The origin of the name Palouse is somewhat unclear. Some think the name is derived from the tribal name Palus and converted by French-Canadian fur traders to the more familiar French word palouse meaning, “land with short and thick grass”. Another theory is that the name was in the first place a French word, describing the area which was then applied to the indigenous people inhabiting it. In any event, it is a lovely place. Wheat and legumes are the primary products produced here, and the way the hills are planted and tended, create some unbelievably wonderful scenes.
After getting setup at the fairgrounds, we headed out for an evening drive. Our destination was a place called Steptoe Butte. It is a quartzite island jutting 1000′ out of the surrounding countryside. From the top, amazing panoramic views made for a busy afternoon for us. The road to the top wound around and around the butte providing different views from various levels on the way up. From the top, it was simply amazing. The patchwork aspect of the ploughed and planted fields, combined with the somewhat cloudy skies created ever changing moments to photograph. The high, cold steady winds presented a challenge, but I still burned through the major part of a 2 gig data card.
After coming off the butte, we continued on around the various roads that spiderweb the countryside. We try to pick loop routes to drive and photograph, but it is so tempting to simple head off down a side road to see what is there. Most times this has worked well. It gets us deeper into the landscape, away from the busier main roads. It’s not that the main road are really all that busy, but the cars and large trucks still tend to zoom by on the narrowish roads making for some nervous moments. Most drivers are very curteous about slowing down and giving wide berth to us pedestrians, but it is just so much more relaxing to not worry about getting hit.
Next morning, we got up predawn to go back to Steptoe. We wanted to see sunrise from this vantage point with hopefully less windy conditions. Up that high, it was still dam cold and only a little less windy. But we stuck it out for some really wonderful views. There was a light mist-like fog blowing first this way, then that way. We were dressed for the conditions, but jumping back into the car for a coffee warmup was still a regular necessity.
The Palouse chamber of commerce boasts 300 sunny days per year for this area. That means 65 days of rain and or clouds. The past two days means they are down to 63. The skies have been largely overcast both days we have been here. There are lots of moments of sun breaking through – and this does make for some dramatic lighting conditions, but it has also interrupted our sunrise and limited our photo ops all day. Tomorrow is supposed to be much less cloudy and we are hoping for better conditions. More to come.