How a 67-year-old great-grandmother walked the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail, survived a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a run-in with gangsters from HarlemWinner of the 2014 National Outdoor Book Awards for History/BiographyEmma 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 the first verse of "America, the Beautiful" and proclaimed, "I said I'll do it, and I've done it."Grandma Gatewood, as the reporters called her, 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. Gatewood became a hiking celebrity and appeared on TV and in the pages of Sports Illustrated. The public attention she brought to the little-known footpath was unprecedented. Her vocal criticism of the lousy, difficult stretches led to bolstered maintenance, and very likely saved the trail from extinction.Author Ben Montgomery was given unprecedented 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? The story of Grandma Gatewood will inspire readers of all ages by illustrating the full power of human spirit and determination. Even those who know of Gatewood don't know the full story—a story of triumph from pain, rebellion from brutality, hope from suffering.
Reviews"The whole saga of Grandma Gatewood, from her years in an abusive marriage to her triumph as a hiking superstar, is a great story, beautifully told." —Tampa Bay Times
"Ben Montgomery adds his name to those famous Americans—from Henry David Thoreau to Rosa Parks to Fats Domino to Forrest Gump—who have celebrated the revolutionary power of walking." —Roy Peter Clark, author of The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Mystery and Magic of Practical English
"Go, Granny, Go! . . . This astonishing tale will send you looking for your hiking boots. A wonderful story, wonderfully told." — Charles McNair, author of Pickett's Charge
"In a perfect world, Grandma Gatewood's Walk will hit the shelves with high praise and great acclaim. Readers deserve to have gems like this presented with fanfare." —Paste Magazine
"Details on Emma's hike, health, and reflections on the times make this book a compelling, fast read." —National Parks Traveler
"a powerful tale about finding solace not only in nature, but also in the generosity of strangers—an ethic that still exists on the trail today." —America
"Before Cheryl Strayed, there was Grandma Gatewood. 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 meanness and generosity of humanity, and the imperative to keep moving. This book makes me long for my backpacking days, and grateful for writers who keep history and spirit alive." —Jacqui Banaszynski, Knight Chair in Editing, MissouriSchool of Journalism
"A quiet delight of a book." —Kirkus Reviews
Author BiographyBen Montgomery is a staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times and cofounder of the Auburn Chautauqua, a Southern writers’ collective. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2010 and has won many other national writing awards.