My oldest daughter and I spent a few days camping in southeastern Washington last week. We set up base at Lewis and Clark Trail State park, which is located on State Highway 12 roughly midway between Waltsburg and Dayton. It was a decent enough campground, road noise notwithstanding. However, the site is more heavily infested with invasive plant species than any other camping area I’ve ever visited. All the usual suspects were there, and in force: blackberry, English ivy, knotweed, clematis vitalba, hawthorn, reed canary grass, and so on. There were also a number of other obviously aggressive plants, but I haven’t finished identifying them. There are plenty of native plants in the park, including some good sized ponderosa pine and cottonwoods; but the main “attraction” is the number and variety of aggressive plants draped all over these stalwarts.
We are in the habit of naming our camping sites after key features – e.g. Camp Rabbit; Camp Magpie; Camp Scat. We named this one “Camp Chaos.”
“It isn’t an adventure until something goes wrong.” Yvon Chouinard
Our mission for this outing was pretty simple. First we were going to spend a day at Palouse Falls, about 45 miles by good road to the north of camp. Next we were going to spend a day poking around in the Umatilla National Forest, which lies just a few miles south of the campground. On our way up to the falls we ran into a fast moving brush fire and stopped to take a few photos. We arrived on the scene at the same time as the first responders. The blaze was moving through fields of wheat stubble, and large chunks of sooty debris kept flying over our heads. However, it soon became apparent that containment was going to be a relatively simple matter. We watched for awhile longer, until so many onlookers had gathered that we felt if was getting too congested.
It was mid-day before we arrived at the falls, but even in that kind of flat light the place is still wonderfully impressive.
After getting our fill of the standard views we decided to hike a trail that takes you to the top of the waterfall itself. It was a short and relatively easy hike (about 1.5 mile round trip), but the heat was something else.
As it turned out here was no safe vantage point from which to look directly onto the falls, so we settled for a few shots of the adjacent areas and then headed back towards the visitor center.
The next day we headed south out of Dayton towards a place called Oregon Butte, an active fire-spotting post in the northern section of the Umatilla National Forest. It’s been a hard fire year, but so far this part of Washington has been spared. However, along our route into the forest there were plenty of reminders of past disasters.
The Tee Pee trailhead is well marked and the trail itself is reasonably well maintained. Round trip is about 6 miles and it tops out at 6,387, putting the elevation gain at 987 feet. But it’s an up and down hike and my legs and my Garmin both tell me total elevation changes coming and going added up to nearly twice that much. Even so I’d label it low to moderate in degree of difficulty, even on a hot day.
When we topped out we were on a very narrow ridge. And perched out on the edge of that ridge sits the Oregon Butte Lookout.
Built in 1931, this post is manned (more accurately “womaned”) for three months out of the year. “Julie” is the spotter’s name and I wish we had been able to spend more than a few minutes with her. What an interesting persona and what a fascinating life-style.
Before we left Julie graciously offered to take a picture of me and Erica. Another great summer moment from a year that keeps on giving one wonderful family experience after another.