Story and photos by Jeff Petersen
The parade of pharmaceutical ads has reached one end of the Main Street that is my TV, turned around and is coming back for an encore.
Facebook is running short of cute baby goat pictures.
Time for an eye break.
The cloud formations look promising, so I head out on a loop that has captured my imagination. It’s short on mileage and long on views.
The drive starts at the south end of Milton-Freewater, where I turn up the Walla Walla River Road. Several miles later, I turn south on Couse Creek Road and after a couple miles of a roller-coaster ride go east on the gravel Coe Road.
A fantail of dust raises behind the Prius. The road climbs a draw between wheat fields and likely won’t grace a scenic calendar.
I am not expecting to see much wildlife since it is red hot and the middle of the day. Boy, am I in for a surprise.
Several miles up Coe Road, which climbs into the Blue Mountain foothills, I spot a cow elk crossing the road and disappearing into a thicket. I stop and wait. After a few minutes, the elk rewards my patience, emerging from the vegetation and clambering up the opposing hillside. The elk stops, gives me the what-do-you-want eye, then bounds over the ridge and out of sight.
I drive on.
A turnoff south connects with Couse Creek Road. One north leads to Cache Hollow Road, a “goat trail” I’ve negotiated before but don’t recommend if you love your car.
Continuing east, I wind up the mountain through a wheat kingdom. The wild country has been tamed by the plow, but no human habitation is in sight.
Soon, the road bears south and emerges on the edge of a deep ravine. Typical Blue Mountain can-you-find-the-bottom-of-this-draw scenery.
The road twists over high points where clouds pose brilliantly. Finally I come to Lincton Mountain Road. Passing the doomsday road-closed-in-winter sign, I turn back toward town and civilization.
Here, I can peer into the yawning abyss that is the South Fork of the Walla Walla River. Accordion folds of landscape stretch to the horizon. Lupine and wild roses bloom. Hills roll away in awesome gradations. It’s the Scottish Highlands without bagpipes.
The road is rough, requiring slow speeds. Since my Prius has the clearance of a slug, I creep along. Far below, beyond humps and bumps, slumbering in the haze, is Walla Walla.
My reverie is broken when a coyote leaps in front of the car. I feel like the Roadrunner chasing Wily in the Saturday morning cartoons of my youth as the coyote sprints ahead with reckless abandon, leaving a trail of dust, then cuts off along a ridge.
A minute later, the coyote is sprinting up a hill a half mile away. Finally it disappears from sight.
The bumpy road winds around a grove of cottonwood trees where whitetail deer rest in the shade. Crop art frames a lonely farm.
Here the road smooths out some and becomes more civilized. I presently reach the edge of the Walla Walla River Valley and wind down a steep descent. I enjoy the unfolding panoramas. Basalt cliffs rise above the river. Higher up, potato hills give way to distant wheat fields baking under a relentless sun.
Finally, a cloud of dust trailing, I rejoin the paved river road for the trip back to town. I look in the rearview mirror to make sure the coyote isn’t gaining on me.