Category Archives: Photo Project: 50 States

Breezing Through The Palouse

Rural scenery in The Palouse area of eastern Washington north of Pullman

On the day we arrived in Pullman, Washington, the weather service had posted high wind warnings for the following day, with blowing dust, falling trees and all sorts of mayhem.  As if that wasn’t enough, when we checked in to our motel we found out that a group of National Guard troops were due to arrive the following day to set up a Covid testing site at the university.  Swell.

Rural scenery in The Palouse area of eastern Washington north of Pullman
Rural scenery in The Palouse area of eastern Washington north of Pullman
Rural scenery in The Palouse area of eastern Washington north of Pullman
Rural scenery in The Palouse area of eastern Washington north of Pullman
Rural scenery in The Palouse area of eastern Washington north of Pullman

For those who don’t already know, The Palouse is a distinct geographic region encompassing parts of north central Idaho, southeastern Washington, and, by some definitions, parts of northeast Oregon.  It has become a destination for photographers from all over due to the rolling hills that come alive in the spring and fall when this fertile land produces a mix of deep greens and brilliant yellows.  Our visit was past the peak time, so for the most part we saw fields of wheat contrasting with areas that had already been harvested, so instead of green and yellow we had yellow and brown.  It still made for some interesting photographs!

Rural countryside along SR 26 in southeastern Washington
Rural countryside along SR 26 in southeastern Washington

I had dismissed The Palouse as one of those photographic cliches that “everyone” does, like the slot canyons in Arizona or the “Boneyard” in South Carolina.  And in many ways it is exactly that.  If you are there at the right time and in the right light, all you really need to so is point the camera at something and press the button.  But the interesting thing is that it isn’t that easy!  In order to make a personally interesting photograph you need to work at it.  Yes, I took a bunch of photos, but when it came right down to it I ended up with only a handful or two of truly “special” photos.

Rural scenery along US-195 near Uniontown, Washington
Rural scenery along US-195 near Uniontown, Washington

We had only planned to spend two nights in Pullman anyway and were prepared to make the most of our time, so we set out in late afternoon of the first day to explore the countryside.  We had no difficulty finding photogenic scenery!  The biggest difficulty was that most of the roads through the countryside are dirt and gravel.  And the dirt is not what we find here in the east.  Because the soil is so rich and fertile, the dirt can be more like a fine talcum powder, and it gets into everything.  Fortunately I didn’t have to change lenses in the field so I didn’t have that to worry about!  The car, however, was a mess!

The next day we had planned to head to Steptoe Butte, a state park with a high point that is supposed to be ideal for photographing the surrounding countryside.  But when we got up in the morning, the winds had arrived as advertised, so we decided to skip Steptoe, reasoning that the higher elevation would make it a very unpleasant place to spend a wind storm.  So we headed west and south toward the Snake River Valley.

Blowing dust along SR 261 near Palouse Falls State Park in southeastern Washington
Railroad trestle across the Snake River near Perry, Washington

How windy was it?  Well, they actually closed I-90 due to dangerous crosswinds and blowing dust.  And on the country roads we were traveling, it got to the point where I had to turn off the car’s anti-collision system, because every time a tumbleweed would blow across the road in front of us the car would slam on the brakes as though it was an object of some sort.  Scary, especially if someone had been behind me!  Fortunately there was hardly anyone else on the road, so it was no big deal.

Little Goose Lock and Dam along the Snake River near LaCrosse, Washington
Little Goose Lock and Dam along the Snake River near LaCrosse, Washington
Fish ladder at the Little Goose Lock and Dam
Fish viewing area at the fish ladder of the Little Goose Lock and Dam

Down along the Snake River, things were a bit less windy and not so dusty.  We stopped at the Little Goose Lock & Dam near LaCrosse, where we talked to one of the biologists there and toured the fish ladder and viewing room.  We saw several species of fish, including Chinook Salmon, swimming through.

