People asked me why I wanted to go to the far south eastern portion of Washington state. Why? I don’t know. I think it was because of all the amazing pictures I have seen on Flickr and through Google of the wonderfully colorful fields and rolling hills, and red, white and brown old barns, and animals, historic bridges and flour mills, and …and… and…
We spent a week in this area at the beginning of May. It was a bit early for all the fields to be growing, but the scenery was still inspiring. I think it would be any time of the year.
We stayed in Colfax, which we figured was pretty central to the whole area. Colfax population is around 3000 people, it is the 2nd largest city in the region, after Pullman. It is situated amidst wheat-covered hills in a valley at the confluence of the north and south forks of the Palouse River. The downtown is a National Register Historic District with buildings aging from the 1890’s to the 1930’s.
We discovered the Perkins House, a restored Victorian home built in 1886. The Perkins family occupied the house until 1968. By then it was totally run down and slated for demolition. In 1970, the Whitman County Historical Society assumed ownership and began restoring the house. We were lucky to get a tour inside the house by a very knowledgeable guide who proudly showed off the colored glass panels above the inside doorways, the working musical instruments of the day, the old family photographs and belongings as well as the buzzing wall of bees believed to be descendents of a hive that found it’s way into the walls when the home was built in 1886! They have survived all attempts to remove them and so the historical society gave them ‘squatters rights’ and allow them to stay undisturbed!
On our first day of touring we headed south towards Pullman and then Uniontown. Our goal was to visit the Dahmen Barn. This was probably the first place in the area I had seen pictures of that fueled my interest and desire to explore here.
The barn was built in 1935 by the Steve and Junette Dahmen family and was used as a commercial dairy operation until 1952. Steve Dahmen had spent more than 30 years building a wheel fence on the property, using over 1000 wheels! The barn then sat empty until 2004 when the Dahmen family donated it to the Uniontown community.
The Uniontown community got together and as a tribute to Steve, a folk artist, and his wife Junette, a water color artist, they transformed the barn into an artisan center! It now houses artisan studios, a shop where you can buy wonderful locally made items, a classroom space, and a ‘Hay Loft’ hall for exhibits and performing arts events.
Speaking of barns!!! There are barns around every corner, red ones, white ones, brown ones, new barns and very old rustic barns! The people of this area take great pride in their properties and do encourage tourists and photographers as long as you are respectful. We came across this well restored 100 year old barn, unusual in its design!
We had to drive up a long driveway to ask permission to go on the property to take this picture. We found that everyone we spoke to was appreciative of our ‘manners’ and very happy to show off their heritage!
Along the way, during our back road exploring, we discovered an old rustic covered bridge that was still in use for access to peoples home.
Another days journey took us back west to the Palouse Falls State Park. The water falls 200 feet on its path down the Palouse river! Very impressive!
One thing I do notice on our adventures around the United States is the lack of barriers where there are high drop offs or even dangerous waters. You definitely go to these places ‘at your own risk’. I thought this eager photographer was a little too daring for my taste!! I got butterflies just watching him!
The views in every direction in this park are stunning!
The next day our drive took us a little north of Colfax, traveling through fields of blooming canola on our way to Steptoe Butte.
Steptoe Butte climbs 3612 feet and offers a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside! It is built of rock that is over 400 million years old!
There were lovely bunches of flowering balsamroot on the hillsides.
The higher you climbed the more expansive the view of the patchwork fields, with all their patterns and colors. I could only imagine how it would look a few weeks from then as the new growth appears!
Another days adventure took us north towards Oaksdale where we discovered this gorgeous old building, the JC Barron Flour Mill, built in the 1890’s. The Joseph Barron family owned the mill for over a century until 1960, when they found that their old historic flour mill could not keep with the new huge centralized flour factories. Many of these huge old flour mills were built in the Palouse area from 1870 to 1910 but this is now the only intact flour mill remaining.
Further north in Rosalia we discovered the Old Milwaukee Bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The bridge was designed as a concrete arch, unusual for a railroad bridge.
And the barns! I couldn’t get enough of them!
There were fields of the beautiful balsamroot as well!
And the fields…..
We had a week in this beautiful area and it wasn’t long enough. Everyday we went a different direction and each day we saw so many different and unique views. I would highly recommend a trip to this region of Washington.
Our winter trip was fast approaching it’s end, it was time to go home!
Until next time…….