Crab Creek with Frog Lake and Mesa Hike, Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Washington



     We got out of town late, around 10:30ish. The drive was OK, the usual, I’ve made it a hundred times or more. We took exit 179 at Moses Lake and headed southwestish until we found the trailhead for Crab Creek North in the heart of the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge.

     After loading provisions we hit the the trail, an old road heading south. We walked the gravel path a short ways before crossing a sturdy bridge with at least a couple raised boards because one of them caught my boot almost pitching me on my face. The kids on the other hand crossed with ease, go figure. Once across the bridge we headed south along Crab Creek. Even though it was spring, Crab Creek was but a trickle. We reached a junction and went left, staying close to the creek, soon we could make out the faint sound of rushing water and to our surprise a waterfall among the desert oasis. The trail worked it’s way along the creek to an overlook of the falls, though not spectacular, a welcome treat. After taking in the falls we continued down the old road, the falls was significant enough to add enough water to crab creek to make it a navigable waterway. With temps on the rise bird’s of prey soared above while ducks skimmed the surface of the creek, small aerodynamic bird’s fluttered about, while quail made noise amongst the rocky outcroppings, spring was definitely in the air.  Eventually the old road ended at a wall of basalt as a true single track trail continued uphill over pressure treated four by four steps to a bench above Crab Creek.

     At the top of the hill re ran into a group of ladies from the west side who were trying to escape the cold just like we were. After good conversation we parted ways as we continued south, views began to open up as Crab Creek layout below in a ribbon of thin flowing water, basalt columns gave rise to mesas above on either side of the canyon, begging for further exploration. The Columbia National Wildlife Refuge is definitely worth checking out, the scenery is stunning, crowds slim to none, and the spring temps, welcoming to say the least. We followed the good path before eventually reaching the southern trail head where we took a break on a dike over the creek enjoying a delicious snack in the sun. It was nice to hear the songs of the birds, swat at the buzzing bugs and feel the sun’s heat upon our faces, the latter of which was missed the most.

     After the short break we continued along the dike before reaching a junction where we went left in the direction of Frog Lake. At the end of the old road we found single track, gooood single track, almost made me miss my mountain bike. We took our time, the kids were doing great, they are fun to hike with and old enough to keep each other engaged in conversation about different interests. The best part about hiking with my kids is i get to learn a lot about them when you have a couple of hours on trail to reach your destination. So often in life we are distracted by screens and all the other bullshit in life that doesn’t really matter. Its the time spent doing what you love with the people you love that really matters the most. Soon we crossed a bridge and the trail angled away from the creek to a basin separated by mesas to the north and south. It was soon obvious we had reached what used to be Frog Lake, long dried up like a lot of the lakes on the old topo maps in the channeled scablands.

     At the head of the basin the trail went up over rocks to a junction where we went right, climbed a little higher to a good view of the Frog Lake basin. We continued up as we approached a pass gaining entrance to the summit of the mesa where we found a sign for the loop trail where we went left hiking in a clockwise direction. The trail quickly reached a rocky outcrop with an awesome view of the country below, we opted for a break. The view was spectacular, and offered proof to why this place is referred to as the potholes, as tiny desert tarns dotted the landscape for as far as we could see. After taking it all in we jumped back on the trail taking in more endless views as we worked our way along the perimeter of the mesa, most impressive are the basalt columns that dropped away below our boots. We reached the west side of the mesa and its sweeping views with Crab Creek in the distance, its hard to believe we are surrounded by the sprawl of Moses Lake and thousands of acres of farm country. As life goes, all good things must come to an end, including the loop trail around the mesa, which didn’t disappoint. We made our way down off the summit and eventually past the arid basin that used to belong to Frog Lake, then back to the crossing of Crab Creek and at last, the car. The kids did great, after the hike they were rewarded with a trip to the family fun center in Moses Lake which they most likely enjoyed more that our walk.  We covered about 6 miles with just over 400 feet of elevation gain.  For more photos click the link. Crab Creek, Frog Lake Hike


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