Emma Gatewood took on the Appalachian Trail in 1955 with Keds sneakers and a duffle bag thrown over her shoulder.
By the time she finished it, 146 days after she started her hike, she was a national phenomenon. Gatewood wasn’t only the first woman to finish the hike solo — she did it at 67 years old.
With “Grandma Gatewood” in mind, the Tidewater Appalachian Trail Club (TATC) will celebrate Family Hiking Day Saturday at the Noland Trail followed by a screening of the documentary of Gatewood, “Trail Magic.”
The TATC is a Hampton Roads-based group whose purpose is to give people exposure to the outdoors and maintain a 10-plus mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail.
And since the trail is about three and half hours from Hampton Roads, the TATC will host a hike at Noland Trail. “We’re bringing the spirit of the Appalachian Trail here,” said TATC board member Bill Leber.
Leber is a longtime hiker and found out about the club after volunteering to help with trail maintenance at Gloucester’s Beaverdam Park.
“I knew the Appalachian Trail from when I grew up but I never knew a trail group was here,” Leber said.
The TATC is one of 31 trail groups for the 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Eight of those groups are in Virginia.
With TATC being the farthest away from the trail of the Virginia groups, it means upkeep must be well planned out.
“The Roanoke section, they have people that live right where the parking lot for the section starts, so if there’s a problem,” Leber said, there’s someone there to manage it.
If a problem occurs, like a fallen tree, the TATC will send out an email blast to ask if any of the 100 or so members who are heading up to the mountains.
Regular trail maintenance is scheduled for twice a year. It involves members walking the 10-mile stretch and marking down what work needs to be done like cleaning up vegetation, checking on stonework and cleaning the two shelters within its portion.
“You basically time your evenings to reach a shelter before it gets dark,” Leber said.
Because TATC is so far from their base of operation, they contribute as volunteers for many of the trails in the Hampton Roads area, including the Noland Trail.
Volunteers are necessary to the Noland Trail’s success, as there is only a single staff person of the Mariners’ Museum devoted to the trail, according to park operations manager Dave Kennedy.
“Priorities are established from discussions with the park operations manager and Noland Trail technician at the end of each week for the next week of service work,” Kennedy said via email. “Whenever possible, volunteer individuals or groups are inserted into the maintenance plan.”
On family hiking day, participants can choose between three-mile hikes, or shorter loops.
Geocaching, an activity in which participants use a GPS or mobile device to hide and seek containers, is available at the trail.
Peter Huston, the director and co-producer of “Trail Magic,” will introduce the documentary before it’s showing Saturday.
The film was released in 2015, about seven years after Huston first heard the story. He heard the story when Lucy Seeds, Gatewood’s youngest daughter, wanted to pass along her mother’s diaries and journals.
Seeds connected with Bette Lou Higgins, the film’s producer and a professional storyteller who focuses on important women in Ohio, where Gatewood lived. After hearing from Seeds, Higgins contacted Hurston.
The story captured Huston’s interest.
“She wasn’t a hiker but she walked every day. She never had a driver license,” Hurston said. “At 67, to think you can go and take on the Appalachian Trail was a pretty bold idea.”
Gatewood tackled the trail so late in life because other obstacles were in the way. She raised 11 children with a husband who beat her. Once the last child left the home, Gatewood was able to divorce him after 32 years of marriage.
With abuse being such an integral theme in Gatewood’s life, Huston and the other producers have taken the documentary to domestic violence shelters to share her story.
“She stood with the marriage because she was worried about the children,” Huston said. “In the 1930s and 1940s divorce wasn’t something available to a woman, certainly not to the abused. When she did finally get a divorce, that was a big, big move.”
Gatewood read about how no woman had completed the entire trail in an issue of National Geographic. She decided to change that.
After one failed attempt, the Ohio resident attempted to tackle the trail once again, in 1955.
“Back at that point it was men wearing heavy boots and old pants and wood-framed backpacks that weighed 60 pounds,” Huston said. “Here’s this older lady walking down the trail in high tops with a bag over her shoulders. It captured people’s imagination.”
Gatewood had a background in herbal medicine and was well versed what plants were edible. On top of that, she had no problem asking for stranger’s help.
“In 1955, hospitality was a lot different. You could knock on somebody’s door and they would feed you and let you in,” Huston said. “She didn’t have any problem going to a house or a cabin along the trail if she was hungry or needed shelter.”
Gatewood would complete the hike two more times: in 1960 and again in 1963.
A book detailing Gatewood’s story was completed in 2014, “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail,” by Ben Montgomery.
“Been a filmmaker for 30 some odd years and this has been the one story that’s taken on a life of its own,” Huston said.
Black can be reached by phone at 757-247-4607.
Family Hike Day activities
Noland Trail Hike
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join the Tidewater Appalachian Trail club on its hike.
When: 12:45 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Mariners’ Museum, 100 Museum Drive, Newport News.
‘Trail Magic’ screening
Newport News: 4 p.m. Saturday in room 1022 at Christopher Newport University’s Forbes Academic Building.
