Backcountry Chicago Brings Back Memories

Today I learned that Backcountry opened a new showroom in Chicago. That’s good news if I ever need to do an in-store return or gear tweak. I’ve had great luck with their house brand ski attire (base layers and an insulated knicker for under my wind pants.)

It’s located at 1571 N Kingsbury, which they are calling “Lincoln Park” (eye roll from this former urban planning student.)

Sidebar unrelated to ski gear chat: I actually used to work on that block in grad school, researching the infrastructure of the roads to make certain they could handle increased truck traffic.  It’s Clybourn Corridor/Goose Island, or North & Clybourn (the formerly infamous El stop of the same name)…but I’ve read that as long as it’s east of the river, some people use that broad term to basically say “Just north of downtown.” It also says “Hey, suburbanites! Safe neighborhood, come on by!” 

It’s wild to see the dramatic development of that neighborhood over the decades. 

Goose Island itself (just over the river from where the store is) was industrial. There were a few old docks and dive-y seafood places along the shore. One fried shrimp place on North & the river always seemed to have a bevy of working girls taking a meal break in the wee hours of the night. I knew that because down Kingsbury was an after-hours punk/alt rock club I sometimes visited with friends after our fave Wicker Park dive bar closed for the evening.  There was also a Strip club on the block, supposedly visited by local sports celebs, among others, based on the vehicles parked outside. Goth kids, “gentlemen’s club” attendees, hookers, and truck drivers working the steel and warehouse operations nearby all converging on North & Kingsbury…what a mix of characters! There was also a charming semi-dive bar, Bluebird Inn, that my clique of friends (and plenty of local musicians) frequented on Clybourn. Legendary tiny music and arts venue, The Hideout Inn, is not too far from this area, either. 

On the block where the new Backcountry store is, the former strip club, “Thee Dollhouse” has been replaced by a Whole Foods Market. If you are testing out water gear, I guess on the banks of the Chicago River might be as good a place as any. Neither the river nor I will judge you because, hey, you’re in Lincoln Park.

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