Reason #5 billion why viable public transit rocks (Or, ode to Trimet)

When I was a wee one, my dad once took me and an elementary-school friend hiking in Muir Woods. I have no idea what my brother and my mom were up to then, but on this rainy, dreary day, the Dad-me-Carolyn triad bundled ourselves up and went down to the redwoods.

Pelted by rain, we hiked all around the misty-majestic tree-giants, splashing through puddles and turning our little faces up to the treetops so high in the pouring sky. As I recall, there were very few other people out — and even if that’s not objectively true (hard to trust a 5th-grade memory), what I still cherish about it now is the intensely magical private experience, just us three and the overwhelming natural world, awesome in every sense of the word.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with transit, bear with me. It does.

wildwood trail forest park(Wildwood trail: accessible by transit)

A few weekends ago in Portland, on yet another dreary, rainy day, I looked out the window and the falling rain became an invitation to hike. It was a Muir Woods day if I’d ever seen one. Unfortunately, Muir Woods is a good 10-hour drive away from our humble Portland abode (not enticing even if I had a car) and even the closer coastal redwoods are a 300-mile trek. Not exactly something I wanted to tackle as a bike adventure on a shitty-weather winter’s day.

BUT! Portland does have a super amazing resource in the nearby Hoyt Arboretum — which just so happens to have a redwood section. And, it’s closely served by Trimet, which meant that I didn’t even have to get on my bike to get there. Yes, I love my bike, but sometimes, especially after days upon days of wet-weather biking, I just don’t want to deal with the whole complement of rain pants, soaked gloves, booties, and the juggling act of changing into dry clothes and different shoes when I get to where I’m going. By taking the bus and the light rail, I could spend all my wet-weather time actually at my destination rather than trying to get there.

And here is why transit is so fricken awesome. Not only did I have a dry ride to where I wanted to be, but when I got to the Washington Park MAX station, everything I had with me was in my backpack. I didn’t have a car I had to park somewhere; I didn’t even have a bike I had to park somewhere. Which meant that once I started hiking, I could literally go anywhere, in any direction, and, when I got tired of walking, just leave the park to catch a different bus or train back home.

This was fantastic news, because once I wandered all over the Arboretum (still one of my favorite places in Portland:), I decided I’d head over to Pittock Mansion, and once I was there, I decided I might as well keep walking through the woods to the Audubon Society, and then I sort of wanted to wander to a part of Forest Park I’d run the day before, where the normally-trickling creek had transformed into raging waterfalls. And once I finally emerged from the woods in NW Portland, it seemed fun to wander the streets I never take until I ultimately worked my way back to the Willamette River. Whereupon I was able to find a bus to take me back home.

balch creek macleay park(Balch Creek in its rarely-seen raging incarnation, Lower Macleay Park)

At any point, I could have abandoned ship, hiked out of the woods, and caught a bus. Sure, some places are more well-served than others, but it’s so rad to be able to take a one-way jaunt, not worrying about having to get back to the place I’d left my bike. It’s so rad to know that with a little effort I can just catch a bus on the other end of wherever I go.

So even though I don’t even use it that much, I’m feeling particularly thankful for Trimet today. It is so lovely to live in a city with transit options that so nicely facilitate adventure when I’m tired of adventuring on my bike.

7 Comments:

  1. Yep — you just described life…in New York! (And they have gorgeous beaches, too.) And when you get back from the amazing wilderness just an hour or so away from the city, with just your backpack, there’s all that LIFE at your fingertips. Nothin’ like it. :-)

    Yep, public transit is where it’s at, for sure.

    • Oh man. I have such mixed feelings about this. The transit in NY is pretty darn awesome, but if Portland ever gets as busy as New York is, I really, really don’t think I could live here.

  2. yeah for public transit, fancy bike free rambling through forests in the city, big trees, and drippy hikes!

  3. Did you know there’s a population of native cutthroat trout in Balch Creek? I’ve worked in northwest Portland for almost my while career, and I’ve often gone up to Macleay Park on my lunch hour to lurk above a shady pool of slow water for a couple minutes to see them overcome their shyness and swim out of the shadows. Best results in July or August — you certainly aren’t going to see anything in the water this time of year.

    • What?? No, I totally didn’t! I mean, I see the signs they have posted about keeping your dogs out of the creek to protect native fish, but I sort of didn’t believe it. How the heck do they get up there through that funky grill and the whole underwater section of the creek? Geez! (Or, wait, are they not anadromous?)

      I’ll have to remember to take a summer field trip:)

  4. I’m pretty sure that trout are genetically basically salmon, but non-anadromous (except steelhead, of course.) However, the population that’s in the creek now came back after a big cleanup in the 70’s, and they did have to swim all the way up the culvert under NW Portland.

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