Scenic byways open

June 25, 2004 12:00 am
Van Patten Butte looms above the Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway near Anthony Lakes. The entire 106-mile paved route is open to traffic, although drivers might have to skirt a snowdrift or two near the road's high point, 7,392-foot Elkhorn Summit. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
Van Patten Butte looms above the Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway near Anthony Lakes. The entire 106-mile paved route is open to traffic, although drivers might have to skirt a snowdrift or two near the road's high point, 7,392-foot Elkhorn Summit. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By JAYSON JACOBY

Of the Baker City Herald

Summer is coming to the mountains of Northeastern Oregon, but the season's approach march more resembles a crawl than a sprint.

Despite the passage of the solstice, obstinate snowdrifts continue to clog many roads, trails and campgrounds in both the Elkhorn and Wallowa mountains.

This week's heat wave, however, has shrunk some of those snow patches with the efficiency of hot water poured on a wool sweater.

Each day the white remnants recede, revealing wider swaths of the peaks' gray-brown cheeks.

Just this week two of the region's more popular roads opened: the Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway west of Baker City (Forest Service Road 73), and the Fish Lake Loop north of Halfway (Road 66).

Snow still intrudes on a short section of Elkhorn Drive between Elkhorn Summit and Crawfish Creek, but drivers should be able to negotiate the narrow spot, said Mike Hall, the recreation/minerals/lands manager at the Forest Service's Whitman Unit office in Baker City.

Forest Service workers will not plow snow from the scenic byway, Hall said.

Rick Pignone, general manager at Ski Anthony Lakes, said vehicles got around the remaining snowdrifts as early as Monday — the day before the serious heat took hold.

Snow has been more sluggish in succumbing to the early-summer sun at several campgrounds.

Anthony Lake campground probably will open next week, but its neighboring campgrounds, at Mud and Grande Ronde lakes, likely will remain snowbound through the Fourth of July weekend, said Pat Reid of Recreation Resource Management, the company that manages those three Forest Service campgrounds.

(The company also runs three Forest Service campgrounds at Phillips Reservoir.)

And although the Fish Lake Road opened earlier this week, a two-foot-tall snowdrift still blocked the entrance to Fish Lake campground as of Wednesday, according to the Forest Service.

Most hiking trails are still buried by snow.

Exceptions include the trails around Phillips Reservoir (which also are open to mountain bikes and horses), the Martin Bridge trail along Eagle Creek north of Richland, and the first few miles of the Dutch Flat Creek trail near Anthony Lakes Highway.