“Wheel Fence” at the Dahmen Barn along US-195 in Uniontown, Washington
“Wheel Fence” at the Dahmen Barn along US-195 in Uniontown, Washington
“Wheel Fence” at the Dahmen Barn along US-195 in Uniontown, Washington

I definitely felt that The Palouse was worth the time and effort to go there.  And I’d love to go back sometime and spend more time out and about.  The trick will be to try and find “different” subject matter.  There’s nothing wrong with photographing the rolling countryside, but there is a lot more there too.  It’s just that the countryside is right there in front of you, and makes it a little hard to look for other things.

Rural countryside along SR 26 in southeastern Washington

Update 10/27/20: I’ve added a gallery of more photos on my Adobe Portfolio site for anyone who wants to see more.

National Bison Range, Montana

National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana

On our drive from Missoula, Montana to eastern Washington we took a small detour to the National Bison Range, near Charlo, Montana.  Thanks to Don Brown for making us aware of this place!

National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana
National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana
National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana
National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana

Theodore Roosevelt established the National Bison Range in 1908 to provide “…for a permanent national bison range for the herd of bison….” The refuge is also home for a host of other mammals, birds, plants and many living creatures.  The diverse habitats found here provide for the specific needs of many different animals.  Today the Bison range is home to 300-400 bison.  In addition to herds of bison, it supports populations of Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep as well as coyotes, mountain lions, bears, bobcat and over 200 species of birds.

National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana
National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana
National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana
National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana
National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana
National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana

The Red Sleep Mountain Drive is a 19-mile, one-way loop road through the range.  The road gains 2,000 feet and there are many switchbacks and 10% grades along the drive. We enjoyed our drive along the route, spotting a number of bison, osprey, antelope and other critters.

Antelope at the National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana
Osprey at the National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana

This is another example of the off-the-beaten-path places that we visited.  It is was an excellent and scenic way to spend a relaxing morning before moving on west.

PHOTO GALLERY UPDATE:

For those looking to see even more photos from our trip, I just added a gallery to my Adobe Portfolio page.  Click here for 2020 Pacific Northwest Road Trip Part 1.  I hope you enjoy the photos!

National Bison Range near Charlo, Montana

Grant-Kohrs Ranch, Montana

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site near Deer Lodge, Montana

I got waylaid in my processing with a few projects around the house, but I’m back in the photo processing groove again and re-living our visit to Montana. 🙂

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site near Deer Lodge, Montana

On our drive from Billings to Missoula we stopped by Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, near the town of Deer Lodge.  That’s not as remote as it sounds, as Deer Lodge lies within sight of I-90, not too far from Helena.

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site near Deer Lodge, Montana
Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site near Deer Lodge, Montana

Grant-Kohrs Ranch has an interesting history, dating to the 1860s when the open-range cattle industry had its heyday.  Many of the herds were built through trade with westward-bound emigrants, who gladly swapped two or more trail-worn cows for a single well-fed one.

Ranger talks about living and cooking on the range

From the NPS website:

“By 1885, cattle raising was the biggest industry on the High Plains, and foreign investors and eastern speculators rushed to get in on the bonanza. As ranches multiplied and the northern herds grew, there came a predictable consequence: overgrazing. This and the fierce winter of 1886-87 caused enormous losses, estimated at one-third to one-half of all the cattle on the northern plains. Many cattlemen never recovered.

If the snows of ’86-87 foreshadowed the end of open range ranching, the homesteaders, with their barbed wire and fenced-in 160 acre claims, finished it off.

The open-range cattle industry lasted only three decades. Few of its pioneering men and women made their fortunes or are remembered today. But from their beginnings has evolved the more scientific ranching of today, with its own risks and uncertainties. That is the legacy of the Grants and the Kohrs, whose pioneer ranch, complete with original furnishings, is a reminder of an important chapter in the history of the West.”

Old wagon
Blacksmith shop with a sample of t he G-K brand
Branding Irons
Blacksmith Shop
Blacksmith Shop

Walking around the ranch, I felt like I was experiencing the plains of Montana much like the early settlers saw it.  Miles and miles of open range, perforated now by barbed-wire fences but the long range views remain.

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site near Deer Lodge, Montana

This was another one of those places we visited where we were able to steer well clear of crowds.  The few people we saw there seemed to have been mostly attracted by the proximity to the interstate and the availability of restrooms. 😉  For us it was another piece of western history to add to our knowledge of this country.

