Posted by Ken Campbell June 3, 2011 0 Comment 863 views

From my earliest human-powered visits to the San Juans, I’ve always loved Strawberry Island. This iconic gem set in the waters off the southwestern edge of Cypress Island is managed by the Washington DNR and it was one of my most absolute favorite overnight spots in the entire chain.
Where the gulls perch in the trees. Think about that one… have you ever seen this anywhere else? Perched on rocks or pilings? Yes. But up in a tree? Yet here the gulls do that all the time. (Maybe it’s not that rare, I don’t know. I just can’t think of anywhere else where they do it.)
Camping isn’t allowed here anymore. The picnic tables and fire grates have been removed and the campsites themselves are mostly overgrown. That one big spot with the rocky sides on the edge of Rosario Strait, where I remember listening to the sounds of the roiling current going by from the comfort of my bed, is covered in thigh-high grass and scrub brush now. Long games of hearts and cribbage at the table (and I also recall a 7-player, 2-deck game of bull**** that brought down the house.) Sunsets here are among the best in the San Juans, with porpoise feeding in the rip that stretches halfway to Blakely Island, water like hammered gold, nights like summer satin.

It’s being reclaimed now; the reset button has been pushed. Pushed by the economy, by the underfunded and overtasked DNR, who are always damned, whether they do or do not. The resetting comes compliments of these and other factors, and the truth is, it doesn’t really matter.

I am saddened by the fact that I will probably never again be able to legally spend the night on Strawberry Island. I’ll remember sitting on the wooden bench, playing guitar in the gloaming of an August day, with good people singing along and laughing to try and remember the words to American Pie. It makes me melancholy… that is the word, yes?

And, at the same time, it gives me a look at what I can only think of as the best hope of a complicated and inconvenient planet. The ability, in such a short time, for a place to go from tame to wild, or as wild as it can get, for now. The hope is that it can happen elsewhere. (I’m looking at you Elliott Bay, Olympia, Port of Tacoma.)
Reset. It can happen. If you take the very long view, it may be inevitable.
(These shots are comparisons of the same places on Strawberry Island, taken in August 2006 and again last weekend. The island has been closed to camping for a couple years, but remains a popular lunch stop for paddlers. And it still has one of the finest natural wine cellars in the San Juans, though that particular feature is in need of some restocking, I’m afraid.)

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