January 31, 2024

February, the Month to Love Outdoor Recreation

userBy Gwen Dildine user0 Comment

There is so much to love about the Walla Walla Valley. As a world-renowned destination for the most romantic beverage on the planet, wine, and home to the friendliest people on the planet, outdoor recreation just adds to the allure. Versatility is what I love most about recreation, a stroll through 100-year-old trees at a city park or a grueling ascent up a little-known trail.

The new year often ignites the urge to set goals and implement change. Considering one of my favorite books is Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, my goals for Outside Walla Walla as well as family outings for the year involve a list. The latter is a fun group project. You can learn a lot about what each member of the family is interested in by simply asking. I’m often surprised by what ends up on my list. With a month under our fanny pack, what do you want to do in February?

While the definition of outdoor recreation is broad and versatile, the tradeoff is the fact that those enjoying outdoor activities must remain flexible. February could bring powder so deep you can’t see your legs except when riding the chairlift up for yet another epic run. February can also provide opportunities to test your gear’s waterproof claim. Regardless, grapes aren’t the only result of a crush.

Crushing On the Mountain

There is no better way to profess your love than slipping a lift ticket into the Valentine’s card, sharing quality time on the lift and committing to gathering your loved-one’s gear in the event of a wipe out. Throw a thermos of hot chocolate in your pack and spend a little time taking in the views.

As if we needed another reason to love the Blue Mountain Land Trust’s Blues Crew, this dedicated group of volunteers secured funding and poured countless volunteer hours into installing a warming hut at the Horseshoe Prairie Nordic Ski Area. With groomed trails, updated signage, and now a place to grab a snack or hydrate without sacrificing the feeling in your fingertips, consider this winter wonderland a great place to share a box of Bright’s chocolates with someone special.

Check out Outside Walla Walla’s Snow Sports section to learn more about recreating through the winter months in the Blue Mountains. There are several unique ways to enjoy the outdoors already listed under the growing database. While it is always a good idea to tell others where the day’s adventure might take you, it is especially true this time of year. Make sure to dress in layers; you can always take them off.

Ski Bluewood (Photo Credit: Gwen Dildine)

The gift of a mid-week trip to the ski hill yields moments of alone time on what typically is a bustling mountain. Steve and I met in college at Washington State University. We took a trip to Ski Bluewood almost 20 years ago as one of our first big dates together. Watching him navigate a snowboard for the first time are memories I will always cherish (and giggle about).

Reasons to Love the Valley

If testing Gore-Tex is in the forecast, then opting for any number of paved paths throughout the valley is a welcome alternative to tearing up a trail or the road trying to get there. Our walking paths section, featuring paved or partially paved paths, lists opportunities to enjoy the outdoors while close to a community in the valley. Take advantage of breaks in the weather as well as proximity to lots of local shops and restaurants.

Another way to engage with the outdoors without having to brave the elements is visiting a museum or bookstore. The Tamástslikt Cultural Institute located in Pendleton, Oregon features engaging exhibits and presents the history of Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Published in 2015, Cáw Pawá Láakni / They Are Not Forgotten: Sahaptian Place Names Atlas of the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla is an important addition to your reference library. All the recreation opportunities discussed on the website overlay with culturally significant lands.

The Fort Walla Walla Museum is also a must-see attraction. Grand displays showcasing the valley’s agricultural roots, unique historical artifacts, and a pioneer village are just a few reasons to reserve plenty of time to learn more about the area. Within walking distance of the museum are the Arthur G. Rempel Nature Trail and the Fort Walla Walla Recreation Trail, pairing history and recreation at one location.

Both the institute and museum have shops. As if a date that guarantees meaningful conversation isn’t enough, try to secretly buy your date a book and write a note on the inside cover to mark the occasion. Book & Game is a fun place to peruse titles and add to your water bottle’s sticker collection before a dinner reservation. A few favorite books about the area that I often reference include Many Waters by Robert J. Carson and The Blues also by Robert J. Carson.

Fort Walla Walla Recreation Trail (Photo Credit: Steve Dildine)

The Fort Walla Walla Recreation Trail Planet Walk was created by the 2007 Sherwood Trust Community Leadership Class with support from many other community organizations and businesses. This walk really puts things in perspective.

Commit to Time Outside

My latest podcast launched “Recreation U,” a series that outlines our family’s steps to incorporating more outdoor recreation into our schedule. Why? Well, to save you time, revealing some simple lifestyle changes we made along the way.

Outfitters are also excellent resources to facilitate an adventure. As the name suggests, Adventure Fit offers year-round guided tours (including transportation) for snowshoeing, hiking, paddleboarding, and kayaking. Greg, owner of Adventure Fit, will also put together custom trips, a lovely idea for someone special.

While the fog lingers, now is the time to look ahead and plan all the adventures to come. How many New Year’s resolution boxes can recreation check? It is active, so it’s good for the heart. It is outside, so it’s good for the soul. Likely, you are with your favorite people, and it pairs perfectly with exploring all the amazing shops, restaurants, museums, and attractions throughout the valley. This is the year to take a leap of faith and commit to go Outside Walla Walla!