In addition to walking about 600 miles, I also hitched many hundreds of miles over the summer. The first epic hitching was detailed in an earlier post so I’ll pick up where I left off.
I hiked into Old Station, CA and explored the “Subway Cave” (it’s a HUGE lava tube!). Then I stuck a thumb out with two friends — we were trying to get to Burney Falls State Park.
After standing out there for a while, along came an RV. Often times I don’t even try to hitch a ride with people in an RV because they don’t typically stop. You think they would, but often times they just don’t.
However we were feeling kind of desperate and so we threw our thumbs out and waved and smiled. The RV pulled over about 200 yards away from us and at first we weren’t sure what they were doing. We were actually mad that they’re blocking our line of sight for other cars going by. Then a woman hopped out of the passenger side and ran towards us waving her arms and beckoning us towards the RV. We couldn’t believe it — we started jumping up and down grabbed our packs and ran over to meet our new friends.
It was a family on vacation: mom, dad, and two preteen daughters. We hopped in the the back of the RV and sat comfortably on the couch. The daughters, sitting on a bed situated near the couch we occupied were visibly unimpressed by us in general. They scrunched up their faces, presumably due to our ripe hiker stank. They rolled their eyes as if to say “OMG Mom and Dad, whyyy did you let these weird, stinky people in here?!?”
But they were especially dismayed by what happened next. We got to talking about the regular topics that are covered when hikers get a ride from strangers: when did you start, how much do you hike in a day, what kind of food do you eat, etc. we mentioned that we are always hungry at our food while it may be high in calories is not necessarily super tasty. The mom pulled out bags and bags of food. She insisted that we eat watermelon, pineapple, rotisserie chicken, and an entire veggie platter with ranch dressing. We were happy to oblige. The preteens watched in horror as we wolfed down the food.
You’d think it’s safe to say that this was the best hitch ever but actually there are a few more contenders for that title.
After checking out Burney Falls, my friend and I got a ride with 2 hikers who were going all the way to Ashland. We were faced with a tough choice because we wanted to end up in Ashland eventually, but we wanted to walk over the border into Oregon, not drive there. After some discussion in the backseat, we decided to get out of the vehicle where the highways diverged. This happened to be in Weed, California.
From Weed, we took a bus to Seiad Valley, then got what will forever be known as “the chicken hitch” back up to the trail. Long story short, we got in the back of a pickup truck with a live chicken in a Tupperware.
After hitting the trail and doing a bunch of smokey miles, we popped out on a road and convinced a very odd South African man to give us a lift into Ashland. Well, almost… He literally dropped us off on the onramp just outside of town. He really had not wanted to pick us up in the first place (I did my best “aren’t we so pathetic and don’t you want to help us?” routine). When he pulled over the car to let us out, he had “good riddance” written all over his face. Honestly the feeling was mutual…
From Ashland, we got a bus to Klamath falls. Upon arriving in town, we discovered that there was a big street fair happening, with vendors, food trucks, and music!
As we walked through the packed streets, people kept stopping us to ask if we were PCT hikers. I wonder what gave it away? The ground in dirt? The hiker stink? The priority mail box I clutched in my hands? Maybe it was our fully loaded and heavy-as-shit backpacks… Anyway it was a trip; they treated us like rock stars. Dirty, grimy rock stars.
The next day, we tried and failed to hitch out of Klamath falls. It was hot out and there was no shade and no good place for cars to pull over. It wasn’t good at all and we were both getting cranky and overheated. So naturally we walked about 2 miles down the freeway to McDonalds!
With renewed energy, we chose a spot and resumed hitching attempts! After only about 10 minutes, we captured the attention of a dude driving… You guessed it… an RV!! His wife was following him in her car, and she wasn’t too fond of the idea of picking up hitchhikers. But he convinced her, then turned to us.
Dude: “do you have any guns on you?”
Me: “oh God no!”
Dude: “ok, well I do.”
Turns out he works in law enforcement. Also turns out his wife was actually the one packing, not him. But we didn’t find that out until later.
The RV was brand spanking new. This was its maiden voyage so in my head I was like, “don’t touch anything! Don’t get anything dirty!”
