Oh beautiful for spacious skies for amber waves of grain. The author of these words must have been driving through Eastern Washington I thought to myself as I left the Ritzville Supercharger. I was headed an hour south to Palouse Falls State Park. According to my sources, the park centered around a magnificent waterfall.
It was hard for me to imagine something of that scale judging by the terrain that I was currently in. It was so unlike the Washington that I knew, with forests packed over the Cascade Mountains and peaks like Mt Rainer or Mt St. Helens towering over above. All I could see for miles were fields of those amber waves, covering every inch of the horizon.
The closer I got to the park though the more confused I was. All I could see were still endless fields, a hill or two here and there, but nothing like the forests that I would expect from an area with a waterfall.
As I drove further south I start to see the terrain change from open fields, to rolling hills, to towering buttes. The transformation is almost magical and I sit back thinking about how much of a difference 20 miles can make. I think I can start to see where a waterfall could become realistic.
Then, as I turn onto the rough gravel of Palouse Falls Drive, it hits me. This wasn’t the normal waterfall that I was expecting like the many I have been to before.This was going to be a river cut canyon that towers down into the valley below. I suddenly became more excited than I had imagined I would be as this adventure turned into something completely different.
Massive black cliffs towered over a canyon in front of me and the sound of a roaring waterfall starts to fill my ears. A picturesque landscape yellows and greens companied by drab grays and browns fill my view. Suddenly, all I can think about is the immense power of the earth and how small I feel because of it.
Then, almost without warning, I saw the waterfall — massive in size — cutting through the basalt and towering over the cliff into a pond below. The breathtaking beauty was almost indescribable. So many colors and sounds conjoining into one ginormous energy. The chirping of the birds filled the air to an almost deafening degree, dragonflies joined them as they soared across the open valley. Today, mother nature was out to play.
Now leaving state property reads a sign at the edge of a precarious looking path. A short way down, a fence is blocking off a set of railroad tracks and I can feel the air blast past me from a train rushing by in a blur. For a moment, I loose myself in thought, reminiscing about some of my friends who hop trains and paint graffiti. For the first time, after hearing all of their stories, I can somewhat relate to how they feel being this close. I notice some graffiti on the side of the train going by and I wonder if it’s by anyone that I know.
Down at the bank of the river I sat and got lost in the rhythm of the water. It’s hard to describe the immense feeling of satisfaction that overcame me while sitting there. Looking back at the top of the cliffs seen where I was just a few moments ago. Watching new people look down on me as I looked down on someone else I knew exactly how they felt and I knew one moment and feel exactly like me. A connection that we both share even though we’ll never know each other. How many times in our lives does that happen. How many experiences do we share with people that we simply are never aware of? How can I learn to appreciate it more?
Eventually, there is no more trail. You’re left to make your own or try to follow the way of the mountain goat. Slippery rocks and some steep grades make it a work out for your legs but the further I push more satisfaction I feel. Sure footedness and confidence is a must if you’re going to attempt this. Don’t look down and continue forward. It’s well worth the effort.
Dangerous area. Keep out. The sign reads as I come to a razor thin edge along the basalt. On one side of me is the river calmly building up, getting ready to let loose. On the other side is a pit that the fall plummets down. The edge I’m walking on forms the dam between the two. As I walk towards the cliff, I can feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins.
After a nice break taking in the fall, it’s time to leave. I could turn around, but for the adventurous, a path more suitable for a goat lies along the cliff. I’m up for the challenge. Shortly into inching along the side, I realize its more like bouldering or climbing at this point than hiking. Fair enough, but a warning for the light hearted, the full loop is tough.
Closest Supercharger Ritzville WA 44.7mi
105 W Galbreath Way, Ritzville, WA 99169
Palouse Falls State Park
Palouse Falls Rd, LaCrosse, WA 99143