Skip to main content
Original Issue

A Good Walk Recalled

Emma Gatewood was a 67-year-old great-grandma from Gallipolis, Ohio, on a quest to become the first woman to hike the whole Appalachian Trail alone when she appeared in the one-year anniversary issue of a publication called SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in 1955. Walking in sneakers, without a map, she expressed confidence, "except if I break something or something busts loose." She completed the 2,050-mile trek in 146 days, but what she didn't say was that she was walking, in part, to escape the memory of an abusive marriage that had nearly killed her. Almost 60 years later her historic pilgrimage is the subject of a book, Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail, by Ben Montgomery. A distant relative of Gatewood's, Montgomery used her letters and journals to re-create the journey, which, he says, simply "took putting one foot in front of the other—five million times."