Lucky Hitchhike 1/5: Sunset Hippies and a Pot-Farm Vandweller

Northern California lives up to its reputation

Joe Omundson
Apr 3 · 3 min read
Photo courtesy of the author

Hitchhiking is a fascinating method of travel. Since you’re living out of a backpack, you have the flexibility to be completely spontaneous and independent, but you’re also entirely at the mercy of random strangers on a regular basis.

This combination ensures that every day will be a completely unique adventure. There’s no way to predict what’s going to happen, so you must be adaptable, develop and trust your intuition, and become an expert at self-reliance and minimalism.

Because getting along with your driver is so important, you often have to hold your tongue when it comes to religious, political, and other sensitive social issues. It’s not always easy, but you learn how to listen and ask exploratory questions instead of argue. You see the humanity of people you might otherwise avoid.

Covid has made hitchhiking even more risky than usual, and I haven’t done it lately. I’ve been reminiscing on some of my past adventures instead.

Here is the first of 5 hitchhiking stories I’d like to recount for you.

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail through Northern California, I went into a small town called Etna in order to resupply on food. I stayed with some trail angels for a night or two. When it was time to resume my hike, I needed a ride 10 miles up the winding highway to the pass where it intersects the PCT.

Screenshot from Google Maps

As I stood by the side of the road with my thumb out, I saw a guy driving a van and thought “he looks like he might stop for me.” Sometimes, you get that feeling about a driver, whether it’s their vehicle that indicates an alternative lifestyle or just a certain sparkle in their eyes. In this case it was both.

He only waved as he passed by.

Not long after, I got picked up by two young hippie-ish women who lived near the trail angels’ house. We had a nice conversation on the way up to the pass. They teased me for talking about my 1981 VW Rabbit camper-car more than once. OK, I might have been a little bit in love with that car.

They parked at the trailhead, and we all got out; it was a beautiful sunset. They ran around dancing, celebrating, as I got my gear together.

Guess who else had stopped up there to see the sunset? The guy with the van. I went over and talked to him and he said he was living in the van and working at a marijuana farm. He would have picked me up, but he couldn’t, because his dog gets protective.

He offered to sell me some weed for cheap; I gave him all the cash I had ($23) in exchange for a half-ounce and a pack of extra large RAW rolling papers.

Then I said goodbye to my new friendly acquaintances and walked back into the woods by myself.

I was high for about 75% of my journey between Mexico and Canada, but I’ve never smoked so many joints as I did in that section of trail.

Photo courtesy of the author

(I never said I was good at rolling joints.)

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The PCT north of Etna — photo courtesy of the author

Almond Sun

Human stories from a traveler’s perspective

Joe Omundson

Written by

Religion, society, lifestyle, and travel. Nomad stories on Patreon: linktr.ee/joeomundson | Email: joe.omundson@gmail.com

Almond Sun

Surprising stories about people I have encountered on the road and on the trail

Joe Omundson

Written by

Religion, society, lifestyle, and travel. Nomad stories on Patreon: linktr.ee/joeomundson | Email: joe.omundson@gmail.com

Almond Sun

Surprising stories about people I have encountered on the road and on the trail

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