Fortified by two days of rain, Wilmont Creek runs brown and full, pounding the earth after a 100-foot plunge a short distance from Lake Roosevelt, a Columbia River reservoir.
Small maples and other waterseeking plants crowd the saucer at the base of the falls, forming a spot of green amid the dry pine forest.
Parting the leaves, we spot a surfer in the pool, a male harlequin duck far from its coastal wintering grounds.
The comical birds dress in black and cinnamon with white bars and spots. They come to swift, rocky streams to breed each spring, but a National Park Service biologist says he never has seen one in creeks feeding the Columbia.
If the bird is looking for solitude, it found it this day on the Colville Indian Reservation. Leaving Gifford, we cruise 40 miles, nearly to Fort Spokane, before seeing another boat.
The quiet won’t last long. During hot summer weekends, the lake roars with boats, and its campgrounds become boom towns. The hardiest campers seek remote campsites, like the one a short walk from the duck’s hideaway.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo