PhD student from Baldock set to raise money for two charities with self-funded 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail walk from Mexico to Canada
- Credit: Archant
A PhD student from Baldock is set to raise money for two charities with a self-funded 3,100-mile walk across the United States.
Knights Templar School old boy Joel Strickland, 25, is tackling the Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Canada alongside his friend Joe Boot, 23.
In their way stand sweltering deserts, the Rocky Mountains and deadly wildlife including rattlesnakes, coyotes and grizzly bears.
Fewer than 200 people attempt the five-month challenge each year, and the pair from the Universtiy of Leicester are doing it to support two causes dear to their hearts – mental health charity MQ, and wider access to higher education.
Aeronautical engineering student Joel, who went to Hartsfield Primary School in Baldock, told the Comet that completing such an endeavour had been an ambition of his since childhood.
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He said: “It has always been a fantasy of mine to be a modern-day pioneer and conquer nature.
“With nowhere left on Earth undiscovered and the world being so busy, I feel that this expedition will help me detach myself from the rat race and negative aspects of modern day life.
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“I have spent a long time in education and I feel to grow as a person physically, mentally and emotionally I need to step back and appreciate the world for what it is.”
Joel and Joe are fundraising for the mental health charity MQ, as well as the Widening and Participation programme run by their university.
Joel explained: “As an assistant manager of the student halls of residence, I’ve seen a variety of varying mental wellbeing issues, and have given students one-to-one support.
“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.
“I want to raise money for Widening and Participation because a lot of children grow up not having the same opportunities that I have been lucky to have.
“I have been fortunate in my life, and I believe if I can inspire children to aim high and act as a role model to them, that can help them achieve their dreams.
“I want to raise as much as I can for these charities, but ultimately hope that my story will inspire others to try something new in their lives.”
Joel was a fine all-round schoolboy sportsman, captaining Baldock Lancers FC and representing Knights Templar in football, rugby and athletics – and in preparation for this challenge he’s been going to the gym six times a week and cycling up to eight miles a day.
And he’s also been learning Spanish each Saturday to prepare himself for New Mexico – from where the trail heads north through Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana to the Canadian border, taking in three national parks and 21 wilderness areas.
The pair are set to start the hike at the start of April, guided by a special GPS called Frodo, which will also allow supporters to follow their progress online in near-real time.
“This is a once in a lifetime trip and we are representing our country in America,” Joel said.
“With President Trump being so relevant and Joe and I spending six months in the US, documenting our whole journey, we believe we can offer a different perspective on the current issues of the day.
“Rather than reading an American national news report, we will offer a unique British perspective on events in the United States.”
To find out more or donate, see facebook.com/walkingthecdt and joelandjoewalkthecdt.wordpress.com.