First thing’s first. Here are two websites that we used for guidance during this trip:
1. Badger Creek Trail according to the government
2. Badger Creek Trail according to OregonHikers.org
Note: We chose this hike for our first backpacking trip for a few reasons, but, one important one being that the final destination, Badger Lake, is accessible by car and often hosts car campers. We thought it would be safer to go someplace somewhat populated and with a road on our first ever trip just in case something happened.
Ok, on to the narrative:
Once upon a time I came to terms with the fact that I would very soon have to do something I’ve cringed at the thought of since, well, forever. The moment was drawing near when I would have to poop… in the woods. ugh.
I’d rarely even car-camped (you know, load up your car with everything you ever never needed, drive to a campsite, pay the fee, unload the car, set up camp, cook smore’s, and eventually poop… but usually in a port-a-potty or a nice camp bathroom.) but, my car camping experiences were all very positive and I’d caught myself day dreaming on more than one occasion over the past few years about exploring the “backcountry”, the “wild”, and, well, backpacking. I never gave it much more than a drifting thought, though, until I moved to Portland, Oregon and met my husband. He’d gone backpacking once or twice in the past and was excited at the idea of building regular trips into our life together. With some money that we got for our wedding (thanks everyone!) we decided to buy some backpacking gear and try it out! 2 backpacks, a tent, and a lot of stuff later, we were ready! On to my first backpacking experience: 22 Miles along the Badger Creek Trail #479 in the Mt. Hood National Forest. September 2014.
Day 1: Saturday afternoon
Jordan had to work in the morning, so, as soon as he got home we packed up our gear and headed out toward the mountain. The drive took about an hour and a half so we stopped at Subway to pick up some dinner to eat before we got started. We were planning on hiking Saturday through Monday (we both had Monday off). The idea was to do about 5 or so miles the first day, 6 or so miles the second day, and then do the 11 miles back the third day. Our destination was Badger Lake. We hoped to make it by day 2 so that we could go for a swim and hang out a little before heading back the third day.
We started actually hiking late in the afternoon on Saturday, maybe 5 or 6pm, but that was no big deal. We figured we’d go until we found a cool camp site and call it a night. I was nervous about this first experience. Could I do it? Would the backpack be too heavy? What about animals? Will they eat me (kidding… kinda)? And…. I was going to have to go to the bathroom in the woods. gahh. We ate our subway sandwiches first, put on our packs, and said goodbye to civilization!
Honestly it was pretty easy going that first evening. There were rolling hills… up and down and up and down. It wasn’t the easiest hike in the world but it wasn’t bad. Before I even realized it, twilight was almost upon us and it was starting to get dark. I got a little nervous… what it we didn’t find a good campsite before it got dark? How do you even know you’ve FOUND a back-country campsite? What if we missed them all and had to hike all night? Ahh! At the height of my anxiety we walked past a very clearly marked campsite that had 2 women and two little boys, like 4 or 5 years old, hanging out around a fire. I instantly felt better. It looked like 2 moms and their kids. If those kids can do this, I can do it too 🙂 Or so I hoped… We pressed on and eventually came to a little side trail that led to a great looking campsite. At least I figured it was great looking… it was getting dark and the little light left only illuminated our immediate surroundings. We were right next to the creek, you could hear it gurgling, and there was a ring of stones for a fire, some logs to sit on, and a great place already cleared for a tent. Woo! We did it! It didn’t take us long to set up camp (real life: we practiced the night before in our living room. haha) and, before I knew it, we were cooking dinner on our itty bitty little camp stove, eating, then sitting next to the fire, enjoying the evening.
That night we were under heavy tree cover, but, I could see the moon here and there through the branches. It was SO BRIGHT. I found out later that this evening had a supermoon. I thought that was cool. A gift from God to say “all is well” on my first ever night in the wilderness. That evening went smoothly. I fell asleep pretty easily thanks to my amazing camping pad. Let me tell you. It is amazing. (I use a Klymit Static V2 Inflatable pad and It’s luxurious.) I did get a little cold in the middle of the night but I woke up and put on my rain coat and was fine after that. Yay!
Day 2: Sunday
We woke up to the realization that there was a small watefall within view of where we camped. Who knew! We weren’t totally sure where we were on our map so we decided to get moving just incase we still had a long way to go. Our goal was to get to Badger lake with enough time to swim, camp, and chill! We made breakfast, broke camp, packed up, and were on our way.
Pretty early on our hike we crossed Flag Point Trail which was our 7.5 mile marker. This made us happy because it meant that we hiked more than half way the day before (we thought we’d done way less). This lifted my spirits! The trail was just a hint uphill the rest of the hike to the lake.
Today was the day that I discovered huckleberries and blueberries! There were huckleberries and oval leaf blueberries all along this second portion of the hike at waist height just begging to be picked. This was my first experience of eating wild berries and YUM! Watch out, though, they can stain clothing quickly! Also along this part of the trail was a number of thimble berry bushes. All great eating!
We eventually arrived at Badger Lake and found a great campsite. The lake is accessible by car so it wasn’t secluded, but, there weren’t a ton of people there… probably due to it being Sunday night. We swam, we napped, we cooked, we hung out, we made camp, we slept! It was an awesome day and night!
Day 3: Monday
I was nervous about this day. Today was the day I would have to hike 12 or so miles with my backpacking gear. I’ve never
hiked that much in a day, much less with a heavy pack on. We had breakfast and got going as soon as we packed up in the morning, anticipating a long day.
And long it was! We stopped for lunch and hung out for about 45 minutes at the campsite we were at on day 1. I was feeling pretty dead by lunch time but lunch helped a lot. After lunch we got back on the trail and hiked all of the way back to the car.
MAN did it feel great to see the car! Every time I thought we were getting close because I recognized something from the trail in I was pretty quickly shut down by mile after mile of trail. Up and down and up and down. It was ok, though, but it gave me a real appreciation for distance and a better knowledge of what I was capable of. What am I capable of? An entire day of hiking with a backpack full of camping gear, that’s what!
Overall: This was a great first trip. I’d totally recommend it for anyone as long as you are ok with the mileage. It would have been fine as a 3 night trip as well 🙂 There were lots of camping options along the way (follow the little trails that sneak off of the main trail to find the gems) and you are never out of ear shot of the creek. There is some climbing but it is manageable if you take it at your own pace. You may have company at the Lake due to it being accessible by dirt road, but, we didn’t have any annoying neighbors and our camp site was pretty secluded even though we weren’t the only ones enjoying the lake. I loved this and would totally do it again.
Take a hike!