I wrote a few weeks ago that travel season had begun, and now it is surely upon us! We at the Office of Admission have now reached a time of year where we’re lucky if half of the officers are in the office. Though it’s a time of much transition for us, it’s also extremely exciting. Katherine Buckley, Tony Cabasco and I recently returned from an exhilarating week in Seattle where we visited 18 high schools and met hundreds of students. I felt like I was on a roll; we moved from parking lot to college office, speaking about Whitman to both individual students but also to groups as large as sixty. The excitement coming from the prospective students we speak with is the contagious part–after all, we love travel season because it means we get to meet many of you!
So, what to do with these interspersed weeks (or in many cases, days) at home? They become much more than time to catch up on emails and phone calls in the office; the purpose they serve goes further than to simply “reboot.” Fall at Whitman is full of campus vigor, both a confirmation of all that we have shared on the road as well as the source of a whole new group of activities and stories that we will put in our pockets for when we head out on the road again. Though I missed the Instant Play Festival, I can’t wait to attend a talk by Isabel Wilkerson, the author of this year’s summer read The Warmth of Other Suns. I smile when I read about President George Bridges’ birthday wishes to first-year Maya Volk (check out the full story by clicking on this link: http://www.whitman.edu/content/news/mayavolk ). While I’ve been gone, flag football games have started in full force and provide some excellent entertainment. These are just a few of the stories that will find their way into the next high schools I visit.
…a mixture of golden leaves, crisp blue sky, bike rides and running on the trails. As the weather gets darker, I pass the climbing wall lit up at night. I can’t believe we have 110 students in climbing classes this fall plus a waitlist. I climbed the wall for the first time on Sunday. The new facility is amazing(and addictive, I’m heading back tonight.)
Autumn means fresh cider, running through the haunted corn maze with friends and perusing the farmer’s market for squash to bake and pumpkins to carve. It’s apple pie making, the annual harvest hoe down and all the vineyards frantically working crush to bring the harvest in before the first frost. Lacrosse, ultimate and rugby dominate Ankeny field while the Whitman cycling team gets 20 miles in before dark. Ranger and the Rearrangers played at Coffeehouse last week, always a hit for those who love gypsy jazz.
This weekend, the annual haunted hospital in North Hall is back. Friday night is the “Nightmare on Boyer Avenue” dance and some of our students are competing in a cyclocross competition on a farm just outside of town. Oh yeah, and one can’t help but think about the Zombie flash mob in downtown Walla Walla a few weeks ago….Human’s vs. Zombies is very popular on campus, make sure you carry your Nerf weapons and socks!
Unfortunately, as a regional officer, I’m only on campus about five weeks a year. I have my favorite restaurants (Brassiere Four, Clarette’s, the Marcus Whitman Lounge) and scenic drives (Frog Hollow, Lower Waitsburg and Five Mile roads), but a Walla Walla visit isn’t complete without a stop at Klicker’s.
Klicker’s is a family-owned business out Issacs Avenue, about three miles east of campus. Depending on the season it stocks antiques, ice cream, Christmas trees, culinary specialties, and fresh produce (there’s a Klicker Mountain in the Blues where they grow their amazing strawberries). In my most recent visit I picked up a couple bottles of Creamy WallaWalla Onion Dressing and stuffed them in a pair of shoes in my suitcase for the trip back to my Cape Cod home. If I’m lucky enough to be in town in spring the freshly harvested asparagus, at about a dollar a pound, is to die for. And later, cherries, melons, garden vegetables then the July orange mesh bags of Walla Walla Sweet Onions. After Walla Walla produce New England produce produces mild depression.
Do you get the REI or EMS catalog this time of year? You know the one with the runners clad in fleece vests wearing moisture wicking shirts underneath, lycra tights, a festive ski cap and gloves? They are striding across open terrain with the signature puffs of white streaming out of their mouths as they exhale into the cold winter air. That is what it is like running in Walla Walla during the winter, and a needed breath of fresh air for this transplant from Long Island, NY to Los Angeles, CA.
I love to run, and running in Walla Walla is a treat. It is interesting no matter where I go. The residential areas around campus are perfect for banging out a few miles before or after the work day. I can go from community to community taking in the architecture of homes built as Walla Walla was establishing a place on the map, and those that have been built in more recent years as Walla Walla has become a destination. The roads are not busy, the terrain is relatively flat and I am bound to come across a park or school at some point, no matter how far I am going.
Just beyond the easily manageable streets of Walla Walla lie the more challenging and picturesque “long runs” worthy of an REI cover which I like to set aside for the weekends or when I just need to get away. Approximately a mile north of campus the infamous wheat fields of the Walla Walla Valley begin to unfold. The miles are laid out along gently winding roads and rolling hills through the “amber waves of grain.” The sunrises and sunsets in the open fields are inspiration to go the extra distance. This is the perfect place to lose myself, but not get lost on an “out and back.”
When I am feeling adventurous and ready to push my limits the foothills of the Blue Mountains, rising up east of campus, beckon a distinct call. Bennington Lake and the miles of trails, both paved and dirt, flat and steep, have something to offer me all the time. They allow me to return to nature, observe local species and recognize my small place in the world. I can be surprised by the elements, staying sharp and agile amidst the unsure terrain. I always come home exhausted, but refreshed and feeling accomplished.
Running is one of the things that makes coming to Walla Walla even more fun and I know I have not even come close to seeing it all. I’m always looking for some company, so let me know when you are in town. We can explore new routes together. Happy Trails!