Briana DeSanctis’s Favorite Maine Place

The record-setting hiker fell in love with solo backpacking on Cutler's Coastal Trail back in 2013.

Coastal Trail, in Cutler, Maine
Photo by Benjamin Williamson
By Sarah Stebbins
From our May 2024 issue

In February, Farmington native Briana DeSanctis waded into the Pacific Ocean from California’s Point Reyes National Seashore, becoming the first woman to complete the cross-country American Discovery Trail as a solo thru-hike. Two years earlier, DeSanctis set off from the Delaware coast and hiked to Ohio, where the ADT splits into northern and southern legs. She took the northern route, through the upper Midwest, to Denver, where the trails reconverge. Then, she flew back to Ohio to start the southern route, through the lower Midwest. “I wasn’t going to re-hike anything,” DeSanctis says. “I’m a badass, not a dumbass.” When she reached Point Reyes, she’d walked more than 6,800 miles.

Briana DeSanctis
Headshot by Kevin Dingman

DeSanctis had been looking for a fresh challenge ever since she finished hiking the 2,197-mile Appalachian Trail, in 2015. She chose the ADT for its daunting distance and the opportunity to set a record. Along the route, people offered her provisions and places to stay. A few questioned her decision to travel alone. “I got tired of that because I know what I’m doing,” DeSanctis says. “And if something happens, I’ve had a really good run.”

DeSanctis’s interest in solo backpacking started in 2013, with a day trip to the Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land. She hiked through the woods and emerged at the Fairy Head campsites clustered on the Coastal Trail, which winds along oceanside cliffs. “I was like, I want to wake up here,” says DeSanctis, who resolved to acquire backpacking gear and return someday. During a freak April snowstorm, in 2019, she did. “It was awesome,” she says. “I had the whole place to myself.”

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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