FARTHER AFIELD: A Dusty Lake Interlude

Last week I was part of a group of seven friends – photographers, botanists, a lichenologist, a ceramicist, a filmmaker, psychologists, and social workers (some categories apply to several people) who journeyed east to explore the dramatic landscape east of the Cascade Range, in central Washington. The Columbia River runs north to south there, grown wide from a series of dams that provide power to customers throughout the northwest. Bluffs line one side of the river; the other side, where we hiked, is cut with canyons of basalt and graced by scattered lakes of all sizes and shapes. One is named Dusty Lake, perhaps for the dun-colored land it rests on.

On the way over the mountain pass, we fended off rain showers, snow squalls, and finally graupel, a kind of snow pellet. In between, glimpses of blue reassured us that it really is spring. As we lost elevation the precipitation cleared out and wind took over, pummelling the landscape. Skies remained overcast for most of our short trip. It could have been a boon to us photographers who dislike midday desert sun, but threatening rainclouds turned the light leaden and flat.

The weather wasn’t a photographer’s dream but we made do. The sculpted landscape thrills you with a power that derives from the liberating, whole-body sense that you are surrounded by limitless space. Grand, crenelated cliffs, here called coulees, rise high overhead, the domain of ravens easefully gliding on the updrafts. A gravel road turns a corner to reveal the surprise of a dark lake where white pelicans preen in the distance like a lost posse of ghosts. Swallows swoop, stitching air and water together. Along the lake margins, Red-winged blackbirds’ rusty cries rise from last year’s crackling-dry cattails. On dusty trails, tangles of weathered grass hide tiny gold and pink wildflower gems. The scent of sagebrush clears the mind as precious oils are released into the atmosphere. Little of the softness one associates with spring can be seen here; rough textures and subdued colors dominate.

*

1.
2. Lakes are rimmed with evaporative deposits.
3. Dusty Lake.

*

Angled rock, sharp scents, and the rude, cold wind on our cheeks – Eastern Washington isn’t a comforting place but for those of us living on the wet, lush, western side of the state, it offers the novelty of open vistas set with a child’s geometry of huge, smooth, blocks of basalt. It’s a good recipe to awaken eyes accustomed to thick, green landscapes ringed with water. Needless to say, plant life on the other side of the Cascade Range is very different. On the first day of our trip, the botanists lucked out when we ran into a rare plant specialist collecting data for a population viability study of an endangered wildflower. (The “BOTANST” license plate was a giveaway). Looking for a place near the river so we wouldn’t have to drive too far, we had inadvertently chosen a special place to hike. The botanist was as excited to show a group of fellow plant lovers around as his friendly Burmese Mountain dog was eager to greet us. Mark pointed out more plants than we could remember – including the fuzzy-leaved rare wildflower, a member of the Borage family which, as Mark informed us, is a “sandy soil obligate.” Almost all the flowers we saw had yet to reach peak bloom or to even open a bud. Spring has been slow and cool in Washington and the flowers are late. No matter – we enjoyed the impromptu private tour of a piece of land that conceals rare secrets from casual visitors.

*

4. Last year’s dried, curled grasses swayed in the breeze – but this photo was made using intentional camera movement.
5. Spring brings a rush of water to the streams.
6. The white bits are not flower buds, they’re feathers and down from a large bird that met its end here.
7. I can’t resist a tangle of tumbleweeds. This is close to the river, where moisture is more available.
8. Venturing into the tangle.

*

The following day, after five campers struggled through a night of screaming winds (Joe and I are softies and stayed in town) we crossed the Columbia River and headed inland to hike at Dusty Lake. The landscape there is a schizoid salad of lakes, wetlands, and rocky, sage-dotted desert. The unusual scenery derives from cataclysmic events like the Missoula floods of 18,000 years ago when glacial floods made their marks on a landscape that had been sculpted by lava flows millions of years before. The geological wallops left imposing views and a dry, spare habitat that shelters interesting wildflowers, lichens, and lizards, among others. I think we all enjoyed switching back and forth between the expansive views and small curiosities. One early blooming wildflower delighted everyone with its incongruous beauty: the hot pink Darkthroat Shooting star (Primula pauciflora). Taking shelter under craggy old sage bushes, the flowers nodded their delicate heads in the breeze as if to agree with our praise. Lichens were another source of color, adorning the rocks, sagebrush, and soil with fiery orange, deep gold, and slate blue. The pops of color cut through the barren landscape like a warbler’s song ringing out across a hushed forest.

