(By way of Suzy Northcutt) In 1955, at the age of 67, an Ohio farm wife named Emma Gatewood became the first woman to solo thru-hike all 2,026 miles, approximately 5,000,000 steps, of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. This mother of 11, grandmother of 23, trekked in canvas Keds; she had no backpack, no tent, no sleeping bag, no campstove, no GPS, no cell phone…
And then she did it again, straight through. And a third time, in sections.
She didn’t set out to make history, she only told her children that she was going ‘out for a walk.’ She didn’t even know that reporters had begun following her progress soon after commencing her walk. When asked why she did it, she offered simply, “Because I wanted to.”
In the 1950’s only 14 thru-hikes were recorded. This decade alone there have been more than 4,000. http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home/community/2000-milers
Emma’s walk brought attention to the Trail, and to hiking, and to dogged determination to complete what is started. Many a hiker has since noted, “I was ready to give up but if Grandma Gatewood could do it…”
We just never know how we might inspire others with what we do. No matter how crude, or pedestrian, our early attempts should be we might be laying a foundation for others to build on. Someone has to start, and keep moving forward, and not give up.
Pulitzer Prize Finalist Ben Montgomery tells Emma’s story in his book, “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail.” It’s an easy read, and rather inspiring.
Emma Gatewood would have loved the pace at SANS Rocky Mountain 2017, June 12, Denver where aspiring energizer bunnies just keep going and going for six or more days. Stephen Northcutt is Academic Advisor for SANS.EDU.