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The Beaches of Camano: Camp Grande (I)

Camp Grande is hidden treasure on Camano, tucked away at the end of a road, and with the lore of salmon fishing and the mystique of a private community around it.

I remember dad and I fishing in near its famous boathouse…

IMG_1751…but I did not know its story and how it almost became the location of a 72 unit condominium complex in the 1970’s until I interviewed Andrena Caldwell, a high school classmate and friend of my mom.


When Andrena (whose maiden name was Bast) was ten years old her parents purchased the pie shaped, nine acres of Camp Grande in partnership with Andy’s Aunt and Uncle, Margaret and John Thompson and their three boys.


The Thompsons moved from California and the Basts moved from Seattle to Camp Grande in December of 1956 where they shared a duplex. They first began operating the camp in the summer of 1957 when Andrena was eleven.

Camp Grande was built around the summers when kids were out of school. This meant that the Bast and Thompson families had a very short window to make their money. (The Thompsons stayed for only a few years.)

In those days, Andrena remembers, Camp Grande had 24 cabins and 28 boats. They were also able to launch other people’s boats from the famous dock on the water’s edge. A road ran from the bluff to the Boathouse where there was parking. Andrena remembers that there were lots of boats out on those warm summer days.



During the summers Andrena’s dad and mom worked all day long. There was a little store attached to the duplex where the sold all the necessary staples: bread milk, ice cream, pop, ice, and beer. In the summer the store was open from 8:00am-10:00pm, 7 days a week. In the winter it was closed, except for the weekends.

People came to Camp Grande for the weekend, or a week, or a month or even longer in the summers. There were a lot of repeat visitors. The main attraction was the salmon fishing, but there was also sunbathing, beach combing and even camping.


The Basts were industrious. Above the cabins they developed a campground where people camped; eventually Sherman made electrical and water hook ups for trailers.  Inga got ambitious one 4th of July weekend; she had 90 tents and trailers, on top of the guests in the cabins. “She didn’t do that again”, Andrena said. Inga also opened the campground up for groups to use, and would charge these groups $1 per car, sometimes a group with 50 cars would come. Those cars/drivers would have had to be purposeful about coming to Camp Grande because it is on the end of a dead end road as opposed to some of the other resorts on Camano like Camp Lagoon and Sunset Beach. In fact, Andrena remembers a number of time people would drive up to Camp Grande and ask, “How do we find Camano Island?” Beneath her breath she’d mutter, “seriously” then say out loud “you’ve been on it for a while.”


During the summers Andrena worked hard at Camp Grande too. She helped her mom at the old store (the store and duplex aren’t there any more; they burned down after Andrena’s time).  Her parents would make a deal with people to live rent on the other side of the duplex in exchange for their help in cleaning the cabins. Andy would help them clean the cabins on Monday and Tuesday after the busy weekend traffic was gone. One day a week Andy mowed the grass using a tractor for the large field, and a hand mower around the cabins. All the cabins except for one had wood stoves. So one day a week Andy and her dad replenished the wood on the front porches of the rustic cabins. They sold ice from the store to be used in Ice boxes, sold ice if they wanted to keep something cold.

Her dad ordered the wood and split it during the winter. Andy would help pile it then in preparation for the summer.


Besides these weekly chores, Andy remembers putting the boats in and out of the water daily with her dad. The boats would go out periodically all day long. In the evenings they all seemed to come in at the same time, she remembers. She worked with her dad to clean the boats out, wash them and put them away. They used a hoist system.


When the boats went out, they were brought by pulley to the cart. The fishermen would load into them inside the boathouse. Then a winch would let them slowly down the rail bow first into the water. Andy remarked with a smile that “it was always fun when it broke, which happened a couple of times.” She told me that her dad watched the metal cable a lot to care for it, but there was rust that you don’t see.

