Could you hike 2,168 miles through 14 states, up and down total elevations of over 450,000 feet, equipped with a just a knapsack and sneakers, all by yourself in one season? Could you do it at the age of 67? That is exactly what one amazing southeastern Ohio woman did in 1955, when Emma “Grandma” Gatewood became the first woman to complete a solo thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
The Ashland Public Library is pleased to play host to “Grandma Gatewood: Ohio’s Legendary Hiker”, presented by Bette Lou Higgins, Artistic Director of Eden Valley Enterprises, on Tuesday, February 21 at 7:00 p.m. This storytelling program illustrates Gatewood’s epic hiking accomplishments and how she overcame many other obstacles and hardships through her life. Eden Valley Enterprises also has produced a recent PBS documentary, Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story and a one-act play.
Higgins has dedicated her professional life to using her theatrical education (M.Ed. from Cleveland State University plus a BA in theatre from Baldwin Wallace College) and skills to “transmit the excitement of American and Great Lakes history to her audiences” through productions “designed to make history meaningful and alive for adults and children of all ages.”
Awe-inspiring is a word that frequently comes to mind when examining the statistics of the Appalachian Trail combined with the context of Gatewood’s hike. Ranging from Maine down to Georgia, the A.T. is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. Many people have tried and failed to hike its entire length. The idea for the trail was conceived in 1921, with work on clearing and blazing the trail in sections, beginning in 1923 until finally completed in 1937.
Hikers who have managed a complete thru-hike of the A.T. are referred to as “2,000 milers” and the total number of 2,000 milers over the course of the trail’s 80 years of existence is a little over 15,500, according to the website appalachiantrail.org. In the previous two decades prior to Grandma Gatewood’s historic hike, only eight hikers had completed thru-hikes of the A.T., and only 13 other people managed it during 1950 through 1959.
Grandma Gatewood’s story does not end (nor begin) with her extraordinary feat of strength and determination. Her life is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and body. Come be inspired, entertained and educated the evening of February 21 at the Ashland Public Library at Eden Valley Enterprises’ presentation of “Grandma Gatewood: Ohio’s Legendary Hiker”.Information on Eden Valley Enterprises, plus their programs, projects, and publications can be found at http://www.edenvalleyenterprises.org/progdesc/gatewood/gtwdinf.htm. For more information about the upcoming library program, contact the Ashland Public Library by calling 419-289-8188, visit www.ashland.lib.oh.us, or stop by the library.