This Week in the Palouse #1

Last week in the Palouse unseasonably warm temperatures and days of rain melted away the New Years snow.  Almost all the snow disappeared, save the drifts along roadsides and hills which became nasty gray strokes against the land.  Monday’s holiday coincided with excellent weather so I spent the majority of the day exploring new areas in Whitman County.

I have been searching BLM lands in hopes of finding some hiking trails.  I found a nice potential spot along Rock Creek, about an hours drive west from Moscow.  Rock Creek is along the edge of the Palouse in an area known at the Channeled Scablands.  Basically it’s a low lying area left over from a bygone flood.  The area has pockets of basalt and sage strewn about with typical Palouse farms in an atypical setting.  Rock Creek is accessed by Breeden Road (a rutted high-clearance road) off of Jordan-Knott Road.  I opted to hike the 3+ miles roundtrip since I was unfamiliar with the condition of the road.  It was very muddy with deep ruts in places, but overall not an insurmountable task for my Xterra.  I’ll save a lot of time and drive to the creek of my next visit.

The views were somewhat expansive around Rock Creek:  basalt outcroppings dotted the land and bunchgrass was its cover.  Further downstream I noticed a nice canyon but didn’t have enough time or ambition to explore it.  Despite the nice weather, it was very windy with a steady 20 MPH wind.  This curtailed my hiking and photography; I also had imagined a nice area for the potentially nice sunset that lay ahead.  Here is more of documentary shot of the Rock Creek area.

Rock Creek

The rain had ended earlier that morning and a cold front had moved through.  The clouds now lay over the eastern horizon awaiting the sunset.  I hurried back to the car and made my way to my predetermined spot just in time for the setting sun.  Unfortunately, I decided I had the right lens on my camera, walked downhill away from car and then discovered I didn’t have enough reach to isolate Steptoe Butte.  I ran back uphill, quickly changed the lens and got off two quick shots before the sun dipped behind some clouds.  I noticed the cloud layer was thin and more warm light would soon be upon the scene.  I waited and took a few more shots with the softer but warm remaining light.

Steptoe Sunset

Steptoe Sunset: nine minutes later

While photographing the sunset I noticed the moon was near full.  The next day would be best for a sunset/moonrise shot and two more days would be best for a sunrise/moonset set.  I studied my ephemeris when I got back home, confirming my suspicions.  My class schedule would allow for these captures–hopefully the weather would cooperate too.  Tuesday proved to be a flat, overcast day so there was no moon to be seen or captured.  Thursday was setting up to be successful.  However, once I awoke at 5:30am, I looked outside and didn’t see the moon.  Clouds had encroached and threatened to dull the sunrise and hide the moon again.  I set out determined to capture something (I had gotten out of bed already) so I went to my previously determined location.  The low 20s and light snow upon the ground made for a nice, cold wintry scene especially against the steely dawn sky.  The sunrise never did materialize as I hoped but I did come away with a new area explored and two pictures to capture the cold morning.

Steptoe Steely Dawn

Trees amidst the fields


3 thoughts on “This Week in the Palouse #1

  1. As I scrolled down, “Steptoe Sunset: nine minutes later” really caught my eye. The low warm light is fantastic, and the clouds have enormous depth. Sweet shot!

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