As temperamental as the weather seems to be right now, it could be said that things are looking up. Sunny days aren’t so few and far in between, and short sleeves are starting to emerge from winter hibernation. Spring is in the air, and with it, an infectious sort of energy that expresses itself best outside. Time spent outdoors is usually productive, cleansing, and allows us to recharge some primitive-caveman-hunter-gatherer part of ourselves. So, that begs the question, where are the best places to go around Walla Walla to get outside?
Whitman’s campus is small, and often bustling with activity, but there are a few quiet, secluded spots that allow for a peaceful moment undisturbed. My personal favorites are behind Maxey. One is the amphitheater. Banks of earth surrounding it can make it seem like there almost isn’t anything there, but it’s a beautiful place to get away from it all (for a little while at least). From inside, especially down on the center platform, you barely realize that there’s anything outside. Only a few days ago, on a clear night, I slept outside on a tarp under the stars and felt totally peaceful.
Just a stone’s throw away from the amphitheater is Narnia. Located right at the corner of Stanton and Boyer, Narnia is ornamented with ground-lights, Stonehenge-esque rock pillars, and the start of the creek that runs its way down campus. Beautifully landscaped terraces give Narnia a similarly private feel as the amphitheater. Nighttime shows the lights in all their glory, plus Narnia has one of the two coastal redwoods found on campus.
Off campus, staying in Walla Walla, there are plenty of places worth exploring as well. Only 5 minutes or so from Whitman, Pioneer Park is a large space with lots to do. Besides all the huge trees, which look like they’re hundreds of years old, Pioneer Park is home to a large aviary with rare, exotic birds, a well-maintained gazebo, jogging track, tennis courts, Neolithic funeral mound (or at least what seems to be…), and playground complete the atmosphere.
A 5-minute drive will find you at Rooks Park-Bennington Lake, which is an extremely pleasant hidden gem. The park has a whole network of trails to run, walk, bike, or ride horses. The lake itself is surrounded by trees which create plenty of shade. The park is large, and one could easily spend a whole day there walking the trails.
If you want to go for a short drive out of Walla Walla for a day trip, the most easily accessible place to go is the Blues. The mountains (part of the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests) are beautiful, and springtime is a fantastic season to go hiking. A whole range of different difficulty trails are found there, from easy 2-3 mile loops to steep 10-15 milers with serious elevation gain.
Don’t forget that Whitman is only about a half hour away from the Snake and Columbia Rivers, two of the most scenic in the country. It might still be a bit chilly to swim, but there are plenty of places to access the water for kayaking or paddle boarding. Just sitting by the river in a quiet, peaceful place is also very therapeutic after a long week of classes.
For longer trips, there’s no shortage of beautiful spots to access. From the Cascades to Smith Rock to Coeur d’Alene to Glacier National Park, the Pacific Northwest is a place where one could easily spend several weeks road tripping and still not see everything this amazing part of the country has to offer.