In a timeless cataract at Frenchman Coulee the future clings to the past.
For the 13,000 or so years before Frenchman Coulee became wildly popular among humans who like to climb rocks, a striking formation of basalt spires near its core stood merely as a graceful monument to the astonishing power of water and ice. The massive pillars are still here. It’s just that on any warm day, and many cold ones as well, fit and well-equipped people are attaching themselves to forty-foot walls of stone. The climbers’ resolve and athleticism offer what is, at least, a touch of poetry and elan to one of Washington’s lesser known natural wonders.
At first sight—as you look up beneath the rim of the coulee’s central alcove—it’s hard to trust what you’re seeing. Known as “The Feathers” it is a formation of exposed basalt crystals that barely withstood a succession of devastating floods. From the air, it looks as though a creature with jaws the size of the Rose Bowl has taken two bites from coulee’s upper terrace. The Feathers somehow survived as a gently curving causeway between the bite marks. There are places where you can easily walk from one side to the other, stepping through gaps between the massive crystals.
A decent camera can take the picture, capturing the nearby rock faces as well as the distant giant blades of the Wild Horse wind farm, straddling the flanks of Whiskey Dick Mountain on the far side of the river. But only a soul can register the deeper dimensions such a scene evokes.
The scablands offer a succession of geologic double-takes, and Deep Creek’s enchanting scar is one of them.
I first encountered Deep Creek the way I suspect most people do—in a car. As U.S. Highway 2 makes a bee-line west out of Spokane it passes the main gate to Fairchild Air Force Base. Then, in about the time it takes to write this sentence, your speeding vehicle takes an abrupt dip into a ravine, crosses a bridge, and takes you past a sign announcing that you’re passing through the small community of Deep Creek.
As for the creek itself, there is barely any water in Deep Creek at this crossing. This is a noteworthy riddle. The discernible headwaters for the stream are only a few miles away, in a maze of wetlands west of Four Lakes. Although the creek will sometimes flood during a rain on snow event in late winter, it’s too small and ephemeral to attract kayaks or canoes. So it is curious as to how such a trickle of water could create such an extraordinary crease in the earth. Continue reading Tracking a Jailbreak Flood→
Earlier this year a survey by the Pew Research Centers reaffirmed an unspoken boundary in American politics: being an atheist essentially disqualifies you from being elected President of the United States.
However unfair this is for atheists, the barrier rests upon a deep-seated expectation that those seeking the nation’s highest offices ought to embrace virtues deeper than a hunger for power. And to enjoy the benefit of the doubts, he or she must at least publicly identify with a church and a deity. To admit to being godless is tantamount to political suicide.
So how is it that the same nation that effectively disqualifies atheists for high positions of public trust just elected a habitual liar and provocateur? How is it that we’ll soon inaugurate an unapologetic racist who ranks and treats women as sex objects, mocks people with disabilities, refuses to apologize for anything, and spends an inordinate amount of energy excoriating and seeking revenge upon his critics? This is no mild case of cognitive dissonance. It’s a deeply disturbing reflection of our nation’s moral deflation. Continue reading How My Country Lost its Mind→
Stories, dreams, and landscapes from the Inland Northwest