Palouse Falls in Winter

No matter how you flip the photo, vertical or horizontal, Palouse Falls after a long cold spell is quite spectacular.

Winter cold has created huge icicles around the bowl of Palouse Falls.

It is a journey

From Bonney Lake to Palouse Falls – it is a journey – 251 miles – about 4 hours on a good day.

This, of course, was not a good day. It was the first week of March, crossing the Columbia Plateau in winter. The wind blowing from the north driving the snow into large drifts across the road.

We passed several cars freshly stranded in the ditch having spun out on some black or was it white ice.

A white knuckle drive it was. I thank my friend Bob for gripping the wheel to get us there and back.

Less than stellar results

Unfortunately, the results were not so great.

If I were just a tourist, I would be quite happy to add these photos to my list of places I’ve been, places I’ve seen. After all, it is a spectacular and infrequent site.

But I’m not just a tourist – at least that’s what I’d like to think. I prefer to think of myself as a Landscape Photographer. To me, these shots are not worth the pixels poked.

This is because of the shadow falling across the bowl. The edge of the shadow slices across the landscape. It divides the falls in half.

The shadow overpowers everything!

Avoiding the problem

We would have been much more successful with a little bit of planning.

Breaking out The Photographer’s Ephemeris would have quickly shown that the right time to shoot Palouse falls on this day, March 3, 2019, was between five and six o’clock. Just before sunset.

TPE Palouse Falls – March 3, 2019

This screenshot of their web app shows that the sun would be beaming down into the bowl between 17:04 and sunset at 17:41. Those orange rays converging on the pin at the base of the falls shows the times. (The dark blue ray marks moonset)

Driving Dilemma

We could have stayed through sunset and got the shot. We could have. Of course, there was the fact that we would then be on the road after dark. Did I mention the wind driving snowdrifts across the highway. The cars in the ditch.

We opted for the safer course and left. We were in crossing the Columbia River as Palouse Falls saw the last sun for the day.

A disappointing Northwest Moment – maybe next year.

A Question…

We were in Florida for the first two weeks of December. It was great!

The first week was at Cape Canaveral. It was quiet because … well because it was the first week of December. The locals thought it was cold – lows of 60 Fahrenheit – hey it wasn’t raining, it wasn’t snowing. It was great!

Liddy and I got away one morning to visit the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. This is a huge chunk of swamp that was put aside to protect the Kennedy Space Center from encroaching development. If you want to see Alligators and exotic birds in the wild, this is one of the premier sites to visit.

Which is better?

The image below … two long-legged waders. A Great Egret, perched in a bush staring to the right. A Great Blue Heron standing in the water, also staring to the right.

An Egret and a Heron study the distance in a lagoon near Boggy Pond at Merritt Island NWR

Compared to this image, below, which is just the Great Blue Heron. A simpler composition. Of the two, my photography friends prefer this one. Most other people I ask usually chose the one above with the two birds.

A Heron studies the distance in a lagoon near Boggy Pond at Merritt Island NWR

Which one do you like?

Excuses …

I have been distracted…

Several months ago I committed to rebuilding the Tacoma Photographic Society’s web site. This has been an enormous time sink.

Before Christmas, June, Liddy and I traveled to Florida for a couple of weeks. As Florida is in the Atlantic Southeast, I struggle with the idea of posting photos and rambles to a Northwest centric blog.

Of course, there is the fact that wherever you are, when you face the setting sun, the compass quadrant to your right will always be the Northwest so …

The Salish Sea

A long time ago I lived on the North Shore of Burrard Inlet. North Vancouver to be precise. If you drive west on Marine Drive, through West Vancouver, you will reach Point Atkinson with its famous lighthouse. Across the water is Point Grey. Together, these points mark the entrance to English Bay, and Vancouver Harbor, to the east.

During the Thanksgiving weekend, my family got together for what has become an annual dinner at my sister’s home.

I took Liddy out to Point Atkinson for a ramble and captured this shot.

I like the patterns the clouds make across the water, their moodiness, and the general atmosphere.

Aspen Groves

Kentucky Alleyne Provincial Park

Our featured image is of the a young and an old Ponderosa Pine surrounded by a copse of Aspens in their fall finery. There is something about the two pine trees that speaks to me.

The location in general…
Well the location is absolutely gorgeous! And the park. The park was an unexpected delight.

This shot of the lake, thank you Liddy, gives you an idea. I can’t do the place justice. We will just have to come back next year.

Aspen Safari Recap

This wraps up our three day adventure in British Columbia. I hope you enjoyed the photos. Liddy and I certainly enjoyed discovering these locations and we will have to come back next fall. And next fall we will be using Kentuky Alleyne Provincial Park as our base of operations.

