In 1955, at the age of 67, Emma Rowena (Caldwell) Gatewood was the first solo female to hike the Appalachian Trail. In 1957 she hiked the trail again and then in 1964 at age 77, she hiked a section of the trail becoming the first person to hike the trail three times. In between her Appalachian Trail hikes, she also hiked 2,000 miles on the Oregon Trail.

Her hiking brought media attention to the Appalachian Trail, and she is credited for generating interest in maintaining the trail and encouraging hiking.

She survived a lot of trials during her life. She grew up in a poor family with formal education ending at 8th grade but a thirst for knowledge satisfied through reading encyclopedias, the Greek classics, and she taught herself about edible wild plants as well as those that could be used for medicinal purposes. She wrote stories and poetry.

At 19, she married. Her husband was a college-educated teacher and a tobacco farmer who expected her to work on the farm in addition to keeping the house and caring for their 11 children. She was a survivor of extensive domestic violence and would run to hide in the woods to avoid her husband’s rages. She eventually divorced her husband after receiving help from the town mayor. In a time where divorce was difficult, she was awarded the divorce and alimony as well as custody of the 3 children still at home.

She was reading a National Geographic magazine when she learned about the Appalachian Trail, and she decided that hiking it was something she could do. So, she set out in 1954 at age 66; however, that trip did not go well as she got lost, ran out of food, and broke her glasses. She did not tell anyone about her failure. She hiked the trail two more times.

What do we learn from Grandma Gatewood’s endeavors? That age is truly just a number. You or your loved one may not be able to hike the Appalachian Trail but the approach of our work as care managers is to help older adults live the best quality life that they can. The focus is on how we can help manage care and navigate healthcare in a way that lets them live their life to the fullest possible. If you have an aging loved one with care needs and you need a partner who can look at the situation and coordinate care to help them live a quality life, then please please give us a call at 803-215-1019 or email us at We bring our experience to the situation to help ease stress and reduce worry while finding the right level of care needed.