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Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail Hardcover – April 1, 2014
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In 1955, at 67, Gatewood left her small Ohio town and her 11 children and 23 grandchildren and set off to trek the Appalachian Trail. She’d long been fascinated by the 2,050-mile trail and was particularly lured by the fact that no woman had ever hiked it alone. Knowing her family wouldn’t approve, she didn’t tell them when she set out with a little 17-pound sack of supplies and no tent or sleeping bag. Journalist Montgomery draws on interviews with Gatewood’s surviving family members and hikers she met on her five-month journey as well as news accounts and Gatewood’s diaries to offer a portrait of a determined woman, whose trek inspired other hikers and brought attention to the neglect of the Appalachian Trail. She became a hiking celebrity, appearing on television with Groucho Marx and Art Linkletter. Montgomery intertwines details of Gatewood’s hike with recollections from her early life and difficult marriage. Maps of the trail and photos from Gatewood’s early life enhance this inspiring story. --Vanessa Bush
"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
"Grandma Gatewood's Walk is sure to fuel not only the dreams of would-be hikers, but debates on the limits of endurance, the power of determination, and the nature of myth." --Earl Swift, author of The Big Roads
"Go, Granny, Go! . . . This astonishing tale will send you looking for your hiking boots. A wonderful story, wonderfully told." -- Charles McNair, Books editor for Paste Magazine and author of Pickett's Charge
"Montgomery's compelling tale secures Grandma Gatewood's place in the American pantheon as a cousin of John Henry and Johnny Appleseed." --Andrea Pitzer, author of The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov
"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, Missouri School of Journalism
"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"Grandma Gatewood's Walk is a brilliant look at an America–both good and bad–that has slipped away seen through the eyes and feet of one of America's most unlikely heroines. Gatewood's story suggests anything possible; no matter your age, gender, or quality of your walking shoes." —Stephen Rodrick, author of The Magical Stranger
“Grandma Gatewood’s Walk is sure to fuel not only the dreams of would-be hikers, but debates on the limits of endurance, the power of determination, and the nature of myth.” —Earl Swift, author of The Big Roads
"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
“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
“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, Missouri School of Journalism
“With rich reporting and often poetic prose, Ben Montgomery takes readers on an intimate, backwoods adventure with a resolute old lady. Along the way, he explores the history of hikers and highways, the solace of nature and solitude—and the urge to escape.” —Lane DeGregory, journalist, winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing
Top customer reviews
The book alternates between the story of Gatewood's life from the time she was married to an abusive husband until the time she started her "walk" with the story of her time on the trail. In addition, the author adds historical information, such as details about the damage done by Hurricanes Carol and Dianne.
Grandma Gatewood did more to "advertise" the Appalachian Trail than anyone before or since, and became famous for her walks in various places. She not only hiked the AT three times (twice as a through hiker and once in segments), but she also hiked the Oregon Trail and helped to create a trail system in her native Ohio. It's wouldn't be out of place to call her one of the most influential women of her time.
The book is a fascinating look at her abusive married life, as well as her interest in hiking. It is easy to read and provides a glimpse into life in the mid 1950's. I recommend this book highly to anyone as a great read.
Grandma Gatewood went out to "take a walk" dressed in dungarees and tennis shoes with a small drawstring sack containing a shower curtain, a warm coat, a pocket knife, a flashlight and a few snacks. Barely enough food to last three days. What she did have in abundance was resolve, courage and utter fearlessness.
Ben Montgomery, staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times, brings Grandma Gatewood to life in beautifully written and meticulous detail, not only following her perilous walk, but lush in description of the countryside around her, from amazing vistas on the tops of the many mountains she climbed, to the freezing cold, treacherous rock and storms that nearly took her life. The author also describes the history of each region she crosses and the many people she encounters, some good, some not so good, and some very unexpected.
I had never heard of this amazing woman, but she was quite famous for what she did. Walking, it seems is a dying art, except for the few. All of us, at an early age should have to take Grandma Gatewood's walk. It would forever change our outlook of the world and what we are missing on the other side of the window as we fly by in our plastic cars. I read this book in one sitting. If you think you are old, read Grandma Gatewood's Walk.....then start walking.
We live in a time when the Appalachian Trial is a fixture of the nation, a trek attempted in whole or in part by hundreds of thousands. That wasn’t always the case. When this “Grandma” did her walk, (1955) there was only a vague notion of the Trail, so much so that it shifted around a bit before settling into the route that so many know well.
And it’s really to this Grandma that we owe the trail. Her walk made her famous, and by contact, it made the then almost-unknown trail famous.
When I first got the book, the cover photo really got me: there’s no air-brushing this level of “truthiness.” She wearing a skirt, for Chrissakes, and granny stockings that I haven’t seen in a long, long time, and tennis shoes. (TENNIS SHOES! Have you seen how we kit ourselves out these days for an hour-long walk in the woods??)
But her face is lifted towards the light, and the jaw, well, it seems quite a determined chin to me. And you think, “You GO, girl!”
For the trek, of course, she wore pants — dungarees — but still, those tennis shoes, and carried her supplies in a drawstring sack she made herself. And in that sack she stuffed:
"A tin of Band-Aids, a bottle of iodine, some bobby pins, and a jar of Vicks salve. She stuffed in a warm coat, a shower curtain to keep the rain off, some drinking water, a Swiss Army knife, a flashlight, candy mints and her pen and a little Royal Vernon Line memo book that she had bought for twenty-five cents at Murphy’s back home."
The wonder of her doughty fool-hardiness is only matched by the story-teller’s brilliant use of concrete details to bring her to life.
This is how the book is written, with the drive of narrative: Old woman versus “a million spectacular ways to die” captured with a million details that help us see her, and her journey.
Montgomery seems to walk with her, and to carry us effortlesslyalong, step by impossible step. In her journey we get to know her and her life. We travel back into the past, both hers, and the Appalachians she walks through.
Emma Gatewood — for that is her name — never quite answered the question of why she tackled so incredible a journey, but culling from her writings and those that wrote about her, Montgomery finds more than enough reasons to get started on a very long walk, and more than enough determination to complete the journey.