CAMANO ISLAND – It seems fitting that Washington’s newest state park is emerging as an ideal place to try a modern form of outdoor recreation.
Thanks in part to a pair of rangers with a passion for geocaching, this high-tech scavenger hunt game is an excellent way to explore and learn some of the history of this 5-year-old park.
“We have some great caches for learning and some that are challenging,” said ranger Tina Dinzl-Pederson.
The park rents GPS units ($10 per day) and offers instruction on Saturday mornings. Participants use the units to find hidden containers stashed around the park. The game is free and coordinates for more than 2 million caches worldwide are available at geocaching.com.
One of Dinzl-Pederson’s caches, “LeRoy’s Park,” requires visitors to hike 21/2 miles, and find multiple clues that introduce them to some of the park’s history.
While Cama Beach might be a new park, it has a rich history.
Native Americans spent summers here fishing and drying berries before loggers turned it into a camp in the late 1800s. In 1933-34, Seattle businessman LeRoy Stradley purchased the land and built the Cama Beach Resort. The family later sold the land to the state at a 60 percent discount, according to park officials.
The 40 resort cabins are still standing and available for rent for $50-$169 per night depending on the size and time of year.
However, park official Melanie Ford Bissey says you had better plan ahead. Reservations can be made nine months in advance and 18 months in advance for groups reserving seven or more cabins.
“We already have about half of summer 2014 reserved,” Ford Bissey said.
The 433-acre park is loaded with recreation opportunities, including 15 miles of trails, fishing, bird-watching, boating and, of course, geocaching. There is no camping in the park, but campsites are available one mile south at Camano Island State Park. A one-mile trail connects the parks.
Dinzl-Pederson and fellow Cama Beach staffer Alice Blandin are heading up the state’s “100 Parks, 100 Geocaches” program that starts in June.
The Center for Wooden Boats has a facility in the park that rents wooden kayaks, row boats, sailboats and canoes. The center is in on the geocaching craze too. It’s stashed a cache just offshore.
“You might be able to get there at low tide,” said Shane Bishop, a center manger. “But you’ll probably want a boat or you are going to get wet.”
FAIRHAVEN – The oldest state park in Washington has aged well.
Ninety-eight years after the original land was donated to the state, Larrabee State Park has grown into a nearly 2,800-acre playground for outdoors lovers.
“There is a lot to do here,” said park ranger Paul McEvers. “There’s hiking, biking and we get a lot of joggers. There’s good trout fishing in the lakes. And there’s clamming, but we haven’t been open for that the last two years.”
And that’s just scratching the surface. Kayakers, geocachers, beachcombers, campers and others flock to the park that is linked to Bellingham by a six-mile trail.
When the state parks program started in 1913, it didn’t have the funding to acquire land so it relied on the kindness of others. The Larrabee family of Bellingham donated 20 acres to the state in 1915, a year after the death of local businessman Charles Larrabee.
In 1923, the land was dedicated as the state’s first park.
There are now 117 state parks, but Larrabee is still one of the state’s jewels thanks to stunning views of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands and a variety of terrain.
The park has more than 8,000 feet of saltwater shoreline on Samish Bay, two secluded freshwater lakes and 15 miles of hiking trails (13 miles are open to bikes).
The park gets about 750,000 visitors per year, McEvers said.
If you go, McEvers recommends hiking (or driving) from the bay up to the Cyrus Gates Overlook. It’s a short drive on a dirt road, or a seven-mile roundtrip hike through the woods. The hike includes other overlooks and a short side trip to Fragrance Lake.
From Cyrus Gates, it’s only about 100 yards to the wooded top of the Chuckanut Mountain ridge. From the overlook, you can look at across Chuckanut Bay toward Orcas Island.Craig Hill, email@example.com Craig Hill, craig.hill @thenewstribune.com