The award-winning film “Trail Magic: The Grandma Gatewood Story,” will be offered free of charge at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, February 16 through a first-time collaboration between the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country, the University Forum Lecture Series, and the University College at Appalachian State University. The 60 minute documentary about the first woman to solo thru-hike the Appalachian Trail will be followed by a live question and answer session with filmmaker and producer Bette Lou Higgins. Links for both BOONE DOCS events are available at no cost to participants on the theatre’s website at www.apptheatre.org.
Emma Gatewood grew up in Gallia County, Ohio. One of 16 children, she grew up in a rural farming community on the fringe of Appalachia. At age 19, Emma married Perry Gatewood and together they raised 11 children. Over the course of their 33-year marriage, her husband was known to be physically and verbally abusive until Emma finally kicked him out and got a divorce.
With her kids grown up and out of the house, Emma happened to read an issue of National Geographic about the “new” Appalachian Trail (AT). Realizing that no woman had ever through-hiked the trail alone, she thought, ” I could be that woman.” She told friends that it would be “a lark,” but 2,168 miles later on September 25, 1955, Emma had become, at age 67, the first woman to do so.
Emma overcame tremendous obstacles and became a celebrated pop icon for successful aging, appearing on national radio and television. She solo hiked the AT three times, the Oregon Trail once, and helped raise money and awareness for the Buckeye Trail. She logged over 10,000 miles before her death in 1973 at the age of 85.
“Trail Magic” is a film directed by Peter Huston and produced by Bette Lou Higgins for Eden Valley Enterprises (www.edenvalleyenterprises.org), a 501-c-3 non-profit organization. It was adapted from a play written by Kelly Boyer Sagert for Eden Valley Enterprises which was based on research conducted by Bette Lou Higgins, Peter Huston, and Kelly Boyer Sagert. The research was funded through a grant from Ohio Humanities and the National Storytellers Network. The film received Excellence Awards in both the Documentary Category and Lead Actress Category at the WRPN Women’s International Film Festival.
Created in fall 2020, BOONE DOCS at the Appalachian Theatre is a year-round film series featuring independent and documentary films that spark community conversation by presenting an independent lens to view our world. Showcasing emerging and award-winning filmmakers and distinct perspectives from across the globe, BOONE DOCS celebrates the creative power of independent film.
Executive Director Laura Kratt said that BOONE DOCS is a collaborative initiative to bring together film fans and community partners to create a High Country home for independent film. She said that the App Theatre is particularly pleased to be co-presenting “Trail Magic” with the University Forum Lecture Series and partnering with its chair, Beth Davison.
“I’ve been working with Beth since I arrived in Boone back in 2018,” said Kratt, “Beth is a wonderfully-collaborative partner who served on the volunteer team that helped curate the inaugural season of BOONE DOCS. This is a great first step in working with the Forum Lecture Series to bring important films about our region to our community. Stay tuned for more exciting announcements just around the corner.”
Forum Lecture Series chair Davison said that their alignment with the App Theatre makes perfect sense. “It’s a great venue for the film with a perfect location in the heart of the High Country that enables us to celebrate the art form of documentary film right here in uptown Boone.” Davison hopes that “Trail Magic” will launch an expanded film festival that will focus on local filmmakers who create documentaries about the Appalachia region. She said, “We’ll soon be announcing details about how our talented regional artists can submit their works for consideration.”
“Trail Magic” is offered free of charge through the generous support of the App Theatre, the University Forum Lecture Series, and the University College. The YouTube link to view the 6 p.m. live-streaming and 7 p.m. post screening discussion via Zoom are available on the theatre’s website at www.apptheatre.org.