We figured we’d be okay arriving at Jones Island State Park on a Tuesday, thinking it probably wouldn’t be that busy on a weekday.
We pulled into the north cove of the island, just west of Orcas, on Tuesday afternoon and were dismayed to find the anchorage pretty much full. As we bobbed around debating what to do, a sailboat pulled out from the end of the float, freeing up the only space available on it. We quickly snagged it.
Jones Island was clearly more popular than we’d realized, and it was obvious why. A 188-acre forested oasis with 25,000 feet of saltwater shoreline, the island is breathtaking. If I imagined the most picture-perfect Pacific Northwest Island, Jones would be it.
The island was hit with a massive storm in 1990 that knocked over many of its trees, but to me it looks like a storybook forest, with trees spaced out enough to let the sunlight dapple through and a trail that might be the prettiest I’ve seen anywhere in the San Juans.
The trail cuts down the center of the island and then veers west along the shore, running along dramatic cliffs above pebbly beaches and offering spectacular views of the surrounding islands. Madrona trees curve gracefully above rocks covered in dry grasses and — curiously — clusters of cacti that I’ve never seen elsewhere in the islands (according to one website, it’s a prickly pear cactus).
Jones is evidently popular with kayaking campers, given the large numbers of them we saw. I’m guessing many come from Deer Harbor, which is just across the channel.
Camping’s not my cup of tea, but if you had to pitch a tent, Jones would be a terrific place for it. Some of the sites are located on bluffs just over the water with beautiful views, and the ghastly pit toilets often found in rustic campsites have been replaced with composting toilets in what look to be new, raised wooden buildings. There are fire pits, picnic tables, a large covered eating area and two big lawn areas, one with an old apple orchard.
There are also raccoons, apparently some especially mischievous ones. The boaters staying across the float told us about a couple they’d met on a previous visit who were awakened in the middle of the night to the sound of their boat horn blowing repeatedly. In the pilothouse was a group of raccoons that had ransacked their cooler before discovering the horn.
We capped off an already perfect day by sitting in the cockpit and eating the two crab we’d caught at Spencer Spit a few days earlier. Lily Winston Churchill goes berserk for crab, and since we’re both suckers who can’t no to her, we shared the bounty. I made a lame attempt to scold her as her paw reached repeatedly over the edge of the plate, but it was hard to sound stern when we were both laughing.
Afterward, drunk on Dungeness, Lily dozed on the settee while we enjoyed a beautiful evening and wondered why it had taken us so long to visit Jones Island. Even Marty, who grew up sailing in the San Juans, had never been there before.
Both of us have a particular fondness for nearby Stuart Island, since it’s where we got engaged in 2004. But Jones, we discovered, rivals anywhere else in the islands for its beauty. It’s a magical place I hope we can go to again soon.
If you go: There are four mooring buoys in the north cove of Jones Island, along with a 100-foot float that has areas reserved for dinghies and loading/unloading. The smaller south cove has three mooring buoys.