The Unlikely Thru-Hiker

In freshman Honors English classes taught by Amy Pentz and Rachel Lloyd, students read Derick Lugo’s debut memoir, The Unlikely Thru-Hiker, detailing his experience of hiking the Appalachian Trail despite having no previous hiking or camping experience. To cap off their read, the author generously agreed to virtually meet with the class to discuss his journey and book on December 8.

Throughout the evening students introduced themselves to Mr. Lugo by their “trail names,” which included Crocs, Gumby, Tide, Shutter, and many more (to which Mr. Lugo said his trail name might’ve been Mr. Fabulous, had he had one on his hike, and that he remembered many people from his journey by their trail names rather than their given names). Mr. Lugo spoke about what brought him to the Appalachian Trail in the first place, from bartending and managing restaurants in Manhattan to living in Italy for a year between jobs. He was ready for a new challenge, specifically one in an English-speaking country. Sharing some interesting statistics, Mr. Lugo estimated that about 25% of people who attempt the Appalachian Trail actually finish it, and possibly only 1% or so of those finishers are people of color.

In terms of some of the ways that his choice to do this hike affected his life Mr. Lugo said, “It changed my life and it changed my career path. So I went from working in New York City, late at night, to actually doing talks like this and writing, which I love to do.” When asked if he had advice to others who might want to challenge themselves the way he did, he said, “First, find out if you like hiking. Do a day hike, do an overnight hike, do a weekend hike... It was a little nutty to walk into that [hiking without experience], but it was the best decision I ever made.”