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Beaches of Camano: Our Beach and my brush with the law

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.

“Jason Dorsey”

“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.

Beaches of Camano: Port Susan Bay

Over the years our lives can be woven together with the lives of our neighbors by kind words and kind acts, like hundreds of little threads binding our lives together in a place.

I was struck by this as I spoke with Barb (Hayes) Noste at their family home on Port Susan Terrace. It was a beautiful, sunny day. The water was a smooth as glass. Mount Baker reflected in the water. Barb greeted me warmly and hugged me. We sat at the table on the front porch (on the Island the front of the house is the side that faces the water) and we talked.

To prep for my interview with Barb I had asked my mom to remind me about our family’s history with Barb’s family who had been neighbors of ours living less than a mile north of us down Port Susan Terrace Road.


Barb’s father, Dr. Donald C. Hayes, had practiced dentistry in Stanwood from 1959-1995. What I knew was that Dr. Hayes had been our family dentist, that he was a very good dentist and had always been warm and interested in my life. I remembered seeing him run on the road between our homes. Don loved to swim and would do so from Memorial Day well into September. He would even swim before work to get a little exercise in.


Mom told me that like most children I had not enjoyed going to the dentist and that on one visit to Dr. Hayes I had “fallen asleep” in the car ride down and had managed to sleep through the whole dentist appointment; of course I had not really been asleep, but that was my way of escaping reality.

Mom told me how when I was about seven years of age, my sister April was four, and my brother Jed a newborn,  a small group of neighbors had formed a Bible Study, who Patty Paige had been a vibrant part of that study and so had Don and Audrey Hayes. Most of the time the group met at Patty’s home or the Hayes home, but sometime it met at our humble home that didn’t even have real doors but only curtains on our bathroom and bedrooms being very poor in those days with dad a full-time artist and all. Mom shared how Patty how described our little house to another person as the home “where the roses grow over the fence.”

Mom told me that one Christmas Donald and Audrey had brought beautifully wrapped gifts to our house. They had shared with mom and dad, and April, Jed and I how they talked it over with their kids and decided that they didn’t need presents that Christmas and thought it would be nice to give presents to us that year instead. Mom told me how they were nice, expensive presents. She remembers that the gift for April was a pretty teal winter coat with a hood; how it was long and soft like velvet on the outside, and on the inside a kind of cream, cute fur, like a princess coat. The memory of this kindness brought tears to mom’s eyes.

Don and Audrey Hayes supported my dad and mom in other ways too. I spotted a couple of my dad’s paintings in their home.

Mom told me how after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2015 she and dad had been driving out of the parking lot of Camano Chapel and had seen Dr. Hayes walking out from the service and had stopped to talk to him. They had told him about mom’s cancer diagnosis and upcoming treatment. And he had said “Oh you should talk to Barbara. It would be good to get together with Barbara.” It turns out that Barbara had just been through cancer treatment herself. Mom didn’t pursue it at that time. But a few weeks later Barbara called her out of the blue and asked if she could stop by. Barbara brought quite a few hats for mom to wear and had all kinds of helpful hints and was as mom put it “so nice and supportive.”


So all of this was in my mind when I met with Barb who shared with me more of the history of her family and their relationship to Port Susan Terrace Beach.

Donald had met his wife Audrey in Alaska. She had four kids at that time. Barb says that her dad would tell her the story that he had said to Audrey that he would marry her if he could have another four kids with her, (with a smile on his face)! And she had said “you bet.” And they did. Eight kids in all.

Don & Audrey Hayes moved to Stanwood, Washington in 1959. When Dr. Hayes set up his practice that year they had originally lived – all ten of them: Donald and Audrey, Sharon, Gary, Steve, Tom, Mary, Ann, Jim and Barb the youngest – in a modest house on Cedarhome Drive in Stanwood. Don & Audrey bought a lot on Port Susan Bay on a beach with the bay’s namesake called Port Susan Terrace which is on the east side of the island. The family spent their summers there and soon built a small beach home. When Barb was four they moved there full time.

The Hayes family would later build another home down the road on the same beach.


