Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Thermes

Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail
I fell in love with Jennifer Thermes's work when I was fortunate enough to read and review her book on a person I find infinitely fascinating - Charles Darwin. Charles Darwin's Around the World Adventure is magnificently illustrated and also wrote is the perfect introduction to the man and his explorations and discoveries in the natural world. Thermes's talent for bringing nature to the page (and often large swaths of it) and creating engaging maps is again on display in Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail.
After reading that no woman had ever hiked the entire Appalachian Trail (and that it was easy), Emma Gatewood, mother of eleven grown children, decided to hike the 2,190 mile long trail that passes through fourteen states. At the age of sixty-seven. In 1955. In canvas sneakers and with a homemade pack. Thermes takes readers on the trail with Emma, who, as she hiked and came to public attention, came to be known as "Grandma" Gatewood. Detailing the ups and downs (the kindness of folks along the way who offered her food and shelter, to snakes, bears, rain and rough terrain that caused minor injuries) of her adventure, Thermes wraps up her book with Emma Gatewood, wearing all the clothes she brought with her, including a coat left on the trail, her fifth and final pair of canvas sneakers in tatters, her eyeglasses cracked from a fall, climbing to Mt. Katahdin in the bitter cold to the end of the trail in Maine, where she sings a verse from "America the Beautiful" as loud as she could. The final sentences tell readers that Emma hiked the trail again, from start to finish, two years later and ends with a quote from Emma explaining this decision, "I wanted to see some of the things I missed the first time." 

Superb back matter gives readers more details about the life of Emma Gatewood, as well as the history of the Appalachian Trail and lists sources. The final endpapers are a timeline of Gatewood's life, the history of the trail and important American dates in history, like the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote (when Emma was thirty-three!), the creation of the National Park Service in 1916, and the Great Depression and World War II.


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