Hitchhiking is normal for thru-hikers. Often you arrive just a few miles from town and you haven’t had a way or desire to set up a shuttle, because you don’t know exactly when you will arrive or you don’t want to spend the money. Since timing your arrival at a road crossing is very challenging, many hikers will hitchhike on into town.
There are places where it’s known to be in “easy hitch” which just means that the town is so used to thru-hikers needing a lift, that the people are willing to pull over. Other areas are more challenging for hitch hiking.
When we arrived at Newfound Gap, Mexican Mainer and I were planning to hitch to Cherokee. We had heard there was a transit service from Cherokee to Newfound Gap, but when I had cell service for moment I found out there was not. There were plenty of free shuttles to Gatlinburg in the opposite direction, but we didn’t want to go there. We wanted to go to Cherokee.
We popped up into the gap and found it was a major tourist parking area for day trails and some good views. It was so foggy that day we didn’t really have any views, but as I came over the road a man asked if I wanted coffee and donuts. His name is Ed and he was a trail angel with a car full of wonderful treats and hot beverages!
Our friend Boorah had already been trying to hitch a ride for a couple of minutes. Boorah put his thumb out again and the second Mexican Mainer waved at the same couple in a truck, they immediately stopped.
We convinced them Cherokee was the very next town in the direction they were going and they let us pile into the back of their truck. It was pretty cold, so we bundled up and huddled together for 20 mile drive into town.
It was such a wonderful feeling to catch a hitch so easily and know we would have no trouble going to the town to stay overnight. We needed to resupply and the weather has been really awful the last few days so it was exciting to know we were going to be -in a warm clean bedroom with real sheets and hot cocoa and coffee in the lobby anytime we wanted it. We saw leafless trees whizzing by, winter was still there, and suddenly Mexican Mainer started singing a song of thanks to the great spirit in both Spanish and English. It was beautiful and I managed to pull my cold fingers out of their gloves and press the record button.
When they stopped to let us out we learned they didn’t even realize we were hitchhiking at first. They stopped because they thought something was wrong as there were so many people gathered around that parking area! Once they realized we were thru hiking though, they didn’t mind giving us a lift and had been talking about other people they knew who did long hikes. We spent about 10 minutes visiting with them after, answering questions about hiking and then getting their advice on hotels and restaurants to have stayed at in Cherokee.
When it’s just a short distance, it’s worth asking for a hitch. When you need to be certain of your ride, like I do next Saturday when I going to meet Melynn who is flying in to join me for a few days, then it’s worth setting up a shuttle and waiting a couple hours if you arrive early. Setting up a shuttle is usually not that difficult, but I haven’t managed to set up Saturday’s yet. No worries – there are plenty of shuttle drivers in Erwin and I will be able to get one last minute if I need one.
Coming back from Cherokee took a little longer, but we had two great people stop and give us rides, which took us back and the Baptist Church from another town had just arrived with its shuttle and set up another trail magic spot. So, before we took off on the day’s hike we had more coffee and donuts and put some candy bars in our pockets along with an orange and went on our way.