Review of Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story (DVD)

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.

DVD cover

Here’s a trailer of the DVD.

Also ead my review of the 2015 book:  Grandma Gatewood’s Walk 

The DVD is available for $25 from Eden Valley Enterprises, 1250 East River St., Elryia, OHIO 44035/   www,edenvalleyenterprises.orgblheve@edenvalleyenterprises.org

The Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog

The marketing machine is ramping up again, this time for the Dec.5 release of Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild”, backpacking’s latest media opportunity.

However, there is another movie that I will travel anywhere to see- Let’s all hope for this other video project’s success. Grandma Gatewood is the real deal. To see the video clip, click on View Original. It made me cry.

Grandma (Emma) Gatewood

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We were pleasantly surprised and pleased to see that a story about Emma Gatewood and a clip from our project were on the Smoky Mountain Blog here is an excerpt:

Who was Grandma Gatewood?
In 1955, after raising 11 children, Emma “Grandma” Gatewood became the first woman to solo thru-hike the Appalachian Trail – at the tender age of 67! In September of that year, having survived a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a run-in with gangsters from Harlem, she stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin.

Then, in 1960, she hiked it again, becoming the first person to hike the Appalachian Trail twice. And, just to prove those first two weren’t a fluke, she hiked it again in 1963 – at the age of 75! After that third adventure Emma became the first person to hike the 2,179-mile trail on three different occasions.

To read the rest and see the clip…

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My Book Review- Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Grandma Gatewood broke the mold. The first woman to solo thru-hike the AT in 1955, she went on to walk the AT two more times, the last at 75 years old. She was also the first person to thru hike the AT three times. This was all accomplished with no money to speak off. The $57 a month she was receiving from Social Security at that time was all she would need.
Spoiler: stop right here if you don’t want me telling you details that I learned from this book, a 2014 release. Hell, it’s a book review. I am going to write what I want. Your choice.
This story is not about backpacking, because Grandma Gatewood never wore one. She probably couldn’t afford to buy one if she did. Even so, she might have declined to use a 1957 model, as it would have been too heavy for her to want to carry. The word iconoclast fits her to a “t”. Instead, she carried her spartan kit in a homemade bag slung over one shoulder. No boots, tent, sleeping bag or pad, stove for her, just Red Ball Jets sneakers and  an army blanket to wrap up in, a plastic shower curtain for shelter, a cup, first aid kit, raincoat, and one change of clothes. That’s it ! Her food was no-cook high calorie stuff- dried beef, cheese, and nuts, supplemented by any wild food she was able to forage.
The AT is known for hardships: humidity, steep climbs, rattlesnakes down south, and periods of relentless rain. While the typical AT thru-hiker reports are all about the hike and how tough it is. For Gatewood, a thru-hike of the AT would have been a respite from the brutal life she led for her first 67 years. She married young to a bastard of an individual, who sexually and physically abused her on what appears to have been a daily basis, resulting in 11 children, 23 grandchildren, and a work day on the farm that would have crippled lesser folks.
Gatewood’s chance read of an old National Geographic article planted a seed in her heart that would not take growth until her last child was independent. When that happened, she just walked out of the house, without telling a soul where she was going.
She had to learn new skills, and really fast.
You may cry when you read this book, it is so well written and genuine.
While reading present articles about Gatewood, I learned that there is a movie about her that is currently in production ( http://grandmagatewood.wordpress.com/… ). This is one story that needs to be heard, a genuine American epic of a life saved and even graced by the open trail.

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