On the Loose in the Palouse!

Just before starting this blog I was perusing a site I subscribe to that was addressing all the photography diversity we are offered in this state. One of the areas of mention was where we headed to this weekend - called the "Palouse". There is a town by that name but what most people are referring to when they describe it as I just did was the area of rolling hills covered by wheat fields in a patchwork design. If you can find a hill high enough to see for a distance it makes for some pretty amazing scenery. There is one hill in particular that many photographers have climbed (in their cars) just for this purpose called "Steptoe Butte". It's a 3,612 foot tall cone-shaped, quartzite butte that looms over the rolling hills surrounding it.

I had seen some amazing photos of sunrise on Steptoe Butte among the wildflower blooms and overlooking the green rolling hills. I wanted to take a shot like that of my own so researched when those wildflowers were most likely to be blooming. A local photography group was planning a wildflowers-on-Steptoe-Butte shoot in early April so I figured that a couple weeks later would be safe. Well, it turns out not this year.

We took off after Rick got home from work on Thursday and as soon as possible turned onto roads other than the main highways. Our first venture off the main drag offered views of the Puget Sound Energy Wild Horse Wind Facility's many gigantic wind turbines as well as less traffic! We were enjoying our drive. We got to our hotel in Colfax about 8:45 PM, grabbed some fast food for dinner and made our plans for the next day. Kinda...

Our day started with a nice breakfast in the only restaurant in town that offered breakfast, the "Top Notch Diner". I personally totally enjoyed our time there, it was a typical small-town America diner with the vinyl seating and chrome edged tables. The waitress washed the dishes by hand and the cook sung (sang?) while he worked. I could see him cook and he was enjoying his work so much it made ME happy!

After breakfast we decided to check out the Butte views. It was a bit hazy but the views were good. The fields were also not planted as much as we would have like but there were many that had begun to grow and others that had been disked and were ready for planting. The checkerboard was there but the color was not so much. There was a smattering of wildflowers but nothing that could be put into a nice shot. The top of the butte was frozen and I was grateful I threw my warm coat in the trunk. We wandered around and took pictures as the air was clearing and then headed out for... who knows?

We headed north a while and accidentally ran into one of the highlights of our trip just outside of Oakesdale, a yellow bi-wing crop duster! We chased him down and kept moving our car between passes so we could get him at every possible angle. Before he took off when he was done he did a fly-by for us.

Our trip to the Okanogan area went so well that we were thinking this would be similar. Turns out that while the Palouse area is scenic it's also very consistent. No matter what road we chose to explore we pretty much knew what we would see.

So we opted to wander into Idaho and see the other things that I found on the agenda of a photography group field trip, the town of Wallace and the "ghost town" of Murray. It was a bit of a drive but Wallace was well worth it. Unfortunately we didn't know that Murray was NOT worth the drive, up and over a hill where snow was falling and around and not worth driving back to Wallace. Idaho is a very beautiful state, it was still covered with a lot of snow in areas, the trees were not yet leafing out, nothing blooming. It actually looked a lot like home a couple months ago when I was so very uninspired to take a picture of ANYTHNG! We ended up doing a lot of driving and not a lot of photography that day.

Before we tucked in it for the night we wanted to hit the butte again for the sunset. We were a little ways out yet and I found a road on the map that was a little more direct from where we were, but it turned out to be a dirt road. A real NICE dirt road! We left a lot of dust flying as we flew down that road doing about 50!

The next day was our long, slow drive home. I chose a road different from the one we drove in on and we had a great time shooting the small towns, more rolling hills, classic trucks, tractors and cars rusting in the fields, abandoned buildings, grain elevators and all things farm-related.


Another highlight of our weekend was a fortunate turn down a small dirt road. We spotted a noisy group of calves penned up beside the road. Then I spotted the cowboys, saddled horses and a campfire and realized what we had stumbled upon - we found a branding going on! Rick wandered up to the people to let them know what we were doing (everyone is suspicious of people with cameras) and they invited us to stay and even come into the pen to take pictures! They do it the "old-fashioned" way, with lassos and cowboys on horseback because the new way (guiding the calves through a chute) ends up injuring the calves more. The "old way"
assures that the calves are completely disabled. Since there is so many operations done at once it makes perfect sense to me. It looks cruel but it's just a momentary twist of the arm to keep them immobilized while it is branded (I can still smell the burning hair), vaccinated, ear tag applied, bulls are "banded" (causing castration) and wormed. Then they're good for quite a while, the only thing that may have to be repeated would be the vaccination and/or the worming.

The drive was pleasant and uneventful until we reached our final highway on-ramp. Turns out some idiots were racing on Highway 18 and one went out of control and slammed into oncoming traffic, killing another driver. So the highway was closed and we had to detour about 16 miles around through Issaquah.

All in all another successful road trip!  All 977 miles of it!

1 cats hacked up hairballs:

Judy May 21, 2011 at 2:40 PM  

you guys have the most awesome weekends! i'm a little jealous :)

About Me

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After 2 unsuccessful marriages I spent 12 years as a divorcee, only to fall prey to another man's wiles. We had a fun 5 years together and then he decided he wanted more freedom so once again I'm single.

So I'm freshly divorced at 57 and have 5 great kids and now 7 grandkids. My kids are still a major part of my life but I'm busy helping my aging parents on Kauai.

I've lived in California, Hawaii and Oklahoma before finally settling here in Washington. I love Washington and come back to visit family, friends and take care of my garden often but will be temporarily a resident of Kauai.

I've moved 30 times in my life (no, my parents weren't in the service, at least not since I was about 2) and finally planted roots when I got my little house that I've owned since '91.

My family are Jehovah's Witnesses, I've been one since '72.