When looking for a quiet place to escape to for a couple days that was not too far away, and didn’t require public transportation or contact with other people, an Airbnb on Camano Island fit the bill. I found a little 2 bedroom cabin on a bluff with water views and beach access – the perfect place for the short trip I had given my mother as a Christmas gift. She agreed. We booked it months in advance. Not knowing whether or not vaccines would be available before we went, we wanted a more isolated place rather than somewhere in a city where there would be a lot of people. As it turned out we did both have vaccinations by the time our trip rolled around, but were still happy for a quiet place.
Weather too is something you can’t predict when booking far in advance so hoping it would be nice, but figuring to bring rain gear if it wasn’t we waited for our time to go. Weather the week before was sunny and beautiful, but the long-term forecast kept waffling between rain or clouds for the time of our trip. Of course the weather doesn’t care what the predictions are and the sun came out much more often then the forecasters said it would. We had a bit of rain during the drive there, the drive home, and during one of the nights, but none in the daytime while we were there. The predicted heavy clouds that would have obscured our gorgeous water view from the cabin never materialized either.
The cabin was not hard to find. It seemed to be right on the same road where we exited the freeway. The road changed names several times along the way, but we never had to turn off of it. My GPS was a bit confused though as it seemed to think we had a ways yet to go and did not announce arrival at our destination when we rounded a bend and saw an arrow-shaped sign with the cabin’s address pointing down a gravel driveway that likely would have otherwise gone unnoticed. The cabin itself was not visible from that angle until after turning into the driveway due to a fence and some trees. The two bedrooms were nearly identical so no worries about who got the nicer room – which would have gone to my mother had there been a nicer room since this trip was a gift to her. The cabin also had a great room with small kitchen at one end and living room area at the other, each with a couple different seating options.
After settling our stuff in and checking out the firepit and hammock near the bluff we looked through the guidebook for directions on how to get to the beach. It said you could walk or drive, but not how far we had to go so we figured we’d walk for a bit and see if we came to the street with the beach access fairly soon or if we’d need to go back for the car. The access road was just a short distance up the street. The journey down to the beach was steep enough that we both felt happier to be on foot rather than driving down it. Unfortunately most of that beach disappears underwater at high tide and we had not timed it well. There was a tide table book in the cabin. Apparently that was why. There was a small stretch of beach not yet flooded so we went as far as we could. Just in that short time the water had come closer to the large rocks that provided a way to get from the beach to the road level. After semi-snickering at the long red rope bolted above the steepest of the rocks on the way down we actually made use of it on the way up. While we could have crossed that rock without it, it was so much easier just to use it since it was conveniently sitting there.
The cabin had no TV or wifi, but it did have large windows all across the side facing the water. Besides the view of Saratoga Passage, Whidbey Island, and the Olympic Mountains, there always seemed to be birds in the yard and sometimes a squirrel to keep us entertained. What can I say, we’re easily amused.
Staying just two nights only leaves one full day to do anything and our plan was to go for a hike at a state park. The island has two of them, right next to each other. Camano Island State Park, and Cama Beach Historical State Park, which was previously a fishing lodge. Cama Beach has cabins left over from its lodge days, but they are quite close together and most of them don’t have private bathrooms so we hadn’t wanted to stay there.
We didn’t really have any preference for one park over the other as we didn’t know much about either of them other than both had beaches and trails. Discover Passes are required for parking in any state park in Washington State, but both parks have vending machines where you can buy a day pass after you arrive. Neither of us live near a state park or have much occasion to visit one so we didn’t have an annual pass. The parks near my house are county parks and those near my mother’s house are city parks.
We ended up going to Cama Beach because the entrance was a bit closer, which seemed a good enough reason to decide when you have no other reason. We found the Discover pass dispenser without any trouble. We were prepared with both cash and cards not knowing which it would take. It said no cash so we used a card. There was a little building there that would normally have information and possibly park maps, but it was closed so after getting our pass we went on farther into the park looking for a parking area. We passed through a shuttle stop and my mom made a comment about there being a restroom there, but later when we actually wanted one we couldn’t remember where we had seen it. They have signs around the park labeling the trails, and one even pointed out where to go to get to the shuttle stop, but none of the many signs we saw ever said anything about where to find a restroom.
The lot we found to park in was one level up from a café, but that was closed too. We had a picnic lunch in a backpack so we didn’t need it anyway. A trail from the parking lot led to one that went either up to the woods or down to the beach. We went to the beach first. Our timing was better on this one as the tide was way out, though even at high tide there would probably be a bit of beach with the possible exception of an extremely high tide. We went as far as the park boundary in one direction, then the other. Near the cabins a large building was marked as a center for wooden boats. Back in the lodge days it would have been a boathouse for the fishing boats. Remnants of a section of barnacle encrusted track from a former launch sat deteriorating on the beach, no longer connected to the boathouse or even to itself the entire way down. A container ship sat anchored near the shore of Whidbey Island across the channel, perhaps waiting for its turn to unload, most likely in Everett since that’s the nearest port.
We went back up the trail toward the woods. A trail leading off of it was marked as going to the other state park, but we decided to take the one marked Cranberry Lake instead. Along the way we passed a number of what you would expect to be educational signs next to the trail. Most places with that sort of signs give out information regarding the plants or animals of the area. These signs tended to say things like imagine what the trail would look like if you were a bird flying above it. We only found a few that had any useful information. One had a photo of one of the broad-leafed yellow flowering plants that Cranberry Lake was full of and identified it as a pond lily. Which was fitting I guess since the lake looked more like a giant pond than what people usually think of as a lake. Another said the narrow path at the end of the trail that went a ways out into the lake was the top of a former beaver dam. The third had a picture of a rabbit and said they were a non-native species that had been introduced to the area in the 1930’s as game animals. The rest just had blurbs as useless as the one about imagining you’re a bird.
It’s not a loop trail so after getting to the lake there’s nowhere else to go but back the way you came, other than a few little trails leading out for different views of the lake. We went down one of them, but there was already someone at the end of it and since the bushes were touching her on both sides there wasn’t room for anyone else so we just went back to the main trail. When we got back to the area of the park where the trails start near the parking lot we tried a trail marked waterfront, but rather than being a view trail running above the waterfront it turned out to be another access point to the beach. It had a nice bench alongside it in one spot though so we sat there and had our lunch before wandering back down to the beach. It took us to the cabin area so we walked through there and happened across their restroom, which was pretty big for a park or campground bathroom. Figuring we might as well use it since it was there and who knew when or where we’d find another we went in. It had two sides branching off from the door, one going to a row of showers and the other to the toilets and sinks. On the way out we found a sign hanging on the inside of the door saying people must wear masks while they are in the restroom. Had that been on the outside of the door where we would have seen it on the way in we would have complied, but since we didn’t see it until we were leaving and nobody else was in there we didn’t.
We had a pleasant day of hiking. On a longer stay there would be time to explore all the trails for both parks, but we just had the one day since we left the next morning.