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

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4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  588 ratings  ·  141 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
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Chicago Review Press (first published January 1st 2014)
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A Walk in the Woods by Bill BrysonStumbling Thru by A. Digger StolzAWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David         MillerAs Far As The Eye Can See by David BrillOn the Beaten Path by Robert Alden Rubin
Best Appalachian Trail Books
10th out of 33 books — 102 voters
Scattershot by Richard GoodwinHarold and Maude by Colin HigginsThe Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda WilliamsCarpe Diem by Autumn CornwellLily by Stevie Turner
Wonderful Old Lady Protagonists
8th out of 36 books — 21 voters


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Community Reviews

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Hank Stuever
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
Adam
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
Adam Kemp
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
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Cynthia Barnett
Every year, one book stands out to me so beautifully that it's my big Christmas gift 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.
Mom
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
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Elizabeth
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.
Sarah
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
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Bev
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
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Sara
Interesting story, for sure, but I lost interest after awhile. Would have been a perfect long magazine article.
Berta
This was an interesting story about an amazing woman. She completed the Appalachian Trail for the first time at age 67 and went on to complete it two more times. She was an advocate for both the importance of walking and the necessity for a connection with nature. I always live vicariously through stories such as this and I would recommend it for its inspiring biography of a little known woman.
Pmacke
no clue why i picked up this book ... i'm not a hiker, a naturalist, or a midwesterner ... still, glad i did ... quite simply this is the definition of a "story" - a yarn about a person, an accomplishment, a time, a place that begs to be told ... if nothing else it is a beautiful ode to the kind of pioneering spirit that defines our nation and is at the heart of the american experience
Kay
Fabulous!

could not put this,book down. well written. both the main character and the author are oh so admirable. I really want to hike her trail in shocking hills state park in ohio
Kay
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
Tifnie
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
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Katie
A journalist's nonfiction book about "Grandma Gatewood," the first woman (at 67!) to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, in 1954. She then did it two more times, and also hiked the Oregon Trail and a number of other long walks. Discussions of "pedestrianism" in America and elsewhere ensue. He cobbled together all the information about her adventures from her journals, from those who knew her, and from articles written at the time.

It is unavoidable that this book reminded me of both Bill Bryson's
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Suzanne Skelly
A totally inspiring book about a fascinating lady who endured much in life and nature, with an amazing power of determination.

Ben Montgomery lets us walk with her- tattered sneakers, swollen ankles, and not an ounce of self pity and with each step experience our conflicted relationship with nature, the meaness and generosity of humanity and the imperative to keep moving.

This is a true story of a woman who decides at the age of 67 "to take a walk". The walk just happens to be the Appalachian Trai
...more
Schuyler Wallace
Most comments on Emma Gatewood’s walks over the entire length of the Appalachian Trail have described her as a “tough old bird.” Not flattering but accurate, except she wasn’t really old; sixty-seven years young would be more accurate. But she was as tough as a boot, except she didn’t wear any. Sneakers were her hiking shoes of choice. Ben Montgomery, in “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk,” has done a fascinating job of recreating her life and times.

The reasons for her inspiring hikes have never been clea
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Helen
Emma "Grandma" Gatewood's story is amazing and Ben Montgomery was just the right person to tell it. I loved her spirit, strength and determination as she walked 2,000+ miles over 146 days to become the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail alone. She was 67 at the time, hiking in tennis shoes without a tent or sleeping bag, spending many nights on a bed of grass or one made of fire-warmed rocks to counteract the cold. Montgomery does a wonderful job of interweaving her trail adventure with t ...more
Karenbike Patterson
This books is an example of why I'm liking non-fiction lately. It's the story of a 67 year old woman from Ohio who takes off alone in 1955 to be the first woman thru walker on the Appalachian Trail. It takes her 5 months. She wears out 7 pair of sneakers and carries a 25 pound sack. By the time she finishes she is limping on a sprained ankle and nearly blind from broken glasses. She also relied on the kindness of stranges to give her meals and beds but also found some mean people- and threatenin ...more
Story Circle Book Reviews
At some point in their lives, most people dream of tackling a difficult physical feat. Some plan and train for years before attempting it; some only dream but never try. For many folks, that difficult feat is hiking the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail.

