A friend loaned me a book, Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery.
In 1955, sixty-seven year old Emma Gatewood told her family that she was going for a walk. Little did they know. Having read an article about the Appalachian Trail in National Geographic a few years before, Emma determined that this was something she wanted to do, had to do. One spring day, she donned her tennis shoes, hefted a bag that could carry up to 25 pounds of supplies and set off with a big dose of determination. She tried to accomplish this under the radar of the media. Within a month, she was discovered and the media met her at different little towns along the trail to check her progress. After completing the walk, she appeared on the Groucho Marx show. So noted in the clip below.
Do you wonder what makes someone want to walk the Appalachian Trail, climb a mountain peak, swim the English Channel or go to the moon? I’m guessing that anyone who attempts these sorts of challenges, might not even know exactly what the deep prompt was/is. Emma Gatewood was compelled to walk the Appalachian Trail. She wasn’t outfitted with the latest hiking gear and modern technology (i.e. no cell phone). She wouldn’t be deterred even when she sprained her knee, when the trail became steep and rocky, when the weather was harsh or when people along the way weren’t hospitable. She persisted.
In the context of Emma’s journey, the author noted Thoreau’s premonition that a time would come when people would walk less. And so it is. With the invention and widespread ownership of automobiles, people walk less, to our detriment.
The pandemic has brought many things to a halt. In most places, we can get out and walk…yes, socially distant, wearing a mask when approaching others and respectful.
I hope that you have a love of walking as I do. It is one thing that I can do to maintain balance over these uncertain times. Rumi has a good suggestion:
“Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances.
That’s not for human beings…”
Stay safe and healthy.