I just spent 10 happy days loose in The Palouse — The Palouse is one of my favorite places on the planet. Located in eastern Washington and the panhandle of Idaho, it’s the area where my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were born. It’s mostly a land of green-until-golden wheat fields, plus safflower fields ablaze in yellow as their flowers bloom. Then toss in some fields for peas, soybeans, and lentils to add a bit more to the seemingly endless sea of green.
The Palouse is where many (often more than 100) members of our extensive and extended family gather for reunions. A reunion took me there on my own this time because my husband, instead of traveling with me as usual, was working to help ensure that you readers all continue to get The Independent.
The soil of The Palouse is deep and rich, formed over tens of thousands of years from wind-blown dust and silt, and nearly every inch is given over to agriculture. An interesting note — special combines had to be developed just to cope with harvests on the beautiful, soft hills that undulate across the horizon in every direction. Although The Palouse is most famous for its farm fields, little towns like Palouse and Colfax offer fun local spots to dine, and Palouse’s printing museum is chock-a-block full of ancient newspapers and the linotypes and presses that produced them.
Our family also has an amazing museum — my late cousin, Willard Gwinn, “grew” a crop of nearly every Chevrolet ever issued. People come from miles around to see them, mixed with other vehicles and machines that caught his fancy.
Most of my visits there have been in late June and early July, when the hills are green green green! But once, John and I were there in January and found ourselves in different but equally magical surroundings. One, it was cold, and two, it must have been moist because all the bare trees were covered in rime, creating a fantastical forest worthy of a mythic tale.
Twice this trip, my meanderings took me from Garfield, where I was staying with my cousin, to Pullman, Washington, home of Washington State University. Pullman is a vibrant town dominated by WSU and sprinkled with fun eateries, coffee shops, and bookstores. It’s also home to Ferdinand’s, the university’s cheese and ice cream outlet — Cougar Gold Cheddar and any flavor of ice cream make it a delectable side trip. And Moscow, Idaho — a short drive from Pullman — has the University of Idaho and its own collection of good spots for yummy food and drink.
But the most delicious thing of all was driving back to Garfield on Washington State Highway 27, intoxicated by the view on either side of the road. I do have one complaint about that stretch of road — there are not nearly enough spots to stop to take photos of the spectacular sights.
The classic view of The Palouse is from high atop Steptoe Butte, where rich farmland pools out below you as far as the eye can see. The road up to the summit isn’t for sissies, but the view may well make you feel like you are on top of the world!