In a Dry Place

We drive over Snoqualmie Pass,

then we motor down,

and down,

and down

to the wider view,

on the other side of the mountains.


The dry side.


We’re headed to Umtanum Creek Recreation Area,

a shrub-steppe habitat of dry hills, sage, and rattlesnakes.

Bighorn sheep are said to roam the craggy tops;

in the creek’s deep crease

willows flourish,

butterflies lilt,

and wildflowers cycle through bloom, seed, dormancy, and bloom again…


Umtanum Creek’s clear water feeds the wide Yakima River,

which in turn feeds the Columbia River,

which empties into the Pacific.

Today the water is cold but the sun is hot –

perfect for a raft trip down the Yakima.


But we’re interested in a dry place, so

we head across Yakima river

on a bridge

of creaky wood

and swaying steel.

The creek’s final course flows quietly

under a cool, shady thicket. We could follow it –

walk up the creek trail,




Remember last year?  We walked up the creek and

after that we were curious about that hill, so

we trudged up

a steep path

but we were tired and

we didn’t get very far.

Why not do the hill path first this time?

Later we can cool our heels

in the creek.


It’s hot. Steep. Rock-strewn.

No one else is

on the trail.

We have 3 bottles of water,

little bags of nuts and raisins, a chocolate –

we’re already thirsty.


I drink in the open landscape, the

way rolling hills

are clothed in subtle shades of umber and gold,

olive and gray,

and the creek below

weaves a frothy emerald path

through the canyon.

I sense movement ahead on the rocks to my left.

– amazing –

a bighorn sheep!

I’ve never seen one before – didn’t expect to see one today.

Don’t you have to be miles from the road to see this kind of wildness?  Don’t you have to come at dawn, or dusk?

(Oh, would a long lens be good right about now!)


Just one ram,

and so nobly beautiful!

Surprise – instead of running away he makes eye contact. He poses on the rocks,

then climbs down closer.

I walk a few steps up the trail,

and he steps nimbly, almost aggressively,

towards us.

It’s lamb season, so we realize this may not be safe –

time to back off!

I force myself to step backwards on the trail,

not wanting to divert my gaze.

One last look –

can you see him there still?

King of the Hill…


It’s all good though.  He has his turf.

We had the privilege of meeting him,

in his world

for a few electric minutes.



Back down along the creek, a rattlesnake

slithers slowly away

through rock shadows  –

No matter I didn’t get a usable shot – I’m glad it’s gone.

Again I’m distracted by butterflies and wildflowers,

the curl of dry grass,

yarrow with its fair share of insect life,

tall grass ornamented with tiny yellow flowers,

wild roses

announcing their pinkness

amidst the green.




Finally, the water up close:

feet cool off:




Back on the road

heading down Yakima Canyon,

we glimpse strange basalt rock stacks painted

lichen red and yellow,

like primitive sculpture, or maybe an artist’s recent work

(how’s that for site-specific?).

And then more luck – we’ve gone from bighorn sheep and rattlesnakes

to a vintage ’51 Pontiac Chieftain,

looking very at home, even on the four lane!

We pull off so I can photograph the plain, graceful hills in late afternoon light.

A Western meadowlark sings somewhere out there – we can’t see it.

Telephone poles

and weathered fence posts

march crookedly up and down:

imaginary ideas of here

and there



pasted on the hills.

We know there is no ownership.

I imagine the poles as dashes – pencil marks across

a manuscript

pale and dry as paper,

but ever changing.

Heading back towards home,

the Cascade Range appears in the distance

like a mirage.

Let’s stop at the top –

I want to breathe in the difference between

the dry place

and the fiercely steep, snowy place above,

the mountains with their towering trees and

spring flowers, still


as if it were April.

We stop briefly at Snoqualmie Pass,

walk to a smidgeon of the Pacific Crest Trail –

(hikers pass through here on their 2,650 mile trip from Mexico to California).

How’s that for inspiring?

Yes, trillium are still blooming here.


This is one of the reasons we left New York and moved out here two years ago –

truly wild land is more accessible to us now.

In the course of a day

we can drive from

June to April

and back to June again,

from wet to dry to wet again

from lush to arid to lush again!

Yes, how’s that for inspiration.




