Hitchhiking to Yosemite, Part 1 [028]

Two weeks ago, my friend and rock climbing buddy dropped me off in the town of Placerville, CA. It was about 5pm. My goal was to hitchhike to Yosemite National Park, 120 miles away.

Photo from the next day. (Calaveras County, California)

After hitting a grocery store in Placerville, I initially struggled to find a ride out. My softer side wanted to give up and get a hotel room for the night. I had been camping outside for about 2 weeks straight at this point, so the lure of creature comforts and a hot shower was strong.

But the lure of adventure was stronger! I stared down at Google Maps and searched for the best spot. One road – Route 49 – goes most of the way down to Yosemite. So I walked a few miles through Placerville until I reached the intersection of 49 and Missouri Flat Rd. It took about 20 minutes, but I was picked up by a woman in her late 20’s who had just completed her first day of work as a grocer. She took me about 3 miles down 49.

Up til this point, Route 49 was just a 1-lane road winding its way through sleepy neighborhoods. And in fact 49 is a 1-lane road all the way down to Yosemite. I expected it to be a challenge. With so few cars passing, I would need to get lucky or else I was due for some 2 hour waits. But human kindness finds a way! I usually waited 10-20 minutes for each ride.

It was getting dark now as the Grocer dropped me on the outskirts of Placerville. Ten minutes later, a black jeep that looked like it was being held together with duct tape screeched to a stop and a husky guy asked me in a short clip where I was going. I hopped in. He wore shades and aggressively accelerated down 49. The jeep’s interior was stripped and sparsely redecorated. Husky Guy acted like former military. “Support Your Local Hell’s Angels,” said a sticker pasted to his dashboard, which had been stripped as well. As he sped down 49, the guitar solo from “Freebird” blared in my ears. I was reminded of the scene from Forrest Gump in which Jenny spirals downward in a blizzard of cocaine and bad choices. But Husky Guy dropped me outside a minimart 10 miles south of Placerville.

I looked towards the minimart. Next door was a wheat grass meadow – several acres worth – with a Private Property sign. In front of the minimart, a woman and her child were filling up jugs of water from a faucet jutting out from the minimart wall. I approached the woman and her child. It was getting dark. I needed a place to sleep…


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