Last evening we stayed at Osprey Lake. It was a favorite of ours when our daughter was only one year old. The forestry campsite we used to stay at is still there but the mountain across the lake has been logged.

The drive in to Osprey Lake is still lovely, but not a lot of Aspen. From Osprey we continued out to Okanagan Lake reaching Highway 97 at Summerland. We drove north to Peachland and took the Coquihalla Connector, Highway 97c back to Merritt. This route was a waste of time because we there were no significant vistas to shoot. At least not what we were looking for this trip.

Route Map

The map below shows the roads we traveled, and some of the places we visited along the way.

Otter Creek Road

In our previous post, I mentioned that Liddy and I were traveling north into British Columbia in search of fall foliage, specifically Aspens. Well, we did find them. Lots of them. And they were fabulous!

Monck Provincial Park

After leaving the Othello Tunnels, we continued north on Highway 5 to Merritt where we grabbed a bite to eat before going up to Monck Provincial Park on Nicola Lake.

Turns out the park was closed for the season. The entrance was all locked up. Darn! As I was pondering what to do next, a couple of cars drove up out of the park. It was the park host and crew who were just finishing up some work as they were putting the park away for the winter.

We chatted a bit and I explained what I was up to. That I had lived in Kamloops years ago. That I used to visit Merritt frequently in my past life. We had things in common as one of the crew used to work at the sawmill where I worked. It was suggested that, as we were sleeping in the Prius, that we just stay where we were already parked. So we did.

Nicola Ranch

In the morning, we headed south, back towards Merritt. At the south end of Nicola Lake, there is Nicola Ranch. The ranch has been here for over a century. Some of the outbuildings look it.

Aspen Grove

From Merritt, we drove east on highway 97c, then south to Aspen Grove on 5a. The village lives up to its name. The area is well stocked with Aspens, and they were if full fall foliage. These shots were captured just off the road.

I particularly enjoyed the red-tailed hawk as it was cruising around the lake and overhead.

Otter Creek Road

Just south of Aspen Grove, we left the paved surface of Highway 5a for the unsurfaced backroad that follows Otter Creek south to Otter Lake.

There are a number of abandoned barns and outbuildings along the road that provided photo opportunities.


Years ago – I mean many years ago – my dad was working on a project at a sawmill in Merritt. As a family, we came up from Vancouver to Otter Lake Provincial Park and camped. I still remember swimming in the crystal clear waters of the lake. Like Monck, Otter Lake Park was closed for the season.

From Otter Lake, Liddy and I continued south through the town of Tulameen and Coalmont. The Tulameen River cuts through this canyon just before joining the Similkameen River in Princeton. A spectacular view here, I think.

Mule Deer

Princeton is a small town that supports a copper mine and a sawmill. Highway 5a joins Highway 3, the southern Trans Canada Highway, here. It being hunting season, and animals being way smarter than we give them credit, this buck, and his harem were feeding by the road on the way into town.

No hunting in town.

We arrived in Princeton late in the afternoon, so we had a quick coffee and drove up to Otter Lake for the night. A full day with a lot of quality images I think.

In my next post, I will have a Google map showing our route and some thoughts for next year. I will also tell you about the best place to stay on a photo safari here.

Othello Tunnels

Early in October Liddy and I took a moment to go searching for Aspens in their fall glory. We did find them, but that is for a later post. This post is about the tunnels and bridges in British Columbia’s Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park.

The park is where you will find the Othello Tunnels.

Liddy was good enough to hop up on the rail and pose for us in front of one of the 5 tunnels and two bridges that once were part of the Kettle Valley Railroad.

Aside from the sheer grandeur of the canyon, the park is worth the visit because of the engineering masterpiece of Andrew McCulloch and his team. Rather than build a complicated and expensive track bed around the Coquihalla Canyon, McCulloch built these tunnels through the canyon walls, crossing the river twice with trestles. An amazing work when you consider the work started in 1913, and was completed in 1916.

The tunnels are closed from mid October to mid April for safety reasons. Ice and snow on the canyon heights cause rock falls. Me thinks Liddy and I will revisit the park next year. We did not allow enough time to do the place justice. It demands more than a moment.

Sandhill Cranes

Steptoe Butte

On our recent exploratory trip around Central Washington, Liddy and I visited Palouse Falls, Starbuck and Steptoe Butte. Many members of our photo club have been to Steptoe Butte many times, but it was our first visit.

The weather was great. To the west and south you could see forever. To the north and east however, the view was obscured by smoke and haze from forest fires still burning in British Columbia and Northern Washington.

Dave & Liddy
This is a great place to come to see the rolling Palouse. If you time the season and the weather just right, you can get some fantastic landscapes from here. I know because I have seen many.

On this trip, we came away with a selfie.

