
And with the realm of nature hold fast,
We will have a jewel of great price
To brighten our lives till the last.
For the love of nature is healing,
If we will only give it a try
And our reward will be forthcoming,
If we go deeper than what meets the eye.
by Emma “Grandma” Gatewood