When we began hiking the trail, and mentioned hitch-hiking to friends and loved ones, it sent shivers down their spines. Granted, I wouldn't recommend any lone female to do so -- but we had no problems what so ever! We hitched into almost every town we went to along the trail. When you're hiking day after day, 5 miles into town may not seem like a lot, but that's an extra couple hours that's not working towards your goal -- just a full belly.
Hitching is an art. You can't just stand on the side of the road sticking out your thumb, you need the set up: backpack, trekking poles, and usually a beard helps (or hinders, depending how crazy it is) a pick up. One thing other hikers always looks for are trekking poles. We were told by many that if a hiker has poles, they give the allusion of someone on a mission rather than a vagrant, and are thus more likely to be picked up. However, same goes for a backpack, someone sees a full pack, they know they are going somewhere.
If it weren't for hitching, we would have not met some of our greatest friends along the trail. After you get into a rythm, you start to have a "story" -- a 5-10 minute blurb that you and a buddy can tell to the do-gooder so that they are comforted by the fact you're not going to kill them, and you're comforted by the fact that there's no time for an awkward silence. Family, college, work, anything reminiscent of the 'real world' will help make the ride go smoother, and maybe even get them to offer up their house for a bed and shower! Andy and I had a little shpeel we would go through, and the people picking us up would usually lend us their house for the evening. Great people, from North to South, rich to poor, people would offer up all they had to offer -- just because we stuck out our thumb and told them our story.
In short, hitching has its risks, but what doesn't? We hitched as little as 2 miles, or as far as New Hampshire to Boston (for Andy's graduation.) You have the possibility to tell some pretty interesting stories later on, you get where you need to go a little quicker, and its always exciting. So next time you're along a trail and need to get somewhere quick, give it a go.