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On Travel Philosophy

Delving Deep into the Art of Travel, An Autumnal Romp Through A Western Landscape, Misfits

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Argentina Travel Philosophy

I was thumbing through my brand new Argentina Travel Guide the other day. I suppose it was going all right. I was looking at various towns and locales, trying to memorize the interesting tidbits each place offered. I hoped to piece together enough interesting locations for my upcoming trip. I was “making a plan.” Something about it didn’t sit right. I wasn’t interested in reading this humongous fact book, and I felt overwhelmed by the task. That’s when I set the book down. I had reached yet another epiphany.

I don’t know much about Argentina. My attempt to memorize a travel guide isn’t going to help me understand it any better. I’d rather enter the country without a clue, making each experience that much more thrilling.

This bit of logic sent me deep into the bones of travel philosophy. The fact is, the planet has been thoroughly explored. It is mapped, photographed, and documented. Argentina is no exception. However, my ignorance is a beautiful concept. No matter where I travel to when I’m in the country, it will be new experience. And I will feel that surging high of excitement at each “new discovery.” This can be as simple as a pleasant park in Buenos Aires, or as involved as my first glimpse of Mt. Fitzroy.

While I’m at it, why plan anything at all? I’m going to bring a map. I’m going to start in Ushuaia, and somehow I’m hopeful that I will end up in Buenos Aires by January 30. What I experience in between is the great unknown. This is how I want it.

Now, this might mean I may not get a place to sleep every night, or food on a regular basis, and I might have to wait a week before I can catch a ride on a bus to my next town. That’s the way it goes. That’s all part of the fun.

I’m inclined to admire the wisdom of Lin Yutang who wrote, “A true traveler is always a vagabond, with the joys, temptations and sense of adventure of the vagabond. Either travel is ‘vagabonding’ or it is no travel at all. The essence of travel is to have no duties, no fixed hours, no mail, no inquisitive neighbors, and no destination. A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going.”

Last Ride on the Columbia
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Before I leave the country, I still have some business to take care of in this one. Namely, finishing the River season, and positioning the ship down to Los Angeles, California.

The Columbia has been good to me this year, but I’m ready to move on to other adventures. In nine days, I’ll be unemployed. This thought doesn’t scare me; I’ve been unemployed before, and will be again. At heart, I’m a writer, a rambler and a photographer. I just don’t make any monetary gains with my passions. I’m ready for a change, though. If anybody has any ideas what I should do for my next occupation, I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say. I’m certain something will work out, I’m just curious to see what that will be.

Autumnal Romp
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The thigh high grass was wet from the rain that had fallen the night before. The autumn wind is like smoke. It carries a tang of something soothing, sweet, and earthy decay. The sky was mostly cloudy, but large patches of pale blue sky were forming above me. It appeared the rain had passed, at least for now. I follow a mule deer trail as it rises along the steep grassy bluff to where the black basalt outcrops break through the earth. High atop the rock eyre, I pause for a moment to admire the view. The Palouse River is far below stretching wide between the steep canyon walls. This is the confluence, where the Palouse and Snake Rivers join in Southeast Washington.
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I move on; walking easily among the wind swept grasses and bobbing prairie sunflowers. The only part of the flower left on the stalk is the center, which has turned a dark Dijon beige. In the distance, the bluff rises higher to more basalt outcrops. I’m happy. I love early morning autumn jaunts through beautiful landscapes. Who doesn’t?
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I reach the first of the section of columns, and I know I have found what I am looking for. It’s peaceful here. It’s far away from the ship, and the view is spectacular. I put down my backpack, and start composing pictures. I take a few shots, but I’m waiting for the light to get better.
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In the meanwhile, I sit on top of the highest rock column. The column has layered horizontal sections of basalt piled on top of one another. Wind and water have eroded it over the eons into a beautiful sculptured piece of stone. If this rock were to crumble, I would plummet off the face of the cliff reforming myself into a twisted pile of broken bones upon impact. I’m not worried about that just now, as the view is excellent. The wind is buffeting my back, letting me know that its there to support me. I drink some water. I eat a granola bar, and a kiwi. Life is good.
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I love the landscapes of this region. If it weren’t for the fabricated infrastructure that dots the land, I’d think I was in Mongolia.

Palouse Falls
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Later in the morning, I find myself perched high above Palouse Falls. I love this waterfall, and I love the park that contains it. It’s one of my favorite in all of Washington.

The wind is amazing. It whips the waterfall spray, dragging it high above the waterfall on a strong updraft. The cloud swirls in the air, forming the symbol for the number nine (my lucky number) for the briefest of moments. I smile. I love noticing quiet details.
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The wind gusts pluck leaves from trees on the rim of the canyon and carry them far out into the gaping void. They never get a chance to touch the ground. They fall for twenty feet before twirling upward in the draft high overhead. They disappear in the distance, and I am envious.

I love autumn.

Photos That Didn’t Belong
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In a given week, I’ll take many photos that I enjoy, but don’t fit the scheme of what I’m writing about. Since I’m nearing the end of a work period, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite misfits that didn’t find a home.

Author’s Note: The line, “The autumn wind is like smoke” is taken from Lin Yutang’s classic, The Importance of Living. I love that line, but I felt quotations would have been distracting in context. I give him his deserved credit here. Thanks.