The boats came out of the water bow first too. After the winch had brought them into the boathouse, Andy and her dad used a pulley system to hook two boards to two hooks, one on the bow and one on the stern. They would lift the boat off the cart, turn it, wash them out, and then stacked them in the boathouse. Six of those boats were inboards, the motor provided with the boat. All the rest were outboards where people brought their own motors.


The boats were virtually unsinkable, Andrena assured me. And proved it with this picture of a submerged boat that just would not sink!


It was a lot of hard work, but not all work for Andrena. The favorite part of summer for her was when friends she had made returned to stay at Camp Grande. She still has regular contact with one of those girls, and another was a bridesmaid in her wedding. They played at the beach or spent time in the recreation hall listening to music played by the jukebox, playing ping pong on a table made out of a sheet of plywood or the pin ball machine which you didn’t have to pay for. Nights were magical: in front of the Camp was a firepit where a campfire was lit almost every night, marsh mellows roasted and stories told.


Things slowed down at Camp Grande in the fall, winter and spring. Her industrious mom found ways to encourage people to come on the weekend, recruiting square dance who danced in building that was next to the house. Andy remembers at low tides in the winter time digging for clams with lanterns. In the winter there would be big storms. Andrena remembers one of those storms that took out a section of the dock.

People raked for smelt on high tide along the shore. But mostly people came to Camp Grande in the summer to fish for salmon.

They would take their boats across to Strawberry Point on Whidbey Island to fish; and some people caught cod, further down south. Andy studied the fisherman to learn their tricks. She realized that everyone used something different and that all were successful. Even the kids who fished off the dock were successful: They caught perch, small flounder, eels and lots of bullheads.


Sherman and Inga ran Camp Grande until 1970. They sold it in 1970. The buyers had plans to turn it into a Condominium development with 3 buildings with 24 units each. There would also be a yacht club with full marina facilities, a teahouse, a sandwhich shop, and a sauna, swimming pools and recreation room. You can see plans for this from an insert in the Stanwood Camano Newspaper.


Their plans fell through, and the Basts, who had built their retirement home on the hill above Camp Grande, had to start the selling process again. During this period they closed the camp down. By this time Andrena had graduated from Stanwood High School (1964), gone to college, and gotten married (1968).

Andrena told me that after her parents sold Camp Grande people bought share in it, four shares per cabin. The four cabin shareholders worked out how they would split up the time.

Many years later Andrena told me that she came back to visit her childhood home at Camp Grande. The cabins were still there, though many people had remodeled them, enlarging their porches. The old boat house was still there, though boats are no longer launched from it now. The rocks are still there that she played on as a girl. So much had changed; so much remained the same. Andrena who now lives with her husband on Whidbey Island said that she thinks the beaches of Camano are much better than Whidbey; that she still hasn’t found a beach like her beach at Camp Grande on Camano.



Stay tuned for Beaches of Camano: Camp Grande (II) which will feature photographs taken in 2016 by Julian Dorsey. 

The Beaches of Camano: Sound Water Stewards

In my research of Camano Island’s beaches I’ve had opportunities to meet many amazing people who love and care for our beaches. Two of those were David and Linda Burbaker.

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David taught in the Biology Department at Seattle University for thirty years. His degree is in Aquatic Biology.  Linda was a Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of Washington. They are part of Sound Water Stewards, which used to be Beach Watchers.

Island County Beach Watchers started in 1994 when a group of people who lived on Camano and Whidbey Island, who were concerned about their beaches and who wanted to care for them got together. It was ten years after the big Exon Oil Spill in Alaska. These Islanders were concerned about the large tankers that went through the Straits of Juan de Fuca, through the San Juan Islands and to Cherry point (east of Anacortes) where they offloaded and onloaded oil at the big oil refining facility in Anacortes.

