May 27 – It was a pretty painless drive from Union Creek to Walla Walla in Washington, where we planned to overnight before heading on to Colfax and the greater Palouse area. The weather has remained colder with occasional rain showers, but it also provided some interest in the sky as we drove along. It was only around 100 miles to Walla Walla and we pulled into the Four Winds RV Resort just a little after noon. This was a so called “higher end” RV Park. Anytime the word “Resort” is associated with an RV park it is a crap shoot as to what you’ll get. In this case, we got giant chickens, rams, cougars, deer, Pablo and his wonder ass, and a pelican in an old phone booth. But it was clean quiet and just fine for the chores we had to do.
May 28 – We were out by 10 the next morning and on our way to the Palouse. This is a huge area of eastern Washington that is dedicated to the dry farming of wheat, legumes, badly and canola. One definition of Palouse is, “Land with short and thick grass or lawn”. It is an apt definition. The entire landscape is rolling hills of waving wheat. The cultivation of crops leaves the land a patchwork of texture and color that stretches for miles in every direction. This is the highlight of the trip for me. In 2011 we visited and experienced the tans, browns and yellows of fall. Since then I’ve wanted to revisit in spring when the landscape comes alive and the colors turn every shade of green.
We went directly to the Palouse-Empire County Fairgrounds RV Park, about 5 miles outside of town. The setting is very nice. It is essentially a large grassy field, but it has water and electric for $15 per night. There is a dump station, but it is currently not available. The sites are pretty close together, but both times we’ve been here, we’ve been almost the only one’s. Today it is just us and a little Tear-drop. The first night, no one showed up to collect our fees and we thought perhaps we would get away with a free stay. But on the second day, I noticed the caretaker for the fairgrounds doing some work around the entrance area. He was erecting the pay station that he said a horse team had knocked over during the last county fair, and he was only just now getting around to re-installing it. We had a nice conversation and I told him how much we enjoyed the area and that we would probably stay for 5 or more days. As I was walking away, he shouted that since we were staying so long, we could knock our daily rate down to $10 per night. Nice!
We later motored into the town of Colfax to get our bearings and look around. Colfax is small, but quite busy. It is sort of a crossroads of main highways, so a fair amount of traffic comes through. We stopped at the Chamber of Commerce, visited the famous Codger Pole and did a short drive around the area. We stopped at the local cemetery where they were deconstructing the Memorial Day decorations, and later found a nice farmhouse to photograph.
May 29 – I had planned on driving up the Steptoe Butte for sunset today, but watching the weather report last evening, it was clear that more weather was moving in and the best chance for sunlight would be in the morning. That meant sunrise. Up here right now, sunrise is around 4:30 AM. UGH! Don & Dorothy said that if I decided to go at sunrise, to give them a call and they’d go along too. So I did manage to wake up at 4:40 and called over to them. They were already awake and were game to hit the butte.
Steptoe is a state park, but unfortunately there is no camping there. It is 15 miles from camp and we were out there pretty quickly. The sun was already up before we left, but we still had plenty of nice light. There were lots of clouds overhead, but they were not yet too thick to block all sun. D & D followed us up the road, but soon passed us by as Mary and I constantly stopped to photograph fro extended periods. It’s what we do and I just couldn’t pass up some of the views. The road spirals around the butte several times on the way up to the top, and as you rise, the light changes, angles change, and it creates continuously changing views. They made it to the top long before we did and in fact passed us by on their way back down. They were headed back to camp for the first of their new regime of diet milkshake breakfasts.
We continued on to the top. It was severely windy and quite cold on the way up, but as we got into the wind protected side of the butte, it became dead calm and very comfortable. We tended to linger in this spot at each higher elevation. But at the top, it was just windy everywhere. The view from up there is unbelievably wonderful. The approaching clouds were, by now, beginning to cover the sun and flattening the light. We lingered awhile at the tippy top just to enjoy the view before heading back down the hill. On the way down, a small porcupine made it’s way slowly across the road.
We weren’t ready to call it quits for the day, so we headed north to the town of Rosalia. The day has gotten more and more dim as the next storm approached. Most of the towns other than Colfax are really sleepy – as in seemingly deserted – and we were in need of additional coffee by now. Oakesdale had almost no services of any kind. On to Rosalia where we did manage to find a cafe we stopped at in 2011. Coffee – not good. We were back in camp by 11. The rest of the day was cold and sometimes wet. We decided to just hang out till tomorrow.
May 30 – For today, we wanted to just drive around the area looking for new areas to photograph. The days here have been starting out fairly clear, then quickly cloud up as time passes. It was like that today but it really worked in our favor because the clouds add so much character to the landscape. Sometimes a little too much. We would tend to stop in a spot and wait for the sun come from behind a cloud. Sometimes it wouldn’t for a loooog time. Last time here, we discovered we could get off the main roads/highways and drive through the fields on dirt or gravel and really get intimate with the area. Virtually no traffic on these roads and they really get to the places we want to be in.
We brought along lunch, coffee and goodies, so we were well stocked for a long day of backroads. We eventually found our way to the town of Palouse. We checked out the public RV Park there. I thought it was pretty good, but Mary was not impressed. There were only 10 sites, but all had water, electric and sewer. The sites were gravel and level right on the edge of town in a quiet spot across from the public park. It was pretty sparse however, and it was $25/day. There is a free public dump right next to it though, so it might be an option if we need it. This is another very quiet town – the kind you’d expect to see dogs sleeping in the middle of the street – so we pretty much just passed through. But on Saturday there is supposed to be a hot rod show. We will be back for that.
We continued on and decided to work our way back to Colfax via backroads as much as possible. We stumbled upon a real winner in Pat O’Neill Road. It ran along a ridge the looked over on either side of two really wonderful valleys. The rolling hills here were multicolored and the patchy clouds highlighted parts here and there. Along the road itself, a steep bank featured red-orange poppies. Mary picked some small, but very fragrant flowers that have held up for 2 days. We finally made it back to camp around 3 PM, tired by happy.
May 31- Today we got up and out by 7 AM, again looking around on the backroads. It is much clearer and warmer, but still a bit windy. We found some roads we had been on in 2011 and were quite impressed with how different they looked now. Another throughly enjoyable morning. Back in camp, we lazed about for a few hours before having an early dinner. Our plan is to drive up to Steptoe Butte, this time for sunset. That will be covered in my next post.