Grandma Gatewood was a true Radical Aging inspiration:
I just finished reading, Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman who saved the Appalachian Trail, by Ben Montgomery. This is the story of Emma Gatewood, the first woman, who in 1955, thru walked the trail from Georgia to Maine. She walked the entire 2100+miles, and she was 67 years old! Not only that, but she thru walked again at age 69. Then Emma walked in her 70’s the entire trail a third time in sections. WOW! And get this, I would consider her the first ‘minimalist’ hiker. She carried nothing but a 12-17 pound bag of supplies, over her shoulder, not even using a backpack.
I loved this story because she was a fighter and a survivor. Emma had suffered terrible physical abuse at the hands of her husband, yet raised 11 children, farmed, braided rugs, canned food, and more and more. She loved walking, her way of getting out of the house and escaping her husband. Once he was gone from her life, and the kids were all raised, she told her family she was going for a walk. And what a walk she took. Emma’s children didn’t even know where she had gone until she started making national news.
Emma Gatewood, radical ager that she was, found herself profiled in one of the early editions of Sports Illustrated. She received recognition from Congress as well. Her reports of the bad condition of the trail helped save the trail by activating people to get out and repair. Parts of the trail were rerouted to make the repairing in the future more accessible.
I am inspired by her determination and effort. She also inspired people of her time to get out and walk more. Montgomery did a great job of weaving her past life into the story of her walks, providing insight into what drove Grandma Gatewood to accomplish her walking life. Montgomery also provided history of the era, putting her life into perspective for me. As a hiker myself, I love contemplating hiking like she did all the way to the end of my life.
Why read Grandma Gatewood Radical Agers:
I wanted to share this book with you, because I think we all need inspiration, especially when it comes to moving. Our American life tends towards cars and lazy boy recliners, instead of sidewalks and trails. Walking is better at thwarting disease than many drugs. The benefits go far beyond in providing us with longevity. Not worried about how long you live? So be it, but maybe living healthy to the end, no matter how long that might be, should be our goal.
I hope you will consider reading the book. I think you will find her story inspiring whether you are a hiker or not. If you’re ever in Santa Fe, let me know and I’ll take you on a hike or a walk, your choice. There’s also a film coming out soon. You can check out this trailer for the documentary and send a request to your PBS station requesting they show the film.
Let us know what inspires you to be a Radical Ager in the comments below. If you read the book, I’d love to hear what you think. If you like this post, I hope you will share.