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

By Ben Montgomery

Emma Gatewood informed her family members she used to be occurring a stroll and left her small Ohio place of origin with a metamorphosis of garments and no more than 200 cash. the following anyone heard from her, this genteel, farm-reared, sixty-seven-year-old great-grandmother had walked 800 miles alongside the 2,050-mile Appalachian path. by means of September 1955 she stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin, sang “America, the Beautiful,” and proclaimed, “I stated I’ll do it, and I’ve performed it.”

            pushed by way of a painful marriage, Grandma Gatewood not just hiked the path on my own, she used to be the 1st person—man or woman—to stroll it two times and 3 instances. At age seventy-one, she hiked the 2,000-mile Oregon path. Gatewood grew to become a mountain climbing megastar, and seemed on television with Groucho Marx and paintings Linkletter. the general public realization she dropped at the path was once exceptional. Her vocal feedback of the awful, tricky stretches ended in reinforced upkeep, and intensely most probably kept the path from extinction.

            writer Ben Montgomery interviewed surviving kinfolk and hikers Gatewood met alongside the path, unearthed old newspaper and journal articles, and used to be given complete entry to Gatewood’s personal diaries, path journals, and correspondence. Grandma Gatewood’s Walk shines a clean mild on one in every of America’s such a lot celebrated hikers. 

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The variety was once the collision aspect for numerous valleys that funneled winds from the west, southwest, and south. It used to be additionally on the heart of a number of typhoon tracks that introduced climate from the good Lakes, the Appalachian Valley, and the Atlantic. “The Highlands of latest Hampshire have a bleak ruggedness that instructions the consideration of the hardiest mountaineer,” wrote Earl V. Shaffer, in strolling with Spring, his publication approximately his inaugural thru-hike in 1948. “Some of the worst climate on the earth happens right here, with winds of greater than gale pace and temperatures of polar depth. Freezing climate is feasible in midsummer and a storm from snow can persist with scorching climate inside of an hour…. the consequences will be overwhelming. many of us have died simply because they didn’t understand or missed those proof. Precautions may be taken. Scanty garments shouldn't ever be worn above timberline and emergency rations and equipment can be carried. ” Emma appeared out at the horizon, towards Mount Washington, the top height within the northeast at 6,288 toes. notwithstanding no longer striking in comparison to the world’s tallest peaks, the mountain’s blustery weather—with year-round temperatures averaging under freezing and ordinary winds blowing at thirty-five miles in line with hour—had stuck many hikers off-guard. the top wind velocity ever recorded—231 miles consistent with hour—was atop Mount Washington, 20 years earlier than. Winds blew so progressively stiff that shelters needed to be chained and anchored to the earth. Hikers there had died from hypothermia, drowning, falling ice, avalanches, and falls. males, one in 1890 and the opposite in 1912, left the mountaintop on hikes and have been by no means visible back. The yr ahead of her hike, males died of hypothermia. The 12 months after, males could fall to their deaths, and one will be killed via an avalanche. by the point she arrived, a few twenty-five humans had perished at the mountain and ratings of others needed to be rescued. Emma didn’t have any of the right kind equipment that Shaffer talked about, yet what she introduced in her sack had served her positive to date. She have been in a position to wash out a few issues the evening prior to. She had additionally been greeted that evening via a porcupine, an important factor, which got here sniffing round her toes. She gave it a kick and concept it was once long gone, yet a bit later the porcupine climbed up and obtained correct in her face. She switched on her flashlight and he scooted away, by no means to come back. She set out that morning, coming down off Mount dice on a chain of shaky ladders, a brand new event for her, yet she controlled simply positive. She walked to a farmhouse close to the bottom of the mountain and knocked at the door. Peter Thomson used to be 11 on the time, yet he’d always remember the adventure. “My mom got here and opened the door,” he’d keep in mind fifty-seven years later. “She acknowledged, ‘Hi, my identify is Emma Gatewood and I’m the 1st girl to stroll the whole Appalachian path through herself. ’” His mom invited the outdated lady in. Emma washed her fingers and face and sat all the way down to a home-cooked meal with the family members. the 2 girls could develop into sturdy pals and pen friends, and Emma may stopover at a number of instances in later years.

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