backpack: Badger Creek
Two night backpacking trip in Badger Creek Wilderness
This is my first “regular” backpacking trip of the year. I did two winter backpack trips in the snow earlier in the year, and after the last trip, I pretty much decided that I prefer to backpack when there’s no snow. Besides it being colder, I prefer to see the landscape features when they aren’t all covered in the white stuff. I still very much enjoy seeing the winter wonderland scenery, but probably won’t be backpacking in it anymore. For more on why, see my short story about snow camping.
I had several backpacking trips planned over the last month that all had to be cancelled due to rain. Of course, it rains a lot in the spring in the Pacific Northwest, so I expected that to happen. But the forecast for this weekend looked pretty good, with only a slight chance of rain on the last night and morning.
For this trip, I went with four friends, with two of us hiking in on Friday morning and the other three joining us in the early evening. This was my first time in the Badger Creek Wilderness, so I was looking forward to seeing the differences in the forest. This area is in a transition zone on the east side of the Cascade crest with a forest of mixed conifers including Ponderosa pine, western red cedar, and western hemlock.
The drive to the trailhead was on paved roads until the last half mile, which was narrow and steep with ruts and potholes but okay if you took it slow. We were the first car at the trailhead, with two more backpackers pulling up behind us right when we got there. My friend had been here before and had seen a rattlesnake near the trailhead, so I kept my eyes on the ground to make sure I didn’t step on one, but I never did see any snakes on this trip.
The trail follows the creek all the way to Badger Lake, although we weren’t planning to make it to the lake on this trip. There are campsites next to the creek, spaced about every mile or less. We hiked in about 3.7 miles to a spot with two campsites. The first one is smaller and there’s some type of concrete and metal structure on the other side of the creek, so we continued to the second campsite. It’s right off the trail, but it was large and open and had great water access.
We set up camp and had lunch, then traipsed around the woods on the other side of the trail looking for a place to hang our food. It’s always a challenge to find branches low enough that are sturdy, but we both managed to find something that worked. I’ve been practicing the PCT food hang method. Instead of tying off the rope around a tree after hanging your food, you tie a stick to the rope to act as a stopper for your food bag.
After hanging our food, we went on a short walk from the campsite. Back at camp, I took my backpacking chair down to the creek to relax when our other three friends (and their well-behaved pups) arrived. After they set up camp, it was getting close to dinner time.
We gathered water from the creek to filter, and two of us were using our new gravity set ups using the Sawyer Squeeze filter with a CNOC bladder, connecting it to our hydration bladders with the drink tube and let gravity do the work. I found a tree with a small knot on it that was perfect for hanging the dirty water bladder from. See my blog post on converting a Sawyer Squeeze to a gravity water filter.
When I woke up in the morning, something had moved my trekking pole out of my tent vestibule. On closer inspection, I noticed that the hand grip had been chewed on, but not very much. One of my friends trekking poles didn’t fare so well though and hers were chewed up quite a bit. We think it was a chipmunk, and it chewed on all but one pair of our trekking poles. We all made sure to keep them in our tents the next night.
After breakfast, we did a day hike to where Pine Creek joins Badger Creek. Small wildflowers were in bloom all along the forest floor, and there was a mix of pines in the forest, and one section with short manzanita shrubs. Both are not typically seen on the west side of the Cascades, so it was nice to see something different. We went about 2.5 miles from our camp and back, for a total of about 5 miles.
Back at camp, we relaxed and took turns reading pages from a short story by Kurt Vonnegut. After that, we worked on three crossword puzzles together. It was nice to take the time to relax more on this trip. Then we each made our dinners and built a small campfire.
Once dusk arrives, I usually jump up to take photos around camp. The lighting at this time of day is perfect for dramatic photos. I waited a bit longer than normal, but I like the way these photos capture the darkness with the light of the creek.
The next morning, we had a leisurely breakfast and then packed up to hike out. Clouds moved in and it started sprinkling a little before we were all packed up, but the rain held off until we were hiking. Even then, it was a light rain and we didn’t bother stopping to put on rain gear. The trees shielded us from most of the rain, and it was a pleasant walk through the forest. I did put my camera away though. I ruined a camera one time when it got too wet in the rain, so I’m more careful now.
This was the least crowded backpacking trip I’ve been on, with only a few other backpackers and almost no day hikers. I hope to come back in the fall. This area is supposed to have western larches that turn yellow in October.
On the drive back, I made a wrong turn and we ended up driving on roads that were pretty sketchy. Narrow, winding, with ruts, huge potholes, and snow. It made me pretty nervous, but we finally made it back to highway 35. My friend had questioned the turn when I made it, and from now on, I’ll be sure to listen to her!