The second most question I receive, after "What do you eat on the trail,” is "Well, how do you get the food?" Most folks figure if you're on the Trail for six months then you‘re in the wilderness for that long and that's just not possible unless you’re hunting and gathering along the way. It might become possible if Amazon figures out the shipping drones with precise GPS location. Hell, the drones might even Sherpa your gear in the future. Your move Bezos. If you plan to hike the AT prior to the robot takeover of humanity you might find yourself having to hitch a ride to town every once in a while to resupply or simply get out of the rain.
The best way to hitch is to be a female. If you can manage that help out some of us that are not so lucky. Turns out most long distance hikers are men, so try to have a female in your group or better yet, a dog. All dog lovers will stop for a dog even if the dog is sidelined by two 6ft bearded men. If you’re stuck with a Y chromosome and without a furry friend, fear not! Here are a few tips to hitching.
First, stay put! Walking toward your destination will just prove to people that you can do just that. Find an intersection (any road but a busy interstate will work) or a parking lot and post up leaving the driver plenty of space and time to pull over. If someone (especially someone leaving from a trailhead) is getting into their car, simply approach them and ask if they are heading your direction. Don't be creepy and make sure you mention you're on the AT. You'd be shocked at how hard it is to say "No" to someone's face. Also, make sure that your backpack is in plain sight so they have an idea you're hiking and not some vagrant. No one is stopping for someone that looks like they might murder him or her so smile! I usually sing "Get Together" by the Youngbloods in an attempt to keep my spirits up and everything light.
The truth of the matter is most people aren't going to pick you up. That's fine; screw them. You have to know what you're looking for. Mercedes, Audi, BMW? Yeah, that's not going to happen. It would make sense for trucks to help ya out. You can throw your smelly pack along with yourself into the bed and have minimal contact with the driver, but for some reason most drivers don't see it that way. What you're looking for is a Subaru. Oh sweet, sweet Subaru drivers. It must be in the owner’s manual to pick up hitchhikers and thank goodness for that.
Whenever you do get picked up make sure to agree on a place prior to getting in. Sometimes they can only go a couple miles and leave you in the middle of nowhere. In this case it's usually better that you remain at the highly trafficked intersection. Make sure to thank them and introduce yourself, but don't talk too much. Just like the red headed stepchild, don't speak unless spoken to. This is their ride and if they want conversation they will initiate it. Make sure to thank them again when you reach your destination. I mean, it's just polite, people.
I'll leave you with some words of wisdom given to me by a woman who offered me a job picking strawberries on her farm in Southern Maine while driving me back to the trail, "Stop taking rides from strangers, ya moron!"
I'm thru hiking the AT north bound to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. If you're interested in finding out more, and contributing to my cause, please visit my HikeFor account. Remember to follow my journey here at HighlandFrog.com and to "like" the HighlandFrog Facebook page to be notified about future articles and updates! Thanks for your support!
One step at a time,
Geoffrey, aka Messiah
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