Washington State boasts some 56 islands, some of which are reached via ferry and others by private boat. However, Camano Island is just a one hour drive north of Seattle across the Camano Gateway Bridge over the Stillaguamish River. Then drive less than ½ mile and you have arrived on the island without the boat ride.
Our first stop was Camano Island Coffee Roasters, which is located at Camano Island Marketplace at Terry’s Corner just north of Highway 532. We met Brandon Erickson while enjoying their fresh coffee and quickly noticed all the fresh pasties being offered. However, we had to resist since a big lunch was forthcoming. Many folks we hear come in at 8 am to make sure they get their favorite pastry.
Brandon had an exciting story to tell about how his dad (Jeff Erickson) started the company. Jeff, at the young age of 30, sold his successful printing business in Tucson and decided to move to Washington State. It took several years before Jeff started his coffee business in 2000. That modest beginning (in a barn) has now expanded to the roasting operation just next door to the Camano Island Marketplace.
Interesting side note; we later found out that Brandon was rather modest about his dad. We learned that prior to Jeff selling the printing business in Tucson (some 19 years ago) he was given a short time to live. The reason was his liver was mostly destroyed due to Hepatitis B. Did that stop him? No!
Jeff partly drew on his religion, since he has a theology degree, he changed his life style and the results were astounding.
The question Jeff is often asked is why coffee? Well the obvious question was answered when early this morning we raised our cup of his scrumptious coffee and declared it was one of the ten essentials. The yearly export value of coffee is about 20 billion dollars and some claim the second mostly commonly traded commodity, oil is first. These were great reasons.
Jeff’s goal with his business is to make the world a better place and he adheres to these principles. Organic (limited to no chemicals), shade grown (helps bird habitant, limit erosion), fair trade (fair wages). This is the easy part and Camano Island Coffee Roasters takes it to the next level by giving a percent of their orders to two great charity partners: Agros, based in Guatemala, and Food 4 Farmers. These are just several of the projects that Jeff and his firm are involved with. There are many many more.
We thanked Brandon for his time and continued touring the Marketplace and in the process grabbed some gourmet chocolate from Pirate’s Chocolates. High Sea Amaretto! This gave us the fortitude to continue on!
We went upstairs and chatted with David of Que Sera Art and Wine Loft. We were not ready to sip wine at 11 am, though, so instead chatted with David about the artwork on display. David is no stranger to art as he has galleries in nearby La Connor Washington, Vancouver Canada, and New York City. David is from New York and earned a degree in fine arts. David’s dad was also a painter.
The currently displayed collection is by Anette Lusher, who specializes in beautiful landscapes brought to life in full texture by pooling, dribbling and layering paint on the canvas. Her work is stunning and memorable. We drank in the art until it was time for lunch so we told David that we will return for food and wine pairings that he offers during some of the evenings. On the subject of food, we strolled outside to make a decision for lunch between Brooklyn Bros. Pizzeria and Naked City Brewing Company. Certainly no decisions in life are easy, and we went with Naked City since we wanted to try something new. We had enjoyed Brooklyn Brothers’ pizza during a recent visit to their Everett location last month.
Bryan Miller, co-owner of Naked City, joined us for lunch and told us all of the exciting things they had going on at this new location. Bryan and head brewer Don Webb have been successful since 2008 from their location in the Greenwood area of Seattle.
We understand that their brewery plans were hatched while working together at one of Paul Allen’s businesses. On his downtime, Don worked on perfecting his beer and before you knew it he was ready to make this into a profitable enterprise.
It was time to sample some and I started with some of the light ones and as usual Elizabeth (my wife) sampled the hardy ones. Naked City Freedom Park Pale was poured first. This beer is made from a Citra hop and has a light citrus note and a mild summer body. The best part is that for each pint that you drink (or just purchase) $1 is donated to support the local community park, Freedom Park. Drinking for a good cause!
The next one sampled was Naked City Yankee Drifter Summer Lager, which is a light refreshing beer. Brewmaster Don makes this as a tribute to his dad and always releases it on Father’s Day. The last beer sampled was my favorite, Naked City Coconut Key Lime Kolsch. This is truly unique blend of coconut and key lime with a slight tropical taste done in the light Kolsch style. This light style beer was perfected in Cologne Germany and first popularly used in about 1918. However, some trace it all the way back to 874 C.E.
My wife liked the nose of the Kolsch but her favorite was the Naked City Orange Blossom Special IPA and their flagship beer Crossfire IPA. The namesake of the brewery is from a 1948 murder mystery movie and many of their beers are named from old moves. Also in cinematic spirit are the old movies they show movies from time to time at both of their locations.
There was no mystery that experienced Executive Chef Tessa Roberts does a great job of pairing the beer with food sourced from the local agriculture of Camano Island. For lunch Elizabeth fell in love with the Naked City Burger from grass fed happy cows. I’m sure our son, who is a vegan, would have enjoyed the award-winning Beet Burger. I tried the Short Rib Sandwich which was a wonderful selection of moist and lean meat with Swiss cheese and nice spread of honey mustard. We were asked for a two word description of our lunches: “Phenomenally delicious!”
Bryan enjoyed our description and offered us some dessert but we told him it was time enjoy some the parks on the island. We drove ten minutes to this “hidden gem”, Iverson Spit Preserve. The views of the sun on Port Susan Bay with the Cascade Mountains in the background were stunning. It was so clear it seemed like we could almost touch Mt. Baker to the north, while gazing on Mt Rainier to the south.
