Should outdoor enthusiasts hitchhike?
Hitchhiking is an inexpensive alternative transportation that is invaluable in a pinch, allows you to meet fascinating new people, and has been largely maligned by sensationalism and reporting bias.
—Charles Bloom, Salisbury, Md.
While thru-hiking the A.T., it is crucial to hitchhike in and out of towns. There just isn’t a way around it. And I personally think it is a great experience. You are at the mercy of these people flying past you in their cars, and it is truly amazing to see what a complete stranger will do for you—whether it be a quick five-minute drive into town, or a long three-hour drive in the opposite direction of where they were going just to get you to Trail Days. —Kristen Wilson, Virginia Beach, Va.
Hitchhiking has helped me become a more critical thinker and adventurer. Whether you are on the Appalachian Trail or just trying to get down the road, your adventure is yours and yours alone—and hitchhiking is a legitimate part of it. Now if you are some record breaker, fast packer, or some peak bagger and are all worried about the rules, hear this, rules are for fools.
—Micah Wheat, Black Mountain, N.C.
I remember hiking home once from Penn State. Schoolmates were honking and offering me rides, and I turned them down. I am happy I did, as I saw some of the most beautiful sites walking through the mountains. Unfortunately, I developed a hip pain that made walking painful, so I finally accepted a ride from two guards from a penitentiary. They turned out to be a crazy bunch driving at breakneck speeds. I was let off in Harrisburg where they lived. The rest of my trip was a breeze—not because of the distance they took me, but because of how their personas enriched my mind. Hiking is about the outdoors and what you meet along the way. It is your decision to make the right choices to get you from point A to point B alive and well. I mentioned the one and only time I ever got a ride while hiking. I have no regrets about it.
—David Tebera, Baltimore, Md.
While hitchhiking has its dangers, outdoor enthusiasts can rest assured that people are generally good. And if those who pick up the drifters are villainous, hitchhikers should be especially aware of how to protect themselves. With that said, the same precautions are to be put in place for the drivers picking these people up. Danger is not a one-way street.
—Nikki McDuffee, Standardsville, Va.
I see it as a means of carpooling. Plus, we help hikers to and from the A.T. as a way of saving them some time.
—Michael Hart, Front Royal, Va.
Hitchhiking promotes crazy people to stalk victims easily. If more outdoor enthusiasts hitchhike, it further opens an avenue of vulnerability, because it will be well known how to locate the next victim.
—Rachel Rife, Virginia Beach, Va.
Hell no! Ask the mom of Meredith Emerson, the hiker killed near Vogel State Park in north Georgia. We are breeding monsters and freaks with all the garbage on the internet and in the Saw-like movies. I can’t believe you are actually asking this question. Were you a latchkey kid? Do you live in a cave? Be serious.
Hitchiking is way too dangerous. You never know where the next lunatic might be. It is best to plan around hitchhiking.
—Ed McKeown, Roanoke, Va.
Unfortunately, hitchhiking is very dangerous. If you truly love the outdoors, plan your trips accordingly.
—Sarah Martin, Cary, N.C.
It would be a very nice thought that everyone—including us outdoor types—could safely hitch-hike in our U.S. of A. The better question should be, “Can outdoor enthusiasts hitchhike safely?” And sadly that answer might be no in many parts of the United States.
—Dan Ralston, Earlysville, Va.
If you are hitchhiking, then you haven’t planned your trip properly. There are always better ways of traveling than soliciting a stranger for a ride. Many tours, bus services, and shuttles are now offered for thru-hikers and long distance hikers. Rafting companies often provide shuttles for boaters for a small fee. And you can always drop off a car at a trailhead ahead of time, or arrange for a friend or family member to pick you up. When it comes right down to it, hitchhiking is laziness and lack of careful planning, and it should be avoided at all costs—not just for your own safety, but for the safety of all outdoor enthusiasts who want to avoid attracting criminals to our public lands.
—Mark Margulis, Asheville, N.C.