From ‘The Inspiration Edition’ — The Grandma Gatewood archives, Gallia’s true trailblazer

Gallia’s true trailblazer

Staff Report

The Gatewood Trail System offers nearly 15 miles of trails in Rio Grande, Ohio and is named after Gallia’s Emma (Grandma) Rowena Gatewood, a famed hiker.

The Gatewood Trail System offers nearly 15 miles of trails in Rio Grande, Ohio and is named after Gallia’s Emma (Grandma) Rowena Gatewood, a famed hiker.

Beth Sergent | OVP

(From the Gallipolis Daily Tribune, Monday, June 4, 1973)

Excerpts from: ‘Grandma Gatewood, 85, dies

Mrs. Emma (Grandma) Rowena Gatewood, 85, Thurman, Gallia County’s most famous hiker, died at 10 a.m. today in the Holzer Medical Center.

Mrs. Gatewood, who gained national and world fame by walking the Appalachian and Oregon Trails while in her late 60s and early 70s, in the 1950s and 60s, had just returned from a trip out west last month. She had made appearances in every state in the union with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. During the peak of her hiking years, she appeared on numerous television shows, and was the subject of feature articles in several news­papers from coast-to-coast.

Mrs. Gatewood was a life member of the National Campers and Hikers Association, and the Roanoke-Appalachian Trail Club. She was director emeritus and a lifetime member of the Buckeye Trail Association.

She was born in Guyan Township, on Oct. 25, 1887, daughter of the late Hugh Wilson and Esther Evalyn Trowbridge Caldwell.

She attended Thurman United Methodist Church. She was a member of the Rio Grande Garden Club.

(From the Sunday Times-Sentinel, June 26, 1977)

Excerts from: ‘Bob Evans Farm to dedicate-new ’Ma Gatewood hiking trail

RIO GRANDE — Grandma Gatewood, a legendary lady from Gallia County who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine at the age of 69, will be remembered Saturday, July 9, at dedication ceremonies for a new “Grandma Gatewood” hiking trail on Bob Evans Farms.

The approximately five kilometer trail is one of four hiking, backpacking, and bridal trails opened on the sausagemaker’s farm this summer. In keeping with the vitality of Grandma Gatewood, the Gatewood Trail is the most rugged and challenging.

Originally from Raccoon Creek (Gallia County) Grandma Gatewood was born Emma Rowena Caldwell in 1887. She grew up in a log house as the middle child of a farm family of 15. She later had 11 children of her own and spent the majority of her life cooking, gardening, doing the laundry, and raising children.

But instead of retiring to a rocking chair after a long life of work, Grandma Gatewood took up distance hiking. At the age of 67 she became the first woman to walk the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail consecutively in one season. She hiked the entire distance alone, covering an average of 13 miles per day in slow gait, for 146 days. The year was 1954 and Grandma Gatewood was just getting started.

In 1956 she hiked the Appalachian Trail from one end to the other again. She later tackled long stretches of the trail in 1957, 1958, 1960 and in 1963. Rapidly she became well known to many of the residents along the route, a legend among hikers. Everyone knew her and spoke of her as “Grandma.”

Grandma’s hiking equipment and techniques were as unique as she was. She shunned conventional hiking gear and chose instead sneakers and a denim sack, which contained her trailside essentials. In it she carried such things as a sweater, jacket, needle and thread, a Swiss Army knife, flashlight, first-aid supplies, a spoon, and soap and towel.

She carried simple lightweight foodstuffs — cheese, dried meat, bouillon cubes, powdered milk, raisins, nuts or crackers. These were the mainstay of her diet while on the trail.

At night she slept in trailside lean-tos, under a tree, in a barn or in a home near the trail.

Grandma Gatewood died in 1973 at the age of 85, but not before she had hiked all of the famous eastern trails and several paths out West.

Some of her relatives, friends and amateur hikers from across Ohio will be on hand for a special dedication ceremony of the newly cut Grandma Gatewood Trail on the Bob Evans Farm at 1 p.m., July 9. Two other hiking trails on the farm are the Adamsville Trail, named after the now defunct Gallia County Village, and the Nehemiah Wood Trail, the namesake of an early settlers on the farm.

