Snow’s retreat not complete, but under way

By JAYSON JACOBY Baker City Herald June 05, 2009 10:57 am
Several campgrounds, roads open

If you go in for weekend pursuits that don’t involve soaking your boots — or worse, miring your car — in the soggy remnants of last winter’s snowpack, there are fortunately plenty of options in and around Baker County.

Although the snow was slow to recede during the cool, damp first half of May, the warmer weather that has predominated since has pushed the snow line pretty far up the Elkhorn and Wallowa mountains.

Lower-elevation campgrounds are snow-free and open, said Dan Ermovick, recreation manager for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

These include Union Creek Campground on the north shore of Phillips Reservoir, as well as its two smaller counterparts on the south side: Millers Lane and Southwest Shore.

McCully Fork Campground near Sumpter is open, as are the clusters of campsites in southern Baker County along the South Fork of Burnt River and beside Highway 26 between Unity and Austin Junction.

In eastern Baker County, Eagle Forks and Tamarack campgrounds, both along Eagle Creek north of Richland, are open.

Opportunities aren’t as abundant for hikers — at least not for hikers who’d rather travel on trails than roads.

Most trails on the Wallowa-Whitman are at higher elevations which remain snowbound — including the Eagle Cap Wilderness in the Wallowas, as well as the Elkhorns.

The first few miles of the Dutch Flat Creek trail, however, which is on the Anthony Lakes Highway, are clear.

None of the trails has been maintained yet this spring, though.

The situation is better for travelers who get around on two or four wheels.

The paved route between Granite and Ukiah is open, via portions of the Elkhorn Drive and Blue Mountains scenic byways.

The mountain section of the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway — Forest Road 39 from near Halfway north to the Joseph-Imnaha Highway — is not officially open, but Ermovick said he recently talked with drivers who had made it through despite rocks on the road.

Hikers, drivers, campers and anglers will have to wait at least a few more weeks to welcome summer at the popular Anthony Lakes recreation area in the Elkhorns about 34 miles northwest of Baker City.

Three-foot snowdrifts litter the lakeshore, and the lake itself — it’s at 7,100 feet elevation — was ice-covered earlier this week, Ermovick said.

The campgrounds at Anthony Lake and nearby Grande Ronde and Mud lakes usually open in late June or early July.

The Elkhorn Drive byway is open to the recreation area, but snowdrifts block the route beyond Elkhorn Summit, so it’s not possible to drive to the North Fork John Day River or to Granite via that route.