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If you visit the Wikipedia page describing the Palouse, you get a much better picture of this voluptuous landscape than my little image, snapped from behind a windshield at 60 mph. It’s an experience to visit this area of western Idaho/eastern Washington in spring and I don’t think pictures can do it justice. To see these unique undulating hills, covered with wheat and the bright blooming canola fields had a profoundly gentling impact on my usually busy brain. We traveled through on our way home from southern Alberta, which also features rolling hills and lovely farms. But not like this.

We normally take a more spectacular route to get home to our little corner of the southern Willamette Valley in Oregon. We cross the jagged Rockies in southern British Columbia then run down through Bonner’s Ferry and Sandpoint Idaho. This time we dropped southeast of the Rockies, skirting Glacier National Park in Montana and then coming down the east side of Flathead Lake (who knew the ameliorating effect of the lake means a huge cherry-growing region in Montana?). We drove down to visit friends in Moscow Idaho, which is not on any of the major east-west or north-south interstate highways. It’s in the heart of the Palouse.

I have lost count of my road trips to southern Alberta to visit family in Lethbridge and wander the trails in Canada’s best but perhaps least known national park, Waterton Lakes. I’m so glad we detoured off the quickest-there-and-back highways to see more of the region. I’m a western woman. Born in Saskatchewan. Lived 50 years in Utah, Washington, Alaska, Oregon. Not dissing the rest of North America or any of the other glorious continents. But I love this vast region. And I love getting more intimate glimpses of it.

I’m reminded of William Least Heat Moon’s moving book “Blue Highways”. So amazing to get off the screaming multilane interstates, slow down (though in Montana they don’t shy away from 70 on two lanes). With family ties in Canada and the United States, I’ve found myself thinking of the region not so much as two separate countries but as one salmon nation, a term coined by people who know much more about biodiversity than I ever will.