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

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  4,777 Ratings  ·  983 Reviews
Winner of the 2014 National Outdoor Book Awards for History/Biography

Emma Gatewood told her family she was going on a walk and left her small Ohio hometown with a change of clothes and less than two hundred dollars. The next anybody heard from her, this genteel, farm-reared, 67-year-old great-grandmother had walked 800 miles along the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail. And in
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Chicago Review Press
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Anita Lindsley Both books are great, but Grandma Gatewood could do what two men couldn't.
Lisa I think that subtitle is a bit misleading. Perhaps it was her bringing attention to the poor condition of and lack of markings on the trail--which…moreI think that subtitle is a bit misleading. Perhaps it was her bringing attention to the poor condition of and lack of markings on the trail--which were supposedly fixed after she commented on them.(less)

Community Reviews

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Hank Stuever
Feb 13, 2014 Hank Stuever rated it it was amazing
A gentle and nearly perfect tracing of steps of a determined woman who was among the first to simply walk the Appalachian Trail from one end to the other, in the middle of the 20th century, when she was 67 years old. It's also a book about the emotional and physical journey that was her disastrously abusive married life and the solace she found in nature as an independent old lady. There's a little something in here for everyone -- people who love nature and hiking (epic or simple) and people wh ...more
Nov 23, 2016 Carol added it
Recommended to Carol by: Julie
A huge debt of gratitude is wished to my GR friend Julie for recommending Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail to me.

Though I have hid one part of my review as a spoiler, my enthusiasm for this book may contain others. It's a case of told more rather than less but I'm certain you'll still find insights of your own to take away from this read.

It was the spring of 1955, May to be exact when Emma Gatewood set out from her home in Galliapolis, Oh
Sep 02, 2014 Kay rated it it was ok
Shelves: biographies, 2015
A cool story told by a mediocre author. I have no idea how this guy was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. The writing is ok but the book jumps back and forth between Gatewood's past and her hike. The jumps happen without warning and make little sense in terms of flow. The bulk of the book is devoted to her first thru-hike with the others mentioned only in passing. I found the amount of detail and lack of balance a little odd.

One chapter in the last third of the book consists of the author's account of
Nov 17, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Although it seems wholly inadequate, the only word I can think of to describe this book -- and this woman -- is "WOW!"

Author Ben Montgomery tells the story of Emma "Grandma" Gatewood, the first woman to ever through hike the 2,050 Appalachian Trail in 1957 at the age of 67. She then became the first person -- male or female -- to hike the trail two, and then three times. She was first inspired to hike the trail while reading about it in an article in National Geographic magazine. The article cla
Oct 02, 2014 Mom rated it liked it
Grandma Emma Gstewood was an amazing woman who, at the age of 67 and with no long distance hiking experience, hiked the entire Appalachian Trail. First woman to hike the AT alone, she returned and hiked it several more times. That she did this without advance preparation, without the "essential" gear, and apparently without any fear is just amazing. Of course, she had the truly essential gear -- determination, courage, and good health.

A moderately interesting book about a fascinating inspiring w
Mar 29, 2014 Adam rated it really liked it
A mile or so from my house is the Tuscobia, a 70-mile recreational trail that cuts through the western half of Northern Wisconsin. On its way, it passes through a half-dozen small towns, none more than a few hundred people in size, as well as the Chequamegon National Forest, a massive swathe of land that has largely been left to the animals, of which there are many. There is nothing spectacular about the trail besides the occasional railroad spike sticking out of the ground--no landmarks, no gre ...more
May 13, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I won this book from a Goodreads Giveaway - thank you!

Emma Gatewood walked the 2,000+ miles of the Appalachian Trail as a thru-hiker in 1955, the first for a woman. And then did it two more times because she wanted to. She then hiked the entire Oregon Trail, and did some other hike up into Canada. She started her hiking career at age 67! That's right, you feel like a lazy SOB about now. It's OK, so did I. But in case you want to feel a little worse about yourself, consider these facts. She wore
Sep 10, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Had to read this book slowly just to savor/understand Emma Gatewood. Mr. Montgomery took great care to capture the essence of this main character, her domestic life and her inner strength of self. Highly recommend this book not so much for sparking a hiking interest but to understand the inner strength of this remarkable human being.
Carol Kowalski
Dec 08, 2014 Carol Kowalski rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Wilderness lovers, Shackelton/Endurance readers,
Recommended to Carol by: Daedalus Books
Imagine sleeping alone on the ground in the wilderness, no tent or sleeping bag. Imagine then waking up to climb a mountain each day. Imagine doing this most nights for four months. Only you're a 67 year old great-grandmother, and no one knows where you are. But wait, there's more: you survived 30 years of a domestic violence while raising 11 children and enduring the back-breaking physical work of farming for a living. Now imagine doing it all over again. Author Ben Montgomery puts his big hear ...more
I so wanted to like this book. So I waited on writing my review for a few days, sometimes when a book marinates in your brain once you finish it, it gets better. This one did not.

