Snow melting slowly in Gifford Pinchot forest high country

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



TROUT LAKE — Steve Pierson and Mike Newton of Portland agreed the 12 inches of snow at Baby Shoe Pass near Mount Adams were too much for their Honda 650L motorcycles.

“This scrubs the mission,” said Pierson. “On solid snow, we’ll just sink in.”

Their plan to ride the dual-sport bikes from Carson north to the Cowlitz valley went kaput last Friday.

Lots of plans for the backcountry of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest might need revising this summer, the second year in a row a deep snowpack and cool spring have delayed the melt.

Two miles from Pierson and Newton was Takhlakh Lake and its 54-site campground.

Arguably the most scenic camp in the Pinchot with Mount Adams towering in the background, Takhlakh has 3 feet of hard-pack snow in many places on its main loop road.

At several camp sites, the snow partially covers the tops of the picnic tables. The “iron ranger” drop box for fees was wrapped in thick plastic.

Not accessible to low-clearance vehicles, Takhlakh Lake was being fished by a group of anglers who had high-clearance, wide-tire trucks.

They had three rainbow trout, including a 16-incher, and a brown trout on Friday.

Doug Butler, forest manager for Hoodoo, the concessionaire for the Gifford Pinchot campgrounds, said it could be two weeks or more before Takhlakh Lake is open.

“We’d like to open it up, but with the snow we’re not getting in there anytime soon,” Butler said.

A year ago, it was mid-August before Takhlakh Lake was open for camping, he added.

Road No. 25, the north-south link between Swift Reservoir and Randle is open, the Forest Service announced Tuesday.

Ken Sandusky of the Gifford Pinchot office in Vancouver, said reconstruction of the Benham Creek bridge is complete and the last of the snow near Elk Pass has been cleared.

Road No. 99 to Windy Ridge remains closed by snow.

Here’s a recreation update as the GPNF heads into the prime months of July and August:

Campgrounds — Open camps in the Mount Adams district include Beaver, Government Mineral Springs, Panther Creek, Paradise Creek, Moss Creek, Oklahoma, Peterson Prairie, Goose Lake and Trout Lake Creek.

Kalama Horse Camp, Lower Falls and Sunset Falls are open in the Mount St. Helens district.

Cowlitz Valley district open camps include Adams Fork, Big Creek, Blue Lake Creek (no water this year), Iron Creek, La Wis Wis, Tower Rock, Walupt Lake and North Fork.

Major roads — Lewis River No. 90 is open to its junction with White Salmon No. 23. No. 23 is blocked by snow at Baby Shoe Pass. Road No. 88 is open.

Wind River road No. 30 is open almost to the junction with road No. 24. Road No. 24 is open to Smokey Creek. Carson-Guler No. 60 is open. Panther Creek No. 65 is open to the Thomas Lake trailhead.

Morrison Creek No. 8040 is open to Morrison Creek campground, but not South Climb.

Swift No. 83 is open to Lahar and Lava Canyon. Road No. 830 is open to Climber’s Bivouac.

Canyon Creek No. 54 is blocked by snow at about 4,000 feet elevation.

Road No. 2160 to Walupt Lake is clear.

Trails — Lots of low-elevation trails are open, with the snow level ranging from 3,900 to 4,200 feet.

Among the trails open now are Grassy Knoll No. 146, Buck Creek No. 54, Lewis River No. 31, Siouxon No. 130, Pacific Crest No, 2000 through the Wind River Valley to Crest camp, Bunker Hill No. 145, Falls Creek Nos. 152 and 152A.

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