Where the rolling wheat fields of the Palouse run into the high desert scablands of Eastern Washington and the tall grasses become dry sage brush lies the deep and quiet Rock Lake.
Even today, in this era of vacation homes, it remains much as it always has. Perhaps because of its remoteness and isolation it remains this way. Or perhaps, it has just been forgotten by developers who have concentrated on more hospitable environments like Cheney. Whatever the case, to travel to Rock Lake requires effort and to see the path that the Milwaukee laid out along its shores requires more still. Even when America's final transcon was still running trains, those who journeyed here to photograph them were few in number. Now there seems little reason to travel the grassy paths along farmer's fields to reach the reclusive lake, and with private property sprinkled along the lake's banks, little opportunity as well.
Still, those who make the journey are treated to what few have seen. A deep lake nestled between high cliffs and an old railroad grade that often clings to the walls along the eastern banks. Tunnels and trestles still stand along the line and the right of way still clearly shows the old passing siding at LaVista near the lake's southern mouth. At sunset, the western cliffs present a dark silhouette against an orange sky while a lone pine stands over the scene and keeps watch. These are the times when deep calls to deep.
The crews that operated the gap knew these scenes well, but few others have experienced the awesome quiet of Rock Lake. The paths there are not well known and the journey is one of solitude. Today, as before the railroad's arrival, the lonesome cry of a circling hawk falls on silence below. Time marches forward putting another day between us and what was undone so many years ago. Happy trails Rock Lake, may you be forever reclusive.
1970 Othello Milwaukee Road Views
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