Friday, October 19, 2012

Fall Road Trip: Stevens County, Washington, 10/18/12

The fall colours are peaking throughout the Inland Empire this week. I wasn't sure of what to expect because the summer had been so dry. The trees which normally change first weren't looking so good this time around. Some of them did a "dry and drop" instead of a two-week transition. Fortunately for us the late colours are strong.

I had picked Thursday for a travel day after a beautiful Wednesday. I had three possible destinations in mind: Sherman Pass and Tiger Meadows, in northeastern Washington, the St Joe River Road, over in Idaho. I had made the St Joe trip last fall, and the Tiger trip is quite the long haul, so I picked the Sherman Pass option. I will post fall shots from the other two locations later.

All seemed well, the vehicle had been serviced and the weather seemed to be OK...until I cleared Sunset Hill west of the city. What had been a crystal clear landscape the day before was now a smoky mess. I hadn't heard about any wildfires, what the heck? I had things to do on Friday and Saturday so I figured this was going to have to be the day.

I picked up a Subway sub for the road and headed to Reardan, where I would drive up into Stevens County on WA231. A lot of the colour in the lower valleys was past peak, but a bigger problem looming ahead was a canopy of clouds, angling in from the northwest. Sometimes you want an overcast, but a light one. A heavy overcast doesn't allow the light to "pop" the fall colours. As I said, this was my day so I was pressing on.

I crossed over the ridge to the Columbia River/Lake Roosevelt and arrived in Hunters. The highway then travels alongside the river, at varying distances. I hadn't been out there in over 20 years, but the scenery hadn't changed. It looked just like my older photos so I only took a few token shots of the River.

This is a view upriver from where the road first reaches river level north of Hunters.

A little bit of colour I found in a lakeside campground. 
The looming gray skies seemed to be taking the light off of the higher mountains over toward Sherman Pass so I decided I wasn't going to take the time to go all the way up there. Instead I began meandering some of the side roads, like Pleasant Valley Road, running uphill from the town of Rice.
Pleasant Valley Road went up the valley and then climbed up an over a ridge, offering this view back down toward the river. You can see the thicker clouds looming in the distance. They weren't moving across the sky, they kept forming and changing shape. Holes would open and close at random and I always seemed to end up on the wrong side of a heavier band of cloud.

I had hoped the road would loop back around and connect to Rice-Orin Road, and it did. As I drove back down to Rice, I found this bit of roadside art over a set of mailboxes.
I shot this barn, now cow shelter, just outside of the town.

I went back up the hill to take a primitive road that I knew connected to Pleasant Valley Road but a FedEx truck turned onto the road just as I got there. Two is a crowd on a primitive road so I kept going up the hill. There I found an explosion of colour up in a draw. Why can't this stuff grow next to the road instead of way up on someone's land?
Does shooting photos count?

Since the cloud situation wasn't getting any better I decided to cut my losses and head over the ridge, back toward Colville. I found this barn just as I came out of the woods. The fall colour on this side of the ridge was peaking; you can see some Tamarack on the hill in the background.
Back down in "civilization." I picked up a coffee in Colville and kept driving south to Chewelah, where I finally ate the rest of my Subway sandwich, parked by the city park. From there I crossed to the west side of the valley to take the quieter route. Speaking of valleys, this shot was taken near a town called Valley.
I took another side trip to Waitts Lake, up in the mountains to the west. At the boat ramp I found two pairs of fisher folk, securing their gear for the ride home.
Back on WA231 I stopped to shoot the smoke from what are probably controlled burns on the Reservation. When I got back to town there was a band of heavy smoke to the east, but this smoke was moving westward.

This was taken from the same spot, looking toward Ford. Wait...that is a Ford in the shot...heading into Ford...nevermind. While I was here I was passed by a couple of goofs in a Nissan pickup, whom I had seen examining the vehicle in Springdale. They had put a half dozen logs in the back but they were looking at a front tire. One of the guys was holding a taillight assembly in his hand. Once I had hit the road again, I caught up with them in Ford. I saw a cloud of dust and thought they had reached their destination. Not so. They were standing outside of the truck, looking at the same tire, but this time it had gone flat. Good luck with that, boys.

Once I was back on this side of the Spokane River, I took a meandering route from the Reardan area back towards Spokane. This familiar group of trees caught my eye so I thought I'd take a "while I'm there" shot.
So there you have it, fresh out of the camera, and hot off the presses. I think I covered at least 250 miles on this trip, and after that I was ready to get into a chair that didn't have a steering wheel in front of it. Looks like we're going to have a rainy and windy weekend. Rain changes the light and can add interesting elements to anothewise "standard" fall scene. A wet street offers more contrast than a dry one, and wet tree trunks are that much darker, making the colours of the leaves that much brighter.
The key to making the most of it? Get out there under different conditions and see what's going on!

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