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.
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.
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.