Friday, May 2, 2014

East of the Mountains

East of the mountains is, for me, another county. It could not be more different than the land west of the Cascades. It has an austere beauty, a severe climate with little rain & a relentless sun. I went there on the 1st weekend in May of 2013 in a borrowed car.  East of the Mountains is also a novel by David Guterson.  I recommend it.

Crab Creek May 2013

I arrived at the Crab Creek trailhead in the Columbia NationalWildlife Refuge at 3 on Saturday. A sign told me rattlesnakes are common & protected.  They bite when they were provoked or startled. As I was still pondering how not to startle a snake (Should I shout out some sort of greeting?) I heard the rattle in the grass very near my feet. I bolted. Then every rustle of grass in the wind made me jump. I was walking through thick vegetation along the creek on a trail that was lost or overgrown in places. There were sagebrush, many grasses & huge areas of shrubby hawthorn.

Erigeron (Fleabane) at Crab Creek May 2013

I came to a broken-down stair of railroad ties that climbed out of the creek bed & onto the sparsely furnished plateau. The views, the wildflowers & the land were beautiful there. It would be very easy to spot a snake.  It was also very windy.  My hat blew off my head & down the cliff.  I climbed down to retrieve.  I hoped the path I had taken along the top of the low basalt cliffs would lead me back to the trailhead without passing through the area of the snake. But the trail, perhaps created by animals, became more & more sketchy, then disappeared. 

 Crab Creek May 2013

I cautiously retraced my route, whistling loudly. Another rattlesnake crossed my past less than 3 feet ahead of me. They are much less threatening when in transit, the rattle trailing mutely behind. When I reached the car, I found that the rear window had been smashed to pieces. Already unnerved by the snakes, I found this act of violence very disturbing. I had never driven with a window missing. I wondered whether I would be sucked out of the car driving 70 mph, or stopped by the highway patrol & left to walk back to Seattle. 

Phlox speciosa at Crab Creek May 2013 

Nothing happened on the way to Moses Lake. I asked the woman at the motel for the number of the police. I knew she was going to ask me why. The officer was not familiar with the location. 'You gotta help me out here,' he said. I felt this was ironic considering the distance I had traveled & the fact that he was stationed less than 20 miles from the incident. I mentioned that I thought I might need to make a report for insurance purposes. 'You don't gotta file an accident report, because there was no accident,' he said. No, I thought, it was very much on purpose. He said he would pass the information on to the rangers. I tried to call Rusty & Steve. I spoke with Dale & my mother.

If you ever need to eat in Moses Lake, go to Michael's Market & Bistro

Phlox & Achillea (Yarrow) at Gloyd Seeps Wildlife Area May 2013

I didn't sleep well & woke early. I drove a short distance to the Gloyd Seeps Wildlife Area. Near the parking lot, it was flat & dotted with stunted sagebrush. Perhaps the land had once been cleared for a field. There was agricultural land all around. The abandoned 4-wheel drive track that the Washington Trails Association website told me to follow for 3 miles ended in a cleared field in about ¼ mile. There was no sign of snakes & quite a number of wildflowers: large mats of phlox, with fleabane, larkspur, lupine & yarrow scattered about. But still, I was disappointed. 

While I was eating breakfast at Somebody's Family Restaurant, my mother called. She said I had to cover the window with plastic or risk carbon monoxide poisoning. 'I don't have any plastic,' I said. ' Keep your windows down & if you feel sleepy, get out of the car,' she advised. I did feel sleepy, because I hadn't slept well.  I kept thinking about carbon monoxide. 

Frenchman Coulee May 2013 

When I got near Vantage, on the Columbia River, I exited Interstate 90 on the spur of the moment. I had been down that road to Frenchman Coulee with Rusty a few years before. It was the highlight of the trip. The rugged scenery & abundant wildflowers were just what I needed.

Erigeron (Fleabane) at Frenchman Coulee May 2013

Lewisia rediviva (Bitterroot) at Frenchman Coulee May 2013

Balsamorhiza sagittata (Arrowleaf Balsamroot) & Artemisia tridentata (Sagebrush) at Frenchman Coulee May 2013

Frenchman Coulee May 2013

Click here for more photos taken east of the mountains.

3 comments:

danger garden said...

Great photos! Sorry about the car window, that's just horrible. Was there something in the car they wanted to steal or do you think it was just out of evilness?

Jordan Jackson said...

There was nothing taken, or visible in the car. I think it was just malicious mischief.

ReMarkable said...

Gorgeous scenery. Reminds me of the Karoo, but more verdant and grassy.

I think carbon monoxide poisoning from a broken back window may be ameliorated by opening front windows ... for the future.