They worked with Don Mehan who ran the Washington State University’s extension office and who was passionate about developing citizens science opportunities to form a group called the Beach Watchers of Island County. The purpose of Beach Watchers was to monitor beaches on Whidbey and Camano Islands, to provide education for people about beach stewardship. Their initial concern was  in case there was ever an oil spill they wanted to be able to monitor any changes that might occur. To do this they needed scientific data from those beach. Beach Watchers was not an advocacy group. It was an educational group, believing that education and familiarity with their beaches would lead citizens to better care for and to make more informed decisions about their beaches. In June of 2016 this group formally became Sound Water Stewards of Island County (SWS), a 501c3 organization. SWS is run by volunteers; being a locally controlled group gives them more flexibility. It is also not an advocacy group.

Linda spoke of the incredible diversity of beaches along Camano’s 52 miles of shoreline. Camano has beaches that are very muddy, sandy beaches, ones that have small gravel, all the way up to big cobble (2 to 4 inch rocks). They have different plants and animals that prefer that substrate.


By studying these different beaches and the animals and plants which are distributed along vertical tidal zones, they can learn why this variation occurs. SWS’s focus is their intertidal monitoring program, which gets data on the beaches between the highest and lowest tides; they monitor monitor the slope of those beaches, the plants that grow there, and the animals that live there.

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SWS monitors eleven beaches on Camano Island: English Boom, Cama Beach, Iverson Beach, Pebble Beach, Elger bay, Utsalady, Cavalero, Madrona, Camano Island State Park, Onamac and Mabana Beach.

This takes a small group (5-8) of volunteers who receive 100 hours of instruction. Training to be a Sound Water Steward has two parts. The first is in March and April, the second half in September and October. The first half focuses on the science involved around Marine Biology (it is called Marine Biology 101): marine biology, coastal processes, geology, forest effect the coastal environment, the effect of climate, water quality, estuary processes, and marine animals, birds, mammals, and invertebrates. It is essentially an “ecology of the coastline”

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Another focus of the first month of training is to learn the rigorous, scientific processes of intertidal beach monitoring that starts in mid may through end of July or early August during the summer low tide season. I learned from David and Linda that Camano is somewhat unique in its complicated tidal sequence: Camano has two tides each day; two high tide and two low tides. One low tide is much lower than the other low tide. The summer’s sequence of tides are the lowest; in the winter the low tides happen in the middle of the night.

There are close to 300 volunteers in the SWS organization (2/3 on Whidbey, 1/3 on Camano), the majority of whom are retired. SWS is not just a great vehicle for people to get to know their beaches, it is also a great way to get to know your neighbors. People who are in early retirement often have lots of energy, different backgrounds, diverse experiences, and are very passionate about the beaches. 95% of the people in training are not scientists; but they appreciate the science background they are given. While information comes at them fast and furious, it is at their level. And it is applied information. There are lots of field trips.

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Those who participate in SWS gain great familiarity with the beaches. And an appreciation for the beaches in their area. They also participate in the community through education. SWS participates with Friends of Camano Island State Parks (FOCIP) to put on a 2nd Grade and 5th grade nature nature study day at Camano Island State Park. FOCIP leads the exploration of the forested area in the park; SWS leads the beach exploration, their main focus being beach etiquette. David and Linda shared how impressed they are that the children often already know their beach etiquette; they are impressed with the parents and teachers who are nurturing good stewards of our beaches from a young age.

SWS has been monitoring the beaches for so long that they have amassed the longest monitoring data set in the Puget Sound. Currently UW scientists are analyzing the data gathered using strict scientific protocol over all of these years; in the upcoming year a scientific paper will summarize their findings.  In this way, the impact of these citizens doing good citizen science will be significant.

The beach monitoring is done once a season, when there is a low tide of at least minus two. In this way each. They try to get a good distribution of beaches all around the Island, east, west, north and south; and they try to hit as many general types of beaches. They take a huge amount of care to make sure of all the sampling is done at the same place, and done very carefully. The scientific protocol they follow was developed in 1997 and revised in 2003 to ensure they monitor the same beaches in the same, permanent steps.

I was curious about David and Linda’s perspective on the tension between private and public beaches.

