By Marc Bowen
Its been two months since I wrote my first blog post of the year. At that time there really wasn’t very many places to hike in Eastern Idaho that didn’t have snow on the ground. I did an easy but fun hike in the snow on Cress Creek Trail the first part of March. I wrote about it complete with plenty of pictures at: Late Winter Hike – Cress Creek Trail
Since that hike and after the snow melted I started hiking the North Menan Butte Trail once every week for the past four weeks to work on getting back into hiking shape. That hike is a four mile loop with some stamina required for the first hard pull up the butte. I decided it was time to do a longer hike. I knew by now that the Palisades Creek trail would be clear of snow or at least the lower part should be. I’ve hiked this trail before and wrote about it last year. See: Late Spring Hike To Lower Palisades Lake
The lower part of the trail starts just north of Palisades Creek camp ground several miles off the highway near the town of Irwin. There are two lakes off this trail. Lower Palisades Lake which is about four miles out and Upper Palisades lake which is about seven miles out. Today I chose to hike to the lower lake and back for a total of eight miles. Although I was tempted to go all the way to the upper lake I didn’t think my body was ready for the nearly 14-mile round trip yet.
The trail follows Palisades Creek almost all the way to the lower lake with only about a 600 foot elevation change. This time of year because of snow melt the stream becomes a river and parts of the trail become a stream (above photo). Keeping my feet dry was not possible. My boots are fairly waterproof if I’m not standing in water or in deeper than my ankles. Using my trekking poles to balance on a few branches and logs I placed strategically I managed to get through this part of the trail without soaking my socks.
This is the first of five bridges I crossed as the trail meanders across the creek at times. These bridges are built for horse traffic as well as human. Since this isn’t technically designated ‘Wilderness’ mountain bikers use this trail also. Motorized vehicles are prohibited because this is, at the very least, a ‘wilderness study area’.
As I hiked up the trail, just around the bend I noticed three mountain goats in the morning light standing on the cliffs above the creek. One looking right at me. They are not easy to see in the photo without the white circles around them.
As the trail follows the creek up the canyon I walked through many different kinds of landscapes. Some parts of the trail lead through beautiful groves of trees letting just a little morning light shine through. In the lower levels of the canyon trees and shrubs are just beginning to sprout leaves.
About 1-1/2 hours into the hike there is an area where I like to stop, take my pack off, eat a snack and drink a bunch of water. The canyon is narrow here with steep cliffs on both sides. Its cool and refreshing because you are right over the river and mostly in shade.
Every time I have stopped here I have seen at least one mountain goat on the face of the cliff above (above photo). This one was asleep on a ledge. Hard to see in photo so I circled it in red. I did not have my long lens with me. I did have a small but powerful set of binoculars strapped to my chest for easy access which allowed me a close look at this beautiful animal.
This canyon is so narrow in some places that it doesn’t allow a lot of light into it. It’s a beautiful place with lots of rocky canyon walls and cliffs. I can see why mountain goats are so prevalent in this area. Its the perfect environment. If I was a mountain goat I would want to live here.
Crossing the next bridge had me spying a group of three goats on the cliffs above (circled in red). Also the trail on the other side was under water so I had to do a little bushwhacking to stay dry. The bad thing is every time I leave the trail into the brush I seem to pick up unwanted hitch-hikers. I brought home a tick from this hike just like I did on several occasions last year. Despite the toxicity I am going to start applying ‘DEET’ to my clothes from now on.
The third bridge I crossed is similar to the others, well-built to withstand all the traffic this trail gets on the weekends and everyday in summer. My job schedule is such that I can hike on a week day and if I start the hike just after daylight I very seldom see anyone. I saw no one on the trail going either direction today. I did encounter snow on the trail in some places the farther up the canyon I hiked.
Between the third and fourth bridge there was more water on the trail. My trekking poles got me up this stretch with no problems. Can’t say enough about the advantages of using poles.
The higher up the canyon I hiked I noticed the canyon temperatures were low enough that most of the trees and brush were still bare of leaves.
I shot the above image looking upstream while standing on the fifth bridge. There is a small foot bridge (not shown) crossing a tributary of the creek just before you reach this bridge. So technically this is the fifth bridge I crossed although the fourth isn’t much of a bridge.
After crossing the fifth bridge the trail starts climbing into five switchbacks. Standing on one of the switchbacks in the trail I looked back and shot the above photo. You can see the flooded trail I came up just to the right of the stream and some pretty cool clouds above.
There is a campsite at the top of the switchbacks just before the lower lake comes into view. There were two people camping there having breakfast when I walked by. They were the only other people up there besides me today.
Lower Palisades Lake
Lower Palisades Lake sits at the far end of the lower canyon at an elevation of about 6,100 feet. It was created by a huge rockslide ages ago. The lake is very muddy right now but will clear up in another week or two.
The trail rounds the left side of the lake and crosses the bridge at the lake outlet, continuing 2.7 miles through the upper canyon and splits off to Upper Palisades Lake. My son and I plan to hike to the upper lake sometime next month, stay the night and do some fishing. I did a solo hike up there late May of last year but didnt spend the night. See last years post: Palisades Creek Trail To Upper Palisades Lake
On the hike back I took a short video clip (above) of part of the trail. You can hear the stream near by and see the rocky cliffs hanging over the trail.
As I hiked further down the trail I looked off to my left and up a side canyon as the sunlight streamed across the cliffs in the distance. I saw two glowing white spots on the cliff face and verified that they were mountain goats. Their agility that allows them to stand and eat in places with seemingly no place to stand amazes me. Click on the video below and see if you catch a glimpse of these beautiful creatures on the cliff walls in the far distance.
Just in case you missed them in the photo below i have them circled.
I took this video clip below to show the part of the trail with the worse flooding.
It was wonderful to get out and hike today. Other than being a little tired I Feel GOOD! I’m always excited to start a hike and when one hike ends I’m excited to start the next one.
There seems to be this great need in me to get out and hike along a stream, up a canyon or up a mountain to not only see whats at the end of the trail but to enjoy the journey as well.