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!
We’ve driven through the Palouse once years ago in the summer when everything was green and fell in love the landscape at first sight. Such a neat area.
Thanks for the info on Page campground, I’d looked at it when we were thinking about OR next year but since our plans have changed I put it aside. Looks like a great alternative for the Columbia Gorge.
Lisa, the LePage campground is beautiful — try to get a waterfront site, they’re more spacious. The only ding is no Verizon coverage in the campground.
After seeing your beautiful photos, it looks like we should have followed your route. So great that you had the opportunity to spend time with Amanda and Findlay in their new home. That is one enormous fish! It must have been fun filleting that guy. Love that header photo.
Haha, yeah, our first order of business when we arrived in Sisters was filleting that salmon on the picnic table! You would love that route, LuAnn. We’ll be spending plenty of time in the Palouse!
I love discovering diverse lands especially when it’s a landscape one would not expect. Congratulations on Amanda working on her advanced degree. My daughter is half way through her masters and I’m not sure how she’d be able to handle it raising a child. So kudos to your daughter. Your grandson is adorable.
Thanks, Ingrid. ;-) Amanda is a wonderful mother to Findlay, and we’re thrilled that she’s at the same time pursuing her dream of studying ethnobotany. She’s pretty remarkable.
The kids grow so fast. It is the best when you get to spend time with them. Your daughter is great that is not an easy task.
Debbie, you’re so right — Findlay is growing up so quickly. We love the time we get to spend with them.
LOL at a huge salmon in your bathtub. First, your rig has a bathtub? We got cheated, only have a shower. Hope there is going to be another post with a picture of the salmon on ice that includes shots of what you do with in. Your gorgeous header picture looks like a painting. Love your COE campground, the sunsets and the river. We had an appaloosa for nearly 20 years. He was an amazing brilliant horse. Smarter and more intuitive than most of the people I know, including me. I’d love to see that museum.
Sherry, we do have a bathtub — it’s kind of small for soaking (although I’ve done it) but it’s the perfect size for a large salmon, haha! So cool that you had an Appaloosa — if I ever had a horse, that’s the kind I would want.
The first pic is a painting! We enjoyed that area of the Gorge earlier this year, but still haven’t seen the Palouse. Looks like all smoke has cleared now? Gorgeous!
Glad you liked the photo, Nina. I was happy when I saw how it turned out! We were lucky in that we escaped smoke all summer — none in the islands, and none in Pullman by early September.
Maybe you all should contact the National Geographic, and see if they’re hiring photographers. Beautiful work, and I loved seeing Amanda and Findlay.
Awww, Sheila, that’s such a wonderful compliment! We loved seeing Amanda & Findlay, too — it was great to see them doing so well in their new home. The islands are a tough act to follow!
love the palouse pics! gonna steal that one in your header if you don’t mind… :)
miss you guys!
We miss you guys, too! It was so wonderful being with you and Fin and knowing that you’ve landed in such a great place and are fulfilling your dreams. Help yourself to the photo of the Palouse, of course! That’s from our hike up Kamiak Butte.oxoxo
Wow, “golden” is not just a poetic description, is it? Never seen such literally golden landscapes. Nice job, y’all.
Thanks, Gretchen! It’s not Lopez, but it is beautiful — those golden hills really are golden in late summer!
We found the eastern side Washington so interesting. And riding through on a motorcycle was great. What a fun time with your daughter and grandson:) Findlay is adorable and your photos captured the energy of a five year old:) I am sure leaving was bitter sweet. What a score to get the fresh salmon. Very clever to fill the tub with ice:)
That must have been a great trip on a motorcycle, Pam! Looks like we’re going to be spending lots more time in the area with Amanda & Fin there. He is so much fun — can’t hardly get him to hold still, unless we’re snuggling and reading. We’re already looking forward to a return visit. :-)