Grandma Gatewood’s Walk


Hiking has helped to improve my life, furthermore, it’s good exercise and I feel closer to nature. It’s a sure way to get rid of all my stress and clear my head. I have always wondered about the Appalachian trail, such a challenge but must be a beautiful hike with spectacular views.

A friend recommended New York Times Bestseller, Grandma Gatewood’s Walk book to me.

What is Grandma Gatewood Walk about?


The Appalachian Trail is 2050 miles long, the longest foot path in the world.

In 1955 Emma Gatewood was the first woman who completed the trail.

She was the only person who did it 3 times, by the age of 77.

On 3 May1955 Emma was 67, she had no experience and no walking gear.

She had no map, no sleeping bag, no tent, and a drawstring bag she made herself.

Emma's backpack

Emma was a grandma, with bunions “the size of marbles” and completely blind without her spectacles. She was unprepared for the weather and the wilderness. Before her stretched the road of 5 million steps away to its end at Katahdin – a mile-high mountain.

” There were a million heavenly things to see, and a million spectacular ways to die”. Emma survived a strike from a rattlesnake, 2 tornados, and a meeting with 2 New York street gang leaders.

The best part of Grandma Gatewood’s Walk

She lost her spectacles and had to crawl half-blind up the mountain. Against all odds, she managed to complete that first trail in 146 days. Emma or rather grandma Gatewood caught the attention of the media, as well as the people who started to follow her journey. As a result, this caused interest in the condition of the trail.

On 25 June 1956, Mr. Thomas Jenkins addressed the US House of Representatives, advocating for the upgrade and better maintenance of the trail:

“Emma Gatewood won herself national fame. At age 67 years and a great grandmother, she hiked by herself 2 050 miles over rugged mountains.

She hiked the rough and rugged Appalachian trail from Fort Oglethorpe to the summit of mile-high Mt Katahdin in wild and rugged northeastern Maine.

Grandma Gatewood wore out 7 pairs of shoes and in addition, carried only a blanket and a small supply of rations.

She reached this wild goal after walking for 146 days, an average of 17 miles a day.

Emma lost 24 pounds …and in addition slept on benches, tables, and on the ground. On bitter cold nights, she heated stones.

In places, the trail was a little path with sand and gravel washouts, high weeds, and brushes. However, she inched her way over great ledges of shelf rock, slick with sleet, waded over 30 feet mountain streams.”

About the Author

Ben Montgomery was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2010 and has won many national awards.

He links Emma’s journey with historical facts and the history of walking and the Appalachian trail itself. Moreover, it is also linked with her past and the pain and suffering she endured.

Montgomery keeps the reader captured with her experiences and the resolute way she dealt with the hardships, hunger, danger, and cold on the trail. Emma’s story is so much more than a hike through difficult terrain.

The question on everyone’s minds

Several times people ask Emma the question Why?

      1. Why walk this trail?
      2. Why walk it alone?   

Emma answers everyone – often different reasons. She even asks it herself. The real reason is there all the time in all her different answers, but it becomes clear only at the end of the book.

It is also an inspiring story. “Go Emma go”

Emma kept on walking: one foot in front of the other, her father always told her: ‘pick up your feet’ and that is what she did. It is such an inspiring tale, hikers would like to grab their hiking boots and set out on the nearest trail.

But all of us can understand how difficult a hike can sometimes be, just like the problems we need to deal with in life. Emma dealt with all her problems rather uniquely. It is an astonishing tale, and wonderfully told by Ben Montgomery

Thomas Milne said:

“I wish I’d read it while standing on top of a mountain, but I almost felt as if I was”

My thoughts

I enjoyed reading GRANDMA GATEWOOD’S WALK and would recommend it to everyone that enjoys a good, well-written story full of drama, survival, and achievement.



Grandma Gatewood's walk
Title: Grandma Gatewood's Walk By Ben Montgomery
Page Count: 288
"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 September 1955, having survived a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a run-in with gangsters from Harlem, she stood atop Maine's Mount Katahdin. There she sang…

4 thoughts on “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk”

  1. Emma’s story is indeed very inspiring.
    In life, many things happen that we are not prepared for, but the last thing we should do is to give up.
    Instead, keep trying and moving forward. Eventually, that time will pass, and we will get to our destination.
    Hiking is one of the best exercises to maintain a perfect balance. While I like going for long walks, I’ve never tried hiking before.
    I like the smell of fresh air outdoors and may likely consider hiking sometime in the future.
    This is a good read, and I picked lots of lessons beyond hiking; commitment, focus, patience, perseverance, and not giving up.
    Thanks and cheers.

    1. Hi Muslimah, I am glad you also found Grandma Gatewood’s story inspiring. Hiking is walking and going on “long walks” count in my book 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  2. This is a pretty fascinating and inspiring story I must say. This is what i call a very determined and strongwoman and also a woman who has a strong will to succeed and i love it. She went to hard times which would probably compel anyone to give up but she never gave up and i can see she was also a very positive person. She endure the suffering she went through

    She achieved a lot and this has thought me that you can do anything if you are determined and you have good health. She did not let her age get in her way of making it and that is one thing we should learn from.

    This a really good book that will teach anyone who reads it, Perseverance, determination, not giving up, hard work and a whole lot more. I am really inspired and impressed.

    Thank you Louise for sharing this with us.

    1. Hi Femi, yes Grandma Gatewood is an inspiring story, she did her very best and we can learn a lot. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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