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.
Have I told you how strange the concept of time is, out here? Dates mean nothing, but actual time itself; it feels as though I’ve been hiking this trail for four years, rather than four months. The people I’ve met, the miles I’ve walked, the things I’ve seen-is this even real?
I’ve experienced more in the last four months than some people will experience in their entire lifetime. That, to me, is incomprehensible. On the other side of the spectrum, I also have friends that do much more adventuring and extreme sporting than I.
Ohio boasts many caves and waterfalls and is home to the Buckeye Trail. I spent the last 300 miles or so navigating this trail; over and under massive tree blowdowns, through flooded creeks, and into the thorns and the deepest mud my legs have seen. The Buckeye Trail is not for the faint of heart, and neither is the mapping system for the American Discovery Trail.
I had already gotten used to the unnecessary struggle of switching from my GPX maps to my paper maps, and then cross referencing on Google maps. That was irritating enough, but as of late I discovered a few places where the GPX and the paper maps are contradicting each other. Hmmm. It would be nice if the society could get it together and follow suit to uniformly update their system once a year like the AT Guide does on the Appalachian Trail. Either way, I’ll keep hiking this thing. Just this once.
Byron Guy is the Ohio state coordinator for the American Discovery Trail and he met me several times throughout the past 500 miles. He fits the bill for a great coordinator; he is interested, proactive, and knowledgeable about the trail. He’s also a wicked fun guy!
The rest of the people I’ve met in Ohio have been nothing short of hospitable. From strangers stopping in the middle of the road to hand me a water (or running out of their house with a beer, even better), to longtime hiker family repeatedly driving to and from trailheads to pick me up and spoil me with a comfy bed and shower and laundry, to like-minded adventurers coercing me to spend time on their property to share with me a part of this land that they love.
I gave a talk at Roads Rivers and Trails, an outfitter store in Milford, Ohio and the place was packed. I was thrilled to meet the locals and make even more friends. It was also very fulfilling to speak about my experiences on trail so far and be able to answer lots of questions. Another reason why I love to give presentations is to round up everyone who has been inviting me to their homes or trying to meet me in some way and get it all done in one go.
I won’t be able to meet everyone. I need to find my balance somehow. Maybe it will never happen. I already know all these outcomes and I’ve had to accept the fact that this hike really isn’t my hike. I won’t lie to you. However, I will censor and sugarcoat the snot out of it until my book is published. I absolutely hate walking on eggshells and trying to tiptoe around certain subjects. I don’t enjoy censoring the words I use. My book, and what you have seen so far, will be two completely different stories.
My heart is not always in this hike, but at the end of the day I’d still rather not be anywhere else. I truly hope you enjoy following my journey, because at this point it is entirely for you.
Next comes northern Kentucky, briefly, before shooting back to Ohio only to cross into Indiana by way of Elizabethtown. I can only imagine what awaits in the coming weeks as I leave this area, abundant with resources, and make my way deeper into the midwest. Until then, it’s just one foot in front of the other; one step at a time.