Thumbs Up

Happy Optimist

Matt found his favorite seat on the way up to Mt. Katahdin

Here we are, 88 days into the trail, and I’m still having new experiences that I never experienced on the PCT or yet here on the AT. On the PCT, Optimist and I made a decision near the beginning of the trail to only resupply in towns that were within a mile of the trail, or in towns in which we had a ride from friends or family. Our reasoning for this resupply strategy was that we didn’t want to deal with hitchhiking rides in and out of town. It’s just never felt like a safe thing to do, or we at the very least just didn’t want to deal with getting rides. It was too out of our control.

Well, things have changed since the PCT and it’s only been very recently that I’ve stood on the side of a road and stuck my thumb out, hoping to get a ride into town or out back to the trail. My first experience thumbing it was in Manchester Center, VT, when we needed a ride into town in order to get a rental car to drive down to South Carolina for vacation. I was in no mood to delay my travel to vacation by the time we reached the road into town, so hitchhiking was the best option. I have to say, it felt very strange sticking my arm out by my side with my thumb up. Something about the action just felt wrong, if only because it was the first time I’d ever done it. We easily got a ride into town from a nice man with a truck that he didn’t care getting wet inside, as we were soaked from a thunderstorm that hit us just before reaching the road. He was familiar with the hiking crowd and had given many a rides to hikers, as do many of the drivers that live near towns just off the trail.

Since hitching in Vermont, we’ve only done it a couple more times in New Hampshire and Maine, each time getting a ride within the first ten cars that pass, and always getting a ride from someone with some affection or affiliation from the trail. We’ve even gotten rides when we weren’t sticking our thumbs out at all. While we were walking the half mile from the IGA grocery store to the main part of town in Rangeley, Maine, an older man stopped his car in the middle of the road and asked us if we needed a ride the rest of the way into town. He didn’t care what traffic was held up as he sat there on the road, so excited to give us a ride and hear about our trail experience thus far. It was definitely an experience that only seems to happen within the few mile radius around the trail.

We should only have one more town stop left in Maine, and one more chance to hitch a ride, and then I will be glad to have my hitchhiking days over. I know our chances of getting a bad apple are low since so many people in the towns surrounding the trail are accustomed to giving rides, but a little voice in my head still gives off a warning bell. That being said, there is no way I’m walking extra miles along busy roads into town, so for now, I’ll still take my chances and hope that only trail-friendly people pull over when Optimist and I stand there with our thumbs up on the side of the road.

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