Category Archives: Appalachian Trail

When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike – Book Review

Emma (Grandma) Gatewood was not the first woman to thru-hike the A. grandmagatewood9780821422359-coverT. 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.

Hocking Hills State Park
Hocking Hills State Park

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!

Giving Tuesday – Who are you supporting?

Today is Giving Tuesday. You know that because you’ve been inundated with requests from nonprofits all across the country.

Poster campaign at OVC
Poster campaign at OVC

Right now, Western North Carolina needs your money more than ever. At no time is this poster more appropriate.

Our public lands are burning. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is now closed. The park folks have closed everything because of the wild fires. I don’t know if they’ve ever done this before. Even Park Headquarters is without power and phone service.

But we’re all interconnected here. The Appalachian Trail travels for over seventy miles through the Smokies. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail across North Carolina starts on Clingmans Dome in the Smokies. All of these lands need our help.

At this point our Congress doesn’t even have a budget past December 9. So it’s not going to put any extra money into our public lands. I’m just hoping that Congress will go back to work and pass a budget.

But we’re not helpless. We need to support Friends groups that support the trail. There are so many of them in our area. Choose one and donate your money today. Plan to donate your time and effort on a regular basis.

Don’t wait until the end of the year. Yes, you’ll get a tax deduction but that’s not a reason to support a cause.

Here goes:

Friends of the SmokiesLogoFOTS – which assists Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I lead monthly hikes for the group.


Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail logofmst– which champions the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina


Great Smoky Mountains AssociationLogoGSMA – which assists the Smokies by managing the bookstores and publishing awesome books and maps.


Revisiting a section of the Appalachian Trail

Beth at Devils Fork Gap
Beth at Devils Fork Gap

Trails change constantly.

Nowhere is this truer than on the Appalachian Trail. For years, Lenny and I have maintained a piece of the A.T. from Devils Fork Gap to Rice Gap on the North Carolina/Tennessee border.

We went up there at least four times a year to clip, clean and paint blazes. I have blogged and written about  tr ail maintenance so many times.

Yesterday, Beth R. and I walked the A.T from Devils Fork to Rice Gap  and back to see what had happened to it. It was not the same. As we went over a stile after we parked, we saw the first sign for trail magic.

“Call me to stay  in a hostel for free”,  the sign said. Now there are plenty of places that offer this kind of hospitality. But never before on this section?

Hikers Paradise
Hikers Paradise

The next sign was for the Hiker Paradise on Rector Laurel Rd. This turned out to be a pizza and soda pop place. We saw quite a few hikers on the trail yesterday, but none at the snack bar.

More signs about losing local dogs who prefer to follow hikers.

Wow! After years of benign disinterest, Flag Pond, Tennessee residents have discovered that they live close to the A.T. and that they might make good use of it.

While we were maintaining the trail, we had tried to clear the A.T. of two fallen-down cabin parts. We removed a toilet and a couple of cabinet pieces but couldn’t handle the old beams. Somehow the current maintainers managed to get rid of those pieces – good for them.


The US Forest Service had opened a wildlife management cut about ten years ago. But they never kept it up and trees and bushes are now threatening to cover up the view again.

Not too many flowers until we got over Frozen Knob, the high point.

Once we started down to Rice Gap, the trail was lush with blooming spiderworts and firepinks and white budding flowers that I couldn’t recognize.

The latter may have been doll’s eyes, white baneberry, without the eyes yet. It’s not easy to recognize this plant unless it has the dark central spot, the eye.

I got to keep track of that plant before the eyes come out. I never saw this flower before. Another change on this section.