By Brandon Hansen/Managing Editor of The Chewelah Independent
How does a long run beginning with a mile and a half uphill climb sound to you?
To me it sounds like death. It’s right up there with crossing Highway 395 in the middle of the day in town, getting tackled by Chewelah football player Kaden Mackowiak (who leads the NEA League in tackles that make you feel sorry for the other player) or trying to follow a logging rigging crew down in the brush for a day as an out-of-shape journalist.
But for cross country runners, a mile-and-a-half uphill climb during a meet that’s at a ski resort in the middle of the Colville National Forest? That’s really cool. The majority of today’s cross country meets are relegated to golf courses or city parks. There’s some hills, yes, but none that people ski off of when the snow begins to fly.
The partnership of the Chewelah Cross Country coaches and parents with 49 Degrees North allowed for a unique event last Saturday. Several cross country teams across the area gathered at the base of Chewelah Peak and enjoyed several hours of making parents go, “well I wouldn’t do that.”
Props have to be given to 49 Degrees North for allowing this community event to happen during their off-season and for the Chewelah Cross Country staff —Melissa Burkey and Ed Anegon— for organizing the race. To quote one cross country coach from the Spokane area taking in the empty ski lifts and the disappearance of his runners for a few minutes as they traversed a true mountain trail:
“Well, this is a bit out of the box, but this is cool.”
Both the coaches and the ski hill sound like they want to keep the 49 Degrees North Invite going and I would highly encourage even the most casual non-running fans to take a trip up there next year. Enjoy the nature of the Colville National Forest, grab a Polish sausage from one of the parent volunteers and watch runners push themselves to the limit.
It’s these kind of events that remind us that this town is pretty unique. This isn’t the exception either. Having moved back here more than six months ago, I’ve already attended:
1. A golf tournament featuring bowling balls and a toilet seat on the first hole
2. A talent show at the Chewelah Peak Learning Center featuring pirates
3. A car show where people cruised around downtown Chewelah and danced in the streets
4. Several art walks where you could enjoy great local food and great art
5. Drama productions where high school kids put on better performances than many four-year colleges
6. A blues festival in a mountain meadow
7. Two 5ks where people were encouraged to bring their pets
8. A performance by the Spokane Symphony
9. A day where the entire town held a yard sale
This has got to be the weirdest concoction of local events that a town can host. You hear the term “Keep Portland Weird” but has there been a time in history when Chewelah has been “normal”? I mean we’re named after a water snake or something.
If you say there’s nothing to do in town, you’re not looking. One can exhaust themselves going to all these events that are drastically different from one another. You can thank community members and local businesses willing to support them for that.
Instead of thinking it’s like any other small town where nothing is going on, there are some community members in this town that are perfectly fine with doing something unique and want to keep things vibrant.
I’ve got to applaud them because they’re pulling it off.