They told me that when they first visited Camano Island as a potential place to move they drove around the Island. There were very few views of beaches. They just drove through woods, trees lining each side of the street. They were not impressed. It “looked like we were driving in Enumclaw” David remarked. “You couldn’t enjoy what the Island was all about.” They didn’t know where the public beaches were. Now they live on a steep bluff over the beach and have their own private beach. They share a tram with their eleven neighbors.  They see that inherently there is a struggle between the public and private.

Linda shared how just that morning she was walking their dog and talked to a women who lives north of them who asked her about walking on their beach. Linda said to her, “You can walk on our beach” and said that her eyes lit up: “I can”. Linda told me her private opinion is that she is fine with people walking on our beach. She went on, “Stopping and digging clams, anything harmful to the beach, I wouldn’t like.” She wants people to use the beach with respect; walking on the beach vs. throwing rocks, which would effect the beach in a negative way.

“I can’t see locking up the beauty of the world so that some people have it, and others don’t.” Linda said. She reiterated that this was just her personal opinion.

Linda said that in her teaching she had a sociologist professor who said, “people are part of the environment just as much as deer, bear, salmon. So when you think about the preferred condition, or status, of the environment, you have to factor people in too. You can’t ignore them. That’s where the dilemma comes.”

David and Linda understand the tension between sharing public places and stewarding our natural resources. Linda reflected that National Parks have a big dilemma. They are tasked with preserving these natural areas and allowing the public to enjoy these natural areas. But today those things are not compatible. Too many people using the national parks, and the amount of use is at odds with preserving the parks. So there are times when preserving a place and using it as a resource are not compatible.

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My conversation with David and Linda reminded me that all who live on Camano Island and love its beaches are given the responsibility to be good stewards of those beaches. What is a steward? A steward is a knowledgeable, watchful person who takes responsibility to care for the beaches. Like a parent notices when one of their children is not feeling well in the morning, a steward is aware when a beach is not doing well too.

I hope in some small way Sunnyshore Studio’s Beaches of Camano Project encourages Islanders to be good stewards of our beaches.


The Big News about Barnum Point

I knocked on the door of the Inn at Barnum Point. Although I grew up on Camano Island, I had never visited this distinctive but set apart point of Camano Island.

An elderly but spry woman came to the door. I did my best to introduce myself.

“I’m Jason Dorsey. My family has lived on Camano since 1969. We’re artists, and are finishing an art Studio. Our Grand Opening is in December and our family of artists are painting beaches of Camano. I’m also writing a coffee table book about Camano’s beaches. I want to celebrate their beauty and help newcomers to our Island understand their rich history and provide a guide to enjoy them.” I stumbled over my words.

She smiled at me and asked, “You’re part of the Dorsey family, huh? You know Renae then. She helped me out for a while here at the Inn.”

With that the warm and gracious Carolin Barnum welcomed me into her Inn and shared the story of Barnum Point. And I heard first hand about some of the biggest and best news about Camano’s Beaches: Carolin told me that the gossip I had heard is true! Barnum Point is going to be renamed the Barnum Reserve and become a Island County Park offering over a mile of shoreline to be enjoyed by the public.

Here is the story that Carolin Barnum (her married name is Dilorenzo) told me.

Barnum Point was named after her Grandfather. Her Grandfather, Sterling Jones Barnum, moved from Parma, ID to Camano in 1904 with his wife Mary, she was called “Mammie”, and their three girls, Marie, Margaret and Katherine.



He bought the 124 acres at Barnum Point for $1,500. Her dad, Robert Sterling Barnum, was born a year later in 1905 in what Carolin called “a crummy old house”.

It had been used by loggers that worked at the Cedar Shake Mill that was located on Driftwood Shores. Their house was near the inlet to Triangle Bay, looking at Driftwood Shores.

