Hitch-hiking in Costa Rica was fun. It usually meant getting picked up by the first empty truck that would pass, hopping in the back with the tires, crates, or other people already there, and then bumping along happily with the wind in our hair and the sun on our backs…

My previous experience hitch hiking had been a little different. My ex-husband and I had just separated. I moved out. I moved to the mountain. Crystal Mountain. I got a postition serving at the Summit House restarant, rented a tiny duplex/cabin in Greenwater, and embarked on a winter mission to become a better skiier. My first couple weeks I drove my Honda Passport the 40 minutes to the ski resort. And then I decided not to. Once it snows, the mountain pass is closed, and the road is blocked, so everyone driving past my home was headed to the same place I was. I figured that hitch-hiking made sense. It would save me money, was better for the environment, and might provide me some excitement.

So every morning I would stand on the side of the road, bundled up in my gear, backpack on, skiis and boots on my shoulders, with my thumb up. I was at first suprised at how many cars would pass before one would stop to offer me a ride. But everyday I managed to get there and back using my magical thumb. One time some guys picked me up coming down the mountain who were cool so I invited them into my tiny house for beers. Before they left they gave me a weed cookie the size of a pancake. It stayed in my freezer almost the entire season, getting smaller each time friends would visit. Another time, I was picked up by a man who creeped me out. He asked me if I minded him pulling over to use the bathroom and change into his ski pants. That was fine with me until he put his blinker on to turn down a road that i knew was often empty and led nowhere. My fight or flight instincts immediately kicked in and I found myself playing out different scenarios im my mind in a matter of seconds. I told the guy I was getting out, and as he slowed down, I hopped out the door…

I jumped and yelled trying to get passing cars to stop and pick me up, to no avail! My emotions shifted from fear to frustration, and so when my creepy driver came back along the road, I got in again! He apologized for making me uncomfortable and I accepted his apology : )

That was the isolated event hitchhiking where I didn’t feel safe. For the most part, I met lots of friendly people and enjoyed my encounter with strangers on my rides to and from work. Once at the mountain, I would clock into to work, ride up the chairlift, try to get a few runs in, and then into the summit house bathroom to change into workclothes, put on makeup, and do my hair. With Mt Rainier looming outside and happy riders dotting the the distant snow, I would say that the view from my office was almost perfect.

During that winter I learned much about myself. It was my first time ever living alone. I had gone from living with my family to living in college dorms to living in a shared house in france to living with my husband. I found that I was a little scared when night fell, and slowly made the transition from leaving all of the lights on to embrassing the bedtime darkness. I had a wood stove which I used each night, I had a cord of wood on my porch which I had stacked and covered with tarp to keep dry. At one point my pipes froze and broke and for two weeks I washed my dishes in the snow and showered at the nearby gas station.

I read many books, watched many history channel dvds which I would stock up on from the library every week, and became a good skiier. I learned to live alone. To live with little. To be comfortable at night in the woods in the dark. To love the sounds of the mountain. It was a 6 month course. A life training. And I proved to myself that I could do and be whatever I wanted. Even a hitch-hiking mountain girl.


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