Snow falls in backcountry just in time for Memorial Day weekend

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter

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Here’s the good news from the high country of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest heading into Memorial Day weekend: The snow is not expected to stick much below about 3,000 feet in elevation.

Yes, heading into the unofficial start of summer in the backwoods it is snowing, although it is predicted to warm enough to turn the snow to rain by Friday.

Conditions are so unsettled the U.S. Forest Service opted to not issue its typical Memorial Day weekend update on conditions in the Gifford Pinchot.

“With snow levels down to 3,000 feet, the information may change,’’ said Ken Sandusky, a Gifford Pinchot spokesman.

On Wednesday afternoon, it was 35 degrees with six inches of new snow at June Lake, elevation 3,440 feet on the south flank of Mount St. Helens. At Surprise Lakes, elevation 4,290 feet east of Indian Heaven Wilderness, it was 35 degrees with seven inches of new snow.

Those numbers come from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s automated sites at the locations. Total snow depth is 50 inches at June Lake, 58 at Surprise Lakes and 27 inches at Potato Hill, elevation 4,510 feet on the north side of Mount Adams.

Beaver campground along the Wind River and Iron Creek and Tower Rock in the north end of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest opened last week.

Opening today are Panther Creek and Panther Creek in the Wind River valley and Moss Creek and Oklahoma along the Little White Salmon River.

“Snow levels will dictate our opening the other, upper elevation, campgrounds,’’ said Doug Butler of Hoodoo Recreation, the concessionaire operating many of the Pinchot facilities. “Most years we are able to have them open before the Fourth of July.’’