January 27, 2022
By Gwen Dildine
A Memorable Walk
Sometimes I wonder about the impact of being outside. There are countless studies affirming any number of benefits from health boosts to economic boom. There are even more articles suggesting how to maximize those benefits with the latest camping stove or moisture-wicking base layer. Those articles aren’t wrong. I enjoy skiing way more when I’m not hovering between frostbite and hypothermia. Gear matters for comfort and, more importantly, safety. The economics of outdoor recreation are measurable.
I am curious about the impact that isn’t easily graphed and impossible to deposit into a bank account. I feel it, and I think you can too. The other day, I saw it in action. What is it? Will you stop reading if I admit that I’m not entirely sure? I can’t decide what to call it–mother nature or the outdoors. Is recreation defined by an activity? Does it only happen at a park, deep into a national forest, or floating down a wild and scenic river?
Our President of Research & Discovery, Steve, actually named our business. When brainstorming possibilities, he suggested Outside Walla Walla because one must actually travel outside of Walla Walla to seek out most outdoor recreation opportunities. Walla Walla is base camp. Considering Walla Walla is home to the Roastery, Patisserie, Graze, and the Market by Andy’s to name a few, that pretty much covers the four major food groups of coffee, cookies, sandwiches, and smoothies. Not a bad place to set up camp!
More and more, I think of the outdoors as anywhere not inside. Let’s break this down for a moment. Our website is a growing catalog of outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the Walla Walla valley and northern Blue Mountain region. There is so much to do and see that I can’t imagine exhausting all the possibilities. Sometimes what we want to do differs from what we have to do. In the blink of an eye, a week of work and soccer practice and volunteer commitments turns into a weekend of chores and a youth sporting event right in the middle of the day. We often say, “adventure awaits,” but sometimes it must wait longer than we would like.
Thus my case for elevating the importance of a daily walk, planting a garden, or scattering a few wildflower seeds. To put it simply, go outside. Why? What impact will spending time outside have on anything? Because I’m not sure there is one word to describe that feeling that you and I have when spending time in nature, I offer a story.
A beloved family member is plagued with dementia and Parkinson’s disease. For a few weeks I helped care for her. The afternoons were an especially difficult time of the day, so we walked as best we could around the house…outside. There are four generations under one roof, and for my grandma’s 80th birthday a few years ago we planted a large flower garden. Every year, more and more life returns to the yard. There is always a new insect to identify, and the hummingbirds this year were serendipitous.
These walks started as somewhat manic, hurried wandering, but as we approached the clusters of flowers and berries an almost instantaneous calm helped everyone enjoy the moment. This family member started collecting as we walked–pretty rocks, flowers in her favorite color, herbs to smell. We talked about the texture and color, as well as looked for all the little creatures that were currently taking up residence in the buds. Deconstructing a fading marigold was the day’s highlight. In the blink of an eye, an hour or so passed and we survived another sundown.
Outside Walla Walla–-in your backyard, at a city park, or riding your bike on a gravel path counts just as much as descending into the wilderness to feel the Wenaha River’s frigid touch, climbing a single-track in the lowest of gears, or soaking up the spray of spring rapid. Go outside.
As I start to plan the garden and anticipate the arrival of my first dahlia tuber, I’m thankful for the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and the confidence to explore. If you are new to outdoor recreation, there is a learning curve. Start with local opportunities and build upon those experiences. Remember, it will find you no matter how near or far from home you go. I will find a beautiful memory every spring when the marigolds bloom.