Briana DeSanctis is an avid outdoorswoman, writer and public speaker from Farmington, ME. She is currently in the ballpark of 5,500 miles into a 6,800-mile hike across the USA on the American Discovery Trail to be the first recorded woman to thru-hike this entire trail solo. DeSanctis began her trek on January 1st, 2022 from the Atlantic shores of Cape Henlopen, Delaware.
All the water on the eastern side leading up to the Continental Divide is cool and pristine due to the remote, unfarmed territory. The waters are murky and concentrated with agricultural runoff within 200 miles after crossing over to the western slope. I’m not a terribly squeamish person but it’s a little unsettling to be standing in a stream on a pile of underwater cow dung while filtering your water.
My ‘television’ at night consists of watching my small campfire. My ‘morning news’ has been observing the various animal tracks and excrement along the trail. Which way are the pronghorn headed? When did these coyotes pass through? I wonder if that hare was able to escape the mountain lion that was tracking it? How can a snake enjoy pooping out that much hair? The lizard tracks are the cutest!
I hadn’t seen many signs of human life in a few days, not a soul. Some of the trail was thick and overgrown and it was getting hot as I descended from the glorious Rocky Mountains my heart calls home. I was quite literally hiking on a cow path until I made it to Grand Junction, where I took a couple days off to prepare for my next challenge: The Kokopelli Trail into Utah.
Fun fact: water weighs about 8 lbs. per gallon. Not so fun fact: Leaving a water drop, I’m usually carrying almost 2 gallons in my hands while I have another 3 liters in my backpack. I’ve been hiking from one water cache to the next. Although it would be a dream come true, is unwise to drink all the water before arriving at the next cache. What if someone or something discovered it before me and removed/destroyed it? I’ve already seen 1 jug with a small pinhole that was slowly leaking into the thirsty desert sand. You cannot safely hike 20 miles in the desert during the peak of summer without water. You just can’t. Furthermore, most of the food I eat is prepared using water.
The ‘evil orb,’ also known as the sun, reigns the skies and is much stronger out here than anywhere I’ve hiked on this trail. I have developed new instincts; when I see any patch of shade during the day my body will involuntarily move there. I’ve stood in the slim shadow of a tree trunk for relief, shivering in 100° heat due to sun poisoning. Huddling up underneath my sleeping pad which becomes my ‘sunsetter awning’ has been my only option more than thrice. I was dry heaving quite frequently for 3 days as my body struggled to adjust to the desert climate.
It just so happened I found myself without sunscreen one day and luckily there was a paved road for a few miles. I flagged down every car I saw (3) and proceeded to ‘trade up’ the SPF level until I received a 70 from Dave and Becky. Usually, I was also offered water and other drinks.
With the support of Bob- my life beacon through the Beehive State, and the graciousness of the very few others I encountered, I completed the 142-mile Kokopelli Trail into Moab, Utah. I’ve now hiked about 5500 miles out of 6800, but the last 142 miles was another great learning experience, and completing the Kokopelli was a very proud accomplishment for me.
I leave Moab looking at some very long food carries between resupply points. It has been a lot of work to figure the mileage, amount of food, post office locations and hours, and how far are the towns from trail (my second resupply point in this section is a 50-mile hitch off the trail into Hanksville, Utah).
I didn’t decide to hike this trail because I thought it would be easy. I wanted it to make me stronger, sharper, teach me more, challenge me to my breaking point. Show me how strong I am and what I can do. This next thousand miles may be the best part of my entire hike.
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Follow on Instagram @brianadesanctis. If you’d like to DONATE to her journey, you can do so through her Venmo account, www.venmo.com/briana-desanctis
If you’d like Briana to come speak at your school or in your community, please email email@example.com