Sunday, May 21, 2017

Potholes Coulee

Potholes Coulee is just a few miles north of Frenchman Coulee (previous post), but has a more diverse landscape, with a whole bunch of lakes (both above and below the rim). There are basically two large channels - Dusty Lake sits in the southern one, the multiple Ancient Lakes sit in northern one. It would have amazing to watch during the floods!

Looking West

Looking East
I hiked in from the Quincy Lakes Wildlife area above the rim - from where I parked it was less than ten minutes to the cliff edge overlooking Dusty Lake. I spent a couple of hours exploring the narrow spine (a fin if it were in Utah and perhaps a blade around here) that separates the two coulees - which afforded great views of the lakes on both sides. I'll save an exploration of the lakes themselves for some future trip, but this saved me having to hoof it all the way back up from the bottom.

Ancient Lakes

Route-finding was pretty easy - although it benefitted from earlier reconnaissance with Google Earth. And good views do not require any scrambling - let alone ropes. The flowers were out, the temperatures reasonable, and the rain squalls waited until I was back in the car. I did see one snake (I heard it first), but it was moving away quickly so I couldn't even get a photo.

Frenchman Coulee

I sort of knew this place was here, but never appreciated how close it was to I-90. A 15-minute side trip at the Silica Road Exit would be enough time to check out the view and still make it back to the freeway.

Fortunately, I had more than 15 minutes, so I drove all the way down to the river. I guess this was the route of the old road across the river to Vantage, before the Wanapum Dam was completed in the early 1960s and this part of the valley was flooded. The climbers were out - I also hadn't realized what a climbing mecca this was. Bicyclists were riding down to the river and back. Folks were camped along the way and cars were parked at the trailheads.

And a CWU Geomorph class was getting introduced to the role of the Missoula Floods in creating this landscape. There were many outburst floods from Lake Missoula, but they didn't all take the same route across central Washington (depending a little on which portions of the river were still blocked by ice). But many came down Grand Coulee (over Dry Falls) and then spread out across a broad fan below Ephrata. From there, they took several several paths into the Columbia Valley - including here at Frenchman Coulee and just north at Potholes Coulee (where I went next). The huge floods flowed over the cliffs, plucking and eroding out the basalt, head cutting the flat-bottomed coulees.

In the past, I've posted from Lake Missoula (Gravel Beach: 2011) and Camas Prairie (hshipman: 2014) at the upstream end of this whole flood story.

After a long day trip to Steamboat Rock in 2011, I told myself I should try to get in at least one good excursion to eastern Washington every spring. But somehow it just doesn't happen. Not that I won't keep trying.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Lithia Park

Ashland Creek flows right through downtown Ashland and the town has done a nice job of orienting walkways and restaurants along its edge. The best of these public spaces, and certainly the largest, is Lithia Park which extends a mile or two up from town. The lower part has playgrounds and artificial ponds and manicured gardens, but as you head upstream, the trails thin out and you are walking in the woods.

The geologist in me can't help but see a stream like this as a hazard. One really big rain storm sitting over the upper watershed for a few hours, after an already wet week, on top of a lot of wet snow, could probably do a lot of damage, both in the Park and in town. There have been some pretty big floods (1997, for example) and there are an awful lot of warning signs pointing uphill away from the creek bottom.


After several years of weekend excursions in May to watch D play Ultimate, M has found that a long travel weekend in May is a fitting complement to her birthday. And who am I to argue. She did all the footwork and the bargain hunting. She got us cheap flights to Medford, an Impreza, and three nights at a hotel in downtown Ashland. We flew down early Thursday evening and flew home Sunday afternoon.

Ashland is an upscale town - with a college, a major Shakespeare venue, an up and coming outdoor recreation scene, and plenty of nice restaurants and galleries and coffee shops. Which makes it a bit of a contrast to much of the rest of this corner of Oregon. It's on I-5, or at least very close to it, and I suspect the next time we drive through on the way between Seattle and San Francisco, we'll detour through town.

We saw two plays, neither of them Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare in Love is about the guy and benefits from familiarity with his plays - Romeo and Juliet, in particular. Hannah and the Dread Gazebo was definitely not Shakespeare, but a really nicely done story of both Koreas, of confused ethnic identities, of immigration and language, and the discovery of family baggage. It was also a really neat example of how a potentially depressing plot line can be made very funny, yet remain meaningful.

As always, the trip involved food. Breakfasts at Morning Glory, Greenleaf, and Brother's. Dinner at Hearsay and Amuse. All were very good, some were better (Morning Glory and Hearsay). The healthy part is that we can usually skip lunch. The less healthy part is that we often need a snack by mid-afternoon. M discovered the lemon meringue tart thing at Mix Bakeshop. I tried several coffee places, but both the coffee and the coffee house were best at Noble Coffee Roasters in the Railroad District.

We spent a couple of hours walking through Lithia Park (another post) and an hour driving up into the hills to the east on Dead Indian Memorial Road.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Kubota Gardens

We spent an hour or two on Sunday afternoon at Kubota Gardens. I love May trips to Swanson's and to Sky Nursery, but Kubota is so much cheaper! I may come away with ideas and inspiration, but not cart loads of pricey perennials.

The colors were amazing and I'm always impressed by the size of the place and the diversity of landscapes. It's a very good thing our yard is too small for me to be even tempted by water features and larger trees and stone bridges and flowing carpets of small flowers-- better just to visit someone else's work.

Miller Peninsula

Saturday morning (April 29th), I headed out early. I caught the 7:10 ferry in Edmonds and unloaded my bike at the trailhead by 8:30 or so. What was supposed to be a nice start to the day was sort of overcast.

Miller Peninsula State Park is a very large, very undeveloped area between Port Townsend and Sequim, on the peninsula that separates Sequim Bay from Discovery Bay. A large private development scheme in the 1990s didn't pan out and Parks ended up with an awful lot of forest and beach to hold for future uses. They added a new parking lot a couple of years ago, but there's not much else besides miles of trails. And several miles of coarse gravel beach.

I rode my bike a mile or two to the head of the beach trail and locked it to a tree. The beach was a short hike from there down the ravine. Thompson Spit is a half a mile to the east. Travis Spit is several miles to the west. I visited both, which meant I put on an awful lot of miles walking on cobbles and coarse gravel. But I got to visit two spits and a long stretch of bluff shoreline that I had never managed to visit before.