What Roof

The Outdoorsy City

What it means to be a place where getting out of the house and into the wilds is a way of life.

By Allison Williams May 10, 2024

Would you call yourself outdoorsy?

Do the words “take a hike” mean Saturday plans instead of, oh, something you’d say during a breakup? Have you eaten morels, nettles, or huckleberries you gathered from the woods yourself, shaving $10 off your grocery bill while shelling out an extra $300 on Gore-Tex?

Have you purchased new hiking boots while the old ones were still functional, just to make sure there was time to break them in? Have you ever pointed out that the temperature of Puget Sound isn’t that much colder in the winter? Do you own, or have you ever owned, a Subaru?

If any of that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Seattle is an outdoorsy city, a place where the Metro bus has a summer route to popular trailheads and dating apps feature photos of people posing with fish.

This is where REI was born, and people once carried paper cards with membership numbers in the three or four digits. Our outdoor nonprofit and activity club, the Mountaineers, predates the Boy Scouts and the Ford Model-T. Even in a metropolis known for tech nerds and rainy days, we do not stay inside.

But while our outdoorsiness might define us, it isn’t so simple, either. A population boom means even our outdoor spaces have become overcrowded, leading to measures like the reservation system being implemented this summer at Mount Rainier National Park. Access to outdoor recreation has been throttled for people of color, particularly Indigenous locals whose cultural tradition was rooted in these lands long before they held a ranger cabin. The high cost of gear, hoarding of knowledge, and sheer distance involved have made it so that many of us can’t be quite as outdoorsy as we’d prefer.

But make no mistake, being outdoorsy is for all ages and all walks of life. For some of us, it means a cocktail on the patio or a hammock at Golden Gardens Park. For others, it’s a speed run up the side of Mount Rainier. With our volcanic peaks and our alpine meadows, saltwater sound and our state’s eastern prairies, we don’t run out of ways to not be inside.

We’ve dug into the hows of being outdoorsy—like how in the heck to do it for the first time—but also the whys, and why nots. We’ve looked at the gear we use, the people we experience the outdoors with, and what kinds of animals freak us out when we go into the wilds. Because our city isn’t just its bricks and roads and floating bridges. It isn’t just the buildings we live in. It’s our collective love for being outside of them.