That Distant Call

A couple weekends ago, we took another trip into Lincoln, Grant and Adams Counties (and other places) in eastern Washington. All this week, I’ll be sharing some of those photos.

Traveling north on the road into the small town of Irby, Washington, you descend into what at first appears to be a typical coulee. Boxing the green fields below, you see the columns of basalt exposed by water.

And like the other coulees in this area, the water came quickly and all at once (geologically speaking). About 15,000ish years ago, a series of floods from glacial lake Missoula inundated much of eastern Washington. The floods quickly wore away the loose dirt and rocks showing us what we can still see today – columns of the Columbia River Basalt Group from about 16 million years ago.

The formations around the town of Irby were actually exposed by Crab Creek. It’s known as the “longest ephemeral stream in North America,” but I’ll let you figure out whatever that means. Regardless, it’s easily one of the most beautiful creeks I’ve ever seen. Stretching over 160 miles, it meanders its way through some of the harshest scablands in the state.

My dream trip through Washington is following this creek for its entire length. Practically speaking, there’s no way to do this. Even in spring, it’s intermittent at best. Because of heavy rains this year, it’s flooded, but usually it’s a dry bed until it’s joined by several other tributaries. Additionally, roads seldom follow the creek directly. Still, it would be a desolate and enjoyable little journey.


‘That Distant Call’

Camera: Ansco Color Clipper (1942)
Film: Kodak Ektachrome 400 (x-08/1987)
Process: C-41

Irby, Washington


2 thoughts on “That Distant Call

    1. I like it too. I go through phases, usually based upon my other writing projects. I am otherwise projectless now, so the photos are afforded more words.

      The thing about Crab Creek is that much of it is on private land. The roads out here are mostly gridded, so no road or path even follows it. The terrain is also an issue. Walking would be the only way, and would be fairly impossible. It would be a nice path for a long trail, but landowners are sometimes less than enthusiastic about such things.

      There’s also the spring floods. In places, Crab Creek, often a dry bed, surrounded by what passes as desert marsh, is now half a mile wide. On this trip, I mistook it for the Columbia River.

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