Best. Summer. Ever. – Episode 8: The Sound

We like the beach, we do. In recent summers we’ve been going up to Camano Island to spend a few days at Cama Beach State Park, where about 30 beachfront cabins built in the 1930s have been restored to their original Craftsman charm. This beach, on the west side of the island, was a fishing resort in its salad days, where local folks would come to relax and enjoy the beach in inexpensive lodgings. There were a dozen or more family-owned places like this around the Puget Sound between the wars*. But after World War II the middle class became more prosperous and could afford more for their vacation dollar, and gradually these resorts all fell on hard times as vacationers took to the interstate highways or boarded jets for their getaways. This one was shuttered in 1989, but instead of selling the land for millions to developers, the owners sold it for cheap to the state to be made into a park, which opened in 2008.

Cama Beach Resort in the 1930s. Photo courtesy of Stanwood Camano Historical Society.

Chillaxin’ at Cama Beach Resort in the 1930s. Photo copyright Stanwood Camano Historical Society.

Other aspects of the place’s history are more depressing — the resort was built on the site of a logging camp that had been there since the 1880s, but the camp was only built after First Nations peoples had been treatied out of the area and imprisoned on reservations, so…same old same old. It is believed that the site was a seasonal Tulalip fishing camp for time out of mind. Worse, archaelogical evidence surfaced during the creation of the state park that the Indians had been using the area for burials, but the state was eager to git a move on with the park and the process of investigating the extent of the burial grounds was, many feel, incomplete, hasty and unsatisfactory. The Tulalips naturally felt ill used (again) and their boycott of the park opening made it less of a happy thing.

We love the place even so. We usually meet interesting people in neighboring cabins, and one year we took interesting friends along with us. The girls spend hours just throwing things into the water and dragging things out again. Mara’s seaweed mining operation attracted the partnership of a kid named Gabe who, he happened to know, was descended of Vikings. Angela and I cook and clean all day like we always do, only here in rustic cabins without amenities. One thing we’ve done a couple years in a row is take one of the boats out from the Center for Wooden Boats, which has an operation there at the park. This year while rowing on the becalmed Salish Sea one grey morning, we watched an eagle perch in a tree with a fish lunch, and a seal popped up a few yards away and watched us for a while before disappearing again without a sound.

Millie is still timid about turning over the rocks in the tidepools. Those crabs are startling!

Millie is still timid about turning over the rocks in the tidepools. Those crabs are startling!

Mara meets a fellow seaweed enthusiast, Gabe the Descendent of Vikings.

Mara meets a fellow seaweed enthusiast, Gabe the Norseman.

Gloria.

Gloria.

This fellow fancies himself a star, but we think he's washed up.

This fellow fancies himself a star, but we think he’s washed up.

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*The phrase “between the wars” will probably mean something else pretty soon, but throughout most of the late 20th century it meant between world wars I and II.

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