Badger Creek Wilderness Backpacking Trip
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
An overnight backpacking trip along the Divide Trail #458 in Badger Creek Wilderness in Mt Hood National Forest.
Points of Interest: Oval Lake (5548′), Palisade Point (5742′), and unnamed viewpoint/campsite (6128′) *coordinates listed below
Distance: 7.12 miles (round trip) Elevation Range: 4,626′ to 6,120′ Ascent/Descent: +1,757 ft / -1654 ft Trailhead: Oval Lake & Fret Creek Trail #456 A Trailhead Trails: Fret Creek Trail #456 A & Divide Trail #458 Note: There are multiple ways to make this a longer backpacking trip. We started at 3pm on a Friday, so we just backpacked until around 8pm and then set up camp. If I had more time I would have gone to Flag Point and Lookout Mountain (both are along the Divide Trail). For information on only Oval Lake check out my post Oval Lake.
Date trip was done: 6-26-20 to 6-27-20
My dad and I started our backpacking trip at 3pm on a sunny Friday afternoon. I was nervous when I got there. It was my first overnight backpacking trip in a long time. I intentionally chose a very short hike that I could add on to in whatever way I wanted. I was wanting to do a shakedown backpacking trip for my gear before my upcoming backpacking trip in North Cascades National Park with my cousin.
Last summer I’d just started hiking again, and by the start of this summer I was able to push out 15 mile days day-hiking. I felt like I was to the point I could start incorporating backpacking. I was really excited and nervous about it.
As I was getting ready to start the hike I was thinking, “I’m actually doing this… carrying a heavy backpack.” I did my best to be positive, but I was starting to think maybe I was a little crazy for wanting to do this. I’m notorious for pushing myself way beyond my limits and trying to do the most difficult thing possible.
That’s great and all when it comes to pushing myself, but when there’s a chronic illness thrown in the mix I tend to push myself way too far. I’ve been working at listening to my body, but I’m always attracted to things that are a little out of my reach. A lot of people seem to assume when they hear I have a chronic illness that means I don’t do a lot and don’t tend to push myself even when I should.
Haha! My problem is the exact opposite. I’m not very good at knowing when to stop or when I should approach something in a more gentle way. I’ve never viewed my illnesses as limiting, even when they feel that way. Most of the time I end up pretending with myself that they aren’t even there.
I feel like the label and how people view the term “chronic illness” is way more limiting than how I feel about it. There always seems to be a lot of assumptions that even health care providers have about what having fibromyalgia means for me. I’m in a pretty good place with it now. I’m not living in a constant flare. I’m not in pain all the time. And I haven’t had a huge flare in quite a while.
The first 0.2 miles of the Fret Creek Trail went straight uphill. I was thinking “oh shit, what did I get myself into?!” I wasn’t sure I’d even make it to the lake. I’d hike a little ways and then would have to take a break. I was feeling my feet, the weight of the pack and my increased heart rate.
The trail leveled out once we crossed our first bridge across the creek. I was thankful for the flatter terrain. We had to climb over and go around some deadfall across the trail.
The trail went uphill and was a rather steep climb. We’d walk a ways and then stop to take a break. We talked and laughed our way up the hill. The thing that sort of irked me was that if I had a daypack on, this hill would have been steep but not as miserable as it was with a large backpack on.
When we got to the top of the hill there was Oval Lake near the trail. There was a large group camping near the trail next to the lake. We went a little ways down the shore and found a log I could walk out on to filter some water.
We decided we wanted to keep hiking on to Palisade Point. It took us 0.5 miles from the lake to get there. It was around 0.2 miles from Oval Lake to the trail junction where it came to a “T.” We went left down the Divide Trail for 0.3 miles to Palisade Point.
The first part of the trail was flat then it started climbing uphill, and then went pretty steep up. The trail dropped off on one side. There were a few steep switchbacks. We could see Mt Adams to the north from the switchbacks. I had Palisade Point’s coordinates in my GPS so I was able to make sure we were in the right place. There was a large open area and a huge rock on the edge of a cliff. We ate our supper at the base of the rock.
I was hesitant to climb the rock since it was exposed and a long fall down. I finally got the guts and climbed to the top with my Dad. To be honest it was more like I crawled to the top. This might sound stupid and make no sense as I’m not scared of falling. I’m scared of watching someone else fall, or them watching me fall.
It was so worth the view from the top though. I could see Eastern Oregon (desert part), Mt Adams, Washington state, Mt Jefferson, Three Sisters, the tip of Mt Hood, Badger Lake and the whole of Badger Creek Wilderness. I took tons of pictures and then we made our way back down the rock.
We figured out where we wanted to try and camp. We decided to go down the Divide Trail in the opposite direction going in the opposite way of the “T” in the trail. It ended up being almost entirely a steep uphill climb. It took us an hour to hike to where we were hoping to camp. It was 1.18 miles from Palisade Point to our campsite and 454′ ascent.
We reached a flat section that looked like the forest opened and there might be a good viewpoint off the trail (to the left.) There was a slight hill, we climbed to the top and we were in awe with what we saw. We had an incredible view of Mt Hood! We could see the whole mountain and in person it looked huge. On another section of the hill we could see Mt Jefferson & Three Sisters. It was so magical. I couldn’t help smiling.
After taking in the view for a while we went and set up camp in the cover of some trees. I slept in my tent and my dad decided he wanted to just cowboy camp. I made some hot chocolate as dusk was starting to set in and we snacked on gummy bears. When the mosquitoes started to come out we went to bed.
I was able to fall asleep okay. I woke up at 2am and had to pee. I hate having to get out of my sleeping bag in the middle of the night, always have. Once I got out of my tent I was met with a dark sky overflowing with stars. I ended up just standing outside for a while looking at them. Stars are the only perk to getting up at 2am. I saw 3 shooting stars. It’s moments like that I can’t seem to ever fully put into words. Looking up made me feel small, yet it also made me feel like I was a part of something big and expansive. I felt limitless.
I was in and out of sleep all night. I got up at 5:15am and Dad was already up. Neither of us slept very well. I got all bundled up and then crawled out of my tent. I went and found my dad. He was sitting and watching the sun rise across Mt Hood. I sat with him for a bit.
I went and got everything packed up and ate some breakfast. I was still worn out from not sleeping very well and didn’t feel like hiking the short trek to the top of Lookout Mountain. We decided to just hike back to the trailhead instead. (Note: Lookout Mountain would be a great add on to this backpacking trip.)
We saw a beautiful deer along the the trail and some playful birds. The mosquitoes were way worse then they had been the day before. Most of the trail was downhill. There was only one uphill section and the flat section in the middle of the trail. Going back down the trail made us realize how steep the trail truly was. We made it back to the trailhead and our truck by 9am.
Oval Lake: 45.33314, -121.49822
Palisade Point: 45.33096, -121.49712
Unnamed View/Campsite area: 45.33419, -121.51574
TH to Oval Lake 2.25 miles
Oval Lake to Divide Trail split 0.19 miles (Oval Lake to Palisade Point 0.5 miles)
Divide Trail Split to Palisade Point 0.3 miles
Divide Trail Split to Campsite 0.75 miles (Palisade Point to Campsite 1.18 miles)
The two things I would recommend are 1) the map from Outdoor Project and 2) Gaia GPS or some form of GPS navigation.
Barlow Ranger District map location: T2S R11E S31, 1, 2
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