Barb and I walked north to their family’s first home on Port Susan Bay.


And as we walked told me about each of their neighbors from when she was a child. There were the Ceis’s who lived at the northernmost home and who had kids a little older than the Hayes children. Then there was the Hopen family who lived in an A-frame and whose dad had once owned Glasply boats before it went bankrupt. They had three kids the same age as the Hayes kids named Debbie, Vickie and Chris. Barb said, “Their home was the most fun place to be at. They had the best snacks and you could get away with murder.”

Next was Dr. Lance and his family.  Then the Powell’s, and then it was the first Hayes house. Next to them was the VandeGeest home, and next to them the Hickocks. Barb shared how Gene Hickock who had been the president of the Port Susan Terrace Association had passed away just a few months after her dad’s passing. Continuing south down the beach were the Johnson, Tronson, Ogden, Rasmussen and the Bettgers’ beach homes. Behind Rasmussen’s, on the other side of the road, were the Chamberlain and Sortland families. Next came the Bohon’s and the Rondeau beach homes. Barb shared how Jim Rondeau used to referee professional boxing. Next to Rondeau’s was the Burn’s family who had 4 kids the same age as the younger Hayes children. Then came the Hayes home (a different family with the same last name) and then Donald and Audrey Hayes’s new home they build in 1976.  South of the more recent Hayes home was the Rust family who had a son named Bret who was a year older than Barb. And furthest south, the last home on the street, was the Will’s place which is a sprawling estate with amazing grounds.  Though there are now newer families and beach homes that share the beach, many of the families from years ago have passed down their beach homes to the next generations.

As Barb shared I realized that here in this place all of these lives had been woven together with years and years of memories, acts of kindness and neighborliness: like helping each out when the water washed over the bulkhead and flooded the yards, which it does every five years or so.

Barb shared how the kids had grown up together and had been free to roam for hours.

They would go the cove to the south where the water was warmer and swim and play.


They would catch bullheads, get an old grill, start a fire and cook them. They would take a rowboat out to the cove to the north and net crab in the shallow water. They would build multi-level rafts using hammers, nails and ropes.

They would play on the big rope swing in the back lot. They kept busy with their escapades and tried to stay out of trouble.   Barb said that when they got older waterskiing became the big thing. Many beach residents had boats and they had gotten pretty good at waterskiing.

Talking with Barb was a window into their world: I learned how Dr. Hayes had played the accordion as a young man and continued to play it even as recent as a few weeks before he passed away, how he loved to fish and hike. Audrey and Don and many of their children fished in both the Puget Sound and in the oceans off the Washington coast and Vancouver Island and continue that tradition to this day. How Audrey had been a homemaker and on top of raising eight kids took care of the office bookkeeping. Late at night she would put all the bills and receipts and paperwork on the table and straighten out the books and take care of the paychecks, often working to one or two in the morning.

But most of all from Barb I saw how her family and neighbors and, in a way, all of our lives had been woven together over the years there in that place. And I reflected on how just like the long warm days of summer softly merge into the crisp short days of fall, and the low tide gives way to the hide tide, those magic days of childhood couldn’t last forever.


I asked Barb what their family home and the beach meant to her now. She said that it is such a peaceful place but that somehow it was different now. That it was very sad and lonely without the people who made it is so alive.

Barb told me how when her mom was in hospice care the family had made a commitment to keep her at the house not put her in a nursing home. She told me how her dad had cared for his beloved Audrey around the clock. On the days she had enough energy he would push her wheelchair in front of the glass windows that looked at Mount Baker. There she would do jigsaw puzzles; she loved and watched the beautiful scenery. Barb said that her mom had watched the sky above Mount Baker for so many years that she could predict, based on the cloud configurations, when it would rain: “It’ll rain in three days” she would say; and she would be right!


During those Hospice months (January through August 2013), Barb came every night from her home on Camano to attend to her medical needs and to get her mom ready for bed. The only reprieve for her dad was when one of the children would come out to help with mom’s needs. She told me how just a few short years after her mom passed away, her dad followed.

