IMPaCT PhD Student successfully beat 3,100 mile hiking challenge across the USA

Two amateur hikers have completed a gruelling walk across the United States, raising money for charity and recording their travels on their way. University of Leicester IMPaCT Engineering PhD student Joel Strickland and Geography graduate Joe Boot are celebrating their success at beating the 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail, travelling through five states, twenty-five national forests and three national parks in their journey from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. Starting their journey on 1 April, they trekked across the USA for over 6 months. Now that they have returned, they have reflected on their experiences in an interview on the University of Leicester website. 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. 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. Joel said: “Upon returning, I felt incredibly fortunate to come straight back into work. We had been working towards a goal for so long and when we finally completed, I felt a slight shock to my system in terms of what to focus on next. “It’s certainly daunting to think that I may never have another experience like that in my life. Of course once you have experienced something like that, you will always compare to future adventure, so we will see what happens.” Joe said: “I loved the feeling of freedom and being present in some of the most amazing landscapes I had ever seen.  Witnessing the kindness strangers displayed towards myself and Joel was humbling. There are some real kind hearted people out there. Seeing donations to our chosen charities flood in, along with the messages of support was a positive boost.” Before setting off on their journey, 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 added: “I can look back on my university years as some of the most enjoyable of my life. I thoroughly enjoyed the sporting, social and of course the academic aspects of my experience. Learning to keep these all in a healthy balance was key to such a fulfilling time.  My degree has also given me a unique insight into our incredible planet – viewing its mosaic of natural landscapes through the lenses of space and time. Seeing how the challenges, the good times, the bad times, and the comical moments of the journey unfold I hope will be captivating for those who are following us. I have the University to thank for making me believe in myself and believing that I could do anything I wanted to if I tried hard enough!” […]