Shoulder Season Celebration in the Inland Northwest

Shoulder seasons get a bad rap. Skiers and boarders fantasize about early-winter’s powder stashes, climbers wait for the rock to stop seeping, mountain bikers cheer on the sun as they wait for trails to dry out, and hikers grow weary of the muck and slush. But the in-between seasons offer us the chance to slow down, reflect on our last round of adventures, and set our sites on new ones.

I’m using the shoulder season to celebrate 10 years in Washington and 10 years of these spring-time scenes: snowmelt feeding the chaotic spray of a flood-stage Spokane River; wet feet darting about on sloppy trails; and days upon days of rain settling in, followed by the first flicker of sun as the clouds part.

In this tenth spring I’m feeling especially thankful for the way the Inland Northwest has welcomed and challenged me. I’ve been inspired by a hardy stock of people who move between sage steppe and foothills, from river valleys to crags and high places. In the suburbs of Philadelphia where I was raised, snow was just one more impediment to arriving to work on time, and only my wealthiest friends skied on the weekends. And in the summer, most people weren’t out hiking, backpacking, or camping—they were lying in the sand next to hundreds of other people on the Jersey shore.     

Before moving to the Inland Northwest, I never could have imagined turning my yard into a chaotic, food-bearing garden. I never thought about skiing—let alone slapping skins on my skis and walking up the nearby hills. Homeowners associations dictated the appearance of people’s lawns, and the tolls, traffic, and general busyness kept most of us on a tight leash close to city limits. There was order and efficiency, but not a lot of wildness and freedom.

In this tenth year here in the Inland Northwest I’m making some changes too. I’ve transitioned from the foothills of the Selkirk Mountains to the foothills of the Cascades, from the tributary of the Spokane River to its outflow into the mighty Columbia. I’m excited to witness the unfolding of a Central Washington spring and to deepen my roots out West.

It’s easy to imagine being here another 10 years. The Columbia Plateau has taken hold of my inner landscape, and for that I am thankful. Here, with easier access to so many trails, my identity is less individualistic and more collective. I live in a region where there’s enough people recreating and exploring to sustain a magazine that celebrates what we all love: getting outside, moving the body, and experiencing the natural beauty outside the front door or miles down a Forest Service road. Together we are stewards of public lands and co-conspirators in caring for our natural resources—be they parks, rivers, lakes, trails systems, or wilderness areas.

As residents of the Inland Northwest, we know what to do with shoulder seasons. If we wait for the snow to melt, for the sidewalks to dry, for the sun to finally hover at that coveted, universally pleasurable 73 degrees, we’ll only have a couple of week outside each year. We know how to gear up, get dirty, and have fun, no matter the season.

Thank you all for teaching me that. //

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