I miss living near the Appalachian Trail. In the old days, our house in Hewitt, NJ was three miles from the AT and that area’s black bears and other wildlife were regular visitors to our yard.
I’ve hiked the trail with and without QRP gear, both solo and accompanied by my wife who came to enjoy hiking even more than I did. Our enthusiasm manifested itself off the trail as well, in the form of books, maps and future plans for section hikes of the AT.
That was a long time ago and I haven’t read any books or online reports from AT hikers in many a moon. But that all changed a couple of weeks ago when I downloaded a copy of Three Hundred Zeroes by Dennis Blanchard K1YPP.
It’s not unusual for me to have two or three books being read at any one time, but by the second chapter of Three Hundred Zeroes, I’d put the others aside and dedicated my reading to this very entertaining account of Dennis’ 2100-mile thru-hike from Georgia to Maine.
Along with him, Dennis carries a small QRP rig and has a goal of making at least one contact from each of the states the trail traverses. But this is not a ham radio book – it’s written for the general reader, as it should be – yet ham radio gets frequent (though brief) mention.
Far more entertaining, even to an outdoor-QRP savvy reader, are his stories of what it’s like to be out there and what he encounters along the way – a hiking Mennonite family, bizarre low-hovering helicopters at night over campsites, lightning storms, bear encounters and “pink blazing” (that was a new one for me!).
Dennis’ hike is interrupted midway by the need for heart surgery. Amazingly, 11 months later, he’s back on the AT completing his mission to hike the trail in its entirety and carrying along his deceased brother’s Purple Heart Medal as a tribute to a goal they once shared decades earlier.
Somewhere on a remote section of the trail in Maine, Dennis meets up with another hiker who is known in QRP circles – Steve Weber KD1JV, the designer of the rig Dennis is carrying!
I’m a long way from the Appalachian Trail these days (in many ways) but passages like this allow readers to vicariously join Dennis and at least get an inkling of what it’s like to be out there:
Goose Eye Mountain was also a battle. The wind tore at me like a rabid dog, yanking my poncho in several directions at once. There were a few moments where it felt as if the poncho would come apart at the seams, but it held. I removed my glasses, fearing they might blow off my head. The roar of the wind was deafening as it pushed me around like a rag doll . In some of the wide open rock escarpments, I got down on all fours, and crept along, my pack feeling like a great sail on my back catching each gust.
I enjoyed the book immensely and even contemplated visiting relatives in Atlanta so that I could steal away for a day or two and hike a section of the trail in Georgia. When a book has that effect on me, it’s been a good one.