The combination of sprawling meadows, few trails, and virgin forest for cover makes the Palisades Lakes basin a haven for wildlife. This trail is the only one in the vast area between Huckleberry Creek and the White River, and it dead-ends at the lakes’ basin. As a result, this wild high country gets relatively few human visitors. The broad wildflower meadows that blanket the upper flanks of the Sourdough Mountains (from Dege Peak to Slide Mountain) attract deer, elk, and mountain goats.
During one late September visit, my intrepid hiking companion and I found ourselves enjoying a spectacular sunset with views of the alpenglow on the Palisades—a tall band of cliffs above Palisades Lakes. As the orange glow faded on the rock wall, the haunting call of bull elk in the midst of their rut— mating season—echoed across the meadows. Soon, no fewer than six bulls were bugling their challenges, converging onto our evening retreat. Fortunately, the big males noticed that the band of cow elk had moved off to the west, and the amorous bulls veered that way before challenging each other in a clash of wills, each seeking the right to mate. Even without the elk encounter, however, the hike was memorable for the incredible scenery at the lakes.
© Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.