The Lost Art of Hitchhiking: Mount Evans

Right.

Right…

Retreating off Grey’s & Torrey in a hailstorm, my friend Drew and I had to hike along a forest road for about a mile back to our campsite. Dozens of people were evacuating off the mountain and more than 20 cars passed us on our walk down the road. It was pelting hail, but nobody stopped to offer us a ride. We didn’t really need one, but in my opinion, if you see a fellow hiker walking along a road, you should ask if they need a ride, especially in wicked weather.

Last summer, rolling along the Alaskan Highway in British Columbia on a rainy day, I passed a soaked to the bone cyclist walking his bike on the shoulder of the road. I pulled over ahead of him and asked if he wanted a ride. He might have been the most dejected looking person I’ve ever seen, but after careful consideration, he declined saying he wanted to make it to Alaska on his own power and he wouldn’t feel right about being driven, even for a short distance. “But thank you for asking, that means a lot,” he said. I refilled his water bottle and wished him luck and left him, smiling just slightly now, to push his bike through the storm towards Alaska.

I wish hitchhiking – and picking up hitchhikers – wasn’t so taboo. I quite like giving fellow travelers a lift. Over my past seven years living on the road, I’ve picked up all manner of hitchhikers – men and women, young and old – and I’ve met a lot of great people and never once had a problem. When you do somebody a kindness by giving them a lift and a snack (one of my hitchhiker hostessing tips), I’ve found they’re kind, polite and grateful in return.

Creeping up Mount Evans in heavy fog

Creeping up Mount Evans in heavy fog.

Two days after a successful blue bird summit day on both Grey’s & Torrey, we drove up to the 14,265-foot summit of Mount Evans on one of the highest roads in the world. The weather was, once again, absolutely hellacious.

On the summit, we poked around the ruins of what was once the Crest House, a visitor center and gift shop built in 1941 and destroyed by a propane blast in 1979. The original building was designed to resemble a shooting star and the ruins, repurposed as a viewing platform, are kind of bizarre.

Crest House Viewing Platform

Crest House Viewing Platform

After several decades of alpine winters, all that's left are the walls

After several decades of alpine winters, all that’s left are the walls.

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Stone was sourced on site, so the structure blends in with the summit.

After only a few minutes of wandering around the ruins, trying to picture how this place must have looked before the blast, the wind picked up and it started sleeting so we retreated to the car. We didn’t have anywhere to be so we hung out in the parking lot for awhile, enjoying the novelty of being warm and dry in a storm at 14,000 feet.

Then two hikers staggered down to the parking lot from the summit, fighting against the wind. They conferred over a map for a few minutes and began trudging across the pavement, towards the road off the mountain. “Let’s offer them a ride,” I said.

I’ve never met two more grateful hitchhikers. Tom and Lisa had just climbed 14 miles from Echo Lake up to the summit of Mount Evans on the class 2 Chicago Creek route. They had originally planned to return via the same route, but the storm was so sketchy, they decided they should take the road down and hope for a ride. The four of us traded storm stories and by the time we dropped them at their car at Echo Lake, we had all exchanged cards and info, scheming to meet up again on another mountain, another day.

khb

One of these days, I’ll climb Evans on my own two feet, hopefully in better weather!

Read more of my adventures with hitchhikers in my previous posts Oh, Canada: The Lost Art of Hitchhiking and A Friend In Wounded Knee.

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in Big Sky, Montana. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Hiking!, Photography, Road tripping!, Uncategorized, Vagabonding 101 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Lost Art of Hitchhiking: Mount Evans

  1. Dan Beideck says:

    One way to make it a little safer to pick up a hitchhiker is to take a photo of them holding a picture id with a camera phone before letting them in your car. Send the photo to someone you trust and make sure they know you’ve done that. The rare creep hitchhiker that might mess with you will think twice if he knows someone is going to be able to trace him down. Plus, it could make for an interesting scrapbook of the people you meet on the road…

  2. beachman says:

    Dan has a really good idea with the cam/fone…I hitchhiked a lot in the 70’s. Only once had a sketchy ride whom the old man tried to feel up my girlfriend at the time….We laugh about it now 🙂

    Really great pics Mary..

  3. oursunnyday says:

    I am totally with you on the hitchhiker thing. As a government employee, I am not allowed to pick people up during work hours, (but I did it once anyway, don’t tell Uncle Sam). She was a young woman walking along the road back to the shuttle stop after attending one of my hikes. Sometimes my good conscience just doesn’t let me drive by.

    As avid hikers, Jon and I have tried our fair share of hitch hiking. We once got stuffed into the far back of a range rover full of gear, and packed to the brim with an Asian family, college kids on up to grandpa with an oxygen bottle. That was an adventure. Haven’t had a bad experience yet, but I find despite what the media portrays about society, most people are generally good.

    ~Leigh from http://www.oursunnyday.wordpress.com

  4. Helping a soaked cyclist, or a couple trying to navigate down from a summit is quite different than a rest stop on an interstate highway. Common sense tells you where the trouble could be lurking. Plus, the idea of taking a photo with the ID and sending it to a friend is a great idea. We live in a desert area of mountainous west Texas, and leaving someone on the side of the road can literally be fatal. I stop for everyone. Just a hippy habit.

  5. Really great post. I am always fascinated about reading up on and learning about new places so I Googled Mount Evans and had a little read. It is such a pity that the Summit House was not rebuilt. But what an interesting place to visit though I think. Lovely pics. Happy hitch-hiking!

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