Emma Rowena Gatewood – best known as Grandma Emma Gatewood – was an Ohio-native and hiking pioneer. She encouraged others to follow her lead and practice extreme hiking, no matter their age and available footwear.
My research in to the life of Emma Gatewood revealed this physically fit female once hiked the entire Appalachian Trail (2,168-miles) solo at the age of 67, wearing a pair of Keds (sneakers). The Gallia County, OH native accomplished this trek in 1955, while carrying a light backpack filled with only a few supplies, including a raincoat and blanket. In 1960, she again hiked the Appalachian Trail alone. She even conquered the trail a third time, in 1963, at the age of 75.
Emma Gatewood also was the wife of a farmer and mother of 11 children. She had 24 grandchildren and 37 great-grandchildren, my research revealed. At the time of her death, in 1973, at the age of 85, she even had one great-great-grandchild. If this busy family head could find time to focus on physical fitness, I suppose most all of us are without excuse!
After reading her life story, I became extremely impressed with Emma Gatewood’s passion for hiking and her determination to finish challenging feats on foot. It is no wonder April 27 was just named Grandma Emma Gatewood Day in Ohio by Gov. John Kasich. The first time event to honor the gutsy grandmother will take place Saturday, April 27 in Logan, OH, highlighted by a twilight hike to Ash Cave.
On April 27, 1967, then Governor James A. Rhodes established, by law, the Buckeye Trail would be the state’s main hiking trail. It is fitting April 27 would be chosen as Grandma Emma Gatewood Day, as she dedicated years of her life drawing awareness to hiking. A 20-mile portion of the Buckeye Trail runs through Hocking County and is named the Grandma Gatewood Trail. This section of the trail system leads hikers through Hocking Hills State Park, from Old Man’s Cave to Ash Cave. I have not yet been to this portion of Ohio but have heard it is unbelievably beautiful. I know my husband and I would greatly appreciate a hike along the Buckeye Trail, which runs from Lake Erie to the Ohio River. If you enjoy hiking, consider traveling south to participate in Grandma Emma Gatewood Day!
Those wishing to join the Grandma Emma Gatewood Day Twilight Hike should meet April 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ash Cave on State Route 56, in South Bloomingville, OH. Pets are not permitted on the trail, which is handicap accessible.