Back to Palouse Falls, Washington (After the Wildfire)

The Milky Way over Palouse Falls, Eastern Washington State

I spent a few days in Glacier National Park and Missoula, Montana (photos will be posted soon) while I waited out the wildfires at Palouse Falls. I kept calling the information hotline and finally, the fire was pronounced fully extinguished. I called my brother, Steve and asked if he wanted to meet me back at Palouse after he finished his shift at the hospital. He said yes and would grab a couple of hours sleep then head out. So I drove from Missoula and he drove from Seattle back to Palouse Falls in the hope that we might be lucky enough to get the Milky Way shot over the falls that we had been trying to get before the fire sent us packing. I arrived first and was stunned to see just how far the fire had spread into the park. It had jumped the road into the park but luckily was put out before more could be damaged. They had had strong wind storm the night before and one of the tallest aspen trees in the campground was completely uprooted. I walked over to talk to the Ranger who was chopping up the tree for removal. He remembered me from the week before when we all had to evacuate the grounds. We both lamented the loss of the grand old aspen and worried how the remaining trees will eventually fare given the harsh conditions at Palouse Falls State Park.

After I set up camp and waited for it to get dark I got my tripod and camera all set up for the shot I wanted to get. It was dark enough after the moon set but then clouds set in so the Milky Way wasn’t very visible. Then it started to rain! I gave up for the night and crawled into my tent feeling somewhat discouraged. Steve arrived early the next morning and was also stunned by what he saw in the campground. We made breakfast and then took a scouting trip around the rim of the canyon to find the best position for our night shots. After a nice afternoon nap and a quick bite we set out for the sunset. After it became dark and the moon set (around midnight) the Milky Way appeared. We worked quickly to set up our shots in case clouds came back. It turned out to be a clear night. We shot until around 2:30 a.m. then headed back to camp.

The next day was extremely hot so we stayed close to our campsite, reading and cooking a light lunch. An afternoon nap prepared us for a very late moonset at around 1 a.m. We headed out and this time we were able to finally get the shot we had been envisioning since we first planned the trip. It was a very exciting night and we headed back to our camp around 3:30 a.m. and sleep until 8 the next morning. What a beautiful place Palouse Falls is! In spite of all the difficulties the end result was well worth it.

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