Thoughts on Turning 60 & Grandma Gatewood ~

I can’t be 60-years-old.  I simply cannot be 60.  Six-oh-no!  When did it happen?  How the hell did it happen?  I remember my mother at 60.  Sixty was my mother, not me.  Sixty sounds so old. But, the day has arrived. No matter how I fought it. It arrived. Today.  My birthday.  Can I just skip this day?

So, what does it mean to be 60?  To have officially crossed the threshold of my sixth decade of life.  I have no idea.  I find myself saying that a lot lately, “I have no idea.”  I have no idea of what it means to be 60, to be retired, or what comes next.  Medicare?  AARP contacted me when I turned 50.  Does that mean 60 is the new 50?!  Or, did they think of me as 60, when I was still only 50?!

Grandma Gatewood was 67-years-old (in 1955) when she walked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail.  She threw a homemade denim bag over her shoulder and she wore a simple pair of sneakers.  She told no one where she was going, she just started walking.

Grandma Gatewood - photo credit: Yahoo images

Grandma Gatewood – photo credit: Yahoo images

We walked the Camino de Santiago – 350 miles – while I still wore 59-years.  That’s pretty good, right?  Okay, it’s not quite as good as Grandma Gatewood walking over 2,000 miles while wearing 67-years, but it’s not bad.

Walking the Camino while still wearing 59 years.

Walking the Camino while still wearing 59 years.

I started reading, Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail, and within 10 minutes I was completely sold, totally engrossed and did not put down the book until hours (and hours) later after reading it from front to back.  Yes.  It was that good.  The story of Grandma Gatewood’s life unfolds as a secondary story to her trek along the Appalachian Trail and what a powerful story.  I will not reveal details but I can tell you I can’t remember the last time I was so inspired by a woman’s courage and the sheer strength of her endurance.

While walking the Camino de Santiago, we enjoyed the comforts of a hot shower and a reasonably comfortable bed every night.  I knew it was the only way I’d survive the walk because I am not a sleep under the stars kind of girl 60-year-old woman.  Never have been, never will be.  But I gotta tell ya, if you are such a soul who can sleep just about anywhere, I’m pretty sure Grandma Gatewood’s tale of adventure of hiking the AT will inspire you to take it on, if only in part.  When she wasn’t sleeping in a woodsy lean-to alongside the trail, or under/on top of a picnic table, she’d simply look to the kindness of strangers to take her in whenever she passed through a town.  It was 1955.  Could we do the same in 2016?  Ask a stranger if they have a bed to spare?  Or a meal?  I think it’s now known as Airbnb.

Walking the Camino de Santiago was by far the most physically demanding thing I have ever done – and that includes giving birth.  Giving birth only lasted 13 hours.  Granted, it was a long 13 hours, but walking the Camino lasted 35 days!  And, then there’s Grandma Gatewood who walked/hiked for 5 months!  I mean come on, that is damn impressive!

So while I have no idea of what it means to be 60-years-old, or to be retired, or what will come next, I think I’m doing pretty well.  I’m healthy.  I’m happy.  And, I’ve grown accustomed to my gray hair.  Walking the Camino gave me the strength to let the gray shine through.

What I do know is that I was completely inspired by Grandma Gatewood and I’m 99.9% certain you will be as well.



22 Responses to Thoughts on Turning 60 & Grandma Gatewood ~

  • Hi Patti, Happy Birthday! I think 60 is in fact the new 40, being healthy and thinking and behaving young keeps you young. I was inspired by you walikng ” The Camino ” and I hope to do it one day. I think it is important to challenge ourselves and get out of our comfort zone. Grandma Gatewood was amazing, I will definetly buy her book and read it on my upcoming holiday Have you set off on your road trip yet?
    Gilda Baxter recently posted…Iceland – Adding Up the Cost of Our Road TripMy Profile

    • Thank you, Gilda! In my head I know the number 60 is just that, a number, but it’s a pretty big number. 🙂 I We hit the road in a few days.

  • Happy Birthday Sista!