Posted by Rhombus 08:31 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes rivers hiking travel autumn argentina photography washington palouse philosopy Comments (1)

Returning To Palouse Falls

Exploring Deeper into the Canyon, Behind the Falls

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Returning to Palouse Falls was one of the better decisions I’ve made lately. To make it happen, I had to stay awake for what turned out to be 23 hours straight. I’ve been adapting well to long hours and little sleep it seems. I made the plan the day before, I would work my night shift, stay up, and catch the zodiac/ bus ride to the falls with the guests who were going on a tour there that day. There was in fact, two tours going that day, which allowed me an opportunity to stay longer as I could go there with the first group and return with the second group. This gave me three uninterrupted hours to explore this magnificent gem of the Palouse, and Washington State.

The Palouse region of Washington is located in the extreme southeast part of the state. It is a land of high rolling hills, squat eroded mesas, dotted with glacial erratic- boulders dropped from retreating glaciers of long ago. The land is wild, undulating and lumpy, carved and shaped by the usual suspects: water and wind. It has a desolate and barren feel to it, like the empty distances of western Kansas or the sand hills of Nebraska. However, those locales are flat, and the Palouse is anything but flat. I tip my hat to the pioneers who crossed this region by foot, those hard men and women had legs of steel, make no mistake. To view the Palouse from a high point is to see miles of vertical fields stretching to the horizon.

Agriculturally, the Palouse is one of the best wheat producing areas in the world. The climate is ideally suited to wheat, and so the land is covered in long acres of fields, mixed with occasional small stands of apple orchards. The ranchers who live here must do more planning than the average settler must. The nearest grocery store can be over 40 miles away. Forgetting the milk too many times is grounds for divorce in these parts.

I had a plan in my mind for my visit to the falls. Two years ago, when I visited in the spring, I had spied a promising trail that might lead down to the water and possibly to the lip of the high falls. On that visit, for whatever reason, I didn’t follow the trail, but instead was content to gaze at the expansive canyon from up high. This time, I was going to beeline it straight to the trail and head down to the river. I found the trail easily enough, right where I left it, in fact.

Looking down from the top of the ridge, I could see a thin line of the trail first descending a scree pile and then worming its way through a tangle of sage to the upper falls. This was indeed my ticket to paradise. Without a further glance, I galloped down the ridge to the top of the talus pile. I love running down talus piles. The trick is to keep your feet moving quickly, and make small switchbacks to check your speed. It looks reckless, and it is, but my technique is a controlled recklessness. Once committed to running down a talus pile, the only thing to do is to go with it, as stopping midway is hard to do. I kept my feet moving, making light steps, and descended the 500-foot pile with relative ease.
I was on the floor of the canyon, walking a beaten trail through a corridor of wet, green sage from the morning dew that had formed on it. I love the smell of sage. It’s such a clean, earthy, powerful smell. It evokes images and memories of past desert jaunts, solitude, and wanderlust. It’s powerful medicine, both figuratively and in reality, (drinking a bitter sage tea has been used to combat colds). The sun was still rising over the canyon wall, illuminating the southern half of the floor of the canyon, but leaving the northern half in cold blue shadow. The air was quite fresh, and the sound of the upper falls drowned out any other noise except that of my thoughts. I was in my element once again.
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I set up a few pictures of the upper falls, satisfied with my efforts; I moved on over the slippery rocks and found that the trail continued toward the high falls. I love it when a hunch proves correct. I found reserves of energy I didn’t think I had, after being up for 18 hours, and I bounded over the rocks, jogging along the trail, energetic as a deer. The trail clung to the base of the sheer canyon wall, and I had to slow down to pick my way across a few sketchy areas. Rounding a final shallow turn, I found myself looking at the Castle Rocks, a band of thin finger like rock jutting into the sky; they look like two hands rose up waiting to catch a falling star.
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The whole canyon opened up before me, I was looking at the expansive Palouse Canyon from the north side looking south, and it was as awesome and impressive as I’d hoped it would be. The canyon is expansive, a massive void that impresses upon the senses. I found myself settling down for a moment, sitting in a good location to take a drink of water, and a drink of the beautiful scenery in which I was situated. This huge canyon was carved down through the ages, and the layering of the rock is evident in the sheer canyon walls that surround the falls. It rather puts things into perspective, what a brief time we live in comparison to the eons that it took to carve the rock.
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In time, I took out my camera and tried to do the landscape justice. I found I like the Castle Rocks the best, and the lighting was decent but with the sun rising it soon would wash out the scene. I worked methodically, and ended up content with my choices.
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Hiking out was just as pleasant as hiking in. The upper falls were finally lit up in sunlight, and they made a pleasant resting spot before I scrambled back up the steep talus pile and topping out on the ridge once again. The climb was a killer. Gasping, and churning, I burned my legs back up the incline, and made it back up to the quiet top of the mesa.
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The sun was beating down, and it felt good to sit on the canyon edge and gaze out over the river, the falls, and the majestic canyon out in front of me. I settled into a good loafing position using my backpack as a pillow. I watched the scenery, and then I noticed about 10 black beetles milling about in the short grass around me. I pondered there movement, and wondered what was going on in there world. A migration? Foraging for food? Who knows? All I know is that I thoroughly enjoyed my day at Palouse Falls, and I’m looking forward to my next visit.
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Posted by Rhombus 14:22 Archived in USA Tagged waterfalls boats hiking canyons photography palouse Comments (0)

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