I knew when the book was a third of the way in and she had hiked more than half of the trail that it really was not about hiking the trail. It was mostly about any topic the author could find to tie in.

The first flashback was incredibly jarring. The rest of them were only a bit less.

The author told a story, I'll give h
Grandma Gatewood was an AMAZING woman! An outdoor enthusiast, sturdy and short in stature with a pioneering spirit who, at the age sixty-seven, was the first woman to walk all 2,050 miles of the Appalachian trail - from Georgia to Maine. She was a mother of eleven, and Grandmother to many. She was also a survivor of horrendous domestic abuse. And a quiet, eccentric soul who appreciated God's creation and the goodness and kindness of others.

Ben Montgomery's regaling of Gatewood's inaugural hike,
Cynthia Barnett
Dec 05, 2014 Cynthia Barnett rated it it was amazing
Every year, one book stands out to me as my Christmas gift book of the year, and this is it -- I'm buying Grandma Gatewood for several family members. Read it in one day. A must for anyone who's ever dreamed of hiking the AT, and a compelling biography even if you haven't. Very surprising subject, very well-told by journalist Ben Montgomery.
I really enjoyed this look at Emma Gatewood, who in 1954 at age 67, was the first solo woman to hike the Appalachian Trail from start to finish in one go. And she did it in tennis shoes (6 pairs of them)! She was indeed a grandma when she did it; in fact, she was a great grandma. The book describes in detail this first hike, relying on Gatewood's own journals. The book provides some background on Gatewood -- she was one of 15 siblings, she had 11 children of her own, and was divorced from her ab ...more
Recommended for anyone that has a wanderlust for nature, enjoys long walks in the woods, being surrounded by a world bigger than yourself, and just wants to know whats over that next hill.

Not recommended for: the heartless. You would have to be heartless to not love Grandma Gatewood. As for the book itself, if nature disinterests you, and if you are a little cynical you probably could nitpick this book or will just find it boring.

I loved Grandma Gatewood and I loved finding out about her whole a
Jul 20, 2014 Bev rated it it was amazing
I'm a backpacker. I've hiked several small sections of the Appalachian Trail -- in North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maine -- and definitely had heard of Grandma Gatewood, the first woman to through-hike the AT. So, unsurprisingly, I loved learning more about her in this newly released biography. But of all the AT thru-hiker accounts I've read, this one was probably the most relatable by non-hikers.

Here's why: it's really the story of a woman finding meaning, fulfillment, and independence
Dec 17, 2014 Tifnie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
My mother in law gave me this book to read since I enjoyed reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I actually didn't care for Wild because the author didn't emerge from her hike on the PCT a better person, however, after reading about Grandma Gatewood, I felt inspired and a longing to know more of her story.

