By MARK FURMAN
Of Baker City Herald
Endurance athletes learn to manage suffering and use it as a pathway to ... well, more suffering.
Just watch the faces on participants in this weekend's Elkhorn Classic bicycle stage race.
Even though it looks like pain.
But Baker City is a great stepping off point for more than just road cycling, with such aerobic threshold-exceeding activities as:
o mountain biking
o bicycle touring
o cross-country skiing
o long-distance backpacking
o high-altitude trail running
o peak bagging
So enjoy the Elkhorn Classic, as a spectator or participant. Then, whether you're just visiting or have lived here all your life, consider Baker County for another adventure vacation. We've plenty to go around.
Many of Baker County's best trail systems are verboten for mountain bikers the trails pass through Congressionally-designated wilderness.
That shouldn't discourage you from giving your road rod a rest and taking a spin on knobby tires.
The Shoreline Trail at Phillips Reservoir offers more than 13 miles of singletrack open to mountain bikes and a spring wildflower display against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks.
In the shoulder seasons and winter, Virtue Flat is a good bet for mountain bikers. This OHV area just across Hwy. 86 from the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center offers limitless potential for exploration thanks to singletrack and ATV trails. The sagebrush country offers views of the mountains and passes through some of the same country as the Oregon Trail.
The Idaho-based Wild Rockies (www.wildrockies.com) race series included Virtue Flat in the lineup for 2003. Promoters plan to return to Baker County in Spring 2004 for another off-road race.
Panniers and B.O.B. trailers are regular sites on the streets of Baker City, a good stopover point for cross-country cyclists following Adventure Cycling's Bikecentennial Route (www.adv-cycling.org.)
Eastbound cycle tourists arrive in Baker City a week or two after leaving the coast, having just pedaled over the Cascade Mountains and the John Day Fossil Beds.
Westbound cycle tourists enter Baker City through Halfway after having fought headwinds and the Rockies.
You don't have to ride across the country to enjoy Eastern Oregon. Experienced cycle tourists can design their own tour with the help of a map and telephone. In Baker County, information about campgrounds, road conditions and bed and breakfasts is available by calling Baker County Unlimited at 800/523-1235.
Or sign on for a supported tour. This year, Cycle Oregon tours the Hells Canyon country, beginning and ending in Baker City (www.cycleoregon.com.)
Calm water paddlers will enjoy Brownlee Reservoir, which encompasses inundated stretches of the Powder River and the Snake River.
For wilder waters, the Snake River enters Hells Canyon below Hells Canyon dam. Rafting and kayaking are managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Call 541/785-3395.
Commercial operators also offer jet boat tours of the canyon. Contact Baker County Unlimited for information about local outfitters.
Ski Anthony Lakes (www.anthonylakes.com) has expanded its Nordic trail system under director Dick Knowles, a veteran of Birkebeiners in the U.S., Canada and Scandinavia. Last winter, the area boasted 37 km of groomed trails.
Sanctioned classic and skate skiing races and club-level loppets are planned each winter. Check the Web site for details, or call 856-3277.
Oregon's largest wilderness area, Eagle Cap Wilderness, crowns the Wallowa Mountains northeast of Baker City. The wilderness trails offer ample room to amble for a weekend or weeks on end.
Consider starting your trip from the Baker County area, which offers access to trails in the less-crowded southern end of the wilderness area.
Want to run a marathon above 8,000 feet elevation? For endurance runners and hikers, the Elkhorn Crest Trail stretches 23 miles from Marble Creek Pass in the south, just outside Baker City, to Anthony Lakes Recreation Area in the north. The latter is accessible by passenger car; Marble Creek Pass requires a high-clearance vehicles.