In 1964, "Grandma" Emma Rowena Gatewood becoming the first person to complete three solo hikes of the 2,050 mile Appalachian Trail at the advanced age of 76. She had hiked it the first time in 1955 at age 67 and again at age 69.
Born in 1887, on a farm in Gallia, Emma was one of 15 children. During her traumatic marriage and raising 11, Emma would find peace and solitude in the woods. Discovering the medicinal properties of the forrest's plants, she taught herself which ones were edible.
Emma, an avid reader, came across a National Geographic article, in 1949 about the Appalachian Trail and she was surprised by the fact that no woman had ever hiked it alone.
After the last of her children had grown, Emma told them she was going for a walk, but didn't mention where she was going, or how long she would be gone. At Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia, Emma headed out to conquer the Appalachian Trail. Arriving at Mount Katahdin, Maine, 146 days later, she did conquer the Appalachian Trail, with an average of 14 miles a day.
Sewing together a drawstring sack, she gathered the smallest and lightest of things she thought she would need: a Swiss Army knife; a flashlight; Band-Aids; iodine; a pencil with a notebook; and finally, a shower curtain to keep her dry.
For sustenance she brought Vienna sausages, raisins, peanuts and bullion cubes. She spent many nights on the cold ground but relied on the hospitality of strangers whenever possible.
On her adventures, Emma's learned mind flourished in the form of poetry:
If you will go with me to the mountains
And sleep on the leaf carpeted floors
And enjoy the bigness of nature
And the beauty of all out-of-doors,
You'll find your troubles fading
And feel the Creator was not man
That made lovely mountains and forests
Which only a Supreme Power can.
Emma "Grandma" Gatewood was loved by her children and her many grandchildren when she died in 1973 at the age of 85. Over 18 years she hiked more than 14,000 miles on trails around the United States. In her day, she was featured in many newspapers and seen on several national television programs celebrating her amazing hiking career.
Emma was honored with a 6 mile trail that connects Old Man's Cave to Ash cave in the Hocking Hills. And she was inducted into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame in 2012.