A hiking story that inspires

Judith Kuse

The heat of summer often results in a slower pace of life. This is true whether it’s the extreme heat of an Arizona summer or a warm summer day at a northern lake. On these lazy days, many indulge themselves in leisure reading, and booklovers can be heard asking, “Can you recommend a good summer read?” Well, here’s just such a recommendation for hikers who also enjoy reading. It’s Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, by Ben Montgomery.

This is the true story of a 67-year-old woman who through-hiked the Appalachian Trail (AT) not once, but twice, and then hiked it again in sections, all the way from the southern terminus at Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia to the northern terminus at Mt. Katahdin in Maine—2050 miles! Indeed, she was the first woman to ever complete a through-hike of the AT.

Emma Gatewood was a woman on a mission when she launched her first successful solo through-hike. Taking on the Appalachian Trail, the longest footpath in the world, is every bit a daunting challenge. Emma was no stranger to challenges. She’d been raised in rural Ohio and had made it her home. She was the survivor of an abusive marriage who had won a divorce, an unheard-of occurrence at the time. She was a practical, no-nonsense person who, when asked why she decided to hike the Trail, replied, “Because I wanted to.”

Hers is, at the same time, a journey away from fear and uncertainty and a trek toward positivity and fulfillment. Emma epitomized true grit in her life and on the Trail, and her story inspires one to persevere, to overcome and to celebrate the dominance of the human spirit.

Her amazing “walk” also focused attention on the deteriorating conditions of the AT and is credited with rescuing the trail from neglect, disrepair and danger. It spurred efforts to ensure improvements were made to protect the safety of hikers and procedures for ongoing trail maintenance were implemented.

So, treat yourself to a story you won’t easily forget and let yourself marvel at the tale of this hiking pioneer!

On an added note, Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio is home to the Grandma Gatewood Trail. Its six-mile course connects three of the park’s areas: Old Man’s Cave to Cedar Falls to Ash Cave. This same trail is a designated part of Ohio’s Buckeye Trail and is also a part of two national systems, the North Country Scenic Trail and America’s Discovery Trail.

The hiking season for the Sun Lakes Hiking Club is November through April. The official scheduled hikes are described on the club website, meetup.com/sun-lakes-hiking-club. Even though the season has come to a close, hiking continues unofficially on some mornings during the summer months. If you are interested in summer hiking, please contact Stu Frost by emailing him at [email protected]