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When siblings promise to do something together when they ‘grow up,” do they follow through? When war and a Purple Heart Medal alter those promises, should the surviving brother continue? My promise to my brother haunted me for over forty years. Finally, when there were no more excuses, I set out on the Appalachian Trail to fulfill that youthful promise.
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Three Hundred Zeroes describes the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) as it meanders for almost 2,200 miles (3,500 km) through some of the most awe inspiring, remote, vibrant woodlands and mountains in the eastern United States. Maddeningly indirect at times, the trail wanders aimlessly from Springer Mountain in Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, in Maine. Along it’s length the A.T. is home to every conceivable form of plant life, vegetation, tree and animal from the minuscule pygmy shrew to the titans of the north woods, the American black bear and moose.
Three Hundred Zeroes describes a Norman Rockwell America that at times seems long lost and forgotten. Walking through small boroughs, villages and out-of-the-way places, I encountered people that don’t judge others by their worldly possessions, the car they drive, or how big their house is. Conversations evolved around severe weather; trail conditions, distance traveled, and destinations. The predominate question that always arose was, “Can I help?” or “Are you hungry?” Appalachian Trail life is more often than not factored down to its lowest common denominator: honest to goodness caring and personal connections.
A menagerie of personalities leads to numerous comical situations. A cast of characters with monikers such as “Cookie Monster,” “Bone Lady,” “Half-Elvis,” “Motor Butt,” “Bilge Rat,” “Privy Monster,” and “Serial Killer,” guaranteed that there was never a dull moment.
Serious obstacles abound. The difficulties I encountered walking over 2,200 miles were easily underestimated and trouble began long before setting that first step on the trail. Three Hundred Zeroes demonstrates that bears, rattlesnakes, extreme weather and challenging terrain may be far less formidable than some of life’s more subtle dangers.
Explore this national treasure, the Appalachian Trail through my adventures in Three Hundred Zeroes.
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.