Eventually, we had our fill of hiking, photographing, and botanizing. We stopped for coffee and then had dinner at a local burger joint that had been in the same family for generations. Grandmother’s recipe for potato salad is still followed, to our delight. Three of our group departed for Seattle, braving snow over the pass in the dark. The rest of us met the next morning in Vantage for a walk along the river. As we discussed where to walk, we spotted a wild herd of Bighorn sheep grazing on a distant hill. We tried to get closer but couldn’t so there are no photos – but the memory is sweet. After a low-key river walk, we began exploring a side road that heads west, the direction home. A construction roadblock halted our progress so Joe and I decided to head back to the highway for the long trip home. I enjoyed watching the scenery evolve from clear, open skies to snow and mist on the pass, then back to springtime green. All the while I knew the computer was calling me – there were plenty of photographs to sort.

Richard and Sharon continued wandering slowly west, finally picking up the highway to cross the mountains. The trip was short but packed with outdoor discoveries and the pleasure of spending time with friends. When I went through the photos, I puzzled over unidentified plants and grew frustrated at the overall palette, which was very subdued. But that fits a high desert landscape under thick clouds. For this post, I decided to emphasize the quiet color range and leave out the pops of color. Bright flowers will show up in a later post. I promise.

*

9. The lovely Darkthroat Shooting star (color versions coming soon).
10.
11.
12. Big sagebrush (Artemesia tridentata) slowly breaks apart on the sandy desert floor.
13. To the right you can see Richard inspecting the rocks for lichens.
14. I believe this is Crater lichen, Diploschistes scruposus, a lichen found all over the world. We nicknamed this one the Blob. Somehow, Richard tolerates this kind of nonsense from the rest of us.
15. A massive basalt cliff with unlikely patterns formed long ago.
16. Rachel returns from a wander.
17. Dusty Lake from above.

18. Barb raises a hand for hiking with friends.

***


92 comments

    • Stark is right, Jean! And I’m sure you can imagine what I’m talking about when I say it’s a refreshing sight for us folks who live in densely green places. Glad you liked the post! Have a good weekend.

      Like

  1. For me, an unknown but exciting part of the state. Appreciate your restrained way of handling the colors of the landscape, where instead form and contrasts become prominent elements in the story. Looking forward to more goodies….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hans, thank you, it’s good to hear from you. Photography was challenging and I’m not sure I’ll post more from this trip but there will always be another time. I appreciate your thoughts very much.

      Like

    • It’s good to be able to experience such a stark contrast in the environment only a few hours away. We’ve been to the area before and I’m sure we’ll be back, to keep those memories fresh. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for commenting, Simone.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s geologically spectacular, Rudi, and I only wish I had more photos that really show that. We’ll probably go back so there’s always another opportunity to work on that. Thanks for commenting and enjoy your weekend!

