November 19 2014
Written By
Josey Orr
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Badass People: Grandma Gatewood and the Appalachian Trail

Badass People is a series dedicated to people we think are awesome and inspiring. 

The funny thing about this story is that I heard it a few weeks ago in a bar. A young lady was telling my friend and I about her dream to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. At some point, she asked us if we had ever heard about Grandma Gatewood, to which we replied that we had never heard of her. Before I continue to tell you this badass story, let me tell explain a bit about the Appalachian Trail so the story carries more depth and weight.The Appalachian Trail is the real deal. It ain’t easy and it takes a really long time to complete. The trail is 2,168.1 miles long and goes through fourteen states. The trail runs from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine. However, the direction in which a person hikes is completely up to them. It’s important to note that the Appalachian Trail is a true mountain path that contains elevation gains at different points throughout the hike. It also takes the average thru-hiker 5-7 months to finish.Now, back to Grandma, one of the most badass people of all time. Ms. Gatewood thru-hiked this goddamned trail in 1955 at the ripe young age of 67. Let me make it abundantly clear that she didn’t have a bunch of technical gear with here either. In a homemade bag she carried an army blanket, a raincoat, a shower curtain, and on her feet she had some great hiking shoes. Just kidding, she was wearing Keds. Thus, making her a pioneer of Ultralight Backpacking.

To hike the Appalachian even once is a hell of a feat. Grandma Gatewood ended up hiking the entirety of the trail not once, not twice, but three times in her life. She was 67, 72, and 75 years old.

Three years before she died, she was visiting Appalachian Outfitters in Virginia and while there she was asked her opinion about the latest hiking gear. She replied: "Make a rain cape, and an over the shoulder sling bag, and buy a sturdy pair of Keds tennis shoes. Stop at local groceries and pick up Vienna sausages... most everything else to eat you can find beside the trail... and by the way those wild onions are not called "Ramps"... they are "Rampians" ... a ramp is an inclined plane."

Next time you’re feeling lazy, just remember Grandma Gatewood.


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