Monday, January 16, 2017

Oregon Badlands Wilderness: Badlands Rock

Old Juniper on the Badlands Rock Trail

The Oregon Badlands Wilderness is quickly becoming my "go to" spot for hiking and exploration. Access is less than 30 minutes from town, yet the crowds are nonexistent. My original plan for this day was to check out Tumalo Falls, but when I arrived vehicles lined the road leading to the trailhead and people poured from them with snowshoes and nordic skis. It was so crowded that I immediately turned around and headed for the Badlands. Solitude is a big part of why I like the outdoors, and nothing outside turns me off faster than crowds.

An hour later I'm in the Badlands. The hike was usual Badlands fare; flat terrain, Junipers aplenty and all the solitude a man could want. Unlike my first foray into this wilderness, Badlands Rock Trail occasionally opens up to views of the surrounding hills. The Junipers here are more sparse. The country just feels more open. I'm struck by the sheer number of birds I see and hear in this wilderness. I'm accompanied by birdsong everywhere I go. 

From atop Badlands Rock
I was surprised by the size of Badlands Rock when it finally came into view near the 2.5 mile mark. I wasn't expecting it to be so big, and was overcome with the urge to climb it. The scramble was a bit tricky due to ice and snow, but the view from the top has to be the best in the entire Oregon Badlands. 

Unnamed hiker on top of Badlands Rock

More views.
From Badlands Rock, one has two options for longer loop hikes. I went west on Castle Trail which had not been used since the most recent snowfall. Breaking trail was slow going. By the time I reached The Castle (halfway between Badlands Rock and The Flatiron) I felt like I was on a race against time to beat the setting sun, so I retraced my steps back to the trailhead and made it just in time. This area definitely deserves so more exploration. I like the idea of backpacking here, but being a relatively new wilderness, and playing second fiddle to the cascades, I have not seen nor heard of any backcountry campsites... Until next time.

Breaking trail