He grew up in the area, so he regaled us with local intel, stories, anecdotes, and one warning. He said not to get stuck in the town of Chemault (where he was dropping us off) overnight because it is dangerous to be in at night.
So guess where we ended up stuck? Yeah, that happened. It was a bit sketch but really not that bad. We stayed in a fleabag motel, where the owner scoffed at us and begrudgingly hooked us up with a tiny, dingy room. The door to our room looked like it had been busted in at least 5 times before. But the bathroom was nice and clean so I’m not complaining. We hitched the heck out of there bright and early the next morning.
The person who pulled over actually only saw me at first, and thought he was offering a ride to ONE hiker in his overstuffed compact car. But once he realized there were two of us, he agreeably set about moving shit around to accommodate both of us. He is a hiker, and his whole car was chock full of his and his sister’s backpacking gear from their recent hike. Adding two hikers and two more packs was an gruesome game of Tetris, but we managed to squish in and he drove us all the way to Bend.
In Bend, I thought we could take a bus directly where we wanted to go, but when we boarded the bus, the driver informed us that they don’t go there on weekends AND that the bus we were on was going SOUTH when we wanted to go NORTH. So we got a pointless 5 minute joyride for $1.50 and went back to hitching… D’oh!
Luckily a hotshot firefighter picked us up. He had been fighting the Warm Springs fire, which had been raging on the reservation. He told us that where we wanted to go, the road was closed because it was still burning! Thank goodness we found that out — or we would have found ourselves in any number of bad situations!
He dropped us off in Redmond, where we stayed at the Hub motel. The lady who owns the place was so horribly judgy when I checked in; I could tell she really didn’t want me staying there and she did not appreciate my “hiker chic” style (nor possibly my smell). If it hadn’t been the cheapest place in town, I would have stayed somewhere else; she was that rude. I honestly think she wouldn’t have let me have the room, but I’d already booked it online. Normally I laugh it off and find it genuinely amusing when people treat me like in homeless or act super skeptical about having me in their establishment, but something about this lady’s judgment really bugged me. It still stings even writing about it now, more than a month later…
There was a spectacular sunset though. Not a bad consolation prize.
Getting out of Redmond was also a tough hitch. This is the theme of hitching in Southern Oregon: people really don’t want to pick you up. We stationed ourselves at the edge of town where drivers get on the highway.
We were there for HOURS! I thought we would never get out of that town!
Luckily someone who had driven past like 3 hours before saw us still standing there and took pity on us. This dude had a mattress in the back of his car, which is where I rode. It’s not as creepy as it sounds.
He took us up to Madras, and showed us a place we could stealth camp near town. It was clearly a homeless encampment so we decided to find the cheapest motel in town instead. As we were checking in to the motel, a guy rushed up and asked if we were hiking the PCT and did we needed a ride “up the mountain” tomorrow. We sure did!! He gave us his card and said to call in the morning when we were ready.
It seemed too good to be true but he and his wife cheerfully fetched us in the morning. We drove through miles and miles of scorched land from the just-extinguished Warm Springs fire. It was sobering.
They not only drove us an hour and a half out of their way, but they also gave us a care package they made for us the night before and offered some great advice too. When we got to Timberline Lodge, they even treated us to coffee!
We had planned to hike through to Cascade Locks but that plan got derailed when my friend got super sick. We only ended up doing about 10 miles and had to hitch the rest of the way.
From the Rainbow Falls parking lot, we got a ride with two guys out road tripping. They took us down to the main road.
Hours of hitching with no luck later…. we got a ride with two serious stoner dudes, who dropped us off in Government camp. This was still many miles from where we needed to be before the post office closed the following day. We hitched until dark with no luck whatsoever — we really didn’t even get smiles & waves.
We stealth camped that night in what we *think* was national forest land.
Through the magic of the hiker community on Facebook, we got a ride up to trail days with this wonderful lady hiker & adventurer! She drive a big truck, trailing a mini-trailer that seemed frikkin amazing (living the dream!). The only weird thing was she had a mannequin sitting next to me in the back seat. I’m not kidding!
So there you have it, the conclusion to my epic hitching (“yellow blazing”) adventure this summer!
While I wish I had been able to hike more of Oregon & Northern California, I’m grateful to have experienced all of these small towns and very lucky to have met some wonderful (and some strange) people.