Grandma Gatewood's Walk is about a 67 year old mother of 11 and grandmother of 23 who one day decides to hike the Appalachian Trail in 1957 (I think it was '57). She was a woman who came from an abus
This book was fascinating because it's true. After reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson it is amazing to me that Emma Gatewood could walk the trail 3 times and survive. The abuse she withstood from her husband was very hard to read. She was a remarkable strong individually accomplishing things some of us never even think about.
Adam Kemp
Feb 27, 2014 Adam Kemp rated it it was amazing
Just for laughs, a chance to get away, a love of the outdoors, a first chance at free time.
All reasons given by Emma Gatewood when she decided to leave her home in Ohio to "take a walk" and ended up becoming the first woman to thru-hike the 2,000 mile Appalachian Trail.
You get a sense for Granny Gatewood's no-nonsense demeanor in the first few pages as she starts her adventure dressed in dungarees and tennis shoes with a small drawstring sack containing a shower curtain, a warm coat, a pocket
Oct 08, 2015 Cathi rated it really liked it
I've kind of had a fascination with the Appalachian Trail, ever since I read Bill Bryson's A WALK IN THE WOODS years ago, so this book caught my eye. I confess that I'd never heard of Emma Gatewood before reading this book, but now I would put her in my "hall of fame" for amazing, strong, resilient, incredible people that I've read about. What a woman she was! At age 67, she walked all 2,050 miles of the Appalachian Trail, from Mt. Ogelthorpe, Georgia, to Mt. Katahdin, Maine. She wore Keds and t ...more
Aug 13, 2015 linda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The end of this book moved me to tears . Why- because I am a passionate hiker , there is nothing like the great outdoors and I thank my dad for introducing me to camping and going on adventures and loving nature . He was not a hiker but I know he loved when I was out there hiking . I am so glad I called and thanked him for giving me that gift because it would of been too late if I didn't.
I will always think of Grandma Gatewood when I'm climbing tall mountains. Just one foot in front of the othe
Jan 01, 2015 Vanessa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hiking-exercise
Wonderful motivating book. Makes me want to walk AT and when the going gets keep going knowing that Grandma Gatewood did it 3 times!!!!!! Wow. Then hiked the Oregon much as she could (since some roads have been built over it). Great story of her life and how she survived domestic violence and raised 11 children. Hard work! Her own veggie garden and a farm to raise crops on plus taking care of kids etc. I'm trying to work harder in my own life...just thinking of her. Anyway. ...more
May 29, 2014 Kay rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. About a 67 year old grandma who walked the Appalachian Trail in her Keds in 1955. She lived off the land, the charity of strangers and $200 which she used for supplies (7 pairs of Ked), and the occasional meal out and motel bed. She then went on to walk the trail 2 more times. She really started a walking movement and interest in the trail. I loved how unconventional she was and walked "because I wanted to". The author has written the book as an unsentimental look at her hard ...more
Apr 07, 2015 Don rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
A 67 year old woman decides to hike the 2,000+ mile Appalachian Trial in 1955, a feat that had only been done by 4 men in the previous 25+ years. This book is the story of her trek, her background and what she did for the next 20 years. Among hikers, Gatewood is something of a legend. The author makes this a fun way to learn about the Appalachian Trail.
Jul 13, 2014 Sara rated it liked it
Interesting story, for sure, but I lost interest after awhile. Would have been a perfect long magazine article.
Dec 04, 2015 Nyree rated it it was ok
Great story, not great book.
Mar 27, 2017 Karen rated it liked it
If I were inclined to "go for a walk," as Grandma Gatewood termed it, she would be quite the inspiration. She walked the Appalachian Trail three times, starting at age 67, with seemingly no idea how tough the trail could be. Along the way, she brought notoriety to the trail and helped in its preservation. She was a victim of spousal abuse and mother of 11, but she found her true calling in the wilderness. I found the writing uninspiring, which is why it only gets three stars, but the story isn't ...more
May 29, 2017 Sue rated it it was amazing
In a way this is hard to read when it talks about how her husband treated her, but how resilient she was and her determination to get to the end of the trail.... worth it!
I don't know how I'd managed to not know about Emma Gatewood prior to picking up this book. She was quite well known back in the later 1950's for what was then a singular feat, through walking the entire Appalachian Trail ... In fact the first woman, and certainly the oldest person to attempt it, much less complete the walk 3 times, as a senior. She was 67 the first time, which is the focus of this fascinating book.

The trail at the time was only about 10 years old and already falling into disre
Mar 14, 2015 Sandy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
In 1955, 67-year-old Emma Gatewood became the first woman to solo thru-hike the Appalachian Trail - in canvas Keds and a homemade denim knapsack. 2,050 miles from Georgia to Maine! Amazing story and woman. Then she went on to hike it two more times, becoming a real celebrity. She also went on to walk the route of the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon. Grandma Gatewood walked for the love of it, to escape her demons (an abusive marriage), and because she wanted to. Without the fancy gear most ...more
Jan 10, 2015 Sue rated it liked it
As the saying goes.. Grandma Gatewood was a tough old bird... tackling the Appalachian trail when she was 67 years old.. if it weren't for the cold weather and ice this book literally makes you want to go out and start walking.. It was hard to read about the physical abuse she received from her husband and perhaps that is why she found refuge in the outdoors.. [I found this book a much better read than "Wild" .. I think I am one of the few that didn't care for that book's author and so obviously ...more
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Ben grew up in Oklahoma and wanted to be a farmer before he got into journalism at Arkansas Tech University, where he played defensive back for the football team, the Wonder Boys. He worked for the Courier in Russellville, Ark., the Standard-Times in San Angelo, Texas, the Times Herald-Record in New York's Hudson River Valley and the Tampa Tribune before joining the Tampa Bay Times, Florida's bigg ...more
More about Ben Montgomery...

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“Her chest full of crisp air and inspiration, her feet atop a forgettable mountain where the stars make you feel insignificant and important all at once.
And she sang.”
“William Wordsworth was said to have walked 180,000 miles in his lifetime. Charles Dickens captured the ecstasy of near-madness and insomnia in the essay “Night Walks” and once said, “The sum of the whole is this: Walk and be happy; Walk and be healthy.” Robert Louis Stevenson wrote of “the great fellowship of the Open Road” and the “brief but priceless meetings which only trampers know.” Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche said, “Only those thoughts that come by walking have any value.” More recently, writers who knew the benefits of striking out excoriated the apathetic public, over and over again, for its laziness. “Of course, people still walk,” wrote a journalist in Saturday Night magazine in 1912. “That is, they shuffle along on their own pins from the door to the street car or taxi-cab…. But real walking … is as extinct as the dodo.” “They say they haven’t time to walk—and wait fifteen minutes for a bus to carry them an eighth of a mile,” wrote Edmund Lester Pearson in 1925. “They pretend that they are rushed, very busy, very energetic; the fact is, they are lazy. A few quaint persons—boys chiefly—ride bicycles.” 3 likes
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