When it’s getting warmer, my husband and I sometimes set out in our little boat to explore. And what’s better to explore than places you usually cannot reach on foot or by car?! Because they are so very small and out of the way. Our South Puget Sound tiny islands.
One of these islands you have probably all seen from afar, be it from the shore or from a ferry is Eagle Island, situated between Anderson Island and McNeil Island, the latter being the site of a prison and otherwise neither inhabited anymore nor accessible to the public. Eagle Island is a 5-acre State Marine Park, and you can beach your boat on it, then walk into its little woods. It was never named for the bald eagles of our area, by the way, but allegedly for a member of the Wilkes Expedition in 1841, one Harry Eagle. The first time I ever set foot on it, there were lots and lots of Canada geese sitting on their feathered nests. We retreated quickly, as we didn’t want to disturb the birds. But it was quite an awing sight to discover one empty nest that was beautifully laid out with feathers to insulate the clutch of eggs to be; an artisan couldn’t have made a tidier job of it. On leaving the island by boat, we suddenly were surrounded by seals on one side of the shore. They kept popping their heads out of the water, observing us curiously.
Another time – it must have been Labor Day, we set out from Horseshoe Harbor and went over to Cutts Island. There were quite a few boats out there, many of which had beached their dinghies on the shores of this tiny two-acre State Park situated in Carr’s Inlet. There were picnic parties all over the place – to my taste it was a bit too crowded. But the geography of it has something enticing – there is a sheer bluff on the one side, and the butte is wooded; then it slowly descends and mellows out to become a seal bank. After beaching, we walked around a bit, but we certainly staid away from the seals. I mean, as little as we want them in our boat, they might not appreciate our invasion of their territory either.
Cutts Island seems to have some interesting history of naming, by the way. Discovered in 1792 by Peter Puget, it was called “Crow Island” for the abundance of crows that inhabited the place. Which pretty much explains another name of the Island “Deadman’s Island”. It’s like connecting dots – a site for aerial graves by the native Americans (they used to place their dead into canoes which they hoisted into the trees) would attract scavenger birds. After Wilkes Expedition into the South Sound, it became Scotts Island, named for the Quartermaster Thomas Scott. Where the name Cutts comes from is officially unknown, though. My wild guess is that there must have been a Mr. Cutt somewhere in pioneer history whose name got stuck with the island … or the other way round.
Our absolutely favorite out-of-the-way island is the State Park of Mc Micken Island though. McMicken is connected with Harstine Island by a sandbank that falls dry during the ebbing tide. William C. McMicken, whose name it bears, was the Washington Surveyor General from 1873 through 1886 (thank you, Wikipedia!) and most likely attached to the military. The sizeable island (about 11.5 acres) is densely forested and has a rocky beach all around with some sandy patches to boot. There is a beautiful meadow to its south in which you find some picnic tables; there are even public conveniences. A singular house is in a gated-off area – who knows who inhabits it … A trail leads all around the island and offers glimpses of the surrounding islands every once in a while.
Imagine a quiet cove with a few sailboats and yachts swaying at their moorings, some beach combers going for a walk all around the island, the humming of insects in the flower meadow, the hawking of some crows, rarely the sound of a small plane flying over, probably headed into or out of nearby Shelton. What beautiful memories of lazy summer afternoons have I collected, half dozing on one of the benches, smelling the sweet fragrance of freshly mown hay, still with the taste of a savory sandwich on my lips. We’ve also brought back some horse clams from there on one of our trips, and I found them ever so much tastier than geoduck!
The tiny islands in the South Sound are beautiful to the eye from the shore. They are an adventure by boat. They are obviously off the beaten path. And that’s what makes them such a retreat for wild-life and one or the other boater.