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Hitch-Hiking Experiences/Stories

Grab your bear can or camp chair, kick your feet up and chew the fat about anything Sierra Nevada related that doesn't quite fit in any of the other forums. Within reason, (and the HST rules and guidelines) this is also an anything goes forum. Tell stories, discuss wilderness issues, music, or whatever else the High Sierra stirs up in your mind.
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Hitch-Hiking Experiences/Stories

Postby maverick » Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:25 pm

Have you ever hitch-hiked or picked up hitch-hikers? Ever meet some interesting
people, maybe even developed a friendship with the person/persons?
What were the most hitch-hikers at one time you've picked up? Ever regret picking
someone up or getting into a persons car, if yes why?
What do you personally base your decision on whether to stop and pick up a hitch-hiker?
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

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Re: Hitch-Hiking Experiences/Stories

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:31 pm

One time I gave a guy, his wife and son a ride back to their van at the Onion Valley TH and it turned out that the guy and I went to the same high school back in the Bay Area. Small world!
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Re: Hitch-Hiking Experiences/Stories

Postby sparky » Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:43 pm

I gave some guy a ride, he was wasted drunk and started to tell me all kinds of crazy stuff, I really don't want to get in to. I dropped him off at the next gas station.

A friend of mine many years ago saw a guy hitch hiking, and he thought he knew the guy. When he picked him up, he realized it was someone else. The guy says "you picked up the wrong dude" and pulls out a gun and tells my friend to put his hand on the seat, which he did. The guy then shot his hand. He tells him to drive to his house, which he did. He forced him inside, tied him up, and robbed the house, and stole the car. The guy then goes to a party and proceeds to tell everyone what he just did. No one wants to do anything because he is a total methhead lunatic. But words spreads around. Someone I know knows both parties involved in a round about way, hears both stories, and calls the police. Guy is doin time.

In 2010, I was working up in Modesto for a couple weeks. I had brought my backpacking kit for when we finished the project. I was dropped off in Visalia in the work truck, and I rode the shuttle into lodgepole where I got a permit. The plan was I was to take 5 days to hike to Mineral King where my nephew was going to join me for another few days then give me a ride home.

As I am heading out to Mineral King on my last day I meet a guy on the trail. He asks me for a cigarette, and I oblige. We hike out to the trailhead together and we talked the whole way. More like he talked and I listened. I got a really strange vibe from the guy, and basically I could tell he was full of ****. In a manipulative way, not a story telling way. They had been out two weeks supposedly.

Anyway I am relieved to get to the trailhead to call my nephew, who tells me he cannot make it. I have a choice...hike back to lodgepole, or hitch a ride. I decide to hitch and do a hike into tablelands. So I hit this guy up for a ride, and says no problem. Thing is, we have to wait for his friend who he had left behind at the campsite. It is now mid morning, maybe 9:30 or 10:00 AM. We had met on the trail at like 7am, and they had camped at Timber Gap, I had camped by monarch creek.

So we hang out, I continue to keep getting this wierd vibe as he keeps telling strange stories. Not weird in a fun way, but weird in a crazy way. I hear him make these crazy phone calls where he is screaming into the phone. We are waiting and waiting for his friend, and I start thinking that there is no friend and this guy is off his rocker. I make a plan that I am just going to dissappear if it doesn't pan out and hike back to lodgepole. At one point I ran up to the top of the switchbacks to see if I could find this mysterious friend.

Suddenly at 3PM his friend appears. First it is just a dot at the top of the switchbacks. The guy is barely moving. He is literally stopping every few steps. As he gets closer to view, I can see this guy can barely keep his balance. He is bouncing and swayying down the trail. It took him an hour or and hour and a half to descend the switchbacks. When he finally comes over to us this guy is HUGE! His pack is even bigger, and he is sunburned beyond belief. He is completely tore up and can barely walk.

Seeing that his friend was real I felt despite the uncomfortable weirdness I would indeed get this ride from them.

