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Backyards: Where the outdoors begins

Spokane area residents are justifiably renowned for their love of the outdoors.

Boating, hiking, skinny dipping … you know the list.

But when we consider outdoor recreation hereabouts, we usually think in terms of lakes, mountains and backcountry trails. We often overlook our own backyards.

Somehow that doesn’t seem right. After all, that’s where the outdoors begins.

So today, with summer looming just beyond the horizon, let’s celebrate backyards and the world of possibilities they present.

The Slice column recently asked readers a highly subjective question: Why is yours arguably the quintessential Inland Northwest backyard?

More than a few readers made their case.

“My yard is the quintessential Inland Northwest backyard because it has so many uses including movie nights, camping, swimming, hot-tubbing, barbecuing, and lawn games,” said Karla Sherry.

For children, it can be a place bounded only by the limits of their imaginations. You know, from pirates to princesses.

For adults, the backyard can be a private refuge, a personal haven in which to contemplate hopes and dreams. And maybe grill some chicken.

It has one big thing going for it: Proximity.

Modest though it might be, it’s right outside your back door. There’s no having to load up the Wagon Queen Family Truckster to get there. No pleading “Are we there yet?” queries or insistent rest-stop demands. You just have to turn the door handle and step outside.

Your backyard can be a multipurpose center of gardening, badminton and yellow jackets.

Or it can be home to your hammock, where you do some of your most robust thinking.

“Our backyard has become an oasis, place of peace, joy, wonder, solitude and fun,” said Barb Hutchison. “It has been a sanctuary for our pets and their resting place.”

Of course, no one is going to mistake your yard for Glacier National Park. But it has one thing no four-star outdoorsy destination has. It is home.

And isn’t that where you eventually long to be whenever you take a trip?

You could even make the case that your backyard is the center of the universe. Just look up at night.

“We can see the stars in spite of the lights from Spokane,” said Molly Zammit.

Now we all know what it can be like out there among the others. Present company excepted, it can be strange, hostile and downright weird.

But in your backyard, you choose your companions. You pick the activities and you decide what to talk about. If, that is, there really is any need to talk at all.

OK, not everyone in the Spokane area lives in a single-family house. But for those who do or have, the backyard can be the home field for summer, even if only in memory.

If you close your eyes, maybe you can hear it.

Reedy voices calling down from a tree house. Spirited arguments punctuating Wiffle ball games. The sound of splashing and laughter coming from the swimming pool.

Or smell the aroma of glowing charcoal and cookout fare wafting over the yard.

Or see your father-in-law conked out on a lawn chair, somehow managing to maintain his grip on a beer can.

It’s all classic stuff from the American summer.

So who is to say just who has the best backyard? In truth, that’s like asking who has the best dog.

“I have the best yard because I have a personal gardener and I get to sleep with her,” said Robby Rosenman, referring to his wife, a skilled landscaper.

To each, his own.

Tina Wynecoop keeps a list of the animal species that have visited her backyard. It includes more than 100 kinds of birds. “One time a blue heron walked across the lawn and freaked out the chickens.”

Stack up enough moments like that and you have the makings of a memorable summer.

Another backyard question posed in The Slice column was “Can any people who are now adults recall making out back there as teens?”

Debbie Kitselman had an answer. “To my knowledge the only ones making out back there are me and my hubby.”

Hey, when you have each other, what more do you need?

OK, a cheeseburger maybe. And perhaps a glass of lemonade. But that’s the great thing about backyard living.

If the weather is sweet and you are among loved ones and friends, it’s possible to feel like you really can have it all.