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  • Writer's pictureBriana DeSanctis

America on Two Feet: Fifty Shades of Winter

Updated: Mar 22

A young child screamed bloody murder for the entire descent into Cincinnati and all I could help thinking was that I felt the same way. From being out west in all of my Rocky Mountain glory to whisking myself back to the flat northern route of the American Discovery Trail seemed like a punishment. I walked the last of the Colorado dust off from the bottom of my shoes to the baggage claim and had no trouble locating my backpack.

The first immediate highlight of my arrival was reuniting with Nikki and Jamie of Moondoggie Liveree. They jumped out of the vehicle and gave me big hugs. I instantly felt much better about the whole situation as we drove off into the night.

The three of us enjoyed a fun weekend together before Jamie brought me back to the sign I hadn’t seen since spring. I gazed down the road I had taken months ago; the southern route. Many memories of all the people I was fortunate enough to encounter came flooding back. All the towns I loved, all the towns I walked through with no feeling: did any of this even happen? We took a few pictures, Jamie drove home, and I headed north on the unknown road.

It was at least a week before I saw any blue sky. I tried to remember to take photos, but the long, paved rail trails and old farm roads all looked the same and I felt understimulated in comparison to colorful Colorado.

The Indiana hospitality was a pleasant spark during the dreary days. People work hard and care about their neighbors. Maybe it helped, being the Christmas season and all, but I found Indianans to be a very hospitable breed.

During the cold snap that froze most of the nation I found myself on a couch in St. John with some friends of my parents whom I’d never met. The temperatures dropped well below zero and with the lake effect I saw -34°F. Frostbite warnings were issued as it was impossible to be outdoors for longer than 30 minutes with exposed skin.

I’ve since crossed into northern Illinois. I’ll be hiking rail trails for as far as I can see. The northern route of the American Discovery Trail is hardly traversed, so I’m taking it upon myself to help the society with trail improvements, updates and re-routes. If nobody is reporting back, how can anything be done to improve?

The winter hasn’t gotten the best of me yet, and it won’t. When people ask me what I have learned on this trip, I always talk about what I’ve learned about the behaviors of others. It never occurred to me until this moment that I have learned so much about perseverance and pushing myself further. I’m not being physically challenged; I’m hiking myself into boredom. The mental challenges are the biggest mountains on this hike.

Fresh snow on the American Discovery Trail.

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