I just found the disturbing piece of news that Brian is planning to shut this little operation down. Not on my watch. Maybe things are slow, but they sure ain't dead. Anyway, after that little pep talk...
I just got back from a hiking trip (though I'd really call it an "expotition" if you Winnie-the-Pooh fans know what I mean) throughout the area of the Palouse Falls in Washington. It was awesome, in that my previous image of Eastern Washington being a dry, sagebrush-y and overall boring place was blown out of the water (ugh. No pun intended). Picture some of this:
Staring over a chain-link fence, you see below you a pool of muddy, coffee colored water, which is surrounded by soaring cliffs of rock over which creeps moss, grass and shrub. Above the pool, through a niche carved into the top of the cliffs, thousands upon thousands of gallons of water are cascading downwards, a miniature Niagra.
About five hundred feet east-ish of this spectacle is another: The river flowing from the falls curves and winds about two hundred feet directly below you as you look down, and as you look up...You see an expanse of green hills which suddenly collapse into a craggy gorge through which the river is following its millenia-old path. Over this view, the sunlight seemingly flows through the gray rain clouds that are now dispersing, and the entire view is lit with the burning, golden light of sun after a storm. Wow.
Then, go a ways south and you see wooden power lines, lacing electricity across the landscape, their insulators glinting like glass buttons. These power lines are running parallel to a railroad, which is just emerging from a canyon of dynamite-carved rock. You are standing at the very point where the canyon walls slope back to the ground, and looking down at the tracks, you can imagine dust-smeared workers hacking and chipping through the rock decades previously, planting the dynamite charges that will blow tons of the stone sky-high.
Once the tracks have emerged from the canyon, you see alongside them three, maybe four trees. These trees are old, their branches bare of leaves but covered in yellowish moss, and they have a thin, twisting, spiky beauty to them that speaks of age. Blaaaugh, I'm waxing unforgivably poetic, but unfortunately for you this is cyberspace, and you can't slap me. Hah!
The last stop I want to mention is farther away, to the north. Once again, you eventually find yourself staring down a craggy precipice, but this one is only fifty feet or so, and a somewhat muddy trail will lead you down it. You follow it down and find yourself alongside the same railroad you were next to earlier, walking on a bed of rocks that, once again, have likely been blown to bits by explosives. Wheeeee.
The trail switches back down a steep hill covered in these rocks, and eventually, when you're at the bottom of this hill, you then enter a forest of exceptionally tall sagebrush, about as tall as a full-grown man. Over this sagebrush, you can see a sheer bluff of basalt columns looming in the background, and in the center of this bluff is a strange pockmark, formed by some of the columns curving about in a very peculiar way.
Through the sagebrush you can see swirling, roaring rapids, muddy brown like the rest of the Palouse River. In and around the rapids are rocks, random lumps of land, and one or two outcroppings that make a fine place to stop and have lunch. In the midst of this, you stop for quite a while, to savor both your surroundings and the pleasant change in the weather. As you sit on a rock outcropping, staring at the bluff, the sagebrush, the swirling brown rapids, whatever, you reflect on how beautiful the place is, contrary to your previous perception of the area as being either shrubby or dead. You wish you could come down into this little valley, with the bluff and the rapids, as often as you liked, becuase while it's beautiful, it's not a tourist destination; it's not riddled with trails, litter, and plaques describing how Lewis and Clark fought of the Hopi Indians here, or whatever. It's deserted. It's a haven. As C.S. Lewis may have liked to put it, it's a patch of God-light.