After 2,653 miles, 195 days and five pairs of boots, Jonathan Maidment has conquered the Pacific Crest Trail, raising money and awareness for the rare disease, Alpha 1.
Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency is a hereditary disease, sometimes called genetic COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) because it affects the lungs. Alpha 1, which can also impact the liver, affects an estimated 100,000 Americans, including Maidment and his father.
The 24-year-old Eagle Scout from Connecticut completed his journey on October 16, raising a flag remembering “Alpha Angels,” in honor of his grandmother and others who have died from the illness.
“This is a remarkable accomplishment that has raised a tremendous amount of awareness and funds for Alpha 1,” Alpha-1 Foundation President and CEO Miriam O’Day said in a statement. “We are incredibly grateful to Jonathan Maidment for his efforts.”
He set out alone on the hike on April 4 but made friends along the way. Several joined him for hundreds of miles on the trail, which spans the West Coast from the Canadian border to the Mexican border.
Still, it wasn’t easy. In May, he was airlifted to a hospital after a 30-foot tumble down a slope covered with spring snow. Later that month, Jonathan was short of breath and had to stop every half mile to rest. “Then the pain set in, and it was nearly impossible to sleep at night,” he wrote to followers on Facebook, who he provided with regular updates on his progress.
Maidment was hospitalized briefly for blood clots in his lungs, recuperated at the home of friends and carried on, adjusting his route to avoid higher altitudes. Along the way, he saw rattlesnakes, scorpions, mountain goats and bears. He grew a beard. He exulted in the beauty of pine trees and swam in an icy stream in the Sierra Mountains.
By the time he reached his goal, Jonathan had lost 20 pounds. And he had raised $60,000.
“Everyone who knows me knows that I never give up,” he said. “My dad always says ‘live for today because tomorrow’s not a guarantee.’”