On Sunday, Maine hiker Briana DeSanctis posted an image to her Instagram account of her walking into the ocean at Point Reyes National Seashore. She's carrying her hiking boots in her hand, her bare feet leaving prints in the wet sand. What the photograph doesn't portray are the many, many miles those feet walked to get here.
DeSanctis set off on her hike two years ago, and is now believed to be the third person and first woman to have completed the gargantuan American Discovery Trail. The ADT stretches from the Atlantic ocean on the shores of Cape Henlopen in Delaware all the way to the Pacific in California, making it one of the longest hiking trails in the US.
"What a lot of feelings," she writes on her last day of the hike. "I'm still trying to process everything."
DeSanctis' route left no part of the trail unturned. The ADT splits in Ohio, with one route going north through Indiana, Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska and the southern branch crossing Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois and Kansas before meeting again in Colorado. The idea is that hikers can choose a route, but DeSanctis chose to retrace her steps and complete both sections, meaning she walked more than 6,800 miles in total.
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During her epic journey, she visited 15 states at least once, and crossed terrain from the high Rockies to the urban cityscapes of D.C. She saw every season, twice, soaked in hot springs, lost her wallet and found it again. She played in the red rock formations of Canyonlands National Park, saw elk, bear and cooked a lot of camping meals on her trusty Jetboil. Her longest day was 34 miles.
The journey wasn't DeSanctis' first foray into the world of long distance thru-hiking – she's previously completed the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. What she does next remains to be seen, but perhaps she'll consider one these gorgeous National Scenic Trails?
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.