Returning home from a 3,100 mile trek across the USA

Posted by tac22 at Oct 18, 2017 03:25 PM |
Joel and Joe, the British hikers and University of Leicester alumnus and student, have recently completed a gruelling 3,100 mile trek across the USA, namely the Continental Divide Trail.
  • 1
  • 12
  • 2
  • 3
  • 8
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 13

After trekking across the USA for over 6 months, we wanted to share Joel and Joe's experiences with you and why Joel decided to raise vital funds for the Widening Participation programme, here at the University. The initiative offers disadvantaged young people the opportunity to improve their prospects by gaining qualifications and experience in sports coaching.

Returning Home

Joel: 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.

On the first night back, sleeping in my bed made me realise how deprived of sleep I was throughout the whole trip. During the hike you have no idea where you will be camping or if you will get any sleep at all.

Whilst away I wasn’t particularly homesick, but it was great to see friends and family when we touched base.

Joe: I’ve experienced a mixture of feelings since returning.  The solitude of the Rocky Mountains feels worlds apart from the congested, urbanised streets of London.

Consistent hot showers, a normal bed and fresh food is great, but a part of me also feels quite empty. Towards the end of the hike, I would contemplate life after trail, thinking of the things I would immediately miss, like the fresh mountain air, the peacefulness, the connection with nature, the wildlife, and the rush of endorphins experienced on a daily basis. However, it was great to see my family after such a long time away.

The Challenging Parts

Joel: Having to wake up early in the morning to do a full day of hiking was definitely the most challenging part! After 7 days of hiking without a shower you feel gross. We were very sleep deprived from rarely managing to sleep a whole night without waking up.  Animals and the wind and rain kept us awake.  We would be awake all night and then have to get up, pack up our tent and walk 25 miles.

Joe: Keeping my mind occupied on very long, boring stretches of trail was challenging. The monotony experienced was often difficult to overcome. There were feelings of frustration to deal with too, like when we wouldn’t complete enough miles due to poor trail conditions.

The Rewarding Parts

Joel: For me personally this was when we reached the New Mexico/Colorado border, completing our first state. We hiked 800 miles over 6 weeks through the state of New Mexico, this was over a quarter of the entire trip. It was a milestone that made us believe we could finish the journey. 800 miles is the length of the UK, thinking of that was a great confidence boost.

We were novices at the start of the hike, but by the 800th mile point we started to feel like intermediate hikers! I knew that the other states weren’t as large as New Mexico and this was a real motivator throughout the remaining 4 states.

Joe: 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.

Getting ‘Back to Normal’

Joel: I have been taking it easy over the last couple of weeks. 'Trail depression' is common in hikers. Your body is producing so many endorphins that it still craves!

Getting back into weight training has helped overcome this, ensuring I get a good release of endorphins levelling out my mood and helping me sleep.

I have been setting myself small goals to make the transition more manageable like getting back into the gym, seeing friends and family, joining societies and taking up mindfulness meditation.

As soon as I got home I had 6 months of sleep to catch up on! After that I headed to my local curry house. I missed the curries in Leicester!

Joe: The day after landing I returned to work which really helped me get back into my old routine. I think it’s important to have achievable goals that keep you happy and occupied, so I’m currently in the process of applying for a master’s degree. I also plan to return to the gym to put some of the weight back on that I lost during the trip.

As soon as I got home, I too had a curry from my favourite takeaway shop with my family. Then I caught up with the latest season of Game of Thrones I had missed while away!


You can still support Joel and Joe’s USA walk by donating via either of the following JustGiving pages:

Filed under:

Share this page: