Oy, Vey! For the first time in over a year I haven’t posted something on Tuesday morning! Well, maybe Tuesday evening still counts – ’cause it’s still Tuesday here on the West Coast, even if it isn’t still Tuesday back home in Minnesota! I’m back on Orcas Island, Washington – partly for “work” this time…more about that in the future! For now, I give you some Orcas Island memories…
Some of my favorite summertime memories are of sleeping on the beach with my friend, K. We did this twice that I remember, though I’m not sure why we didn’t do it more often. I suppose because it required a great deal of planning ahead, checking on the weather, packing, hiking, and, of course, parental cooperation.
It also took a huge amount of time because we had to lug everything – sleeping bags, pillows, food, cooking utensils, matches, toilet paper, towels, and whatever else a couple of 13 year olds deemed necessary – ten minutes down the road from my house, and then another ten minutes back up the shore to our beach, directly below my house, but inaccessible from the house due to the 90 foot cliff that was in the way.
I say ten minutes, but really, when lugging armfuls of stuff, it took longer, we walked slower. Plus, walking along the beach was slower going than walking along the road because of the stones and rocks and boulders in the way, so, really, one round-trip journey probably took an hour, start to finish (loading up, unloading, resting) so that by the time we took three round-trips, half the afternoon was already gone.
So, yes, it was a big deal just getting our stuff down there. But it was worth it.
Once we had set up camp – which included finding the perfect place amongst the stones to sleep (we never used mattresses), building a firepit, stocking our “bathroom” (behind some huge rocks) and making sure that everything was well clear of the high-tide mark – we could then play. Depending on the height of the tide at the time, this would include climbing on rocks, wading in the water, investigating tide pools, popping the Bull Kelp heads, and doing anything else that occurred to us as we enjoyed our freedom. We never lacked for things to do at the beach.
In case you’re wondering at our parents allowing a couple of young girls to sleep on the beach alone, let me explain something. Our beach was basically private, as were all of our neighbor’s beaches. If one owns waterfront land on Orcas Island, Washington, they own it down to the low tide mark. So, the beach was ours and the only other people who might possibly venture down there were just our neighbors, crossing over to their own land, but as they were mostly retired people who never went to the beach, that never happened. My mom or dad would always call down the cliff to us at bedtime, checking in with us, ensuring that we were well and truly fine. They might have peeked at us at other times in the evening or night, I don’t know, but there was nowhere else that we wanted to be, and we were tired after a long day of setting up camp. Sleep came easy.
To further isolate us, there were promontories at either end of the neighborhood’s beaches, impossible to get around except by boat, of course. So, really, we were quite safe. Just the sea otters and crabs came to visit.
It turns out, actually, that we were the interlopers on our beach. Unwittingly, we had built our bathroom in the sea otter’s playground. We woke up during the night to strange sounds. Squeaks and splashes and a weird sandpapery rubbing which was, we discovered, the sound of the otter’s bodies sliding down our bathroom walls. Or, should I say more accurately, their playground equipment: the gigantic boulders that marked the edge of our property.
We watched in the moonlight as they repeatedly slid down the natural curve of the rock into the water, swam up through the murky depths, and climbed back up the rocks to do it again. Time after time, with no breaks, they repeated this wonderful circle of amusement. Almost we could understand their excited chattering as if they spoke; surely we could understand their love for their sport.
When we woke in the morning it was as if we’d dreamed it.
One of the mornings we awoke to voices floating across the water. A fishing boat was idling not far off shore, its occupants peering at us over the bows. We scowled at them and, apparently, we looked fierce enough for them to chug away, much to our relief, as we had, inexplicably, changed into nightgowns for our repose.
What were we thinking?
The second time we slept on the beach we slept in our clothes.
Yes, we were naïve.
And that was okay.
On Thursday: Camping on the Beach, Part Two.