We get in the car, and there is 1/8 tank of gas. They have no money. I tell them I will pay for gas and dinner if we can just get the hell out of here. Then comes more crazy stories. For some reason I smoke them out with marijuana, which sent the guy a little sideways. Then they pull out the bags of pills, which I decline. Then I realize this guy doesn't know how to drive on a mountain road, I gave him a puff, and then he was popping pills. That ride was extremely scary, and the two guys got weirder as they popped more pills. The guy the whole time just kept kissing my ass in this obviously fake manipulative way, that is the only way I can describe it. He kept telling me how great I am, and how I am this impressive wilderness traveler, and he was just in awe :-k We finally get gas, and it is late. They convince me we should camp at Kaweah resevoir. Things continue to get wierder. We went to go take a shower, and they showered together :confused:

Anyway it finally comes out. They don't have time to take me to lodgepole, and we need to go to Visalia first. I try to be nice at first, but I am not getting anywhere and I finally have to get crazy and threaten them with violence if they didn't give me my ride. Well that worked and I finally got my ride.

To sum it up, I hitched a ride with a couple drug addicts from arizona who try to manipulate me into joining thier merry band because I had money. It took 2 days to get there....walking would have been faster. The end.
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True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
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Re: Hitch-Hiking Experiences/Stories

Postby Troutdog 59 » Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:34 am

Wow!! How do you follow that? Growing up in the 70's hitchin rides was far more common. Did it myself often and also picked up numerous folks. Usually it was fine and had some good converation. A few strange ones, but nothing like Sparkys adventure. I will admit I typically dont pick up hitch hikers these days around town, but I still give folks rides in and around trail heads. Last year on a trip out of North Lake we gave a guy a ride from Bishop to South Lake. He wasnt hitchin the typical method (side of road with thumb out), but he approached us at the Vons in town as we were coming out and asked us where we were going. When we told him North Lake, he asked for a ride to the turnoff to South Lake and offered to buy a 12 pack of Mammoth Brewings Golden Trout Lager as "bus" fare. We would have given him the ride anyway, but how can one refuse such a generous offer? We did take him all the way to South Lake, not just the turn off. Heck, for the 12 pack of Golden Trout Lager he bought I should have picked him up when he returned :p .

My most epic hitchin adventure myself was trying to hitch from Edison Lake back to So Cal when my brothers car died in the summer of 77. An interesting mix of fisherman, hikers and whackos got us to Pixley, where we got stranded for the night. Called my dad in the wee a.m. hours and he came and picked us up. Funny thing is I'm about 99% positive that one of our rides was provided by a fellow HST member Vandman as told on the "Way We Were Thread" in this section of HST (Campfire). It is truly a small world these days.
If you stand in the light, you get the feel of the night, and the music that plays in your ear......
In your mind you can hear, a voice so sweet and clear, and the music that plays in your head......
As it flows up from the ground, taking all that hear the sound, close your eyes, it’s about to begin.

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Re: Hitch-Hiking Experiences/Stories

