Celebrating a Vision

Derick “Mr. Fabulous” Lugo

Photo courtesy of Chris Gallaway / Horizonline Pictures

My role within the larger Appalachian Trail ecosystem is a simple one: to be mindful. The A.T. has shown and given me so much, and, for that, I take the “Leave No Trace” principles seriously. I leave it the way it leaves me, feeling fabulous. When I step onto the Trail, I am in an environment that is full of life, and that life can be admired — yet more importantly, it should be respected.

My affection for the A.T. stems from three factors: my thru-hike expectations, the actual reality of the experience of thru-hiking, and the permanent imprint it has left on me. From the moment I started my thru-hike, I was hooked. The hold the Trail had on me magnified when I wrote my A.T. memoir, The Unlikely Thru-Hiker. My A.T. journey became a part of who I am: not necessarily a hiker or an outdoor enthusiast, but a person who understands the need to relate to nature and how nurturing nature is for our mind, body, and soul.

Up to that point, my thru-hike was the undertaking of my life. For that reason, it has stuck with me. No matter how many years pass, like a faded tattoo, the Trail will be a permanent fixture in my life. It has altered my way of living, my career path, and my perception of humanity. I refer to my thru-hike as the turning point of my existence that I didn’t realize I needed or even wanted. I went from a city-dweller with zero hiking, camping, and mountain-climbing experience to an ambassador and storyteller of the outdoors. To say my time on the A.T. was life-changing is not an overstatement. Until my last days on this planet and beyond, I will have a special connection with the Appalachian Trail.

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