Barb said “it’s the tides of life. Things change. And you just focus on all the blessings you have and that you have had.”

One of those blessings is the family home on Port Susan Terrace that looks out at the sunrise over the Cascades and that can catch the sunset to the northwest.


Beaches of Camano: Utsalady Bay & Point

On Saturdays December 3rd, 10th and 17th Sunnyshore Studio hosts its GRAND OPENING titled Beaches of Camano.

The Dorsey family are teaming up to paint the 32+ beaches of Camano and publish a coffee table book Beaches of Camano that will celebrate those beaches and help newcomers to our Island enjoy these beaches as well.

One of those beaches, Utsalady Bay is rich in history. Enjoy its story here:

There are at least two tales of how Utsalady Bay got its name. One goes like this. An early settler of Utsalady was Scottish. When his wife had their first son he went around telling everyone It’s-a-laddie, thus “Utsalady”. Another is that it is an old Indian name that means “berries.” Whatever the origin of its name it has a rich history.

Utsalady Bay once was at the center of the logging industry on Camano Island, with a mill, a store and tavern. Down on Utsalady Beach there was also the Mellum Hotel. In those days, the logs were brought in by horses and carried off by ships with tall sails.

More recently Utsalady Point was the home of one of the many resorts that dotted Camano’s beachline. Now beautiful beach homes look out over the boats across the Bay to Mount Baker to the northeast.


Joyce Larsen Linn, a long-time Utsalady Beach resident, lived much of that history. I interviewed Joyce and her friend Andrena – who had grown up at Camp Grande and who I featured in an earlier article – at Joyce’s beautiful home at Utsalady. It was not only fascinating to hear their stories, but also special because Joyce and Andrena are old classmates and friends of my mom.

Joyce’s parents were Svend (Danish) and Ada (Swedish) Larsen. Her mother was born in 1911 and was raised on Camano Island: her grandparents, it turns out, lived at the AJAX farm, which is now part of the Danielson Farm. There they farmed cows, raised peas, and chickens and pigs and children, eight of them to be precise.

During her growing up years, Joyce’s parents lived in Bellingham. In 1950 they built a cabin on Utsalady Beach and spent their weekends there.


At that time there we only a few other cabins at Utsalady that were part of a fishing resort after the mill went away.

Joyce remembers how at Utsalady point, just south of their cabin, there was a dock with a building on it where the Utsalady- Coupeville Ferry came in (I’m not sure if the pictures below are specifically those of the Utsalady-Coupeville Ferry, but they give an image of what it would have been like).

She remembers how one night, she, her sister Janet and Susan and Linda Anderson stayed in the building on the dock. It had a wood stove in it and they had enjoyed the fire. But as the dark of night fell, it became more and more scarry and the girls went back to their own homes and beds.

She remembers how they came up to Camano on the weekends in the winters and how each summer her mom picked her and Janet up after the last day of school and they would move into the beach cabin until labor day weekend.

For Joyce Utsalady was the enchanting place of her childhood. She put it like this: “We never had vacations. It wasn’t until after I got married that I realized that we were on vacation all summer long. Our beach house was Grand central station. Mom and dad loved to entertain. And they had a large family. Every weekend we had a houseful. The more people came, the more potatoes my mother would peel and put in the pot. Every weekend was fried chicken and mashed potatoes.”

She remembers how her dad who owned a logging co in Bellingham (Larsen logging company) brought his D8 Cat down to the beach and pulled the old unused pilings from the logging days that were stuck in the mud flats up on the beach and into a burn pile. Joyce remembers the 300 foot float dock used by her family and their friends that sat in the water in front of their beach house. The old anchor still sits on the beach in front of her home, thought the dock has long been gone.

When she was in the 7th grade, the Larsens moved to Camano Island permanently. Joyce’s dad had retired from logging. He purchased the old family farm from his inlaws and ran the farm himself (though Joyce said he wasn’t much of a farmer) unto 1966 when they moved into their beach cabin on Utsalady while they built their new home next door.

