It’s a beautiful sunny Saturday morning as my wife Rachelle, 15-year-old son Evan, and I park near the roundabout at Pacific Avenue and Cannon Street in Spokane’s Browne’s Addition neighborhood. Although we live only a mile and a half away, it’s across the freeway and along a series of one-way streets, and we’ve spent very little time here.
Browne’s Addition is a relatively small collection of turn-of-the-century homes and apartment buildings nestled between downtown, the west edge of the city, the Spokane River, and the I-90 freeway. The roundabout is the hub of the neighborhood, with six enticing eateries clustered around it. As we set off west on Pacific, I make a mental note to come back soon to try the five we haven’t visited (and I wonder again why exactly we haven’t done so yet). After four blocks among the kind of beautiful historic homes it’s so easy to take for granted in Spokane, we turn right on Poplar, then east on First Avenue and pass the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. Just past it, we turn left at the next block and left again, descending west down Riverside. Within a few hundred feet, we’ve transitioned from an urban shoulder of downtown into the lush solitude of trees, brush and birdsong. I take it all in and give a deep sigh of appreciation. Where else but Spokane can you go from car exhaust to wild nature in a few strides?
At the bottom of Riverside hill is High Bridge Park. We face a choice. We could run across the Spokane River on the Sandifur Memorial foot bridge and up to the Centennial Trail, where we could head west and follow the river along the edge of the West Central neighborhood, or east to the cool new eateries and shops of Kendall Yards. But today, we choose to take the road that heads uphill toward the nearly invisible pocket neighborhood of Peaceful Valley. If you’re like me, you’ve seen it from a distance as you’re heading across the Monroe bridge to downtown, but have never actually visited it. It’s not on the way to anywhere, after all.
As we enter Peaceful Valley, new condos and other properties soon give way to some of the earliest homes in Spokane. On a Saturday morning, it lives up to its name as an oasis of peace and quiet in the heart of the city. As we reach the center, we stop at Peace Valley Park for a sip of water at the fountain. We note the steady thrum of vehicles on the Maple Street Bridge overhead. Then it’s up the slow climb past Riverside Place, the former Masonic Lodge that for a century was a quirky collection of sumptuous halls and ballrooms. I spent many Monday evenings there listening to the Spokane Youth Symphony rehearse when my sons were members, before the space was sold and converted to a meeting and convention center.
We curl around to Riverside Avenue and are suddenly thrust back in the heart of urban energy at the buzzing five-way intersection. We run the final stretch west past the unique twin spires of the Cathedral of our Lady of Lourdes, catch one last longing glimpse of the river, then skirt within blocks of River City Brewing and Iron Goat Brewing, two anchors of Spokane’s solid craft beer scene. When we reach Cannon Street, we turn left and run the final four blocks to Cannon Coffee and Cone for a quick scoop of ice cream before walking back to the car.
I love the neighborhood we chose to move to five years ago. But if we could do it all over again, would we move here to Browne’s Addition? It’s hard to say – but we’d definitely check it out.
This is the first of a three-part urban running series. Each of the routes in this series will be a drivable, 3- to 5-mile loop with minimal traffic lights. And of course, each route will end at an outdoor coffee shop or eatery (because runners get stinky). //
Brad Thiessen wrote about the Dishman Hills Natural Area in May 2016.