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!