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What's the Best Idea for an Urban Adventure You've Come Up with Lately?

Today's helpful outdoor reminder: An idea for an urban adventure is likely floating around in your imagination right this minute.

I've become a fan of unconventional rambles—functional walks over long distances usually resigned to motorized travel. This is largely due to my personal conviction that walking is a gateway nondrug to better health, friendlier communities and healthier brains.

MSThat and I enjoy seeing eyes of nonhikers bug when our paths cross and I tell them I'm walking to a Point B that to them is inconceivable. "But that's 6 miles away." Not so bad, I tell them, considering that I've already walked more than 10. Once in a while they'll stare at me as if I just told them I'm Grizzly Adams.

Faithful REI Blog readers may remember that while in Los Angeles earlier this year I made it my fresh-air mission to walk nearly everywhere I went during a 3-week span.

That included a 22-mile one-way walk to Hollywood to take in a taping of The Late Late Show and the modestly bawdy/inventively brainy humor of host Craig Ferguson, who I regard as TV's leading comedic light.

MSSo when Ferguson came to the Northwest this past weekend to perform a stand-up routine, it seemed only right that I should walk the 19 miles from my home to attend his second Seattle-area show in 2 years.

Only this time instead of appearing downtown Ferguson was booked at a slick tribal facility (Snoqualmie Casino) in the Cascade foothills almost 30 miles east of Seattle.

The rural location is close to an interstate exit but has more briers than humans for neighbors. It rates an anemic Walk Score value of 18, and lies outside the reach of public transportation—a critical ally for getting subversive walkers such as me home after dark.

MSSo what's an urban adventurer to do? I opted to drive there (sorry). But I arrived about 10 hours before showtime and instead of driving further, I began hoofing it on foot toward the trailhead of the Seattle region's most heavily traveled trail: the 8-mile round trip to the top of Mount Si.

My route carried me 3 miles east through the community of North Bend, with its Small Town USA vibe that mixes a retro ice cream stand and old-school Chevy dealership (complete with an arty collection of throwback service station pumps) next to wine bars and cool-kid lifestyle shops.

MSMount Si looms directly above the town; at the bottom of this post check out the view of the peak I took with the town's anachronistic Moose Lodge in the foreground.

From downtown it's about another 4 miles to the trailhead and its many-cratered parking lot. (It was worth the walk just to avoid all those axle-busters). The trail climbs more than 3,000 feet over 4 miles to the 3,900-foot basin below Mount Si's tippy-top, a 4,167 bump known as the Haystack. Reaching the summit requires a difficult scramble, so most people are content to enjoy long-distance views from the basin toward Seattle or east to the Cascades.

MSThe thin 2-lane Mount Si Rd. that takes cars 2.5 miles to the trailhead has some sections that are not pedestrian-friendly, but I navigated the route with no elbow-to-side panel contact, a comforting thing. 

I made it back to the venue with an hour to spare, and Ferguson was reliably hilarious, explaining that as the father of a 15-month-old son the real reason he takes on stand-up gigs is to just get out of the house and get a full night's sleep.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is the start of National Bike Month, another excellent reason to use your imagination launch a few ideas for human-powered urban adventure. Think up a new route for biking to work, or get creative and surprise a neglected friend or relative by rolling unannounced up to their front porch. Then go for a walk together.

What's the best idea for an urban adventure you've hatched lately?

Photos top to bottom: Mount Si from a balcony near the hall where Craig Ferguson would perform that night; a trailhead about 7 miles away; a vintage railroad trestle spotted along a rural road; atop of Mount Si, eyeballing the route I walked; a country road turned hiking trail; Mount Si rises above the Moose Lodge of North Bend. Wash.

