LUBBOCK, TX - On his ninth trip across the country, Steve Fugate has walked over 40,000 miles and worn out 53 pairs of shoes.
"I've been told, I think, that I walked more miles in the United States than any person living,” Fugate said.
Sometimes he stops at motels, but other times he settles for his sleeping mat to rest. He said this time, stretches of West Texas have been tough.
"It was rough. I mean it was way out there. There weren't even any Walmarts,” Fugate said. “It really brought it home that I'm 71."
He carries a sign that reads ‘Love Life,’ and he always has a smile on his face.
"I encourage people to fall in love with the act of breathing,” Fugate said. “To love it that much, it's a gift. When you love life, then you learn what love really is."
But Fugate’s story starts with a loss.
"In 1999, when I was doing the Appalachian Trail, my son...my educated, very handsome, charming, 26 year old son who was running my business for me...for reasons we will never understand, took his own life when I was halfway,” Fugate said. Six years later, he also lost his daughter.
"I lost both my babies. If I can love life, just about anybody can,” Fugate said.
He went back to finish the Appalachian Trail in honor of his son. Then, he kept walking.
“The first few years, I didn't realize it at the time, but I was running from my pain is all,” he said.
He said he wants everyone to feel the love, and doesn't want anyone else to feel alone.
"We, the rest of the world, need your sensitivity! We need your experience," he said, hoping to encourage those who are hurting.
Fugate called it “Trail Therapy.”
"I want to mend the broken heart while it is yet beating,” Fugate said. “Life is about looking around at other people, it's about seeing what is going on and you won't feel so bad. To everybody, be open and love them."
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