Hitch-hiking Along the Appalachian Trail

I just realized I never wrote a post about hitch-hiking! This feels like a good topic to address because the act of thumbing it, hitching, asking strangers for rides, gets a lot of negative attention from people who have never done it.

Before I get into it, know that I am NOT naive and I know that there are crazy people out there.  However there is a lot more hype about hitching being dangerous than there is cause for it. I believe that so long as you trust your gut, aren’t afraid to fight, and also just aren’t naturally paranoid about people, there are minimal risks to taking a ride when you need it (I said minimal, I did not say none).  Here is a special acknowledgement and thank you to all the Trail Angels who gave me, Woodstock, Turtle, and some of our other friends rides during the past 7 weeks.

Jenn and Cathy!!! I’ve known Jenn for a long time but she drove me to Harper’s Ferry, where I got on the trail. Woodstock drove me to their house, picked me up and dropped me off all over the state,  hiked with me for 5 days, and picked me and Turtle up in Damascus. My friend Sherry, who was my camp counselor many years ago, picked me up and dropped me off when I stayed over in Front Royal. My awesome Aunt Nikki picked me up in Shenandoah, and my awesome Aunt Sue picked us up and dropped us off when Woodstock was with me. I couldn’t have done any of this without you!

David to Waynesboro    Gallagher to Tye River  Wayne Rogers to Glasgow  Moochie and Queen from Glasgow  Mike to Troutville      Grama and Grandpa to Daleville   Patty in Catawba  Donna at 4Pines Hostel   Ed in Catawba  William Collins to Pearisburg       Angel and Dulce in Pearisburg                    Tressa (a new friend) who drove us all around Pearisburg and back to the trail      Nancy to Bland   Dwayne to Ceres   Sherry Shunbow in Sugar Grove   Ray Grear in Troutdale    Dave in Troutdale

Most of the time I thumbed it but sometimes approached strangers.  The first time I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect or how to ask and interact.  But it was easy and our first hitch was with a hiker/trail runner.  Once I called a known trail angel and several times we just went up to people and asked for rides.  I love this method of getting around because you get to meet a new person, take a look into a tiny window of their lives, and reveal to them a tiny view of your own.  Everyone is so different, has something else going on.  A lot of our rides pick up hikers regularly, some weren’t aware of the Appalachian Trail at all.  I met people from all walks of life, all colors, religions, vocations, personality types.  Often conversation was easy or at least enlightening in some way, only once did some guy act like a know it all.  It felt like hitch-hiking we served as a connection between people who might not ever be in the same room, or if they were, might not talk to each other.

Hitch-hiking teaches humility quickly.  When you’ve hiked 15 miles to the road and the nearest town is another 5 or 6 miles away, you have no choice but to ask for help.  If you’re stuck and don’t know your away around because you didn’t buy the AWOL book, you gotta ask as many strangers as it takes if they will give you, a smelly, dirty, still smiling gypsy, to let you get in their car (or in the back of the truck) and take you somewhere.  Doing this multiple times puts you on a real HUMAN plane.  You quickly realize, or remember, a few things about being a person.

  1. No one is better than anyone else. Period. There are varying degrees of awareness and not everyone is likable. But we are all the same.
  2. Poeple are generally good and like to help when they can.  Even if they feel a little weirded out by your proposition, most people are kind and willing to do something for someone they’ll never see again.
  3. Even though most people are good and kind, they still need to be asked for help before they’ll offer it (not everyone, DUH).

I think we get stuck in our ways, our routines, and need a reminder that someone needs help with something and we can be the provider of the assistance.  Sticking that thumb out is  mutually beneficial because not only do you get a ride and an opportunity to see a new person, you provide them with the chance to do some good and be of service.

The first few times I kept pepper spray in my pocket just in case.  That became unnecessary. I never had a single person act creepy and my intuition never told me not to get in a given car..  I never felt unsafe, never met or saw a threatening person.  I am so glad to be able to say this heere because I was sufficiently warned about ‘The Crazies on the AT.’ I’m sure they exist, but they are rare, few and far between, and so long as you pay attention, trust yourself in all situations, and don’t act like prey, you’ll be just fine.




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