Jones Island, San Juan Islands, WA 14–15 May 2022


Jan 10, 2009
Seattle WA
[Cross-posted on]

Late spring is one of the best times to visit the San Juan Islands. By mid-May, most of the warblers, flycatchers, and swallows have arrived. The seabirds have largely departed, but the ones that remain are all in their spectacular breeding plumage. The days are long, the nights are short, and the weather is usually mild. It’s perfect.

For our latest springtime adventure, I took Leon, Maya, and Grandpa John to Jones Island, one of the premier kayak-camping islands in the San Juans. Leon is still young enough that shorter paddling distances are preferable to longer paddling distances, so we launched from Deer Harbor, a little over two miles from Jones Island.

00 Route map.jpg

00 Route map. The clusters of islands sheltered us entirely from the forecast winds of ten to twenty knots.

As usual, the kids spent most of the time in the kayaks sleeping. They woke up just long enough to glimpse the harbor seals and river otters that are all but ubiquitous in the San Juans, and then it was back to sleep. Maya would wake up long enough to listen to stories about her dog pack, and then back to sleep again.

01 Leon and Grandpa John departing Deer Harbor.JPG

01 Leon and Grandpa John departing Deer Harbor. Leon was fascinated by all the piers and boats.

02 Maya with drybag full of dogs.JPG

02 Maya with drybag full of dogs. Maya brought her pack of stuffed dogs, plus a little unicorn-mermaid (“mermicorno”) named Laddie.

03 Leon and Grandpa John kayaking San Juans.JPG

03 Leon and Grandpa John paddling North Pass. In the background, from left to right, are Crane Island, Cliff Island, Shaw Island, and Reef Island.

04 Jones Island kayak landing beach.JPG

04 South landing beach, Jones Island. There are other official landing beaches on the north and west sides, and unofficial landing beaches scattered around the island’s circumference.

Even this late into spring, there were only a handful of other kayakers about. We had our pick of the campsites, so we moved in to the best one, site 20 out on the southwestern point. Here was an open field where the kids could play, with lovely views south to Yellow Island and the Wasp Islands, the most “San Juans” part of the San Juan Islands.

05 Jones Island campsite.JPG

05 Jones Island campsite no. 20. In the vicinity of the campground, the shoreline of Jones Island consists mostly of low, gently sloping rocks, so the grownups didn’t have to worry about Leon getting into danger.

06 Leon playing in tent.JPG

06 Leon playing in the tent. He would race around and around and then throw himself onto the ground, even without an air mattress to cushion the fall.

07 Leon and Maya climbing.JPG

07 Maya and Leon climbing. The kids were so excited about this rock they came racing all the way back to camp to tell me about it.

08 Leon and Maya exploring.JPG

08 Maya and Leon exploring the shore. Maya showed Leon how to be careful on the rocks.

09 Maya building a dog house on Jones Island.JPG

09 Maya building a driftwood dog house. Doug, the mischievous Douglas squirrel, kept trying to capture Laddie, the mermicorno, and some of the dogs were helping Doug do it!

Shortly before dinnertime, I made the unwelcome discovery that I had forgotten all of the food except the first day’s lunch, a meal which my mother, Baban, had prepared and sent along with Grandpa John. I grimly resolved to paddle back to the car and retrieve the rest.

But then, taking stock of Baban’s enormous lunch, we calculated that there was enough food in this one meal to cover not only the first day’s lunch, but dinner, breakfast, and the second day’s lunch, as well. We had chicken salad sandwiches, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, roast chicken, grapes, strawberries, yoghurt, banana chips, fruit punch, and an enormous jug of cold-brewed coffee. We probably could have survived for a week!

10 Maya playing with dogs and grass.jpg

10 Maya playing with dogs and grass. The dogs like meals of grass, leaves, flowers, and the cones of Douglas-firs.

11 Grandpa John hiking with Leon.JPG

11 Grandpa John hiking with Leon. During their hikes, they encountered deer on the island, but we never encountered the raccoons for which Jones Island was at one time famous.

Grandpa John slept out, as he usually does, but he did not have his usual good luck with the weather. Around two in the morning, it started to rain. Rather than join me and the kids in the tent, he humped his sleeping bag and pad up the trail to one of the island’s Adirondack shelters, there to spend a dry and quiet night.

In the afternoon, after we had polished off the last of Baban’s food and were packing up our boats, a whole school of teens arrived in kayaks. They were in the middle of an eighteen-day sojourn through the San Juans and would be using Jones Island as a base for the next few days.

12 Departing Jones Island.JPG

12 Departing Jones Island. Tides in President Channel slowly tried to pull us off-course but not to any concerning degree.

13 Kayaking back to Deer Harbor.JPG

13 Kayaking back to Deer Harbor. As he had on the outbound leg, Leon took advantage of the soothing, rocking motion of the boat to grab a couple hours’ nap.

Maya had been kayaking in the San Juans a number of times previously, but this was Leon’s first time kayaking here. The islands are in the children’s blood forever now. They’ll be called back again and again.


[Cross-posted on]
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