It took me 5 separate hitches, but I got from Kennedy Meadows South to Mammoth Lakes in just a few hours.
Time to get my thumb ready
I wasn't standing outside of the Kennedy Meadows General Store for long before I got a ride a couple miles down the road to Triple Crown Outfitters and the Grumpy Bear's Retreat restaurant from Yogi, a veteran well-known long-distance hiker. I stopped at Grumpy Bear's Retreat to ask if anyone there could give me a ride, and they said I should walk next door to see if Yogi knew of anyone. Like I said, Kennedy Meadows is in the middle of nowhere, on a remote dirt road, a ways away from Highway 395.
For reference: Kennedy Meadows South and Red's Meadow are in orange boxes (photo courtesy of Magellan)
As soon as I walked out, a car was slowly driving by in the right direction, so I stuck my thumb out immediately, and asked if they could bring me to Highway 395. I was hopeful, because there isn't any other place to go in that directly. They were a kind couple who not only offered to drive me to the highway, but also north along the highway to Lone Pine, in the complete opposite direction of their home in Ridgecrest. I was so grateful, especially because I knew I had more hitching to do before the day was up.
After I thanked them for dropping me off, I noticed a couple of thru-hikers in the park next to where I was dropped off, so I went to see if I knew them. Peak Freak, whom I had met in Lee Vining while waiting out the storm, was there! It was fun to see him again, and what a small world.
I chatted with him briefly, then went across the street to continue hitching. It was still mid-afternoon, so I had plenty of time. It didn't take long for someone to stop for me, though, and I was able to get a hitch to the next town over, Independence.
I was really lucky with my hitches, because I had barely even stuck my thumb out when I was picked up by a very kind woman named Maggie in Independence. She was headed to Bishop, and told me multiple times about how she had never picked up a hitchhiker before. I'd like to think I made her first experience doing so a good one! She even gave me her number in case I got into some trouble on my hitches. I was so grateful.
In Bishop, I had a slightly harder time getting a hitch, and just got mildly worried because it was starting to get dark. There was quite the number of drivers aggressively looking forward and averting their gaze from me. A younger guy saw me and stopped for me. His name was Josh, and had recently graduated from school. He was taking a break from life and taking his van around, hiking and biking.
Turns out he was headed to Mammoth Lakes, and wanted to take a day trip to Devil's Postpile right next to Red's Meadow. And it just so happens that Red's Meadow is the southern trailhead of the Sierra section I missed. I asked if he would be willing to take me, if I let him have the other twin bed in the motel room I'd booked in Mammoth Lakes, since he was going to sleep in his van that night. He said sure, and I made a snap decision then I'd do that section northbound so I wouldn't have to deal with finding even more rides.
I was somehow able to get to my destination around dinnertime, which I was incredibly happy about. It meant getting some real sleep before heading out the next day.
Thank you Josh, and the other drivers willing to help me out that day! Your kindness was much appreciated, and that day is still one of my favorite memories from my whole hike.