Sunday, July 23, 2017

Discovering the Cool Coulees

When we left our cozy little camping spot at Alpine View campground in Leavenworth, Washington, we were officially heading east. We were sad to leave the Cascade Mountains behind, and our stomachs were equally sad to see the last of the fruit orchards. We are seeing empty wooden boxes used to transport fresh fruit from the orchard to the processing plants. These boxes are stacked as tall and big as a barn, ready for more of the fruit harvest. This area is known for its apples and pears, and they won't be ripe for over a month from now.

We stopped in for more bing cherries selling for $1 per pound at a little fruit stand we had visited several days earlier. When we found that they were finished for the season, Denisa almost cried. This is going to make it harder for her to keep her pledge to eat her weight in cherries while living in Washington this summer.

We noticed that our blue sky also looked sad, sporting a gray hazy color today. We heard on the news later that smoke from forest fires in Canada has made its way into Washington on the south summer winds.

We are actually in high fire danger here too, and we passed by a section of Highway 2 that had burned recently. The weatherman is predicting more "dry thunderstorms." It is the lightning from these weather events that starts most of the forest fires, with no rain to put out the fire.

Highway 2 suddenly started climbing, as we left the orchards behind. An increase in 2,000 feet of elevation later, and we were suddenly in an entirely different world! This new part of the state was filled with golden wheat fields, almost ready for harvest.

Denisa was raised on a wheat farm, and this landscape looked more like home than anything we have seen on this trek out west. With golden wheat fields on both sides of the road, this looks more like Oklahoma, instead of the fruit-orchard-filled section of Washington we had just left. They farm all the way to the asphalt here, with no fences.

The other thing that looked familiar were the "dirt devils" that were making their way across the just-plowed fields. We're not sure why there were so many, and why they are so big. But we probably saw twenty different mini-tornadoes we call "dirt devils" as we drove this section. We also found they are very hard to photograph. So after Denisa had snapped dozens of pictures from the passenger seat, this was her best picture showing the dust circling high into the air.

After months of traveling among the tall trees and the ocean, we are suddenly on a high plateau with no trees in sight. We did find some curious house-sized boulders in the middle of some of the fields. We found they are called "hay stacks" and they were deposited here by the glaciers thousands of years ago. Today, it just means that the farmer has to drive his tractor around them.

This drive was less than two hours long, but it felt like we had traveled far in terms of landscape. It changed again, as we topped a hill and looked down into a wide canyon with tall black canyon walls around us. We had just been introduced to our first coulee!

In fact, that it reason we are driving this direction. We had heard about the coulees found in north central Washington, and someone had to tell us that a coulee is a deep gully or ravine. We had to be educated on all things coulee, so here's a layman's description of what the geologists say:  This area was once a giant lava field. But lava cools quickly, with cracks and breaks in the newly formed rock. So when a giant ice age flood roared through here 10,000 years ago, the wall of water washed away channels of the brittle volcanic rock. That left these tall black canyon walls surrounding the washed-away gully. 

More simply, we think that God thought that this north central part of Washington would be pretty with this unique geological wonder. So we are camped in the shadow of the coulees that ring Banks Lake here in Coulee City.

Aren't coulees cool? We plan to see more of them as we wander through more of God's wonders near our new home town of Coulee City, Washington.

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