  1. Wonderful post, Lynn! Funny about the bighorn sheep. We see them often in the winter right by I-70 near Georgetown, Colorado which is on the way up to Eisenhower Tunnel and the Continental Divide – mostly small flocks of ewes. But that ram is magnificent!

    • I’m glad you liked the post. I guess it’s like a lot of wildlife – if you’re in the right place, you can be assured of seeing certain animals regularly but in many places it’s not so common.

  2. I have to come back. I just scrolled down through the most jaw-droppingly beautiful photographs. The flowers stole my heart, and the forest, and the poetic narrative. So beautifully photographed and shared, Lynn.

  3. The change from the west to the east side of the mountains never ceases to amaze me. As you said… driving from June to April and back again! Great, fun post with fantastic shots to go with the narrative. The bighorn was a special bonus.

  4. A wonderful and varied collection of images Lynn! Well done. I enjoy visiting the lea side of our Coast Mountains which is very similar. It is amazing how quickly the landscape changes due to less rainfall. You have captured it beautifully.

  5. You have the best of both worlds there! I enjoyed taking this hike with you! Your photos capture the beauty. That ’51 Pontiac looked very much home on that stretch of road. Good shot of the “king of the of the hill”. Happy Trails, Blue (Lynn)

    • Thank you very much – and how did I figure out the make and model? Blow up the photo and take an educated guess, then start googling – it didn’t take long to find it!

    • Hardly! But I appreciate hearing from you and I know, really I know, what it feels like being in New York City, loving it, but longing too for a good dose of wildness. And don’t think I don’t long for the energy of the city, too! (And the smiles, the attitude, the pastries…)

      • No hardly about it!

        I so understand how you feel about where you are and what you left behind, that horrible tug between wanting to be in two places at the same time – I battled it for years (i.e. wasted a lot of worry time!) before making my peace. It wasn’t as though one place was better than other, that was the problem, I loved both. And how lovely for you with that NY spirit of yours to be enjoying such wonderful wildness. And sharing it so generously with your words and pictures!

  6. Wow, what a brilliant post! Now we can see why you left New York, as you explained here. The beauty is astounding! Jean & Alex

  7. Love this post… You have just outlined my home :-) The 2nd shot, and the expanse of the sky/land is tremendous and then the diversity of the shots continue. The Big Horn sheep is awesome (I’ve yet to shoot one…), and when you enter the desert country I really feel at home (I grew up in Pendleton, OR). And then I see one of my favorite flowers, Trillium ~ introduced many years ago by a great friend in Seattle during a hike. Wonderful post!

    • How interesting to read your comment. Over here with all the tall Douglas firs, one doesn’t get that expansive feeling too often, but it’s only a few hours away. Trilliums – so pure in their presentation and aesthetic. As a child in upstate NY I loved to wander into the woods behind our house and look for them – even then they were becoming rare there (many years ago) so it’s really gratifying to see them growing so often and freely out here in the PNW.

      • There is something so refreshing about the expanse of the plains when traveling east of the Cascades. One of my favorite drives is from Seattle to Eastern Oregon, such a diverse set of landscapes. Cheers!

  8. Wow BB, quite the road trip! And quite a change from NY to the west! We did a similar trip the year we retired and I still remember amazement at how vast and open it was. Always makes me wonder why people live in clusters in the big city! Great post.

    • Yes Tina, a little different from the east coast, be it SC or NY! You have been so many places, I am envious, but you know, it’s all good because you’re so generous with your trip reports! :-)

    • Oh, that’s so good to hear, music to my ears…it is pretty wonderful out here in the Pacific northwest, as long as you can squeeze a little time from work and get away!

  9. That’s freaking awesome for inspiration! Such a beautiful travelogue, Lynn…wonderful narration/verse to accompany the compelling images. I wish I were there. :)

  10. What treat to just sit here and feel transported to that vast wilderness and space Lynn by way of your photos and your descriptions which just leap off the page .. what a gift you have there .
    I particularly love the Bighorn Ram eyeballing you and those lovely colourful lichen stacks :-)

  11. First I had to look up Umtanum Creek :-)
    Then, while I was scrolling through the photos, and before I got to the one with the rafts, I was saying out loud “I NEED to float the Yakima”.
    Wonderful post!

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