We did a short hike on one of the trails and walked on the beach along with many folks outside enjoying the day. A few kids were swimming and we were told the water is warm. Not convinced of that we choose to sit on a log and enjoyed watching some of the birds soaring. We heard that there are over 130 species that have been spotted here.
We liked this mode of relaxing so we returned to the car to take the ten minute drive from the east side of the island to the west side and arrived at our two-day retreat Camano Island Inn.
Stunning sunsets, walking the beach, sipping some wine, relaxing in the hot tub, and dining at the romantic bistro. These are some of the amenities offered at the Inn. All of the nine rooms face the west so sunsets over the Saratoga Passage with views of Whidbey Island and the Olympic Mountains await you.
Upon arrival, my wife took over the bed and stared at the water and mountains which lulled her into a nap. I strolled outside to the beach to soak up the sun and watch some boats sail by. Then I waked back up the stairs to the bistro and sat outside to enjoy a glass of wine. I was offered some appetizers and realized that dinner time was slowly approaching and it was time to wake my wife.
Before being seated, we had to first decide whether to enjoy our dinner outside in the sun or inside in the intimate dining room. We sat inside and watched the sun shining on the Bay. For the appetizer, we enjoyed the roasted beet salad with goats’ cheese lightly sprinkled with honey and thyme. For dinner, I had the moist and tasty Pork Chop that was grilled and served with mushrooms.
My wife equally enjoyed the Steak Tenderloin which was prepared in a red wine reduction, making it ever so moist and tender. We considered the cheesecake for dessert but realized we already had two excellent meals today and were indeed satisfied, so we retired back to our lovely room to watch the sunset.
To enjoy the sunset, we relaxed on the private patio that was adjacent to our room. First there was the bright sun glistening off the bay and reflecting the warm rays on us. Then the sun slowly started to partially go behind the mountains and we started to get bright orange colors reflected off the light wispy clouds. Minutes later the sun finally disappeared and the sky slowly turned dark blue and we retuned inside. This hour-long light show was magical and we slowly faded to sleep.
The next morning gave us a completely different perspective from our patio view. The snowy peaks of the Olympic Mountains stood out distinctly and we noticed many of the birds looking for their morning breakfast. Breakfast seemed like a good plan so we strolled back to the bistro for breakfast. The fresh fruit, toast, bacon and fried eggs provided a tasty start to the day to fuel us for our hikes. We were sad that our visit to the Inn had ended and we will certainly return, as this is gem for any season.
The hike starts in the dense woods and there are several viewpoints of the bay. Then the trail hooked-up with the Marine View Loop Trail, which is a level hike of about 2.7 miles. There are so many other inviting trails with Cranberry Lake being a very popular one. There is also the Cross Island Trail that will take you 1 mile to Camano Island State Park.
We would go to this park after we had lunch at Cama Beach Café and Catering. This is conveniently located in the Cama Beach State Park in the new lodge building.
We were greeted by owner Donna King, a fifth-generation native of the Island whose great-great grandad homesteaded here, was full of facts. Prior to this café, she was one of the owners of a bakery in nearby Stanwood. This was a very popular spot that was mentioned in a national magazine. Then one day the park ranger of Cama Beach invited her to bid on the food concessions at Cama Beach State Park. Shortly after that she won the bid and has been in operation here since 2011.
We were ready to sample some of her food and learn about the unique history of this park. Her Café recently was awarded as one of the ten best brunch spots in Washington. However, we already had breakfast and so were ready for sandwiches. The Classic Ruben sandwich and Turkey Pasto were prefect choices. We will return someday for one of their tasty omelets and quiches that are offered for brunch.
This park has a rich history. In the late 1930’s till 1989 this was a popular family fishing resort at Cama Beach. Once this was closed the daughters and heiresses of this property, Sandra and Karen, wanted to donate this land for the home of a new state park. The park officially opened in 2008.
Donna has recently expanded her operation and hired Kris Gerlach who was cooking on the island and comes with a resume that goes back to cooking at a young age in Pennsylvania. After his culinary degree, he worked in resorts in Florida and Colorado for over 16 years.
Kris loves to use locally sourced food and Donna is real happy that Kris’ girlfriend, Rachel, is the owner of an organic farm on the island. We told Donna it was time to hike and walk off some calories from her wonderful lunch but she urged us to try one of her famous scones. I thought I wasn’t hungry but I could not stop eating it and by the time she brought over some jam it was gone. So she gave us another one to go! Well, I totally agree with one of the quotes, “These scones are from heaven.”
On the way out we looked from the bluff where the café is located saw the cabins on the beach, surrounded by people enjoying the beautiful day. We drove the short distance for our last stop, Camano Island State Park. There are several good hikes here and one can just take the short (half mile) Al Emerson Nature Trail or several trails that connect the beach to the bluff. Just like the Cama Beach State Park you can camp here or rent cabins. Also if you have a boat you have access to the campsites on the beach which is part of the Cascadia Marine Trail.
Photo by Alan Bauer.
We are not mariners, but it would be fun to camp there or stay in one of the cabins, many are open all year.
We left the park knowing that we would be back often, since this is only an hour drive from the Seattle area and the island is great for any season. We already have a long list of places to hike that we missed and other restaurants to check our next time.