A couple years before I was born, my Grandfather and Grandmother Tarr (Moms parents) opened a resort at Baker Lake in Washington state. It was a fishing resort called Tarr’s Resort. It would be the central gathering point during the summer for the family through 1975, when my grandfather died there on the eve of selling it. It was rustic yet sparkling clean and tidy. There were “old” cabins from a location up lake that Grandpa hauled down to the new location and he also built several new cabins. In all, there were 13 cedar walled units and tons of camping spots. As kids it was a great place to explore the woods, learn about bears, pick huckleberries and swim in the glacier fed waters. A typical memory I have of “the lake” is gathering there
with extended family. As the adults reveled and told stories and ate and drank, we kids played outside late into the night. We would hear the voices of the adults as we scurried around the area hunting bullfrogs and creeping through the woods on the look out for the bears that frequently came in to get food from campers. It is where my love of being in the woods began.
We were given much latitude while there. My grandfather was not a fan of wimpy sniveling kids. He was a tough guy logger with a huge sense of humor. I loved every minute I spent with him. I would help him make “fish food” that campers bought to chum the fish into biting their line. I dug worms, repaired buildings, bailed and cleaned boats, pumped gasoline into five gallon cans for the vast amount of time there was no generator running to power the place. Grandma was quiet and worked nonstop. I helped her clean cabins, make meals, bake pies, pick berries, pull weeds, wash cloths in an old wringer washer and do the dishes. Hard work was not lacking in my family and it is one of the lessons for which I am most grateful .
The last time I was at the lake was in 2007. By then the Forest Service had taken over the resort and ran it. The amenities were dilapidated, but you could not take away the beauty of the lake. And sitting at the campfire with over 20 family members I had enjoyed that place wit was one of the best things ever. And when I went away, I was contented by the experiences there that had formed part of who I am.
My brother went to climb Mount Baker this week. He had no desire to go to the location where the resort once was. His pilgrimage would take him up on the mountain that looked over us all those years. And while epic rain at base camp meant lots of snow up higher and too much likelihood of avalanche to attempt the summit, he was excited to have been there battling the elements.
There are places we go in our lives that become such a part of us that it is impossible to remove the memory of them. The smells and sounds are conjurable upon demand. Tarr’s Resort, Baker Lake is my childhood in so many ways. With the passing of so many who made it that, I find myself traveling back there in my mind ever so much more. If only to hear and see them all again in my mind’s eye.