When I travel to a new place, I love to explore it by going on a run. So I thought I would share one of my favorite runs through town, which was a great way for me to get to know my neighborhood. My route encompasses some of the oldest and most beautiful homes in Walla Walla, lovely gardens, and many creeks. It runs through Pioneer Park, including the Aviary, and the Memorial Rose Garden. The run is about the length of a 5K (a little over three miles), and can, of course, be walked.
Historic Homes on S. Palouse
Start on S. Palouse, just off of E. Main Street, at the bridge. The day I ran with the intention to write about it was an overcast day in late May. The bright green leaves on the street’s many trees had grown to their fullest, and they rustled in the wind, mixing with the rushing sound of Mill Creek under the bridge. Take a moment to stretch, and watch the creek running under you.
The route continues down S. Palouse until you can’t go any farther. Some of the town’s most impressive and oldest houses line this street. I usually run this route with the road on my left. If you do too, you’ll soon pass a large locust tree where at least one of the ubiquitous Eastern fox squirrels and I have our staring contest. Perched on a wooden feeder at eye level, the squirrel usually wins.
Across the street from my squirrel friends is the magnificent high style Victorian Sharpstein Manor. Built in 1893 by prominent lawyer Charles Upton, it has been an apartment house since around 1930.
Beside it, with its regal white columns, is the 1910 neoclassical mansion built by Dr. Suttner, who used it as his residence and office. In 1986 it became the home of a large law firm whose sign is still on the lawn. It’s currently available for rent.
Then pass by the YMCA and take advantage of its mulched trail parallel to the sidewalk. Across the street is the Rees Mansion. A little worn for the wear now, its once-white paint now peeling, this colonial revival home was built in 1896 by the co-owner of Walla Walla’s first newspaper.
Continue down S. Palouse and the homes continue to impress, with ornate gingerbread trimmings, tiled roofs, and swirls of sculpted shrubbery. You’ll pass few cars on this quiet street, hearing only birds, and a distant dog bark. If you believe good fences make good neighbors you’ll find them here. From spider-webbed wrought iron to white-washed brick. Although my favorite are the moss-covered volcanic stone fences reminiscent of New England roots.
Gardens & Creeks on E. Chestnut
S. Palouse will end at E. Chestnut where you’ll take a left. The homes here are more modern, but you can still enjoy gardens of ornamental trees, flowers, and a couple giant firs. On weekends the smell of bacon grease wafts through the air, spurring me to run faster to get home to my own breakfast.
When you cross Division Street you’ll lose the sidewalk but that’s okay, because the traffic decreases even more, and the sounds of wind in the trees and birdsong increase. On the right side of the road, houses are replaced by a stretch of lush vegetation, and Garrison Creek meanders through front lawns on your left.
Fern Ave & Pioneer Park, Aviary & Rose Garden
At Fern Avenue, take a left. Stone Creek passes under the street and you’ll cross its bridge. The street soon Ts into Pioneer Park. Comprised of 58 green acres, it is the town’s oldest park. The land was owned by the Walla Walla Water Company in the 1880s, spent some time as a fish hatchery, and in 1902 was turned into a park, which once contained a small zoo.
Cross the street here and take the first paved footpath if you want to follow along the pond with its giant willow bowing over the glassy water. Then you’ll reach the aviary. Currently undergoing a facelift, it is still accessible. As I ran past, a white peacock spread its tail feathers for me, and a blue-billed duck came in for a landing on the little pond.
Then you’ll hit the Memorial Rose Garden with its rainbow of fragrant roses. You have about a mile left in your run, so you might as well take this opportunity to stop, stretch, and, of course, smell the roses.
Meander through the park on paved paths, or enjoy it from the sidewalk perimeter. You’ll pass Lincoln Creek, lined with cattails and yellow irises. Watch for the red-winged blackbird who scares away any geese who venture too close to its nesting grounds.
The park ends on Alder Street and you’ll take a left onto it. Although to avoid some construction, you can take Washington, the street before it. This serene hidden garden-lined street will lead you to S. Park where you’ll take a right to get back onto Alder.
Run on Alder until you hit Palouse again –you’ve just made a loop. Keep going. When you see the little pink building (Bliss Spa & Salon), you’re just about done. Walk or sprint the last few yards to reach the bridge where you started. Have a stretch, and enjoy the soft sounds of Mill Creek while you catch your breath.
No matter what time of day, you’re now in the perfect spot to revive yourself with a little post-run refreshment. Depending on your mood, you’ve got several great options to refuel.
If morning runs are your thing, you’re only a couple blocks from Maple Counter Café where you can treat yourself to the fluffiest pancakes around. For a smaller appetite, walk another block for some amazing pastries and the best chai latté at Colville Street Patisserie.
Or maybe post-workout vino is more your thing. Turn around and walk a few feet back to the funky El Corazon Winery. Don’t worry about your post-run appearance; all of these establishments are laid back enough not to mind.
Quick route review
View map here: https://goo.gl/maps/GEF9xNtfBu42
Start on S. Palouse on the bridge, facing away from Main Street. Turn left onto E. Chestnut. Turn left onto Fern. Go through Pioneer Park. Take a left onto Alder until you hit S. Palouse again. Take a right to end back at the bridge.
For more information on the historic homes, Pioneer Park, and other self-guided tours, check out the Walla Walla Heritage Trail Guides found at the Visitors Center at 26 E. Main Street.
Catie Joyce-Bulay is a freelance writer living in downtown Walla Walla. Read more of her work at passionproject.net.