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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Such a sweet return to camp hosting

Driving into the lovely campground at Spencer Spit State Park on Lopez Island felt a little bit like coming home.

We arrived to find the same sweet campsite we stayed in last May on our first assignment as state park volunteers. Right next to it was Cindy Winkler, the camp host who’d shown us the ropes last year. We heard “Welcome back!” from Rangers Todd Jensen and Mehgan Alexandra, and from park aide Gabrielle Brooks.

Here are a few reasons we’re grateful to be back at Spencer Spit and Lopez Island:

Island time: Super-chill vibes are hard-wired into life in the San Juan Islands, particularly “Slow-pez” as we call our current home. That means we are fully immersed in nature, not distracted by handheld devices. We listen to birds singing, watch the eagles soar and laugh as bold deer wander through our campsite. While walking along the spit, we’ve been squirted by burrowing clams and witnessed one bold seagull making off with a wiggling crab.

Village life: Though the retailing is limited, the charming Lopez village has a little bit of everything. We were thrilled to return to one of our favorite restaurants – Setsunai Noodle Bar – and find chef Josh Ratza still working his magic behind the stove. When we stopped in at , Village Cycles, Lopez Island’s excellent bicycle shop, owner Kenny remembered our names as if we’d never been away.

We even still had active cards at the absolutely fantastic library. Hooray!

Leslie made the rounds and hit up some of the area’s farm stands, buying eggs, tender Swiss chard, Italian sausage and goat cheese from hard-working producers. We look forward to the return of the farmers market later this month.

Camp hosting chores: We settled back into a routine of getting the campground ready for a busy summer season. If you’re thinking about taking the trip, be sure and make reservations for a campsite and also for the ferry. Come before the end of June and you’ll find us tidying up and selling firewood.

Those chores are enjoyable because we share the projects with our friend and fellow camp host, Cindy Winkler. She is such an inspiration, going strong all day long. Her efforts were rewarded last year when she was named Camp Host of the Year for 2022 in the state of Washington, nominated by park aide Gabrielle Brooks, who wrote: “Cindy was a wonderful campground host who brought her love for the outdoors and education to Spencer Spit State Park. Not only was Cindy a joy to work alongside, but she also led junior ranger programs that were cherished by both children and adults.”

One park visitor commented: "I’d like to make an important, special note about how wonderful the camp host Cindy was. She began by sharing a Pacific Northwest  animal book with our 2-year-old but later returned to induct him as a Junior Ranger. She was so incredibly sweet, kind and attentive to him and the interaction was so wonderfully memorable."

What a treat to work with someone who cares so much about Spencer Spit.

"I love this park so much," she said on our first day back. It shows, Cindy! Thanks for setting such an amazing example for us.

Check out our Instagram reel, showing a day in the life of a camp host. Here’s a link:


Leslie Kelly
Leslie Kelly is a freelance writer.