Today, I’ll introduce one of my personal heroes and inspirations; crowned as America’s most celebrated pedestrian, Grandma Gatewood.
At the age of 67, Emma Rowena Gatewood conquered the 2,050-mile Appalachian trail solo and was the first woman to ever do so. What’s even more remarkable is how she accomplished it with minimal resources, pioneering ultralight hiking and women's 'thru-hiking' into a wider space. She carried a shower curtain to protect herself from the rain, several pairs of trainers, a Swiss army knife, a flashlight, band-aids, Iodine, and some food.
Grandma Gatewood's Journey
Even though this feat is extraordinary and inspired a whole generation of women, myself included; there’s another side to this story - a story of immense pain and of finding solace. After being married to her husband at the age of 19, she faced a barrage of physical and sexual abuse that almost led to her death numerous times. She sought refuge running into the woods where she felt restored and protected.
After one horrendous attack in which she was left with a broken rib, she was falsely arrested by the police for inciting harm on her husband. However, she was able to prove her innocence following which she applied for and was granted divorce. It was during this period that she came across a National Geographic article on the Appalachian Trail. What piqued her interest the most was how no woman had ever hiked the whole trail solo. With a new vision in mind, she set off for the expedition, simply mentioning to her children that she was going for a walk. However, her first attempt ended in vain with Emma being lost with broken glasses. She was rescued by the rangers who discouraged her to keep moving and advised to go back.
Determined not to lose again, she planned her next visit wherein she was able to taste the victory of her efforts at the age of 67. She completed the whole trail in 146 days with an average of 14 miles per day. Taking her age, her gear, and the condition of the trail into consideration, this is remarkable. People were intrigued and thus, local newspapers began to line up at various pit-stops along her way that sought to interview her. One such feature found its way back to Ohio, her hometown, which is how her children finally came to know about her expedition.
Prior to her death at the age of 85, she had completed the trail thrice, being the first person to ever do so!
After going through the National Geographic article, Grandma Gatewood underestimated the difficulty of the trail at that time, which meant she came across some surprising obstacles during her expedition. Thus, her training wasn’t as intensive as one might think.
Her main training regimen included only walking 10 miles/day to build her leg muscles. However, it could be said that she had been preparing herself for this ever since she was a child, with farm work which began during her childhood through to her adult life. Apart from this, she was quite resourceful. Even though her formal education ended in the 8th grade (around 13-14 years of age), she taught herself about wildlife, the medicinal properties of plants and which were edible. This helped her immensely during her travels.
Lessons I've Learned
As someone who loves nature and frequently explores and hikes within it for my own self care and mental wellbeing, Grandma Gatewood's story totally moved me and made me appreciate everything I have in my life. This is how I gained the inspiration to build products for people that seek adventure. The leather bound insulated bottles and leather patches are built specifically for the hiker and the adventurer in you and to showcase your achievements. These are both items that we use daily out on the hills!
The biggest lesson that all of us could takeaway from Grandma Gatewood's story is that we can achieve anything, if we put our mind and heart into it. I'm ready to conquer my dreams, are you?
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