Postby BrianF » Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:40 am

I did a lot of hitchhiking in the early 70's. Much of it was trying to get from Santa Barbara to trailheads in the Sierra. It was still in the days when longhairs were not particularly welcome in the central valley and I was harrased by police quite a bit, including being run out of Fresno one night and ending up sleeping in a cemetary along HWY 41. I don't know how many times I was searched for dope. Once in the mountains it was always easier to get a ride.
I once got a ride in Sequoia by a Ranger in his truck, which was totally against the rules and I had to duck down if any other Ranger vehicles were in sight . He dropped me off about a 1/4 mile away from the headquarters and I had to walk down to the kiosk, but I was greatly appreciative.
I hitchhiked from Santa Barbara to the North Cascades one time with a 70lb pack to hike south on the PCT as far as I could get in a month - no resupply, one month worth of food and fuel. That pack was a beast to load into someones back seat! That one took me 4 days, but I got rides from a lot of interesting people, including a Washington State Sentator who was on his way to Olympia for a session in the legislature. One guy who drove me up I-5 from Central California to Portland was astounded that there were trails up in the mountains and that anyone would actually backpack - he had never heard of such a thing and wanted to know where the trails came from! I also got a ride from two women from Seattle up into the Skagit Valley who were driving an old stepvan full of supplies for their commune in the hills and the little health food store they ran. Beside the supplies there was a playpen filled with two toddlers and 1/2 dozen puppies, Spent the night at the commune, got a shower, good meals and a ride towards Rainy Pass.
It actually was not uncommon for folk to offer a place to stay a night, or pay for a meal, and I usually would offer to pay for theirs and help with the gas.
I got rides from a few sketchy people over the years but nothing bad ever happened, nor was I ever threatened. The worst situation was trying to get out Hwy 41 from 101 to Fresno - blazing hot day, no shade and a long, long wait. Finally an old guy stops and offers us a ride to Kettleman City if we buy him a six-pack when we get there. Well, we were about 17 so he had to actually buy the beer but we would pay for it. Keep in mind this was pre I-5 days, some old timers may remember what Kettleman "City" was like then: maybe one store and one gas station. Anyway we agree just to get somewhere else. I was in the front passenger seat and it became apparent this guy had already had more than his fair share of beer - I ended up having to grab the wheel 3 or 4 times to keep us on the road or out of the lane of oncoming traffic. Never been so glad to get to Kettleman City in my life.
Another time my girlfriend and I started a backpack trip at Taboose pass and came out at North lake after a side trip to the Ionian basin. We were able to get a ride right away from another backpacker heading south who dropped us off down at 395 at the road to the trailhead. Hot August afternoon, mid week; we sit there about an hour or two and realize no one is ever going to be driving up to the trailhead. From 395 we could see the sunlight glinting on the car sitting at the trailhead, heck, we'll just walk!. We stashed our packs out of sight, grabbed a water bottle and started walking. I don't know how many miles that is from 395 to the trailhead, but it must of been in the high 90's if not over 100 and we burned through that liter in no time, but we kept going. Eventually we became dangerously overheated and dehydrated and that dang trailhead seemed just as far away, we ended up staggering off across the scrub to the creek line and doused ourselves and drank our fill and walked the rest of the way through the desert near the creek so we could drink when we needed it.
I also hitchiked out from Edison lake one time via a series of short rides by fishermen on their way from one spot to another. We were left along the road in the evening well short of the Hwy and had just about given up hope for that day when a truck comes along and stops. In it are two guys I grew up with on their way back to Santa Barbara from a backpack trip also. We had a nice long ride home in the back of the truck...it is a small world.
The direction you are moving in is what matters, not the place you happen to be -Colin Fletcher
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Re: Hitch-Hiking Experiences/Stories

Postby BrianF » Fri Apr 12, 2013 10:54 am

On the flip side of the coin I have given a number of rides as well. I am leery these days of any hitchikers but up in the hills you can always tell the backpackers. I have given a number of rides between North and South lakes or down to Bishop. I even detoured all the way to horseshoe meadows one night rather than leave a fellow backpacker short of his car in the dark.
Back in the day, I met a few wild characters, but again, never felt threatened, just felt that I didn't want to listen to their talk anymore. Of course that was all before Meth had become the big export of the Central Valley and there were more young people and hippies than low-lifes on the road (OK, I am sure alot of people thought we were low-lifes too).
It used to be there were always europeans hitchhiking on holiday, seems like I picked up mostly Swiss or German students. We picked up a Swiss guy in Fresno on his way to Yosemite who had great stories of travel in europe. He camped with us for a few days and did his tourist thing during the days while we climbed. He was just terrified of the bears and slept in our car every night, but he was good company and he always bought the beer for the evenings.
The direction you are moving in is what matters, not the place you happen to be -Colin Fletcher
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Re: Hitch-Hiking Experiences/Stories

Postby sekihiker » Fri Apr 12, 2013 9:11 pm

I can remember a couple of times I hitched rides. One was from North Lake to Bishop. My friend Craig and I rode in the bed of an old F-150. The guy was going so fast, we weren't sure we would make it to Bishop in one piece. The other trip was also in the bed of a pickup but this time from Cedar Grove to General Grant. There was road construction and we just missed going with a caravan of cars by a minute or so. The pickup driver sweet talked the road crew into letting us go anyway. The wait would have been an hour or more, so I was doubly grateful to the driver.

