Washington's Palouse Falls is a remnant of the ancient catastrophic Missoula Floods. Washington Trail Association's web site tell us that, "Palouse Falls remains as one of the magnificent and lasting remnants of these glacial floods. It is the only major waterfall left along this thousands of years old glacial flood path." Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest describes Palouse Falls as "another one of the spectacular natural features of Washington State." We describe it as geologically fascinating and a challenging but incredibly fun hike. Our friend Grant from Portland joined us for our adventure at the falls, and we had an amazing day of exploration.
The Missoula Floods were a series of floods occurring at the end of the last Ice Age. One ice dam after another broke, allowing glacial Lake Missoula to flow freely over the ancient land. The floods repeatedly swept across eastern Washington, through the Columbia River Gorge, down to the Willamette Valley. Across the Pacific Northwest from east to west, in other words. We just can't imagine that amount of water today. [Source: Wikipedia]
We had heard about this beautiful place from our friend Lars, who had brought Mark there to see the geology. Mark wrote about their visit. I am trying to follow Mark's example of being a nature educator on a regular basis, but here we were following in his steps more literally.
Not being quite that adventurous, we hiked back through the canyon until we found a place where we could cross the stream, then climbed up and hiked along the other side down to the pool.
It was such a pretty and comfortable place, it was hard to leave. The movement of the water was so slow and calm, it was hard to believe it led down to a waterfall.
Unfortunately, shortly after we started out on the return trip, I stumbled on the ankle I had injured two months previously. The stupid thing had never quite gone back down to the size of the other one, and, ow, ow, ow, it really hurt. I had Eric help me up so that I could immediately keep walking to stop the swelling from building up. I took four ibuprofen and hoped for the best. The activities planned for next several days were a bike ride and then a convention, not things that involve a lot of lateral ankle movement. I was glad it hadn't happened on the way down.
I made it back to the parking lot without too much pain. We made a plan to have dinner in the Ritzville, and from there make a motel reservation in Coeur D'Alene, to make it easier to get to the Hiawatha bike trail in the morning. While neither the atmosphere nor the fried chicken and tuna melts at Jake's Cafe in Ritzville were as good as pretty lily pond and the creamy chicken mushroom dish I had had the night before, we were comfortable and the food was tasty. We headed off for Motel 6 in Coeur D'Alene and a cycling adventure the next day.
Palouse Falls was a positively incredible adventure. Amazing scenery, fascinating geology, and a calm and cool pool. This hike, while definitely in the moderate-to-hard range, is incredibly rewarding for those who can do it!
On to the Hiawatha Trail.