steppe grass and ice in the lower grand coulee

Adam found himself entertained trundle-tossing rocks across the surface of the lake, here. It was like curling, except not boring since there was the excitement of punching holes in the frozen crust and pretending where the ice cracked and buckled against the shore was evidence of catastrophic plate tectonics.  I have fond boyhood memories of whiling away hours on frozen puddles- that was in the wintertime in Muskegon County in frozen fields with shredded cornstalks sticking through the snow.

Our original destination was Steamboat Rock just a bit farther north, it has been forever since I was there.  But we were skunked by surprisingly thick, low fog that only seemed to get soupier the closer we got to the Columbia Plateau. We decided to save Steamboat Rock for another day sometime soon (hopefully a sunny day on the Columbia Plateau and rainy back in Seattle). I had no idea the inversion we’re mired in right now, which has blanketed Seattle with pesky fog nearly every single day the past week, would stretch so far inland. I got a bit nervous by the time we passed gloomy Cle Elum…….and downright discouraged through Ellensburg, mostly for Adam’s sake. He was a good sport about it and focused on reading to me from The Trumpet of the Swan.  The complexion of our day changed dramatically with our shift in plans, but we made our fun and it was productive and interesting scouting new places to visit in the future.

Once upon a time the world’s greatest waterfall (Dry Falls) thundered and shook the earth not far from quiet Lake Lenore, the retreat of that falls left the gorge now known as the lower Grand Coulee. It’s a major physical and psychological distance from the Puget Sound lowlands, but it’s a specific goal of mine to visit here a handful of times this winter. We’ll stay overnight in Ephrata the next time we come over, I forgot how long it takes to cover ground all the way to here (at the same time, we got an unusually late start). To be honest, shooting was almost an afterthought on this day but Adam was so contented playing by the side of the lake, I did twiddle a bit with the camera. Not the most inspiring composition here I realize, but it was rewarding working with a much different subject matter than usual.  And to be shooting, period. I’m picking up momentum and starting to shoot more and more in a serious way this winter. I’m still struggling a bit with my old Gitzo ballhead (it’s a tad lightweight for my D700) while I wait for a repair on my usual set-up.  At any rate, this was taken with a Nikkor 16-35 at f16, 1/20. In hindsight I wish I would’ve gotten out my polarizing filter, but it was deceptively dark and the steppe grass here was already a brilliant yellow.

The drive between the Grand Coulee and Waterville was harrowing: Temperatures plunged into the low 20s and visibility was practically nil through fog that froze to the windshield even though the defrost was blasting on high. The road was intermittent sheets of ice. I had been loathe to backtrack through Ephrata and Soap Lake but at various moments I gnashed my teeth over my decision-making. We passed an abandoned farmstead in the middle of nowhere that was like an apparition on the other side of the frosted barbed wire fence. It was hard to pass up the opportunity to do some shooting there but the barns were at least a tenth of a mile (probably more) from the road and I didn’t want Adam out in the bitter, cutting wind. I hope I can stop there, someday. On this day, the goal was simply to stay on the road.  It was a relief to drop down to the Columbia River (here, Lake Entiat) through Pine and Corbaley canyons.

One thought on “steppe grass and ice in the lower grand coulee

  1. I had to look up Dry Falls. How amazing that must have been. This is really a beautiful area.

    Sounds like it was a harrowing drive! I’m glad you survived it 🙂

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