Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Badlands 6245', Painter's Thumb 6744' 9.21.10

 I was very happy to see a improved weather forecast and since I had an entire day I thought I would give the legs a good stretch. The main goal was Painter's Thumb which is just West of Painter Creek and can be attempted in a variety of ways. While the Peak itself poses no special problems it is defended by sheer distance. The shortest route is via Hatchery Creek and that is still 18+ miles and because of the ups and downs of the route has 7100' of climb. Using Chiwaukum Creek would be longer but it doesn't have nearly as much vertical. Since the Badlands trail nearly goes overtop the high point of The Badlands I thought this would be the route of choice for this day. I was happy to see some piercing sun when I arrived at the Hatchery Creek Trailhead. In fact I took a picture of my shadow since it seems to be such a rare sight for me of late.

  I had made good time after managing to leave before I had expected. I started the climb of the junction with the Badlands trail at 9:45. I figured it would take me at least 8 hours round trip so I figured I could still make it home in time to kiss the kids goodnight. Little did I know fate had other plans. I had great legs and made the 2500' climb to The Badlands Junction is 1:40 and I quickly dropped the 500' to Battle Canyon Creek. The water was low so crossing was no issue. The 1400' climb to the Badlands High Point was a little slower than what I hoped but I made 6245' in just over 3 hours. I took a short break and marvelled at the marker on the highpoint. It  was a rock that looked like some one's hand either saluting #1 or some other obscene gesture. I had to laugh to myself because all that was missing was the thumb which I found ironic since I was climbing Painter's Thumb.

  The drop to Painter Creek went quickly and there were some nice grassy areas to allowed some views of the surrounding area which wasn't the case at 6245'. Once reaching the Painter Creek Trail the going was muddy but the trail was always easy to follow. Once passing some rock outcroppings I angled up the first open area I saw and started the 1600' grind to the summit. I would recommend going further along the trail for my descent I found it to be much easier. The initial portion was brushy but I was able to find game trails through the worst of it. At around 5700' I angled SW aiming for the small saddle. Once on the saddle at 5800' I dropped pack and had a pleasant amble up the broad mellow ridge. I ran across a game camera affixed to a tree and I am sure the owner is in for a surprise when they see my ugly mug. Soon the summit came into view and one must go as far South as you can to reach the true summit. I had almost given up finding the register but at the last minute I found it and signed the Fay Pullen register placed in 2005. Not many entries and only one from this year. As much as I enjoy signing registers I wished I hadn't found this one. As has been well documented I travel with a Shepard and a Beagle, and Beagle may not be the best choice for a climbing partner. I have learned to leash him as much as possible over the years because of his wanderings when on scent. As soon as I let go of the leash he was off to the South baying that sickening baying that I know spells trouble. I know screaming at him with have no effect but there isn't any other option, so scream I did...... to no avail.

   To make this situation worse he was still leashed making it very likely that he would get the leash hung up in the brush. This always scares me because it is very likely that he may get it tangled that would prevent him from returning. I wasn't feeling too good about my chances of seeing him again so I started the descent back to my stowed belongings. Thankfully I heard him baying and he was coming towards me. I angled as far East as I could to give myself a line of site. Baxter was within 500 yards of me and I felt pretty good about things until I realized he was still chasing whatever he went after originally. He was descending instead of climbing towards me. I felt like there was a good chance since he was at least now heading in the direction we needed to go. I took a different line after reaching my pack which was much easier than my ascent line. I had a tough time telling where the baying was coming from. Was it front of me or behind me? I backtracked about a .5 mile without hearing anything. I assumed since Baxter was no longer baying he probably regained the trail and was following my scent home. I retraced my steps and started the climb back out of the Painter Creek Valley. I didn't hear anymore baying so I was confused on how to proceed. I contemplated spending the night since I had the gear to do it. I had no way of letting my wife know so that would probably freak her out and I do have to work tomorrow.

  Back at the high point I dropped pack and debated on what to do next. I decided to head back to the Painter Creek valley and see if I could make contact. After backtracking a mile and yelling for an extended time I turned my attention of making it out. I was concerned with all my backtracking that I would have to do the descent in the dark. After dropping to the creek I chugged up the 500' of climb to regain the Hatchery Creek Trail. I stopped and layered up and put on my headlight. I was able to reach my wife thankfully and let her know that I was OK and that I was running really late and I was missing the Beagle. I again contemplated camping but I was hopeful that my annoying dog would be at the car when I got back. Thankfully there was a nearly full moon to aid the headlamp for the long descent. I ran across a couple of hunters on there way up and I asked them if they had seen the Beagle which they hadn't. I gave them some instruction what to do if they ran across him and continued my descent. Finally I reached the car and alas no Beagle. I hung a sign with the particulars and now I wait. Since it is hunting season I am holding out some hope but truthfully it isn't likely I will ever see Baxter again. It is funny how something that can be so irritating most of the time can be held so closely. I don't look forward to trying to explain this to the girls in the morning. On the way home I hung a sign at the Chiwaukum Traihead as well.

   Such a bittersweet day, two new peaks 21 miles 7800' of climb (new personal record)  11:15 car to car and one less pet.

By some chance any of you run it Baxter he may or may not be wearing his collar. He is chipped however. You can contact me at



  1. I didn't know he was still attached to his leash. That certainly is not good. Stupid, stupid dog (tears in my eyes)! Hope someone finds him.

  2. I hope Baxter finds his way home. Nice write up and nice site. Oneluv

  3. I am so sorry about your dog Baxter. I just wanted to pass on a story that might give you some hope since Baxter is chipped. My friend's husband was hunting with his Coon Hound and the dog ran out of radio range and he could not find him. He searched for days, then weeks, and never found him. ONE YEAR later they got a call from a Vet and found out someone had been able to pick up Billy (the dog) and bring him in. Because he was chipped he was reunited with his owner. He was very skinny and unkempt and obviously had been on the run for the entire year but they nursed him back to health and thanked God and the chip for bringing him back into their lives. I am praying that someday you will also get that call.

    Lucy Mann


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