We were working late on this October/November double issue of Out There from our home office when an after-dark knock on the front door rattled us away from our computers with some bad news. In our always exciting corner of the city, just across the river from downtown Spokane, late night visits are rarely a good thing. It was one of our neighbors, and she looked distressed. “Somebody just busted out the windows on your cars,” she said. The neighborhood sees more than its share of crime, and we’ve experienced plenty of sketchy situations that would scare a lot of people back to the suburbs, but we mostly love it here. The proximity to the river, trails, endless recreation opportunities and urban amenities are too good to leave. But tonight we are pissed and take off down the road in our flip-flops to try to make some sense of the broken glass in front of our house. The people next door fill us in that the obviously impaired individual who broke three of our windows and one on the neighbor’s SUV – with his fist – was still walking up the next block just a few minutes earlier. And that’s when several other random neighbors took off after this potential psychopath, running barefoot into the dark down streets and alleys, through yards and parking lots, even though nothing of theirs had been broken. I had the urge to run off after them, but was too far behind to be of use. Instead, I settled for guarding the truck one of the pursuers, a complete stranger to us who lives somewhere on our street, had left parked and running in the middle of the street when he jumped out to chase after the window smasher.
The longer I live in the city, traditional ways of thinking about outdoor recreation, pursuits once largely reserved for rural landscapes and pristine parks and wilderness, seem less relevant to my day-to-day life. On the other hand, the possibilities for daily urban adventure and creatively incorporating urban spaces and the ribbons of nature that break up the concrete jungle for more purposeful and meaningful outings feel more and more satisfying and readily available without ever getting into a car. Whether it’s a riverbank wandering, walk/run to the store for a six-pack; a downtown alley “art” walk; a kid-packing ramble through High Bridge that incorporates a disc golf session or illegal fire pit dismantling workout; or a nighttime, barefoot, criminal-chasing odyssey through the hood, outdoor experiences that incorporate workouts, nature and community connection, and adventure into everyday jaunts through the urban outdoors are a different, exciting kind of outdoor recreation. Starting with this issue, look for ideas and inspiration for exploring the urban wilds in our new Urban Outdoors column! //