These crisscross a challenging bridal trail…

(From the Gallipolis Daily Tribune, July 22, 1977)

Excerts from: ‘Grandma Gatewood – a most remarkable woman’

Several weeks ago the Grandma Gatewood Hiking Trail was dedicated at Bob Evans Farms. Its opening climaxed the career of a most remarkable woman – Emma Rowena Caldwell who was born on Raccoon Creek on October 25, 1887.

In today’s era of cushion comfort hiking and back packing trends pushing all modern equipment, Grandma Gatewood stands out as a unique sportsperson. She preferred to exist within nature and respected its laws and code of living. One hiker recalls Grandma Gatewood, “Her technique for daily hikes was to wear a raincoat and carry in the pockets some raisins and nuts and maybe some dried oatmeal. She’d chew on that. She didn’t cook anything. She did carry water in a little plastic bottle.”

Her family takes pride in the fact that she combined both her strong sense of family with her love for hiking. Her daughter Lucy recalls, “My mother seemed to accept that there were certain things which were a woman’s responsibility, which were part of a woman’s role. She seemed to feel that a woman should not let anything interfere with fulfilling her destiny.”

And what a destiny Emma Gatewood had. She hiked on the Appalachian Trail by making progress of about twelve miles a day, and became the first woman to walk the 2,000 mile trail in one season.

As the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of visitors and hikers who come to Bob Evans Farms and walk the Grandma Gatewood Trail, they will go away with a feeling of betterment which was part of the legacy which Emma Gatewood left behind.

(From the Sunday Times-Sentinel, May 30, 1993, story by Kevin Pinson)

Excerpts from: Grandma Gatewood: Gallia County’s Queen of the Trails

Inspired by a National Geo­graphic article about the (Appalachian) trail, Grandma started her ill-fated first hike in July 1954. After about 14 miles, she took a wrong turn on the trail and became lost for three days.

Hungry, wet and tired — and wearing broken glasses repaired with a Band-Aid — Grandma final­ly happened upon a group of Maine Forest Service wardens who were part of the search team trying to find her. She was promptly put on a bus and sent back to her home…

The following May, Grandma tried again – this time successfully.

Without telling anyone where she was going, Grandma Gatewood traveled to Georgia and started the Appalachian Trail on its Southern end. She hiked about 800 miles before anyone learned what she was up to.

The trail follows a rugged route of ridges through some wild parts of the U.S.’s eastern mountain chain. Grandma often scaled large rocks, walked along narrow ridges and even waded cold mountain streams.

Her footwear of choice was Keds sneakers. Grandma wore out five pairs on her first trip — the average pair lasted 400 to 500 miles.

The terrain was not the only challenge Grandma had to contend with. Native residents of the trail also approached her from time to tune.

Mice often pulled out strands of her hair as she slept — apparently to line their nests. These little pests were not a problem for Grandma, however.

“They won’t bother you if you don’t roll over on them,” she once told a reporter.

Other larger problems included rattlesnakes, a black bear which faced her down on the path and a bobcat interested in her sardine dinner.

Grandma said she just scared off these critters by proving she was meaner than they were. The snakes were shooed out of her path. She gave the bear her “best holler” and told the bobcat, “If you come too dose, I’ll crack you.”

On September 25, 1955, Grand­ma Gatewood climbed the final obstacle. Mt. Katahdin, signed the register book and sang a verse of “America the Beautiful.”

Almost a year and a half later, she hiked the trail again, becoming the first person to ever hike it twice. She completed the trail a third time in 1964, after hiking it in segments over a 10-year span.

Other accomplishments included hiking 2,000 miles of highway from Independence, Missouri to Portland, Oregon in 1959, climbing six of the highest mountains in the Adirondacks of New York and the Long Trail in Vermont.

“I’ve always done a lot of walking in the woods,” she once told a reporter from Columbus. “The stillness and quiet of the forests has always seemed so wonderful and I like the peacefulness where I can hear the birds and look at the plants. I guess I just walked out the hills down around Gallipolis.”

© 2021 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.

The Gatewood Trail System offers nearly 15 miles of trails in Rio Grande, Ohio and is named after Gallia’s Emma (Grandma) Rowena Gatewood, a famed hiker. Gatewood Trail System offers nearly 15 miles of trails in Rio Grande, Ohio and is named after Gallia’s Emma (Grandma) Rowena Gatewood, a famed hiker. Beth Sergent | OVP
Gallia’s true trailblazer

Staff Report