Still No Updates on Inchworm…but a Story About Grandma Gatewood

Walker called this morning to see if I knew anything. Unfortunately, I don’t, but we discussed several theories about what could have happened to Inchworm. He thinks it is very unlikely that she was eaten by a bear. He also does not think that she got lost; he said the trail in Maine has the best signage of any state. His fear is that she slipped off the trail Tuesday when it was so rainy, or that there is foul play.

An article I read online today said:
Every year, about 28 Appalachian Trail hikers get lost in Maine, said Lt. Kevin Adam of the Maine Warden Service.
But almost every time, they’re quickly found: 95 percent of the time, searchers find them in 12 hours. Within 24 hours, 98 percent of lost hikers are found.

That makes the case of Largay, 66, of Brentwood, Tenn., who had set out for Baxter State Park on the trail from Harpers Ferry, W.Va., an anomaly.

She text-messaged her husband last Sunday, saying she was atop Saddleback Mountain, near Rangeley. That night, she planned to stay at Poplar Ridge at a lean-to on the trail in Redington Township. Her last message to him Monday said she was headed north on the trail, according to the warden service.

But she never made a scheduled meeting with her husband, set for Tuesday in the parking lot near where the Appalachian Trail crosses Route 27 in Wyman Township.

After Poplar Ridge, Largay’s next stop would have been Spaulding Mountain in Mount Abram Township, a seven-mile hike, wardens say.

A hiker has reported seeing Largay — who went by the name “Inchworm” on the trail — between those two places, but it isn’t clear whether she made it to Spaulding Mountain, from where she should have headed north toward Sugarloaf and the crossing.

On day five of the search, Adam, running the search for Largay from a command post at Sugarloaf, a ski and golf resort in Carrabassett Valley, was worried.

“It is a mystifying search because we’ve done a lot of tactics that would normally produce results by now,” he said. “Why, all of a sudden, did she disappear?”

Adam said crews — in total, made up of 70 people — were searching an 18-mile area of trail between Route 4, near Rangeley, and Route 27 on Sunday.

The wardens have used “hasty searches” mostly, aimed at covering the most obvious places a lost person should be in the shortest amount of time possible, Adam said.

Sensing that we all need something uplifting, I did a little online search about a woman I’ve heard about called Grandma Gatewood. Emma Rowena Gatewood, better known as Grandma Gatewood (October 25, 1887–June 4, 1973), was an extreme hiker and ultra-light hiking pioneer who was the first woman to hike the 2,168-mile Appalachian Trail from Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine solo, and in one season.

A farmer’s wife who had eleven children, Gatewood hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1955 at the age of 67, wearing Keds sneakers and carrying an army blanket, a raincoat, and a plastic shower curtain which she carried in a homemade bag slung over one shoulder, thus making her a pioneer of ultralight backpacking. Local newspapers picked up on her story, leading to a profile in Sports Illustrated when she had reached Connecticut and an appearance on the Today Show.

She had read about the AT in a National Geographic Magazine. “I thought it would be a nice lark,” she said, adding “It wasn’t.” Another time she complained “For some fool reason, they always lead you right up over the biggest rock to the top of the biggest mountain they can find.”

She hiked it again in 1960 and then again at age 75 in 1963, making her the first person to hike the trail three times (though her final hike was completed in sections). She was also credited with being the oldest female thru-hiker by the Appalachian Trail Conference until 2007.

In 1970, at age 83, while visiting Appalachian Outfitters in Oakton, Virginia she was asked what she thought about the latest lightweight backpacking gear. Emma advised: “Make a rain cape, and an over the shoulder sling bag, and buy a sturdy pair of Keds tennis shoes. Stop at local groceries and pick up Vienna sausages… most everything else to eat you can find beside the trail… and by the way those wild onions are not called “Ramps”… they are “Rampians” … a ramp is an inclined plane.”
(from Wikipedia)

She sounds like an amazing woman, but what I find most interesting is that she walked the AT in Keds. I have not been able to find out if she wore the same pair the entire time, or had to replace them. I believe Walker is on his fourth pair of high-tech hiking shoes.

Go Grandma!


About The Man in My Shoes

Since retiring in 2012 I am enjoying the freedom of being able to make my own decisions about how I spend my time and am taking advantage of the opportunities that I have to spend more time with my family, explore, learn, and pursue my dreams and goals. I look forward to writing about these pursuits and hope you enjoy reading about them.
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2 Responses to Still No Updates on Inchworm…but a Story About Grandma Gatewood

  1. Interesting lady!! Thanks for story. Been praying for Inchworm. Hoping for good news. I looked at google earth and it is amazing topography. We have to trust the searchers are doing everything possible. Waiting has to be killing her family.

  2. Annette says:

    What an amazing woman was that Grandma in tennies. Inchworm has been on my mind and heart….every day praying and hoping for good news. One week ago today is the last time she was heard from by her husband. It is such a mystery!

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