For as “free” as the Pacific Crest Trail may have hikers convinced that they are, what many fail to realize is that they have become slaves to their basic needs; and that in doing so, they have also become quite predictable creatures.
So how do you learn to predict the actions of hikers? Well first, you need to understand the mind of the hiker.
The hiker has different needs than those of non-hikers (at least their perceived needs are different), and we can use these needs as a sort of guide when attempting to anticipate hiker behaviors.
Typically, hikers' basic needs reflect the following: water, food, and shelter (yes, I know everyone needs these things, but typically you are not forced to think to yourself, “I wonder when the next opportunity to drink water will be” or “I really hope to eat something other than trail mix tomorrow”).
Simple enough, right? These three items are excellent at attracting hikers, but oftentimes hikers will be able to meet these needs on their own at which point they will move in search of their second-order needs (note: in times of rain or snow shelter becomes incredibly valuable and the offer of shelter alone can be an excellent draw).
Hikers having reached this state will seek out the following:
- Electrical outlets (because solar chargers are only so reliable)
- Showers (although these become less important farther down trail)
- Laundry facilities (really just for drying or freshening socks)
- WiFi (because there won't be cell reception)
- Rides to town (bonus points for REI or a supermarket)
However, if you are still finding it difficult to find hikers, you do have an ace in the hole. Many hikers will make an extra effort to obtain alcohol (or the marijuana) whilst on or off the trail.
Once you have engaged a hiker you must proceed cautiously.
The attainment of a single hiker can be manageable, but beware, once a hiker discovers a source of aforementioned needs, it will not be long before word spreads to all hikers in the proximity. And believe me, word will spread, and they will come.
In as little as an hour, one hiker could turn into dozens, and word may even spread back down the trail to hikers having yet to reach your location. Be wary in your assistance of the hiker, but assist nonetheless; thru-hikers are incredibly grateful creatures and they will usually go out of their way to help you back should your assistance be deemed genuine (hikers can easily sniff out those attempting to lure weary souls off the trail in the hopes of financial gain (which is a bad business model in the first place since hikers usually have little to no money)).
Restoring faith in humanity is a job not to be taken lightly.