In early September, we traveled east from Lopez Island to Pullman, a town in far eastern Washington, deep in the heart of the Palouse prairie.
The Beautiful Palouse
Covering almost 4,000 square miles, the Palouse was created during the Ice Age when silt blew in from ancient dry lakebeds to fashion a unique landscape of dunes. At one time grasslands, the Palouse is now bountiful farmland planted with wheat, barley, canola, and lentils. Crops undulate across the rolling hills, creating a patchwork of green and yellow fields in the spring, turning to gold and rich black earth after harvest in late summer.
I wouldn’t exactly call Pullman a tourist destination, but it’s a mecca for landscape photographers. I can understand why, after seeing the interesting geometry and subtle colors of the Palouse.
For us, the main attraction is our daughter and grandson, who recently moved to Pullman from San Juan Island to attend graduate school. It’s a big, exciting life change for them, and we were looking forward to visiting them in their new surroundings.
We explored the area together, discovering a beautiful hike up Kamiak Butte; biking the trail that runs from Pullman to nearby Moscow, Idaho; and visiting the delightful Saturday farmers’ market in Moscow.
It poured rain off and on during our entire visit, and in looking for things to entertain a five-year-old, we came across the interesting little Appaloosa Museum, dedicated to the pretty leopard-spotted horses bred by the Nez Perce tribes in the Palouse.
As always, the time went by far too quickly. We enjoyed our adventures in the Palouse, but our most memorable moments were walking Amanda to class and visiting her campus office, cooking dinners together, baking cookies with Findlay, and reading to him while cuddling on the sofa. Sweet moments, indeed.
A Brief Stop Along The Columbia Gorge
Leaving Pullman, we made a brief stop in the Columbia Gorge, halfway to our destination of Sisters, Oregon. More golden rolling hills, this time framing the mighty Columbia River.
Our favorite place to stay in this area is Le Page Park, a Corps of Engineers campground. While the gorge is undeniably gorgeous and a fabulous place to explore, most of the campgrounds are impacted by significant train and traffic noise. Le Page campground, however, is just far enough away from the highway and train tracks to provide a peaceful respite. (It’s also a great deal, at $25 per night/half price for seniors. In contrast, Maryhill State Park across the river is $40 per night.)
Biking, Art, And A Winery
This was our second visit to this area (our first visit was in June 2013, shortly after embarking on our full-time adventure). We relaxed in our waterfront site, biked the nearby Deschutes River trail, visited the lovely Maryhill Museum of Art across the river, and enjoyed wine tasting at nearby Maryhill Winery, winner of the 2015 Pacific Northwest Winery of the Year award.
Should you find yourself in the Columbia Gorge during the salmon run, look for signs advertising fresh fish. We scored a 16-pound Chinook salmon the day we pulled out of the campground, caught that morning by tribal fishers in their centuries-old tradition of harvesting salmon from the Columbia. The only problem was that we didn’t have an ice chest big enough to hold the enormous fish. We filled our bathtub with ice, laid the whole salmon out in the tub, and drove 125 miles to our destination, where our first order of business was filleting that beauty!