Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Hiking

The Appalachian Trail and Grandma Gatewood

Most of us don’t need motivation to get out on the trail, but if that is the case for you I have a film to recommend. This week, thanks to one of my local libraries, I had the opportunity to see a documentary film, “Trail Magic – the Grandma Gatewood Story.” Director Peter Huston was on hand for discussion.



The tale of Emma Gatewood is intriguing; a woman raised in Appalachia who survived a 20-year marriage to a wife batterer while raising a large family. After raising her children, divorcing her husband and a chance reading of an old National Geographic article about the Appalachian Trail, she threw a few things in a bag and set off. Emma, known as Grandma Gatewood on the trail, became the first woman to through hike, making her way from Georgia to Maine.

That’s the overview of a woman who set out for a long walk and in doing so ultimately became a celebrity and then used that celebrity and knowledge to be a vital force for establishing trails in her home state of Ohio

Although the film is intriguing, I plan to pick up Ben Montgomery’s book “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk” to learn more about this woman’s life.

I thought of her as I was on the AT for the first time since February. I joined a group for a fast-paced after-work hike up Blue Mountain. Her notoriety and eccentricities are a part of why that trail is there for you and me today, to through hike, go out for a trail run if we choose or simply put in a fast-paced after work hike.


View from the AT Overlook on Blue Mountain

The film is being presented at a number of locations. Check the links on the Facebook page  for upcoming showings and discussion.

Would any of us complete a successful through-hike in a pair of Keds, know how to supplement food from the forest and have the gumption to knock on doors asking for a meal along the way? Not me. But I will take that after-work hike and the occasional trail run. Thanks, Emma.




The Outdoor Life – Western Style – II

It’s Travel Tuesday and having completed my assignments for the upcoming and wonderful Thanksgiving Day, I now take liberty to daydream back to a wonderful Wyoming hike at Vedauwoo. This and every day, I’m thankful that the natural beauty of this and many other sites are located within national forests and national parks – the forethought of earlier generations.

IMG_1631Late September at 8,200 feet already brought cool temperatures. We bundled up and joined our hosts with the Friendship for of Cheyenne who had packed up a wonderful picnic to sustain us as we explored this wonderful world of granite.



Located between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming the outcrops extend over a vast area. Arriving at the park, we find this mass of rocks is breathtakingly beautiful in its wildness and enormity and intriguing in varying shades of pink/gray. The Arapaho referred to the area as the Land of the Earthborn Spirit. The granite formation still brings out the creative spirit as performers bring dance, poetry and theatre among the rocks.

Window2Y (1)

Credit: J.W. Hasper

Like looking at clouds intently, you can see the shapes of animals or human in the formations of Vedauwoo, most visibly the appearance of a turtle and a giant human.



There is also something in those rocks that calls “Come climb me.” And climb we did.

IMG_1627We could see more experienced (and younger?) hikers and climbers on other areas in the outcrops and hoodoos (spires with varying depth). A couple of hikers who knew Vedauwoo well lead the way. 


Up, up, up. The climb was beautiful and aside from a couple of breaks to catch my breath in the thin air, not particularly difficult. I was mesmerized climbing those beautiful rocks. From a perch midway up, I couldn’t help but wonder what the view was a couple of centuries ago when buffalo in the thousands moved in herds and the spiritual Arapaho people had not yet been removed to the Wind River Reservation.

IMG_1641.jpgOn reaching the summit of our particular formation, the view went for miles. As our eyes searched for a horizon, we celebrate our arrival on the windswept rocks with a deep breath and with appreciation for the experience. 



Localeikki – An App for Active Travelers

What kind of a name is that?  That was my first question when I read about this app.  The second question was “what does it do?” Both are answered on the website, but I’ll offer my brief version of how it works.

The app is basically a national database of recommended locations and groups,

photoat this point limited to the activities of running, biking, walking and hiking. The user can benefit from and add to the database in two ways:

1) Use the app when traveling (or even at home), to determine 1) places or courses near you and 2) any groups that meet anywhere near you for outdoor activities. The group information may also include details beyond directions and time (moderate skill level, group runs at an 8-minute pace, all levels welcome, etc.).  There is a “search” category to plan ahead before visiting a locality.

2) Add local information, such as a favorite trail or running/hiking/biking route and/or add a “group” activity.  Input from local outdoor enthusiasts – that’s you and me – will be important since we usually know the terrain better than the average concierge or family friend sending the visitor out the door for some exercise.

As someone who rambles around this world a bit, I decided the purchase of this app on my iphone would be $2 well spent.

After making my purchase, I had a brief problem getting it to load. I emailed for help and co-founder Tracy McMillan responded, quickly resolving the issue.  I deleted the app and reloaded, which took all of about two minutes.

My first use of the localeikki app was to check out running trails and running groups close to home (see #1 above).  The app brought up running groups a hundred miles away.  Oh, we can do better than that Central Pennsylvania. I immediately moved into “add” mode (see #2 above) with a favorite course

Towpath at Wildwood Park

Towpath at Wildwood Park

in the “places” category. I talked with the group leader for a couple of my groups runs and we added those as well. Adding a place or a group was a smooth process.  Inserting a a photo and the map link was a breeze.

The app is still early in development. Unveiled in August, it may take a bit of time before the local information fills out. Localeikki is encouraging users to bring anything to their attention that would improve its use.

The name?  Well, “leikki” in Finnish means “play.”  The “loca” comes from use of the term in local movements such as purchasing food grown locally.  The app gives users information to play local, wherever they travel and where the locals have added information on their favorite routes and groups.

So, why use this app?  For me, it puts everything under one roof.  I don’t need to search multiple sites for trails or running clubs. After the prompt response from Tracy, and the ease I found in using this app, I volunteered to be an ambassador for localeikki. 

Do you look for local groups or trails when you travel? I’d love to hear whether you are using the localeikki app or what methods you use to find local trails, tracks, courses and how you find local groups for a casual run, ride or hike.

In the meantime, I’m out the door for a run, playing local.