Never Too Old to Hike the Appalachian Trail?

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The Grandma Gatewood display at the AT Museum in PA's Pine Grove Furnace State Park. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

Grandma Emma Gatewood passed away in 1973 at the age of 86. Over the years, she had 11 children and 23 grandchildren.

Her greatest claim to fame? Grandma Gatewood was the first woman to solo-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT).

Then she hiked it again. Two more times. The third time she tackled the Trail, as a section hiker, she was 75.

Her best line? "I thought it would be a nice lark. It wasn't."

Her gear? Keds sneakers, a plastic shower curtain, a first-aid kit and an army blanket slung over her shoulder in a homemade bag.

The lesson?

"You're never too old to hike the Appalachian Trail -- rain or shine," says Karen Hurt, the director of the Waynesboro Senior Center (WSC) in Waynesboro, Virginia.

Waynesboro is an official Appalachian Trail Community, as designated by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Karen is a delightful lady who has almost enough enthusiasm to inspire me to hike the AT, as she has with 45 regular walkers at WSC.

Everybody needs a goal. Theirs is to walk the equivalent of the length of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia: 545 miles. Virtually.

WSC hikers wear pedometers, but we're not sure if they wear Keds. These virtual trekkers use treadmills and the center's hallways as their trail; sometimes they head out to the track at Waynesboro High School.

But they walk ... and they don't give up. The group celebrated hitting the halfway point on their hike with a picnic on the Blue Ridge Parkway, near the Appalachian Trail, on August 12, 2013.

Karen Hurt said, "It's no fun to hike the AT by yourself." Her group has more fun than a lot of hikers who deal with bugs, storms, mountains and the lack of clean restrooms.

WSC's "Stay Active. Live Well" exercise program does more than keep folks alive, it instills vigor and purpose and an abundance of fun, including yoga and aerobics.

If you don't live near Waynesboro, VA, just east of Staunton, you should move there and bring all the old folks you know ... and turn them loose on a virtual hike of the Appalachian Trail.

The best part? Membership at the Waynesboro Senior Center is free.

Click Here for Waynesboro, VA's, Appalachian Trail Community Info

Click Here for the Waynesboro, VA, Senior Center's Website

Click Here for the Appalachian Trail Museum

The Waynesboro Senior Center, sponsored by Valley Program for Aging Services, invites people 60 years of age and older to participate in a variety of programs.

The center, located in the Jackson-Wilson school building at 325 Pine Avenue, is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Transportation is provided as needed by a VPAS van driver, who also helps with shopping trips and appointments to local doctors.

Membership is free. Contributions toward meals, transportation and activity expenses are accepted - every gift helps!

Additional information can be found at

Tags: Attractions, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Appalachian Trail Community, News, and Appalachian Trail Museum

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.