Representing the nation’s oldest, long-distance hiking trail is no easy task. Our staff and volunteers do it regularly, balancing trail history, hiking advice, and Leave No Trace ethics while guiding new and veteran hikers alike.
But what does it take to represent the Long Trail and the folks who manage it while hiking Vermont’s iconic footpath? Derick Lugo, author of The Unlikely Thru-Hiker, asked us that very thing.
Derick’s no novice to long-distance hiking. In 2012, he thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail… although the Brooklynite had never backpacked before climbing the stairs at Amicalola Falls to the AT’s southern gateway. Upon completing the AT’s 2,200 miles, Derick wrote a book about his journey and has continued to inspire others with his storytelling. His spin-off podcast, Unlikely Stories, launched this week.
Now, he’ll share his talent for storytelling and educating while hiking the Long Trail in partnership with GMC. He starts next week, and we’ll be sharing the whole thing with you on social media (@greenmountainclub and @DerickLugo). Undertaking a thru-hike takes a lot of planning, so we fleshed out the details with Derick on what he can expect, how others can follow his journey, and what we’ll all learn from him.
Derick: I’m so excited to start hiking. This is my first thru-hike since completing the AT almost 10 years ago. So, tell me: what is the Long Trail?
Amy Potter, GMC Visitor Center Manager: The Long Trail is a 272-mile footpath that runs from the Massachusetts border through Vermont to the Canadian border. James Taylor conceived the idea of a long-distance trail while overlooking Stratton Mountain; he pitched it at a 1910 meeting, and by 1930, the trail was complete.
The success of Vermont’s footpath to the wilderness inspired the Appalachian Trail. Interestingly enough, the two hiking trails share about 100 miles in southern Vermont. At Maine Junction, the AT veers right into New Hampshire and the LT continues north into Vermont. You should know the LT is marked (similarly to the AT) by white blazes.
Derick: And how do you and the Green Mountain Club (GMC) support the Long Trail?
Amy: The GMC is as long as the Long Trail itself, and has worked as maintainers of the trail since its inception. We maintain the trails and facilities like shelters and privies via volunteers and paid staff. GMC caretakers stay in high-use areas to help educate hikers about fragile areas of the trail, while trail crew take on bigger maintenance projects. Volunteers adopt shelters and trail sections to help us upkeep those hard-to-reach areas, and our 14 section groups help us oversee and maintain the Long Trail as well the Appalachian Trail in Vermont, side trails, and the Northeast Kingdom trails.
My job as the Visitor Center Manager is to assist hikers of all experience levels. It helps that I’ve thru-hiked the LT myself. But you can call or email with questions; I’ll give you updates on trail conditions, make gear and resource recommendations, and even suggest hiking trails that are appropriate for your goals, group size, and timing.
Derick: I first became involved with the GMC back in June, when I talked about my AT journey for its Annual Meeting. It was the perfect opportunity because I don’t mention Vermont much in my book, but it was my favorite state to hike through. Mt. Killington had the best views.
Now, I’m really looking forward to this collaboration, meeting GMC caretakers and volunteers, greeting businesses that support the trail’s upkeep, hanging out with fellow hikers, and hiking over Killington again.
Amy: What inspired you to hike the Long Trail?
Derick: A lot of AT thru-hikers circle back to the Long Trail after they reach Mt. Katahdin. I was inspired to check it out after hiking the part where the two trails intersect. I didn’t revisit Vermont after my thru-hike, but giving that talk in June for GMC members was the kick I needed to go back and explore the Long Trail.
Amy: And how’s the planning going?
Derick: I’d say pretty well. Having GMC as a resource to help plan logistics, talk through gear, and generally prep me for this hike has been awesome. And it’s amazing that this is a free resource you offer to everyone, whether they’re planning an end-to-end hike or are trying their first day hike.
So I’ll start in mid-September and take a month to hike the Long Trail. My understanding is that it generally takes about three weeks, but I’m going to take my time to enjoy, document, and share what I learn via social media. It’s going to be great!
What are a few must-try’s while I’m out there?
Amy: I’d definitely suggest catching a sunrise or sunset. Bromley Shelter is the best place to see either. I also really enjoy jumping into Little Rock Pond for a midday swim.
With that, what are you looking forward to most?
Derick: I’m really excited about sharing the trail with you guys! When I did the AT, Instagram wasn’t around. Facebook was, but now you can go so much deeper and share so much more. People will see what I’m doing everyday. You don’t have to wait months for a book about what I experienced; it’ll be in real-time. I’m going to share through stories, posts, reels, lives, and photos. You’ll see a lot of amazing things about how to thru-hike, and a lot about the Long Trail and the Green Mountain Club.
Chloe Miller, GMC’s Communications Manager: That’ll be a great way to learn about long-distance hiking. This is a really cool way to make people feel like they’re there with you and get the experience from the comfort of their home. Hopefully, it’ll also inspire their next adventure. We’re definitely looking forward to being there with you every step of the way.
Amy: How will your LT end-to-end hike differ from your AT thru-hike?
Derick: I’m walking into this adventure with the mindset that I’m going to be an educator. I’ve done 2,200 miles of the AT and more. Once I knew I loved thru-hiking, I couldn’t stop talking about it; I didn’t even know if I’d like it when I did the AT. From the jump, I’ll be showing people how they can get outside and enjoy the outdoors. It’s like a medicine.
Chloe: Yes, the outdoors is for everyone, and it is a medicine. The vast majority of trail users are out for the day or maybe an overnight. We had 500 end-to-end hikers this year. But 200,000 people use the trails each year — day hikes, overnights, to sit and ponder if that’s more your speed. The trails are there for however you want to use them.