Where Oregon’s Wild Cascade Mountains Meet The Plains: Badger Creek Wilderness
Many people think of Oregon in terms of big trees, which we do have. But a large portion of the state is actually high desert plateau dotted with mountain ranges, the most prominent of which are the Cascades.
Finding a precise edge where the dark, verdant foliage of the mountain climate zone transitions into the more arid and less vegetated high plains is difficult to find. But enroute to a hike on the eastern flanks of Mt. Hood, we were able to see a very clear definition.
Hopping in the car and heading east on Highway 26 towards Bend, we continued past the Highway 35 cutoff then turned left towards the town of Wamic, following several forest roads before we reached the eastern fringes of the forest. In the distance, we saw smooth, rounded hills just beyond the trees in front of us, the landscape opening up to us.
As we headed out at the trail head at Badger Creek, we transitioned back and forth between wetter forests and drier oak scrubland, with the brilliant yellows of the fall colors contrasting against the dark mossy rocks.
Our trek today was really all about accompanying Badger Creek for the better part of six miles up its drainage. It gurgled merrily alongside us, at times drawing farther away as we climbed up a few ridge areas. We saw a number of deer, and despite the temperature being around 40 degrees F at the onset of the hike, we quickly warmed.
Brad kept us on track, and we found our turnaround point far from our start, which was a delightful campground that was quiet and serene, bankside to Badger Creek. We ate lunch, watched the water carry past us, and then headed back.
Along the way, I was suddenly startled by what looked like a face watching me in the bushes. It turned out to be a very unusual tree stump that had matching ‘eyes’!
My boots carried me well until the final half-hour of our hike. My knees starting to tire, I didn’t pick up my feet as well as I should have, and while crossing a rock pile, I tripped.
Had a video camera been running, it would have been almost a gag reel moment, but instead, Brad heard an “Aiiggghhhhh!” and turned around to see me flailing, trying to catch my balance. Just at the moment when I thought I had my legs under me again, I tripped a second time, and went plummeting over a short embankment, banging my shins against the unforgiving rocks. A few choice words and tears later, I was sitting up, then walking it off. Tough hiker girl! Grrr!!!
Oregon trails are well-maintained; the point I illustrated here is that you shouldn’t hike to a point where you get too tired to keep yourself safe. Had the embankment been, say, a cliff, I might not have been so lucky. Needless to say, I took extra care hobbling back to the car and nursing my emerging bruises. But I didn’t let my tumble divert my attention to the beauty of the day, and got some great fall pictures of the stunning scenery around us.