Grandma Gatewood & the Appalachian Trail

Our person of the week is inspired by my upcoming Pacific Crest Trail hike. In a few weeks, I will be embarking on this incredible journey that is one of many which inspirational pioneers have created for me and others for generations to come. One of these American trail pioneers is known as “Grandma Gatewood”. 

Emma “Grandma” Gatewood was born in 1887 as Emma Caldwell in Ohio and was one of 14 children. Growing up on a farm, all the children helped with strenuous tasks as needed. Needless to say, she grew up physically tough and married Perry Gatewood. Being physically tough came in handy as he put her to work building fences and mixing cement, but she had to become mentally tough too as he unfortunately physically abused her for 30 years afterwards. 

Grandma Gatewood ended up having eleven children whom she adored dearly. Once they had all grown up, and she had finally divorced her husband, she decided to take a hike. This wasn’t your typical hike, and it wasn’t something anyone could do unprepared. Even people who trained and prepared for years would still give up on this elusive trail called the “Appalachian Trail”. 

In September of 1955 at the age of 67, with only 15 items and a pair of Keds on her feet, Grandma Gatewood became the first woman to ever hike the full Appalachian Trail alone. This was an unbelievable moment in history, but not her only one. She went on to help create multiple other trails, and became the first person, man or woman, to complete the Appalachian Trail multiple times before her death. 

Read more about this legend of a woman: 

Grandma Gatewood: The First Woman to Solo Hike the Entire Appalachian Trail