      Like

  2. Dear Lynn,
    your photography with lightly coloured grey tones is perfect for photographing these patterns. We enjoyed your descriptions as well as your pictures.
    Thanks for sharing
    The Fab Four of Cley
    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your comment is appreciated, Fab Four, because I know you all have fine eyes for photography (and many other things). πŸ˜‰ The desert is a special place to be. Thanks for your comment and have a lovely weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The words with which you put me in the mood for this post give me pictures before I even look at one of your photos and arouse my curiosity to compare your pictures and mine.
    Β I’m also curious to see what kind of photographs you take when you’re traveling in a less contemplative way than usual, i.e. in the company of a group.Β  When you set off on a joint venture, you don’t want to and can’t immerse yourself so deeply in looking and anticipating.
    Β And really, this series seems more sociable, I’ve probably never seen so many people in one of your posts.Β  Somehow I feel comforted by these people, without them the landscape would be too barren.
    Β To think we’re seeing spring here… and when summer comes it’ll be hotter and sunnier, but with the Pacific rains more likely to spill over the coastal regions, this landscape will still be similarly barren from the drought.
    Β Your decision to emphasize the lack of color, even with a black and white group of images, proves to be extremely effective.Β  #6, on the other hand, looks most colorful with its water freshness.
    Β But the other framework conditions don’t completely blur the photographer’s handwriting.Β  The fine ICM image with the waving grass shows it as well as the poetically exposed flowers.Β  In #7 I admire the shadow lines that structure the water surfaces and at the same time give rock spikes and feather flakes resonance.Β  The tangle in #8 also bears your watermark, and I enjoy watching your use of contrasts: in #2 you make them disappear as much as possible, in #3, 9 and 12 and others you subtly emphasize them.Β  Fine traces of post-processing that you don’t see as such, but appreciate their effect.
    Β I don’t know why your handling of the transitions from picture to picture particularly strikes me here, did you compose more than usual here, or have I not paid enough attention to it up until now?Β  Each picture contains a content or structural link to the predecessor and successor.Β  Following this phenomenon gives me an extra kick.

    Β What a nice Saturday treat your contribution gives me, dear Lynn, thank you very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a nice Saturday treat your comment is, Ule. πŸ™‚ Thank you for that thought about photography with friends vs. alone. It was indeed a social occasion and I value that very much (as you know!). I walked away several times, as did everyone else, to focus a little better on the landscape but it’s fun to add photos of friends, too.
      You’re right, it will be very hot and dry by summer. Spring is the time to see that place.
      Contrast – I love a pale, detailed look like in #1 but am more often drawn to high-contrast images. Of course, you picked up on both kinds of contrast, Ms. Sharp Eyes. πŸ˜‰
      To answer your question about transitions, I always pay attention to them and naturally, sometimes they work better than other times, for various reasons. I liked the blurred grass and water together this time and some of the other transitions. When I have 2 or 3 photos left and they don’t work together, I go back and look for a bridge photo. When I find it, I often process the colors to bridge the gaps between photos that don’t work together. I did that a few times here, not always successfully. But after reading your comment and the others, I feel much better about the post. Thank you!

      Like

      • Transitions here are really fine, pure delight! I can see no reason in this post, why you shouldn’t feel secure about it’s qualities. Nor do I in any other! Have a nice weekend πŸ™‹πŸΌ.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Lynn – thank you for taking us along on your trek, from the comfort of a warm home without those howling winds and graupel. Compelling writing and exquisite images as always. I chuckled at the unexpected mention of Grandma’s potato salad in the middle of your essay. And this was a sublime observation: “The sculpted landscape thrills you with a power that derives from the liberating, whole-body sense that you are surrounded by limitless space.Β ” Great post! (And is it time yet to ask about your Heronry webcam stint?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • πŸ™‚ Yes, vicarious pleasure is a good thing, isn’t it? I appreciate your thoughts – you must have felt similar sensations to what I described. It’s easy to forget that our whole body senses things, not just our individual senses, but in a place like the desert, you’re reminded. The rookery is full of incubating herons – a number of nests have 4 eggs now (there are lots that you can’t see into so who knows, maybe most have 4 eggs). Yesterday I was told that the Skagit Land Trust hopes to have the cam up and running very soon – it’s a matter of having enough solar power to leave one on all day and still be able to operate the other cameras for data collection. We’re getting more sun as I write!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with you entirely about how we perceive the whole world with our whole body, and not just individual separate senses. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, eh? And thanks for the Heronry update! Exciting developments.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The weather you describe in your opening paragraphs sounds ideal (to me) for photos. And I think these photos prove me right. I particularly like #4, #5, and #17 in this group. I also like #18 because the person give some scale to the shot. Excellent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I struggled with this particular weather, maybe because a flat white sky can be hard to incorporate into a big landscape photo. I certainly love overcast days for closeups. And maybe it was also a matter of working with scenery that I only see once in a while. In any case, I feel much better about it all after reading your comment, Ken. It’s nice to hear the blurred grasses and water closeup appealed to you. Enjoy your Webster Weekend!

