Saturday, March 17, 2012

Channeled Scablands

This is the time of year when my thoughts turn to dryside outings.

Living on the wetside, with a beach nearby, is my strong preference, and outings to the mountains are a lifelong favorite, but trips to the rain shadow extending from the East slope of the Cascades are right up there, and this year an excellent new book, Washington's Channeled Scablands Guide, has gotten me even more stirred up.

Having had no trip last year because of the aftermath of chemo has also boosted this year's desire.

So today I pulled Cataclysms on the Columbia: The Great Missoula Floods and Glacial Lake Missoula and Its Humongous Floods off the shelves for re-reading, along with Bretz's Flood: The Remarkable Story of a Rebel Geologist and the World's Greatest Flood for more history (also Kindle),  and On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods: A Geological Field Guide to the Mid-Columbia Basin, which is mostly south of much of my favorite territory, but does include such favorites as Lower Crab Creek, Frenchman Hills, and the Drumheller Channels, and in the rest is still very interesting. It will soon be followed by The Northern Reaches in Volume 2 (and maybe, perhaps, someday, The Columbia Gorge and Willamette Valley, in  a third volume?).

Wonderful reading about how huge floods hundreds of feet deep and tens of miles wide surged across eastern Washington about 50 times from about 15,000 years ago to 18,000 years ago, as a glacial dam which flooded extensive valleys in Western Montana broke and release hundreds of cubic miles of water over a period of just a few days, to carry icebergs to the southern reaches of the Willamette Valley. Then the glacier would close the gap again, the lake would refill, and it would all repeat.

There are even videos: NOVA: Mystery of the Megafloodwhich I found problematic in places, but still worth watching, and The Great Ice Age Floods, which I haven't seen but is on the way.

But even better is visiting: Whether driving tours, short walks, strenuous hikes, or even kayaking, there are all sorts of opportunities to enjoy the scenic and geologic delights, and imagine water pouring through gaps in the ridge-lines high above - unless you have strenuously hiked up there and are looking down across wide expanses of countryside scribed by visible relics of dry waterways from thousands of years ago.

There are few places where the evidence of dramatic geologic forces is so easily and widely visible.

And of course the wildflowers, lakes, and modern waterways also add to the charm. Best Desert Hikes, Washington, is another useful title, for within and near the flood scablands and coulees.

It's time to go back!

[I intended to include some of my pictures in this post but Picasa seems to have forgotten all my photographs over a year old so it will take a day or three's digging - check back!]

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