IKE KINSWA STATE PARK — The view from the lakeside cabin was serene, the price tag — $59 a night — a bargain.
The usual wintry dreariness turned out to be a mere cameo. We were greeted with more sun than clouds during our stay.
After pulling up to Ike Kinswa State Park, my buddy launched his kayak a few feet from our cabin and paddled until sunset. I plopped down on the lawn chair on the front porch, a great place to prop feet on a railing, favorite beverage in hand.
My view: rolling hills, calm, clear water, a hawk soaring across the lake, critters rustling in the conifer forest, a postcard setting. And yet, something seemed odd, something off.
No crowds. No RVs or tents around the campgrounds. The other lakeside cabins were vacant. I had booked, then canceled, then rebooked and still I had my pick of cabins at the last minute.
Out of curiosity, I scanned the Washington State Park reservations website and found most cabins were available through all the weekends in January and February.
That's not just at Ike Kinswa but at most of the other 22 state parks that have cabins, yurts and other shelters.
State parks spokeswoman Virginia Painter said I had stumbled on to the big secret. "That's fairly typical of all the overnight roof accommodations," she said.
Ike Kinswa, for instance, has a 92 percent vacancy rate in January. It's when you get into July and August that vacancies drop to 3 percent, she said.
Winter "is a great opportunity to get into these roof accommodations. And they're cheaper."
The offseason rate is usually less than $60 a night for cabins and yurts. And there are plenty of good choices out there.
For my stay, I chose Ike Kinswa, about 20 miles southeast of Chehalis and a two-hour drive from Seattle and named for a Cowlitz tribal member who represented his people.
There's Bay View State Park, close to the saltwater shoreline near Mount Vernon, where you can rent a simple cabin for $59. Just $10 more gets you a private bathroom and shower.
Or if you prefer the drier side of the mountains, book at Lincoln Rock State Park ($59) on the Columbia River -- a dammed section also called Lake Entiat. It's about six miles northeast of Wenatchee.
Something closer to Seattle: Wallace Falls State Park in Gold Bar has five cabins ($59) near the trailhead.
Your own island? Rent a cabin ($91) on Ben Ure Island at Deception Pass. Want beachfront? Cama Beach's waterfront cabins put you right on the edge of Saratoga Passage for $76 on winter weekends.