Dennis Blanchard's promise to his brother haunted him for over forty years. Finally, when there were no more excuses, he set out on the Appalachian Trail to fulfill that promise. The book, THREE HUNDRED ZEROES, is the story of that promise.

Trail food: “What's in your backpack?

One of the most asked questions I hear is: “What do eat on the trail?” I started to write some Tweets about this yesterday:

Tweets, by their very nature are brief and can lack refined grammar structure, but you get the idea. Men and women on the trail eat many of the same things, but the women do have a strong leaning to things chocolate.

Deciding what to bring along for subsistence on a long hike can be challenging. More often than not, it is dictated by one's economical situation. For those with limited funds, the choices are very limited. First there is the decision around whether to cook meals or just carry cold foods. Cold foods have distinct advantages on the trail: there is no need to carry a stove and fuel, plus, one can eat quick meals. The downside of eating cold is obvious, it can prove boring and in cold weather, the additional heat from warm food can be a real comfort.

In my own case, I did carry a stove and would often have a warm meal at night. On a few occasions I even stopped along the way to make hot tea or cocoa. On some of the colder mornings, I would prepare hot oatmeal, and I have to admit, really appreciated it.

Most mornings laziness won out and I would gobble down a Pop Tart (cold) or bagels and cream cheese or peanut butter. I'd wash it down with Gatorade. It all really depended on my mood and how rushed I was.

Lunch was almost always, cold. If I could carry something from an overnight stay, it would be a deli-prepared sandwich. Otherwise it was usually more bagels, or tortilla flat bread, and tuna or canned herring. To make things more interesting, I would also allow myself the luxury of some good grade cookies for desert.

Snacks along the way were usually a candy bar, such as Snickers, Milky Way, or Paydays. In normal, everyday life, I never eat these things, but on the trail, I had them often. The body just craves calories.

My evening meal was typically pasta or bean based. Most often, due to availability and cost, the side dish meals won out. Even though the packages indicate cooking times of 15-20 minutes for many of them, I found that if I boiled water and then just let the meal sit in the water, with the stove turned off, they would still cook adequately. Instead of the recommended butter or margarine, I used olive oil. Olive oil is high in calories and worked well as a substitute. The biggest difficulty was finding small enough quantities of olive oil to carry in the pack. When in town, I would usually try to find other hikers that were also looking for some olive oil and then we would split the container. Often, containers of olive oil could be found in the hostels along the way.

The evening meal was always the largest meal of the day. Accompanying the pasta or beans, I would have something bread-based, as well as packaged meat or fish, such as tuna, sardines, corned beef, or pepperoni. I tried to have variety. As the hike up the AT progressed, I found myself cooking more and more and really enjoying it. Best of all, it takes very little cooking energy and yet offers tremendous nutritional energy. In my mountain bike racing days, I always had on the day before a race, and it proved a valuable ally. I preferred the because it came with a flavor packet. I would remove it from it's box, since the boxes are half empty and would take up valuable backpack space, and repackage the in a plastic zip bag. The bags could be used over and over again.

Each hiker finds what works for him or her. I heard of one fellow that hiked the entire AT eating nothing but peanut butter. It does have most of the nutrients needed, but I would think it a bit boring. To each, his or her own.

What I ate on the trail worked for me. I'd love to hear from you readers, what works for you? Write a comment and let the rest of us know.

Is a hammock right for you?

I receive lots of fan mail from my ham radio friends that have read Three Hundred Zeroes. I received a very nice letter recently from Tom, WA8WPI. He wanted to know more about hammocks and long distance hiking. Here is my reply to him:

Thanks for the nice words. The book's getting a great reception, and I've even had a few people tell me they got their ham license because of it. Thanks for spreading the word, as an unknown author, that is the best help I can receive. If you're an Amazon customer you can leave a review there about the book, that actually helps the books ranking.

As for hammocks, you either love 'em or hate 'em. I love 'em. 

On the plus side:

  • They're light.
  • They can hang almost anywhere, and even though it never happened, you can even use it on the ground, like a tent.
  • They're off the ground, so flooding is not an issue.
  • One can sit under it in rainy weather. I cooked several breakfasts this way. One can use the hammock as a seat, sitting in the opening.
  • A sleeping pad is not needed (unless some stays are in a shelter. In my shelter stays, I just piled gear under me as a mattress.)
  • The slit never opens. The hiker's weight forces it closed and the Velcro seal does a good job of staying together. In fact, it is sometimes a nuisance to keep it open, it wants to close.
  • No bugs, unlike tarp camping.
  • The occupant can see in almost every direction, unlike a tent. 
On the minus side:
  • Only one person can sleep in it.
  • It takes some getting used to. With practice you can even sleep on your belly (trick: sleep diagonally to the hanging axis.)
  • Changing clothes is easiest if one puts legs on ground and uses opening as a seat.
  • The backpack has to stay outside. I would "bear hang" mine and cover it with the rain poncho and never had a problem.
  • There is no "flat" floor to put things on. However, the rope along the top ridge is fabulous for hanging things on, such as damp clothes, lamps, etc. Mine also had some pockets up there to put stuff in.
I guess that pretty much sums it up. I would encourage you to borrow a hammock and try it out. If you were not so far away, I'd offer mine. Like I said, you'll either like it, or hate it.

