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Three Hundred Zeroes: Lessons of the heart on the Appalachian Trail. Paperback – February 20, 2010
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About the Author
Dennis Blanchard was born in Bristol, Connecticut. After a stint in the U.S. Air Force he moved to New Hampshire with his wife, Jane. Never living very far from the Appalachian Trail, there was always the seductive siren's call to hike it. To support his hiking habit he has spent most of his life working as an electronics engineer. Dennis is an avid ham radio enthusiast and has authored many pieces for magazines such as the amateur radio journal, QST and other technical magazines, as well as motorcycle adventure articles. When not off wandering in the woods he lives in Sarasota, Florida.
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This is the story of one man's dream, the author, Dennis R. Blanchard had for years wanted to become a through walker on the Appalachian Trail. For those of you unfamiliar with this trail, it starts in Georgia and continues through to Maine. It is a long, long walk. Many people (myself included) are known as "section walkers;" walkers who hike sections of the trail at different times. Through walkers are those hardy individuals who start at one end, and hike right on through to the other. Normally this takes several months. The author started his walk at the approximate age of 60. It did take him two seasons to complete his walk due to the fact that half way through his first attempt he had to remove himself from the trail and underwent by-pass surgery of the heart. There was a 300 day break, ergo the title of the book - "Three Hundred Zeroes."
We are taken through the author's preparation process and then with him on his delightful journey. He is quite an observant fellow and is able to articulate his observations quite well via the written word. I have read quite a number of books written by people who have recorded their own journeys, and this book stands right up there with the best of them.
I liked the way the author has noted the different characters he encountered on his journey. He has an excellent sense of humor and is a good observer of the human condition. There is a lot of information as to equipment and such that I found to be very interesting.
I do have one concern and one observation to make:
I have been hiking for over 50 years now. Much of this hiking has been done in wilderness areas with my wife. We have section hike portions of the AT. There are sections of this trail that are difficult in the extreme. It should also be noted that with any long wilderness hike that there is an extreme amount of pain involved...and I mean extreme. I felt the author could have placed a bit more emphasis on this aspect. I would hate to think that a novice or near novice would approach this journey (Particularly if they plan a through hike) as if it were a light hearted walk in the woods. You have to be in tremendous shape to pull this hike off. The author was by any standards, but the normal 60 year old person would have difficulties.
I want to also make a note on bears. The author met many of these creatures on the trail. He is either extremely luck or unlucky; depending upon how you look at it. In my 50 plus years of doing this stuff you could count the number of encounters I have had on your fingers. Go figure.
All in all this is an excellent read - the sort of read I relish and do recommend this one very highly.
All in all it is a decent read and at times entertaining, I would recommend Awol on the Appalachian Trail and for humor and a great read , Bill Brysons "A walk in the Woods".