Every once in a while I receive a special email from a reader who gives me greater insight as to how the places we visit today, were “back then.” With permission, I am honored to share those emails with you, here.
Orcas Island: The Good ‘Ol Days
~ The Giving Tree at Camp Orkila, Orcas Island
From viewing your website it is obvious that you very much enjoy the San Juans and Orcas Island. It is too bad you could not have known it 50 years ago. That would have been before most of the commercializing had taken place. I first went to Orcas Island in 1963 to work for the summer at the Seattle YMCA’s Camp Orkila. I fell in love with it then, and have loved it ever since.
Back then, you could have still enjoyed the Outlook Inn and Fred T. Darvill’s rare print shop, maybe even chatting for an hour or so with Fred about his beautiful collection of prints.
You could have picked up a Serigraph (silk Screen Print) by Elton Bennett for $5.00 to $10.00 depending on the size (I have several). Shopping at the old Templin store with the “Templin Girls” still working there with their fresh farm produce and friendly smiles and conversation. There were many other places – now gone that made Orcas the friendly place it was.
You have hiked the Turtle Back trail and seen the beautiful panoramas of the islands, but you will probably never be able to hike up Turtleback from Lovers Cove anymore, because Lovers in now private and developed. Being able to take some city kids out fishing in a canoe at Lovers at sunset when the fish are really biting and then going in on the beach to cook the fish and oysters we had and camp the night there with only the stars above us was something you never forget.
The artisans with their Pottery and Candle shops and an occasional visit to Rosario for a birthday dinner when Gill and Glee Geiser owned it before it went so commercial. Gill even let me play the Organ in the Library of the main house. There have been many changes over the years on Orcas, some good and some bad, but I still love it there and visit whenever I can.
I would suggest that you visit Camp Orkila when you are there next. It is timeless in so many ways. It was Orkila that brought me to the Islands and it was Orkila that kept bringing me back there working for them for 13 summers. It was through Orkila that I found the rest of the Islands with campouts and day trips and day off excursions of my own. Later my sons attended Orkila and I would stay at Beach Haven while they were at camp and then they would come over to stay with me after camp so that we had about a month of great family fun.
You might consider that experience for your son “B”, but visit the camp first and see what it can offer. I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Follow up: Bob and I continued our emails and I learn why the “Giving Tree” at Camp Orkila is very special to him. He writes:
You mentioned the Giving Tree at Orkila. That has special meaning for me as it was dedicated to a young man named Mark Simpson who was one of my long term campers at Orkila for several summers before he passed away. He was a terrific kid, slim build with red curly Hair and always a secret smile. He wanted to come back as a staff person and work at camp, but never had the chance. He didn’t even get to finish High School. He loved “The Giving Tree” story by Shel Silverstein. It was a favorite of mine also and I used to read it to my campers, and we would talk about what it meant. The last year Mark was at camp I gave him my autographed copy of the book. If you are not familiar with the book I would highly recommend it to you and “B”.
I do enjoy reading about your travels to the San Juans and as you mention there are a lot of really great places to visit and see and wonderful places to eat. Even today with all the growth that has occurred, it is still a small piece of heaven for me. I do not get up there very often any more. My last visit to Orcas was three summers ago for a special dedication they were having at Orkila. When I do visit I try to stay at the Outlook Inn. I have not been to Beach Haven in around 10 years, but did really love it there also. Over the years I have stayed at quite a few different places on Orcas, but as I am older now I like staying at Outlook because of the convenience of the location. Also their restaurant (New Leaf Café) is very good.