October 05, 2020

Recreation Therapy

userBy Gwen Dildine user0 Comment

I doubt anyone needs a reminder that 2020 is bursting with stress: natural disaster, pandemic, and humanity doing ourselves no favors for too many reasons to list. I’m amazed that we all haven’t headed for the hills! Actually, that is exactly what we should do.

I was doing the dishes and listening to the radio, and the topic of conversation was coping with stress. The very first recommendation was to make the inside (your house) feel more like the outside, so perhaps add a houseplant or two. I had to laugh. As Steve would attest, I often say I’m fifteen houseplants into the pandemic. That is no exaggeration. I actually lost one the other day. I have to count when I water, and I was one short. I failed to remember that I put one on the shelf above the toilet where all reasonable people put a plant.

A Walk on the Wild Side

In an attempt to surround ourselves with native vegetation, we took advantage of the recent smoke-free air and escaped to the mountains. This year, I am much more aware of stress, fatigue, and anxiety. These are not typically emotions I would admit to experiencing as I find denial most effective! With the emotional rollercoaster we have all felt this year, times of relief, relaxation, and happiness feel more poignant and perhaps amplified.

It was a few miles down the Buck Mountain Trail when it occurred to me that I was so amazingly relaxed. Time slowed. Surrounded by the first signs of fall and under cozy, cloudy skies, I felt like I took back time lost to chaos. After glancing at a few studies that support my claim that recreation is therapy (isn’t the internet great), a common statistic surfaced. A walk in nature for roughly 30-90 minutes can, in fact, do the trick. Claims of clearing negative thoughts and decreasing depression and anxiety fill the first page of Google. It only took roughly 100 yards for me to feel better!

Photo Credit: Steve Dildine

I’ve been told walking with me is like trying to keep up with a gazelle. I tend to set out like I’m on a mission and fail to slow down and smell the roses as the saying goes. Steve is a perfect balance to this head down approach, always pulling out the map like any good President of Research & Discovery and inspecting the adjacent hillside for signs of life. The forest has a story to tell; don’t just read the CliffsNotes.

My Trail Diary

So to not completely sound like a diary entry, why do I bring all this up? Recreation isn’t just a physical endeavor. Its impact moves beyond a subset of the broader economy. There are intangibles at work. Our health benefits from it, and our appreciation of the natural world deepens. It can force a family to unplug and connect. For me, it is where I feel most spiritual.

Despite access issues caused by the flood at the beginning of this fine year, there are plenty of places to clock ninety minutes in the outdoors. The Buck Mountain Trail is exceptional for contemplating life and excusing yourself from the daily news grind. Enjoy a little nurturing under the canopy of the forest before breaking out on top of the Blues. There are plenty of miles following the ridgeline to avoid strenuous descents or the inevitable return climb. Let mind and body rest.

Photo Credit: Steve Dildine

Paddleboarding is my favorite way to enjoy the water. It takes me way too long and so much squealing to dive into any PNW body of water. The boards we rent from Adventure Fit manage to accommodate a napping kindergartner and lunch. Just remember, a paddleboard doesn’t replace a life jacket.

Water Sports and Wellness

My search also revealed that we get bonus mental health points for recreating near water. As you look around the valley in its post-harvest form, it is likely difficult to conceptualize this land of many waters. When you think about it, we are surrounded–the Columbia, Snake, Tucannon, Touchet, Grande Ronde, Wallowa, Minam, Walla Walla, and Umatilla are just a few of the more obvious waterways. That doesn’t even include that incredible aquifer under our feet. For the sake of recreation, let’s put a paddleboard between our feet and the water and explore a river or two.

As Greg at Adventure Fit would say, paddleboarding and kayaking are four season activities. We are onboard with three seasons, and this just might be the year we take the final plunge, hopefully figuratively speaking. Take advantage of this wonderful resource for water sport fun, theoretically all year. Stay tuned!

Finding Peace

As I stare at my Peace Lily about to bloom and think about ways to conclude, the only word that comes to mind is resilience. By definition, resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. To say this year is complicated and challenging is an understatement. Could a walk in nature really help? At the very least, it is a step in the right direction.