Salmon Beach is perhaps Tacoma's most secluded neighborhood. Consisting of about 80 homes on stilts, it's located at water level on Tacoma's western shoreline, just south of Pt. Defiance Park. (If you use GoogleEarth, take a look at the satellite image of the long, single-file line of houses that comprise this neighborhood.) The only access to Salmon Beach is by way of long and steep footpaths from the cliff-top above, or by water. Residents must leave their cars in parking lots at the top of the cliff and hand carry their groceries down to their homes.
My friend, Terry, and I descended the terraced stairway to Salmon Beach today, and walked the single, narrow, sometimes tunnel-like foot path that comprises the neighborhood's one "street." We met long-time resident Roxanne and her children, and chatted about life on the waterline. The view is spectacular. One of the best views of the Narrows Bridge is from Salmon Beach, and "Beachers" can also see parts of Gig Harbor across the water, and some of the Olympic Mountains in the distance. Residents can fish, swim and boat from their front porches and decks (the saltwater of the Sound was crystal clear today).
Not that living at Salmon Beach is without its inconveniences. One man told us about having to lug over a hundred pounds of tools up the hill for work each day (the cliff-top parking lot is not secure against theft). I've already mentioned having to carry groceries down. Then there's the storms. Roxanne said that in our most recent windstorm she and her family had to evacuate their house because the sea-level wind was lifting it off its pilings.
But perhaps the biggest reason people choose to live at Salmon Beach in spite of its drawbacks is because of the sense of community they find there. When Roxanne's family had to evacuate their house, a neighbor with a secure building immediately took them in. If there's a heavy job to be done, the neighbors pitch in. If someone finds a cedar log floating free in the sound, they'll get a Salmon Beach neighbor to bring a second boat and lug the log to shore. Then 3 or 4 families will work together to cut and split it into firewood. Terry and I walked past beautiful firewood piles today!
The southernmost house of Salmon Beach
What Salmon Beach residents don't have are some of the building permits they need to improve their houses, and confidence that their cars up at cliff-top won't be tampered with at night. We're praying for you about those things, Beachers!