There is something mysterious and inspiring visiting the majestic coulees of Central Washington. One moment you are driving through the fields of the potato heartland of the Northwest. Green stretching to the horizon with pipes shaped as spiral dragons delivering the lifeblood water to the barren desert. The next moment columns of basalt rise high above your head and dust gathers at your feet where an ancient lake once existed.
Our destination; Ancient Lakes is a set of several small lakes ringing the base of a coulee rising up above the Columbia River near Babcock bench. They are one of many lakes in the Quincy NWR and just a few miles from the Cave B Inn where we stayed. The day was clear and bright with a slight chill in the air; perfect for a hike. It was probably possible to see the lake area from our room but to get there, we had to drive back out to the highway, skirt around Quincy NWR and approach the trailhead from the north.
The road headed west from Quincy through apple orchards. You could smell the sulfur from the dormant spray. None of the orchards were in bloom except a single apricot orchard. The white blossoms contrasting against the blue sky. A couple of apiaries boxes had been dropped off. The bees were busy at work pollinating the blossoms for future fruit.
The road turned south and paralleled the Columbia River. We were soon under a huge basalt cliff dotted with spots of yellow balsamroot and white phlox. We were shortly at the trail head. We stretched a bit and booted up. The sun felt warm and we left our vests in the car.
The trail was dusty. We walked among the sagebrush and headed away from the river. In the distance, we could see the lakes. Along the basalt cliffs, wispy ribbons of water fell from the fields above. In the distance, we could see a few parties of horse riders out for a morning ride.
The faint breeze whispered in our ears and the cries of the meadow lark broke the silence. We thought we heard cranes but never saw them. The lakes were dotted with a few ducks and other water fowl. But we saw no flowers. It didn't take long to reach the viewpoint between the lakes. We sat an a camp and rested while listening to the waterfall in the distance.
It was noon and time to return. By now the sun had moved and the river was a glimmer in the distance. The majestic vistas reminded us of the grandeur of the west as we made our way back to the car.