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  • Writer's pictureBriana DeSanctis

America on Two Feet: Nebraska Begins

While traversing Iowa I received an unexpected message. It was a fellow Appalachian Trail thru-hiker I had met in 2015. We had not hiked together; actually we’d only met at the very end of both of our hikes- Baxter State Park- and summited Katahdin on the same day. His message offered to slackpack me, put a roof over my head, take me out to eat, laundry, etc; all the things that hikers look forward to.


Mulambo- his trail name- lives not far from Cedar Falls and he gladly met with me for lunch and we subsequently drove to his home in Waverly. Although we barely knew each other at first, we had a blast reminiscing about the Appalachian Trail and sharing our best stories. I stayed with Mulambo for quite a while, between hitting some very cold nights and then having a gear malfunction. I can’t express how great it was to cook in a real kitchen and have a friend to talk to instead of talking to myself.


Iowans remained consistent about their friendliness and hospitality further along the trail, and every place I stopped I felt very welcomed. When the trail used roads, I was greeted by waves rather than strange looks. The county Sheriff stopped alongside me one day.


“Do you need a ride?”


“No, I’m walking on purpose.”


“Where are you headed?”


“California.”


He immediately threw his truck into park and I tried to mask a smirk as he removed his seat belt and exited the vehicle. We exchanged cards and he told me where I could camp for the night. He also said to call him from anywhere if I need assistance. “I can make things happen.”


One of Briana’s last Iowa sunsets.


Mile after mile, rolling hill after rolling hill, I trod through the western part of the state. I visited small towns and collected more new friends. People invited me to sleep on their couches and fed me home-cooked meals. America has really taken care of this wanderer.


The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge loomed in the distance, marking my final steps out of Iowa. These are always moments of reflection and nostalgia. As I frightfully crossed the slightly shaky bridge, I happened to look down and realized I was at the border. I couldn’t help but shed a tear for all the wonderful people I’d met in Iowa. Now it was going to be all new… but it always was new, and it always is, for all of us.


No matter how you live, every day is a brand new one. Every day, every sunrise, is a new chance to do what you want with your life. It’s never too late to make a change, take a step, take a walk, drive, hike, or do whatever you want. This is your life. No matter what you believe, this is the only one of these you’re getting. Plan accordingly, friends.


Campsite in Louisville, NE

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