If my same-size sister and I had known that the canoe our neighbors agreed to loan us weighed nearly as much as one of us, we’d have handled things differently. Our plan: to lift, load and transport the dark green Coleman X Scanoe to our destination seven miles away: Cornet Bay, part of Deception Pass State Park, where we’d then unload the behemoth and paddle over to Ben Ure (rhymes with “cur”) Island for a camping adventure. The canoe was not only heavy but so large that its sides extended beyond the three successively larger cars, thus roof racks, from which we had to choose. We finally found a set it would fit on our our old Dodge Caravan, half-filled with cedar-smelling brush awaiting transport. The tiny, by my calculation, about 12 acres, island to which we were headed is named after an infamous man with a “rocky…exciting” past and is home to four to six private residences.
Athough it appears that much of the island is state owned, cabin campers are allowed on just a tiny sliver of its northeast quarter. State Park signs clearly mark the very limited boundaries. Restrictions on the use of the cabin include: travel by kayak or canoe only, no pets and two campers max. Coolest thing ever, Jonathan Nelson’s Google Maps’ 360 degree view of the inside of the cabin, record in late 2013, which is still pretty accurate save for the addition of two borrowable sleeping bags.
We arrived at low tide hoping we’d find a place to beach our boat along the rocky barnacle-y shore. Better said than done. Scrapy sounds of barnacles on the 110 pound borrowed plastic hull stressed us out as we drag-carried it across the rocks to higher ground, then debated the best place to store it to prevent its disappearance during the 1:00 am high tide. I used the one knot I know, the bowline, to attach it to a tree, after which we headed up the hill, then to the east down the trail to the cabin. As we rounded the last corner along the perimeter of the island, I heard the call of a belted kingfisher that would continue to fish and mock me with its call during of our stay. When we reached the deck at the top of the stairs, we were surprised to see two cabins, ours, and another similar looking one that almost abutted its north side.
Our 12’x24′ cabin was rustic with a tiny red drop end table and set of chairs, an additional rattan-ish chair, a fireplace, full kitchen, bathroom and outdoor shower.On first glance, we thought it was awesome, but we already knew that the water running through the pipes was not potable as it came from the sea. What we didn’t know was that it would smell like rotten eggs (well…sulfur) every time we turned on the faucet or flushed the toilet. So, there was that. The only other inconvenience was the futon couch that folded into a bed. We’re both small and I can’t imagine a pair of bigger persons fitting comfortably on it. Info about the amenities claim it’s queen-size, but it seemed more like full-size. Honestly, though, we didn’t much care.After settling in, we opened a bottle of wine, brought out our deck of cards and chatted for a couple of hours while playing Speed and Crazy Eights as we watched sun fade from Mt Baker.
Neither of us could sleep that night. We hadn’t thought to turn up the heater as the temperature was perfect when we went to bed, because of which we ended up feeling cold in addition to being uncomfortable on the futon. The next morning, the sun streamed in early in through the curtainless square window pane french door. So, we were easily up at 6:00 am, ready to return to Cornet Bay. We were relieved that the canoe hadn’t floated off during high tide, but dreaded drag-carrying it back down through the barnacle-encrusted rocks and seaweed into the bay. The water was calm as we paddled back to the shore near the boat launch area. After securing the canoe with a bike lock while we waited for the brawn to arrive to help us return it to the top of our vehicle, we we walked the mile to the end of Cornet Bay Road, then returned to the boat launch along the shore, beach combing during the low tide. We collected shells and sea glass and pointed out cool creatures to each other like jellyfish, chitons, plumose anemones, burrowing sea cucumbers and crabs. In the parking lot, we encountered a family of deer.
We did the same thing again that night though were better prepared, returning to the cabin with the previous day’s knowledge about the optimum beaching spot, arrived later, handled the heaters better and actually got a little shut eye, both of us figuring it was because we were so tired from lack of sleep the night before. I read aloud from the journal entries other campers had made. We learned that they had similar feelings about the futon (small and uncomfortable – often recommending its placement on the floor for better sleep), the sulfur-smelling well-water (funny comments involving rotten eggs and farts) and noises in the night (it seems they occasionally experience visits from creatures like mice and raccoons). On one things we could all agree–the solitude and views outweighed the inconveniences of uncomfortable futon and smelly saltwater.
With help from the heat, and a previously near-sleepless night, we slept well. The following morning, we awoke refreshed, and drank coffee on the deck and listened to the birds and the squirrels. The cabin cleanup went smoothly, after which we loaded up our gear and returned to civilization, without a visit from the Billy the park ranger and his dog Buddy, something several other campers had noted as a highlight of their stay.