CONTAIN THAT FUNK!! (and other tips for hitchhiking along the Appalachian Trail)
Hitchhiking is a topic that comes up at the Hiker Hostel regularly this time of year.
At some point during an AT thru-hike, everyone will hitchhike into a town (unless, of course, you’re attempting to set an unsupported Fastest Known Time). Recently on a shuttle to the trail, I realized I actually had a lot to say about hitchhiking, so I thought this would be a great place to share those thoughts!
*Location, location, location. Stand in a location at the trail crossing where motorists can see you from a distance and have time to stop. The location should also be in a place where the motorist has room to safely pull over. Holding a bandana printed with “Hiker to Town” and “Hiker to Trail” is an alternatively to putting your thumb out.
*Regardless of gender, it’s always safer to hitchhike with another person. Many hikers will tell you that guys should hitch alongside a female to better your chances of snagging a ride.
*If you have hiking poles, secure them to your pack, so that you only have one “object” to move in and out of the vehicle. Don’t take anything out of your pack while you’re in the vehicle…especially your cell phone or hiker wallet. It’s SO easy to mindlessly place it in the seat next to you as your’e riding along or getting out of the vehicle.
*Keep possession of your pack. If you’re hitching alone, put your pack in the seat next to you or on your lap. If you hitch with someone and your only option for packs is in the trunk of the car, that’s fine. Just make sure one of you stays in the vehicle while the other hiker gets the packs out. Maybe this is just my paranoid side, but I would hate for my hike to end because of someone driving off with all of my current possessions!
*Use common sense and trust your gut feeling. If you get a bad vibe, decline the ride. Suddenly realize that you’ve forgotten something at camp…or that you’ve decided you don’t really need to go into town after all.
*Put your rain jacket on to CONTAIN THAT FUNK! And don’t get too comfortable and stretch out with your arm along the back of the seat, exposing everyone to your hiker funk. NOBODY wants to smell that!!
*Offer a few dollars to the driver for gas money. If they decline, accept their generosity and thank them.
You’ll likely have some great memories and stories to tell surrounding your hitches. We caught a ride into Glasgow with a guy who was getting ready to take his buddy to rehab. They’d been driving around for hours while his buddy apparently was drinking as many beers as possible before being dropped off. Then, there was the white panel van that had just dropped off a load of chicken to the grocery store. Evidently, some of the chicken had thawed, as there was plenty of chicken juice running in the channels in the back of the van where we were. We did our best to squat with our packs on as we sped along the curvy roads, juice sloshing under our shoes. Our dog, Sarah, was in heaven!!