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Despite a forecast that included rain showers, we decided to go backpacking with our friends in the Badger Creek Wilderness over Memorial Day weekend. We had originally planned on a three day/two-night trip, but the weather Saturday was not favorable. We instead opted to leave Sunday morning for an overnight backpacking trip.
Badger Creek trail #479 begins near Bonney Crossing Campground off FS road 2710 (about 2.5 miles North of Rock Creek Reservoir as the crow flies). The trail closely follows Badger Creek for approximately 11 miles to Badger Lake and then continues another 1.5 miles around the lake and up to FS road 4860. There are numerous camping spots along the trail (see map below) in addition to Bonney Crossing and Badger Lake campgrounds. The Badger Creek Wilderness is a unique area situated in the rain shadow of Mount Hood. As such, it has diverse vegetation, ranging from the wetter species of the Western side of the Cascades to the drier species usually found on the Eastern side of the Cascades.
We got a fairly early start and arrived at the Badger Creek trailhead around 9 AM (after a two hour drive from the Portland area). Having hiked this trail a half dozen times before, I did not expect the volume of people we encountered over the holiday weekend. There was only parking for one of our cars, so we shuttled the other car up the road to a safe pullout. The weather had been rainy and foggy coming through Government Camp, but partially cleared up several miles West of the trailhead. It was partly sunny with temperatures in the upper 40's F when we arrived. Soon the five of us (Matt, Kara, Katie, our dog Bella, and I) were on our way down the trail into the Badger Creek Wilderness.
We passed numerous other backpackers who were relaxing at their camps. We talked to a few who were headed home after enduring a sizable hail storm the previous night. There were still remant patches of hail visible in shaded areas on the trail. We encountered a few blown-down trees from winter storms, but nothing impassable. Last summer I hiked from the opposite end of this trail and the first three miles were a nightmare of downed trees (at some points the trail was completely obscured for hundreds of yards).
I have never hiked Badger Creek trail this early in the season, so it was a treat to see all the wildflowers, shrubs, and trees in bloom. Everything around the trail was lush green. The normally dusty trail was moist and pleasant to walk on. We only encountered one muddy patch despite our moist spring.
I love fly fishing pocket water for trout, and Badger Creek is a great stream for doing so. The resident native redband trout are eager to take a fly if the conditions are right. This time of year, the water is too high and cold for productive fishing, but I tinkered around in a few pockets trying to entice a strike. My double-fly setup (dry fly on top and wet on bottom) has worked very well on Badger Creek in the past, but due to the conditions, I only managed to catch a couple small trout.
We hiked just shy of 6 miles to the confluence of Pine Creek and Badger Creek - one of my favorite places to camp. It's a nice flat spot next to the creek with a rock-formed fire ring and room for several tents. Established (though primitive) camping spots abound along the trail, making it easy to find a nice location without trampling more of the wilderness (even on busy holiday weekends).
Pine creek was full with seasonal runoff, forming a small waterfall where it joins Badger Creek. This created a nice backdrop at camp. After setting up, gathering firewood, and eating lunch, we again set off along the trail with fishing rods in hand. I wanted to try fishing a couple spots farther up the trail where the canyon narrows, creating deeper pools for fish to congregate.
About 1.5 miles from our camp (roughly 7 miles from the trailhead) we came to small creek crossing and a few nice pockets of water. Matt quickly landed and released a small redband trout in the first pool he fished. A few minutes later, I also managed to land and release a small trout. We fished for about 30 minutes and caught several more trout. They were all in the 4-6 inch range, so we promptly released them.
On the way back to camp we took a detour and hiked down Post Camp Trail #467 to where it crosses Badger Creek. The wooden bridge is still passable, though it has seen better days.
The next morning (Memorial Day), we got a leisurely start before heading back to the trailhead. The trail was empty and only two cars remained in the lot when we returned a little after 1 PM. Before heading home, we stopped by neighboring Rock Creek Reservoir to eat lunch and fish for a little while. It was mostly cloudy, so we couldn't see Mount Hood, but Lookout Mountain was visible across the lake.