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  • Writer's pictureKatja

Vashon Feature: Beach Adventures

Being back on Vashon Island again after several years on the “mainland” has provided a chance to reacquaint myself with various aspects of my childhood home. Over the next several weeks, I look forward to sharing some of the highlights of Vashon, both to look back on when I move away again and to show others this remarkable place through my eyes.

The amazing thing about growing up on an island is that you are literally surrounded by beaches. Geographically speaking, you can start walking in any direction and eventually find a beach. While these are not necessarily the warm, sandy beaches of the tropics that many people crave, I have always enjoyed the magic of our rocky shores.

Lisabeula Beach is the one nearest my parents‘ house. The long walk down the steep, slippery hill there and back makes the adventure all the sweeter for having earned it with some extra exertion. As you arrive, your focus is pulled between the lush foreground and the scenic background with views west towards Ollala on the Kitsap Peninsula and the distant Olympic Mountains (on a clear day).

If you are lucky, you can watch orca pods swim along Colvos Passage, especially in the fall as they feast on the Chum salmon. On many days, the sensation of being watched may alert you to the presence of harbor seals in the water, their heads popping up as they watch you walk along the beach. Nearly every day, some sort of bird will be present, from migratory waterfowl to local eagles and herons.

As a child, I would comb the beach looking for treasures to bring home. As an adult, my eyes still eagerly scan the sand and pebbles, but nowadays I prefer to pick up pieces of trash and leave the treasures for future adventurers to enjoy. What catches my attention? Several types of sea shells, beach glass, and even patterns in the sand left by the moving waters of Puget Sound.

I remember when the beach was less manicured, before the park district took over and private property closed in the boundaries of where we could wander. It’s a mixed blessing as the investments and accessibility help maintain year-round access and keep the park clean, but also put pressure on a smaller area. Some days I respect the boundaries and stay where I’m told to be, but other days I jump over logs or I slip out of my shoes and walk through the water to bypass the owned land and make my way back to the more remote stretches that were my childhood playgrounds. I understand why society moves more towards defined ownership and how overuse mandates new boundaries to protect fragile habitats. I always respect the wildlife areas and keep my dogs away from salmon streams and nesting ground. While I cannot deny how I benefit from the changes that have been made, the memories bring on a sense of nostalgia for how things used to be.

What I love most about visiting the beach is the sense of serenity amid change. Beaches will never be the same day to day or hour to hour. The tide stirs the sands, removes debris and adds new treasures. Waves, wind, rain, and wildlife change the look and sound of the beach in infinite ways. The beauty is a result of the constant change and uncertainty, and the beach is one of the few places I can go to feel calm and at peace amid the continuous chaos. It’s also a fun way to reconnect with my younger self as I excitedly scan for this tide’s treasures and laugh at how much joy spotting a heron or a seal still

brings me.

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