The sunset paints one of many views from Steptoe Butte in the Palouse

In late May we hit the road and headed for the Palouse area. The rolling wheat fields were green and the weather good. Time for some exploration. Dave Horton and I left The Dalles, Oregon and Dufur area, where we spent the night, as we headed toward the Palouse in Eastern Washington.

We had shot some images the afternoon and evening before around Dufur. This morning we stopped to snap a few shots of Mt Hood and the wind turbines near Maryhill, Washington. We had about 5 1/2 hours of driving, plus stops along the way.

We found an old abandoned building in Touchet, Washington. Paint was peeling off the side of it and I looked something worth shooting. I almost stepped on the shot.

Roadside weed next to an abandoned building in Touchet, Washington

I had read about a railroad bridge near Lyon’s Ferry, on the Snake River, so we swung by there on the way past Palouse Falls. This 3,920 foot long deck truss bridge was the longest one in the USA, when it was build in 1914.

Joso Railroad Bridge at Lyons Ferry, Washington

The Palouse Falls stop was more of a scouting trip than trying to capture any good images. It was the middle of the day, but we wanted to see where the good spots were. We planned to come back through in a couple of days. After looking over the falls, we headed for Highway 26 at Washtucna, Washington. That is where we found the Magic Bus. Well not the same Magic Bus as Pete Townsend sang about, but I was playing the lyrics in my head.

Magic Bus; the local spray paint artists playground in Washtucna, Washington

Inside the Magic Bus

 The Palouse Area

The hills in the Palouse area are unique, and were formed over tens of thousands of years from wind blown dust and silt, called “loess”, from dry regions to the southwest. During the last several ice ages, glaciers advancing south from Canada ground up the bedrock as they passed over it, creating a fine rock dust known as glacier flour. The Missoula Floods, which created the Columbia River Gorge,  washed over eastern Washington and created several huge but temporary lakes. These lakes eventually drained and left behind massive quantities of silt. Prevailing winds from the southwest blew the silt and dust to where it settled out into hills of loess that look like giant sand dunes.

Next we headed toward Colfax, Washington with stops on several back roads planned. You never know what is going to be around the corner as you cruise the gravel roads in the Palouse.

Driving the backroads of the Palouse area

I had spent some time on Google Earth looking for old buildings and had a quite a few spots marked. Sometimes when we would arrive at a spot, the old building was gone. Making way for something new, I think a CAT ate them.

Old house being razed in the Palouse

Wheat fields mean silos and there are dozens of them scattered along different roads. These old silos used straps to hold the sections together, with a zigzag pattern running upward.

Zig-zag retaining straps on old grain silos in the Palouse

The afternoon sun creates shadow patterns on these silos.

The sun paints shadows on grain silos in the Palouse

Rolling wheat fields and blue skies were in abundance.

Rolling wheat fields and blue sky in abundance in the Palouse

We rolled into Colfax, Washington and got to our Hotel, but the room was not ready yet. We spoke to several of the other photographers that were there about their plans. Once our room was ready, it was time for a shower and a brief rest. Next stop was dinner and a beer at the Hyde out Bar & Grill, then on to Steptoe Butte for sunset.

Steptoe Butte sits about 1,000 feet higher than the surrounding area. It is a Washington State Park and is named after Edward J. Steptoe, Lieutenant Colonel, Army of the United States. The road up to the top of Steptoe Butte winds around the butte several times as it climbs higher up the butte. It is often hazy, but the views are amazing.

The sunset paints one of many views from Steptoe Butte in the Palouse

The rolling hills, how the sun plays on the edges and the colors are fascinating.

Rolling wheat field in the Palouse glows with the setting sun

The hills even hide most of the town of Steptoe, even as seen from Steptoe Butte.

The town of Steptoe, Washington, as seen from Steptoe Butte.

Next up; Palouse Photography Road Trip Day 2