Jump Creek on Ice

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February 12, 2017

The year’s first stretch of sunshine invites us to spend a day exploring terrain popular a century ago and millennia ago in an unassuming desert canyon.

Jump Creek Canyon
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Jump Creek Canyon
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32303644603

Record setting snow is finally giving way to sunshine and birdsong.

“I think that’ll last until May,” I mused a month ago of the snow mountain the neighbors and I had piled between our driveways. A few weeks over 40°F, though, and the mountain has become a mole hill.

Idaho Transportation Department highway cameras show a persistent blanket of snow to the north so we decide we’ll enjoy sunshine on trails we left unexplored in Jump Creek Canyon. I confirm through the Highway 95 camera south of Marsing that the hills there are snow free.

Ice underfoot
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Ice underfoot
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32992676531

Few signs mark the way to Jump Creek. We all laugh at a hand painted one that shouts “I DON’T CARE WHAT YOUR GPS SAYS” at the head of a driveway not far from the recreation area.

The canyon harbors a bit of snow and ice not visible from highway cameras but not enough to deter us.

My lead*
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My lead*
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32992679371

Before we left, I pulled up pictures from our last visit¹ to find they were from the very same week of February, three years ago. Today isn’t so warm and dry, though. Crossing Jump Creek without wet shoes is tricky.

  1. starPhoto by Alexis
  2. Trail Image, “Three Prong Approach to Jump Creek”: trailimage.com/three-prong-approach-to-jump-creek
Enclave
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Enclave
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33077724856

Ancient tools and processed animals bones were found in the shallow caves here along Jump Creek (identified as 10-OE-3686). The findings are held at the College of Idaho’s Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History.¹

  1. Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History: collegeofidaho.edu/…/orma-j-smith-museum-natural-history
Briar patch
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Briar patch
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32992688631

We deviate as before from the main path into water-birch and dogwood brambles to experience the cavernous space below massive overhangs. It’s easy to imagine ancient people finding shelter here, sitting around an evening fire that casts its warm glow on grey walls beneath the sliver of stars above.

Judo
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Judo
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32303668233

“Do you have any photography assignments?” I asked Alexis before we left, thinking the walk might be a good chance to get some done for his class at Timberline High.

Bombers
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Bombers
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32303671433

A couple up creek seem excited to see two cameras on tripods pointed their way.

Underneath
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Underneath
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32303674323

I wonder if this brambled deviation was once the main path. Visitors a century ago wrote of the “huge boulder, caught in its fall and lodged against one side”¹ above the trail.

  1. Idaho Statesman, “For a Sunday Motor Trip — Somewhere to Go” (Apr 15, 1923)
Filter bubble
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Filter bubble
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32303678093

Within these tight and twisted spaces, the same feature may look wholly different from above or below, left or right. We can feel outraged with the assumption that different perspectives must be lies or lunacy or we can step off our usual path for a chance to see a world more amazing than we imagined.

Along the way
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Along the way
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32736880450

Tumbleweeds collect like old habits along the hidden, inflexible channel.

Orienteering
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Orienteering
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33077741446

Carrying a tripod and serious looking camera seems to have us in the majority of today’s Jump Creek visitors.

Political divide
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Political divide
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33077748396

There is beauty in contrasts.

No need for boots
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No need for boots
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32303695533

Alexis is learning that by “hike” we really mean “scramble.”

Wade if you will
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Wade if you will
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33077755026

If you’re willing to wade then the way is easy. But with plans to walk a few more hours, we’d rather avoid wet feet.

Aim high
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Aim high
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33119442805
Top of the falls
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Top of the falls
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32736901530

We feel air swirling around us as we round the final bend into the rhyolite bowl carved over millennia beneath Jump Creek’s sixty foot fall.

Crevas
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Crevas
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32736904770

A house-sized boulder sits in the center of the bowl, divided at base by a traversable fissure. We walk through to emerge in range of droplets exploding off the crashing water.

Foreshorten
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Foreshorten
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32736909300

“They wanted to know if they got in the picture,” Jessica relays after meeting the couple in our upstream photo. “They seemed pretty happy with themselves.”

Sunday motor trip
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Sunday motor trip
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32736914560

Jump Creek Falls has long been a destination popular within the limits of local knowledge — well visited but little marked or marketed.

Sprung
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Sprung
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33119466035

We retreat from the falls to the parking lot to follow the upward path.

Overlook
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Overlook
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32736934260
Climb
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Climb
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32736940170

We decided last time with Brenna and Hunter¹ not to climb the rocks beyond the falls overlook. I’m not sure why. It seems pretty simple today.

  1. Trail Image, “Three Prong Approach to Jump Creek”: trailimage.com/three-prong-approach-to-jump-creek
Keystone
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Keystone
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32736946600
Inversion
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Inversion
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33077780606

Jessica scouts for a descent to the waterfall while Alexis and I bravely hang back awaiting her signal.

Threads
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Threads
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33077784276

The snow packed trail describes a white border aside red osier branches growing around Jump Creek below. From here we can appreciate the mass of leaning boulders we stood beneath earlier.

Sinew
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Sinew
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33077787226

Unlike smooth basalt to the north, the stone here tells the story of its rending.

Jump
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Jump
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33077790546
Descent*
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Descent*
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32992777601

I am a bit distrustful of her notion of “safe” but Alexis and I follow nonetheless when Jessica signals the all-clear.

  1. starPhoto by Alexis
Hobbits only
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Hobbits only
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33077804046

Three years ago we noticed the trail continuing above the falls. Finally we’re pursuing it.

Recession
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Recession
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33119499765
Stasis
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Stasis
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32963026622
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http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32274388964

The trail teases mysteries in twig tunnels and tight passages along tall rock faces.

  1. starPhoto by Alexis
Lexi
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Lexi
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33077819156
Along the wall
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Along the wall
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/33077822796
Fire water
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Fire water
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32963036822

“It’s fire,” Alexis observes of the evening’s acute sun sending orange cliffs into the water beside us. It lasts only a minute.

Climb out
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Climb out
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32303783633

We split up to explore possibilities but, finding no way onward, return a hundred yards to climb out along a crevice.

Look back
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Look back
http://flickr.com/photos/trailimage/32963041982

We return along the canyon rim as the sun settles into the horizon, legs tired, mouths slightly parched, and every bit glad for these hours.