Badger Creek · Badger Creek Wilderness · Mt. Hood National Forest · Oregon · USA
The hottest and driest summer I've yet experienced in my lifetime here in the Pacific Northwest has been drawing out the locals in droves to revel in the grandeur of nature. Everyone's entitled to experiencing the beauty of the great outdoors, of course, and save for those who inexplicably choose to desecrate it by leaving an indelible scar upon the land (other than your vanity, scraping your initials into the fluorescent yellow lichen coating the basalt walls of the Columbia River Gorge's serves exactly...what??), I don't begrudge anybody this privilege. But as a decided introvert who draws strength from relative solitude well out of ear- and eyeshot of the masses and regularly requires the soothing symphony of nature to replenish the soul, the cumulative cacophony of humanity can rain like a million tiny glass shards upon my spirit.
So when we were having trouble drumming up ideas for where to go that might afford us some relative solitude, the idea of heading to Badger Creek where there really wasn't any payoff of a grand vista or waterfall to look forward to really didn't matter all that much to me. Indeed, we encountered only two or three other parties along the trail, and without a preordained destination and with our time constrained only by my need to begin call duties back at home later that evening, we set off in search of nothing in particular and let whatever delights come as they may. It didn't take long, as not more than a hundred yards from the trailhead we were already being charmed by some adorable baby western fence lizards that seemed to appreciate the warmth of our hands, graciously posing for our cameras for a little while before their survival instincts finally got the better of them.
Moving on, we entered a drier forest of towering ponderosa pine typical for the eastern slope of the Cascades. I was struck also by the preponderance of Oregon white oak and feathery-foliaged grand fir, both of which are very occasional and diminutive interlopers in the westside forests of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, western redcedar, and Pacific silver fir we more habitually frequent. Low-growing twinflower and shrubby snowberry dominated the forest floor, while an understory of vine maple, bracken fern, and unruly water birch stenosed the trail on both sides every so often, their branches torturing your exposed skin with an annoying itch one fleeting instant before scratching you in merciful relief the next. I found the whole tactile experience wonderfully invigorating...mom, on the other hand, perceived it more as a harrowing life-and-death run of the gauntlet on account of her caterpillar phobia (an odd trait for a nature-lover, if you ask me), banking that her speed would keep the nefarious nubby-legged critters from viciously latching onto her as these squishy blood-suckers are wont to do. (I mean, right???)
To the left, exceptionally low flows in the creek exposed many ordinarily submerged rocks to the air, forming a delightful obstacle course that generated plenty of whimsical whitewater and relaxingly musical intonations. About a mile or so in I spied a rock that was redirecting and splaying the water in a graceful bow and took note of its location, hoping that the light would come in just right later in the day to offer an aesthetically pleasing reflection. Sure enough, the sky had brightened considerably by the time we came back around, and I spent several minutes here altering the composition ever so slightly in every way imaginable until I settled on this framing to exclude some minor distracting elements. This obviously won’t have the broader appeal of some atomic sunrise or sunset image, but I don’t often have the free time to keep chasing down those rare moments when Nature reveals her beauty to you with a scream. On the other hand, she always seems to be whispering something, and I just try my darnedest to be present, keep quiet, and listen.