I'm about 300 miles east of where I was when last we met. I have left the gardenesque Pacific Northwest behind. I'm now in the Wallowa Mountains of eastern Oregon, where the rolling hills and valleys are the color of parchment (unless under cultivation) and the chocolate brown mountains are naked of snow.
I am crazy for this landscape. The sky is huge. Sitting in a restaurant chilling out earlier this evening, I came across a description of this sky in the book I'm reading, The Prairie Keepers by Marcy Houle. (More about the book, and the Zumwalt Prairie it describes, another time).
"The blue sky, with a clarity found only in alpine regions, arched like a blanket thrown over the tops of the mountains and held taut at the horizon of the grassland."
When I was last here in June, it was to hike and see wildflowers (they were admittedly ho hum but in a setting like this, a handful of lupines and a paintbrush is almost over the top). While here, I met a fish biologist and photographer named Mary Edwards.
Turns out, come August, Mary dons a dry suit, packs up her underwater equipment and spends the day suspended in the shallows of the Lostine River shooting salmon.
A juvenile salmon, either steelhead or chinook, photographed this time last year by Mary Edwards in eastern Oregon's Lostine River. We're hoping to see big, I mean BIG, 3' long salmon tomorrow, spotted and golden brown, in river pools anywhere from from 2' to 10' deep.
So August's here and I'm back, this time to do a Morning Edition story about Mary and her work. We'll be spending tomorrow together in 50 to 60-degree Wallowa Mountain river water dressed in the insulated equivalent of a plastic bag, underneath which we'll both be wearing layers and layers of warm clothes (not to worry, Mom).
I live for stories like this.
And if all goes well, I'll be heading up into the mountains over the weekend, for another look at what might be blooming in this ruggedly beautiful back-of-beyond.
Stay tuned! and have a wet hot summer weekend.