In 1955, a 67-year-old great-grandmother, Emma Rowena Gatewood, became the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail alone. And then she did it two more times, and then hiked the Oregon Trail. She continued to hike until she was 84. She hiked in sneak
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Tom
Jul 07, 2014 Tom rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: adventurers of all ages, especially backpackers
Grandma Gatewood broke the mold. The first woman to solo thru-hike the AT in 1957, she went on to walk the AT two more times, the last at 75 years old. She was also the first person to thru hike the AT three times. This was all accomplished with no money to speak off. The $57 a month she was receiving from Social Security at that time was all she would need.
Spoiler: stop right here if you don’t want me telling you details that I learned from this book, a 2014 release. Hell, it’s a book review
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Sharon Roy
A truly inspiring woman, this Grandma Gatewood, who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail three times, all after the age of 67. Amazing!
Pas111222
I loved this book! It was well-written, and as the subtitle says, was truly "inspiring." I did have a bit of a jolt in the beginning, when the author kept moving from Emma Gatewood's then-current 1955 adventures along the Appalachian Trail back to her earlier life. Fortunately, those transitions were marked by dividing lines in the print. But the views back to her life before setting out on the trail were informative, and helped shape a fine picture of the circumstances that led to the emergence ...more
Gail
OK, I'm 62, and next year I will walk a little of the Appalachian Trail. What a story and thanks to Ben Montgomery, a Tampa Bay Times reporter, I have been inspired by a 67 year old woman who just wanted to walk. Mr. Montgomery did a book signing at Inkwood Books in Tampa - a great independent book store - and I couldn't go. I went the next day and got a signed copy of the book and read it right away. Emma Gatewood is famous for through hiking two times and eventually completing the trailonce mo ...more
Ann
A dual story - Emma Gatewood's personal story of her life before the trail hike and her life on the trail and as an added aside, her other walks. The story made my feet ache and knees tremble and I was cold the whole time I was reading the book because of her lack of preparation for this hike. It was an interesting book in view of that I was 10 years old at the time of her big hike. We subscribed to Life, Look and Time but I do not recall reading about her then. ( I do remember reading about man ...more
John Lake
I want to go out and start walking today. But you don't have to take my word for it! See you next time.
lynn
I've read a lot of inspirational books about athletes striving to meet extreme challenges. Their struggles against conditions of climate and terrain, the mental and emotional challenges and their personal drive to meet their proposed goals is often beyond any trial I can imagine enduring and overcoming. However, this book about a woman in her mid-60's who undertook the challenge of being the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail, in sneakers with a homemade denim knapsack is possibly the mos ...more
Margaret
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk is a grand story of one woman’s hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT). In 1955, Emma Gatewood, 67 y/o mother of 11, gm of 23, ggm, and surviving divorced wife of a severe wife beater, through hiked the 2,050 mile trail from Georgia to Maine in 145 days – May through September. She endured much in her hike and she enjoyed much of her hike, so much that she through hiked it again and hiked a third time in sections. She was passionate about nature and strong enough to walk trai ...more
Connie
This is the entertaining and inspiring story of Emma "Grandma" Gatewood who was the first woman to walk the entire Appalachian Trial, in 1957 when she was 67 years old. While the author clearly admires her exploits, he does not gloss over the more difficult elements of her life or her character. Before she was unable to continue hiking (sometime in her 80s), she would complete the AR twice more, as well as walking the Oregon Trail. She was instrumental in blazing the Buckeye Trail in Ohio, too. ...more
Nancy Bevan
Wow, I ordered this book online from 'Bas Bleu' catalog. I had not seen it reviewed anywhere or in any Bookstore. It is hardcopy and just released
in October. Received it on Saturday, finished in on Sunday.

Super inspiring story. Reminds me a bit of 'Life is So Good' by George Dawson - the 98 year man who learned to read! Grandma Gatewood had
a very difficult life, but all of her trials made her a very strong woman. She got up every day and did what she needed to do; then one day she
got up and did
...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
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“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.” 1 likes
“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.”
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