Norfolk: 5 p.m. Sunday in room 1012 at Old Dominion University‘s Batten Arts and Letters Building.
On Sept 3rd 7:30 pm we will be presenting “Trail Magic” at the Appalachian Mountain Club AMC Highland Center, New Hampshire in conjunction with the Bartlett Historical Society. This event is free and open to the public!
The program is taking place in the Washburn Room in Thayer Hall, at AMC’s Highland Center.
For more information contact Sara DeLucia, Program Manager
Appalachian Mountain Club 603-278-3827
Today, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, President Obama designated the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument encompassing awe-inspiring mountains, forests, and waters of north-central Maine. Building on the Administration’s commitment to protecting our land, water and wildlife for future generations, this designation will permanently protect significant natural, scientific, and historic and cultural resources, wildlife habitat, and one of the most pristine watersheds in the northeast, ensuring that present and future generations are able to enjoy these lands.
The new national monument – which will be managed by the National Park Service – will protect approximately 87,500 acres, including the stunning East Branch of the Penobscot River and a portion of the Maine Woods that is rich in biodiversity and known for its outstanding opportunities to hike, canoe, hunt, fish, snowmobile, snowshoe and cross-country ski. In addition to protecting spectacular geology, significant biodiversity and recreational opportunities, the new monument will help support climate resiliency in the region. The protected area – together with the neighboring Baxter State Park to the west – will ensure that this large landscape remains intact, bolstering the forest’s resilience against the impacts of climate change.
Following years of support from many local and state elected officials, tribal leaders, businesses and members of the public across the state, this designation will build on the robust tradition of growing the park system through private philanthropy, and will reinforce the need to continue protecting our great outdoors as we enter the second century of the National Park Service. The land has been donated to the Federal Government by philanthropist Roxanne Quimby’s foundation, Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., facilitated by the National Park Foundation as part of its Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks. In addition to the donation of the land, the approximately $100 million gift includes $20 million to supplement federal funds for initial park operational needs and infrastructure development at the new monument, and a pledge of another $20 million in future philanthropic support.
Studies have shown that every dollar we invest in our national parks generates $10 for the national economy, most of which stays in the local communities, and our national parks, forests and other public lands attract visitors from all over the world, fueling local economies and supporting an estimated $646 billion national outdoor economy. Maine’s biggest national park, Acadia, which began as a national monument designated in 1916 by President Wilson with lands donated to the Federal Government, was the nation’s ninth most visited national park last year. In 2015, Acadia National Park attracted close to 3 million visitors, who spent an estimated $247.9 million in local communities. In addition to continuing to support traditional recreational activities such as snowmobiling and hunting, the new national monument will increase public access, help generate local and regional economic activity, and complement additional economic development efforts in the region.
It’s been a busy year so far and there’s LOTS of news to share! The first half of the year was truly a “trip” for us as we travelled all over the place introducing Emma to new audiences from Vermont to Florida. As of this writing, more than 1,800 people have heard Grandma’s tale in six months! Be sure to check our calendar on page 3 for upcoming presentations of all our programs. Of course, the BIG excitement was the PBS premier of TRAIL MAGIC on WOUB/PBS in Athens, Ohio on June 14th! A Big Thank You to Mark Brewer, Loring Lovett and ALL the WOUB staff who made this special event possible. Final steps are being taken to make the film ready for general PBS distribution.
If you’re interested in having this documentary shown on your local station, give them a call and request it.
Contact your local PBS station by August 19th and request recording the show and/or an air date. The link http://netaonline.org/ourmembers.htm lists all stations who are NETA members, and their call letters on that webpage link to those stations, so you should should be able to find your station contact information.
So, what happens next? Well, getting to our “Mt. Katahdin” on this Trail means finalizing ways to get Emma’s story out and finding support to do that (Yes, that’s where YOU come in!). There is a special description of all this on page 2 and I hope that you will find your way to join me on this last part of the journey in one way or another. On a personal note, it’s been a wonderful trip walking in Emma’s shoes (at least metaphorically if not physically). I truly admire her survivorship skills and stamina and I know that Peter, Kelly, Anne and the rest of our group who have worked to produce these tributes to her feel the same way. I hope that her story continues to inspire all who come in contact with our projects. Thank you to everyone who helped us along the trail!
We are now launching a fundraising drive to make Grandma Gatewood’s story more accessible to groups and individuals. Emma’s story has a wide appeal and presentations of the storytelling program, play and film have been held in many venues since each of these programs premiered and have been seen by more than 4,000 people! Now our goal is to raise a modest $5,000 in order to:
1. Pay for closed captioning the documentary for PBS.
2. Provide funds for packaging and mailing the DVD. 3
3. Support staff time to research venues, contact and schedule events, design marketing materials and promote all of the Grandma Gatewood programs.
4. Fund duplication of the TRAIL MAGIC DVD that will provide a renewable revenue resource for the Grandma Gatewood project. We welcome any contribution you can give to keep us on our trail. Every dollar will get us closer to our goal of $5,000. Your donation will be appreciated and is tax-deductible since Eden Valley Enterprises is a not-for-profit corporation.
