Making memories on the Palisades Creek trail
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The only thing singing louder than the birds on my hike last Friday was Palisades Creek as it cascaded over its rocky bottom.
Occasionally I could hear rocks crash into each other as the swift current rolled them along their underwater path. When the trail took me away from the creek, the Bullock’s orioles, Western tanagers, Yellow and Yellow-rumped warblers kept me entertained with their singing. But the most enjoyable early morning bird was the Broad-tailed hummingbirds as they flittered from flower to flower collecting their early morning breakfast.
I was the first person to sign in as a hiker and had not even reached the first bridge before I located a Mountain goat laying on a cliff on the top of the canyon wall. While photographing it, four teenagers (two boys and two girls) from Idaho Falls caught up with me.
It was the first trip to Palisades Creek for the two girls and the boys were their guides as they were headed to the lower lake. Another gentleman also caught me as I worked the goat – giving me plenty of social distancing as he humored me by glancing at the goat and smiled.
Members of my family were coming later and some were not planning on going all the way to the Lower Lake but that was my goal.
So while trying to photograph the busy birds and the beautiful flowers, I shuffled my old body up the trail. The runners passed me quickly with an “on your left” warning while family groups along with the hand-holding couples made enough noise to allow me to step off the trail for them to pass.
I noticed that there were more purple flowers than yellow and white combined and where the flowers were thick, the hummingbirds buzzed me each time I stopped to photograph the flowers.
At the rock outcropping we call the Cathedral, I stopped for a snack and a drink and searched the surrounding cliffs for goats. I was able to find two but they were mostly hidden as they tried to escape the sun. Two gentlemen from Chubbuck stopped by as they were headed home after a five-day camping trip to the Upper Palisades Lake. They told me that the only animals they had seen on the way down were two moose above the lower lake.
From the third to the fifth bridge across the creek, the trail was flooded from the swollen creek making hiking a little wet. In an attempt to get off the trail to allow some hikers to pass me, I walked under a large spruce tree, almost stepping on a beautiful flower of my youth – a calypso orchid.
Also known as a fairyslipper, as a kid we used to search for these in Teton Valley and called them the “moosehead” flower. The one I found on Saturday was more purple than pink but was as beautiful as I remembered them. They are odorless and have no nectar but it is believed by botanists that they are pollinated by “insects that are visually deceived.”
After a brief relaxing rest at the Palisades Lower Lake, I headed back down meeting my family near the Cathedral rocks. They continued hiking up the trail while I continued down the trail, slowly studying flowers, looking for birds and visiting with hikers – just sauntering along – it was the third day in a row of putting miles on my old feet.
When I was about 100 yards from the trailhead bridge, I heard the chirping of a hungry young nestling in the roaring stream. For the next half hour, I watched an adult American dipper teaching its chick to gather aquatic worms and insects in the turbulent water.
It was amazing to watch the adult dive into the water, swim or semi-fly upstream only to emerge with a mouth full of food and then try to encourage the babe to do the same. In its attempts to duplicated what its parent was doing, the youngster would be washed downstream, come up with nothing and would fly back where it would get a treat for its effort.
I had to smile as it reminded me of the families that were hiking with young children. The kids were hiking on legs barely long enough to reach the ground as the parents were wearing empty backpacks, ready for the youngsters to get tired and become a rider. Memories flooded back from earlier times.
Want some family fun? The Palisades Creek trail may just be the place for you and your family – or your significant hand-holding other – to go for a few hours or a whole day. There is a lot of beautiful things to enjoy. You might even find a flower or an animal or a bird that will enliven you or bring back memories – or will become a memory for the future.