School Canyon/Little Badger Creek Loop: 3/16/14

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Born2BBrad
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School Canyon/Little Badger Creek Loop: 3/16/14

Post by Born2BBrad » March 17th, 2014, 6:09 pm

What: School Canyon/Little Badger Creek Loop
When: 3/16/14
Who: Me (Born2BBrad) and Chris (Hiker Chris)

Opening picture:
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I’ve been doing a lot of hikes in the Columbia River Gorge this year and not much else. The trailheads are close to Portland and I’m familiar with all the trails. They are kind of like putting on my favorite sweats: comfortable, but not always pleasing to the eye.

I thought it was time for something completely different, as Monty Python would say. So I turned my attention to the Badger Creek Wilderness on the east side of the Mt. Hood National Forest. I came up with three ideas: Badger Creek from Bonney Crossing, Fifteenmile Creek from the lower trailhead west of Dufur and the Little Badger Creek/School Canyon loop west of Tygh Valley.

Quick facts about the Badger Creek Wilderness:
• Created in 1984.
• 29,057 acres.
• 55 miles of trails.
• 21st largest wilderness in Oregon, or 23rd depending on the source.
• Highest point is Lookout Mountain at 6525’.
• Three creeks drain the wilderness: Badger Creek, Little Badger Creek and Tygh Creek.

I decided on the Little Badger Creek/School Canyon Loop, mainly because of the shorter drive time and ease of finding the trailhead.

I asked my hiking buddy, Chris, what he thought of that idea, and he was up for it. I told Chris that even though we’d be in the Badger Creek Wilderness, there really aren’t any badgers there. He said that was fine with him because, as he put it, “Badgers! We don’t need no stinkin’ badgers!!”

Fortunately, Portland Hikers member, Romann has a great field guide write-up, and had posted a trip report last year. That meant I didn’t have to do all the research. In fact, I can safely say that a person could use the field guide write-up as their sole source of information for this loop. Even the map met with my high standards. Thanks Romann! You da mann.

We decided to start at the Little Badger Creek trailhead at 1970’, although the loop can also be done starting from the School Canyon trailhead at 2680’. With our snowshoes strapped to our packs, we were off!

Little Badger Creek Trailhead:
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Trail Sign:
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The Little Badger Creek Trail follows the creek at the start. Within minutes we entered the wilderness.

Entering the Wilderness:
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Romann’s field guide write-up describes an off-trail shortcut that eliminates several miles of road walking between the two trailheads. Shortly after entering the wilderness, Chris and I headed north off-trail to hook up with School Canyon trailhead. The results were just as described in the field guide.

Small Unnamed Creek on Off-Trail Jaunt:
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Eventually the Off-Trail Part Leveled Out:
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Walking on the Road for a Short Bit. The School Canyon TH Pullout Directly in the Center:
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The School Canyon Trail starts out on an old road, slowly gaining elevation through a burned area with views to the south of Mt. Jefferson. The angle of the sun and the haze prevented any kind of worthwhile picture of Mt. Jefferson.

The Start of the School Canyon Trail:
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Soon the trail climbs to a saddle (3245’) below Ball Point (3959’) and begins to go around the north side of the point. There were good views of the high desert of Central Oregon. I'll skip the obvious joke about the Ball Point name. Hint: Bic.

Ball Point and the Saddle:
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View of Central Oregon High Desert:
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Once on the north side of Ball Point, we ran into some minor patches of snow and some blow-down. The edges of the snow were pure ice and slippery as snot on a wet, mossy rock.

Snow on the North Side of Ball Point:
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Not too far after rounding Ball Point is the intersection with the Little Badger Creek Trail (4000’). The trail sign post had fallen down, so we did our best to stand it back up. I don’t think it will stay upright very long.

Log Across Trail After Passing Ball Point:
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Downed Sign Post:
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I Fixed it!
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Hiking up the Little Badger Creek Trail, we almost missed the unsigned side trail to the helispot. For those of you unfamiliar with what a helispot is, it is a location, oftentimes in a wilderness or national forest, used to land helicopters for purposes of depositing firefighting crews. They are also used for emergency evacuations.

Helispot:
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The helispot sign post looked like it had been whittled down with a knife. I think it was the work of a porcupine.

Helispot Sign Post:
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Closeup of the Sign Post:
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We took a quick side trip to check out the spring to the NW of the helispot. It was flowing pretty good, coming right out of the ground. I almost wished I needed to fill up on water.

