The latest Hike of the Week is a shuttle hike: Capitol Reef's Sulphur Creek starts in one place and ends in another. The road back to the trailhead is 3+ shadeless miles. You can deal with this by using two cars, dropping off a bike, walking in the shoulder of the road, or the option I chose: hitching a ride with a stranger.
This was the first time I had ever hitchhiked in a non-emergency. So I was a little awkward and nervous, even though the hike ends at a national park visitors center, which is pretty much the world's most logical place to beg for a post-hike shuttle. I guess I was still afraid people would think I was dumb for doing a 7-mile, one-way, desert hike in summer without arranging transportation beforehand. This is America. We fend for ourselves.
But I was traveling with just one other friend, not a big group with multiple cars. I don't own a bike. Walking on the open road sounded hot and lame, especially since I'm pregnant. But mostly, it just seemed like getting a shuttle should be possible in a place with a bunch of leisure travelers coming and going in cars.
It turned out that hitching was totally easy — AFTER I put down my thumb and hand-scrawled "Chimney Rock (arrow)" sign.
Until then, it sucked. A whole lot of cars rolled by me as I waited at the corner of the parking lot. Nobody had the time or mental space to process my request. They're pre-occupied with their own travels. In a busy parking lot, it's easy to assume that someone else will be able to help out. And standing there with a sign is a really passive way to ask for a favor. I seriously doubt anyone was outright unwilling to help me; when a sweaty, pregnant woman can't get a ride in the desert, you can pretty much assume it's a marketing problem.
So I decided to approach people directly as they left the visitors center museum: "Excuse me, I just finished a one-way hike and was hoping to get a ride back to my car a couple of miles that way. If it's on your way, do you think I could go with you?"
The first people I asked gave me a ride. It was a nice family from Salt Lake City.
I'm sure hitching is universally easier for women. In Utah, being white probably helps, too. But I think the most important thing is to be friendly and polite and ask like you don't have anything to be sheepish about. Carpooling should be OK, especially in the places we least want to congest and pollute.
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