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Trek across America is a punishing test of stamina
TACKLING mountains, boggy swamps and farmland, only one in four people who attempt the 2,160-mile long Appalachian Trail manage to complete it.
Richard Fletcher, 35, from Standlake near Witney, is 1,800 miles into his journey in which he aims to be one of the few who finish the route across the United States.
He has already raised £500 for Cancer Research, after quitting his job as a designer at Williams F1 to begin the adventure in April.
He chose the charity as he knows people who have been affected by the condition.
Mr Fletcher, who hopes to be home by mid-August, said during his trek: “I just wanted to do something a bit different really.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, both physically and mentally.
“There’s bears and wild boar in the woods and I’ve been walking in up to 30C heat.
“I’ve walked through ice and snow when the sun has been shining at the same time, which is a bit weird.”
A former Wood Green School pupil, Mr Fletcher previously climbed Mount Snowdon and Ben Nevis but said he was not used to walking up to 22 miles a day while carrying a 35kg backpack.
He said he has met people along the way who he has walked with but many have already dropped out.
A trail marker
Mr Fletcher, who trained by going on long walks, including along the Thames path and in the Brecon Beacons in Wales, said: “It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster because the trail goes up and down all the time.
“The tent has become my home and I’ve lost a lot of weight, even though there wasn’t much of me anyway.”
His girlfriend Sarah Wooller, 34, has stayed at home throughout his trek but he pre-arranged surprise presents including bouquets, jewellery and vouchers for guitar lessons to be delivered throughout his trip before he left.
Miss Wooller, a teacher at Kidlington’s Gosford Hill School, said: “It’s very romantic of him and I can’t wait for him to come back.
The Appalachian Trail
“It was quite traumatic before he went but I was the one telling him he should go because you only live once.
“He’s found it quite hard and his knees have been aching a lot but I have no doubt he has the drive to do it.
“Rich isn’t the kind of person who won’t give up if he puts his mind to it.”
MARKING THE WAY
- THE Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, measuring about 2,160 miles in length
- The trail goes through 14 US states, including Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine
- It goes along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range, from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the trail’s northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine
- Between two and three million people visit the trail every year but less than 2,000 people attempt to complete it
- According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, an organisation including 31 groups that maintain the route, only one in four people manage to finish the trail.
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