by Jim and Melanie
As with most people, a lot of things are pulling us several directions. We said ‘No’ to the outside forces recently and made our escape to Kepler-Palisades State Park.
Kepler-Palisades is one of the Iowa state parks near us. It is east of Cedar Rapids, just off of U.S. 30, Lincoln Highway. The Cedar River cuts through some coral beds as it makes its way southeast toward a union with the Iowa River, before joining the Mississippi.
We entered the park off Hwy. 30 on Kepler Drive. At the ‘T’ near the river, we turned right. Left of the red marker at the river, you can see some shadows cast onto the water. The shadows are from a high cliff face, or palisades, and the trail follows it for quite a distance.
From the main trail head, the trail begins flat and fairly smooth. Quickly the hiker has to decide whether to take a “high road” or a “low road.” They both end up at the same place, a compass pavilion near the high point of the park. Rocks and roots make watching your feet important. Past the pavilion, the trail becomes a lot more interesting and a little more difficult with more elevation changes and trickier footing.
Even so, on the trail there is little danger other than a sprained ankle or scuffed knee. Off trail, it is dangerous with loose rocks, particularly on the river side. Some adventurous people get permission at the park office to do some climbing and rappelling. Over the years, multiple people have fallen to their death after wandering off the trail. We noticed more railing and signs had been added pointing out the dangers.
At the bottom of the overview picture is a run-down dam. The very low water levels from the dry season we’ve had make it possible to walk around the area now. Below you can see the stairway to the dam. The passage at the bottom is barely wide enough to fit an adult.
During the spring and early summer, the river often runs high and fast. Nearly every year, someone drowns trying to swim in the rapid waters. Boaters are cautioned with a big sign upstream. Today, you could wade across with little danger. We saw someone in the stream on the far side standing thigh high fishing. There were geese lazily killing time in other pools. A lot of swifts and swallows were swooping as they hunted for food. The breeze was brisk, blowing leaves around.
We have been here many times. It is a favorite spot for us.
The heart-shaped burl on the tree was one of the last things we saw on our hike. That made us feel good. We hiked farther this time than last time we were there. Our increasing endurance and strength makes the fancy footwork more enjoyable. We head to the parks for some time together, away from the busy schedules and stresses of daily life. We like how it helps us slow down and come together. It is one of the things that keeps us close.