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A Hole in the Boat

Posted on by Cheryl Cox / Leave a comment

Despite the cold wind at the edge of his redwood deck, Shannon Hansen carefully places rib-eye steaks on a grill.

Inside, his wife Jill has set a large table, her kitchen counter already covered with potluck contributions. Eagerly accepting the steaming mug Jill offers, I take an appetizer before blending into the group of family and friends who have gathered at the Hansens’ house for a lively battle against the monotony of gray days. By the time Shannon comes inside and closes the sliding door behind him, we are discussing winter water levels and warm summer days at Palisades Reservoir, which lies about fifty-five miles southeast of Idaho Falls.

“I nearly sank the boat last year,” he announces, catching me mid-bite. He launches into a narrative that will quickly become a local classic. With my addition of a few historical notes for clarity, this is his tale:

Shannon pulls his pickup off U.S. Highway 26, careful to clear his boat and trailer as he enters the scenic overlook at Calamity Point. Here, in 1957, the Bureau of Reclamation completed a project envisioned in the late 1940s to construct a massive earthen dam across a narrow reach of the Snake River Canyon. The dam, the largest of its kind in Idaho, impounded the river, flooded the canyon, and backfilled drainages until more than a million acre-feet of water storage capacity reached as far as the Wyoming state line near Alpine, eleven miles upriver.

All this was good news for irrigators and hydroelectric power producers, but even better news for recreationists. Arguably the project’s most enthusiastic stakeholders, the Palisades Reservoir could offer a gamut of close-to-home water sports never before available on such a scale.

Shutting down his pickup, Shannon drops the ignition key onto the center console. The familiar clatter triggers seatbelts and locks. When doors fly open, his family, eager to stretch cramped legs after the drive up from Rigby, spills out onto the asphalt. Bringing up the rear, a gangly retriever coming to terms with his long legs joins the group at the overlook’s edge. Continue reading

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In a Meadow

Posted on by Wallace J. Swenson / Leave a comment

I stepped out of the thick, dark, pine forest and into a meadow. As though on cue, it started to snow: big flakes, soft and fluffy, globs as big as daisies.

They fell straight down, but at a lazy pace. Actually, leisurely is a better word, like each one was looking for just the right place to settle to earth. I stood mesmerized for a minute or so, then stuck out my tongue to try and catch one like I used to when I was much younger. I managed to do no more than spot up my specs. I’d guess the open area was about two acres, and pear-shaped, more or less. I stood at the stem end. At the other side, a small grove of aspen trees huddled. Just the place for a deer to spend the day.

I don’t get around in the hills like I used to. I mean, I can’t head up a mountainside just to check out a copse of quaking aspen for a bedded deer. Nor traipse three ridges over and back again in eight hours. But I can still walk through the lower meadows and meanders around Palisades Reservoir. And I do, carrying my ancient rifle just so I don’t look like some old fool, lost after wandering out of camp. Little did I expect that this walk would present me with a life-changing image.
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