Friendships form and flourish on the beaches of Camano, and the beaches at Rocky Point and Camp Grande have been a playground for many of these friendships.
In 1977, when my friend Lisa Dean Myhre was five years old, her parents began building a house on the corner of Brokaw road and Flintstone Dr. A short walk from their home was the historic fishing resort Camp Grande whose old boathouse is iconic, though at that time it was old and unused and kids covered it with graffiti. It had a long dock that Lisa and her friends could jump off if the tide was in.
One day when they had just begun building Lisa’s mom took her down to the beach. Erin Hart, who was seven years old, was riding her bike with the banana seat and pigtails bouncing in front of her house. Erin lived right on the beach, her back yard the beach itself! She was Lisa’s first friend on the island. She had a brother named Robbie who ended up being in Lisa’s class at Stanwood. She remembers that he lent her his red crayon. They are loyal friends to this day.
Lisa, Erin and Robbie built forts and rafts. They played house using clam shells as bowls and making seaweed salads. When Erin and Lisa played barbies, Robbie would build their dolls little houses and rafts too.
There were always lots of other friends around to play with too. And there were the sand caves that had been dug into the cliff, some five to six feet deep. Even though parents warned their children not to go in the caves and spoke cryptically of kids crushed by caves that collapsed, they had a mesmerizing effect on the gang of friends at Rocky Beach like the Sirens on the Island of Circe in the Odyssey. One of those friends, named Randi, went all the way in; “She was always a little more daring,” Lisa said.
Camp Grande had a tall bulkhead where there would be crowds of neighborhood folks at high tide, casting their smelting nets. Lisa remembers how a shout would go up as a school of smelt swam by and you could tell where they were by who was yanking up their nets. Lisa had her own smelting net.
She remembers forcing company to take bags of frozen smelt home with them. She remembers how her dad had a boat and would crab and fish and how she was so tired of eating crab and salmon.
When she was in High school she made out with boys farther down the beach. Lisa and Randi would spend all day working on our tans taking “before” and “after” pictures and putting lemon juice in their hair to bleach it and sometimes they went skinny dipping and once in a while a bit of under aged partying at the caves. Lisa remembers those bonfires with her friends. They pulled bunches of mussels off the rock and put them in the coals. When they popped open they eat them.
So when Lisa was in the lurch and needed a place to stay after she had graduated from high school she called the Harts, and moved into an apartment with Erin close to the University of Washington. That’s what friends are for. And Lisa and Randi friendship continues. Each year they travel down to the Oregon Country Fair in Eugene and do a bit of over age partying. Just like for Lisa and Erin and Robbie and Randi friendships formed on the beaches of Camano can last.
Lisa’s daughter Mimi and her friend Brittany joined Lisa and I at a meal at the Farmer’s Café in Stanwood. Lisa and Mimi live near Elger Bay which is a private beach. Mimi walks to the beach there with her friends. “There’s only one cranky old guy that will look at you weird” Mimi says. And even though it feels a little hostile and like they’re not quite welcomed there, they still have fun like kids do, walking out into the sand flats when the tide is out. And I hope that Mimi’s friends will be lifelong just like Lisa’s are.