I gave a ride to a guy out of Cedar Grove road's end who had just taken a bath in Bubbs Creek. His hair was still wet when he joined me for the last two miles of trail to road's end. He talked nonstop, I guess with the hope he would convince me he deserved a ride. I took him to the General's Highway where he continued hitching to his car in Lodgepole. Another guy started soliciting a ride a couple of days before I took him from Cedar Grove to Fresno with me. He was hiking the JMT with his son but got tired of it. I felt sorry for him and shortened my hike to take him out. I was 51 at the time and he was 66. Now that I have passed his age, I realize that he was in pretty good shape for an old guy.
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Re: Hitch-Hiking Experiences/Stories

Postby papasequoia » Wed Apr 17, 2013 7:00 pm

I crisscrossed the country a couple of times back in the 70's and could write a book with all of the crazy experiences. However, the one I am most glad of happened in 1978 when I was hitching from the east coast to join some friends in CA. It took me many rides to get as far as Indiana where I got picked up by a guy who lived in Boulder, CO and he was trying to drive straight through. I was making a detour to see an old girlfriend in Denver, so he told me that if I helped with the driving he would give me a ride there. So, for a couple of days we drove and got near Boulder fairly late. He offered to let me crash on his couch and he would run me in to Denver in the morning which I accepted.

That night we went into town to the pedestrian mall area. It was September and it was warm. I was 21. CU-Boulder has a population of about 30,000 now, not sure what it was then, but still large. One could figure that about half were female, most in the 18-22 range - I thought that I had died and gone to heaven. I had never seen so many beautiful, young women concentrated in one area before. The next day he took me on a driving tour of the local mountains. We ended up at a log cabin restaurant in an area called Gold Hill where we ate burgers and drank beer on the patio looking out over the Rocky Mountains. Beautiful mountains and beautiful women - what more could a single, 21-year old guy want? I was hooked.

I made it to Denver, spent a couple of days with the ex-girlfriend then started hitching to California. I got dropped off about 2 AM one night on Hwy 25 at the exit to Santa Fe. There weren't many cars going by and I had a lot of time to think about how beautiful Boulder was. After about a half an hour I had made up my mind - I crossed the highway and hitched back to Boulder where I ended up living for four years before I finally made it out to CA (by which time my friends had returned east). What a great four years, and if it hadn't been for that guy picking me up way back in Indiana I may have never made it there. Strange twists and turns your life can take, in this case a good one.
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Re: Hitch-Hiking Experiences/Stories

Postby TehipiteTom » Fri May 31, 2013 10:27 am

The summer after my sophomore year of college (1981) I worked two nights a week washing dishes at a fancy restaurant, lived on the tip money, and banked my paycheck. Quit 3 weeks before the end of summer break, took the $200 I had saved up, and set out on a hitch-hiking tour of the West. From Santa Cruz I headed east through Arizona to Santa Fe, northwest through Colorado and into Utah, north through Idaho to Glacier, west to Seattle, south along the Oregon coast. Good times. Random highlights:

Got a ride out of Kingman with a carful of crazy Brits who were headed to the Grand Canyon. Wasn't part of my plan, but I said what the heck. Slept out by the side of the road not far from the main hotel there.

Got a couple Mormon missionaries in Utah & Idaho, and then in Northern Idaho a guy who asked me if I had accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I lied.

Rode from Whitefish to Browning over Going-to-the-Sun Road in a converted schoolbus with a Lynyrd Skynyrd-style band from Nebraska who were touring the bar circuit of Montana. They also picked up a Blackfoot Indian who proceeded to impress them with outrageous tall tales about the destructive power of grizzly bears, some of which were probably true.

Going west on Highway 2 I got a ride as far as Sandpoint with a contractor from Spokane who was doing shots of McNaughton's Canadian Whiskey with Oly chaser. Guy told me what the economy really needed was a war, and the war we needed was with Iran.
Great trip, lots of great memories.

But the best ride ever was after I graduated from college, when I hitch-hiked down to San Diego to visit my girlfriend. I got a ride from San Luis Obispo to Irvine with a born-again ex-pimp who was recently out of prison, driving a 10 year old diarrhea-yellow Cadillac. He stopped in Shell Beach to get some gin & juice and Santa Barbara to pick up some weed. Whole time he was telling these war stories from his pimping & dealing days, in loving detail, and every story ended with "but I don't do that no more. I found the Lord." He had an old George Clinton 8 track that played over and over all the way down to Orange County, and to this day whenever I hear Atomic Dog I think of him.
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