I asked Joyce what this place where she has played and lived so long means to her. She said, “This is my roots. This is where family and friends celebrated life together. This is what it’s all about. I have lots of good memories here.” Then she added, “I spent many hours on the beach. I never get tired of the beach.”

My question sparked more memories.

Joyce told me how one of Janet and her favorite games was walking as far as they could on top of the driftwood logs that covered the beach; when one of them fell from a long onto the sand they had lost. She looked into the distance as if she could see it still and remarked, “we spent hours doing this.”

She remembers one extreme low tide on a new years eve. That evening her family and some friends were poised to go down and clam using lanterns. Suddenly  the power went out. Joyce said, “mom ended up cooking the full dinner over an old coleman hand pump gas stove.”

I asked Joyce about the private beach public beach tension. She said, “Jason, I’m still trying to figure it out. My parents always let people walk on their beach. They felt privileged that they owned the beach, felt like it was a gift from God, and that as long as people respected the beach they were open to share it w everyone.”

She mentioned how there is the public boat launch next door and that though some people consider it a nuisance, for her she views it as entertainment. She can spend hours watching people bring their boats in and out of the water.

She reflected on how people used to live for coming to Camano’s beaches on the weekend. Joyce had cousins who lived in Mt. Vernon who would bring a great big surplus tent and spend weekends in it the back yard for the 4th of July weekends, how sometimes there would be 50 people in the back yard in tents on that weekend, and how her mom always had 3 or 4 chickens frying in a big canner in the oven.

Thankfully, Utsalady Beach is accessible to the public who are able to enjoy a boat launch and enjoy the beach and the views. For my money, the most enchanting time at Utsalady is in mid to late July in the evening at high tide. Then you will find the smelters with their nets waiting for the tap tap of the smelt in the nets. And if they are set against a backdrop of the evening sky even the better.


A Recap of Julian’s Summer ’16

Looking back on my summer internship with Sunnyshore Studio I find myself feeling fortunate for the opportunity it provided me. People often take spending time and vacationing with family for granted. After a tumultuous year of moving to Seattle and heading off to college on the East Coast, spending the summer with my family in our new home was extremely comforting. This internship allowed me to return home instead of spending the summer far away from my family while working in D.C, and for that I am truly grateful. This internship also allowed me to investigate my artistic side and I soon found myself rapidly gaining an increased interest in my newfound hobby of photography.

When people recall their summer memories they tend to only highlight positive memories. I will deviate from this norm and begin recapping my summer memories with the lowlights, challenges, and sucky parts.


  1. Barely getting any sleep while camping on Camano Island…..

and having to wake up to sunrises like this.


2. Having driftwood fall on you while you build a bulkhead..


3. Going hiking in Leavenworth and falling 300 feet down the side of a cliff.


4. Getting four wisdom teeth pulled


and eating four Frosties from Wendy’s a day for a week.

5. Saying Goodbye to family and grandparents before heading back to college

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Now the good stuff!


  1. Exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest!IMG_1608IMG_3904IMG_4590IMG_4759IMG_5512


2. Spending every day with family!


IMG_0377full time artist 1bulkhead 26IMG_2096wood 17opening 20

opening 13


3. Rafting and boating around Camano Island!



4. Photography!





This summer I worked on various projects for Sunnyshore Studio

I helped build a bulkhead

bulkhead 3

Rebuilt this website you’re using!


Open for business

Took photos of five Camano Beaches for the Beaches of Camano Art Show Grand Opening in December

beaches brochureIMG_3904IMG_5093IMG_5307

and today created and launched Sunnyshore Studio’s official Instagram account! IG: @sunnyshore_studio


Summer 2016 was a time filled with happiness, family, fun, and work. I grew in many ways  during this internship while working on these projects with my family. Overall I had a blast working for Sunnyshore Studio and the unique opportunity it provided for me. I am extremely grateful for my time spent with my family this summer and will cherish every memory I made this summer for years to come!

Intern #2, aka Jacob Dorsey recaps his summer internship with Sunnyshore Studio

Looking back on my time during the months of June, July, and the beginning of August, I must admit that working with my family and spending time on Camano Island will be a highlight of summers for years to come.

bulkhead 26Being near Dad, Mom, Julian, Judah, and Jackie was by no means easy at times (6 people squished into 1400 sq feet); but overall, it was a very productive time.