It was a rough life. They lived off the land. They had a cow for milk for the kids. They also had sheep and chickens. On low tides they took the boat to Stanwood to trade the eggs. Sterling drove the oxen to Terry’s Corner to get the mail. It was to much for Mammie; she may have had a nervous breakdown; in any case, she went back to Idaho to recoup. Tragically her back was broken in getting treatment from a chiropractor and she died soon after. Sterling’s sister moved to Camano to help him raise the kids. Sterling added another room to the house. He and Robert slept on the floor. Sterling was crippled; he dealt with Arthritis, what was then called rheumatism. But managed to serve on the school board and as a road commissioner. Carolin’s dad, Robert and the girls, grew up in the beauty and solitude of Barnum Point. He and his older sisters attended Stanwood Schools. And wherever their path in life led them, Carolin said that all four of the kids eventually came back to Barnum Point.

Her dad, Robert, went off to college in the University where he met and married his wife.  In 1933 Carolin came along. They lived in Ballard but spent their weekends on Camano. Robert worked at the Stimson Mill. On Friday, Carolin remembers that everything would be packed and ready to be put into the car when Robert got home. “We would quickly eat, clean up, and on we’d go”. There was no I-5 so they took back roads.

Thus Barnum Point is the place of family legacy for the Barnums. Sterling Barnum’s relatives have lived here, and their ashes have been spread here. This place kept the family together, cousins playing on the beach, enjoying the lazy summer days and the apple trees.

Carolin had the Barnum Point Inn built 25 years ago. It is Bed and Breakfast with three rooms. Room One is a suite; Room Two is a standard bed and breakfast room; and Room Three an apartment. She says that it is busy, almost always full, when the weather is good: May through October. “Then it’s dead. January you can starve” she says.

She shared stories about a Woolly Mammoth tooth that her dad found buried in the ground there. How in February 2006, there was a major storm that hit the Island with a 106 mile an hour winds that devastated Driftwood shores and Juniper Beach.

I asked her what was most distinctive about Barnum Point and she said people always say “it’s so quiet here.”  Recently a guest said that all they could hear was the coyotes howling.

Soon Barnum Point will become an Island County Park. Its distinctive swoosh of a cliff line and golden green grass framed by dark green fir and cedars and its delightful mile of cobble beach that looks out at Stanwood and Mount Baker to the east, warm beach and the mainland to the southeast, and Driftwood Shores and the beaches of Southeast Camano to the south will be an enchanting playground for Islanders. The old Inn at Barnum Point may be torn down; Carolin is making decisions about a life estate, granting her the right to live in the Inn until she passes away. She doesn’t know.


What she does know is that in the summer of 2017, over 20 acres of Barnum Point will be dedicated to conservation, and over 20 acres with a mile of shoreline will become Island County Park. Then 100’s, even thousands of people, will be able to enjoy the quiet beauty of Barnum Reserve. And in this way the legacy of the Barnum family lives on.

How you can help the Legacy of Barnum Point be enjoyed

There is a specific way that you can be a part of ensuring that the legacy of Barnum Point can be enjoyed by the public. There is a 37-acre tract on the eastern side of the Point (with 1/3 mile of shoreline, 17 acres of upland forest, and 20 acres of tidelands) that is in imminent danger of being sold for private use. The Whidbey Camano Land Trust needs to raise $368,000 bySeptember 6 to buy this at-risk property before it’s sold in a bankruptcy sale to a private party. As of August 9, they have raised almost 70 percent of the $1,135,000 property cost (via donations, pledges, and a state salmon recovery grant), yet more support is needed! Protection of this key 37-acre property is critical to the larger goals of conservation and public access in this amazing place that is Barnum Point.

To learn more about this you can check out their website, including and informative documents available there. Check out this video:

You can be a part of helping Barnum Point be an even more amazing place for the public.




Jed Dorsey Workshop offered at Sunnyshore Studio, November 3-5

Jed Dorsey is leading a three day workshop in acrylic painting at Sunnyshore Studio on Camano Island, Thursday – Saturday, November 3-5.  This workshop is for all artists 18 years and older of any level. The morning hours are a combination of instruction and demonstration leaving the afternoon for hands on practice with feedback. You will gain essential tools to help you create well-designed, striking, colorful, and light-filled compositions.

