The highpoint of Briana DeSanctis’ American Discovery Trail journey to date was summiting 13,207-foot Argentine Pass on the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies. Courtesy of Briana DeSanctis

New Year’s Day is a time to reflect upon the past 12 months and make resolutions for the coming year. In your musings, consider reflecting on the incredible journey of Farmington native Briana DeSanctis, and resolve to follow her footsteps as she strives to become the first woman to solo thru-hike across the United States on the American Discovery Trail.

The 39-year-old DeSanctis, who goes by the trail name “Rocky Mountain High,” began her cross-country adventure on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean exactly one year ago. While the rest of us have been going about our daily lives for the last 365 days, she has been steadily walking westward, covering more than 3,000 miles in the process.

The American Discovery Trail begins at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware and meanders on to eastern Ohio, where it splits into northern and southern routes across the plains states. Merging again near Denver, the trail continues to the Pacific Ocean at Point Reyes National Seashore, California. From coast to coast, the trail follows a host of pathways, byways and highways over a diverse mix of rural and urban, forest and farm, and desert and mountain landscapes. Hiking it all totals a whopping 6,800 miles, and that’s exactly what DeSanctis is determined to do.

Briana DeSanctis has been walking the American Discovery Trail for a full year, covering 3,000 miles of the 6,800-mile route so far. Courtesy of Briana DeSanctis

By late November, after taking the trail’s southern route, DeSanctis had reached the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, where early winter snows blocked the high passes and made further progress too difficult and inherently dangerous. She then flew back to Ohio to begin tackling the northern route, and hopes to connect the dots by late spring and push on to the Pacific.

“I’m feeling good,” DeSanctis said recently from her hotel room in Indiana, where she was escaping 15-degree temperatures and incessant winds. “It’s good to get warm and dry, take a hot shower, do laundry, use the wi-fi, eat a good meal and just relax in comfort for a little while.”

DeSanctis has found the American Discovery Trail to be completely different and not as wild as the Appalachian Trail, which she completed in 2015. “The hiking is pretty easy, and often on flat, straight trails,” she said. “And there’s been a lot of mindless road walking, where getting struck by a car or attacked by a dog are real possibilities.”


A year into the trek, DeSanctis feels changed by the experience, especially by the people she’s met, most of whom have never even heard of this trail even though it passes through their town. As a walking trail ambassador, she’s been a source of local intrigue, and that has led to reaping the kindness of many strangers.

“I’m learning a lot about people, who they are and what their lives are about,” said DeSanctis. “I never pass up an opportunity to talk with people,” who very often stop her and ask if she needs anything, like a ride, food, water, soda, beer, or maybe a place to stay for the night. As for feeling vulnerable, she said: “not at all.”

The high point of the hike, literally and figuratively, was reaching the summit of 13,207-foot Argentine Pass on the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies. “This stunning spot was what I was hiking for all along. It was totally exhilarating to be so far out and way up there,” DeSanctis said.

The mental low point came on the River to River Trail in Illinois. It was over 100 degrees, there were a lot of ticks, and the trail was muddy from a lot of use by horseback riders. “I called it ‘horse poop soup,’ ” DeSanctis said. “I was overheated, dehydrated and kept losing my way on the overgrown trail. It was pretty miserable.”

Farmington’s Brianna DeSanctis has faced plenty of hot, sweltering weather during her 12 months on the American Discovery Trail. Briana DeSanctis photo

DeSanctis knew that the American Discovery Trail hike, like every long trail, would be more of a struggle than a comfortable walk. “It’s not all fun, but I’m free out here and I want to see it through and inspire others.” Asked about when she’ll be done and back home, she said: “I’ve been home the entire time out here, wherever I am. And I’m not sure when I’ll finish.”

You can follow DeSanctis’ journey on Facebook at Rocky Mountain High on the American Discovery Trail. Learn more about the American Discovery Trail at

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is an award winning member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. His latest book, “Beer Hiking New England,” will be out in print in March. Follow more of Carey’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram @careykish

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