What drove you, Grandma Gatewood,
to start hiking at age 67, in 1955?
Step by solo step you logged 800 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
Not stopping there, you hiked it twice more
and then followed the footsteps
of pioneer ancestors, Missouri to Oregon, 22 miles a day.
An ambassador, you’re called, for trail preservation.
Was that your intention? Or artifact of action?
But back to that incredible step of independence, perhaps a rebellion?
Your family thought you were out for an afternoon walk. That first step led to many,
Led all the way to Mount Katahdin; once there you sang “America, the Beautiful,”
saying “I said I would do it. And I did.”
Are you sure you didn’t sing the “Star-Spangled Banner”?
This brief of your journey lists the items you packed:
No magical ten, no expensive equipment,
no ma’am. As the story goes,
you started your hike with your feet in Ked sneakers.
Mother of 11,
plus 23 grandkids,
you knew what to carry, and
what to leave behind.
Armed with raincoat, shower curtain, a single change of clothes,
assorted dried foods
(you knew how to forage),
all wrapped in your blanket
(Army standard, I hear),
swinging from your shoulder, you set out on your journey,
a trail-hiking hobo, no crossing guards or conductors, no ticket takers, no sandwich sellers, no fold-down beds, padded chairs or pillows.
Just you, twigs and leaves crunching beneath your feet.
Gentle shush of the wind, tender breeze caressing cheek?
Silence broken only by birdsong, and now and again
your voice raised in song, keeping time to your walking.
What did you find at the end of that journey?
What peace? What strength? What courage to return?
And then hit the trail, again and again?