      Like

  6. Lynn
    You’ve done it again, marvelous description with warmth and compassion.
    Believe it or not but when I first moved here from Hawaii a good chum and I drove my VW van in to Dusty to carry a small boat on top for three days of fishing and beer drinking. That was the only time I saw the lake as they closed the dusty road and hiking was the only access
    Thanks for reigniting my fond memories!!
    Phil

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice work! I have a lot of shooting in austere deserts under my belt, but I have yet to get a handle on that country. It has its beauty, but I find it a whole ‘nother kind of austere compared to the Maojave or Great Basin. I love that basalt detail in #15!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it’s really different from the Mohave and Great Basin. We’ve been all the way down to Organ Pipe NM on the AZ – Mexico border, too, and the eastern Washington desert is nothing like that, either. But the place has its beauty. We all admired that basalt detail while eating lunch. This photo doesn’t show the scale – it’s huge. I hope you get over there someday – the geology is wonderful – and of course, summer and winter are really harsh. Thanks for stopping by.

      Like

  8. I enjoyed learning about the eastern areas of Washington, as we didn’t get any further east than Yakima, and that only briefly. Your words conjure up the landscape beautifully, as do your images. My favourites I think are 6.9 and 11. I’m looking forward to seeing the colours of that flower but actually it looks perfect in monochrome πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sarah, thank you! I admit I struggled with this one – many rewrites, many photo revisions. What a pleasure it is to read your comment. I wouldn’t recommend visiting that area unless you’re here in spring or fall – it’s a tough place in summer and winter. You might see Shooting stars in English gardens – if they’re not already finished! They are surprisingly early bloomers for such delicate plants. (Old Latin genus name – Dodecatheon – new name – Primula).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great stuff, Lynn! Liking the wide view of #3. And some fascinating interference patterns in #5. #9!!! Beautiful shot. Makes me think of some kind of war-of-the-worlds-esque death-ray poised ready to strike.

    βœ¨πŸ¦‹πŸπŸ•ŠπŸ‰πŸ—βš–πŸ•―πŸ€βš›πŸŽπŸŽ‹πŸ™βœ¨

    Liked by 1 person

  10. That subdued dreary landscape definitely creates a different atmosphere to your usual island images. Placing figures into the frame also adds to the atmosphere.
    I envy you both the trip and the walk.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a wild and wonderful adventure with friends, Lynn. Even got hit with graupel! Interesting series of harsh landscapes and close-ups – your rushing water, the mono flowers, the poor bird who must’ve met its demise.
    Sounds like a fantastic getaway…we would’ve stayed in town, too. πŸ˜„

    Like

    • I admire my friends for camping but…sheesh! It was in the 40s at night and windy. It’s an interesting area – we’ve been there before but it’s so unusual and so different from where we live that it’s worth returning. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A landscape like this, quite sober, austere and, in general, “apparently” with little color, is in harmony with the photos shared today, in which color is basically absent and only appears here and there in earthy tones.
    But that doesn’t take away from their beauty. And it makes them quite graphic.
    It was certainly an excellent knowledge-sharing tour!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, knowledge was shared over and over. I didn’t write about a group of women we met on the trail. Several of them had advanced degrees in geology and botany. We were trying to figure out certain plant identifications together. They were from Portland, Oregon, which, like Seattle and where I live, is close to the water and has a completely different climate with different plants. We all get confused by those strange desert plants! But it’s a good challenge to try to identify them and learn about them. The colors are on that side of the mountains are quieter, especially under cloudy skies. It’s SO different!
      Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Dulce!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I too enjoyed the switching back and forth between the expansive views and small curiosities. And I love the subdued palate, eerily beautiful in the long shots, and an aid to really focusing on the image in the small curiosities. I didn’t miss the pops of colour.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  14. “The weather wasn’t a photographer’s dream but we made do.​”​
    A​nd you ​certainly have a special skill to make the best of it! It’s what keeps me/us coming back again and again…
    Oh! and Bighorn sheep… even without the photos it has to be a treasured memory given the elusive magic these creatures bestow. Dare I recommend a favorite book of mine? “Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild” by Ellen Meloy.
    I look forward to the bright colors in the later post! Our skies have been a bit beyond dreary these last few months. (They still are!)
    If I have to choose, #13 & #15 hit the spot for me, though water (as usual) in #17 was not to be overlooked! 😍

