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Posts Tagged ‘Palouse’

The weather was due to get bad. We took off from Winthrop on Thursday to head to the Grand Coulee Dam. I wanted to visit there because I was told my dad had worked on the Grand Coulee Dam. The trip was pleasant – cloudy skies over farm and ranch land. We arrived at Coulee City and landed in a less than wonderful RV park. But we were installed next door to the laundromat and the park manager made a big effort to find the Giants-Cubs game on the laundromat TV, but didn’t have that channel. (Dave managed to stream it on the iPad.)

After settling in we drove a few miles to the Grand Coulee Dam. It’s not as as impressive-looking as the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona but it was quite an accomplishment for the time. A kind person at the Visitor Center volunteered to see if he could find any record of dad working there. Having an unusual name (Norwood Brunsvold) and knowing his birthdate, I figured they might be able to find a record of his having worked there. But no, no record.

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Spokane

We continued east towards Spokane the next day. We ended up in Cheney (not my favorite name) at the Peaceful Pines, a pleasant campground positioned next to oft-used railroad tracks as well as near the Spokane airport and Fairchild AFB. So noisewise – not so peaceful. Its advantages included being south of Spokane so we didn’t have to traverse the metro area as well as being next to Turnbull National Wildlife Reserve. We went out there later in the afternoon and were pretty bored. A few ducks and a few squirrels was it.

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On Sunday, we went to town. I found a few parks in Spokane and we visited the John A. Finch Arboretum. It was really neat. The trees are mostly planted and are spaced out in an attractive manner. You can really get the feel and look of each separate tree. The unfortunate aspect of the park is the noise level coming from I-90 right next to it.

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Dave noticed that there were a lot of people taking “formal” shots of their families in the park. It certainly was busy for a cloudy, cool Sunday.

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After the arboretum, we headed to downtown Spokane to check out the river running through it. Meh….it wasn’t too interesting. So we went to Manito Park that had a Japanese garden. It was nice, but very small.

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We also checked out the separate rose garden that still had a lot of roses blooming. We were interested in a party of three that were apparently making a film. There was a guy dressed in a black robe and hood who was scaring another person. It was fun to watch the director trying to get her scene done. So not much done, but we got out and about in Spokane.

Palouse

It rained most of Sunday night but we got away with just heavy clouds. It was only 50 miles to Colfax, our center of operations in the Palouse and it was a nice drive. We were happy to be back in hilly farming country.

We settled into the Palouse Empire Fairgrounds and fondly remembered being here with Don and Dorothy Malpas in 2013. We were armed with Atlas and cameras and hit the road about 2:30. I’ve covered the Palouse pages of the atlas with notes on the roads and places we particularly like. The fields are not as colorful as in spring but the patterns from the plowing and harvesting are still fascinating to us.

We drove around the back roads southwest of Colfax. Figuring out where to go to see the miles of fields and farms is a good game for me. The atlas has many but not all roads named. Some are good gravel, some are mud. There are so many roads because the huge equipment needed to plow and harvest has to have a road big and in good shape. You don’t want to wreck a $400,000 harvester. Also, various trucks transport the grain and hay from one place to another. There are trucks hauling hay bales all over the place.

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The back roads are usually two or three miles long and usually go past one or two farmsteads. They own all the fields we are driving past. As we drive past the houses, we are often greeted by dogs, often border collies, running to the road to see who’s trespassing. Some of the spreads are pristine and beautiful, others are an old house with some decrepit outbuildings and defunct machinery. Some spreads have been around a while, evidenced by the family cemetery on the property. For an urban girl, it’s all interesting to me. It’s such a different way of life.

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Tuesday, the weather was supposed to be much colder and it was. Dave had unhooked the water hose. If it freezes in the hose, no water for us until it melts and that is if the hose doesn’t split open. We woke up in a chilly home and stayed in bed until both the propane and electrical heater made the air tolerable. Then we got dressed, ate breakfast, filled our coffee cups and piled into the Rav to catch the morning light. No clouds but the October light is angled nicely for quite a while in the morning.

We drove around the area southeast from Colfax. That entails driving through town. The speed limit is 25. As we headed out of town, Dave sped up a little prematurely. Uh-oh, cheese it, the cops. We were nailed. A pleasant young woman told us were going 35 in a 25 mph zone. She asked what we were doing and we told her we were photographers out to catch the nice morning light. She told us she had been a photographer in the military. Ooo, a bond! She took our info, went back to her car for a while, returned and gave us a warning. No ticket! Yay!

We didn’t find anything spectacular but it was fun nonetheless.

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Our destination for Tuesday sunset was Steptoe Butte, 3,612 feet of hill. If you could drive quickly, you would get dizzy circling the butte all the times you need to get to the top. We started taking pictures at the lower levels.

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Then we were nabbed by a guy with a couple of big backpacks. It was Tim, a paraglider. We gave him a ride back up the butte with his equipment. Tim told us he was a railroad engineer in Alaska. He said the biggest problem was the cold – it caused a lot of problems. He had a fair amount of off time and liked to paraglide. We stuck around to watch him set up for another ride. It took a while but he finally set off. It was exhilarating.

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After that, we went to the top of the butte and hung around until sunset was near.

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After the sun had set, we took off down the hill. Almost at the bottom, there was Tim, folding up his sail. We gave him another ride up the hill. On the way down, in the gathering dusk, I saw something waddling up the hill next to the road. When we got closer, it was a porcupine, only the second one I’ve seen on our travels. Finally, we headed home in the dark and had a late spaghetti dinner. We have been the only campers in this huge grassy area that has 80 campsites.

That night was cold, really cold. So cold that I put on my knit cap during the night to keep my ears warm. We woke to a sunny day with a few high clouds. That meant we had to go out. The weather news was bad: a big storm was coming in starting Thursday and continuing through the weekend. They were talking about 50 mph winds in Spokane.

We got out pretty early and went to the area northeast of Colfax. We were searching for a particular spot Dave had photographed. We managed to find roads we had done before but couldn’t find the site Dave had photographed. Telling one wheat field from another isn’t that easy, especially when the same field is sometimes green, sometimes blond, sometimes brown.

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We reached Elbertson, a town that consists of a boarded-up church and house. There are picnic benches, outhouses and a basketball court. Not much to look at. At first, the frost-tipped greenery attracted us. Everything in shadow was rimmed with sparkling ice.

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But as on an earlier trip, the church, encircled by towering old maples, entranced me.

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We drove around for a while longer but wore out and returned to the LD for showers, lunch and rest. It doesn’t seem like driving, stopping and getting in and out of the car should be tiring, but it is.

Knowing the weather was going to go downhill, we betook ourselves out again in the afternoon, this time northwest of Colfax. We found some nice roads there, one of them named Bumgarner. (Sigh, the Giants are out of the playoffs)

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Wednesday night was much warmer. We woke up at dawn, saw only gray and sighed with relief; we weren’t going out. Laying there in the quiet (no heaters on yet), we heard the hoot of an owl. I think I also heard the cry of a caught creature. Soon the pittypat of light rain was going, so we were officially off the hook for going out. We enjoyed the day. Caught up on a lot of stuff including cleaning the damn kitchen venetian blinds. There has got to be a better way, but I don’t know what it is.

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