Other than Taco Del Mar, our first stop was on Lower Crab Creek Road, where we hiked over a low ridge to Lake Lenice, about a half mile from the road.
I took what should have been some fine pictures to share, but there was some sort of camera or memory card malfunction between taking the last picture of the day and trying to upload them into my computer, and I have nothing. Sigh.
But Google did find some online pictures of Lake Lenice, so I am including links that give at least a little suggestion of what it is like. The wetlands were much greener than in those pictures, but they'll have to do.
After walking along the lake itself, we continued east through sage along the upper edge of the basalt ledges bordering the small coulee the lake, Crab Creek, and a string of wetlands are in until the terrain dipped again into a wet and wooded area, where we turned back south toward the road, where we returned back to the car along the abandoned Milwaukee Road rail right-of-way, now a trail.
The whole time, the Saddle Mountains loomed as a long east-west wall to the south of the road, with ever changing clouds of greater or lesser drama streaming up from behind them. Though there were occasional suggestions that it might rain, and Chris insisted that she and Coal were hearing thunder (could it have been blasting at the highway construction site across from Vantage?), we stayed dry and had more periods of sun than chill.
Back in the car, we continued through similarly attractive country east to The charmingly named "SE B" where we turned north toward the Frenchman Hills. The wind had risen, and dramatic dust clouds were rising here and there in the distance around us, and periodic rinsing of the mouth was appreciated.
At a well-known birdwatchers' destination, the ponds near the intersection of Frenchman Hills Road and Dodson Road, we saw less variety and fewer birds than I have ever seen before, probably due to the high winds and high water. But it was still a treat, and we had no regrets.
Continuing North on Dodson Road, we stopped briefly at the Winchester Wasteway, like Frenchman Hills Wasteway and the Crab Creek Wasteway, a product of irrigation runoff and raised subsurface water table.
Dodson Road led is back to I90, which we followed back west to Silica Road, where we immediately turned off the route to The Gorge amphitheater, and went down the old Vantage Ferry Road, which was part of US10 -- the main Seattle-Spokane highway -- from about 1930 to about 1962, when a new bridge was necessitated by the construction of Wanapum Dam. The old bridge replaced the ferry in 1927. The road now would disappear into the lake created by Wanapum Dam, except a boat ramp and parking area have been constructed at the waters edge.
The scenery along this road is a wonderful mix of basalt coulee, sage ledges, and the gorge itself. Returning up the hill, a long sleek dark gray mink-like mammal with a banded bushy tail ran across the road in front of us. Flummoxed us, and my theory is that it is exotic -an escaped pet or fur-farm animal.
From there it was back on I90 for some serious driving back to heavy rain on the wet side of the mountains, with thunder and lighting before I got myself home.