Posted on at 11:30 PM

Tagged: Craig Ferguson and urban adventure

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Fredric L Rice

Oh hell yes. Urban hiking is something I wish more people in the United States would do. It's very big in Europe, and increasingly urban hiking during the day and "camping" at hotels at night in Japan is considered a solid vacation. :)

I hike Highway 39 in Southern California at night, 24 miles one way from Azusa all the way up to the Crystal Lake Recreation Area at 5500 feet, or I'll continue on another 4.5 miles up to Angeles Crest Highway at around 7200 feet pushing a bicycle as I walk, sharing the highway with drug dealers, drunk drivers, everything one should expect living in among 22.4 million people.

I'll spend the night in a sleeping bag, usually in a damp ravine where I can suck water from a stream, then in the morning finally get on the bicycle and ride back down the mountain -- 5 to 8 hours to go up, 90 minutes to get down.

Yet my friends and colleagues don't look at my highway hiking as crazy, most tell me that there's something heroic or at minimum they look at such highway hikes as a taste of fantasy that they would like to try "some day."

Along Highway 39 and Glendora Mountain Road in Southern California most people bicycle up or drive in to the mountains and then hike awhile from there. Damn few people walk up or bicycle up with a backpack and sleeping bag, urban hiking -- starting in the cities, hiking a busy highway -- seems rare.

On the other hand I have seen a great many fighters, boxers, other people who are in training run or jog up the mountain and back down again. It's 12 miles from the base of the mountain to the Rincon Fire Station and the awesome Rincon Cutoff which is a dirt road that goes another 34 miles or so up to Angeles Crest Highway.

Round trip for such runners is about 90 miles, and they do it at a steady speed, seemingly without drinking water. :)

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T.D. Wood Staff Member

Fredric, I'm way impressed with your devotion to urban trekking. Hwy. 39 sounds like a mighty walk. I'll ponder that possibility during my next SoCal visit.

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Fredric L Rice

Highway 39 is an interesting highway since it carries a lot of traffic that has chemically impaired drivers. :) The trick to hiking at night is to watch and listen for vehicles and to pick up one's bike, rest it on one's backpack, and climb over the safety railing or climb up the hillside before the vehicle passes. :)

Glendora Mountain Road has fewer drugged and alcoholic drivers however it has a great many "Rickey Racer" motorcycle morons who race up and down while thinking they're better drivers than those who follow the rules. I know, I listen to them talk among themselves when they race up, park, and don't know I'm in the dark laying on my sleeping bag. :)

Yeah, if you can get to SoCal and walk the highway at night, it's an experience.

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Violingirlgonewild

I live in the Memphis, TN area. A recent idea of mine has been to start at Shelby Farms Park and Conservancy (a 4500 acre urban park that keeps me sane http://www.shelbyfarmspark.org/) and take the urban Greenline. A few miles before that ends, I would get on a road that takes me straight to the Mississippi River. I would pack a picnic lunch and stop in at the Memphis Zoo for awhile. There, I would see some animals and cool my feet and maybe even swim in the fountain (which they've made available for that purpose. Memphis summers are HOT with 113 degree heat indexes). I would continue on from the zoo and eventually make it to the river park where I would watch the sunset over the river. The trip is about 15 miles. It would be great for walking or biking and I could take public transportation home or have it set to be picked up. It would be most fun and safe with a companion.

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T.D. Wood Staff Member

Hey VGGW (great nickname, by the way), that sounds like a nice walk if you can get started around sunrise. I was in Tennessee to attend Bonnaroo last summer and I discovered first-hand how hot and toasty Tennessee summers can be. What a beautiful state, though. I wrote about Rock Island State Park in Tennessee last summer (http://findout.rei.com/blog_detail/?contentid=5414174481095004627). Really pretty. I wish you cool trails.

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Violingirlgonewild

Thanks! I will definitely make it a full day trip.

That's a neat article. State Parks are too often overlooked. I've only been to Rock Island State Park once, but my local favorite that I grew up going to is Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park. (http://www.tn.gov/environment/parks/MeemanShelby/)

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Fredric L Rice

Ah, that's another good thing to have: A place to cool off in upon reaching the destination. :)

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Violingirlgonewild

It's very important, especially during the summer months, to stay cool. People die of heat related causes all the time during the summer.

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