Spring Coming Right Out of the Ground:
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We continued on up the Little Badger Creek Trail up to 4740’ before running into snow deep enough to make hiking in just boots difficult. Even though we had snowshoes, we elected to turn around. We had considered trying to make it to Flag Point. Yep, another story of hikers carrying snowshoes and not using them. Oh well, it’s good weight-carrying practice for upcoming backpacking trips.

Turnaround Spot:
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Shortly after turning around, we took our first and only rest break of the day. The ground was so soft I could have taken a nap.

Instead of an Action Shot, Here's an Inaction Shot:
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On the way back, we took a short side trip to see the Rock Garden. The Rock Garden is series of interesting rock formations just to the east of the helispot.

An Example of One of the Rock Garden Rock Formations:
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It's Straight Down on the Other Side of the Rocks:
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Hey Mom! Look at Me!
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Rather than heading back up to the Little Badger Creek Trail from where we came, we headed east off-trail to meet the trail after it heads steeply downhill.

This Part is Fairly Steep:
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Following the directions from the field guide, we took the very short side trip to check out the Old Kinzel Mine (3160’). Romann says it’s 80’ long and curves like a “J”, has resident mice and is safe to explore. I’ll take his word for it. Besides I’m afraid of mice. Seriously, mice represent more of a danger than bears or cougars due to Hantavirus.

Opening to the Old Kinzel Mine:
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Very near the Old Kinzel Mine are the remnants of the Miner’s Cabin. If it was owned by a person under 18 who was an insignificant character, it would be the Minor Minor’s Miner Cabin. Wrap your head around that one.

Miner's Cabin:
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At this spot the trail is right next to the creek. For the rest of the trail until the last mile and a half, the trail is high above the creek.

The rest of the hike back to the trailhead was uneventful except for the large amount of blow-down we had to negotiate and Chris getting pelted on the back of his neck with a large pine cone.

Chris Demonstrating His Gymnastic Skills. Score of 9.5 Including the Dismount:
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The Casual Pretend-I'm-Not-Looking Selfie:
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Chris also discovered a deer leg and was so ravenous he started eating it. We found part of the rest of the deer soon afterward, but there is no need to share those pictures. Needless to say, it looked like it had been gnawed on recently.

Chris Eating a Deer Leg:
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The Other Leg Was Pointing the Way:
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Little Badger Creek:
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Tracks in Google Earth:
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Tracks in NatGeo Topo:
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Other comments:
• Mileage: GPS Trip Computer 14.2 Miles / GPS Fly 13.03.
• Elevation Gain: GPS Trip Computer 3512' / GPS Fly 3059'.
• Two hour drive time, both ways from 82nd and Sandy.
• There were lots of blow-down on the trails. We had to climb over, around and under it 40-50 times.
• This hike was a perfect example of demonstrating how snow coverage differs in southern and northern facing slopes, as well as in a canyon. The higher up south facing School Canyon Trail had no snow, except for a small north facing stretch behind Ball Point, while the much lower area of the Little Badger Creek down in the canyon had some patches.
• The Little Badger Creek Trail on my GPS and National Geographic Top showed the trail following right next to the creek most of the way and even crossing it several times. It never did cross it and only follows next to it for one and a half miles at the start.

Here is a link to all the pictures on Flickr.

Here is a link to the GPS tracks.

Hike on Man,
Brad
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
- Jean Luc Picard

Thor the Deer

pablo
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Re: School Canyon/Little Badger Creek Loop: 3/16/14

Post by pablo » March 17th, 2014, 8:52 pm

Thx for a great report and thx for providing a GPX file of your track - really helps with planning as I've not been over that way, ever, so this is for sure going on my list for 2014.

Any tick problems in the area? I hate ticks.

--Paul
The future's uncertain and the end is always near.

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mattisnotfrench
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Re: School Canyon/Little Badger Creek Loop: 3/16/14

Post by mattisnotfrench » March 17th, 2014, 9:55 pm

Great work, Brad! I'm glad to see this area is open so early in the season, though that's also problematic for fire season later on. It's a wonderful area, and one that is a joy to return to again and again. In the winter it's also a fairly reliable escape from the rain, provided you can get to the trailheads.

I had one of my all-time best sunrises near the Little Badger Trailhead:
Ball Point 009.JPG
Born2BBrad wrote:
• The Little Badger Creek Trail on my GPS and National Geographic Top showed the trail following right next to the creek most of the way and even crossing it several times. It never did cross it and only follows next to it for one and a half miles at the start.
The original Little Badger Creek Trail followed its namesake all the way to the old Kinzel Cabin, crossing the creek EIGHT times in the process. It was rerouted in the 90s at some point due to flooding (or poor construction...or both). The maps still haven't caught up. When I hiked this trail 2 years ago researching my book I was expecting the trail to cross the creek a bunch, so imagine my surprise when we wound up climbing way above the creek, only to drop down into the canyon again.

