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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Neat Neat Neat

The dry side always calls me, particularly so in its very early and brief Spring.  The dry arid countryside holds little interest for many who fly through on the freeway.  For me it is a world of wonder.  It think what draws me is that it is so different from my home.  A few short hours and I am in a different country.

The area west of Vantage, just up from the Columbia River feels ancient and timeless.  It is hard country with bare rock and swift winds.  The wind turbines are taking advantage of these winds, generating power.

From a handy parking area on the highway you can strike out over the land or along many dirt roads.  It is a popular hunting area in the Winter, but during the other seasons bird watchers and flower seekers ramble the land.  There are many fair roads and motorcycles and bikes are a handy way to get out into the open range. Most cars are not useful here in the rutted broken roads

Flowers draw me.  I come here to see the Hedgehog Cactus in bloom.  I am also on the lookout for Bitterroot.  All over the dry slopes Meadowlark sing their wonderful gurgling song.  Such shy birds, getting a picture is next to impossible.   I am sure those birds who live in town are better models for the camera. 

I did not have any particular place in mind so I struck out on one of the roads.  the slopes were covered in Lupine , Balsamroot and Desert Parsleys.

I figured I needed to go someplace I had not been before so I decided to go over and see those basalt cliffs.  I simply walked straight for them, cross country.

Not content to take the easy way up I climbed up the narrow route to the left.  I was hoping to meet something interesting in the rocks.  Nothing was about.

I found this nifty water catcher.  Just two corrugated metal panels and a fiberglass basin.  I have never seen anything like it.

I found an old water trough half filled with water and growing some kind of green duckweed.  On a stick just breaking the surface, a small butterfly was very polite and allowed me to get a few pictures.  There are many small blue butterflies; collectively called "Blues".  My tentative id of this one is Silvery Blue .

I rambled for some time keeping my eyes out for cactus.  They are predictable in their preference for rocky broken rocky areas.  Being small and close to the ground when they are young and not in bloom it is easy to mistake them for a rock.  I hate stepping on the little ones.  The bigger ones are simple to spot.

Cannot miss these.

Bitterroot seemed to be missing this day.  Perhaps I was simply in the wrong spot.  I made my way back towards the parking area into an area I knew fairly well.  It was not long before I spotted some choice blooms. 

Lewisia rediviva ; restored to life.  This, I feel, is our most beautiful native flower.  Its small buds push up through the hard soil, often from under rocks.  Easy to step on those fragile buds. 

I walked along the road with my eyes down.  Not content with just one random blossom.

Then I saw something move in front of me.  I wasn't going to make a hunt but I could not leave it be.  I quickly got my camera at the ready and got on my hands and knees  (in the wilderness no one can hear you say "oof")

I see you

A Pygmy short-horned lizard (Phrynosoma douglassii) aka horned toad.  It could not have been more than 3 inches long including tail.  Probably young, they top out at 5 inches

This is the good stuff.

Neat neat neat


  1. Looks like great timing for your trip. Great cacti shots.

  2. Wow - amazing pictures. We love the east side too, the rocks, the plants, the birds. When we vacationed there two years ago the Meadowlarks were so abundant that as we drove slowly along we had continuous bird song. I took hundreds of photos of them, on fences, on wires, on long rock walls - it was amazing. Their song is one of the best in the world.

    The wind farms are amazing too - as is the wind atop some of those wonderful hills. I'm glad to hear someone say they love the east side - when we've talked of our vacations over there, we find very few people over here in Western Washington who even know what is over there to see - what a shame. It is a glorious land of massive wheat fields, towering rocks, lakes in the most unlikely place - and Palouse Falls - always our first visit. Thanks so much for sharing.

  3. Great photos. Love that little lizard. Must get over to that area again.

    On another note, are you going to Sinlahekin tomorrow? Sounds like a great excursion though I can only go on Saturday.

    I think I wrote that I had been up OBR and found a ton of montanums in four different places along the road. The green ones were not blooming yet, not at RT either. Your spot was still the best, though. Amazing and very small plants.

  4. Eager to see your picture of the Warbler. The Mountain Lady's Slipers were just starting to go by when we saw them a few days ago, especially the darker forms but we did not get to RT. There's a growing population of them there, quite a few more stems than I remember.