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site near Deer Lodge, Montana

Yellowtail Dam – Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

Yellowtail Dam in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith

Even though Kathy & I had considered Wyoming and Montana to be “visited” in terms of our 50 state quest, we knew that we had short-changed both states on our previous visit.  Since we needed to traverse both of those states on our way to the west coast, we decided to rectify that shortfall with a few more stops.  Bighorn Canyon National Recreation fit that bill, as it straddles the border between both states.

Yellowtail Dam in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith
Yellowtail Dam area in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith

The southern end of the park lies in northern Wyoming, and was the subject of my previous post.  There are more places that we didn’t get to due to time constraints, and we spent the better part of a day on the northern end of the park, in southern Montana.

The upper side of Yellowtail Dam and reservoir.
The upper side of Yellowtail Dam and reservoir.
The upper side of Yellowtail Dam and reservoir.
The upper side of Yellowtail Dam and reservoir.

Yellowtail Dam is another one of those places that you can’t really appreciate until you have seen it.  I’ve not been to Hoover Dam or Glen Canyon Dam, but this is certainly the biggest dam I’ve ever seen!  An exchange I had on Instagram with Paul Maxim describes the relative size of some of the “famous” dams in the US:

Yellowtail is 525 ft. tall and 1480 ft. wide. Glen Canyon is 710 ft. tall and 1560 ft. wide. So Glen Canyon is bigger (185 ft. taller). But the only dam in the U. S. bigger than Glen Canyon is Hoover Dam, which is 726 ft. tall. All of them, of course, are big. We’ve got nothing in the east that comes close!

The park is surrounded by Crow Indian land, and there are several references to Crow history throughout the park, including the remains of a medicine wheel that we didn’t get to.

Exhibit describing the role of the medicine wheel in Crow Indian culture and history.
Exhibit describing the role of the medicine wheel in Crow Indian culture and history.
Exhibit describing the role of the medicine wheel in Crow Indian culture and history.

It is rugged and scenic territory, and with all the red rock and lack of trees, far different from what we see in the east, or even in other parts of Wyoming and Montana.  Another example of how unique but also how uniquely beautiful the different parts of our country can be.

Yellowtail Dam area in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith
Yellowtail Dam area in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith
Yellowtail Dam area in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith
Yellowtail Dam area in Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Montana near Fort Smith

An Unexpectedly Scenic Drive

Scenery along Alt US-14 through the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in North central Wyoming

One of the things that maps don’t always tell us is what the terrain is like on a given road or in a given town.  We’ve been surprised by this numerous times when we get to a place and it is either hillier than we expected or not hilly at all.  One such place came up on our drive through Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming.

Scenery along Alt US-14 through the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in North central Wyoming
Scenery along Alt US-14 through the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in North central Wyoming
Scenery along Alt US-14 through the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in North central Wyoming

We had spent the night in Rapid City, SD and wanted to get to Billings, MT via Lowell, WY in order to see the southern section of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation area, which stretches from Fort Smith in southern Montana, where the Yellowtail Dam is located, to Lowell, WY, the southern end of the reservoir.  That route took us on 60-ish miles of Alt-US 14 – known as the Bighorn Scenic Byway – through Bighorn National Forest, from near Sheridan, WY to Lowell.  And I have to say that it was one of the most stunning drives of any I have ever taken, including Trail Ridge Road in RMNP.  The terrain was rugged and beautiful, the road was wide and smooth, and the views were amazing.  In hindsight, that might have been a bigger highlight than Lowell, but at the time, who knew?

Scenery along Alt US-14 through the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in North central Wyoming
Scenery along Alt US-14 through the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in North central Wyoming
Scenery along Alt US-14 through the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in North central Wyoming

How rugged is the country in Bighorn National Forest?  The road is closed in the winter, as the elevation reaches 9,033 feet at Granite Pass.  That’s getting up there, as the highest point on our side of the Mississippi is a “mere” 6,684 feet (Mount Mitchell in NC).  By comparison, the elevation difference between the valley near Dayton, WY to Granite Pass is nearly that whole amount – almost 6,000 feet!

