Washington: Day 6

Replica of wagon - Walla WallaIt quickly became obvious to me in the morning that this had to be a “putter around” day, after the strenuous activities of the previous day.  So I had a leisurely breakfast, packed up my things and drove slowly up to Walla Walla, where I puttered in the local Fort Walla Walla museum, which was full of visiting students on a day trip (120 of them).  The fort had displays on the local industry over time – farming mostly – and a replica village of buildings as they would have appeared after the valley was settled by folks traveling the Oregon Trail.  Fascinating. 

My second stop of the day was the Whitman Mission on the far side of town.  These missionaries had traveled to this location before the settlers began their trek on the Oregon Trail, and they worked hard to establish a mission in this harsh territory, helping the tribes people with medical difficulties, comforting the first settlers of the Oregon Trail, and adopting a family of seven children after their parents were killed during the journey to Oregon territory.  Sadly, due to a misunderstanding between cultures, the family and many of the people living at the mission were wiped out by an attack by the Cayuse people.  Oddly enough, one of the reasons the US government was so swift to name Oregon a territory was to give them the excuse they needed to track down their killers. 

Palouse FallsIn the afternoon, I drove up to Palouse Falls through some amazingly picturesque farmland.  The road wound up and down rolling hills, and farms were tucked away in secret, hidden valleys that opened up suddenly after a bend in the road.  Just lovely.  The falls themselves were tucked away in a gorge in the middle of nowhere, and they were spectacular – plummeting to the floor of the gorge and out past incredible cliffs of basalt.  A palisade of sharp pointed rocks that looked like a sharp fence stood right beside the falls on a little peninsula surround by water on one side and sheer cliff face on the other.  According to the information available at the site, the whole gorge – indeed, the whole territory through which I was traveling – which was known as the Palouse – was carved out by a huge flood when an ice dam broke during the last ice age.  You could see where massive amounts of water had poured out from the dam and washed through the weakest places in the basalt to carve out huge cliffs, free-standing stones, and massive gorges like the one before me.  The river was already half-way down the cliff face when it plunged down in spectacular glory as the Palouse Falls.  In the middle of the worst of the floods, the waters would have reached the top of the gorge where I was standing.  Amazing! 

After having an early picnic supper, I headed up to Spokane where I checked into my hotel, drove through the city to get my bearings, and then had an early night. 

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