Education

Hikers taking on 3,100 mile trek across the USA pass halfway mark

Fundraising University of Leicester student and graduate give update on their gruelling challenge

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 18 July 2017
Photographs and video from Joel and Joe’s trek so far available to download at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/0yv2o9jg2tw20z9/AABDJbSsnTYFoC2pY0oY1FBBa?dl=0

Two amateur hikers who are taking on the challenge of a trek across the United States have spoken about their experience so far as they enter Wyoming – the halfway point of their journey.
Aiming to tackle the 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail, University of Leicester Engineering student Joel Strickland and Geography graduate Joe Boot are travelling through five states, twenty-five national forests and three national parks in their journey from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. A trip that would normally take six months, they aim to complete it in six months at an average of 20 miles a day.
They hope to raise £5000 for the University of Leicester’s Widening Participation programme, inspiring young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to raise their educational aspirations, and MQ, who help fund ground-breaking mental health research.
They set out from the UK on 28 March, starting their journey on 1 April and they are still on track to finish the trail in six months. Wyoming is the third of the five states that the pair will travel through.
Joel said: “Every day is tiring and keeping up the motivation to walk consistently can be difficult. Acknowledging the incredible life experience we are gaining, and all the positive support we get, including sponsorship to our charities, helps us stay committed and confident to finish.
“We reached mile 1500 about 50 miles before the Colorado-Wyoming border which was the half way point of the trip. We reached it about a week behind schedule because of the slow progress through Colorado. We would like to stress the record breaking snowfall in 20 years and harsh weather which made us come off the San Juan mountains in Southern Colorado and take a lower route!
“We have been humbly taken back by the kindness and generosity the local people have shown towards us. From people stopping on a highway checking we are okay and giving us cold drinks; to rides around town and meals bought for us. And also from fresh water and fruit left on dry sections of trail to the offer of a shower and place to stay upon arriving in a town. We call these acts of kindness ‘trail magic’ and it makes our journey all the more worth it!
“When people ask where we’ve come from and we say ‘we walked here from Mexico’. The shocked expressions on their faces are priceless.”
Joel details more about their trip so far in an interview on the University of Leicester website: https://goo.gl/HHQMpt
Only about two hundred people a year attempt to hike the entire trail, most of them USA citizens, and this once-in-a-lifetime trip will see them travel through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. To prepare for the varying demands of the different environments Joel and Joe attended the gym and cycled intensely several days a week.
They will be recording their travels on their Facebook page, blog, Twitter page and with photographs on their Instagram site, capturing whatever interesting events occur on their journey and offering a uniquely British perspective on current events in the USA.
Joel said: “Whilst fundamentally the journey is a personal endeavour for both of us, we could not pass up the opportunity to fundraise for two amazing causes.
“I really think I have been fortunate in my life and I believe if I can inspire young people to aim high and act as a role model to them they too can achieve their dreams.”
Joe said: “I strongly believe in the philosophy that University of Leicester and Widening Participation promote, the fact that university is for everyone and not just those who can afford it. I feel so lucky to have had the support in being able to attend university, and feel others should be able to have the same opportunities despite an unfavourable financial and/or social situation.
“I have unfortunately experienced depression myself and it really is daunting knowing how poorly understood this condition is. It’s awful to think how many people are left in the dark suffering with mental illnesses like this. I love the fact that MQ fund research that focuses on illuminating our understanding of mental health, focusing on finding long-term solutions to the current pandemic, rather than short term fixes like medications which all too often fail.”
Joel adds: “Alongside my PhD I work as an Assistant Manager of the student Halls of Residence in Oadby. MQ is close to my heart because over the last two years I have seen a variety of mental well-being issues, I have had to give students 1 to 1 support and direct them to the right support service. There are some people very close to me that also suffer from mental health problems and I would like more money to be put into quality research.”
You can support Joel and Joe’s USA walk by donating via either of the following JustGiving pages:
For more information:
Ends
Notes to editors:
For more information contact jcjs2@le.ac.uk (note: during the walk, Joel and Joe will have limited phone reception and e-mail will be the most effective way to contact them)

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