Scenery along Alt US-14 through the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in North central Wyoming

I hadn’t paid much attention to this area before, but now that we’ve been there I am anxious to get back.  There are a lot of interesting things to see and do in the area.  Perhaps a few days in Sheridan on our way to or from Yellowstone or Grand Teton, when we decide it’s time to visit that part of the country again.

Scenery along Alt US-14 through the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in North central Wyoming

 

 

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Inn at Cannon Beach Hotel in Cannon Beach, Oregon – photo pretty close to how it looked

Smoke gets in a few other places too, yikes!

Before & after comparison of color corrected white balance and original, accurate color

Several folks have expressed concerns about our well being, and I thought it would be best to assure you that we are carrying on quite well, thank you very much.  I haven’t posted for a couple of days, but we’ve actually been quite busy.  I’ll catch up with some Postcards shortly but wanted to give this short update.

Port of Garibaldi and Garibaldi Marina in Garibaldi, Oregon

While we were in Cannon Beach, Oregon, the smoke moved in with quite a vengeance.  And it stayed with it throughout our visit to McMinnville in the Willamette Valley.  But other than keeping us from seeing a lot of the beautiful Oregonian scenery, it hasn’t slowed us down much.  Tonight (Sunday 9/13) we are in Bend, Oregon.  While still in the smoke a bit, we aren’t anywhere near the flames.  Rest assured that while we probably passed within 25-30 miles of some of the fires, there is really little danger here unless you are actually close to the fire.  The rest is mostly an aggravating, stinky fog, and pretty easy to fix with the right white balance setting in Lightroom! 😉

Port of Garibaldi and Garibaldi Marina in Garibaldi, Oregon
Port of Garibaldi and Garibaldi Marina in Garibaldi, Oregon

Monday 9/14 we head to Elko, Nevada where the forecast is for sunny skies, with perhaps a little sun but temperatures in the low 90s during the day.  We can put our long pants and sweaters away for a few days!

Port of Garibaldi and Garibaldi Marina in Garibaldi, Oregon

Footloose In The Palouse

Rural scenery in The Palouse area of eastern Washington north of Pullman

There are some places you can go where the secret to making decent photographs is simply being willing to stop the car.  The Palouse region of eastern Washington state was such a place for me.

I tend to steer clear of photographic icons for the simple reason that it is hard to do anything original there.  That plus the fact that standing at an overlook with a bunch of other photographers isn’t my idea of a good time.  But on this road trip we are concentrating on doing our own thing.

Rural scenery in The Palouse area of eastern Washington north of Pullman

We only had two nights devoted to the Palouse, staying in the town of Pullman, WA.  When we arrived at our hotel we were informed that a group of National Guard personnel were due to arrive the following day to assist with testing of University of Washington students because the campus – surprise, surprise – had become a hotbed of Covid cases.  Swell – so much for distancing.

Rural countryside along SR 26 in southeastern Washington

We limited our public stops in Pullman to two mostly empty restaurants and a grocery store.  We drove the first evening on mostly deserted back roads, got the car filthy dirty but saw some nice scenery.  The second day we awoke to the forecasted high winds and dust storms, so that limited our activities that day.  But in 200+ miles of driving around the area we went from places we weren’t willing to get out of the car to places that were clear as a bell, just windy as heck.

“Wheel Fence” at the Dahmen Barn along US-195 in Uniontown, Washington
“Wheel Fence” at the Dahmen Barn along US-195 in Uniontown, Washington

One of the meccas for photographers is Steptoe Butte, a high spot overlooking the undulating valleys.  We had planned to go there but nixed the idea due to the high winds and dust.  So instead we did the sensible thing and sought out a small local restaurant with excellent food and wine.  The photos can wait for a return visit!

Rural scenery along US-195 near Uniontown, Washington
Rural scenery along US-195 near Uniontown, Washington

I think I did a pretty decent job of finding “my own” version of the Palouse region.  I have hundreds more shots but this is a sample of my initial favorites.

Rural scenery along US-195 near Uniontown, Washington

On The Road Again….

