Information about this hike provided in partnership with Mountaineers Books.
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One of the pools of water here is ringed with cattails and a host of robust trees, mostly Russian olive and hawthorn. These trees provide wonderful cover for a host of critters. Along the route, we spotted in the trees no less than six hawk nests and what looked like the nest of a great-horned owl. The water supports plenty of plant life, which in turn feeds armies of small birds and mammals. These in turn bring out the predators. The residents of those nests in the trees are usually seen soaring overhead--the hawks (both red-tailed and rough-legged) are the most numerous raptors, but you can also sometimes spot northern harriers, Cooper's hawks, and kestrels. Competing with the raptors for a share of the area's mice, rabbits, and voles are coyotes. Look for tracks in the mud near the waterways.
Start hiking along an old jeep track. The first 0.25 mile passes a series of small ponds fed by year-round seeps (very low-flow natural springs). Lots of wildlife can be seen along here. You'll find the jeep track disappearing (according to maps, it runs all the way to the lake). Nature has recalled the roadway. Never fear, however. Just keep hiking up the draw, heading northeast and you'll reach the lake after walking about 2.2 miles.
The route up the draw pierces prime upland bird habitat, so be prepared for unexpected appearances of game birds. Pheasants especially like to hold tight to a hiding place under a bush until you nearly step on them, then explode in a burst of feathers and raucous calls from under your feet. The unwary who first experience this often get such a blast of adrenaline that they won't sleep for a week!
As you approach the shores of Florence Lake, watch the shoreline for waterfowl. Ducks and geese stop here during their annual migrations, and some actually winter here (they end their southern migration here since there is good feed among the farm fields outside the wildlife area and good cover and protected habitat on the lake). That means winter, despite the chill (okay, frigid blast), is a splendid time to visit the region.
From Vantage, drive east on Interstate 90 to exit 231 for Tokia. After exiting, turn north (left) over the freeway. At 0.2 mile, continue straight at the stop sign. This is now Danekas Road. Drive Danekas Road 1.4 miles, and turn right on Hills Road (also known as the Harrington--Tokia Road). Pass the Rocky Ford Wildlife Area access after 6.2 miles, and enter Harrington at 18 miles. At 18.5 miles, in Harrington, turn left onto State Route 23 and continue 0.25 mile to a junction with SR 28. Turn left, and in 0.2 mile turn right on Coffee Pot Road. Drive Coffee Pot Road for 6.1 miles and turn right on Lamp Road. Drive this good gravel road 4 miles and then turn left on Seven Springs Road. You'll come to a number of gravel roads merging at 0.2 mile--go straight here. At 5 miles from Coffee Pot Road, find a map signpost at Grant Road (another option for a good road hike into the region). At 7.4 miles from Coffee Pot Road (1.4 miles past signed Reiber Road), pull off to the right side of the road by a fence gate. Park here. Walk through the gate and hike along the south side of the marshes that adjoin the fence. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife permit required.
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