The Secret Is Out: Welcome to the Inland NW

This winter while fat biking at Riverside State Park, my lone biking companion and I encountered a group of eight or so riders that he happened to know. We moved off the trail to let them pass and exchanged greetings and trail beta. And a few fist bumps later, we rolled off in our separate directions. 

Eventually I commented on the obvious increase in trail traffic just about everywhere in recent years. My riding partner concurred and then mentioned that two of the guys in the group had recently moved to Spokane from Bend. I was quiet for a bit while I digested that reality, being that Bend, Oregon, is arguably the mountain bike capitol of the Pacific NW. The possibility that more mountain bikers could be moving from there to here these days versus the other way around was a bit startling.  

It seems that each year more of the people you meet on the trail, skin track, chairlift, river, beach, or post-adventure pub just moved here from Seattle, Portland, California, Colorado, and other former outdoor Meccas, even, apparently, from Bend.  

Woman mountain biking on a dirt trail with a view of trees and mountain peaks in the background.
Local mountain biker Breanna Joy looking strong on the upper Kettle Crest trail. // Photo: Dan Wilson

Those of us who have lived here long enough to consider ourselves locals typically have one of two gut reactions to this trend. The more territorial among us bemoan the crowding that’s occurring on some trails at peak times; curse what’s beginning to resemble real traffic; and grit their teeth at the over-priced housing market. I’ve been keeping my eye out for their “Spokane’s Full, Go Home” stickers. 

Another predictable response to the growing popularity of our backyard with outdoorsy types fleeing busier and pricier outdoor adventure towns and cities is a mindset of “more-the-merrier.” Open to sharing the region’s outdoor adventure bounty (but maybe not their favorite secret spots), many of these folks have an optimistic outlook. The hope is that an injection of new blood in the outdoors community is more fun and can make things better for all of us. They likely remember times when pristine places, trails, and other natural resources were developed or otherwise ruined because there were not enough of us engaged stakeholders to save them and certainly not enough users to justify new trail systems.  

Person taking a selfie on a cliff with a lake at the bottom.
Derrick Knowles hiking the trails around Kokanee Creek Campground.

I admit I drift back and forth between these two camps depending on the day and my mood, but many new people like you and me are moving here every day and that’s that. At the moment I’m feeling optimistic and keep coming back to the hope that adding to the ranks of engaged bikers, hikers, boaters, campers, and climbers should realistically mean more hands on deck to make the Inland Northwest a better place to live for all of us, including the wildlife and wild places that make this place so damn special. But it’s up to us to make it so. 

Derrick Knowles is co-publisher and editor-in-chief. Read more of his stories in the OTO archives.

[Feature photo by Jon Jonckers – Biking along Centennial Trail over the Spokane River.]

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