Last Updated on April 13, 2021
4.6 miles roundtrip
222 feet elevation gain
Over Memorial Day weekend, I headed east of the mountains with my sweetie, Daniel. We planned to visit my aunt who lives on the easternmost side of Washington state. On the way, we stopped off at the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area for a quick overnight backpacking trip.
I was already familiar with the area as I had recently day-hiked an 11-mile loop starting from the upper Ancient Lakes Trailhead as described in this blog post: Sandy Trails and Blue Skies: Exploring Ancient Lakes in the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area
This time, we chose a shorter route starting from the lower Ancient Lakes & Dusty Lakes Trailhead. The trip is fairly flat and it’s a good hike for beginners or families with children. Daniel is recovering from a torn meniscus in his knee so it seemed like the perfect route for us.
We left Seattle around 12:45 pm on Friday and drove straight to the trailhead. This was our first backpacking trip together and I was particularly anxious that everything go well. The specter of holiday crowds loomed large in my mind and I was worried that we’d get stuck in traffic or wouldn’t find any parking at the trailhead. I need’t have worried. We hit a few slowdowns going over Snoqualmie Pass but traffic really wasn’t too bad.
The trailhead was less than half full when we arrived around 4:00 pm and hit the trail. We took our time ambling along the old Jeep tracks and arrived at Ancient Lakes about an hour later. I was happily surprised to see only a few other tents set up around the base of the lakes. We elected to stay up above the lakes on the floor of the canyon, as we had sweeping views of the cataract canyon and waterfalls in either direction.
After setting up our tent, we spent the rest of the evening watching the birds circle above the lakes and the sun slowly drop lower on the horizon. We found a makeshift bench made of rocks facing the canyon and watched the sunset together. It wasn’t forecast to rain so we left off the rainfly and had a great view of the moon lighting up the night sky.
Daniel brought his tripod and was looking forward to taking some night photos. The moon was too full to take photos of the stars but he did get some interesting shots.
When the sun arose the next morning, it got hot in a hurry and we put up the rainfly for some shade. A stiff breeze kept us cool and we took our time packing up. Only two tents popped up after we set ours up but there was plenty of room to spread out. That being said, we passed several large families with backpacks as we hiked out. It was going to be a lot more crowded tonight.
This is the first time that I’ve slept outside since my return from hiking the Pacific Crest Trail last year. I’ve really missed my nights out of doors. And I’m so glad that I got to share the experience with Daniel.
Now that summer is finally here, I have lots of outdoor activities planned over the next few months…. stay tuned!