Grandma Gatewood's Walk

She called her 2,050-mile journey "taking a walk"

There she was in the spring of 1955, 67 years old, wearing tennis shoes and dungarees, a denim bag slung over her shoulder, about to leave Georgia and walk the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail to Maine — alone.

To understand how amazing her venture was to be, you just need to know what she carried in her bag on the treacherous trek — a change of clothes, a blanket, a coat, a shower curtain for rain, a few essentials like a Swiss Army knife and flashlight, some food and less than $200 in cash. No map, no sleeping bag, no tent.

But 146 days, 14 states and seven pairs of tennis shoes later, she stood atop Maine's Mount Katahdin, the end of the Appalachian Trail, and said, "I did it."

Indeed she had, and Emma Gatewood, an Ohio farmer's wife, mother of 11 and grandmother of 23, would do it twice more before she hung up her battered shoes.

The book about her journey, "Grandma Gatewood's Walk" [Chicago Review Press, $26.95] by Ben Montgomery, reveals a woman with uncommon grit, astonishing endurance and utter fearlessness. Also, a woman who's credited with saving the Appalachian Trail as her celebrity brought much-needed attention to it.

I would need way more space than this to sufficiently sing this book's praises. You just have to read it.

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