Having ended up with two days off together, B and I rather precipitously decided on an overnight trip. It being spring, and thus still fickle weather-wise, and given my desire to show him something that would really make his eyes pop, we decided on the Channeled Scablands as a safe bet. We’d already planned on Vantage – simple enough to expand that day trip into two.
How’s this for mind-blowing: those petrified logs were found in Columbia River Basalt flows. Yep. Wood, in a lava flow. You’d think it would catch on fire, but that’s where Vantage Lake comes in: those logs were in it when the lava arrived. Too wet for even molten basalt to burn, preserved nicely by it, petrified over the ages, and discovered by some mightily astonished people.
We’d meant to hike the loop trail and visit all the logs in their cages (had to be locked up against nasty thieveses), but we got rained on. We played around in the Gingko Gem Shop, hoping it would pass, but it never did. At least we got to spend time playing with the shop’s kitty, and magetized hematitie, which were both awesome and fun. The gentleman who runs the shop showed us some neat tricks with said hematite, and let us play with the rare earth magnets, and is as much of a gem as his shop. It’s one of my favorite places to visit when I’m on the dry side. Great specimens at great prices, too! Be sure to drop by if you’re in the Vantage area.
Getting rained out turned out to be a good thing, because it meant we were driving up Grand Coulee early enough to drop by Lake Lenore Caves. We hiked the whole trail, and played in the caves, and reflected upon the power of the floodwaters that carved this whole thing, caves and all. See those cliffs across the way? They’re huge. And this is the Lower Grand Coulee, which isn’t so impressive as the upper. Wow, right?
Next day, we did a more leisurely drive down the coulee, stopping here and there. One of the stops I absolutely had to make was at the end of the Upper Grand Coulee, where you’re in granite rather than basalt.
Some of the oldest rock in Washington State, this, and positively glittering with plagioclase. You can actually see it glittering at 60 miles per hour. The crystals are enormous, and the rocks are shot through with pegmatite dikes. I abso-bloody-lutely love this spot.
Of course, all of it’s extremely neat.
Difficulty moderate, the book said. Trail steepens from the base of the cliffs to a saddle, it said. Nowhere did the authors mention that the difficulty is moderate for mountain goats, and that if you can’t monkey your way up and down vertical bits of trail, you will get stuck somewhere along it, faced with a choice between bruising your bum, breaking your neck, or trying to call 911 for a helicopter rescue. We made it up the first vertical bit, stopped at a low area, looked at the people struggling to navigate the next vertical bit, and considered the fact we’d already drunk our bottles of water. And there wasn’t any shade. And my leg muscles, at least, were already rebelling against up and were seriously put out by the idea of more up, followed by lots of horrible down. So we descended without climbing more than a third. Still. Magnificent views, and nice exercise, and now we have a list of things we shall bring next time, not limited to several gallons of water, walking sticks, padded gloves, and possibly mountaineering gear. Sheesh.
Ah, well, left more time for Dry Falls, didn’t it?
You have no idea how happy I am to have finally made it back there with the good camera, and that we had that wonderful interplay of cloud shadow and light, and that we arrived with enough time to talk to the park ranger on duty and get directions from him to a way to a part of the falls you can’t see from the visitor’s center. It’s astoundingly beautiful, and you will love it, but I’m going to make you wait because I am evil and also because I need to bloody well write up Franklin Falls soon. Summer field season has me swamped already, and it’s barely begun!
The weather was spectacular, and allowed us a lovely view of the Stuart Range on our way back through the pass.
So that was excellent. I have lots of mystery flora for you, and I would have had birds, only they never held still. Ah, well. The geology will make up for it. I’ll be telling you tales of fire, ice and water before long – after I get round to the things I was supposed to be working on, anyway!