This is a great trail for flowers in May and June:
Badger Creek Wilderness 026ph.JPG
Badger Creek Wilderness 037ph.JPG
Badger Creek Wilderness 039ph.JPG
Author of Off the Beaten Trail, 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region and PDX Hiking 365. Website: www.offthebeatentrailpdx.com

justpeachy
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Re: School Canyon/Little Badger Creek Loop: 3/16/14

Post by justpeachy » March 18th, 2014, 7:51 am

Great TR as always! I have yet to explore the Badger Creek Wilderness but it sure looks nice!
If it was owned by a person under 18 who was an insignificant character, it would be the Minor Minor’s Miner Cabin. Wrap your head around that one.
:lol: :lol: :lol:

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Rustygoat
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Re: School Canyon/Little Badger Creek Loop: 3/16/14

Post by Rustygoat » March 18th, 2014, 8:17 am

The random deer leg snack is always a nice treat! :lol: Thanks for sharing, cool TR 8-)
Tim

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VanMarmot
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Re: School Canyon/Little Badger Creek Loop: 3/16/14

Post by VanMarmot » March 18th, 2014, 11:26 am

Great TR! Its a long drive but worth it to get a jump on Spring/Summer hiking. Maybe that's why Romann always seems to camp out there.

A delightful garlic sauce & a hearty burgundy would probably have gone well with that deer leg. ;)

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Born2BBrad
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Re: School Canyon/Little Badger Creek Loop: 3/16/14

Post by Born2BBrad » March 19th, 2014, 7:04 am

Hey, thanks everyone who commented. Hopefully some people were entertained by my comical attempts :lol:

Pablo: We didn’t see any ticks – and we were looking for them. Some of the areas just had that feel like it was tick territory, although maybe the elevation is out of their range.

Matt: Interesting information about the rerouting of the Little Badger Creek Trail. I cleaned up my GPS tracks and sent them to the NW Topo guy at Switchbacks.com. That way, at least the next version he puts out will have an accurate track of that trail. I’ve been doing that for most of my hikes this year where the trail on the GPS differs from where the actual trail is.

Brad
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
- Jean Luc Picard

Thor the Deer

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bobcat
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Re: School Canyon/Little Badger Creek Loop: 3/16/14

Post by bobcat » March 19th, 2014, 4:24 pm

Lovely loop and one I always heartily recommend. Thanks for the picture of the spring - I've never attempted to visit it.

Matt's photo of the lady's slipper: You can see them near the beginning of both the Little Badger and Badger Creek trails around Memorial Day.

I'm interested in the whittling. You're probably right about porcupines. They go for the cambium layer on trees, but will attack human erections [sic] for things such as glue, sweat residue, etc. However, that's a relatively old sign and was in pristine condition the last time I saw it, just a pressure-treated post. I reckon one of our spiny friends is just gnawing for the sake of gnawing, i.e. his incisors constantly grow and he has to do something to prevent them from penetrating his upper or lower jaws.

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miah66
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Re: School Canyon/Little Badger Creek Loop: 3/16/14

Post by miah66 » March 20th, 2014, 1:03 pm

bobcat wrote: You're probably right about porcupines. They go for the cambium layer on trees, but will attack human erections [sic] for things such as glue, sweat residue, etc. However, that's a relatively old sign and was in pristine condition the last time I saw it, just a pressure-treated post. I reckon one of our spiny friends is just gnawing for the sake of gnawing, i.e. his incisors constantly grow and he has to do something to prevent them from penetrating his upper or lower jaws.
I forgot to mention it Brad, but I'm pretty sure Water (Matt) said he has had his car gnawed on twice @ that trailhead by porcupines. He takes fencing w/ him to put around his car when he parks out there! :lol: Not the best place to be broken down since it's so far out. :cry: I noticed you didn't make it to Flag Point, wondered if you ran out of time or hit snow. At the rock garden in June of last year, I came across still smoldering camp fires that I used my water to put out. :roll: That nice section along Little Badger Creek is going to be an easy campout for me this summer at some point. Can't wait!
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mtnhiker56
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Re: School Canyon/Little Badger Creek Loop: 3/16/14

Post by mtnhiker56 » April 3rd, 2014, 3:01 pm

Did you happen to see any wolf prints next to the deer leg?

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