I proposed to two friends who also happen to be lawyers -- Joan Blades, cofounder of moveon.org, momsrising.org, and livingroomconversations.org as well as a former mediator, author, and avid hiker; and Floy Andrews, a former real estate lawyer turned into a bioethicist starting a practice in elder trust law and also an avid hiker -- that on Labor Day I lead us on a 7.5 mile hike on the Dipsea Trail, starting with a climb of 688 steps in Mill Valley, a descent into Muir Woods, another ascent along the southern flank of Mt. Tamalpais, and then a descent into the Stinson Beach crescent. I was the designated leader only because I've hiked (and even run) the Dipsea dozens of times, and I knew the trail was poorly marked.
So poorly marked that only 20 minutes into the hike I led us to the right instead of to the left (What did Robert Frost's poem about divergent paths say again?) and we ended up adding another 3 miles to the hike. The detour was so surreal that we didn't mind: a Rousseauian kingdom of winding streets with Swiss chalets perched on hillsides and almost concealed by redwoods. This was the land of the aesthetic 1 percent, those whom nature protects and vice versa.
To rejoin the Dipsea -- the route of a century-old running race the subject of at least two documentaries -- we walked through the backend of Muir Woods, a national monument. It was Labor Day and there were far more people than trees, so the only tree we noticed was a fallen one, on which we sat to eat our snacks. It was already noon and we still had 1,000 feet of climbing.
There was absolutely no wildlife -- I guess it was Labor Day for them as well -- but we saw the black and white remains of what had been a skunk, so our conversation digressed to bears and what to do if attacked, particularly by a grizzly. The procedures Floy described sounded so terrifying that I knew I'd probably die of a heart attack before being eaten by the bear.
We made Stinson Beach after 4 hours of hiking. It was way past lunch and some of us felt like a grizzly bear on a foraging attack, so we stumbled into the nearest outdoor cafe and immediately asked for bread. "We are out of bread," said the waiter. Unbelievable. We ordered salads -- mine had croutons, which counts for bread -- while Joan, ever taking the divergent path, strolled over to a small market on Highway 101 and returned with her bounty: a wonderful, fresh baguette from the La Brea bakery in Los Angeles. We marveled over the expediency of our transportation systems as we devoured the loaf.
I had copied the West Marin bus schedule before leaving home, and it indicated we could take a 3:17 p.m. bus back to Panoramic, the first ridge we had crossed, which was a 30-minute downhill walk back to our car. We rushed through lunch to get to the bus stop in the Stinson Beach parking lot, and discovered at least 30 other people waiting for the bus.
After at least 20 minutes of waiting at the stop, which was also the exit to the parking lot, I decided to ask the flow of departing drivers for a lift back to Panoramic. Recalling a gesture I haven't used for at least 40 years, I stuck out my thumb, walked up to the cars, which were moving at less than 5 mph, and tried to engage drivers. A few stopped but were going the wrong direction. At first, Joan and Floy were amused at my manoevers, but when we almost got some bites, Joan actually joined in. It takes guts to start a divergent movement.
OK, it's the 21st century and Floy had an iPhone, so I suggested she try Nextbus to see when the bus might be coming. West Marin transit doesn't use Nextbus, so that didn't work. Then I suggested we find a private driver through Uber or Lyft, but we couldn't get through to those sites from our location. Finally, after almost an hour of waiting and trying to dig out information from a park ranger -- who basically laughed at us -- we decided to hike back up the hill(s). Some of the folks in the bus line had the same idea, so a posse of us starting walking up Highway 1 toward the entrance to the Dipsea.
That's when I spotted the West Marin bus coming down the hill toward Stinson Beach. I yelled out to everyone, "That's our bus!" Joan said, "Let's run." And so we did, as if a grizzly bear had been at our backs. Amazing how the fear of expending energy will impel one to expend a great burst of energy.
The bus looked like Burning Man on fire to us dependers on public transit. So what if it first detoured to Bolinas -- a hippy artist beach town adjacent to a large lagoon with egrets and heron? En route we witnessed the logjam that had delayed the bus: for at least two miles, cars were piled up, Le Weekend style. An auto exodus from Pt. Reyes, the Bay Area's national park. By the time we returned to Stinson and then Panoramic, the traffic was gone and so was our fury at the breakdown in our public transit system.
As for the breakdown in the hitchhiking culture, this is something I expect a crafty software developer to resolve by my next Labor Day hike.