The cost for the three day workshop will be $225

We have an 8 person minimum, 15 maximum capacity. Sign up soon for this opportunity to learn with a rising star in an incredible location on Camano Island.

To sign up go to:

Beaches of Camano: Mabana Beach

This is part of a series on the beaches of Camano. Our goal is to celebrate Camano’s Beaches and to help visitors to our Island enjoy them too. The Beaches of Camano Project will culminate in the GRAND OPENING of Sunnyshore Studio on Saturdays December 3, 7 and 10, and in a coffee table book titled “Beaches of Camano”.

Each year, thousands of people lounge on the warm sands of Mabana Beach, splash in its sparkly waters, launch their boats through the 40-foot break in its seawall, and watch the evening sky turn alizarin above the turquoise trees of Whidbey Island and the purples of the Olympic Mountains not knowing the battle to keep Mabana Beach open to the public that took place in 1972 and the names of those heroes who fought that they might have that access they enjoy. I tell the full story of the Battle for Mabana in my upcoming book Beaches of Camano book but will share a few snippets here.

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Uniquely, Mabana Beach unique a Port. Swedish-born immigrant Nils “Peg Leg” Anderson logged at the isolated south end of Camano Island in the 1980s. In 1898 he purchased a ranch above Mabana and built a home for his family. Around 1911 he also purchased the tidelands of Mabana. A year later he platted the gently sloping hillside above Mabana Beach and began to sell parcels of logged-off land. He also built a 900-foot dock that became known as the Mabana Dock. It needed to be 900 feet; anyone who has waded out to the drop off or dug for sand shrimp at low tide knows just how shallow Mabana Beach is.

In February 1926 Mabana area voters approved the formation of the Port of Mabana and elected the first Port Commissioners. The main reason for creating the Port was to provide funding for upkeep of the Mabana Dock.

A little store was built at Mabana sometime before 1946. The Mabana Hotel sat on the bluff overlooking the beach. Cabins for rent were located north of the store  and inland of the road that ran along the top of the bluff. These cabins were used for such things as summer vacations and even short-stay rentals for the summer Vacation Bible School teachers who could then walk about one-quarter of a mile to the old school house where the Sunday school and church services were held.  In the 1950s and 1960s, houses were built inland of the road that ran along the top of the bluff overlooking the beach and the Port of Mabana.  Through the years, the county road that had  led to an old dock down on the beach was maintained either by the county or by people living nearby allowing free access and enjoyment to the public.

In 1947 my Grandfather Doctor “Doc” Dodgson moved from Moroni, Utah to Camano with his wife Sayre and four children, my aunt Margaret, uncles Bud and Robert, and my mom Ann.

Doc was an old-fashioned country doctor who practiced in Stanwood but chose to live on a 60 acre farm on the southwest side of Camano where for a while he raised thoroughbred race horses, then for many years a herd of milk cows, and then went into beef cattle.  During those years my mom and her siblings enjoyed the enchanting long days of summer when after their many farm chores (there was haying, and canning of vegetables, and splitting wood for the fire, and weeding the garden, and milking cows to do) they played in the refreshing waters at Mabana Beach, snorkeling, digging for crawdads and spearing the flounders in its shallow waters; or if they were quick enough, catching them by the tale.


Here are a few pictures of them enjoying Mabana Beach.

My Uncle Robert Dodgson and his wife Sandra moved to Camano Island from their houseboat in Seattle in 1972. They had purchased the little house with beach that Robert’s Grandmother the famous illustrator Fanny Y. Cory, known to her family as “Meetsy”, had owned since 1948. The first Robert and Sandra heard about the changes taking place at Mabana Beach was a cartoon in the Stanwood-Camano News that showed a picture of a concrete wall across the end of the road with people trying to look over and climb over to get to the beach. A neighbor who was a lawyer a lawyer, told Sandra that yes, a 6 foot high concrete wall with no opening for public access had been built so that you couldn’t get to the beach at all. He encouraged Sandy to get involved in regaining public access to Mabana Beach.

