Steve Fugate is a man that has profoundly affected my life. I have never spoken with him, but in 2003 on a return trip home, way out in the middle of the Nevada desert, I saw him walking along an empty state road at 4 in the morning. We were a zillion miles from anywhere and he was out there alone, pushing a shopping cart that contained nothing but a large hand painted sign that read “Love Life”. I burst into tears. Those two words summed up everything I felt I was blessed with in this world, and wanted to share in this world, that I could never quite simplify in my own mind. He brought me together with a purpose I’ve come to call “home”. Whenever I feel lost, I can rely on this profound image of him in the empty Nevada desert burned deep into my psyche to remind me.
At the time, I wasn’t positive I hadn’t hallucinated him. Long car rides on empty highways do that to me. But 7 years later, someone had read my blog post about it , filled me in on his story, and I began to make more sense of it. Another 5 years have passed and I’ve learned that Steve has just finished an unbelievably long walk of over 30,000 miles, crossing the United States six times. He wasn’t trying to test his limits or set any distance records or create a fascinating outdoor adventure for people to read about. He was trying to heal and to spread an important message. He was on a mission. Walking great distances just happened to be the most logical way for him to accomplish that. I highly encourage you to head on over to his website, trailtherapy.org , and read about his journey, his experiences, poetry, thoughts, and see videos others have done about him.
Here is an excerpt from his site that offers his story:
” In 1999 I lost my only son to suicide.
Stevie was operating my business for me while I attempted a “thru-hike” of the Appalachian Trail. I had traveled just over half the trail when I received word that my son had placed a gun in his mouth and effectively ended both our lives.
I am convinced that there is no pain equal to that of losing a child. The grief was indescribable. I felt as though someone had taken an axe and chopped out my heart while I was yet breathing! My son, this living, breathing, precious life, my beautiful contribution to the universe, was suddenly gone. I can in no way fully describe the pain, I don’t know how to scream on paper…
Eight months later I returned to the exact spot where I had stopped my hike and proceeded to finish the “AT” as a tribute to my son. I screamed and cried almost every step of the way but I finished, having walked the entire 2,167 miles. While out on the trail in solitude, surrounded by the magnificent, inspiring beauty that encompasses that soothing and healing footpath, my life took a turn. For me, the Appalachian Trail became a pathway back to life… Trail Therapy. After completing my “thru-hike” of the Appalachian Trail I adopted a creed; I want no other parent to suffer the horror that I had to go through and I wanted no other young person to miss out on the chance to.. “LOVE LIFE”
I came up with the idea of walking across the U.S.A. I put a sign over my head..”LOVE LIFE” and off I went! I conveyed my message to all I encountered. I felt it so successful, I did it again. Only this time I walked around the United States. My beautiful daughter helped orchestrate both walks.