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the book recommendation – I don’t know that one will have to look for it. Joe & I saw bighorns fairly close up some years ago around Yakima. The male seemed aggressive and we backed away quickly. It was impressive, with the sheep standing above us and looking very much in charge.
      We had a very long, cool, gray spring but it seems to have encouraged the wildflowers. Wow, are the meadows looking great! It’s such a pleasure. Today’s another overcast day but we’ve had some nice ones and a little warm weather finally arrived recently.
      Good to hear from you – it’s busy here with lots of things going on, including my volunteer stint with the Land Trust to watch the Great blue heron rookery. For the first time today I had hatchlings in 4 of the nests that I monitor weekly. πŸ™‚

      Like

      • The past few months were hard for a variety of reasons. It feels like I may be finding my way back to the ‘light’… at least I hope so. Your mention of the Bighorns inspired me to dig back a bit to our sighting of these magnificent beasts. I was putting together a look back at our encounter when your reply popped up. Including a few quotes from the Meloy book I mentioned.
        I’ve missed some of your posts, but still hanging onto the links… if only the eyes will let me spend some time on the ‘puter….
        Greetings to Joe and hope you’re having more fun with the grand-progeny… πŸ₯°
        …and enjoying the reluctant arrival of spring!

        Liked by 1 person

  15. I love the pretty plaid weave you caught in the water ripples and colors from beneath in 5.
    A wonderful travel essay, as well. I enjoyed the journey and look forward to the next post about it.
    Your choice to stick to the subdued hues for this one did help me appreciate the subtleties and patterns in a unique way. I also liked the inclusion of Richard in 13. to give us the scale of the surrounding formations.

    Like

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the journey…but that’s it for that trip. In the next post, I’m going to try to catch up with the wildflowers that have been blooming up here. Scale! It’s so important out there to have a person somewhere to show how vast it is. And as you know, the photos and text still only hint at the feeling. Thanks, Sheri!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Wonderful post, Lynn. I have been interested in this area for some time; I don’t know if I’ll ever visit it in person so I appreciate your photographs and accompanying narrative from your trips there. I am particularly curious about the landscape features related to the ancient floods. Is this area considered part of the channelled scablands, perhaps the western extent of them?

    Your landscapes are beautiful and interesting; some are obviously in color, some obviously in monochrome. But some it is difficult to tell. I love it! Thanks so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is very interesting, Mic, not many people are familiar with that area, even in Washington. Geologically, it’s fascinating and I’m sorry I didn’t go into that more, for your sake! But you’ve likely read about the Missoula floods, the glaciation, etc. In answer to your question, I found this: “The Channeled Scablands extend from the area around Spokane, west to the Columbia River near Vantage and southwest to the Snake River near Pasco.” So yes! Vantage is where I90 crosses the Columbia. Just south of there is where my friends camped and just north is Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park, full of petrified rocks with Ginkgoes and other plants. Dusty Lake is on the east side of the river.
      You’re exactly right about the range from monochrome to color. I used a variety of tools on these, from just a little desaturating on the flowing water photo to starting with some presets I have in certain photos, to using black and white in others, like the flowers. I found it difficult to get them to all “hang together” so your comment makes me happy, thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Each landscape has its story…the story of the Missoula floods is amazing!

