Insights of an Islander


Sue Surratt

One Summer Night

On Herron Island, visitors and residents alike are drawn almost with the pull of the tides down to beautiful North Beach. You are immediately captivated by the Olympic Mountains standing majestically beyond the surrounding waters. It’s no wonder the first pioneer chose this spot for his log home.

One night, a girlfriend and I decided to sleep on the beach alone. It was a warm August evening and our families thought we were spending the night at each other's house. We headed to the beach instead. The gravel crunched beneath our feet as we walked down a road illuminated only by moonlight. We would jump into the ditch and take cover whenever headlights approached for fear of being discovered and hauled home. Every few hundred feet, a deer would jump and we would shriek as it surprised us in the dark.

Down at the beach, we overturned a small boat resting on logs to use as a shelter. We'd hauled along my portable boom box and tuned into KZOK. We sang, lip-synched and danced like no one could hear us.

Two boys came up from the water's edge. They were from the camp across the channel and had paddled over in a canoe long after curfew, following the sound of our music.

We talked and asked questions, casually flirting and laughing. As it began getting colder, they offered to build us a campfire in the beach pit. There was a burn ban on, but my friend and I shrugged it off. Who's going to know? We're on a private island and the ferry is shut down for the night.

We were getting comfortable around the fire when, after about 15 minutes, a fire truck with lights and sirens came down the hill! Everyone disappeared into the night, except me. I froze, then jumped in place, then panicked and ran. Tall grass whipped against my legs until my shin came into contact with something solid and I flipped over and landed on my back. To my surprise, next to me lay my girlfriend, who had tripped on the same abandoned boat trailer in the weeds.

Volunteer firefighters searched for us by flashlight. The fire hissed as it was drowned in the distance. After the fire truck's brake lights disappeared into the night, we discovered the boys had fled in their canoe. We burst out laughing, then settled in for the night under the overturned boat at the top of the shoreline, and fell asleep to the sound of water lapping the beach.

We awoke to the thrum of the engines from the island's then-ferry Annabelle the next morning, and hurried home before we could be found.

I stopped by Marty Pedersen’s house on the way. He was in charge of the volunteer fire department at that time. I apologized for allowing a fire to be built during a burn ban and for running away. He said he appreciated my honesty and added that he didn't know I could run that fast.

Sue Kingsbury-Surratt is the health technician at Evergreen Elementary School in Lakebay and a cashier at Food Market in Key Center. She lives on Herron Island.