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  • Writer's pictureBriana DeSanctis

America on Two Feet: How the west was fun

For being arguably the most rugged and remote state on the American Discovery Trail, Nevada has brought more people to me than I could have imagined.

I crossed into Nevada while my dad and stepmom were visiting. Although my mileage significantly dropped during those three weeks, we were never lacking in activities. We mapped out places approximately 80 miles apart along the most isolated sections of trail and planted 5-gallon buckets with food and water resupply. These are most reliable when buried underground, and I have yet to retrieve them. If something happens to one of those buckets before I get there, I will not have enough food or water to continue.

Family visiting.

After my family wrapped their vacation with me, I met more friends upon entering Eureka. The locals are happy to share trail information and offer help. Many people suggested I skip ahead to get through the Sierras before finishing Nevada. After thinking about this for a while I decided to try to make it happen.

Halloween came and went, and as I was about to get back on trail, my long-time friend Betsy intercepted me on her own road trip. She drove all the way from Maine! We left Eureka together and headed to Reno, stopping along the way to camp and sightsee. I got to catch up on all the gossip from Maine and boy, did we have fun. Maine seems so far away, which is fine because I don’t plan on being there for a while anyway. All I can say about Nevada is that I know making up those miles is going to be very rough, cold, and long.

Betsy and I parted ways on a very windy day and I hiked out and crossed the border into California. Seeing Lake Tahoe for the first time took my breath away. It’s gigantic and surrounded by mountains. What an absolutely incredible place. The hiking is beautiful and the trails are maintained. There are lots of bears around but I’m probably more likely to see one ravaging a dumpster in town than on trail.

I have been anticipating being in this area now for so long, mainly because a very great friend of mine lives here. Sam and I grew up together in Maine. Our paths cross every once in a while, and the last time I’d seen him was around 15 years ago when we both were living in Colorado. It’s been great catching up, making art, meeting locals and hanging out. I also turned 40 on the 6th of November, so there’s another milestone, I guess.

Wouldn’t you know that another dear friend of mine drove out to visit! Sarah arrived from Colorado, we went hiking and I was able to slackpack (hike without having to carry all my gear). We have been on river trips and hikes together through the years. She is one of the people in my circle who is always down for an outdoor adventure and I’m glad she decided to drive out for a few days.

Nowhere, Nevada… they aren’t kidding.

My revolving door of visitors seems to be slowing. Next, I’ll hike along and across the Pacific Crest Trail as I cross the Sierra Nevada to make it to Auburn, CA before the snow starts getting deep. From there I will find a way to get all the way back to Eureka, NV and continue heading west where I left off. Once I return to the Reno/ Carson City area, back to Auburn, CA I go. From there begins the final leg of the journey to the Pacific Ocean and western terminus of the American Discovery Trail.

All of this has been so surreal for me. It’s a lot, but at the same time it’s just walking. Looking to the finish line, I’m uncertain, I’m scared, and I’m fighting an inevitable, encroaching darkness that I’ve encountered before. For two years I have been living and traveling in a nomadic way. Many people do not understand this. The extreme highs and lows are unexplainable. The sights I’ve seen, people I’ve met, and things I have learned; I am so grateful to have had these experiences. While I’d love to say that the hardest parts will be over soon, the biggest challenges begin once I finish this trail.

Lake Tahoe views.

Camping is so much easier in the west.

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