This past weekend we returned to Badger Creek Wilderness for an overnight. Our goal was a nice and easy loop, with one steep climb on Day 1. Total mileage around 10 miles. Its starting to get dark pretty early and we planned on spending the night playing cribbage and drinking hot chocolate. The weather forecast was for about 1/10th of an inch of rain and no mention of high winds. On Sunday, the weather was forecast to be perfect, allowing us to complete the loop along a ridge with expansive views of Eastern Oregon.
The reality was much different. As we hiked in it began to rain a bit, which isn’t a big deal. Along the way the trail passes by an old miner’s cabin and the mine itself which is pretty cool. However as we climbed higher, more rain arrived and the wind really picked up. The campsites I had read chosen as goals were pretty damn exposed. One was literally a helispot and the other was on basically on a ridge. These spots would prove to be a poor choice.
We found a nice spot amongst some beautiful rock formations. It was windy and becoming windier, but the sun was setting so we didnt have much time to find another spot. The gusts picked up even more to the point that some of my tent stakes weren’t holding. I had to lift 25-40 lb rocks to put on each of the stakes to keep them from pulling out. I then cut my bear line in half to I could guy out from a couple of points for extra support, using the heaviest rocks I could carry. The tent poles were two Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking poles, which held up just fine.
It rained, but that wasn’t the issue. The wind gusts were tremendous. I have no idea how fast they were, but I can tell you that at times you could feel the tent lifting up underneath use, despite all the stakes holding. The whole tent was flapping violently enough that the rocks were lifting up, but not enough to where the stakes would come up or enough for the rocks to flip over. It was without a doubt scary. We stayed up half the night, unable to sleep as the wind howled for hours. Eventually I accepted that the tent would hold and fell asleep.
The next morning was beautiful. However, because I used sharp volcanic rocks some of the stake loops on the tent shredded from all the abrasion. As the tent flapped violently, the rocks acted like a cheese grater on the fabric. If we were in a second night in these conditions, the tent would’ve failed. This would not be a failure of the tent per, but user error due to choosing a shit spot and putting sharp volcanic rocks on the tent stakes. I was very happy with the performance of my Lunar Duo Outfitter which I bought for $60 from Six Moon Designs.
I learned once again that weather forecasts from multiple sources can prove useless and inaccurate. The unexpected extreme winds combined with poor campsite selection made for a miserable night. However, this area has tons of damage from Pine Bark Beetle which makes for plenty of widow makers. If we had been in a more sheltered, forested area we would’ve also been worried about getting smushed by trees all night.
Completing the rest of the loop was pure pleasure as we walked along the ridge line with expansive views of the desert, the Cascades, and even the Columbia River Gorge from afar. The last bit of the loop involved a short bushwhack, affording me a low-risk opportunity to finally practice some map and compass skills 🙂
Keep scrolling to see the map and data courtesy of Caltopo.