Labor Intensive

Labor Intensive

It’s Labor Day Weekend, and as I was laboring to get my booth ready for the Issaquah Salmon Days festival next month, I started thinking about how I spent my Labor Day weekend six years ago. Nope, no BBQ grill was involved, but it did involve a road trip. Back in 2008, I packed up my camera gear and headed to eastern Washington and Idaho to visit the beautiful rolling hills of The Palouse for a three day photo shoot.

The Palouse, besides being pretty, is a major agricultural area, primarily producing wheat and legumes. In fact, it is the most important lentil-growing region in the USA and the best wheat-growing area in the country. But I didn’t go out there for the farming. I went there for the natural beauty.

Spool of Wire, The Palouse, Idaho

A spool of barbed wire hangs on a fence post on a farm in The Palouse, Idaho.

What makes the Palouse Prairie interesting is the peculiar and picturesque silt dunes that were created during the ice ages. The region was lucky enough to escape the catastrophic flooding that resulted from Glacial Lake Missoula, which periodically would unleash unspeakable amounts of water whenever an ice dam broke. This stripped much of central and eastern Washington of its topsoil, but instead the Palouse collected vast amounts of windblown glacial silt, or “loess”, and thus became both extremely fertile as well as picturesque.

The Palouse has no exact boundaries, but it is generally defined as being north of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers, south of Spokane, east of US 395 and extending just past US 95 into Idaho. But you know it when you see it.

The Palouse is a photographer’s paradise. Not only does it provide beautiful rolling hills, but it even has a couple of outsized buttes that allow photographers to get what appear to be aerial photographs without the bother of having to actually find an airplane. And the farmers help, too. They create some of the most interesting patterns in the fields that I doubt there’s any agricultural reason to do. I’m pretty sure they’re just showing off half the time!

Harvested Dome, The Palouse, Washington

A dome-shaped field shows patterns left by the harvester, in The Palouse, Washington.

And the barns! If you’re ever looking for barns to photograph, the Palouse is the place to go. They’re everywhere, in every conceivable state from beautifully maintained to not much more than a pile of lumber. I covered one well-kept barn and it’s illustrious owner in the post “No Tilling Whom You’re Going to Meet“. There’s an abundance of old homesteads, as well. Some of the old abandoned houses have a definite spooky feel to them. And don’t forget the cute little towns with their brightly painted buildings and historic downtowns.

Main and Beach, Palouse, Washington

A historic building at the corner of Main St. and Beach St. advertizes the Palouse Days festival, in Palouse, Washington.

The area is so interesting it has its own scenic byway, the Palouse Scenic Byway. There are plenty of interesting places to visit along the byway, too many to mention here, but trust me, the place is a gold mine for photographers and sightseers.

So if you live in the Seattle area, I don’t have to remind you that summer is just about over, and that means the rains are coming. When Springtime rolls around and you’re about to go mad from all the rain, consider a trip to the east of the Cascades to check out The Palouse and to get a dryer perspective on life. You won’t be disappointed!

Palouse Wheat Fields, The Palouse, Idaho

Wheat fields bask in the sun as puffy clouds sail overhead, in The Palouse, Idaho.

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3 Responses to “Labor Intensive”

  1. Deb says:

    Thank you for those beautiful photographs of the Palouse, Ed. I really miss driving over there every year when my daughter was in college. It is so gorgeous, hypnotic and calming…so worth the drive especially during the spring and especially the fall. 🙂

    • Ed Leckert says:

      You’re quite welcome, Deb. I started to mention that students and parents of WSU would be familiar with the beauty of highway 26 as it cuts through the heart of The Palouse.

  2. Sue-Z says:

    Beautiful photo’s. Sounds like a great road trip!

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