“Trail Magic” documentary Premiers May 29th

28 Feb

Grandma Gatewood documentary premiers May 29

Posted by Dave Tabler | February 27, 2015

bettePlease welcome guest author Bette Lou Higgins. Higgins is a founder and current Artistic Director of Eden Valley Enterprises, where she helps spread the “Ohio Gospel” through an assortment of living history programs. These programs, designed to make the history of Ohio meaningful and alive for adults and children of all ages, have been created for such Ohio organizations as the Steamship William G. Mather Museum, Western Reserve Historical Society, The Tuscarawas Historical Society and the Great Lakes Historical Society.

When I first wrote about Eden Valley’s Grandma Gatewood project for Appalachian History in 2013, we were at the half-way point of our trail to tell her life story. Essentially it was the equivalent of hiking from Georgia to the AT museum in Gardner’s, PA. Unlike hikers who reach that point, we didn’t know we were half-way there!

Anne McEvoy as Emma (filming session July, 2014)

To read Bette Lou’s full progress report for the Appalachian History blog posted  2/27/15 — check it out at http://www.appalachianhistory.net/

“A Walk in the Woods” premiers at Sundance

18 Feb

Last Friday was the premier of “Walk in the Woods” starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte based on Bill Bryson’s book. Here are some of the reviews:

Daniel Fienberg, Hitfix:

“Surely there’s an audience out there in the world for ‘Grumpy Old Outdoorsmen,’ even if Robert Redford & Nick Nolte are no Matthau & Lemmon. But there’s absolutely no way to shake the certainty that were one of its stars not the Founder & Grand Poobah of The Festival, Sundance never would have glanced in the direction of a film as mediocre as ‘A Walk in the Woods.'”

Brian Moylan, The Guardian:
“Most of these episodes are far too low-stakes to carry a movie and the bigger picture, about two men past their prime trying to figure out what to do in their dotage, is handled far too simply to have real impact. The result is something that is just fine. It’s pleasant enough to watch, but by no means riveting or revolutionary.”

Dennis Harvey, Variety:
“There’s light diversion but little substance in this tale of two grumpy old men making a predictable hash of their effort to hike the Appalachian Trail. The appeal of the cast names and the equally venerable scenic vistas should lure older audiences, though whether they’ll get out to theaters or wait for home-format delivery is an open question.”

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter:
“Rather like a fun, geriatric version of ‘Wild,’ this long-aborning film version of Bill Bryson’s enormously genial 1998 book ‘A Walk in the Woods’ is a jolly good time, sparking dozens of chuckles and a few strong laughs. Nothing special cinematically, it still provides a welcome showcase for wonderful star turns by Robert Redford, who also produced, and Nick Nolte.”cdn.indiewire

Thank you Diana Reese and actress Mariska Hargitay for sharing Emma’s story

10 Jan

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Washington Post blog writer Diana Reese features Grandma Gatewood Story

5 Jan

Diana Reese is a writer and blogger for the Washington Post and contributor to “She the People”. She just posted a great article about Grandma Gatewood that you should read.

By Diana Reese January 5 at 2:12 PM
She The People

Grandma Gatewood survived domestic violence to walk the Appalachian Trail alone at 67

Even now, six decades later, Emma Gatewood’s story still resonates.

Grandma Gatewood, as she became known, was the first woman to hike the entire 2,050 miles of the Appalachian Trail by herself in 1955. She was 67 years old at the time, a mother of 11 and grandmother of 23. She’d survived more than 30 years of marriage to a brutal husband who beat her repeatedly.

Gatewood hiked the trail carrying a homemade knapsack and wearing ordinary sneakers — she wore out six pairs of them in 146 days from May to September. She brought a blanket and a plastic shower curtain to protect her from the elements, but she didn’t bother with a sleeping bag, a tent, a compass or even a map, instead relying on the hospitality of strangers along the way and her own independent resourcefulness. She’d sleep in a front porch swing, under a picnic table or on a bed of leaves when necessary, and she ate canned Vienna sausages, raisins and peanuts plus greens she found on the trail and meals offered by strangers.

To get the rest of the story click on the link


“Trail Magic” to be presented by Wandering Aesthetics at Balch Street Theatre

20 Nov

From Knight Arts,Published on November 19, 2014 by Roger Durbin in Akron, Theater


Wandering Aesthetics co-founders Kyle Jozsa and Benjamin Rexroad are taking some personal experience and expanding on it by collaborating with local artists and groups in order to bring a new play, “Magic Trail,” to the Balch Street Theatre.

Jozsa and Rexroad went on the 2,186 mile hike along the Appalachian Trail last year. Jozsa turned that experience into a series of solo performances under the title of Wandering Aesthetics’ “Mountain Cycle.” He related things that happened along the way.

Turns out, of course, that they weren’t the only ones to do that, or the only ones interested in turning someone’s experience into a theatrical performance. Eden Valley Enterprises took on the adventures of Emma Gatewood (affectionately known as Grandma Gatewood) – who was the first woman to walk the trail from Georgia to Maine, in 1955, solo and at the age of 67 years. She repeated the quest a few times more, finishing at age 83 in 1970.


Gatewood became well-known as one of the first ultra-light hikers (she wore only a pair of sneakers, while carrying an army blanket, a raincoat, and a piece of plastic for ground cover). She has been quoted as saying that you only need to buy some cans of Vienna sausage; the rest you can find in the wilderness. Pretty amazing.

Gatewood also helped establish the Buckeye Trail that runs through her native Ohio (and through the middle of Akron). She served as leader of the Buckeye Trail Association for several years.

Eden Valley Enterprises employed playwright Kelly Boyer Sagert and researcher Bette Lou Higgins (who both also live in Ohio) to put together Grandma Gatewood’s story.

Wandering Aesthetics is producing their play, “Trail Magic,” and performing it for only the second time in its two-year history. Jozsa will serve as director – the first time ever in this role for the actor. Priscilla Kaczuk will perform the role of Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, and Nici Romo will narrate the play.

In a telephone interview, Jozsa commented that Wandering Aesthetics is sticking to the text Sagert created, but they are modifying the presentation by having the narrator (a figure who bookends the narrative and who makes comments about Gatewood) be a magical trail angel. That way, he added, they can create, freeze-time scenes, as well as have the angel interact with Emma, thus creating more conflict to lend the drama some tension.

Wandering Aesthetics is developing a corollary project called “Boogers, Witches, and Haints” that feeds off the same kind of experience that they, like Gatewood, had along the extensive and often rural and wild route through the eastern half of the nation. That project will, according to Jozsa, be completed and performed in the spring.

Wandering Aesthetics was formerly called Heads Up Productions. Interestingly, the group used the basement of a local florist, Every Blooming Thing, for rehearsal space. Wandering Aesthetics, in conjunction with the Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture (CATAC), which regularly performs in the Balch Street Theatre, and with Ma’Sue Productions, another local group and an African American based theater company, hopes through cooperative efforts to make the Highland Square area of west Akron more active theatrically – to form a destination for small, independent groups that like to present new works. Wandering Aesthetics’ production in the Balch Street Theatre is a step in that effort.

After the final performance at the matinee on November 23, Wandering Aesthetics is hosting a reception (tickets are $10) to raise money for Eden Valley Enterprises in order to help them along with a current project to create a documentary film about Emma Gatewood.

Wandering Aesthetics will present “Trail Magic” November 21-23, at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, at the Balch Street Theatre, 220 S. Balch St., Akron; 330-990-5138. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online here: trailmagic.brownpapertickets.com.

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk-Wins Award

14 Nov
Grandma Gatewood's Walk by Ben Montgomery

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery

Ben Montgomery’s book about Grandma has just won the 2014 Outdoor Book Award — I think that means Emma won it , too! Read all about it at


Appalachian Trail tale tops 2014 Outdoor Book Awards


OUTDOOR READING — They call her Grandma Gatewood.  She carries an umbrella, wears a checked skirt, and she loves to hike.

In fact, she is the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail.  After her first 2,000-mile hike, she did it again, becoming the first person – man or woman – to hike it twice.  And then for good measure, she hiked it a third time.

Grandma Gatewood is the subject of a new book which is one of the award recipients of the 2014 National Outdoor Book Awards, announced today.

If you missed the “Trail Magic” play last summer…..

24 Oct

Join the folks from Wandering Aesthetics staging of “Trail Magic” and help us raise funds and awareness about our documentary on the courageous and amazing Emma “Grandma” Gatewood.

*November 21-23, 2014; TRAIL MAGIC, the story of Grandma Gatewood, at Wandering Aesthetics; on November 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. or on November 23 at 2 p.m. at The Balch Street Theatre, 220 S Balch St in Akron. After the Sunday Matinee performance stay for the Trail Angels Reception at 3:30 p.m. to help raise money for our PBS documentary about Emma.
$15.00 – Trail Magic
$10.00 – Trail Angels Reception
$20.00 – Both (Trail Magic & Reception)
(The $20 Ticket is good to ANY performance of Trail Magic)
For tickets and information about TRAIL MAGIC or the Trail Angels Reception, please call (330) 612-3090 or purchase tickets online!

Film on Appalachian Trail walking Grandma gets closer to completion- By Steve Fogarty, Chronicle Telegram

21 Oct


Thanks to Steve Fogarty of the Elyria Chronicle Telegram who wrote a nice follow up article about our TRAIL MAGIC documentary project. You can read it at: http://edenvalleyenterprises.org/progdesc/gatewood/prgrmcmmnts/fogartyect10172014.pdf

Puffin Foundation West Grant!

9 Oct

Puffin West_2sm

We are happy to announce that the Puffin Foundation West has awarded us a grant in support of our documentary about Grandma Gatewood! This gift will go towards the matching requirements from our Ohio History Fund grant and puts us at about the half way point of our goal of $10,000.

We have been working on filming the documentary over the past year and if you haven’t visited our Trail Magic Facebook page recently, please do. Director, Peter Huston has been posting updated from the shoots which I think you’ll enjoy seeing.

In other news, I hope you’ll plan to join us in Akron for TRAIL MAGIC at Wandering Aesthetics on Friday and Saturday, November 21 and 22,2014 at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, November 23, 2014 at 2 p.m. There’ll be three performances of this one-act play about Grandma along with a Trail Angels Reception Fundraiser on Sunday. Check our calendar page regularly for up-to-the-minute information.

Bette Lou Higgins
Artistic Director

34 Years

6 Oct

34 Years of marriage, and was Emma’s toughest hike. This short section of our documentary takes the viewer from Emma Gatewood’s courtship, through marriage and on to her divorce. A time period of nearly 34 years that included raising 11 children and enduring ongoing abuse from her husband Perry.Here is a link the newest segment from our project

34 Years

This documentary is supported in part through a grant from the Ohio Historical Society

Ohio History

Ohio History


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