Despite all the adversity of 2020, Jonathan Maidment still managed to accomplish a big goal by year’s end: He conquered the Continental Divide, the third jewel in the “triple crown of hiking.” It took five months, but he finished the 3,100-mile Continental trail before the holidays.
Maidment, 25, took on the grueling challenge to raise awareness and research money for Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, a rare hereditary lung disorder that impacts both Maidment and his father.
“It’s a bittersweet thing every time I finish one of these hikes,” Maidment wrote to followers on his Facebook page, Hiking for a Cure for Alpha-1. “You work so hard for so long, and at times you want it to end. As the finish gets closer, you start to get overwhelmed with emotion due to the fact that the EPIC journey you embarked on is about to end.”
The Alpha-1 Foundation celebrated Maidment’s accomplishment on its website and said his Hiking for a Cure initiative had raised $250,000. People who have Alpha 1 are unable to produce a protein known as alpha 1 antitrypsin, which protects the lungs from damage due to excessive inflammation.
Maidment started his Continental Divide journey by flying from his home in Connecticut last spring to Montana. From there, he hiked southward through the west toward the border with Mexico, finishing in early December. Diagnosed with Alpha 1 at age 10, Maidment overcame obstacles throughout his three big hikes. Along the way, he endured bitter cold, blazing heat, a fall down a ravine, an airlift to the hospital and an encounter with a bear.
It’s estimated that only 600 hikers have completed all three legs of the triple crown, which includes the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail, a combined 8,000 miles across 22 states.