Anthony Lakes’ future, and summer’s past

By Jayson Jacoby August 17, 2012 08:26 am

Most times I enjoy talking with people who aren’t from Baker County. In particular I like to meet out-of-towners whose interest in our fair land is rather more substantial than wondering how quickly they can refill their fuel tank and get back on the freeway.

This foreign perspective can help dissipate the fog of provincialism that I fear obscures my perspective.

(Literally foreign, on occasion — last Sunday I met a group of French hikers up at Anthony Lake. I tried to explain how to get to the Lakes Lookout and then I worried all afternoon that I had led the visitors astray. The problem wasn’t language — one of the hikers spoke more precise English than I do — but my abysmal ability to convey the various trail and road junctions and the general lay of the land.)

Perhaps “obscures” is too harsh a verb.

Although my affection for Baker County is great, it has not rendered the place’s blemishes invisible to my eyes.

(I don’t, however, need some carpetbagger to tell me there’s some junky looking yards around. Every town has those, and well that this is so; a man’s castle and all that, even if the castle has roof shingles shaped like Fritos and a yard that could hide a herd of wildebeests.)

What I mean is that certain things I take for granted pique the curiosity of people who don’t get their mail here.

Just recently I met with Stephanie McCurdy, who works for Idaho Power Co.

After we had kicked around the more acutely newsworthy topics — the Boardman-to-Hemingway power line, Brownlee Reservoir levels — Stephanie mentioned that she fancies the Anthony Lakes ski area.

(She also said, in what seemed to me an attempt to establish some local credibility, that she was married at the Geiser Grand Hotel.)

Stephanie asked me whether there was any talk of expanding the resort, or at least offering overnight accommodations.

It struck me that although that’s an excellent question, it’s one I hadn’t posed to myself in quite a few years.

I’ve become complacent, to put it another way — inured to the idea that Anthony Lakes will forever remain the wonderful, and wonderfully rustic, operation that it has been for half a century.

Yet, as Stephanie’s query implies, quite a few ski areas offer guests more than a day lodge.

Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood is Oregon’s preeminent example.

Previous owners of Anthony Lakes have broached the subject of expansion with the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the public land on which the resort sits. And the federal agency didn’t summarily dismiss the concept.

I don’t envision any progress under the current scenario, with Baker County owning the resort. The county should, and no doubt will, continue to focus on such vital matters as policing rural areas and plowing snow; there’s no surplus of money to construct alpine hotels.

Perhaps the status quo is preferable anyway.

Although building overnight quarters at Anthony Lakes likely would entice more skiers from outside the region, it might also siphon business from existing lodging establishments, and relegate to history the ski area’s reputation for the briefest of waits to board the chairlift.

Still and all, I think I understand the sentiment that underlies Stephanie’s question.

If you’ve ever taken a run through hip-deep, untouched powder on a bluebird morning (I have not, but I know quite a few skiers), or plied a Nordic trail on a day so silent you can hear the soft rustle of individual snowflakes strike your parka (I have), you can hardly suppress the urge to share the magical moment.

I drove through Haines and on to North Powder the other day and I noticed the rabbitbrush has graced the dun fields with its annual bright touch.

This shrub’s brilliant yellow blossoms symbolize for me summer’s waning.

Not its end, to be sure.

The suffocating heat that has dominated thus far in August can persist around here clear to the equinox and even beyond.

But the rabbitbrush, as a sort of preview of the showier seasonal displays coming from the maples and the birches and of course from the tamaracks, reminds me that the frosty dawns of October lie not far in the future.

And that I can soon banish the air conditioners and their headache-inducing rattle to the corner of the shed where they spend most of their days, to be replaced by the much gentler exhalations of the furnace as it simultaneously warms my skin and rifles through my wallet with the vigor of a teenage boy who’s late for a first date.

Jayson Jacoby is editor of the Baker City Herald.