Fall colors along the Poudre Canyon Road through Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forest

Kathy & I departed this morning for what we expect to be an 8,000 +/- mile journey to the Oregon coast, visiting Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana before making the big turn through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Utah before heading back through Colorado and home.  With any luck there will be a Monte sighting along the way. 😉

Rural countryside in Larimer County, Colorado north of Fort Collins

We’re doing a few things differently this trip than we’ve ever done before.  First, and the biggest departure for us, is that we have made zero hotel reservations beyond the first night.  I’ve always been an ‘anal’ planner, preferring to have all my I’s dotted and T’s crossed, weeks and sometimes months before we leave home.  We wanted to make this trip as flexible as possible, and figured that we shouldn’t have trouble finding a place to sleep as long as we keep the “requirements” to a minimum.

Roadside scenery US-281 near Lebanon, Kansas

The second departure – for me – is that this is the longest trip we’ve taken with the least amount of camera gear.  I have my X-T4 and my 3 zoom lenses – the sweet 16-80, the 55-200 and the 10-24.  And it is all in a shoulder bag!  I have always ended up with at least one backpack, sometimes two.  This time the backpack holds our computers and peripherals, but not camera gear.  Nice!

Wind generators off US 36 near SW Lakesite Road near Osborn, Missouri

So stay tuned for some “Postcards” from the road, plus some hopefully interesting photos – and stories – along the way!

Rural scenery in Indiana

You Either Have It Or You Don’t

Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The travel bug, that is. 😉

Over this past weekend I was telling our oldest son Scott about our plans for an upcoming road trip.  He asked “why?”  Meanwhile, our youngest son Kevin is at the beach for two weeks.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico

If you don’t experience or understand the desire to travel, you just don’t have the travel bug.  Scott is a homebody and father, and chooses to stay home.  Kevin is an avid traveler and cruise fan like me & Kathy.  Nobody is cruising these days, so Kevin followed our lead and went to the beach for a change of scenery.  In his job he has a bunch of vacation time that he needs to use by the end of the year, and the clock was ticking!

Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Our plans are to head to the Pacific Northwest shortly, although in addition to all the Covid stuff we are now looking at the spread of wildfires all over the west.  Fortunately our plans are very flexible, and once our Subie is loaded up with a full tank of gas we can go just about anywhere!

Castillo San Cristobal, part of the San Juan National Historic Site in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The travel bug doesn’t wait – the clock is still ticking and we have 18 states to go to get to 50.  With a little luck and a lot of driving we’ll pick up another 5.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

We Got Planes!

EC-135A Airborne Launch Control System (ALCS) – South Dakota Air & Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota

Years ago I hung out with a bunch of guys who were pilots.  Some of them owned their own planes – small homebuilt planes or private planes like a Piper Colt or Ercoupe.  I actually got my own private pilot license, although I haven’t actually driven a plane in about 30 years.  Photography is a very economical hobby compared to flying!  But I still like planes, especially big noisy ones. 😉

C-130E Hercules at Scott Field Heritage Air Park at Scott AFB, Illinois
C-130E Hercules at Scott Field Heritage Air Park at Scott AFB, Illinois
C-141B Starlifter at Scott Field Heritage Air Park at Scott AFB, Illinois

One day a bunch of us were talking about going to the annual EAA Fly-In in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  For a week at the end of July, the EAA “AirVenture” as it is now called, is the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration®.  Kathy was understandably skeptical about the idea of spending a week at an airport with a bunch of airplane geeks, so she asked, “is there anything to see there besides airplanes?”  One of the guys looked up and said to her in all seriousness, “well yeah, there’s parts!” 🙂

KC-135 Stratotanker at Scott Field Heritage Air Park at Scott AFB, Illinois

We didn’t see many airplane parts on our western road trip, but we did see lots of planes.  We visited the static displays at Scott Field in Illinois and Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota.  There are a few photos here, but for those who need to see more, I’ve posted a gallery of airplane photos on my Adobe Portfolio site.

B-52D Stratofortress at the South Dakota Air & Space Museum, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota
B-1B Lancer – South Dakota Air & Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota
A-7D Corsair II – South Dakota Air & Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota