Book Group


Monday, February 6


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.  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 the first verse of “America the Beautiful” and proclaimed, “I said I’ll do it, and I’ve done it.
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montfomery tells how Emma became the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, as well as the first person – man or woman – to walk it twice and three times.  Grandma Gatewood, as the reporters called her, became a hiking celebrity and the public attention she brought to the little known footpath was unprecedented.  Her criticism of the lousy, difficult stretches led to improved maintenance, and very likely saved the trail from extinction.
Author Ben Montgomery was given access to Gatewood’s own diaries, trail journals, and correspondence, and interviewed surviving family members and those she met along her hike, all to answer the question so many asked:  Why did she do it?