Later that day, May 31 – This has been a perfect photographic weather day. Morning was clear as can be. By mid-morning, clouds began forming. Later in the afternoon they became much heavier. By late afternoon, the clouds had largely dissipated and we were left with a warm calm evening – the warmest of our stay in the Palouse so far. We worked on blogging, napped, and visited with D & D for awhile. As we sat outside, I kept hearing a rather loud mechanical thrashing sound. Eventually, over one of the surrounding hills, came a tractor towing a large spraying rig. We finally got to see some equipment at work in the fields. I had been wondering just how all the patterns in the fields were created. The tractor tread made the wider spaces and the rig it towed made the finer grooves. Placed on the ends of the sprayers, were pink balls which would drop at certain intervals. These were used as a guide for the operator to know where he left off as he made his next passes.
We watched this for awhile, when suddenly we began getting buzzed by crop dusting planes. They too were working the hilly fields around us. It has been so windy the past several days, I guessed they had been grounded. Now that it was calm, it was time to hit the fields. As we sat and watched the various shows around us, we also noticed how thick the shedding cottonwood trees’ cotton had become. The row of trees along our campground were really putting it out. It was almost like snow, except it tended to get into everything – drinks, eyes, noses. It’s not really cotton of course. This is how the trees spread their seeds. The seeds in the cotton-like puffs blow for miles looking for a likely place to take hold.
We eventually had an early dinner and took off to Steptoe for an evening sunset photo excursion. Cold cloudy windy weather had made going up there a far less appealing option up till now. Tonight seemed perfect. Sunset wouldn’t be until 8:30 PM, so I asked Mary to find an alternate route to the butte. It was still only 6, so I figured why not take our time getting there. It didn’t quite work out ideally. Mary did find a different route off on a couple of dirt roads that actually led to some amazing viewpoints, but we also managed to get off on a convoluted route that eventually led us back to Colfax – not where we had wanted to end up. It was now 7 PM and we still had 10 miles to drive to the butte. The overlook we found was of the Palouse River as it ox-bowed around an interesting basalt formation. We decided this was a place to GPS bookmark and return to later.
It worked out fine though. We were at the butte by 7:20 and working our way up the corkscrew road again. Unlike all our other visits to the top, this time the road was lined with other photographers. There are plenty of places to turnout though, so it was still easy to get a good vantage point, but it was kind of funny to see so many out – fair weather photographers! It was warm and balmy and such a pleasure to be able to photograph in shirt sleeves and not bundled up and worrying about wind knocking the camera over.
We stopped briefly at the first glut of photographers and looked up the mountain. I just caught a glimpse of the kayaks on the top of D & D’s Jeep roof as they made their way down the mountain. The left our camp well after us, but once again made it to the top well before us. We moved up the hill, stopping now and then to make pictures. We waved to D & D as we passed each other and finally hit the top. It was just amazing up there. Not just the view either. Still warm and calm 3000′ higher. There were only a few other photographer up here. Seems most people believe it is better to photograph from lower down. Something about a better angle for seeing shadows. But I really preferred the higher vantage point – and there were far fewer people. We happily photographed until sunset before returning to camp.