Badger Creek Wilderness Backpack 6/19-21/2008

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JosephSamuel
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Badger Creek Wilderness Backpack 6/19-21/2008

Post by JosephSamuel » June 23rd, 2008, 6:48 pm

In May of last year I made my first visit to the eastern end of the Badger Creek Wilderness, just east of Mt. Hood. I was so taken with it, I came back this year for a thee day trip with my family. I had no idea that since then fires had blazed through much of the area, leaving it severely blackened.
Because I work at night, I came home the morning of the trip and we quickly set off for the trail. My wife Amy drove, I napped with my head against the glass, and my step daughter Miette read books in the back. She is 11, and this is her second backpacking trip. I woke up on the gravel roads and was completely jazzed by the time we were at the Little Badger Creek Trailhead.
Within the first mile we began to see blackened trees and realized a fire must have come through in the last year. There were charred Ponderosa Pines everywhere. As we gained a little elevation and left Little Badger Creek, we broke out into the open White Oak slopes that I love so much. The trees are adapted to the dry conditions and provide such a welcome, soft shade. They are my favorite tree.
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Entering the Ponderosa and Grand Fir forest again, the foliage became more verdant as we came down to the creek and our first campsite: the Kinzel Mine and cabin. We set up camp, made vegetable curry stew, and explored the old cabin site. I went to bed while it was still light out because I was so wiped out from being up for 24 hours.
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We packed up our camp in the morning and before setting out we navigated the depths of the Kinzel Mine with a a headlamp. It is only about 80 feet deep and in the back it curves around like a 'J'. We were surprised to find 2 little mice in the very back and a big stash of hay to get them through the lean times. Very cute. :P Many thanks to Amy for persuading me to go in. I don't like caves :? .
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Uphill was the name of the game for the next mile, with 1000 feet of straight up elevation to an open ridge crowned with ancient Junipers. We took a break at the trail junction and Miette climbed a leaning tree.
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We headed west toward Flag Point (trail 469) our intended campsite for the night, along one of the many east-west ridges that define the Badger Creek Wilderness, and which rise gently from the plains of Central Oregon to crest at Lookout Mountain before dropping abruptly to HWY 35. As we slowly progressed up the ridge, the forest gradually transitioned from the dry Ponderosa/Grand Fir/Douglas Fir mix though Lodgepole Pine and Western Larch, to end in a much denser woodland of Mountain Hemlock, Engelmann Spruce, and Silver Fir. Many downed trees covered the trail in the middle portion, around the junction with trail 460A, and negotiating them was sometimes tricky. It appears as though an infestation might have decimated this area.
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Not long after setting out, we passed a helispot and campsite but I decided not to look for water there, thinking we had enough to last us and that there would be more down the trail. It was a bad mistake. We were parched by the time we hit the first snow near Flag Point :oops:
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Soon after we found Sunset Spring, rehydrating gratefully with its snow-chilled waters. Before dinner we hiked up to Flag Point for beautiful views of Mts. Hood, Adams, Rainier, and Jefferson from the lookout tower. I forgot to bring the camera so there are no pictures, but we had a great few hours relaxing. After a very filling dinner of chicken/rice/avocado wraps with ranch sauce, we relaxed with the sunset and fell asleep.
The next morning was beautiful.
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We packed up and headed down the same ridge we had come up, moving much more quickly and better hydrated this time :). Where my haste had stopped me from looking for water before, we stopped for lunch and found a beautiful spring (just west of the helispot)
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Passing the trail junction we had come up from, we continued east on trail 468 past Ball Point (yes, that is the real name). Much of forest was severely charred around Ball Point and we descended on to its open eastern face with views all the way to Tygh Valley.
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Even the White Oak grasslands were severely burnt as we strolled though them on our way to the School Canyon Trailhead. We took a short walk down the road and a half mile bushwack due south to the Little Badger Trailhead, where our adventure had begun two days before. In the time we spent we logged the following numbers:

16 miles (4, 4, 8)
3400' elevation gain/loss
approx 80' underground travel
2 campsites
2 deer seen
0 people seen
75 F weather :D
1 lookout tower climbed
20+ species wildflowers
2 total blisters
3 very satisfied campers! :P :P :P

Hope your trip is as good as ours was!!

JosephSamuel

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drm
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Re: Badger Creek Wilderness Backpack 6/19-21/2008

Post by drm » June 23rd, 2008, 7:25 pm

Thanks for the report. This area has been high on my list for some time for a first visit, but various things have kept me away.

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jeffstatt
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Re: Badger Creek Wilderness Backpack 6/19-21/2008

Post by jeffstatt » June 24th, 2008, 7:35 am

You forgot the mice in your list at the end. Great report. What a memorable experience for Miette. Those charred trees must have been quite a surprise. I have to say I've never been much of a tree ID'er but now I'm going to start keeping my eye out for White Oak. Is it found more often on the arid side of the range?

Did you have any photos of the lookout?

Love the "sunrise" photo. You really captured the mood there I think

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Paul
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Re: Badger Creek Wilderness Backpack 6/19-21/2008

Post by Paul » June 24th, 2008, 9:03 am

Thanks for the report. I've only mountain bikes that area. I'll be sure to backpack it this summer. :)
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
- Will Rogers

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JosephSamuel
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Re: Badger Creek Wilderness Backpack 6/19-21/2008

Post by JosephSamuel » June 24th, 2008, 11:09 am

jeffstatt wrote: I have to say I've never been much of a tree ID'er but now I'm going to start keeping my eye out for White Oak. Is it found more often on the arid side of the range?

Did you have any photos of the lookout?
Oregon White Oak is also called Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) after Nicholas Garry. David Douglas, the pioneering field botanist, was the first to describe the tree scientifically and named it for Garry, who aided him on many expeditions.

Much of the Willamette Valley was once prime White Oak habitat when the Native Americans were burning the prairie. In many places they still remain such as around Woodburn/Mt. Angel/Silverton. On the east side of the Cascades they are more scarce and are usually smaller because they get less rainfall. Coyote Ridge (in the C.R. Gorge) is all White Oak as are many of the eastern slopes of the Badger Creek Wilderness.

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