Briana Desanctis is an avid outdoorswoman and writer from Farmington, Maine. In 2015, she hiked the entirety of the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail on her own and has since hiked and paddled thousands of miles all over the country. She has much larger plans this year as she walks the 6,800-mile American Discovery Trail from Delaware to California. By hiking along the official route of this behemoth trail, she will be the first solo woman to ever complete this feat. Currently 1,000 miles into her trek, Briana has made the news over a handful of times and has been giving presentations in communities along the trail.
I arrived in Elizabethtown, Ohio and was greeted by the trail junction sign. This is where the American Discovery Trail’s northern and Southern routes diverge. Headed west on the southern route, I crossed into Lawrenceburg, Indiana. I was assaulted immediately by a pungent smell. The Seagrams whiskey distillery is there, and the odors are abound. Wouldn’t you know, the American Legion was right along the trail! I stopped in, looking for a place to camp, and ended up being offered 2 places to sleep!
“Hamster” suggested the Friendship Tavern once I entered the namesake town the following day. It was bingo night at the legion. Some of the local high school kids were volunteering, serving food. Hamster asked if I’d like to give an impromptu presentation and I gladly obliged. There’s not much more rewarding to me on this trip than speaking to our youth.
“There she is,” I heard as I walked up to the large front porch of the biker bar in the “Valley of the Unconcerned.” Missy and Whitney gave me a warm welcome and I was offered a campsite for the night, right on the creek! Friendship is one of those hidden gems. It reminded me a little bit of Rancho del Rio, Colorado.
Madison, Indiana was the next stop. I was very dirty and smelled like death, so it was very nice to shower and relax at the Hillside Inn. I met Seth, a new friend, at the Off-Broadway Taproom, where I ended up getting 9 tacos and heading out to see the town and shoot some pool.
I was just entering Clark State Forest when the sky opened up. Sideways rain, thunder and lightning, high winds; it’s definitely alarming while in the woods. In my years of backpacking I have heard and seen many trees fall. This time I was lucky.
The trail provides, and I was offered rides to make it to the Appalachian Trail Days festival in Damascus, Virginia. I can’t tell you how fulfilling and uplifting it was to spend time in fellowship with other hikers, to laugh till I cried, to see my friends and make many new ones, to hike through the Grayson Highlands with the wild ponies and beautiful trail.
Just as easy as getting to Virginia, I was able to catch a ride back to New Albany, Indiana with my friends 612 and Flor. Here I am, back on trail again. I feel refreshed.
Some people on the American Discovery Trail don’t make it through Ohio. I’m working my way through Indiana now, and there is absolutely no stopping me from my goal. There are hardships. There is a lot of discomfort. There is uncertainty every day. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’d still rather be here than anywhere else.