Hitchhiking. A once great and trusted means of transportation, it has now been turned taboo by way of arbitrary laws and paranoid, exaggerated, horror stories.
What sad times we find ourselves living in.
On the Pacific Crest Trail, hikers have few options when it comes to resupplying their provisions (personally, I suggest airdrops), but every so often the trail will cross a road.
These roads (sometimes) can be used as a means of reaching the mythical “town” (which can be over an hour’s drive from the trail at some resupply locations), and hitchhiking quickly becomes commonplace for those hikers wishing to replenish their stocks.
Tricks of the Trade
So what does it take to dupe an unsuspecting motorist into stopping for your filthy (not to mention smelly) hiker self?
Patience. Patience and optimism. The number one worst thing you can do whilst hitching is become discouraged (or get caught pooping by law enforcement).
Forget about all the people who ignore you, forget about all the people who refuse to look at you (don’t worry, these people are being crushed by guilt), forget about all the people who give you confused waves, honks, or otherwise misunderstood gestures, forget about all the people who look at you as if you were kicking a dog, and forget all the people who are too busy with their own lives to help out someone else.
I am sure they all have perfectly reasonable excuses for deserting you on the roadside (they’re all terrible people).
Many people fear hiking hitches because of irrational thoughts the next Jeffrey Dahmer will pick them up, invite them home, ax murder them, and eat them.
From my experience, 95% of the people who stop for hitchhikers will stop regardless of what subtle tricks you employ, but in order to capture that last ride in twenty, here are some tips that hikers of hitching (both on and off the PCT) use to make themselves more attractive a companion:
- Take off your sunglasses (let people see those beautiful eyes).
- Put your backpack down on the ground in front of you (to soften the blow from collisions and let people know you are a hiker of the trails – not just a vagrant).
- Smile! Nobody likes a sad hitchhiker.
- If you are absolutely filthy, put on your puffy or rain jacket to cover your filth (so long as it isn’t scorching hot outside).
- Write a funny sign (“NOT SMELLY” worked for me a few times) – I avoid writing destinations because that gives people reasons not to pick you up.
- Do anything you can to make yourself appear more inviting (dance, wave, sing, etc. – but avoid taking your pants off).
- Be a female (this strategy is perhaps the most effective for soliciting rides).
- Don’t be more than two people (if you are, have everyone else hide until a car stops, then ask if there’s room for more).
Wondering who in their right mind would stop for a stinky thru-hiker on the side of the road and invite them into their car?
The following photos (of all truly beautiful people) should give you some idea.