Here is a picture of Meetsy sketching at Mabana.

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Robert and Sandy owned their own tidelands and had access to their beach so they didn’t need to get involved. But Robert had a history with Mabana Beach, and so was emotionally invested. He and his family and friends had used that beach since he was a child and his grandmother the famous illustrator F.Y. Cory or “Meetsy” used to go there. Furthermore, it was one of the few public beaches on the south end of the island that you could drive to so even people of limited mobility could get to the beach there.

Robert and Sandra did get involved. And thanks to their and others care the Port of Mabana District remains an active port.  Its boundaries range from the southern tip of Camano Island north to Mountain View Road, the same as when it was originally created. A 40-foot break in the seawall allows the public to enjoy its sandy beach just and the beautiful views looking west across Saratoga Passage to Whidbey Island and the far blue Olympic Mountains.

When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer I came home for a weekend to be with mom and dad. And we walked on that misty winter day on Mabana Beach. I’m thankful for the courage and care of those who fought to keep Mabana open to the public!

How to build a bulkhead for less than $300 in 10 easy steps

A few times during some of the more exasperating moments of the buiding-of-the-bulkhead my interns asked me if I actually had a plan for building the bulkhead before beginning. I told them that it was a “developing plan” like building an airplane as you are flying.

Since I have now built my first bulkhead and consider myself and expert, I offer this simple tutorial on how to build a bulkhead for less than $300.

  1. First, have a sister and brother in law with a beach with lots and lots of driftwood to choose from.

2. After identifying the driftwood and cutting it into 6 – 8 foot sections drag the logs to the field where your dad’s old battered Ford pickup will haul them away from. And make “south side” gang signs to show that you’re tougher than some old driftwood!


3. Have your interns dig a 2 foot (or so) trench and drop the logs in the trench as demonstrated in this video.

4. Screw some old weathered boards into place to hold the logs together and then fill in dirt around the logs, tamping it down with the end of a shovel. Have an intern walk on the bulkhead to ensure that it is solid.

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5. Dig holes to build concrete anchors for the bulkhead to prevent the pressure of the dirt to push the bulkhead over and pour concrete.

6.  Have a 76 (or so) year old dad with lots of energy who likes engineering, tools, and has a large amount of galvanized steel cable around as his house. Ask him to help you engineer building the anchors. Use reverse psychology  by saying that it’s above your ability to build figure out how to anchor it, and you doubt that your dad can as well. This is guaranteed to motivate him to prove you wrong.

7. Ensure that your dad also has a front loader that is able to scoop up the round rock that he just happens to have sitting at his house to create the beach look in front of your bulkhead. Have him drop it in bed of the old battered Ford truck.

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8. Put some water-permeable fabric up to keep the dirt from pushing it’s way through the bulkhead. Then have your interns begin to back fill the bulkhead.

9. Have your interns spread the river rock in front of the bulkhead. Add some larger stones to create variety. Screw in some old weathered planks to give it a bulkheady look.

10. And most importantly have 2 good-looking and hard working interns who may mumble a lit bit about your lack of planning, but who are in general good natured and willing to break a little sweat even if they get irritated at their shoot-from-the-hip foeman to create a great bulkhead.

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Now that I’ve provided this easy-t0-follow guide to building a bulkhead for less than $300 I expect to see many more of them springing up on Camano and the Northwest :)!































Beaches of Camano Project: Pebble Beach

Last week I interviewed long-time Pebble Beach resident Amy Whitmarsh who was born in 1933 has a long and fascinating history of her family’s connection to Pebble Beach.


Amy told me that in the late 1800’s someone had built a dock and a holding pond for the logs they hauled down the steep hill above Pebble Beach. They also built little work cabins for their crew and a few larger buildings where they made shingles out of cedar trees. A small farm perched on the bluff above Pebble Beach and the farmhouse near where the main road now is. When the owners who farmed it dies, the two ladies who inherited the farm but couldn’t maintain it sold the land to the Tyee Logging Company.


