Independent Celebrations

Holiday traditions are wonderful. But we put too much emphasis on pyrotechnics for the Fourth of July. Why watch someone else's fireworks when there are dozens of more productive activities and endeavors just waiting to be explored? Consider, for instance, these independent-minded approaches to the celebration of America's birthday.


Even if you've never felt the euphoria of the so-called runner's high, you should treat yourself to the thrill of late-night jogging. The darkness often warps perceptions of time and distance that are typically formed during the daylight hours. So, at night, some people feel like they run faster; others gain a sense of harmony from the stillness of their surroundings. Try it for yourself in the safe setting of the Firecracker 5000 Run, which begins on Mercer Street at 11:55 p.m. (yes, p.m.) on Wednesday, July 3 and finishes in Memorial Stadium in the wee hours of July 4. For more info, call 729-9972.


What could be more red, white, and blue than hiking Independence Pass? Located south of Seattle in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest near Mount St. Helens, this seven-mile trek promises stunning views of mountaintops, craters, boulder fields, and wildflowers, as well as Spirit Lake. Better still, keep your eyes peeled for Sasquatch (Lewis County has posted four Bigfoot sightings on the www.bfro.net Web site over the last eight years). Allow for three hours driving time each way and another four-and-a-half hours for the hike. For directions and permit information, call 360-247-3900.


For an equally offbeat adventure, head further south on I-5 to Salem, Ore. From July 4 through July 7, the Willamette Mission Park hosts a real-life Civil War re-enactment, one of those bizarre twists on culture you hoped only occurred on the other side of the Mississippi River. Battles are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for seniors and students. For directions and more information, call 503-364-8152. If you can't make the drive but are interested in the pageantry, read Tony Horwitz's brilliant book from 1998 Confederates in the Attic.


After Sept. 11, it's downright patriotic to reclaim landmarks like the Space Needle. So, if you must watch fireworks on the Fourth of July, and you've got a few extra bucks to spend, why not view them from the observation deck of the city's best-known landmark, where you can enjoy unobstructed views of both the Lake Union and Elliott Bay celebrations. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for youths, and $10 for children. Call 905-2100 for reservations and for more info on the other July Fourth Space Needle festivities.


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