Here are a few of the projects I accomplished:

Hauled Firewood from Snoqualmie Pass to Camano Island, then split it


Designed and built book packages and mailed the packages.


Dug the trench for the pipes to bring water from the well to the Studio


Helped Grandpa bring in the winter wood



Gardened with Grandma


Interviewed the Artists


Took videos of the beauty of Camano Island

Mowed and did yardwork

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Collected Driftwood and Built the Bulkhead

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Documented the changes happening at the studio


Helped my dad conduct interviews on the beaches of Camano

There were lots of other things I did including (1) researched Air B & B and other options and provided dad and mom a proposal to rent out the Studio apartment, (2) researches publishers for the Beaches of Camano book, (3)

The Internship included plenty of outdoor fun:

We hiked in with young adults from Redeemer Redmond in Snoqualmie


Took a boat trip with Julian and my cousin Joshua around Camano Island

We built a raft and then burnt it to celebrate the 4th of July

We Visited and hiked Grandpa Jack’s property in Leavenworth


We camped out for more than a month on Camano


And hiked around the south end of the Island.


A highlight was celebrating both of my grandparents 50th wedding anniversaries

I learned more about who I am as a person, and who God has called me to be. I enjoyed my time worshiping, serving and getting to know the people at Redeemer Redmond. Athleticism abounded as well, and playing soccer and ultimate Frisbee were great ways to spend Sunday afternoons.

All in all, the way I would describe the summer is not as an intern, but as a son, brother, and grandson of my family around me.

The phrase that captures this summer perfectly is “It’s so wonderful to have you as my neighbor!” [quote from Grandma Ann]


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 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.




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.

mabana beach 1

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.

mabana 4

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!

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

Beaches of Camano Project: The South End and Point Allen

On Saturdays December 3rd, 10th and 17th Sunnyshore Studio will host our GRAND OPENING titled “The Beaches of Camano”. Jack Dorsey, Ann Cory (Dorsey), Jason Dorsey, Jed Dorsey, April Nelson and Julian Dorsey are teaming up to paint all the 30+ beaches of Camano and to create a coffee table book that will celebrate the beaches of Camano and help newcomers to our Island enjoy these beaches as well.

In the following weeks we will be featuring a few of those beaches.  Enjoy this photographic tour of the South End, Point Allen and Pebble Beach.

The coves south of Tyee Beach are rugged, untouched by people.


Eagles perch on the towering fir trees like kings of old keeping watch over their domain.



Seals hunt for shellfish and play in the crisp waters.

When we were kids my cousins and I would walk from our beach past Tyee beach to the solitary coves of the south end, build a driftwood raft and float on it to the southernmost tip of Camano, Point Allen, where we camped under the high cliffs there.

Two weeks ago Julian, Jacob and I walked from Tyee Beach towards Point Allen, the southern tip of Camano hoping to catch the sunset.

It’s a long walk so we had lots of time to talk, take photographs, and anticipate the setting of the sun. The cloud formations were beautiful and we anticipated an impressive sunset.

As we came towards Point Allen we could see Mt. Ranier off to the southeast.


We also saw the setting sun hit Hat Island, just off the south tip of Camano; and Julian took this picture of some of a washed up buoy.

Coming around the tip of the Island was dazzling as the setting sun painted the clouds soft alizarin and sienna against the cool blue sky.

And as we rounded the south end the sunset was spectacular. Here are some of the photos Julian took.

The beach houses on the southwest side of Camano range from the classic, cozy beach cabins,


to spectacular new modern designs.


We arrived at Pebble Beach in time to see the sun set.

I gave dad a call to pick us up.


And we couldn’t help stopping on our drive back to catch some of the sunset over Mabana Beach.

Hiking around the south end is the best way to experience the pristine beauty of Camano. But make sure you take this hike when the tide is going out. A high tide makes portions of this walk impassible – unless you are willing to slog your way through knee high water.

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