Late Winter in the North Palouse

In recent years we’ve had some lingering snows which have pushed back farmer’s spring plowing and planting schedules. These images were taken on the far side of winter. The heavy snow season in Spokane is usually around Christmas, and then there are occasional snow events through the rest of winter and sometimes in the spring. In the snowy winter of 2008-2009 we had snow on June 10th! The late snow takes on a different look, as it sinks and begins to reveal meltwater runs and shapes of features hidden underneath the blanket.

As the snow retreats, the accumulations on unused roads get pretty slippery. The deep snow turns into little ice balls the size of BBs and you may not get to choose which direction you’re going! Even if you do get over the snow, you will still face a layer of mud over still-frozen ground, if your lucky, or you may sink to your axles, if you’re not. One time I got a 2WD pickup stuck on a semi-thawed mud road. I couldn’t get traction on the frozen part to push the front tires over the thawed mud. I was on a road with rolling hills so I shut it off and started walking the 5 miles to Fairchild AFB, where I lived. A half mile down the road a farmer named Wagner picked me up and drove me to his house. I couldn’t get anyone to answer the phone at the dorms so he gave me a ride to the front gate. Then next day a dorm buddy gave me a ride back out there. I backed up in the cleared tracks and made a run at the last hill, spinning all the way. The tires may have been bias ply delivery truck-type tires and not all-season tires. Anytime I’m driving down a wet road and hear the tires flinging mud into the wheel wells, it takes me back. I replaced the Ford with a 4WD Toyota pickup.

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This shot is from the end of my first winter back in Washington. Mica Peak as seen from Mt. Hope.

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Some may take this as a challenge to their manhood…so the County keeps them closed until April 15. It’s not wise to try it; even if you make it over the snow and through the mud, you can see that you’re going to have to try to drive uphill on that old, slippery snow!

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A hawk looks for dinner from a convenient vantage point east of Rockford.

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Canadian Geese check out what the melting snow reveals, in far west Spokane County.

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The deer come out in droves to nibble on the new plant shoots and the young winter wheat. Valleyford.

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You try it, I’ll pass! East of Fairfield.

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You might have better luck walking to the barn. Spangle.

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Sunset light on the elevators and an old log building. Spangle.

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Sunset light in the northeast corner of the Palouse. Rockford.

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There’s a full-sized tree down there somewhere…in a draw. Rockford.

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Wild plants and the textures I mentioned. Rockford.

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East of Rockford.

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The last snow to go from the Palouse is in the form of old drifts and filled-in draws. Steptoe Butte.

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These two shots show the view south from Steptoe Butte.

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The Prairie View schoolhouse has survived another winter, but is in rough shape. Last year the bell tower was removed, plastic sheets were put over what was left of the roof, and the windows were boarded up. I assume this is the start of the process of preserving the classic building. Later on I’ll make a post of my shots taken in and around the school. I think the only thing that kept the building upright is the extra structure of coatroom walls at the front. Plaza.

MWE0101Once again, the sun goes down, the temperature goes down, and the wet snow freezes again. Rockford.

I have been following the last of the snowpack eastern Washington’s open country and it is almost all gone. The holdout was in the big hills in north Lincoln County and the high plains of Douglas County. I’ll continue the late snow theme one or two more times and then I’ll pack up the rest of the snow photos until next winter. It takes the Inland Northwest a while to go green again. I didn’t realize how long it took until I moved back up here from Mississippi; let’s get it going! Right now the wild grasses look as attractive as the matted dead grass on lawns in the city. The gravel roads go through a mud phase and if you drive on them your car gets covered with a fine tan mist. I don’t worry about getting stuck, I just don’t want to get all that crud up into all the machinery. I’ll stick to the paved roads and their thaw season lower speed limits.

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~ by mikespixels on March 3, 2013.

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