The great explorer Meriwether Lewis walked as many as 30 miles a day on the untamed Great Plains – the early steps during the first American overland expedition to the Pacific Coast more than 200 years ago.
Don Stevenson vows to follow a similar path at the same clip, but in a varying direction and for a completely different cause.
It is not be an historic exercise, but a spiritual one for the passionate 72-year-old Auburn man. This former pastor is willing to go the extra mile to help others.
Stevenson – an ultra-walker better known as the “Pacin’ Parson” – will pass along parts of the Lewis & Clark Trail as he follows his carefully-calculated transcontinental walk to the East Coast in the months ahead.
The retired Darigold truck driver left at 6 o’clock this morning from the Space Needle to begin a 3,000-mile leg to New York City. It is the final part of a 21-month, 13,000-mile jaunt to raise money and awareness for Huntington’s disease (HD) – an inherited, progressively degenerative brain disorder.
Stevenson’s friend, Jack Meteyer, lost his mother, two brothers and a sister to HD. The two met walking in the park several years ago, and Meteyer asked Stevenson if he would walk tall and long for the cause.
Stevenson accepted the challenge. His walk, with the support of family and friends, has raised more than $10,000 through donations for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.
Stevenson has logged more than 40,000 miles criss-crossing North America to raise money to combat diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and lung cancer.
But his latest crusade for HD is different. It will be his longest walk since he first began charitable “sole-searching” work 10 years ago.
Given the distance and mission, Lewis would have been proud of the adventurous Stevenson.
And for this modern-day explorer, the spirit of Lewis will follow him as he puts one step in front of the other.
“I went over a lot of his territory, and I thought about (Lewis),” Stevenson said of a previous awareness walk through the Idaho Panhandle, Montana and over the Continental Divide. “I thought about him … but he had a greater challenge. He didn’t have any roads and he had to carry everything.”
Stevenson, a easy-going man, will carry only his thoughts.
Accompanied by his wife Loretta, who will drive a support van, Stevenson will follow a northerly path, along rural Highway 2, to Wisconsin. He then will head south through Green Bay, Milwaukee and Chicago before turning eastward toward New York.
He intends to reach the HDSA headquarters at the Empire State Building on Sept. 15.
In addition to HDSA’s support, Cenex has donated $1,500 in gas money and TOP Food & Drug is providing food. Other sponsors have joined the effort.
Stevenson plans to average 30 miles a day, a routine that will consume about 11 hours. He will sleep in motels and hotels along the way. He expects to go through six pairs of his trusty Brooks.
While he has lost as many as 20 pounds during walks of this nature, he hopes to maintain his 165-pound frame. He will snack as he trots. He will ignore the customary aches while battling headwinds, foul weather and other obstacles.
“In my mind, I am (tough),” said the former Marine. “You have to be.
“The only difficult thing is I won’t be home every night,” he added. “And I have different pains every day. It’s not always the same thing, but I have to walk through it.”
The Stevensons previously made the same trip to the Big Apple for MS in 2001, arriving four days before 9-11.
Leading up to the final leg, Stevenson has memorized every crack in the walkways while circling Game Farm Park, a routine that has consumed about 180 miles a week, 30 miles a day. He reached the 10,000-mile mark at a special farewell party on Tuesday.
“This is a really nice park … (but) I get tired of counting these leaves,” he admitted. “It is time for some variety, a change in scenery.”
Mark Klaas can be reached at 253-833-0218, ext. 5050, or