Back before the Internet, it was more difficult to break out into new outdoor sports than it is today, especially technical ones like climbing that usually require someone to show you the ropes. The local outdoors community coalesced around clubs like the Spokane Mountaineers and Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club, where people who were into the same outdoor activities could meet up to learn from each other and try new things. Along with a handful of guidebooks, whatever mentors you might have in your life, a few print magazines and newspaper outdoor stories, those were your access points for getting turned on to new outdoor recreation disciplines.

Our family was a pretty typical Northwest outdoors family: we did a lot of camping; some hiking; took long neighborhood bike rides; skied; wake boarded and fished the local lakes; and hunted game birds in the fall. But my only exposure to the foreign alpine dreamland of rock, ice, dwarf forest and high mountain lakes, and, consequently, backpacking and climbing, were from the pages of Rich Landers outdoors columns and, a little later, the “100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest” book, which became somewhat of a sacred text that got packed around until its pages were sun-bleached and stained with coffee, sweat and beer. Before I was old enough to set out on my own, I remember waiting for Sunday to roll around to see what esoteric adventures awaited in the Spokesman’s outdoors section. The anticipation must have built up over the years because once I got a driver’s license and my own vehicle, I went on a 20-year tear, ticking off trips around the West.

It’s an understatement to say that there are way more opportunities today to get outside and learn about new outdoor sports – from websites, videos and social media to an explosion of clubs and outdoors organizations and niche outdoor print and online publications and guidebooks – than we could have ever dreamed of a couple decades ago. And there are more people who are into the outdoors now than ever before. So you would think that just about everyone would have been exposed to things like stand up paddleboarding, rock climbing, kayaking, trail running, mountain biking and geocaching. Not so.

Last year we at OTM decided it was time for Spokane to have its own outdoor adventure festival to bring the outdoors community together and introduce new people to the outdoor sports that many of us orient our lives around. On July 11, the first annual Spokatopia Outdoor Adventure Festival kicks off at Camp Sekani Park and Boulder Beach on the Spokane River. Hop on your bike and come down to try something new; demo mountain and road bikes; watch the mountain bike jump jam; run the Up Chuck Challenge; enjoy live music in the beer garden; and check out the samples, deals and info from 40 outdoor oriented exhibitors. And, most importantly, bring someone new – kids, family or friends – and introduce them to the life-changing experience of playing outside. //