Gratuitous Color Shot #17: Ladybug, ladybug fly away home

History has repeatedly made its for-better-or-worse mark on lovely Long Beach, Washington. The Chinook were displaced by early settlers, the once-remote seascape beset by summer visitors, the abundant clams and salmon over-harvested.

By 1980 the lodgings and amusements created to support tourism from the 1880s on—including warm saltwater swimming pools and sport fishing—weren’t enough to support a town worn down by gas/energy crises and changes in the commercial fishing industry.

[Contributing factors to the decline in for-profit fishing: Pollution, climate shifts, and a controversial legal ruling giving Native tribes the right to half the region’s harvestable fish.]

Since then, a place named for 28 miles of sandy shoreline has added new chapters to its story while keeping oceanfront development minimal.

Today’s Long Beach offers a rehabilitated main street heavy on the classic seaside mix of treats and trinkets. It’s a place where taffy, burgers, and arcade games co-exist with souvenirs of Jake the Alligator Man, bumper cars, and ziploc’d bags of fresh cranberries handed over with a smile.

When warm weather ends, the Long Beach Washington ladybugs lose an antenna but keep their smiles

Kites star in museum exhibits and multiple festivals. A boardwalk winds through decades-old dune grass that both stabilizes and enchants. And down the road a ways, fans of nature and history will find Cape Disappointment anything but.

Compared to other PNW spots, the region hasn’t changed terribly much since the days when rumor (and Coast Country: A History of Southwest Washington) has it a woman dropped a ball of yarn from a train window and “the conductor halted the train, got out, retrieved the wool, and rolled it.”

For those who dream of life beyond a small coastal town, it’s likely the tourists, unhurried pace and relative isolation chafe. Luckily for the community’s economic security, though, making nostalgia the town’s dominant currency seems to be a gamble that’s paying off.

5 Responses

  1. This is such a great shot, lovely colours and fantastic mood!

    I just had to look at a map, to see how far up North Long Beach is – it’s almost Canada!

    Somehow we Scandinavians take for granted that the Northwestern coast of America is lined with birch and pine trees. Just like on film! Long beach is more like a cold Hawaii? (The blue ladybug looks cold!)

    Some years back we lived in a seaside town, that would be filled with tourist in summer, and then almost completely closed down for winter. It was both nice and quiet, and too quiet in winter.

    • Hi Kaffe/Tine—

      Thanks! The blue ladybug was no doubt enjoying the high 70s day knowing it would be wet and cold soon, ha.

      “Our” Long Beach—there’s a city in California with the same name—is pretty far up there, but it’s still about 6 hours to Canada. Calling it a cold Hawaii is generous, but people do surf in the frigid waters!

      Not sure what I want to do with the other photos I took of the area, but I since didn’t get any shots of the green vegetation here’s a Sunset Magazine story on Long Beach (WA!). You’ll see your perceptions aren’t that far off:

      • Thank you for the picture! It could easily have been from Scandinavia. The beach wouldn’t have been that long, but the vegetation and everything else look pretty much the same.

        Do you know why we’re called vikings? Because we (or some of us) actually swim in the cold waters, even with ice on top in winter!

        I’m not one of “us”, but a few of my friends are, can you believe it?

  2. That ladybug seems to have a definite air of optimism.
    Nostalgia works for me; I might not want to live in a town like this, but I’d enjoy a visit. And I love the story about the wool being dropped from a train.
    Hope your weekend is proving restorative!

    • Hi Pauline—

      The most recent census puts the Long Beach population under 1,500 (up from around 300 in the 1930s!) so it’s definitely not a lifestyle for all. I promise it’s very easy to love as a visitor, though!

      Isn’t the wool story great? I’d have probably been impatient even ~ 100 or so years ago but I like to think I’d have been charmed to wait. [And let’s face it, I’d probably be the wool-dropper, ha.]

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