First Woman Hiker
A great hiker in the history of the Appalachian Trail is Emma Gatewood. When she started her thru-hike no woman (and only five men) had ever completed the journey. It was 1955, and Emma was a 67-year-old grandmother of 23. After the victorious trek Emma earned herself the nickname “Grandma Gatewood.” She hiked the trail in Keds sneakers and often carried just an army blanket, a raincoat, and a plastic shower curtain that she used as a bag (talk about ultra-light). This incredible woman and outstanding hiker was a farmer’s wife who had eleven children and 24 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild living at the time of her death at 85 (June 4, 1973).
I have found a statement that a 6-year-old boy completed a flip-flop thru-hike with his parents in 1980. And another 6-year-old boy completed a flip-flop thru-hike with his parents and 8-year-old sister in 2002. Neither boy is named so it is difficult to collaborate these claims but they are recorded on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website.
This year, as we “speak,” Neva Warren is on the trail attempting to complete her thru-hike. And at age 15, she is hoping to become the youngest solo thru-hiker to finish the Appalachian Trail. Her parents are following close by along the roadways, but Neva is hiking the trail by herself, supported by the normal hiking community.
Oldest Woman Thu-Hiker
Nancy “Magellan” Gowler become the oldest female thru-hiker in 2007 at age 71 when she completed her second thru-hike. Barbara “Mamaw B” Allen tied Nancy as the oldest female thru-hiker when she completed her thru-hike, also at 71 years old, in 2012. If I were Barbara I might have been tempted to slow my pace down, or skip a mile or so in Virginia and then return to finish the hike when I turned 72. But then again, everyone needs to HYOH (Hike Your Own Hike).
The Blind Thru-Hiker
Mike Hanson began his thru-hike on March 6, 2010. His successful adventure took 7 months. Mike was 45-years-old when he made the trek. None of this sounds that unusual or special until you know that Mike is completely blind. Hanson spent years testing a special GPS receiver that would guide him along the trail to campsites and water sources. Learn more about his journey at blindhiker.com.
Still to Come: the above the knee-amputee hiker, the faster hikers, and others.