When I lived in L.A., I would regale my so-cool So Cal friends with stories about the trees, mountains, lakes and other awe-inspiring natural features of the Northwest. I would wax poetic, gesticulating with broad, sweeping motions and astounding them with my stories of the lake-island campouts and forest keggers that I so fondly (and only partially) recalled from my years of growing up.
Yeah, I was a nature junkie, or so I thought. When I finally moved back to these much, much greener pastures, I had plans of mountain biking and three-day hikes, afternoon fishing and maybe even an attempt at Ultimate Frisbee. I had spent five years pining for the jagged forest-green hills of pine and fir trees, the soft crunch of year-old branches and leaves beneath my foot.
So what have I done since coming back? Well, I went mountain biking a couple weeks ago, I looked at High Bridge park from High Bridge and just the other day I... well, I didn't do anything the other day.
All I have done is fully neglect one of the few good qualities that separates Spokane from other cities, something the present city fathers and mothers noticed enough to put in their somewhat ill-conceived city slogan, "Spokane -- Near Nature, Near Perfect." I have been neglecting the outdoors.
When I went mountain biking (for the first time in probably six years) off High Drive a month ago, I felt great. I rode all the way back to my house, walked my bike to the garage with my shirt off, looked at some birds and wanted to say, "Hey there, fellow creatures of the Earth, I was just careening through nature at dangerously high speeds on this sleek contraption of shiny bars and spokes, and now I understand you better."
It felt great, it felt healthy. I almost didn't shave when I went to the bars that night and the first beer definitely put a hair somewhere on my chest (or maybe on my face and I shaved it off and that's why I can't find it.)
Soon enough, though, one beer became a couple more, I slept in late, woke up with a movie and sadly, my short communion with the local outdoors was something I would more likely write about then repeat. Hey, wait a minute...
My point is this: Spokane is near nature, and while that doesn't make it near perfect, it is an identifying part of this city that not enough young people (e.g., me) exploit. What other city can you think of where you have seven different outlets for outdoorsy stuff within a 10-minute drive from downtown? (Riverfront Park, Centennial Trail, High Drive, Riverside State Park, Finch Arboretum, Manito, and Minnehaha.)
And the further out you go, the better it gets. Here's a sure-fire method of experiencing all that the Inland Northwest has to offer. First, go to River Park Square and look at all the lakes they have mapped out on the floor of the atrium. Then - here's a radical step -- go to the actual lakes.
I used to show my friends from L.A. pictures of my buddies and me cliff-jumping off Tubbs Hill at Lake Coeur d'Alene and tell them, "That's all I did the whole summer after I graduated from high school." They were like, "Yeah, well, we have Lakers too." And I'd say, "That's a sports team, nice try." And they're like, "Whatevs." And I'd say, "Yeah, exactly." And they were like so jealous it was transparent.
When I decided to write about the outdoors, I went to a couple of these spots to walk around. At first, dressed in black shoes, black jeans and a black T-shirt, I felt like a cigarette burn on a Monet. Yet I quickly forgot about that and everything else while passing through the trees, listening to the deafening silence punctuated by the occasional bird or a falling pinecone.
Visiting these parks and trails and lakes and hills, I realized what a sissy city-boy I have become and what an ignorant loss my concrete jungle experience has exacted. Half the time I was mountain biking, I was trying to remember what to do if I was attacked by a mountain lion. I have electrocuted my connection to nature -- and, especially in Spokane, that is a sad thing to admit, with so many readily available outlets to explore.
So here it is, my printed props to the Great Outdoors: Go out and enjoy them. Stroll through the woods, get a fishing pole and catch something, pretend your 10-speed is stronger than it is and hit the trails. Because it's good for the health of your body, the health of your head, and most important, I think it's good that we all do our part to repair this centuries-old rift between humans and squirrels. That's all.
(Oh, and I was going to call around to find out about rock-climbing locations and other hard-core sorts of outdoor enjoyment, but I figure the people who are interested in scary things like that already know or would rather do the investigating themselves. Rock on, not off.)
In the next "Take" of mine, I will check out what to do in Spokane if your twentysomething friends come to visit for a couple days. If you have some way-super-awesome ideas or any grammatical or entomological corrections for this piece, I'll be hugging a tree with a laptop waiting to read them. Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org
Publication date: 06/10/04