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

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  19,596 ratings  ·  3,014 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 Both books are great, but Grandma Gatewood could do what two men couldn't. …moreBoth books are great, but Grandma Gatewood could do what two men couldn't. (less)
Karen Strecker Reidy The author is implying that she "saved" the AT by bringing it to people's attention. She had read in Nat'l Geo that it was an easy walk.....when she w…moreThe author is implying that she "saved" the AT by bringing it to people's attention. She had read in Nat'l Geo that it was an easy walk.....when she was on it, 1950's, she found huge sections of it in disrepair, flooded, burned down, not marked, without hiker campsites/cabins/stations/shelters, and while she did not seek or welcome media attention, it found her (the novelty aspect) and that increased people's interest, which helped create demand (funding) to fix it up and preserve it. (less)

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Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Buddy read with my wonderful friend, Candi ❤️

This book was a great inspiration!

For those of you that actually read my reviews =) there will be some spoilers on down the line because I just have to talk about Emma's horrific husband for a minute.

Anyway, at one time me, my dog, my dad, my ex-boyfriend and dog were going to hike a portion of the trail and I wanted to spend one night and hike back. But, we never did and then I became home bound so that's never going to happen. We used to pass this
Miranda Reads
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook

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.
Emma Gatewood is many things - a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a world-renowned walker.

When she was sixty-seven years old, she told her family she would be going out for a walk, packed a change of clothes, two hundred dollars and set off to the Appalachian Trail.
The sum of the whole is this: Walk and be happy; Walk and be heal
"She stood, finally, her canvas Keds tied tight, on May 3, 1955, atop the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, the longest continuous footpath in the world, facing the peaks on the blue-black horizon that stretched toward heaven and unfurled before her for days. Facing a mean landscape of angry rivers and hateful rock she stood, a woman, mother of eleven and grandmother of twenty-three. She had not been able to get the trail out of her mind."

So began Emma Gatewood’s remarkable 2,050 mile
Sep 02, 2014 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
Hank Stuever
Feb 13, 2014 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
5 Stars for Grandma Gatewood's Inspirational Story

“MAY 2—9, 1955”

“She packed her things in late spring, when her flowers were in full bloom, and left Gallia County, Ohio, the only place she’d every really called home.”

”She stood, finally, her canvas Keds tied tight, on May 3, 1955, atop the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, the longest continuous footpath in the world, facing the peaks on the blue-black horizon that stretched toward heaven and unfurled before her for days. Faci
Oct 02, 2014 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
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
Nov 17, 2015 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
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
Mar 29, 2014 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
Jul 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Grandma Gatewood earns five stars; this book, only two. The writing is completely lackluster.

The author interweaves the story of Gatewood's life, pre-hike, with an accounting of her hike. That approach was okay, I wasn't disconcerted by it, but I think I would have preferred a straight, chronological approach to the telling. As written, there was nothing to support or link the diversion from the hike diary to the pieces of Gatewood's life before the hike.

I felt the author was a little melodrama
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club

This is a well-written story about Emma Gatewood, a sixty-seven year old mother of eleven and grandmother from rural Ohio, who decided to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Oglethorpe Mountain in Jasper, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, in Baxter State Park in Maine. She set out on May 10, 1955 and completed the 2,050 mile journey when she arrived at Mount Katahdin on September 11, 1955. Because Montgomery published his book in 2014, and Emma died at the age of 85 on June 4, 1973,
Cindy Rollins
Jul 09, 2022 rated it really liked it
Inspiring story of putting one foot in front of the other no matter how old you are! Truly inspiring.

Ironically this is a great staycation book.
Diane Barnes
Sep 24, 2022 rated it really liked it
Certainly not great literature, but an excellent job of telling the story of an amazing woman who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in 1955, the first woman to do so. She was 67, had raised eleven children, survived (barely) an abusive husband and decided to walk the Trail after reading about it in a National Geographic article. She had nothing but a small knapsack carrying a few necessities, no tent or sleeping bag or special equipment, no maps, not even hiking boots. She wore Keds! By the end ...more
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
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
♥ Sandi ❣
3 stars

The story of a 67 year old Grandma who walked the Appalachian Trail. Her persistence lead to a revamping of the Trail and she has been given credit for its evolving maintenance and probably saved the Trail from extinction.

