Summer is here, what better time to plan a road trip out to see some sights around the PNW. Last summer we took a road trip out to see one of Washington’s largest waterfalls, also known as the official waterfall of Washington state. Along with the several hour drive out to the falls, we skated deserted roads, climbed atop a large graffitied bus in the middle of no where and even stayed at my now favorite lake in the Mount Hood Wilderness.
At the end of the last ice age, repeated glacial floods, known as the Missoula Floods, swept across eastern Washington carving out the unique scablands landscape we see today. Among the coulees, potholes, buttes, and plateaus, Palouse Falls remains as one of the magnificent and lasting remnants of these glacial floods. It is the only major waterfall left along this thousands of years old glacial flood path. Standing at a height of 198 feet and surrounded by striking basalt cliffs, the powerful waterfall lies on the Palouse River upstream of the confluence with the Snake River.
We drove through the heat in mid August, probably just about the worst time of the summer you could visit, but alas we were on our way. It was close to a 5 hour drive all the way up the 84 as the thick woods fade into plateaus that transform into a desert its not a bad drive. You cross over a bridge a bit past Boardman tree farm into Washington and the vibe changes, the winds blowing my hair through the 3/4 cracked window and I can smell the sweet grass billowing in. Another 45 mins goes by and we are driving through rolling grasslands that have turned brown in the summers sweltering dry heat, turned down some small roads where the whoops in the road make me giggle and they are as black as the night that is soon to fall upon us.
Just a few more turns left till we arrive at the falls, We pass an abandoned yellow school bus swallowed up by graffiti and grass that has grown around it. We pull off the highway and walk over a fence and through brush about 1/8 of a mile until we are able to reach the bus. We climb in it, on top of it and walk through it there are tire tracks leading to the bus, remnants of when it was left there a long while ago I supposed. evening was upon us so we took some photos and ran back to the car through the brush.
We arrived at the falls, however this late in the summer, it wasn’t as raging as I had seen in photos all across the internet. I was a little disappointed but not nearly as disappointed as I had become with the human race after staying the night in one of the last camp spots they had available there at the park. This shouldn’t be considered a campground, it was more like a glorified day use area. there was grass, and trees, a parking lot that overlooked the falls and the trail down to the bottom. The camp spots were all right on top of each other each with their own water spigot, wooden table, and fire pit.
We quickly claimed the last spot, put our tent up and set up camp for the evening. We headed out to check out the waterfall and the trails below, I’ll talk more about that in a minute, but first. We came back to camp to make dinner and relax out of the sun, which was not an easy task as day users kept walking through our site, using our spigot and just generally being rude as fu*k. There was no talking to them without starting a ruckus and, we came there to RELAX so we tried to make dinner on our table, however we were constantly interrupted by other day users trying to sit at our table and leave there things there. I mean I am friendly person but come on isn’t there common decency anymore?
The waterfall was pretty amazing when you get right up on top of it, I was close but, that fear of heights gets me every time. So I admired from a safe-ish distance ha! you have to hike all the way down to get up to the top, so it takes a minute to get there. you hike the tiny little ridge trail around some outcropping up to the top of the waterfall which wraps around the side of the mountain and slowly descends, all while the trail shrinks slowly to the size of a game trail, needless to say I didn’t make it to the bottom this time around. At this point the sun was starting to fall behind the hills so we headed back to camp for more water and dinner.
As the evening progressed I thought it wasn’t so bad and most of the day users had gone for the evening. we met some folks who were camping down below us that stopped us as we were walking by with the dog to have some hand made, cinnamon + sugar donuts they were frying up in their little backpacking stove, they were amazing by the way, the conversation wasn’t to shabby either. After awhile of light evening banter we headed back up to the tent to get some rest, but that wasn’t going to come easy. There were vehicles driving in all night leaving their headlights gleaming on our tents and loud V8 engines running. The next morning I awoke to the smell of cigarettes and quite chatter, when I crawled out of the tent I found more day users just waiting for people to evacuate camp so they could replace us. Another day of this was not going to happen, I looked at my partner and said thats it were going somewhere else. we packed up camp quickly as I scrambled to think of where we could go from here and not ruin our weekend.
We Grabbed some long boarding time on the empty desert roads that were still black as night early that morning on our way out and headed for the Oregon mountains. I know how packed the lakes get near mount hood on the weekends but we tried anyways. We drove a few hours back to Oregon and through the winding mountain roads and found ourselves at a lake oasis in the middle of it all called Timothy Lake. As luck would have it there was ONE spot available. just one, and we got it! I was beyond happy that luck played in our favor this time.
It was one of those perfect days, we set up camp, assembled our new bbq, and headed down to the lake for some real relaxation. It was perfect. The campground was one of the cleanest and well maintained i’d ever been to, we even had super friendly neighbors that weren’t too loud. The camp host came by to check us in and we ended up chatting about becoming camp hosts ourselves, responsibilities, compensation and just the joy you feel from this kind of freedom. To me it was the first of many pivotal conversations we have had about going on the road full time.
Later that evening laying in my hammock swinging back and fourth, I listened to the wind whisper through the pines, the scent of campfire rose into the evening sky and I just thought to myself you know what no road trip is ever without a bump or a cheering camp fire at the end of the night to brighten your spirits. Everything happens for a reason. And that was enough for me. happy trails.