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Ancient Lakes overnight
posted by John : July 16-17, 2010

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Just in case

For the last couple of months or so I've been setting up a trip to the Olympic Coast with the girls. Mid-July promised one of our best shots at good weather so I was pretty hopeful. Needless to say, it didn't work out. The forecast called for clouds turning to rain by Sunday. Not a good plan.

So rather than bail on our planned two-day backpack trip altogether I scrambled and pulled a trip out of... thin air. We'd go to the Ancient Lakes for a desert-ish experience. Sure, it'd be hot, but there were three lakes and all kinds of places to explore. Heck, there was even supposed to be a waterfall.

The drive wasn't too bad thanks to a couple of stops. At the Rye Grass rest stop we marveled at the windmills that seemed to be declare we live in the future. Just past Vantage we checked out the Wild Horses Monument, but didn't venture too close because (a) I was too lazy to get the boots out of the car and we were all wearing flip flops and (b) Clara's mad reading skillz put the fear into her after she deciphered the "Watch for rattlesnakes" sign. Thanks, DOT.

Finally in Quincy, we grabbed lunch before getting to the trailhead a little before noon. It was empty. A good sign or a bad one. I'm not sure which. The trail is an old road so we had a wide avenue to hike down. I tried to corral the girls toward the center, but they liked to look at the sagebrush and tumbleweeds and sticky yellow flowers so that didn't work too well. I was mostly worried about ticks (Thanks, Nicole!), but also the crazed rattler that would strike without warning.

The walk in was hot, but the promise of beautiful lakes was plenty to keep us moving. And M&Ms. Those might have helped, too. We covered the epic mileage (2.3 miles) in just under two hours and found we had the lakes all to ourselves. We picked the ideal spot on a little hill with access to all three lakes. No sooner had the tent gone up than the girls were changing into swimsuits and talking about going for a dip.

We made our way down to Green Lake (so named by the girls for its color -- there was also Blue Lake and Waterfall Lake) and found the shore was a nasty goo of algae and frogs. The frogs were cool, but there was no way we were getting into the water there. Waterfall Lake was the same and Blue Lake wasn't much better. We did manage to find a spot were they could play on the shore with some rocks and build a platform in the water.

In the meantime, I was filtering water. The lakes aren't well known as being pure as the driven snow so I was planning on filtering and boiling everything. Unfortunately, the snow they were as pure as was really nasty and my filter wasn't capable of handling it. We were quickly in a pickle.

It was too late to go back now, but we clearly couldn't stay for two nights as we'd originally planned. We had enough water (through a laborious process that involved frequent cleaning of the filter with just-filtered water that netted about a quarter liter every five minutes) for dinner and breakfast and the walk out, but little else. We talked about it and agreed that would have to be the plan.

With new goals we abandoned efforts to get to the waterfall (an unsure walk on talus around the lake for the girls) and instead searched hard for a way to get into Green Lake. We'd already gone around the west side looking for access, but come up dry (or gooey, actually). We did find a million tiny frogs, though. And a few big ones. If we were trying to survive we could have done so in fine French fashion, I'm sure.

We circled around the east side of the lake and found a sort-of path through the rocks to a spot where there was no muck and I could dip the girls in a bit. They loved it. Especially the plethora of flat rocks. Clara is now adept at skipping rocks. Lilly's getting better.

It was hot so when we finally turned in for the night just after the sun went down we didn't bother with sleeping bags except as padding below us and the rainfly was still in the bag. A light wind would occasionally buffet the tent, but it was only noticeable if you were already awake. Another party came through and camped just up the hill from us at about 10pm and a couple of (presumably) local boys had a camp fire (prohibited!) a fair ways from us.

In the morning (Why must you wake so early, Lilly?) Lilly and I quietly made her breakfast while Clara continued to sleep. The fire camp had left, but the others were still around. They apologized for coming through our camp so late and admitted they really didn't know where they were going.

We hunted frogs again and I used a sock to "filter" water for cooling purposes, but mostly we packed up. By 10am, when we were on the trail, it was already 90F according to the pocket thermometer so I wasn't too bummed about having to leave. I think we would have spent the day stuck at camp anyway.

The way out was nothing too special except there was a fair amount more grumbling about the heat. I rationed our water and dumped the non-potable water in hats that worked well to keep us a little cooler. Two hours later we were back at the truck with the A/C pumping and clean clothes on dreaming of the grocery in Quincy and then lunch and then ice cream in Ellensburg. Nothing cheers the girls like the promise of ice cream even if it is a few hours distant.

Amy was surprised to hear from us, but it sounds like it wasn't unwelcome. Henry probably didn't like the idea that he was going to switch back to the little brother, but such is his lot in life. Poor guy.

Totals were about 4.6 miles round trip with about 500 feet of gain overall.

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