$5 Million Gets You a Washington Island With Totems and Trees

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Want to go off the grid? Why not just head off the mainland? For $5 million, you can buy your own Washington island near Orcas Island, plus a cabin designed by an internationally respected wood carver.

Famed artist Dudley C. Carter built the tiny cabin for the owners of the 5-acre island in the 1970s. The Canadian-born Carter grew up among the Haida and Kwakiutl people in northwestern Canada. After moving to Washington during the Great Depression, he began wood carving, choosing Native American gods as his subjects. His work was subsequently commissioned for the 1939 World's Fair in San Diego, and his totemic carvings can be found around Washington and California.

"He was a tough and wiry guy," says listing agent Wally Gudgell, who knew the artist. Carter died in 1992 at the age of 101.

As you paddle toward the island, a wolf and a thunderbird -- two totems that stretch above the cabin's steep roof -- stand vigil. The door is carved in the shape of a bird and opens toward the water. Inside, the cabin is simple. It has a brick-and-stone fireplace, two tables (one made of stone and wood, the other just wood), a few built-in shelves, and a fire pit for cooking. Out back is an outhouse with an owl and moon carved onto the door.

Carter didn't use a single nail in the cabin's construction -- the structure was made using mortise and tenon, says Gudgell.

The island -- which has minks, deer, and otters, as well as a variety of trees, including juniper, marjoram, cypress, and hemlock -- has been on the market for over 120 days, but Gudgell isn't overly concerned. "There's no real buyer profile for the islands," he says.

He should know -- he's lived on his own island in the area for 20 years and has been selling them for even longer. Many of the islands in the area are used seasonally by people who enjoy fishing, island life, and solitude.

This particular island is notable for a couple of reasons. It's significantly larger than many surrounding islands, a factor that is reflected in the price. It was allowed permits for underground wiring for phones and electricity, but the owners decided that would ruin the spirit of the place and let the permits expire.

The other noteworthy feature is a well that provides 150 gallons of water per day. The island has enough of a freshwater reserve to keep the saltwater out. When islands aren't big enough, keeping a fresh well is "a tricky situation," Gudgell says.

But for this island and its cool cabin, the trickiest situation might be suppressing a desire to ever return to civilization.