Skywalker and Three Hundred Zeroes Exhibit Hiking Book Phenomenon
Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail and Three Hundred Zeros are two of the
more popular Appalachian Trail narratives. And they exhibit a fundamental truism of hiking and
camping books. Both books are at turns, deadly serious and irreverent. In Skywalker, Bill Walker
has become obsessed at age 44 with thru-hiking the 2,180 mile Appalachian Trail without ever
having even spent a single night outdoors. What follows is a see-saw battle between his steely
determination but breathtaking blunders (leaving his backpack up on a mountain during a
Dennis Blanchard, author of Three Hundred Zeroes, attempts to thru-hike in his early
sixties, only to be felled with a heart attack. He gets off the trail in Pearisburg, Virginia
where he has sextuple bypass heart surgery. Instead, Blanchard comes back the following
year after taking ‘300 zero days’ and digs deep to complete the trail.
Both books demonstrate the vast undertaking that an Appalachian Trail thru-hike entails.
However, both manage to cope by maintaining good cheer with no hesitation to poke
fun at themselves.
For that reason both books have sold well for several years. And this demonstrates a
phenomenon one sees time and again with outdoor adventures. “The great masses of
people live in silent desperation,” Henry David Thoreau wrote. Likewise, many people
in the 21st century sense a hole in their lives. Better yet, they see the Appalachian Trail,
which runs through the world’s greatest remaining hardwood forest through 14 states,
as a place they can get it.