This is part of the “Beaches of Camano” series I am writing to celebrate and share the diverse Beaches of Camano. Paintings of these beaches will be featured in Sunnyshore Studio’s Grand Opening in December. You can read more about the project here.
Places where we live and that we love become part of who we are. That is true for “our beach” which is across the street and down the hill from my childhood home. (In doing the research for writing this book I discovered that our beach actually has a name: Sunnyshore Acres. But forever it will live on in my heart as “our beach”.)
For my first eleven years the beach was impenetrable and unexplored – a dense forest looked over a steep hill full of blackberry bushes guarding access to the beach. In the early 1980’s a developer cleared many of the trees on the bluff, carved a Z like road back and forth to the beach, built a bridge and brought in fill hoping to build homes on the beachfront.
He got in trouble for the landfill and the project was happily stalled for many years, creating a sacred playground just for me, my brother and sister, and my southside friends: Harry, Pat and Steve.
Harry taught me how to dig sandshrimp when the tide was low and we used them to fish for flounders and perch at the drop off at the point.
When the tide was high the slough would fill with water my friends and I would float on logs up the slough to the bridge. We wrestled on the bluffs overlooking the water, rolling down them, pressing each other’s faces into the dirt until one of us cried out “mercy.”
I tracked the racoons and otters and deer and duck who left their tracks in the wet sand along the slough. I never did find their hiding places in the forested woods above though I tried.
In the warm summer days we lounged on the sandy beach near the head of the slough, building rafts and playing in the warm waters.
And once we got in trouble with the law there. It was the summer before I started highschool. Harry, Pat, Steve were over at my house and we had a couple of pellet guns. We were bored and decided to have some fun so we headed to the beach. As we left my sof-hearted mom begged us not to shoot any birds; we promised her we wouldn’t.
When we got to the bluff we noticed that there was a man working with a dump truck and front loader down on the road below. Two of the gang went down to scout the situation out. They came running back to us out of breath and said they had shot the window of the dump truck and that when the man got out of the truck, they had shot him with a few pellets in the chest. We hightailed it out of there back to our house.
A few hours later mom got a call from a neighbor whose home overlooked the bluff and had seen some boys there; she asked if we had been over there and mentioned something had happened with the man working on the dumptruck, that the truck window had been shattered. Mom asked us what had happned. We lied. We told her that we had been on the bluff shooting at birds. Maybe one of the pellets had gone through the alders and hit the dump truck window, but if so it had been an accident.
Mom believed our story and we nothing happened and we thought we were in the clear. But a couple of weeks later I was down at the beach with my Australian shepherd named Brave. I had jumped off the bridge as boys do to the grass 10 feet below and Brave had jumped with me and had twisted his ankle. So I sat with him under the bridge for a while and then together we started walking up the Z drive back to our house, Brave limping next to me.
As we walked a police car rounded the corner and came toward me. If Brave would have been able to follow me, I would have scampered up the hill into the alders and brush and disappeared. But I couldn’t leave Brave stranded.
The officer stopped his car and asked me who I was.
“Just who I was looking for.” He said.
Then he asked me to get into his car and he read me my rights. “You have the right to remain silent…” My heart was beating, but I kept a calm outward demeanor. He asked me what had happened the day when my friends and I were at the beach shooting pellet guns. I told him the lie.
“Jason”, he said, “I am going to go to each of your friends. And if they tell me a different story I’m going to come back and throw you in jail.”
I crumbled. I told him the whole story.
My friends and I were given misdemeanors. Our dads took us to apologize to the dump truck operator make restitution by paying for the window. We had to write an essay on what we had done wrong and do community service too.
My parents, seeing the road I was on, took me to the Denny Juvenile justice center in Everett to show me the path that I was on and where I would probably be in a couple of years. Thankfully we learned a lesson, stayed out of trouble, and had our record cleared when we turned 16.
Most of the time, however, it was just good clean fun at the beach. When I was in highschool my friends and I had “wars” at the beach.
We divided into teams, building forts, and battling in hand to hand combat. One war my squad borrowed a neighbor’s boat and rowed up the slough which was full at high tide.
It was so dark that we couldn’t be seen; but we could be heard. Our enemies spotted us and began to throw M-200’s at us. . Their explosions made it seem like a real war zone . There was quite the battle on the bridge that night. Thankfully we all survived. And I have to give my dad and mom credit for letting us be boys.
It wasn’t all war at the beach. My mom took my senior prom pictures there.
On Valentines Day weekend in 1988, a cute girl I had met my Freshman year of college named Jenny spent the weekend at our home. I walked with my sister and Jenny down that Z road in big winter coats. On the way down I put my hand in Jenny’s coat pocket. That was how we started “going out.” We got married in June of 1992.
Sometime after I went off to college homes were built on the bluff over our beach and it became private. Thankfully, a few of the homeowners are friends with my dad and mom and they have given us permission to walk down their private road and enjoy the beach which holds so many happy memories for us.
We have walked that Z road with family and friends many times since then.
And when I do the memories of those olden days come washing over me, those happy days of youth, those friends who I hold forever dear.
This place that I love continues to haunt me with its beauty. It binds me to family and friends I love so pregnant it is with memories. In this way “Our Beach” continues to shape who I am today.