I just received my copy of the new DVD put out by Grandma Gatewood’s family in collaboration with a grant from the Ohio Historical Society’s History Fund. Nominated for an Emmy, the 50 minute video explores Emma Gatewood’s 1955 solo thru hike of the Appalahian trail, after she had raised 11 children and survived domestic abuse. Grandma Gatewood was the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail alone, as well as the first person – man or woman – to walk it twice and then went on to hike it a third time.
I first learned about Grandma Gatewood in the classic two volume series published by Rodale Press in 1975 entiiled Hiking the Appalachian Trail. At one time, she was the most visible personality that hiked the Appalachian Trail. Sure, Earl Schaffer completed the first thru hike of the AT in 1948, but his personality was more taciturn and he tended to shun publicity. Emma’s first 1954 attempt at the AT was unsuccessful, but she ditched her a pack, repaired her broken glasses, and transform herself into an ultra light hiker that resulted in a northbound through hike in 1955.
Emma was schooled up to eighth grade, living in a log cabin with her 14 siblings. She married at age 19 experiencing almost daily physical abuse from her husband for 33 years. She grew up and spent her adult life on farms. A product of 60+ years of hard physical work, Emma Gatewood took to the trail after her youngest of 11 children was independent and she had divorced her husband.
Grandma Gatewood hiked in Red Ball Jets hightop sneakers. She carried her gear in a cotton dufflebag that she placed on her shoulder. She was a tiny woman, but as the song goes, “Oh what those five feet two could do.”
The movie contains historic photos, and interviews with past and present AT hikers, as well as commentary from Emma’s daughter and granddaughter. I particularly enjoyed seing some of the actual gear that went on these hikes.
I called it quits tonight after I walked a mere mile on the flats outside my door. It was a huge accomplishment.
For the past two weeks, I haven’t been able to walk that far. My absence from my usual 75 minute a day average of brisk walking or riding bikes was caused by a very nasty fall coming down the from Bigelow ridge after three days of volunteer work on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Guthook and I team up a couple times a year, spring and fall, volunteering for trail work on the Appalachain Trail. He has a long section up and over Mt. Abe that connects to the AT near the Spaulding lean-to.
The snow was still deep on that connecting section due to 3,00 feet of elevation, north side exposure, and thick conifers.
The last day, Sunday, brought us back to my section: the Safford Brook trail up to he AT, a short section on the itself AT, and lastly the side trail to and the Safford Notch campsite itself, where we cleared up fallen trees,a nd pruned away like madmen.
Three days of work was finally done with only two miles to go to the car when I caught the toe of my boot on a rock or root that pitched me staggering down a descending grade until my increased speed of stumbling eventually pitched me smack down onto rocks that left me a quivering mass of hurt, with my left leg doubled up under me. Thank God that my hiking pal Guthook was right there to assist me in eventually unraveling myself from my ancient external frame pack that carried the pruners, loppers, axe and other tools of the trail corridor trade. Unfortunately, the impact of falling on those solid objects in my pack imbedded a series of grotesque blood filled tattoos, emanating from a hematoma that a doctor later told me held over a pint of blood. Guthook cut me two walking staffs that I used to brace myself as I shuffled, in pain, downhill two miles to my car, which was parked on the shore of Flagstaff Lake at the base of the Safford Brook Trail, which I maintain, along with a brief section of AT and the side trail to the Safford Notch Campsite, which is also my responsibility.
After I reached my car, I had Guthook drive it back to the Chalet, where had spent last night, as I sat as still as possible in the passenger seat. If I didn’t move at all, I was stable, but when I exited the passenger’s side and gingerly inched my way over to the driver’s seat, I was fighting passing out, but made it and promised Guthook that I’d pull over if I became faint while driving. I headed straight for the Belfast Hospital Emergency room, after downing 800 mg of ibuprofen that didn’t seem to do much for me.
Two hours later I was able to barely get myself in the door to the emergency room, where I was unable to sit until a nurse assisted me in laying down on a bed. It was a circus of the wounded and infirm in there on Sunday night, with only one doctor making the rounds. I wasn’t out of there until 4.5 hours later, after the Dr. determined I had no broken bones, however I also learned that I partially tore my left hamstring. Thankfully, there was no blood in my urine (One of the big hits was directly over my right kidney.). He gave me one muscle relaxer pil, and with a prescription for more tomorrow. I headed home, where I shuffled to bed under the very concerned eye of Auntie Mame, my faithful wife, and apparent nurse for this new round of lifestyle consequences. She measured what morphed into at least three square feet of techicolor- black and blue, yellow, green on my back, buttocks, and side.
It’s been exactly two weeks today of laying on ice packs, with no biking, and no hiking, other than brief trips to do things I must do outside the house. I’m still hurting, likely due to bone bruising. The blood has continued to draining back into me, with new vistas of bruises extending into my groin area and then down my leg into the back on my knee.
I’ve been my time feeling distressed, depressed, and now impressed with a newfound resolution to ALWAYS have my trekking poles with me when I’m on trail. I even bought myself a new pair, on the recommendation of Andrew Skurka- a set of Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Trekking Poles.
I left my trekking poles them in the car, since I would be walking with either pruning shears or my chainsaw in hand. My free hand was also in the habit of throwing the slash back into the bush and off trail. I’m convinced that if I would have been using my Leki poles, I would have not fallen. The very act of descending with poles in hand forces me to be a bit more present in choosing pole and foot placement. Isn’t it true that accidents happen in the late afternoon when fatigue is at it’s peak?
A follow-up visit to my own doctor last week put my fretting to rest. He told me that I could start activity again, with pain as my limit guide. I walked a mile, then did two more with Mame in the last two days.
I’m getting better. My spirits are lifted a bit after yesterday, where I rode my riding mower, then walked behind the edging mower, and even felt decent enough to work the string trimmer in attacking the overgrown grass in the yard. Fitbit gave me 14,000 steps and some 7 miles of ambulation for my efforts. I’m getting back.