March 14, 2020

Social Distancing with a View

userBy Gwen Dildine user0 Comment

There is no doubt we are all a little stressed right now. One can only take so much uncertainty. The Outside Walla Walla crew think we have a good suggestion–try a dose of social distancing with a view!

As an added punch to current events, our recent flood definitely impacted access to recreation, but all is not lost. Because we have such diverse and wonderful opportunities across the northern Blue Mountain region, when one trail closes another opens.

This quote pretty much sums up what we hope you find outside: “I go to nature to be soothed, healed and have my senses put in order,” John Burroughs. Yes, we all need that.

Photo Credit: Steve Dildine

This view is impressive. As the Columbia River makes a right turn and heads toward bigger waters, one could easily make a metaphorical comparison to the world today.

Hiking Trails Near Walla Walla

Let’s talk about trails for a moment. Many of the roads that follow a river (Tucannon, Mill Creek, South Fork Walla Walla, and Umatilla) are washed out in at least one location preventing access to lower trailheads. Typically, we start hiking the trails around the Umatilla Forks area, well, now. This year that is not possible.

To help expedite repairs, consider volunteering with the Blue Mountain Land Trust Blues Crew. Their charge is to help maintain trails in our area, a task that will require great effort by many for the foreseeable future. Stay tuned for an updated work plan.

Know that our governing entities are working hard to make repairs as well. This will take time. Please be patient, and look for opportunities to lend a helping hand. We will share that information when we see it.

In the meantime, stretch your legs and fill your lungs with fresh, almost spring air. Give these trails a try and let mother nature work her stress relieving magic.

After years of living in the area, it is easy to take the Columbia River for granted. In reality, this historic, geologically fascinating area deserves a visit from time to time. Though slightly outside of the Blue Mountain region, the Twin Sisters hike offers expansive views of the Gorge, so pull over next time you are en route to I-84 and enjoy.

North of town and thanks to a group of local, engaged elementary students, Palouse Falls is the official state waterfall of Washington. Dropping roughly 180 feet, Palouse Falls is a must see attraction. Yet another geologically interesting location, it is truly an impressive feature of the landscape. The park offers multiple views of the falls and many interpretive signs to enrich the experience.

Following the North Fork of the Touchet River and nestled between Chase Mountain and Middle Point Ridge, the Middle Point Ridge Trail is a mere 17 miles from Dayton, WA and 48 miles from Walla Walla. The views are fantastic. As the crow flies, the trailhead is almost the same latitude as Walla Walla. An excellent trail choice for folks interested in trekking a few miles as well as for those eager to spend a full day or more in the mountains.

Trail options increase greatly once the snow up top melts at hopefully a manageable rate. Until then, try a snow sport, which we will discuss below.

Photo Credit: Steve Dildine

The Oregon Trail, complete with wagon, is just one of the amazing sites to see at Whitman Mission National Historic Site. Ditch the computer game of our youth and come experience the wagon-trenched trail up close.

Walking Paths Across the Walla Walla Valley

Looking for a quick escape? Perhaps the weather in the mountains isn’t adventure ready. In-town walking paths are a great way to utilize the amenities of town while enjoying the fresh air and stretching the legs a bit.

Often errands, work, and extracurricular activities can deter a weekend in the woods, but the Walla Walla Valley is home to a number of great, local escapes. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean trapped in the house.

Fishing Opportunities Near Walla Walla

There are eight lakes that make up the Tucannon Lakes. Stocked with rainbow trout, these lakes are great for young and old, new to the sport or seasoned angler. Currently, the first four lakes are accessible and stocked with rainbow trout. The road is closed just beyond Rainbow Lake as a result of the flood.

Nestled in the W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area, the Tucannon Lakes not only provide fishing opportunities, but a chance to enjoy the outdoors. In just a little over an hour from town, visitors can easily wander the lakes in search of the big one. Don’t forget to grab a cup of coffee at Ten Ton Coffee in Waitsburg or perhaps a bite at the Moose Creek Cafe & Bakery in Dayton.

In Walla Walla, Jefferson Pond is near the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds and Garrison Middle School. It is open year-round for fishing, and is stocked several times a year. From February to June, the pond receives hundreds of 10-12 inch rainbow trout with the occasional jumbo rainbow trout. Since this pond is only open to kids 14 and younger, it is an easy outdoor activity for the family.

Photo Credit: Steve Dildine

Though the road is closed just passed Rainbow Lake (pictured), the first four lakes are stocked and ready for your next fishing adventure. It is time to peer pressure our semi-professional angler and partner in this journey, JC Biagi (Wonderboy Creative), to write us a blog with all sorts of fish-centric recipes.

Snow Sports Near Walla Walla

The Horseshoe Prairie Nordic Ski Area provides roughly 10 miles of trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. To preserve the cross country skiing experience please stay off their tracks. There is plenty of room on either side or in the middle to float on fresh powder for the snowshoers.

All trails are marked by a letter code system, and blue diamonds afixed to trees mark trails at intervals to assure users they are on course. With a variety of loops and out-and-backs, snow enthusiasts can spend a few hours or all day exploring the forest and enjoying the views.

Just this year, the Blue Mountain Land Trust officially adopted the Horseshoe Prairie Nordic Ski Area, which means groomed trails!

Cycling the Walla Walla Valley

The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee of the City of Walla Walla worked with the City of Walla Walla GIS department to publish an amazing cycling map for riders interested in exploring Walla Walla and surrounding area, including parts of northeast Oregon, on two wheels.

We couldn’t have done it better! Seriously, we have no GIS skills, so this is pretty amazing. Visit our Road Routes page and discover approximately 580 miles of mapped routes and an additional 35 miles of suggested area rides.

Photo Credit: Steve Dildine

Given its location west of the Blue Mountains, you could potentially ride the Sno Road Winery MTB Trail System year-round. Actually spring, fall, and winter might be better times because there is no shade and it heats up fast. Spring is a lovely time of year as there are many different wildflowers, the sagebrush is especially fragrant, and the pollinators are hard at work.

Mountain Biking at Sno Road Winery MTB Trail System

Enjoy mountain biking year-round at Sno Road Winery MTB Trail System. These valley trails offer a nice balance to their mountain counterpart. Likely accessible all year, even when winter has its grip on the mountains, this trail system is ideal for beginners and experts alike. With so many different trails to explore, prepare to spend hours of fun-filled miles on your mountain bike.

The property owners allow hikers and mountain bikers to use existing trails on the property. A map at the parking area shows the named loops, and the trails are well marked throughout. You can see the trails on the adjacent hillside quite well, so it is easy to scout your adventure. Be sure to check out Echo’s Red 2 Red XC mountain bike race typically held at the beginning of the year. The proceeds go to the Echo Hills Trail Builders for maintenance of the trails.

Go the Distance

In a world where we are all trying to find distance from each other, it is comforting to connect with something. We hope you find a few adventures that make you feel connected.

Update as of 3/22/20

We are rule followers, and we hope you are too. This blog was written almost a month ago, and the world is, unfortunately, a different place since then. We hope you enjoy the outdoors, but please do so in accordance with the latest regulations announced by either state or local government as well as the agency charged with overseeing the respective recreation opportunity. Remember everyone, an ounce of prevention!