    Love your shiny grey hair.

    You are beautiful!!

  • I will have to read this. LInda

    And enjoy 60. It’s really fine.

    • It’s a good read. Grandma Gatewood was a powerfully strong woman. I suppose I have no choice but to wear 60 proudly and make it the start of this new chapter of life.

  • Happy Birthday, Patti ! I’m not far behind you. Talked to Gretchen this morning and she said you had a nice phone visit. I wish you a year filled with whatever you desire.

    Love, Mary and the Professor

  • I’m ready to order the Grandma Gatewood book. I’ve read several accounts of hiking the Appalachian Trail written by through walkers. Reading this one might make me again resolve to find my hiking boots—except I’m really afraid of copperheads, timber rattlers and bears. So far, my only through hiking was the Milford Track on the South Island of New Zealand. It was only 35 miles and we did that over 3 days, but it was immensely satisfying—-and beautiful.
    Having already reached and, indeed, passed the Big Six Oh, I want to assure you that it’s not that bad. At the risk of sounding maudlin, my view is no doubt colored by the fact that within several days of my attaining that milestone birthday, we learned that my 50 year old extremely seemingly fit brother-in-law suffered a cardiac event resulting in sudden death. That tragedy helped put the big 6-0 in perspective—-in the grand scheme of things.

    Look at it this way. This is gravy time. You and Abi have both worked hard to position yourselves in a lovely place with the time to enjoy it and to plan other adventures. Happy birthday. 🙂

    • Thank you for the birthday wishes, Suzanne. I’m taking 60 and making it my beatch! 😉 I hope you do read Grandma Gatewood’s story, it’s so much more than hiking the AT, she was quite the woman.

  • Happy birthday Patti! Loved that book

  • Happy Birthday Patti! Just six months behind you and I can join the 6-0h-no club! Enjoy the 6th decade. You have camped BTW…with me! You did that well….as least you seemed okay with it at the time. LOL

    • I do remember, Gail. We camped in your parents camper pick up on the beach in Tahoe! But now I’m old and like hotel room beds. Ha! Ha! Thanks for the birthday wishes. All of us DCHS peeps are making the transition to the next decade.

  • So Patti, in two days I’m turing 72. That was my grandmother’s age. It’s hard to say those numbers in relation to me. But then it was very hard to say 50. Very hard. Those numbers are crazy because they don’t relate to how I feel at all. I’ve got this idea of becoming fit, so I can take some walking trips again. There will come a time, I think, when I can, maybe. Who the hell knows. in the meantime, I walk two miles, except when it’s raining or cold or ????

    • I so love your spirit, Sandy. Keep walking and keep believing and we’ll both tell ourselves, “It’s just a number, it doesn’t mean shit.”

  • Looking good for 60 Patti! Keep it up!
    Frank (bbqboy)
    Frank recently posted…Highlights of a 2 week road trip around the Garden Route and Karoo, South AfricaMy Profile

  • Happy Birthday Patti! I hadn’t heard of Grandma Gatewood before but it sounds like she had an incredible life filled with adventures and challenges. Andrew and I were really inspired by tales of your Camino and we hope to follow in your footsteps while we’re in Spain.

    • Thanks, Amy. I’m looking forward to following your adventures in Spain and if you want to talk Camino, I’m always willing!

  • I read Grandma Gatewood’s Walk a few months ago and was totally blown away by the woman’s amazing achievements! I think I can safely say they don’t make characters like Grandma Gatewood anymore. She’s one lady I’d love to have met. Now we all have someone to inspire us as the birthdays mark our passage along our own walks in life …
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go recently posted…The Postman Rang Twice: The Portuguese Side of a Resident VisaMy Profile

    • I thought the same thing, Anita, how interesting to have sat down to a cup of tea with Grandma Gatewood. I found her story to be so inspiring, she was a survivor!

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We are Patti and Abi. We retired early to live a simpler life, travel the world and hopefully, inspire others to redefine retirement.


3 years, 70 days ago!





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