Sneak Peeks from Frenchman Coulee

Waterfall, petrified wood, bighorn sheep, and stunning sunset, oh my! S’s friend R is visiting, and we took advantage of a nice weather break to head over to Frenchman Coulee. Twas glorious! I’m too exhausted to do much of anything but drool over some photos, but I think you’ll very much enjoy drooling with me.

Image shows the peak of Mount Stuart, which is a fan-shaped, rugged mountain. It has a coating of bright white new snow.
Mount Stuart showing off a beautiful new coat of snow.

As we drove through the Cascades, we saw the peaks dusted with snow so new it was still clinging to tree branches. So lovely!

There’s been enough precipitation even on the dry east side of the Cascades that the waterfall at Frenchman Coulee was flowing beautifully. We stood in the quiet, listening to the woosh of falling water.

Image shows the brown coulee wall, which is made of stacks of Columbia River Basalt flows. There is a waterfall spilling down the wall. Part of the cliff is white around it. It spills down the rock face, and then carves through a bench of talus before meandering across the flat coulee floor.
Waterfall at Frenchman Coulee

R doesn’t know much about geology in general, and practically nothing about the geology of Washington State in particular, but wanted to know everything! So I told her how many huge basalt flows created the rock that was then stripped away by the gargantuan Missoula Floods. Few things are a more powerful demonstration of the power of those floods than the huge chunks of basalt ripped from the coulee walls and dropped on Babcock Bench just below, so we went exploring round those.

Image shows me standing beside a huge pillar of basalt dropped by one of the Missoula Floods. It is about 13 or 14 feet high, and much wider than that, although only a portion of it shows in the photo. The rim of the coulee is behind me in the distance.
Moi with maclargehuge chunk of the coulee wall.

After we played around the erratics and looked over the bench into the Columbia River (which here has been dammed and is the narrow Wanapum Lake), we headed back into the coulee for our lunch and some fun with rocks. We wandered round the big fin of basalt columns that’s so popular with climbers, and I saw this lovely bit of erosional art that looks like a dog’s head.

Image shows the top of an eroded basalt column. There is a piece at the top smaller than the rest, and it looks like a dog's head with its ears pricked forward, staring off towards the left of the photo.
Or maybe a jackal’s head, I dunno. Does this scream “Egyptian God” to you, too?

See the chains left for by/for climbers there at the bottom of the photo? You can climb up to pat the doggy!

We met a Scottish gentleman with a beautiful accent who was free-climbing. When I get unbelievably rich and famous, I will probably hire people with awesome accents to read things to me. So tell lots of wealthy people to buy my books and stuff so that I can hire a bunch of you for ridiculous jobs like that. I’ll be a job creator, baby, yeah!

Coming back, we got another view of the waterfall that showed how two streams merge partway down the cliff to form the main fall, making it a neato Y shape.

Image looks directly at the waterfall, clearly showing two streams merging to form the main body.
There has to be some language that uses the Latin alphabet that has an awesome word for Y. Let’s find out what it is and name this waterfall!

I’d debated with myself over whether to stay at Frenchman Coulee for sunset, or head over to Vantage to see the descending light paint the cliffs. R was up for anything, so I plumped for Vantage, and I’m super-glad we did. Alas, my favorite rock shop was closed, but we spent a lot of time wandering around the huge pieces of petrified wood that stand outside it. I’d never had a chance to really enjoy them before, and R kept pointing out gorgeous colors and textures. I have enough photos for a full post! Here’s a teaser:

Image shows me standing beside a huge, upright petrified log. It is at least seven feet tall, several feet wide, and has a few knotholes visible. It's a pale yellow-brown, light gray, and umber color.
Moi with maclargehuge petrified log.

Can you believe that thing was petrified in a lava flow? It was! We’ll have a nice post about the petrified wood of Vantage someday reasonably soonish.

We finally got our fill of pretty petrified logs, and headed up the road to the Visitor’s Center to see if the trails were open. We almost didn’t get there, because a herd of bighorn sheep were hanging around being awesome by the ranger’s house. A herd. Of bighorn sheep. All over the road and the lawn and the cliff! I’ll put together a collection of photos for our viewing pleasure when I get the chance, but here’s one of my favorites:

Image shows a bighorn ewe and a bighorn ram standing rump-to-rump. The doe has her white rump toward the camera and has craned her neck over her shoulder, her mouth open in an O of surprise. The ram with his huge curly horns is in profile, staring into the distance to the right. There are a few more sheep visible behind them in the sagebrush and grass. Behind them is the Columbia River/Lake Wanapum, the cliffs, some distant mountains, and the I-90 bridge.
Henry! Those people are PHOTOGRAPHING us!

I love that “Well I never!” expression on the ewe’s face. Special bonus fun: see how many bighorn sheep you can spot in this picture.

We finally did tear ourselves away from the sheep, and got to have our little walk round the VC with the petroglyphs and the views and all the lovely stuff. Then we headed for home, and were spectacularly fortunate in our timing, because the sunset was being magnificent just as we reached the rest area just outside Vantage.

Look at this!

Image shows some low, rolling hills covered with grasses and sagebrush. The whispy clouds are brilliant pink over their crests, shading to blue-gray at the top.
Sunset over the lovely hills.

And the storm clouds cresting the Cascades added a deliciously ominous touch to the tableau:

Image shows the dark hills in the foreground. In the distance, the Cascades aren't visible except as a squall line of jagged clouds rising dark purple on the horizon. Above, the sky is streaks and strokes of pink, orange, salmon, and violet-blue.
Sunset over the stormy Cascades.

So that was fairly magnificent. I didn’t even mind freezing half to death in the relentless cold wind to get dozens of images from which I could select the best for you!

All in all, twas an excellent trip with many beautiful sights. Stay tuned for more! In the meantime, I’m gonna go pass out again…

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Sneak Peeks from Frenchman Coulee
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8 thoughts on “Sneak Peeks from Frenchman Coulee

  1. 4

    I’m seeing either five or six, depending on whether or not the leg under the ram’s chin belongs to the head over his shoulder. There’s what MIGHT be a horn over on the right, but I think it’s probably part of a bush.

    We’ve crossed that bridge at Vantage at least eight times in the past year and I’ve STILL never been to the ginko monument, And I had no idea there were bighorns there.

  2. 8

    Nice commentary with some really gorgeous photos. I esp. like those waterfall pics. I wonder if it’s somewhat unusual to see the water flowing. It is so dry over there. With the sunset, the waterfall and the snow – what a great trip!

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