Author: Ben Montgomery
Title: Grandma Gatewood’s walk : the inspiring story of the woman who saved the Appalachian Trail
Narrator: Patrick Lawlor
Publication Info: Tantor Media, Inc., 2014
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. Montgomery also does a good job of setting the historical mood of 1955 America, when Gatewood set out on her walk. 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.
Recommended books: The Appalachian Trail Reader by David Emblidge, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson, and Wanderlust; a History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit.