Pete Gamlen

If, like me, you moved to Seattle from someplace flat—the Midwest, for instance—and if, like me, you moved to Seattle from someplace more interesting—the Midwest, for instance—you may be confused by those jagged/pointy things looming on the horizon.

Step outside. Get to high ground. Look north, south, east, or west. The jagged and/or pointy looking things are mountains. The conical one to the south is an active volcano that's gonna kill us all if the tectonic plates that created the Cascades (the mountain range to the east) and the Olympics (the mountain range to the west) don't kill us all first. That's right, we're overdue for a massive 9.0 earthquake. You can get up to speed by reading Full-Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest by Sandi Doughton. It's comes highly recommended by people who don't enjoy sleeping through the night.

I moved to Seattle before moving to Seattle was a thing. (I arrived just before we found out about this massive earthquake we're expecting any day now.) This wasn't a part of the country I ever imagined living in. I grew up in Chicago, a big flat city, and expected to move to New York City, another big flat city, after college. But life had other plans. I moved here to help start a newspaper, figured I'd spend at most a year in Seattle, and 27 years later... I'm still here.

More than a little lost when I arrived—why isn't there any decent pizza?* Where's the fucking subway?**—I started asking locals where the good shit was. What did they love about living here? What shouldn't I miss in the short year I planned to spend in this city? Nine times out of 10, their eyes would glaze over and they'd say, "The mountains are beautiful."

But the mountains aren't in Seattle.

Stand on a street corner in Manhattan—any corner—and ask people what they love about New York City, and no one is going say, "New Jersey." They'll tell you about something within city limits, if not a block or two from where you're standing. But when I moved to Seattle, a city I never expected to live in, and asked people what they liked about this place, all I got was the mountains. Over and over again—the mountains are beautiful, the mountains are beautiful, the mountains are beautiful.

Annoyed by this response, and still hung up on my identity as a subway-riding city kid who never learned to drive, I turned my back on the mountains. I was a city person! And city people live in cities because they love the city. We don't live in cities for the nature. I sided with Fran Lebowitz ("The outdoors is what you must pass through in order to get from your apartment into a taxicab") and David Rakoff ("You want greenery? Order the spinach"). I lived in the city, not the woods, for a reason.

Feeling contrary, I refused to step foot on a mountain for the first 15 years I lived in Seattle. I barely looked at them. Then I took up snowboarding at the insistence of my then-boyfriend/now-husband and fell in love with the fucking mountains.

Don't make the mistake I did. Those mountains may not be in Seattle, but they're close enough. One of them is only a 45-minute drive away. (Google "Summit at Snoqualmie.") Proximity to them is the chief reward of being here. It makes putting up with nine months of rain, the Seattle Times editorial board, and the constant threat of a massive earthquake worth it.

Yes, snowboarding is expensive. Elitist, even. So go snowshoeing instead, or cross-country skiing, or go for a hike—the trails and lakes are amazing, and camping is cheap. Sure, sure, every once in a while someone falls in a tree well (google it), but you're just as likely to slip and fall and dash your brains out on the edge of your bathtub.

* We have lots of decent pizza now.

** We have light rail now. One line. We'll have another line by the time your as-yet-unborn children graduate from college.