Grand Coulee & Steamboat Rock

Grand Coulee & Steamboat Rock

I had signed up for a weekend trip with the Seattle Mountaineers to go to Grande Coulee. I knew there was a damn there, but didn’t know much else about the area. I certainly wasn’t expecting to feel like I stepped into Nevada!

We got to the camp ground late at night and had to put up our tents in the dark. Even though it was May, it got very cold during the night. I burrowed deep in my sleeping bag to keep warm. It also rained, so the chill settled into my bones. I was awakened very early by tiny birds that were running all over the campground, making lots of noise with their coot-like sounds. My camping partner, Kathy, was still snoring (loudly) as I made my way to the bathrooms. At least they were heated.

After eating a cold breakfast of cereal, we headed to one of the trails to hike. There were canyons and mesas with lots of sage brush. And it got HOT! Living in Seattle, I’m used to the temperatures to only be in the high 80s during the summer. It was over 100 degrees in the canyons by afternoon. It had been years since I hiked in that kind of heat…and being overweight and out of shape didn’t help matters. I was glad I had dressed in layers.

Our plan was to hike in five miles or so to a lake. About two-thirds of the way there, I heard a rattle snake and froze. I spotted the snake, which slithered off to the side into the brush. I had only taken two more steps when I saw another rattle snake to my left in a striking position. I panicked and ran as fast as I could haul my ass! And almost stepped on another rattle snake! Egads! What did I do…walk into a whole nest?! My brain finally told me it wasn’t smart to continue running, so I stopped, froze again, and tried to calm down. Meanwhile, Kathy was way behind, too scared to join me. She finally got brave and walked (fast) to my position. I don’t think I would have minded the one snake, but to have three back-to-back really freaked me out and I was tense the rest of the hike.

We stopped for lunch shortly after…not just to fill our bellies, but to calm our nerves and try not to think of snakes. After we ate, we pressed on. The trail so far had been relatively flat, but now we started to climb. I was glad that Kathy lent me a pair of hiking poles. They really do make a difference! I also noticed that I stood straighter when I use the poles, so now I have my own pair. The rest of the trip was uneventful. By the time we returned to camp, my back was drenched. I was also glad I had used sun screen and wore a hat, otherwise I would have really burned.

That night, I woke up around 2am to go to the bathroom. The stars were so beautiful, that I just stood there looking up for a very long time. I could even see the Milky Way, something I had not seen since I was a kid (since the sky is usually too bright with lights). I also could hear coyotes howling in the distance. It was a perfect night for camping.

The next day, we hiked to the mid-way point of Steamboat Rock before heading into Grande Coulee to see the dam. On the way there, we saw a covey of quail and stopped to take photos.After we packed up our tents and gear, we decided to drive to Potholes before returning home. Kathy is a big birder and she said Potholes was a great place to view all kinds of birds.It was a great weekend and I hope to get back there again someday.

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