In 1955 Emma 'Grandma' Gatewood spent from May to September walking the full length of the Appalachian Trail - 2050 miles, through 13 states, from Georgia to Maine. She was the first woman to walk the whole length of the trail, by herself. Spending many nights out in th
Apr 30, 2022 rated it liked it
1 brave woman
I cannot believe that I have read halfway through this book and I'm still pushing myself to finish it. How stupid. The highlight of this book is that she wore tennis shoes while hiking the trail and did not bring a sleeping bag. It may have been better to have just read her own diary, but instead, there are a lot of fillers in this book. You get to hear what's happening in the world during the year that she walked the trail. The value of this book is that she was the 1st woman to hi
“She had told her children she was going on a walk. That was no lie. She just never finished her sentence, never offered her own offspring the astonishing, impossible particulars.”

Ben Montgomery based this book on the life and adventures of Emma Gatewood, who at the age of 67 hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail during the 1950s. Readers are given some insights into Emma's youthful family life, which definitely wasn't a bed of roses, as she eventually had eleven children. The idea f
This woman is a hero! Eleven kids, a husband that needed leaving long before she did, and she finally gave herself permission to fly that coup! Of all the many ways to escape, the best of all is to LEAVE, and she does in a very big way. The Appalachian Trail (AT), traveling light as a feather. Her story is inspiring and encouraging to this grandma.

Along the way she had so much help, and only a little bit of trouble. . .a run in with a snake but seems to have avoided some of the larger predators
Mar 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
What an amazing story about Grandma Gatewood aka Emma Gatewood. She not only gets a standing ovation for having had 11 kids, but as a great grandmother, she slips away from her family without telling anyone and goes on a very long journey (I think it was 5 months long) to hike the entire Appalachian Trail...that's 2000+ miles. And when her kids find out, they are not at all concerned. They know their mom. I loved that part.

Grandma Gatewood became a celebrity of sorts, especially with the boy sco
Sep 10, 2014 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.
Dee Dee G
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was fascinating! The life of Ms. Emma from beginning to end is of strength. I have no interest in hiking but this book was amazing. I couldn’t put it down.
Jul 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting story, for sure, but I lost interest after awhile. Would have been a perfect long magazine article.
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Emma Gatewood decides it’s time to start her bucket list and sets off to hike the Appalachian Trail. Mother of 11, grandmother to 23, and 67 years of age. Telling those left behind she was merely “going for a walk” she implements her years of farming, living off the multiple elements of the land, and basic survival skills, she packs a small sack and begins.

The year was 1955.

This was not your current AP of frequent shelters, food sources, or even fellow hikers. Days alone, sleeping in the wild,
Leslie Clark
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was energized while reading Grandma Gatewood’s Walk across the Appalachian Trail.

Now, I can walk 6-8 miles a day and, it’s no big deal anymore. No more whining or aching feet walking less than 20 miles!

Granny Gatewood could walk 20, 17 or even 12 miles a day in her 70’s. If she could do it, I can too.
I’m younger and have fewer excuses not to walk more.

Everyone should know the plain truth about how the good endorphins from walking are reward enough.
The extras are making new friends in hiking
Saffron Moon
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” ~George Sand.
Emma “Grandma” Gatewood’s walk across the Appalachian Trail is an inspirational tale of determination, grit, liberation, and joyful triumph. Her homesteading folk knowledge alone (plants, herbs, cooking, gardening, farming, living off the land) was of tremendous interest to me, but sadly not especially explored in depth in this book. However, I am confident that her resourcefulness and this “living off the land” knowledge she pos
Carol Kowalski
Dec 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
This was a great book as long as it kept with Emma Gatewood. Too bad the author had to extend it.
I do recommend it to anyone who needs a boost to keep following your dreams and being active no matter what your age.

Read this in May 2018 but thinking it over in Jan 2019, I am changing from 3 to 4 stars for Emma and her wonderful life and example.

Now that I’ve read it again, the epilogue doesn’t annoy me like it did the first time. The whole book is great.
Cynthia Barnett
Dec 05, 2014 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. ...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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“I would never have started this trip if I had known how tough it was, but I couldn't and wouldn't quit.” 7 likes
“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.” 6 likes
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