Author Stephen Walker Keeps Walking – The Tryon Daily Bulletin

Cancer survivor stops in Mill Spring while hiking

There are few people who have seen America as much as seventy-two-year-old author Stephen Walker. Even fewer have seen him walk one step at a time, like him.

Stephen Walker has crossed the country on foot on more than one occasion. His travels recently took him through Polk County.

A former long-haul trucker, he took to walking after being diagnosed with stage four lymphoma in 2018. With the diagnosis, his license was taken, so the Michigan native opted to hike the country. And as Stephen tells it in his book, Last Walk to God, he “walked with God all the way.”

Stephen recently traveled to New York for a scheduled appearance on the Today Show on July 18, which led to him looking for a campsite in Mill Spring near Brian and Pamela Crissey’s driveway. The Crisseys generously offered him a place not only to camp, but also a temporary roof over his head in their renovated barn and the opportunity to refuel. He needed a new pair of Skechers, his favorite shoe brand, and a new one-person tent.

Despite the cancer, he usually travels from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. with little or no pain. The pain tends to catch up with him at the end of the day. It is obvious that he has become good at getting rid of it.

“If I died tomorrow, I would have lasted three and a half years longer than the doctors had expected,” Walker says.

He ends his days with a good meal, as he uses Survivor Meal Kits which he rations to last him 15 days per period. He also often relaxes with a good movie – a close friend downloaded 30 movies onto a memory card for him.

And after a good night’s sleep and a bowl of oatmeal, he hits the road again.

The well-traveled storyteller walked to the highway. 9 in Polk County from Hilton Head, SC. He is now off to another place, another road, and perhaps another story for his next book, which will chronicle his trials and journeys during the pandemic.

His stories of spending time with nomads in Ehrenberg, Arizona were recently made famous by the Oscar-winning film Nomadland. There he witnessed Skooliepalooza, the annual parade of school bus conversions – school buses turned into tiny mobile homes.

Once, after several bites from poisonous brown recluse spiders, he survived by walking nine miles to the nearest hospital.

He crossed the Bonneville Salt Flats, met curious beavers in the Elkhorn Mountains, and made many friends along the way.

Stephen’s faith sustains him, as life on the road became even more difficult when the pandemic hit. Stephen found himself in the high desert of California with everything closed. However, he never panicked.

The reason he remained calm was due to a close relationship with God, a relationship he developed after losing his beloved Australian Shepherd, Speckles. His furry friend traveled the country in the cab of his truck as a co-driver and protector for thirteen years. When Speckles died, he never felt lonelier, but that changed, he says, when God reminded him he wasn’t.

Sure enough, two locals noticed him, much like what happened here with the Crissey family from Mill Spring, and made sure he had access to water and plenty of ramen noodles, which he was missing.

Stephen Walker plans to continue walking until the age of seventy-five: “I hope my travels and my books will inspire people to discover more of the world.” His next big trip after New York will be to walk from Disney World to Disney Land to raise money for St. Jude’s Hospital, a trip inspired by young people battling cancer like him.

Although we don’t know if he will come back here again, Mr. Walker will always be welcome here. He took the time to go to Silver Creek Baptist Church, which he walked to. There he enjoyed a few hymns and was honored with a potluck dinner from the community before setting off Thursday morning, to the nearby town on his long walk.

Lola R. McClure