Amy’s parents, William A. “Bert” and Myrtle Shanafelt and her brother Bill were in Alaska in 1928 when they met Eleanor Fortson, her husband, and their two children. The Fortsons told them about how they had bought some property, an old shingle mill logging camp on on Camano Island and how they were going to turn it into a resort.

When the Shanafelts moved to Everett, WA, they traveled each weekend to the Fortson’s resort on Pebble Beach and stayed in the cabins there. Amy remembers the rickety cabins, and the drawings on the walls made by the loggers  when they were bored.  Like the other guests at the Pebble beach resort, Bert, Myrtle, Bill and Amy played on the beach and fished in its salmon rich waters.


So it is not surprising that when in 1936 the Shanafalts bought their first property it was at Pebble Beach and that in 1937 they built a little “knotty cabin” there. Inside this cozy cabin Amy remembers the beautiful knotty cedar varnished walls and how weekend they would park their car at the top of the hill and clear fallen branches on the path to the cabin, and how it was her and Bill’s job to take the wagon and collect driftwood for the wood stove. She remembers how she would walk to Wilkes Gary Beach (which is the beach just south of Pebble Beach and which used to be part of Pebble Beach) and say hi to everyone staying there.

She also remembers catching her first salmon there. One morning she rowed out by herself and hooked a 10 pound blackmouth. She couldn’t bring it into the boat because she couldn’t hold both the pole and the net. A nearby fisherman cried out, “Hang on I’ll help you.” He brought his boat over and netted the salmon and jokingly asked, “Do I have to give this to you.” “I hope so,” Amy replied. Gazing out her window she reflected, “fishing was wonderful then.

In 1955 Amy married Derek Phelps Whitmarsh. In 1966 her parents sold their home in Laurelhurst and moved to Pebble Beach permanently. They started to build a house to retire in right next to their old knotty cabin when Bert was diagnosed with cancer. He saw it almost to completion before he died. And though they had moved to an apartment in Seattle when Bert was battling cancer, Amy’s mom wanted to live at their new home on Pebble Beach. Amy said “I don’t blame her. It is a marvelous place to be every day.”

The view from Amy and Derek’s home is impressive. Pebble Beach juts out into Saratoga Passage. Across the water you can see Langley and Freeland on Whidbey Island.

I asked Amy what her favorite part of Pebble Beach was. Without hesitation she said, “Everything has an appeal. But I’d have to say the storms that come in from the northwest, that sweep down Saratoga Passage to Pebble Beach at just the right angle to hit the beach, and whose two foot waves throw logs over the bulkhead.”



With her long history on Camano I asked Amy how she felt about the tension between public and private beaches confessing that in the past I had parked my car near the Fortson house, hiked over the old cedar mill pond that is now full of driftwood, and caught salmon from the shore.


In a firm voice Amy shared with me how her parents had bought private property where they could enjoy their privacy, and how they had spent their own money – and Amy and Derek had spent their money as well – to keep up the county road for years before the county paved it. She shared how her parent’s cabin had been broken into 3 or 4 times over the years. She asked, “would you like strangers to come to your home and have a picnic in your front yard? To dig up your clams?” She added, “It’s not just about ‘mine, mine mine’. We put the money down to buy this property. We worked with the county to get the road fixed.” She shrugged her shoulders and said that it is only her husband Derek’s kindness that lets their neighbors have access through their property to the upper lots that don’t have road access.


As we thanked Amy for sharing her time and family stories, she softened and said that of course her and Derek – and other private property owners with beach rights – allowed strangers to walk on their beach.

If you have a chance to walk on Pebble Beach and Wilkes Gary Beach in the evening as the sun is setting take it. You won’t be disappointed. Here are some photos of the cabins south of Pebble Beach and a spectacular modern beach house that was featured in the Seattle Times.

The sunsets are stunning at Pebble Beach. IMG_3971

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