Turn off this App Go Outside


Written by Lauren Miheli, Volunteer Coordinator

Recently a friend invited me to an event called “Party Bus Hike: Cougar Mountain Grand Traverse.”  Now I’ve been invited to many parties and events in my day, but never anything like this!  I was intrigued and sent in my RSVP immediately. 

If you’re like me and grew up in a lower-income urban community, honestly, outdoor activities can be a little intimidating.  Sometimes it feels like you need a lot of expensive gear just to fit in on the trail.  Heaven forbid you wear a cotton shirt instead of the most high-tech, synthetic, moisture-wicking garb money can buy.  And how are you going to get to a trail head without a 4-wheel drive sports vehicle?  My clothes are for urban adventures and I don’t have a car, so even though I work for The Nature Conservancy, I am embarrassed to admit I don’t get out and hike as much as I’d like to.  What I do have is a sense of adventure and an ORCA card, which I was excited to learn, would be enough to get me out of the city and to the trailhead! 

The plan for the day was to meet in the International District, take a bus to Bellevue, hike 11 miles through the Coal Creek and Cougar Mountain trails to arrive in Issaquah and catch a bus from the Issaquah Transit Center back to Seattle.  A group of about 10 people met for this mini-expedition.  On the bus ride out we got to know each other, and we solidified our new friendships during the hike.  The trail was moderate, with babbling brooks, the soothing smell of pine in the air, and a peaceful waterfall lunch stop.  Bussing back was a breeze, we all connected with each other and relaxed, and no one had to worry about staying awake at the wheel to get everyone home.

The hike was organized by Adrian Laurenzi, a local Software Engineer who co-founded an app called TOTAGO (developed by Open PlanIt and now public on the Google Play Store), that will help urban outdoor enthusiast’s access great trails using bus systems.  I could not be more excited for this idea!  Just think of all the people who could benefit from this tool.  College students, young families, urban dwellers, the list goes on.  Don’t have money for a car, gas, or parking fees?  Busses are relatively affordable for everyone.  Even if you do have a car, chances are that as someone who loves nature you’ve felt guilty about your carbon footprint and wouldn’t mind reducing your emissions.

Society has a long way to go in making outdoors activities accessible to everyone, which is something we certainly need to do if we’re going to inspire support for protecting our natural resources, but a tool like this is one  is definitely a step in the right direction, and I’m looking forward to its launch and using my bus pass to go on more hikes!

More information about the Cougar Mountain Grand Traverse can be found here

More information about the Totago app project can be found here