They sat at a wooden picnic table, their feet in the sand and their eyes on playing cards in front of their noses.
Two retired couples were soaking up the sun just off the beach at Deception Park State Park, playing a game they call Phase 10 Gin Rummy.
“You don’t have to think,” Mike Mayer said. “Instead, it’s driving us nuts.”
It was easy to joke and enjoy the afternoon with the sun glistening on the saltwater Thursday and the massive parking lot nearly empty.
The afternoon marked the calm before the storm at Deception Park State Park with Memorial Day weekend just a week away.
Victoria Day, Canada’s federal public holiday, is Monday so this weekend is expected to begin the surge of visitors at the state’s most popular state park.
“It’s already booked full,” Jack Hartt, manager at Deception Pass State Park, said, referring to the park’s 300-plus campsites. “It’ll be busy campingwise for sure.
“Memorial Day has been booked for months. All the campsites. Everything we have.”
Hartt was guest speaker at the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday. His topic was the “State of the State Parks,” which are celebrating their 100-year anniversary in 2013.
Mostly, he focused on recent developments at Deception Pass State Park, noting that this weekend the swimming beach on the west end of Cranberry Lake will open after a nine-month closure.
High levels of bacteria caused by geese droppings led to the closure by Island County Public Health. However, the levels have dropped and the the risk of illness from swimming is greatly reduced, according to the agency.
The swimming beach will be open on weekends only from 11 a.m. till evening until June 1 when it will open on weekdays.
“As long as we can keep the geese out of there, hopefully, it will be open all summer long,” Hartt said.
Another improvement Hartt expects visitors to notice is the restored shoreline at Cornet Bay. A project that began last fall recently was completed. It involved removing a bulkhead to create a natural beach.
Deception Pass State Park also will be one of two sites in Washington that will host a celebration for the state parks 100-year anniversary. That celebration will take place on Aug. 3.
Javier and Kasey Chavez of Burlington also took in the sun and solitude from a picnic table this week at the park.
They come to Deception Pass State Park regularly. As they looked out at the Puget Sound waters, they could see speed boats roaring by. On the beach, a father and son were playing catch with a baseball.
At one point, the dad used a piece of driftwood as a makeshift bat before tossing it into the water.
“It was supposed to be raining today. Look at that,” Javier said.
The oncoming crowds won’t scare off the Chavez’s.
“I’m 44. I’ve been coming here since I was a baby,” Kasey said. “We’ve been married 23 years, so 23 for him.
“All my life, we’ve come out here.”