Ancient, Dusty & Cliff Lakes Miles: 14 Gain: 2100' Maps: Topo!
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I don't get over to Central Washington very often and the area around Quincy and George didn't look too inviting on the few trips I had made driving through.  But a friend recommended the Ancient Lakes area as a nice early spring trip so I thought I'd check it out. 
Given the terrain you see from I-90, all low rolling brown hills and acre after acre of farm land, I was surprised to find steep walled canyons that for all the world looked like something out of a John Ford western.  Indians on the ridgelines or John Wayne leading a column of cavalry would not look out of place.
We met to carpool at the Preston P&R lot on I-90 at 8:00 am and arrived in Quincy a little after 10:00.  We bought parking/use permits for the Quincy Wildlife area at Gates Hardware (annual permit is $11), had a nice breakfast in town and then drove to the trail head.  The caretaker for the trail head parking area rode up barefooted on his ATV with a small dog riding on the gas tank and lamented that he had just this year expanded the parking lot and now looked like he'd have to make it bigger still to handle all the hikers.  Might have been thirty cars parked when we arrived and there was room for more.
So off we went, walking around the gate and taking the first obvious trail to the left (about 1/3 mile from the cars). It's a very pretty desert hike along the floor of the coulee.  The trail stayed closer to the north wall than the south following a track west to the lakes. We passed two or three small waterfalls along the way before cresting a low hill and arriving at the three lakes at the head of the coulee. I don't think it took more than an hour and a half to make the lakes.  Half a dozen tents were already in place around the lakes and while it really wasn't crowded by any stretch, it was still early and we had plenty of time to hike up to the ridge top and look around for alternate accommodations.
Skirting the south side of the southern most of the three lakes, we picked up a trail climbing generally SE through the head of the coulee.  Once we made the top a short walk SSW brought us to a nice view point overlooking Dusty Lake. In the distance to the SE a small pond on an elevated bench caught Kelley's eye and it was decided to head over there to camp. No tents were seen at Dusty Lake or anywhere nearby, although we could see lots of motorhomes and campers with horse trailers parked 1/2 mile or so away at Burke and Evergreen Lakes.
Walking toward the SE we looked for a way down into the coulee and came across some rappel bolts driven into the top of the wall and nearby a trail leading down.   Within 1/2 an hour we were setting up camp on the NW shore of Cliff lake. No one else around.  Lots of birds, few bugs and a breeze  bordering on wind.  The sun was out and we were pretty happy.  Everyone went their own way for an hour or two before dinner to do some exploring.
After a leisurely start Sunday morning we went scrambling around on the cliffs to the south.  By midday we were packing up camp in the light rain.  We had decided to try a different route back to Ancient Lakes, through a break in the ridge we had seen the day before.  Following a path along the north side of Dusty Lake eventually leads to a scree slope and an interesting traverse at the base of the cliffs to the pass and Ancient Lakes.
The hike out was uneventful as was the drive home, save the discovery of tick-hitch-hikers as we pulled off to get some coffee in Cle Elum. Looks like Frankie and I were on the menu and no one else.  No doubt Ancient Lakes rates another trip next year, maybe in March before the Wildlife Area permit expires.

Drive east on I-90 to George (Exit 149). Turn left and drive on SR 281 to Quincy. In Quincy, turn left (west) on SR 28 and drive 4 miles to U Road NW, marked White Trail Road, go left (south) and drive about 1 mile until you reach Road 9-NW go right (west) and drive 5.9 miles to the road's end.  A new larger parking area with a porta-john.
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