Maybe you have other comments on hammocks? Please do leave a comment, we bloggers love comments. Enjoy your hikes and stay safe out there.

Dennis, "K1"

When less IS more.

Seth Godin, a writer of some acclaim, blogged an interesting piece that I'd like to share. I'm on his mailing list and without fail, he sends out copies of his blog each day that are usually thought provoking and inspirational. The one that caught my eye today was titled: .

As is Seth's way, he can take a topic that is mundane and obvious, and explore it and awaken you to aspects of the topic you may never have considered. A good portion of the world lives in “civilization” today, but many do not. People that live in places where 14 year-old girls are shot for blogging, or people have their heads removed because they “look different” are not living in civilizations.

One line he wrote really caught my eye: “We don't need more stuff. We need more civilization.” How true. When I wrote my story about hiking the Appalachian Trail, Three Hundred Zeroes, I finished the last chapter with that theme. I discovered that, even though I was walking through some very remote country, I was walking through a civilization that was comfortable with itself. I started the walk in the deep south of the United States and ended up in the farthest northern region and yet there was a common bond to be found all along the way. Everywhere I went I was greeted by friendly people and made to feel at home.

Many, if not most of those I met, had very little in the way of worldly goods, yet what they had, they shared willingly. Total strangers invited me into their homes, fed me and asked nothing in return. They could all “use” more stuff, many would be considered “poor,” but they didn't measure their wealth in the size of their car (if they had one) but rather in the size of their hearts. I'll never forget those people.

In the book's last chapter I talked about the impact all of this and the effect it had on me. When Jane and I went off to walk the Camino de Santiago last year, we carried our world on our backs, in our backpacks, and we were walking in bliss. As long as we had enough to eat and a place to sleep at night, we were content.

Sometimes, less, truly is more.


Chance to win some nice hiking gear and fun reads.

Philip Werner has an outstanding blog site for hikers, and things hiking related at:

He is featuring guest bloggers all this month (August). I had the privilege of being the first one and I wrote about Bears, Mice and other Ferocious Beast of the Wilderness. There's been a really good slate of writers this month, such as Skywalker, Susan Alcorn and Tom Ryan, just to mention a few. Check them out.

Every Friday the Section Hiker is having a raffle. The prizes are extraordinary and valuable. Last week it was an MSR tent worth $399, this week a 15º lightweight down sleeping bag.

There are some really exceptional hiking authors being featured this month, take a look.

Dennis, K1

Being a writer can be an interesting journey, indeed.

Those of you that have seen the movie, "The Way," starring Martin Sheen, may recall a fascinating piece of artwork on the big screen. There is a scene where Tom (Sheen) and his walking companion, Jost, from Amsterdam, stop at a sheet metal sculpture of pilgrims in various historical poses. Even though the movie doesn't spend much time there, the scene is captivating in it's beauty. 

The windy hill upon which the sculptured work sits is just west of Pamplona, Spain, the city famous for the running of the bulls each year. The hill is dotted with gigantic, modern day, windmills. The company that installed them, EHN, commissioned the artwork to the artist, Vicente Galbete. 

In my next book, A Few More Zeroes, I mention how impressed I was with the art piece and wanted to know more about it. As powerful as the Internet can be at times, I could not track down Mr. Galbete. I posted something on a forum about the Camino de Santiago and a few days ago, I received an email, in Spanish, with a Google Translate copy of the message in English. Mr. Galbete doesn't speak English, and I don't speak Spanish, and yet we have been communicating these past few days, albeit with rough translations. How cool is that!

I've asked him about other works, and he has sent me a few links to web sites that have some of his other creations. Have a look and enjoy them.

Vicente Galbete plaque at an endurance running event at Roncevalle:

Roncevalles running event.

The plaque at the running event:

Running event plaque

Vicente Galbete work at Eneriz, in the plaza:

Here is a closeup of that work:

The Eneriz piece is particularly noteworth at night. He tells me it has a powerful light in it and displays various heavenly bodies around the piece. This would be a must see on my next visit to Spain.

Another of his works is on a site. In Spanish it is:

Al paso de Abderramán
Monumento existente en el parque eólico de Moncayuelo.

Which translates:

At the Abderramán pass.
Monument at the wind farm in Moncayuelo.

Enjoy everyone.

The publishing industry is evolving, quickly.

There was an interesting piece on CNN today by Mark Coker, creator of Smashwords, and ebook publishing company. He discusses the Agency Pricing Model (APM) that several of the publishing houses and Apple have collaborated on. I think he worded the piece a bit oddly. He contends that he is for authors pricing their books as they see fit and that the Dept. of Justice lawsuit is a bad thing, but he failed to make his argument clear. 

The way it was written, one takes it that he is in favor of the APM, but I think he really means he would rather not see government regulation of this, let the authors and consumers (you readers) decide where that happy price point is. I think he is right. This entire industry is in a state of flux and rushing in with this lawsuit just could upset the apple cart (excuse the pun, I didn't see it until after I wrote it).

