Monday, July 22, 2019 Elyria 72°


Movie tells tale of granny that tamed the Appalachian Trail

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    Emma Gatewood shops for shoes. Gatewood memorably wore a pair of Keds when she hiked the Appalachian Trail at the age of 67.


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    Emma Gatewood.



This time of the year thousands of ambitious hikers head to Georgia in hopes of hiking the entire 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail (AT) northbound to Maine. The mission takes five to seven months to complete and statistics show only one out of four will finish it.

Very few people have the luxury or desire to take that amount of time off work or step away from life to complete the long challenge.

Sections of the AT throughout the Mid-South and East Coast can be hiked by taking only a few days away.

Some of the more popular sections of the AT that Clevelanders visit are Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and some sections of Eastern Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Going hiking doesn’t have to be some type of extreme sport that costs a fortune. Last weekend, I went to a screening of a short, locally produced documentary called “Trail Magic.”

The film was about Emma “Grandma” Gatewood from Southeast Ohio who became the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail solo and in one session. She accomplished this feat at age 67 and proceeded to hike the trail two more times.

But the most impressive part isn’t her age, it was how she completed the hike with the gear she had. She wore Keds shoes and equipped herself with an army blanket, plastic shower curtain and a raincoat. She also had a duffel bag she carried over her shoulder.

Certainly it is important to be well-equipped for a hike, but going somewhere with just the necessities and making the most of what you have is just as important.

Sponsored by the Cleveland Metroparks and Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), the movie was very well-done and heavily attended.

The showing was at Baldwin Wallace University and the proceeds went toward the Metroparks Outdoor Recreation Fund. This new fund is aimed at helping grow the outdoor recreation culture in Northeast Ohio through enhancing facilities, advancing opportunities for park users and promoting public access to trails and other areas people can enjoy the outdoors.

When it comes to hiking, we don’t all have to hike the AT to be accomplished hikers. There are plenty of trails throughout Northeast Ohio that can provide great hikes with minimal gear. Our parks and reservations all have plenty of trails to get out and enjoy for hikers of all skill levels.

Findley State Park (located off Route 58 south of Wellington) along with the Metro Parks offer tons of trails and public access.

If you are looking to adventure out, Cuyahoga Valley National Park has many outdoor recreational opportunities that can be turned into a nearby day trip.

This is the rainy season, so bring a rain jacket and equip yourself for muddy trails. I know I mentioned you can hike without breaking the bank and having minimal gear, but being wet, soggy and uncomfortable during a hike isn’t fun.

It was inspiring and eye-opening to hear the story of Grandma Gatewood. As someone like myself who spent a number of years living less than 10 minutes from the AT in Virginia, I know what great hikes the trail can provide.

But for those of us who may not be able to travel there, a Northeast Ohio hike can provide the same calm, peaceful and scenic benefits.

Contact Brad Zahar at

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