Woman attempts first solo thru-hike of American Discovery Trail

Briana DeSanctis, of Farmington, Maine, stands in the parking lot just outside the Stevensville Post Office, Friday, Jan. 7, wearing her backpack and dressed for cold weather hiking. She began her year-long journey of walking across the U.S. along the American Discovery Trail, from Cape Henlopen, Delaware, and will be hiking west for the remainder of the year to arrive at Point Reyes National Seashore, California. She did get a ride across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge that day.

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STEVENSVILLE — New Year’s Day, veteran female hiker Briana DeSanctis, 38, originally of Farmington, Maine, took the first steps of her 5,057 mile journey New Year’s Day. Embarking on the American Discovery Trail to cross the United States in a little more than a year, she began her journey from the coast in Cape Henlopen, Del.

DeSanctis hiked the entire 2,198.2 mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine back in 2015. She started that trek March 5 and ended it on Sept. 17 of that year. So, she’s no novice to hiking long distances.

She described the Appalachian Trail thru-hike, as she defines to mean, “not taking a break, like just hiking on weekends, and going back to your job, but a continuous hike from beginning to end” as a “beautiful, painful, heartbreaking, miraculous experience.”

“I was blown away at what I was capable of doing,” DeSanctis said, “that I could spend six months outside with a backpack in all kinds of weather. Like many long-distance hikers, the enormous elation of the big finish (of the AT) was short-lived. I traveled all over the U.S. the next six years, working in Colorado, Washington state, and New Hampshire. Another thru-hike was always part of a restless plan, but where and when was uncertain.”

Then, she read about the American Discovery Trail.

She credits her parents for teaching her of the love of the great outdoors. She said, “I grew up in Maine and spent most of my childhood outdoors. My parents took me camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, and exploring, and that quickly became the foundation of my life. I begin my attempt to be the first woman to solo thru-hike the official Southern route of the American Discovery Trail, spanning 5,057 miles from Cape Henlopen, DE to Point Reyes National Seashore in San Francisco, CA. The American Discovery Trail is the first coast-to-coast non-motorized trail.”

The American Discovery Southern Trail will take her through Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California to the Pacific Ocean. “Depending on how I feel at the end, I may consider going back and completing the northern portion of the ADT, which would cover Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska to complete the entire trail. But, I’ve got a long way to go before that.”

One of the first places she stopped after crossing over into Maryland was the American Legion located in Denton. She walked into the building wearing her backpack, and she said, “Everyone stopped and turned around a just looked at me! I told them, “Now that I’ve got your attention, I’m Briana DeSanctis, and I’m hiking across the United States. Can someone sign me so I can get something to eat?” She said, “Those folks at the American Legion were all over me, getting me a drink and something to eat! The same thing happened when I stopped at the “Little Legion” in Queenstown. I want those veterans to know how much I appreciated their hospitality.”

Carrying a huge backpack, Thursday, Jan. 6, DeSanctis stopped at the Stevensville Post Office on Kent Island that morning, looking for a package. She stopped long enough for a photograph before hiking on to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, where a friend from Baltimore drove her across the bridge. She said she’d discovered it’s not allowed to walk across the bridge.

Why is she doing this? She has a couple answers, “The tipping point was discovering that no woman has ever hiked the entire official ADT solo as a thru-hike,” she said, “I’ll be the first. I’d like to think, it’ll inspire others to do it. Because of the ADT’s length and its east to west orientation across the country, plus the potential to set a record as the first female to go it alone, I told myself ‘I have to do this!’ The ADT is more than twice the length of the Appalachian Trail, 230.9% longer to be exact. I’m mentally prepared for this trip and chomping at the bit. This new year will be a year of importance and purpose, accountability and responsibility, struggle and triumph and growth.”

From Kent Island, DiStanctis is making her way to Washington, D.C., where she will pick-up the C & O Canal towpath, that runs from Georgetown almost 190-miles to Cumberland, Maryland. She said, “I’ve noted there’s lots of camping stops along the towpath.” DeSanctis is a believer in the “Leave no trace camping philosophy” — to make no harmful impact on nature/environment while camping.

She plans to make public speaking engagements along the trail, to help educate the public about her journey, about staying safe, and especially to educate children about following their dreams. Currently, her first scheduled event will be when she arrives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she will speak to a women’s group.

To keep tabs of her progress, she’s posting regularly on Facebook. You can find her Facebook page at “Rocky Mountain High on the American Discovery Trail”. Her trail nickname is “Rocky Mountain High.”

She also writing a newspaper column while she’s hiking, and a blog, and she’s also writing a book about this journey.

You can also email her messages of encouragement at bree683@hotmail.com. She does have some sponsors for this hike, and she’s saved personally for expenses, however, she is still accepting donations. If you wish to contribute, make a donation, mail it to her mom who works at Aptuitiv, Inc., with DeSanctis’ name listed at 224 Broadway, Farmington, Maine 04938. Her mom will makes sure she gets the donation.

This article originally ran on myeasternshoremd.com.


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