The First Woman to Hike the Appalachian Trail Was 67 Years Old

Sometime in the 1950s, Emma Gatewood read a National Geographic article about the Appalachian Trail, which mentioned that no woman had ever completed the entire 2050-mile hike. The mother of 11, and grandmother of 23, told her daughter Rowena, “If those men can do it, I can do it.” And in 1955, at 67 years old, she did.

Gatewood, who left an abusive husband after 30 years of marriage and raised her last three children alone, was nothing if not tough. Known as “Grandma Gatewood,” she hiked the entire trail by herself, without a sleeping bag, tent or compass. According to The Washington Post, Gatewood wore out six pairs of sneakers over the course of her 146-day walk, and carried little more than a blanket and shower curtain to protect her from the elements. 

After completing the hike, she told Sports Illustrated:

"I thought it would be a nice lark. It wasn't. There were terrible blow downs, burnt-over areas that were never re-marked, gravel and sand washouts, weeds and brush to your neck, and most of the shelters were blown down, burned down or so filthy I chose to sleep out of doors. This is no trail. This is a nightmare. For some fool reason they always lead you right up over the biggest rock to the top of the biggest mountain they can find. I've seen every fire station between here and Georgia. Why, an Indian would die laughing his head off if he saw those trails. I would never have started this trip if I had known how tough it was, but I couldn't and I wouldn't quit.”

But Gatewood didn’t just hike the trail once—she returned again in 1957, becoming the first person of either gender to walk the entire trail twice. Then, in 1964, walking the trail in sections, she became the first person to complete it three times. It seemed that Gatewood had caught the hiking bug, and for the next few years, she spent most of her time outdoors, cumulatively walking thousands of miles. 

According to The Washington Post, the publicity she brought had a major impact on the future of the Appalachian Trail: “Media coverage of her hike led to repairs and restoration of the trail and may, indeed, have saved the trail from falling into ruin. It also inspired a new crop of hikers.”

To learn more about Grandma Gatewood, check out Ben Montgomery’s book Grandma Gatewood's Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail, or look out for a screening of the recently completed documentary Trail Magic, which features interviews with Gatewood’s daughter and great-granddaughter (for a list of upcoming screenings check out their Facebook page).

[h/t The Washington Post]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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Florence’s Plague-Era Wine Windows Are Back in Business

A wine window in Florence's Via Santo Spirito.
A wine window in Florence's Via Santo Spirito.

Many bars and restaurants have started selling takeout cocktails and other alcoholic beverages to stay in business—and keep customers safe—during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, 17th-century Florentines are surely applauding from their front-row seats in the afterlife.

As Insider reports, a number of buildings in Florence had been constructed with small “wine windows,” or buchette del vino, through which vendors sold wine directly to less affluent customers. When the city suffered an outbreak of plague in the 1630s, business owners recognized the value of these windows as a way to serve people without spreading germs. They even exchanged money on a metal tray that was sanitized with vinegar.

Wine not?sailko, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Things eventually went back to normal, and the windows slowly fell out of fashion altogether as commerce laws evolved. This year, however, they’ve made a comeback. According to Food & Wine, there are currently at least four in operation around Florence. Osteria delle Brache in Piazza Peruzzi is using its window to deliver wine and cocktails, for example, and the Vivoli ice cream shop, a go-to dessert spot since 1929, is handing out sweet scoops and coffee through its formerly dormant aperture.

Apart from the recent resurgence of interest, the wine windows often go unnoticed by tourists drawn to the grandeur of attractions like the Uffizi Gallery and the Florence Cathedral. So in 2015, locals Matteo Faglia, Diletta Corsini, and Mary Christine Forrest established the Wine Window Association to generate some buzz. In addition to researching the history of the windows, they also keep a running list of all the ones they know of. Florence has roughly 150, and there are another 100 or so in other parts of Tuscany.

They’re hoping to affix a plaque near each window to promote their stories and discourage people from defacing them. And if you want to support their work, you can even become a member of the organization for €25 (about $29).

[h/t Insider]