Known on the trail as Mr. Fabulous, Derick Lugo is a Black New Yorker who, on a whim, had a cab driver drop him off at the beginning of what would be a 2,200-mile hike along the entire Appalachian Trail in 2012—with no previous camping or hiking experience. Recounting the transformational experience in his 2019 book The Unlikely Thru-Hiker: An Appalachian Trail Journey, he’s a storyteller at heart, as well as a sought-after keynote speaker, adventurer, and host of the Unlikely Stories Podcast. He now inspires others to have their own unlikely adventures in the great outdoors, helping them break stigmas, throw caution to the wind, and pursue their own bucket lists—even if they think they don’t know enough, won’t fit in and aren’t sure where to start.
And he’s far from finished. This summer, Lugo was right back at it, thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, completing the journey at the end of September 2022, with plans to write another book on that adventure. Public Lands caught up with Lugo this fall—after he peeled all the Dr. Scholl’s pads off his blisters—for his take on getting outside and motivating others to do the same.
PUBLIC LANDS: Why is getting outside and pursuing adventures like this so important?
DERICK LUGO: When I pursue all my adventures, it’s always about educating others about the greatness of the outdoors. People will gain knowledge on how to do similar adventures of their own and see how much it can benefit and improve their lives.
What all did you learn from your two trips?
I learned that with perseverance and an optimistic attitude, I can reach my goals, the big ones, and even the smaller ones along the way. I also learned that I adore the outdoors, that the outdoor community is amazing, and that the word ‘love’ is easier to say when you are out in nature.
What do you think are the biggest barriers preventing people from pursuing such goals?
Probably the lack of outdoor knowledge, which they can overcome, as well as finances and the lore that ‘bad things can happen in the woods.’
Were you nervous when you first set out?
Not really. On such a long-distance adventure, I somehow knew that I was doing something that would enrich my mind, body, and soul.