Ok. If north and east was a smoke house, then where to go after Steptoe Butte?

Potholes and Columbia NWR

Potholes, and the Columbia NWR were on our list and on the way home. West it was then. To Potholes State Park for the night. In the morning, a visit to Columbia NWR before driving home.

Potholes State Park has a large number of campsites. Because it was midweek, and late September, we had our pick. I thought the price of $25 per night was a bit rich, but it does provide a safe place to park.

Columbia NWR is a fascinating place. A mix of ponds and marshes separated by volcanic plates. Definitely a place we will come back to and explore more in the future.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes
A flock of Sandhill Cranes fly overhead.

Potholes is only 20 miles or so, north of Othello. Every year, in late March, Othello hosts their Sandhill Crane Festival. This is at the height of the bird migration north. The area is a favorite spot where the Cranes rest before continuing on up into Canada.

I had purposely timed this trip for late September hoping that we might catch some of them on their return journey. Sure enough, as we were starting west away from the Columbia NWR, we came across several flocks of these large birds, foraging in the fields beside the road.

Bonus – because it was the fall, we avoided the crowds who come for the festival in the spring time. – A great finish to a fun trip.

Palouse Straw


After leaving Palouse Falls, we drove south on Highway 261 in search of breakfast. Instant oatmeal and instant coffee didn’t quite hit the spot.

The highway crosses the Snake River where it is joined by the Palouse. A few miles further on, we entered the village of Starbuck.

Like most places in rural America, it looks like the excitement has long left this town. Wikipedia tells us it was platted in 1894 and incorporated in 1910, so… no, not named for the coffee giant in Seattle.

Breakfast was found in a restaurant located in a cavernous building that at one time was the Starbuck Drug Company. The ladies who run the Rebecca’s lodge provided an excellent serving of eggs, bacon and a very good mug of coffee. No Starbucks here.

Straw into pulp

I had notice some new construction happening just past the Snake River bridge as we drove into Starbuck and asked about it. It seems this is a new pulp facility. It is going to take straw from the surrounding farms and convert it to pulp. As I am a retiree from Weyerhaeuser, it piqued my interest.

I asked the ladies if this was going to be an economic boost to Starbuck? They thought not. They expect most of the employees will live in Walla Walla and commute up to the plant. The feeling was that young people today prefer to be in a larger town with more people and services. Its the socialness of it all.

About the image

Later in the day as Liddy and I were rambling north, this newly harvested field caught my eye.

I love the color. The wandering line of uncut grass leads my eye up to the brush and into the center of the image.
I left the bottom area, below the fence, in the shot to provide a base. I feel it works with the blue sky to frame the field as do the brush plantings on the sides. Lots of subtle lines for the eye to follow around that bright center.

What do you think?

Palouse Falls

Liddy and I are getting serious about our Northwest Rambles. Late last month, we headed over to a couple of iconic locations in Central Washington to see what the fuss is all about.

Our first stop was Palouse Falls. I think this is definitely worth a visit.

Because the Falls are so iconic, it is not a place where you are going to find a very unique view to shoot. After scouting up and down the river a bit, I chose this composition because of the way the weeds and the slot in the canyon wall, frames the falls. It was getting on towards sunset, so the clouds obliged with some pink.

I foolishly thought I might be able to get some images later in the evening, but it was so dark in the canyon, I couldn’t make it work. Also, it was a full moon that evening with the moon rising just on the left edge of this shot. Again, I wasn’t able to get anything I liked. My Tacoma Photo Club buddies have shown some really interesting night shots here, blending daytime landscape with nighttime stars. An excuse for Liddy & I to come back for another stay.

Behind us, the sky did light up and did provide an opportunity for this silhouette. Full disclosure, the color in the sky has been pumped up a tad. (It’s art – get over it)

We have had another year of wildfires here in the Northwest. I was going to say exceptional, but they seem to be the new normal. Anyway, because of the fire conditions, there was a big reader board at the park entrance proclaiming no open flames and no smoking. Fortunately for us, the smoke and haze that was filling the air through August had pretty much dissipated.

Words of warning. If you don’t like heights, stay inside the fence. The canyon is deep and there are frequent events where some less than careful people have given themselves a short and final lesson in gravity.


Palouse Falls is located in Palouse Falls State Park. You will need a Discover Pass.
There is camping here – 11 ‘primitive’ campsites and a pit toilet. Check the Washington State Parks site for current rates. Also, if you plan to camp, take folding money. The site has no way to accept your credit card.

Hotel Prius

Liddy and I spent the night. It was our first experience sleeping in the Hotel Prius. While not exactly the Ritz Carleton, it was much better than pitching the tent and sleeping on the ground. As it was late September, we shared the site with only one or two other campers.