"I did it," said Emma Gatewood on September 25, 1955. The 67-year-old mother of 11 and grandmother of 23 stood on top of Mt. Katahdin, the 5,267-foot peak at the northern terminus of the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail. "I said I'd do it, and I've done it." She was the first woman to walk the entire trail, and the first person ever to walk it two and then three times. Her initial journey of 146 days-equipped with a change of clothes and less than $200-propelled Emma to national fame as "Grandma Gatewood" and inspired countless others to follow her tenacious path.
Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail
Chicago Review Press, April 2014 by Ben Montgomery is the first and only biography devoted to this literal trailblazer, whose evasive charm and wit in the face of paparazzi left many with more questions than answers regarding her motives- until now. Utilizing interviews with surviving family members and hikers Gatewood met along the trail, historic newspaper and magazine articles and unprecedented access to Gatewood's own diaries, trail journals and correspondence, Grandma Gatewood's Walk explores her childhood on a farm near the Ohio River, her treacherous marriage to a man who nearly killed her and her survival against man and nature in the Appalachian wilderness.
A pioneer of ultralight backpacking by necessity, Gatewood appeared with celebrities like Groucho Marx and Art Linkletter, bringing new attention to a growing pastime and the neglected trail-likely saving it from extinction by bolstering upkeep of the rough stretches. Grandma Gatewood's Walk shows how one determined woman not only served as an introduction to the Appalachian Trail for many, but also made the hike ultimately achievable. As Montgomery says, "It didn't take fancy equipment, guidebooks, training, or youthfulness. It took putting one foot in front of the other-five million times."
About the Author:
is a staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times and cofounder of the Auburn Chautauqua, a Southern writers' collective. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2010 and has won many other national writing awards. He has worked at newspapers in Arkansas, Texas, New York and Florida. He currently lives in Tampa, Florida.