30 Years an Anchor of Place

Our first visit was in July 1985, short as it was. We were on our tandem and passing through, checking out places to get married. Our first stay was late April 1994, delightful as it was. By then, we had our two kids in tow, and Sina took her first steps on the cabin's porch. We've been returning for a week most every year since.

It is on San Juan Island, was built in the 1920s, and continues to be just exactly what it was meant to be. No more and no less. A no-frills, peeled-log respite with a killer fireplace and a drop-dead view across Spieden Channel to the island of the same name.

When our kids were young, we kept lists of all the animals we noted during each week’s visit. Between tide pooling, bird watching and simply keeping our eyes open, the lists always numbered well over 100 entries (see my list below). They grew quickly and expansively with feather duster worms, blue dasher dragonflies, horned grebes in display plumage and red fox in blend-in russet coat. There was that one time two bald eagles were cavorting in a nearby tree and one flopped down, slightly befuddled, by the side door. Surprised he wasn’t smoking a cigarette. Always time for a biology lesson in addition to list-making.

We had our iron clad traditions. Going to the Friday Harbor Pharmacy and picking out a surprise. Breakfast the third day of “miracle egg,” a kid-friendly dish we invented on the island and that we reserved for the island. Going to watch owls hunting and bats flittering across the pond were must-do excursions. Playing pirate on the huge washed up tree stump at American Camp Beach and also around the ancient Madrone on top of Mount Young were yet another two, favored by the kids. Going to a place we named ‘our secret spot’ for tide pooling and whale gazing was my favorite. Carolyn’s favorite: all the above. And of course, everyone got a big kick when Dad would throw off his clothes and jump in Puget Sound. Not that I ever stayed in long, but a Dad’s got to do what a Dad’s got to do.

So, a week at a cabin rental over many years builds a reservoir of shared small adventures and anchors a family to a place. In our case San Juan Island, Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest. We were lucky to have found this cabin to go back to as a middle class family.

Wherever it is you favor, these places were once plentiful across our PNW. Ask any ten people of “a certain age” and you will hear from many of us about our own stories of such a well-loved spot, which adhered us to a place while it annealed our family to whatever challenges were in store. These place anchors are more important than just the week or so a family may spend at one. I worry they are getting scarce, succumbing to inevitable land economics, or are becoming economically out of reach for many of us.

No, this is not the most important matter facing our PNW. But neither should we dismiss it as a consequence. Let me know the favorite, well-loved spot where you periodically migrate with your family. For many of us, they are keystone to our Pacific Northwest. Let me know too your thoughts about how we best incentivize them to stay around and in a later post I will share some of mine.

Onwards.

 

PS: Reading this entry over, I am adding a post script to correct a little too harmonious suite of recollections. There was always opportunity for “what-were-you-thinking” mischief during these anchoring weeks. In the spirit of dumb father and son capers—who’s the parent here anyway!—there was the time I shared a cigar with Tae at the ‘our secret spot’ as we watched the moon rise. I recommend it heartily—once! Neither of us have gone near the vile things since.

Species List

Chitons

Worms

Amenones

Sculpin

Gastropods snakes

Bivalves barnacles, clams mussels, oysters

Crabs

Propose

Orca

Minke

Hump back

Sponges

Sea slugs

Sea stars and starfish

Ravens

Robins

Osprey

Red wings

Turkey

Vulture

Eagle

Red tale

Piliated

Red wing

Waxwing

Fox

Rabbit

Bat

Sea lion

Otter

Mink

Seal

Song sparrow

Canada Geese

Flicker

Hummer

Red brested sap sucker

Northern harrier

Owl

Crow

Raven

Rock pigeon

King fisher

Cormorant

Grebe

Pigeon gillimot

Merganser

Falcon

Deer

Bumble bee

Loon

Swallows

Swift

Starling

Exotics on spider

Gulls

Wren

Frogs

Butterfly

Harlequin ducks

Rhinoceros auklet

Native slugs

  • Gene Duvernoy

    Gene Duvernoy is President of Forterra. He’s spent more than 30 years working on land conservation and building community, founding Forterra in 1989 in his attic. Since then he’s led the organization to national prominence by creating bold, innovative and successful programs that improve the quality of life for all residents.
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