Grandma Gatewood

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Emma Rowena
"Grandma" Gatewood
Emma Gatewood 414x425.jpg
Born (1887-10-25)October 25, 1887
Guyan Township, Gallia County, Ohio, U.S.
Died June 4, 1973(1973-06-04) (aged 85)
Gallipolis, Ohio, U.S.
Cause of death
Apparent heart attack
Resting place
Ohio Valley Memory Gardens
Occupation Housewife
Years active 1955 to 1973
Known for Hiking
Religion Methodist
Parents Hugh Wilson & Esther Evelyn Trowbridge Caldwell

Emma Rowena Gatewood, better known as Grandma Gatewood (October 25, 1887–June 4, 1973),[1] was an extreme hiker and ultra-light hiking pioneer who was the first woman to hike the 2,168-mile (3,489 km) Appalachian Trail from Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine solo, and in one season.[2]

Family life[edit]

Emma Gatewood

Gatewood was born in Guyan Township, Gallia County, Ohio. She was a farmer's wife who had 11 children and 24 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild living at the time of her death at 85.[1]


Gatewood hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1955 at the age of 67, wearing Keds sneakers and carrying an army blanket, a raincoat, and a plastic shower curtain which she carried in a homemade bag slung over one shoulder, thus making her a pioneer of Ultralight backpacking. Local newspapers picked up on her story, leading to a profile in Sports Illustrated when she had reached Connecticut [3] and an appearance on the Today Show.

She had read about it in a National Geographic Magazine. "I thought it would be a nice lark," she said, adding "It wasn't." Another time she complained "For some fool reason, they always lead you right up over the biggest rock to the top of the biggest mountain they can find."[2]

She hiked it again in 1960 and then again at age 75 in 1963, making her the first person to hike the trail three times (though her final hike was completed in sections).[2] She was also credited with being the oldest female thru-hiker by the Appalachian Trail Conference [4] until 2007.

In addition, she walked 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri, to Portland, Oregon, averaging 22 miles (35 km) a day. She traveled to every state of the continental United States.

In 1970, at age 83, while visiting Appalachian Outfitters in Oakton, Virginia she was asked what she thought about the latest lightweight backpacking gear. Emma advised: "Make a rain cape, and an over the shoulder sling bag, and buy a sturdy pair of Keds tennis shoes. Stop at local groceries and pick up Vienna sausages... most everything else to eat you can find beside the trail... and by the way those wild onions are not called "Ramps"... they are "Rampions" ... a ramp is an inclined plane."

Gatewood was a life member of the National Campers and Hikers Association and the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club. She was Director Emeritus and a lifetime member of the Buckeye Trail Association.[1]


At Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio, the North Country Trail, Buckeye Trail, and the American Discovery Trail coincide and a six-mile section is designated as the Grandma Gatewood Trail. It connects Old Man's Cave to Cedar Falls to Ash Cave.[5][6]

The Appalachian Trail Museum includes information about Grandma Gatewood in its exhibits and in June 2012, she was inducted into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame.[7]

Grandma Emma Gatewood is the subject of a project at Eden Valley Enterprises.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Gallia County Genealogical Socity[dead link]
  2. ^ a b c "When Grandma Gatewood hiked the Appalachian Trail". Sierra Club. November–December 2002. Retrieved 2009-05-08. When Grandma Gatewood hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1955, she tramped all 2170 miles in tennis shoes, her only shelter an army blanket, a raincoat, ... 
  3. ^ "SI Vault". 1955-08-15. Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  4. ^ Appalachian Trail Conservancy Noteworthy 2000-Milers[dead link]
  5. ^ American Dreams. "Hocking County Tourism Association". Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  6. ^ "Grandma Gatewood Trail - Old Man's Cave to Ash Cave | Logan Ohio Hikes". Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  7. ^ "The 2012 Class Of The Appalachian Trail Hall Of Fame | Hiking Around Midstate PA and Beyond: A community blog". Retrieved 2013-12-18. 
  8. ^ "Grandma Gatewood program". Eden Valley Enterprises. Retrieved 2013-12-18. 

External links[edit]

  • Hiking in Hocking Hills, Ohio