Cost: $2.50 (public transportation; arboretum admission is free). Take the red or blue light rail to Washington Park and exit toward the Oregon Zoo; Follow the purple signs to the free seasonal shuttle just steps away. The shuttle runs every 15 minutes from about 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and stops at multiple locations in the park, so you can explore at your leisure.
Time: 1 hour (30 minutes one-way from downtown)
Just 30 minutes from Portland’s downtown, easily accessible by light rail that costs half the price of a cup of coffee, you can immerse yourself in what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku—”forest bathing.” The Hoyt Arboretum, an almost 200-acre “living museum” with 12 trails and more than 2,000 species from around the world, is easily accessible for just $2.50. Did I mention that admission to the arboretum is free? Yes, my friend. Free. (The nearby International Rose Test Garden is, too, but that’s another post.)
When you arrive at the Hoyt Arboretum, pick up one of their trail maps from the reception desk. The Redwood Trail is easy even for fledgling hikers like myself; you can complete it wearing flip-flops.
Cross the street in front of the Arboretum and you’ll see the Stevens Pavilion Picnic Center, an open-air structure surrounded by Douglas firs. Towering trees dwarf the picnic tables outside, and you haven’t even reached the redwoods yet.
Continue on the trail as it slopes down and to your right. Distant street noises—the few there are to begin with—fade away completely as you turn the corner and face a thicket of trees. Fiddlehead ferns as high as your waist wave as you pass, their heads nodding like seahorses. Once inside the forest, the path leads you past coastal redwoods, western red cedars, and even giant sequoias; maple saplings, their trunks barely more than stems, devote all energy to their leaves, as large as dinner plates.
The path curves and the forest floor drops away to your left. Bird songs, faint at first, filter down like sunbeams: coming from everywhere, and yet just a single line at a time. On a weekday afternoon you barely encounter another person, with the exception of the occasional jogger. Let your ego bruise, and then forget it immediately.
Another turn, and you’re surrounded by tree trunks. You’re mid-level now, with many of them rising from four stories beneath you and another five to ten above you. Ahead to your right, you see a few park benches, all commemorating souls who loved this place. The path doubles back upon itself in a sharp U-turn, leading to the Redwood Observation Deck, a popular spot for weddings. No nuptials today, though—just you, and the woodland animals, and this cathedral of trees.
You’ve barely walked a mile, and yet this leisurely walk transports you to another place. Linger on one of the benches, or continue exploring on one of the many nearby trails. I’ve not found a faster (or cheaper) way to be transported to another realm. Breathe in, relax, and let go in this tranquil, welcoming, sacred space.