        I forget about desaturating; it can yield very pleasing results as your photographs show especially with this kind of subject matter. I think they all “hang together” very well, Lynn.

        Like

  17. I enjoyed reading about your trip. The landscape is amazing, fascinating! I can imagine very well, how you were all creeping through the bushes and over the stones, finding a nice flower here, a beautiful stone there and lichen in a distance πŸ˜‰ Is there a photo of it ;-)? I love all the structures, as always. #4, 5, 7, 11 and 12 are my favourites. Especially 11 is nice, so poetic, pictorial. I also like 4 very much here. A mixture of “onomatopoeia” in a visual way and asemic writing. I am missing a bit of color in this landscape. It is very pure. I know you get used to this color palette and probably one appreciates it after a while. The colorful flowers must be quite “shocking” in a positive way. I am looking forward to that post πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I’ve told you this before, but if you want to see photos of the lichens, Richard is your guy! Here’s one from Dusty Lake:

      It’s nice to read that you liked the tangled chaos of #7 & #11. πŸ™‚ #4 was much, much lighter but when I darkened it a lot I liked what happened.
      Your idea about onomatopoeia is brilliant, thank you! Pure is a good word to describe desert landscapes. The surprise of hot pink under a sage bush is fantastic. I would have to spend more time there to get a good photo of that combination. There are so many little sticks and twigs and bits of stuff around and under the sage bushes that it’s almost impossible to photograph the scene the way your eyes see it. Too many things get in the way, things that your eyes eliminate but the camera doesn’t.
      The other wonderful thing about that combination is the fresh, soft look of the flower petals against the rough, rugged, gray bark of the sage. But it’s a long drive for us – almost 4 hours. And Shooting stars don’t bloom for long….
      Thanks for being here!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, you told me before, but it is always a joy to have a look πŸ™‚ So many fascinating lichens!!! An unbelievable variety. Are there more or less lichen in the desert than in other surroundings? I am really curious about your photos of the wildflowers in the desert and I hope you can make the pictures you want one day πŸ™‚ It is interesting, that there is so many stuff around. One wouldn’t expect it, right? Does the wind shred all these things?

        Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t think there are more lichens in the desert…but I don’t know. I didn’t make many wildflower photos at all because there were only a few blooming. We were too early for most of them. I think the wind can be hard on things but maybe that happens more in winter, when flowers aren’t blooming. I think (I’m not sure) that a lot of the time there are sunny, hot days with little wind. Things just bake. Lots of small plants begin life under bigger ones for protection. Most of the Shooting stars were under or very close to sage bushes.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Things just bake – I like that πŸ™‚ Thank you for the wonderful photos, I will reply soon. What you write about the wildflowers sounds reasonable to me. So a second chance for you to go there πŸ˜‰ Or next year maybe.

          Like

  18. Great trip, Lynn. Your photo’s are wonderful as always. I could get lost there for weeks. The Dutch Jury goes for Nr15. Your composition makes it look like ancient, sacred architecture; marvelous shot. See you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You would have a great time! You must win the lottery and take a nice, 3 or 4-month trip to the US. I have to say that the rocks in #15 looked so much better in real life than (I think) they do in the photo. The light was so harsh and right above us. More angled light would have helped. But it must not be too bad if the Dutch jury approves of it. Ancient sacred architecture wins my approval!! πŸ™‚

      Like

      • I’m not much of a winner; especially when it comes to lotteries.. I once won a photo-contest that was part of a landart exposition somewhere in the South. Brought me a monopod from the local photo-equipment shop, that I only used once. Maybe when we’re both retired and are going to spend all our moneysavings before we die,.. we will visit the US. We’ll drop by then; and we do one of your local walks together.. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  19. Looks and sounds like such a fun trip. The beauty of cloudy weather is that you can shoot all day without harsh shadows. I especially like your abstracts #4 & #5. I thought I saw Sasquatch when I first glanced at #7 … I know he lives somewhere near there!

    Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s