Grandma Gatewood, as she became known, first read about the Appalachian Trail in a discarded 1949 issue of National Geographic. The article claimed that the trail was “planned for the enjoyment of anyone in normal good health” and the trail “doesn’t demand special skill or training to traverse.” The article also mentioned that food and shelter, trailside, were easy to come by. What Emma discovered on her journey was far from the claims the article made. She became the object of much media interest and she was outspoken during her interviews with journalists to mention the lack of food and shelter as well as the poor condition of the trail in areas. The title of the book claims that she saved the Appalachian Trail although there is no substantiation of this in the story. Perhaps her frankness with the press about trail conditions led to improvements, more maintenance, and certainly an increase in usage of the trail but there is nothing documenting that she was the cause of these things. Nonetheless, she inspired a new pedestrian movement in the United States, at a time when walking was being phased out of society and motor vehicles were taking over.
Even though I did not love "Grandma Gatewood's Walks" by Ben Montgomery, I certainly would recommend it to anyone whose interests lie in hiking, history, hiking icons, or inspirational stories. Emma’s story is certainly one that should be shared. And if you’re busy this is a great book to pick up, read a snippet, drop, and pick up again at a later time without losing the flow of the story... cause there is no flow.
- Kirsten -
Fresh Air Reads contributor
Chief Experience Officer
Welcome to the blog where I share strategies, tricks and tips on how to make adventuring in the outdoors part of your Swiss experience