Pearl Island Paradise


Oh Pearl Island, you perfect little place. Every year we take a trip with 3 other families to this tiny island in the San Juan islands off the Washington coast. There is no ferry service. There are no roads. There is no tv or telephone. Even if it didn’t have an amazing view it would have been paradise on those things alone.

Our families have a total of 10 kids, all between the ages of 6 and 10 (9 girls and 1 boy). Our friends the Corley’s own some amazing property on the island. One of the lots has a cabin where we eat our meals. But aside from eating, we’re outside the whole time. Our hosts are a fascinating family, with a legendary history of camping that has been carried on, generation after generation after generation. We stay in meticulously kept canvas tents (30+ years old) on tarp-covered platforms in the woods, about 20 feet from the beach. It really is paradise, fun and awesome and relaxing and fun (and awesome.) It’s totally safe too. The kids can run around on their own for hours and the water is cold enough to discourage deep swimming. The biggest danger they face is a bee sting.

Every year there is a scavenger hunt. The pioneers, or the natives, or the pirate Blue Beard will leave behind all kinds of clues. It is definitely NOT the dads or moms, no matter how much evidence suggests otherwise. The first year’s hunt was about an hour long. This year, it took two days for them to finish. My favorite clue this year had the kids putting kayak paddles end to end for 10 lengths on the sandy shore. They couldn’t believe it when they discovered that 10 lengths was buried in 3 feet of sea water. They complained to their moms that the dads forgot to check the tide charts. They just couldn’t believe  that ancient Indians would do something like this on purpose. So they impatiently waited.

The next morning, after breakfast, the tide was low enough to resume the hunt. A corner of the lock box was sticking up out of the sand, holding the next in a series of clues that had them running up and down the island for hours. They dug up pirate skulls. They found pieces of a home made wooden jigsaw puzzle (on two different islands!). There was a code to crack from the pages of 4 different books, and ultimately there was a trail of jewels that led to a real live treasure dig. They found a treasure chest filled with $1 coins, chocolate coins, and (almost) real jewels!

But my favorite part of the trip was yelling over at the kayak campers on nearby Posey
Island. The first night we yelled “HEY POSEY! We got spirit, yes we do! We got spirit, how about you!?”
And when they didn’t respond, we booed them. All great fun for the kids.

pirates night out

On the last evening there, we tried it one last time. And miraculously, they responded! “Hey Pearl!….” The kids went into a frenzy. I think it blew their minds. I bet every island in the area could hear their laughing and cheering, they were so excited. So cool that the kayakers did that. I’m guessing we’re looking at a very loud new tradition.

This trip is so amazing every year. Here are some pics that almost capture the paradise.

zach earned his rock-skipper badge this year

our little mermaid


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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Pearl Island Paradise

  1. Sara

    Thanks for posting these great memories. I love all the traditions attached to this trip. I also love the time it gives the grown-ups to reconnect!

  2. Absolutely beautiful! I loved reading about the “hunt” and, as I’ve said before, I would love to be one of your kids and get to experience life with you directing the experiences. How much fun that would be. All those kids will have those memories forever.

    • derekmunson

      thanks Diana! the hunt was a blast. i’m lucky to have such awesome kids. you have to meet Zach one of these days- i think you’d appreciate his humor and energy 🙂

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