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  • Writer's pictureBriana DeSanctis

America on Two Feet: Ups and downs in Flat Lands



Greetings from Kansas! It’s been a while since I’ve written. My brand-new work laptop (which I have been sending to myself through the postal service as I go, allowing me to write this column and work on my book) was displaced in the mail with a lot of other things I really can’t afford to lose. I sent it from Gorham, IL on June 23 with two other packages, which hikers call “bounce boxes” that the postal service employees are usually happy to forward to the next post office in the event you beat them there and have moved on. It’s funny to me how I am walking and often beat my packages to the post office.


Traveling through East St. Louis, by the way, was a breeze. The only people I saw that morning were some road construction workers and they all smiled and waved. I’d given Court (a trail angel I met back in Goreville, IL) my backpack to babysit until later that day. I need everything I carry, and me getting mugged and losing all my gear would financially crush me. However, sorry to all you fearmongers and racists, but I strolled right through the impoverished, desolate area without even a pocketknife. I’ll be going through way tougher places than this once I get out in the wild west where there is no one. When I say tough, I mean mentally tough.


I crossed the Eads Bridge and arrived in St. Louis, Missouri; the exact date escapes me at the moment, but I remember it being an emotional one as it was the same day Roe v. Wade had been overturned. I sat down at a restaurant and ate fish and chips through tear-filled eyes. One small step for me into St. Louis, one giant leap backward for mankind. What would come next? I was sad, angry, disgusted and felt disrespected and betrayed. People are so gross it’s alarming.


Tanner and I have been keeping in touch for 6 years although we had never physically met. He’s a river guide from the Midwest and I’d reached out to him years ago for advice for a 2,000-mile source-to-sea kayaking trip down the Mississippi I’d been invited on which never came into fruition. We kept in touch, and he just happened to be living in North St. Louis as I was passing through. He picked me up; we went to a festival; we went to the City Museum, and I basically lived at his house for a few days. Through Tanner I also met some more new friends, including Rosa, who joined me at a peaceful protest and march in St. Louis. It was powerful and meaningful. Always stand up for what you believe.


My friend Elli who I’ve known quite a while from Colorado had also relocated to St. Louis. I stayed with her for a week while she shuttled me back and forth to the trail (which uses the Katy Trail for mostly all of Missouri). At the same time, my friend Genesee from the Appalachian Trail was on a road trip to relocate to the west coast. He met me at Elli’s house and stayed there as well, while we explored an abandoned cement factory and did a little hiking together.


Genesee brought me to the St. Louis post office to pick up my three packages, but I came out only with one. The other two (which are the only ones I cared about) were missing. HOW, I ask you, can three packages that left a Podunk town post office all in the same bin, on the same truck, on the same day with the same destination become separated?


The mystery continues, but I couldn’t postpone my trip any longer to wait for someone to find my packages. I hiked through Missouri on the Katy Trail, meeting more and more kind people. It was very hot and humid. The towns were tiny, water was sometimes hard to find, camping isn’t allowed on the Katy Trail itself, but I managed to find a place to set my tent up every night, even in town parks with nosy locals.


I spoke to the Lion’s Club in Pilot Grove, I met a friendly, hardworking gal named Rose from Deon’s who introduced me to Harold, who saved my butt by delivering the replacement tent pole I’d ordered (which the Boonville post office refused to send ahead (?).


Jefferson City is Missouri’s capitol, and it just so happened that my uncle Rick coordinated to meet me in his camper, traveling from Minnesota. My mother and her friend actually drove out from Maine to surprise me, and we spent a few days hanging out and exploring. We had a lot of fun, and I’m glad they had a chance to better understand what I’m doing.


I met some awesome girls in Missouri. Linda “Shake n’ Bake” Baker introduced me to her friends and took me to Columbia for a pool party. Kim from Windsor let me stay in her cabins for some great rest. Michelle and Deb from Lee’s Summit slackpacked and hosted me at their house, also helping me put together more speaking gigs. Missouri was a busy state for me, and it hasn’t slowed down since. My cousin came from Colorado to help me out getting to my speaking engagements, one of which was at the GARMIN headquarters! By now I had crossed into Kansas, just in time for Kansas to stand up for women’s rights. Life definitely has its ups and downs, but the Midwest is gonna give me a heart attack, and I’m not talking about all the awesome barbecue.


Mike and Michelle kidnapped me and have offered to be my support for the rest of Kansas and beyond. He literally has told me over 50 times to call him if I need anything. They helped tremendously, getting me to and from my gigs in Kansas City and to and from the trail.


Kristen and Christie showed up at a lot of my gigs as did Deb, Michelle, and Annette’s family, and all helped to get things moving. I couldn’t have been as successful without them. I also met Ray and Wendy after one of my presentations and they offered me a place to stay in Ottawa, KS. So here I am, sitting in this beautiful 2-bedroom apartment which used to be part of the old City Hall, using a borrowed laptop to write to you.


The weather is still hot, humid and in the 90’s or higher. Nighttime is not much cooler, but the show must go on. I’m on my 5th pair of shoes and I’m hoping they last me to Colorado, although it’s doubtful. I’ve still got about 500 miles of Kansas to hike until I enter Colorado, and I’m much later coming through than I’d intended.


I’m perpetually being rewarded with opportunities to speak to adults and young people alike, in a time where many people are afraid to go anywhere by themselves and think the world is a bad place. It’s my job to explain to them what I’m doing, educate them on how to step out of the depressing shell they’re in, and inspire them to do something to make them happier. I always say this: The first step is usually the hardest, but the hardest thing to do is usually the best thing to do.


The outcome of my missing packages will be hopefully resolved soon. There was a lot of money invested in the contents of those boxes. The laptop showed up at my dad’s vacant house and found sitting on the uncovered porch steps, broken and not in a box with anything else. Who knows how long it had been sitting there in the elements. I’m really crushed about that and perturbed and confused as to where all my other things are. What’s going on is not okay. I’ve got someone working to help me, but I’m losing faith as each day goes by, especially when the now broken laptop showed up on the steps in New Hampshire. My permanent address is not in New Hampshire, and the return address was supposed to go to my friends’ house in Cincinnati.


Sometimes I just want to cry about all this, but instead I’ll just keep pushing, using my voice, getting heard, and as always, I’m going to keep walking.


To stay up to date on the latest news, daily videos, and posts, like my page www.facebook.com/rockygoeshiking. If you’d like to donate to my trip, you can do so through my venmo account, www.venmo.com/briana-desanctis. If you’d like me to come speak at your school or in your community, please reach out through my Facebook page or email me at bree683@hotmail.com

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