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  • Writer's pictureBriana DeSanctis

America on Two Feet: I fell in love with Utah

If you know three things about me, one of them is probably the fact that Colorado’s got a special spot in my heart. Utah has wandered into my life and is now fighting to take first place. Known as the Beehive State (not having to do with bees or beehives, really), Utah is about as diverse as they come. The Utah portion of the American Discovery Trail boasts over 600 miles now, 13 miles longer this summer thanks to a new route created due to a wildfire along the old one.

Utah’s rock formations are vibrant and unique.

Utah has tons of magical places. There are so many areas I’d rather explore instead of trying to hike X amount of miles from point A to point B. I envy that majority who loosely use the ADT as a guideline rather than strictly follow the trail, or skip the boring or hard sections (not a lot of boring in Utah, though). Thru-hiking is rewarding but it can be difficult to see things that are off the trail. In contrast, however, there are so many more places I can go on foot than by vehicle and I honestly believe from experience that the most beautiful places on earth are inaccessible with wheels.

“How many miles per day do you average? How many calories do you burn? When will you be finished?” These are questions I’m constantly being asked. I’m not a person to record my daily mileage, or keep track of the number of actual days I’ve been on trail. To me it is irrelevant information, and I usually can’t even remember what month it is. I hike as much or as little as I want to every day. Mileage greatly varies and depends on literally everything. When I was hiking through most states other than Colorado and Utah I was more likely to hike until dark because quite often I was forced to camp on private property or in questionable areas and didn’t want to be seen and kicked out. In these scenic areas with ample places to camp (thanks to the abundance of BLM lands), my focus is the reward of having a prime camping spot- of which there are many.

Sunrise on Boulder Mountain- prime camping!

I have the technological capabilities to figure out the calorie thing, but I honestly don’t care because it doesn’t matter. When I am hungry, I eat. When I am thirsty, I drink. Over time during a thru-hike, you look at everything much differently. Food is fuel. I eat to survive and my body tells me exactly what to do.

The next time someone asks me when I will finish the trail, I might just ask them when they plan on dying because my answer is just as uncertain. I will be finished as soon as I put my feet into the Pacific Ocean. It may sound rude, but try walking across America for 2 years and being asked the same questions thousands and thousands of times. Do you still wonder why I enjoy going days without seeing anyone?

My cousin came to visit and we had a great time together. She brought my winter weather gear since the temps are dropping quite rapidly. Most long-distance hikers have two different setups for summer and winter. Usually the winter gear would include a sleeping bag rated for cold weather, heavier gloves, maybe a different type of shoe or boot, insulated sleeping pad, cold weather hat, etc. Although my gear is ultralight for the most part, winter gear can be bulkier and I’m still configuring the best way to load my backpack.

I have less than 100 miles until I cross the border into Nevada. The trail through the Sagebrush State is 500 miles long and traverses 14 mountain ranges on trails and hardly used dirt roads. My legs are extremely strong at this point and physically, I feel great. My head is mentally (always) in the game, although I’m largely left with my own thoughts while hiking these desolate stretches. I dread the day I touch the Pacific, but the more I plan and fill my schedule for the days and months post-hike, the more accepting of it I become.

The life trail continues. The knowledge that can be drawn from comparing hiking life to society is always refreshingly accurate. I negotiated my way through the absolutely beautiful and remote Oak Creek Canyon, which has quicksand and quickmud in many places along the creek bed. I was hiking against the current and quickly learned the trick for quickmud. The mud on the side of the rock where the creek’s current was pushing into it, was solid. If I stepped on the other side of that rock, where there was no pressure, I immediately started sinking. Akin to life, if you aren’t being pushed, you might sink. Find your push; your motivation, and stay on the correct side of the rock.

Arm day in the canyon.

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