Emma (Grandma) Gatewood was not the first woman to thru-hike the A. T. but she was the first woman to do it by herself. She is now a legend, though Appalachian Trail hikers knew about her for decades.
What made Gatewood an influential figure is that she did it first when she was 67 years old in 1955. Less than two years later, she did it again.
So for all the folks who say that they are too old, envision a woman with no hiking experience, little money for good equipment and most important, no A. T. community. She had to figure out the logistics all by herself. Look up the listings of 2000-milers on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website for the 1950s. It’s fascinating.
She was also the first thru-hiker to attract a great deal of national publicity. She inspired the next generation of A.T. hikers, including me. Gatewood didn’t come from the high peaks of Colorado or New Hampshire. Instead, she was from a farm close to Hocking Hills State Park in Southeast Ohio.
Now comes a sweet children’s book, When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike, by Michelle Houts and illustrated by Erica Magnus, published by Ohio University Press. The book is aimed at the four to eight year old market.
I loved the writing. Yes, it’s simple as a child’s book should be but it doesn’t mince words. Gatewood had difficulties. She dealt with black flies. She got lost and what is the most fearful to me, she broke her glasses. Her first attempt was a failure but she persevered – the most important part of hiking any long-distance trail.
The pictures also didn’t pretty up Gatewood. She was a farm woman in her sixties and the drawings show her as dumpy with gray hair. Yeah! That didn’t stop her from hiking and enjoying the fame she gathered on her walks.
I really appreciated the straight, plain typography. There’s no need for cutesy lettering in a children’s book. I’m glad that the publisher decided on a legible, conventional font.
For some reason, the book is much cheaper on the publisher’s website than on the large online retailer. Get a copy or three for the children (boy or girl) on your list. Enjoy!