A portion of the Buckeye Trail which passed through the Hocking Hills State Park is named after a wonam who had a trememdous affect on the region, its popularity, and hiking in general. Commonly known as Grandma Emma Gatewood, this influential woman lived most of her life on a working farm in Gallia County. On the farm she not only raised her 11 children and four of her grandchildren, but also found time to work in the fields, can loth wild and domestic foods, and plant flower and vegetable gardens! With no means of transportation, Grandma Gatewood would simply walk two, three, four or five miles for her visits.
Then at the age of 71, Grandma Gatewood made a journey that gained nationwide attention. Seeing a "National Geographics" article about the Appalachian Trail, and discovering that at no time no woman had ever hiked its entire length, Grandma Gatewood decided to set out on an adventure.
After making her plans she left Maine on the hike without as much as a word to her family about her plans. Unfortunately this first try ended abruptly when her glasses were accidentally broken, forcing her to return home. But finally, in 1958, she successfully hiked the trail all the way from Maine to Georgia, and if that wasn't enough she hiked it again in 1960 and then again in 1963.
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. And there was no freeze dried hiker meals for her. Her hiking diet consisted mainly of dried beef, cheese and nuts, supplemented by wild food she would find along the way.
In 1959 Grandma decided to follow a wagon train traveling between Independence, Missouri, along the Oregon Trail to Portland, Oregon. The trip was planned to celebrate the Oregon Centennial, but when Grandma arrived in Missouri she discovered that the wagon train had pulled out the week before. Not to worry. Not only did she catch up with the wagon train, but passed it by. After walking some 2,000 miles she reached Portland a full week before the wagon train.
Despite the fact that she had taken many exciting and lengthly hikes, Grandma Gatewood's favorite hike was the 6 mile stretch of trail that connects Old Man's Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave. As a matter of fact, Grandma Gatewood led the first Winter Hike, an event which has become the Hocking Hills biggest program.
The original hike began at Ash Cave, then wound its way to Cedar Falls and finally to Old Man's Cave, just the reverse of the current hike. She loved the Winter Hike and led succeeding hikes for the next 12 years only missing one before her death at age 85 in 1973.