This story appears in the Spring 2018 issue of Alpha-1-To-One Magazine. Subscriptions are free.
Determined and driven are the first two adjectives that come to mind when you get a grasp of the endeavor that 23-year-old Jonathan Maidment has assumed for the last four years. His inspiration knows no boundaries, and his determination has turned every obstacle into a triumph.
Back in 2014, Jonathan hiked the entire Appalachian Trail (AT) from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine, some 2,200 miles which cut through 51 miles of his native Connecticut. His motivation was and remains to find a cure for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1) through raising funds for research and other related programs. Jonathan himself is an Alpha, diagnosed at age 10. So is his father, Dave. His mother, Karen, is an MZ, a carrier. His maternal grandmother, Alyce McArdle, passed away several years ago from Alpha-1 lung disease, and hiking the AT was, in fact, a tribute to her. It was Jonathan’s way to honor and praise the memory of his grandma.
Jonathan, who raised more than $56,000 for the Alpha-1 Foundation’s (A1F) research programs hiking the AT – a figure that surpassed many times over his original goal of $10,000 – took six months, 21 days, and nine pairs of boots to complete the trail.
While on his trail, he faced hilarious adventures like being chased by a herd of cows and having to jump over a fence to avoid them, but also encountered hurdles like having to take two weeks off the trail to let his injured feet heal. There were also sad moments, as Jonathan’s grandfather passed away a few days before he finished the trail.
Jonathan - or “Money Maker,” the trail-name fellow hikers gave him because of his goal to raise funds for the A1F — is no stranger to impressive accomplishments: the third-generation Eagle Scout spent a week hiking the AT in New Hampshire at age 15.
Now for 2018 the challenge has become bigger, as he is getting ready to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), also as a fundraiser for the A1F. The PCT is a long-distance hiking trail aligned with the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.
“Every time I tell my friends what I am doing, they tell me I am nuts. How can I be doing this again, but when I tell them I am doing it for Alpha-1, then the tone of the conversation starts moving into a different direction because they all know how passionate the whole family feels about Alpha-1,” says Jonathan very seriously.
The PCT southern end is on the U.S. border with Mexico, just south of Campo, California, and its northern end is on the U.S. - Canada border on the edge of Manning Park in British Columbia. The trail is 2,650 miles long and at some points reaches more than 13,000 feet above sea level, which means that Jonathan will be hiking at a much higher altitude, and some 450 more miles than his 2014 AT adventure. “When I hiked the AT, I found out that much of the challenge of the trail was not the physical aspect because after one month or two anyone can walk a couple of miles a day, but it is the actual task of having to do it day after day, week after week, month after month. It is the mental aspect where the challenge is,” notes Jonathan.
“For the PCT, my biggest challenge will be the mental obstacle that I will have to face because you are out there for five or five and a half months without any family or friends, and you have time to overthink, that might not be the best thing in the world,” he adds. Even though Jonathan gives an 80% value to the mental aspect of preparing for this kind of endeavor, such as crossing the entire PCT, there is also a heavy 20% that must be attended to the physical aspect. This time around, and unlike what happened on the AT, Jonathan will make certain that he takes good care of his feet. According to Jonathan himself, “this hike is a bit different from my 2014 thru-hike of the AT as I had to apply for a permit to hike the PCT. On Nov. 2, 2017, I applied for my PCT permit. Since November 2 was the first day that you could apply, spots filled-up quickly. Don’t worry, I was able to get a spot, but my starting date that I chose was a little earlier than I initially intended to start the PCT.”
As per his PCT permit, he will be starting his hike in early April and intends to be on the trail for at least 10 hours a day, to complete some 20 miles each day. Of course, this may change by a week or so. If the weather is horrible on April Fool’s Day then he may wait a little while, but as far as the PCT organization is concerned, he will be on the trail on April 4.
This time, Jonathan will also carry with him hisflag with the names of many Alpha Angels on it, including his late grandmother. “We are ecstatic that Jonathan will help us bring awareness of Alpha-1 up and down the west coast of the U.S. Our commitment at the A1F is to make sure that we motivate the community to help him along the hike, either by donating or simply following him virtually on his social media page and sharing it with our friends. He is an inspiration and we hope other Alphas gain strength from Jonathan’s courage and commitment to our community,” said Angela McBride, director of corporate relations and community engagement at the A1F.
“My biggest motivation has always been the Alpha-1 community,” expressed Jonathan. “I am not going to lie, there were multiple occasions in which I wanted to quit the AT, but what kept me motivated was going back to Facebook and seeing how many people were cheering me. And if I compare how my day was as opposed to the day of an Alpha who is suffering from the condition then I can consider myself lucky. Even though I am a ZZ, I am still very healthy compared to other people."
To follow and share Jonathan’s hike along the PCT, please visit facebook.com/hiking4acure
Proceeds from the fundraising activities relating to Jonathan will be dedicated to research and programs of the Alpha-1 Foundation.
To contribute, please visit alpha1.org/maidment
Jonathan shared his thoughts on his upcoming journey on the Alpha-1-To-One Podcast.
He was also interviewed the morning of his start, Sunday, April 1, on KUSI-TV. Click here to watch.