A form is below or you may donate on-line with a credit card at http://tinyurl.com/gegdonate. OH — did I mention we have some special thank you gifts for your help? We are also in need of volunteers to help spread the word about this program. If you are able to volunteer some time to help with any type of marketing including social media posting and researching/contacting presentation venues, libraries and resellers of our DVD, please send us an e-mail at email@example.com
Be sure to check our website to find out how your purchases at Amazon and GoodShop/GoodSearch can also help us! Thanks for all your support.
Can you help? Yes! I want to help get Grandma Gatewood’s story out and my tax-deductible gift is enclosed!
Thru-Hiker ($250+) $________ (receive a free copy of the DVD, TRAIL MAGIC: THE GRANDMA GATEWOOD STORY, and a copy of the e-book, GRANDMA GATEWOOD: OHIO’S LEGENDARY HIKER)
Section Hiker ($100 +) $________ (receive a free copy of the DVD of the storytelling program, GRANDMA GATEWOOD: OHIO’S LEGENDARY HIKER, and the companion e-book)
Weekender ($50 +) $________ (receive a free copy of the e-book, GRANDMA GATEWOOD: OHIO’S LEGENDARY HIKER)
Hiker’s Friend ($25+) $________
Other $ ______
NAME:____________________________________________________________ADDRESS:__________________________________________________________CITY: ____________________________ STATE: ____ ZIP: ____________
Mail this form with your check made payable to EDEN VALLEY ENTERPRISES to: EDEN VALLEY ENTERPRISES | 1250 EAST RIVER ST | ELYRIA, OHIO 44035. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
It has been just a little over a year since we had our premier showing of “Trail Magic, The Grandma Gatewood Story” at True North Cultural Arts Center in Sheffield Village, Ohio. Then as summer was begining to fade, we had the very first showing of our film Labor Day weekend for hikers in Pinkham Notch, NH at the Joe Dodge Lodge adjacent to the Appalachian Trail.
Thanks to the Appalachian Mountain Club, we had the distinct privilege to present “Trail Magic” and Emma Gatewood’s courageous story for the first time near the Appalachian Trail. That night we shared “Trail Magic” with 40+ determined hikers on the way to completing their own thru hike at Mount Katahdin, Maine.
In just a few weeks (Sept 3rd, 7:30pm) we return to New Hampshire, invited by the Appalachian Mountain Club and Bartlett Historical Society, to present Emma’s story again at AMC Highland Center Lodge at Crawford Notch. We hope you will join us.
Bette Lou and I want to thank all the wonderful hosts and amazing people we have met this past year as we shared Emma Gatewood’s story from Alabama to Vermont, Tennessee to Florida. The trail continues now that “Trail Magic” has been aired on WOUB Public Media (Athens Ohio). Distribution of “Trail Magic” is done through “NETA”, the National Educational Television Association. Every PBS station has the opportunity to share “Trail Magic” but we need your help to contact the local PBS station near you and request “Trail Magic”. Join us as we continue to share Emma’s inspiring story!
TRAIL MAGIC BROADCAST PREMIER
Thursday June 14th is the premier of “Trail Magic, the Grandma Gatewood Story” on WOUB, the tag line is simply “WOUB Public Media.”
WOUB has a large and unique footprint – so we’ve attached a few maps that hopefully will make things clear. The first one (Analog TV coverage) is also the WOUB digital broadcast coverage map. Almost everyplace within the circles can pick WOUB up via broadcast or cable.
Thanks to everyone who made this important historic marker for Emma Gatewood possible! What an exciting year for Emma Gatewood, with Ben Montgomery’s book “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk” and the “Trail Magic” documentary which debuts on WOUB Public Media Athens Ohio on June 14th at 9pm!
“Trail Magic, the Grandma Gatewood Story” will have it’s PBS premiere on WOUB Public Media, Athens Ohio June 14th at 9pm. WOUB reaches much of the south eastern portion of Ohio and West Virginia, Emma’s “back yard”!
Mark your calendar!
TUESDAY, JUNE 14, 2016 9 P.M. WOUB Public Media will broadcast
TRAIL MAGIC: THE GRANDMA GATEWOOD STORY!
We are excited that our documentary has made it to the “little screen” (which is big for us!) and thank the staff at WOUB for making this possible, especially Mark Brewer, Chief Operating Officer, and Loring Lovett, Corporate Support Representative.
Stay tuned for futher developements with other PBS channels and check our calendar regularly for where you can see any of our Grandma Gatewood programs.
If you’d like a presentation of this or any of our programs for your group, let us know by responding to this e-mail. We’d love to bring a show to you!
Come hear Foster Brown perform some of the music from TRAIL MAGIC before the documentary is shown this Saturday, April 23, 2016 at 6:30 p.m. at First Congregational UCC; 330 Second St.; Elyria, Ohio. The film will start after the concert at 7 p.m. followed by a Q & A with Foster, writer Kelly Boyer Sagert and producer, Bette Lou Higgins. Tickets are $5.00. For more information, call 440-323-5454.