My name is Briana DeSanctis and nothing about me is normal. I am left-handed, I was born on election day, my name is mispronounced by most everyone, and I love subjecting myself to large outdoor adventures such as thru-hiking and long-distance hiking in general. If you don’t remember me from Mt. Blue High School (no offense taken, I don’t think I was popular), you may recall the server who worked days at the Homestead Bakery and always remembered your order. The girl who, in 2015 quit her job and flew to Georgia so she could hike the 2,189.2 miles of the Appalachian Trail back to Maine. That’s me, and yes, I finished the Appalachian Trail after 6 and a half months of the most joy and wonder I’ve ever experienced.
Seven years of shorter trips and other awesome outdoor excursions later, I’m back for more; 231% more if we are talking miles.
On New Year’s Day whether you’re taking down the holiday décor, wading through the empties looking for a Gatorade, or devouring your first meal of 2022 (besides the leftover Chinese you polished off after midnight), I’ll be up bright and early with my toes in the Atlantic waters of Cape Henlopen, Delaware, taking my first of over 10.1 million steps westward- to San Francisco, California!- on the American Discovery Trail.
Chances are, you’ve never heard of the American Discovery Trail and that’s understandable since 1) This trail does not go through Maine (or any of New England), 2) founded about 20 years ago, this is a relatively new trail, and 3) I’m willing to bet you don’t know anyone
crazy enough to take on such a large adventure. Now you do.
The American Discovery Trail is the nation’s first coast-to-coast non-motorized trail. The trail meanders west from Cape Henlopen, Delaware at first along roads. I have purchased maps through the Discovery Trail website for GPX and also printable data books containing the turn-by-turn directions for the entire trail. The basis of this trail is to take actual TRAIL whenever possible, however, many people push wheeled carts or some type of buggy rather than (or in addition to) carrying a backpack, so the map does have alternate routes suitable for wheeled vessels such as said carts or also bicycles. I have chosen to backpack the official route because I’ve got enough responsibility maintaining my own ‘chevrolegs’, let alone 2 to 4 wily wheels to worry about. Furthermore, that much road walking is very hard on your body and I prefer the wilderness trails to pavement almost always.
Much of the easternmost part of the American Discovery Trail is connected by town and country roads, rail trails and community trails. I’ll eventually arrive in Harper’s Ferry, WV and cross over the Appalachian Trail along the C&O Canal towpath. I will also cross the Colorado Trail, Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. I will be hiking through cities, towns, farmland, lots of neverending cornfields, rugged, rocky terrain, 12,000’ mountain ranges, the alpine desert, the regular desert, and every type of rock, root, snow, ice, mud, sand, grass, pavement and gravel you can imagine.
The majority of my nights will be spent sleeping in my tent. The majority of the days will most likely be spent walking an average of 25 miles while trying to figure out WHERE I can set up my tent. There aren’t hiker shelters or campgrounds specific to the trail and there’s no doubt in my mind I’ll be sleeping in some places that are sketchy at best. I will plan my days accordingly so as to not run out of food before I get to the next town to resupply. Sometimes I’ll get a cheap motel room so I can shower and wash my clothes and write this column.
Things are going to get a little hairy in Utah and Nevada. Bob Palin, the Utah state coordinator and VP of the American Discovery Trail Society has told me that he believes it is not possible to get through Utah and Nevada without support (water caches). Nevada is by far the most REMOTE territory I’ll traverse during this hike and water will be scarce. I’ll need to find someone to bury gallons of water for me in the desert near the trail every 20 miles or so and send me the coordinates, although this will have to be done a few months in advance because I’m not counting on having any cell service when I get there. I’ll worry more about that later. Time for the Q & A:
Q: How long will this trip take you?
A: My route is 5,057 miles long. Calculations say about 1 year, hopefully longer.
Q: Who is going with you?
A: I’d never imagine trying to do something like this with anyone else.
Q: Aren’t you afraid?
A: No. I’m sure I’ll be scared out of my mind sometimes, but that’s how you become stronger.
Q: Are you bringing a gun?
A: I don’t recommend trying to find out.
Q: How about a dog?
A: Nope. Too much responsibility. Plus, I don’t have a dog.
Q: Do you accept donations?
A: I’d be a fool if I didn’t! My Venmo is @Briana-DeSanctis
Q: Are you going to write a book?
A: Yes! You should buy it!
Q: Why are you doing this?
A: I thought you’d never ask! I am hiking the American Discovery Trail for quite a few reasons:
-To see what I can see
-To live my life deliberately (See Henry David Thoreau)
-To empower other women
-To inspire others, most importantly the next generation
-To push and test my limits
-To learn as much as possible
-To become a better human
-Because the reasons for doing this are much more powerful than any reason not to.
I’ll be writing to you every month here on The Daily Bulldog. If you would like to see more photos and video footage, I have created a Facebook page specifically for this hike which is: Rocky Mountain High on the American Discovery Trail. For more information on the American Discovery Trail, check out www.discoverytrail.org. Until next time!