We authors, and you readers are determining, quite nicely I think, where all this is going. We write the books, you judge them with your word-of-mouth assessment and reviews and the book either succeeds or fades away. I suppose this is capitalism at it's finest.

Speaking of which, can always use more reviews. YOUR reviews are what drives up rankings and helps generate more interest in an authors book. Those of you that have already posted a review on ,, and other book sites deserve a big round of applause. Those of you that haven't yet, please consider it, not just for this book, but for all of your favorite author's books. Spread the word on what you have been reading lately. It doesn't have to be a five-star review, it just needs to be an honest assessment of how you saw the book. Good, critical reviews, are always welcome.

Dennis, K1

Some readers write such inspirational letters.

I received the following from a reader that just finished THREE HUNDRED ZEROES. I was so moved by his comments, I just had to share them. Thanks Ian:

Dennis, I just finished reading your book today. I never do this but felt it necessary to tell you what an influence it has had on me. I am an avid hiker in upstate New York's Adirondacks, a father of two young childeren (5 and 4) with my third(and last) on the way in April. 

Reading your book and your positive attitude about everything is a true inspiration to me and just went to show me how short and unexpected our lives can be. Reading your book has given me a new outlook on everything and has taught me to take nothing for granted. 

I just wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart (no pun intended) I hope to hike the A.T. at some point in my life and I will constantly use you as an inspiration.

Thank you,
Ian Smith

Thank you again Ian, you're the real inspiration.

Dennis, "K1"

Sarasota, Florida Author Featured In New Book: How They Did It

I just received word that I was featured in a new book about up and coming bloggers and authors. Actually, it is more about the current state of publishing and represents a snapshot of what works for people at the moment, both traditional publishers and indie publishers.

Chapter seven of the book is an interview with me and my approach to publishing. I don’t honestly feel that I’m of the caliber of some of the others in the book, but I think the book’s author, Diana Bocco, had a different opinion. I haven’t yet read the whole book, but what I have read is both interesting and informative. I’ll report back later when I have more time.

Dennis, K1

Climate changing?

In this morning's paper, it was talking about temperatures in the midwest running 30° F above normal. Chicago has been running like this for 8 out of the last 9 days! It claimed the low temperatures for the day are running above the high records for the day. It is still March folks! This morning I was looking at a trail journal report from some friends that are currently hiking the Appalachian Trail and they've been bothered by gnats:

"To add to the overall fun three quarters of the day anytime we stopped for more than 30 seconds we would be swarmed with biting gnats!"

Gnats? In March, at high altitudes? They should be complaining about knee-deep snow. Something very strange is afoot in  our weather. If they're seeing gnats already, I can just picture the mosquito population this year.

Dennis, "K1"

What's Your "Klout" On The Internet?

Authors are a strange lot. When we're not writing, we're trying to figure out if we're getting new readers. Of course that translates into book sales, which can technically keep an author from starving to death. I haven't figured out how authors that have free books find food. Do they live in a Salvation Army Center? “Buy my book, and I'll contribute a portion of it to the center that I live in.”

Recently, I started using to follow my stuff and it has a "klout" (“klout” is German for “klout”) factor that it displays. Twitter allows me to take the pulse of reader interest in my book (soon to be books). Now, take the following with a grain of salt, I may not know what I'm talking about here (even more than usual!).

There are software tools that, which HootSuite uses to follow my Twitter account, which uses, oh never mind, it gets really convoluted. Anyway, measures how much activity an individual "creates" on the Internet. I suspect they're measuring such things as Google hits, Facebook views/hits, Twitter hits/re-Tweets, RBI's, pork belly futures, etc. Who knows, I wouldn't be surprised they track how many toilet paper rolls I use, and how much my followers use. Watch out folks, 1-ply vs. 2-ply could really screw up your “klout!” When I was hiking the Appalachian Trail it may have been a leaf count.

On a 0-100 scale (that actually uses) you'd think that an average person would have a score of 50. But nnnnoooooooo, not these guys. That would be too logical, an average person is, you guessed it, 20. Twenty is the new fifty. Man, I could have used that grading system in my school days, I would have been a genius! I'm certain I broke 25 a few times. Those kinds of scores I did obtain, although it was a struggle.

Anyway, they roll (excuse the pun) all that data up and come up with some magic number that shows how much "klout" you wield on the Internet. If you use Internet steroids, can they tell? This could open up a whole new field, Internet Drug Testing. Will my hard drive turn state's evidence? I wonder what Osama bin Laden's numbers looked like?

In the old days of DOS we called people with clout "Power users." According to the Klout website, there are places that use these numbers and mix them in a vat with bat wings, newt toes, goat entrails and come up with some potion that is consumed in a corporate board room during a full moon, along with tequila.

As far as I'm concerned it is one more thing that I'm not going to worry about. Oh look, I just posted this and my Klout has jumped to 31! Maybe if I Tweet this....hmmm.

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Three Hundred Zeroes

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