Photo: State Park dock at Jarrell Cove
We rode the ebb current out of Budd Inlet, through Dana Passage and north up Case Inlet. We were headed for McMicken Island State Park off the east shore of Harstene Island. If it appealed to us, we planned to stop. If not, Jarrell Cove State Park on the northwest shore of Harstene Island was just around the corner.
Small waterfront houses were scattered along the shore while on the beach the falling tide bared rows of commercial oyster beds. I peered through binoculars as we approached McMicken Island. A sandspit stretched across from the south end of McMicken to Harstene Island to its west, forming a small protected cove, at least at low tide. Two sailboats rode on buoys in the cove. An attractive setting. "Do you want to stop?" I asked Steve. Jarrell Cove was just a few miles beyond. Steve looked at the cove, and said, "I'd like to be able to go ashore on a dock. Let's go on to Jarrell."
Many people had told us that Jarrell Cove was beautiful. This was a good chance to find out if that were true.
"This doesn't look like much," said Steve as we approached Jarrell Cove. We could see one small park dock on the left and the private Jarrell Cove Marina on the right. Then, a larger dock came into view, hidden inside a smaller cove. Two powerboats occupied one side of the dock, leaving plenty of space on the other side. We swung the boat around to tie bow out and came to rest across from the two powerboats. I stepped out on a wide dock of brand new grating.
Several people lounged on deck chairs on the wide dock, dogs lying at their feet. I clicpped Jack on his leash and watched to see what he would do. Despite the dogs, he promptly jumped on the dock, pulling on his leash. One dog gave a short bark, but otherwise they ignored him. The people looked at Jack and laughed. "A cat on a boat! I've never seen that before," one said.
We stayed two nights. It was a weekend, but the park was not crowded. The 14 park buoys floated unoccupied and several more boats could have squeezed onto the dock. The car campground at the top of the dock was another matter. RVs maneuvered on the narrow roads and busy volunteers directed people to assigned campsites.
Paths circled the outer perimeter of the park. We walked among tall fir trees. Someone had placed bleached sand dollars with messages at strategic points on the trail. "Peace," said one. "Joy," said another.
I had read in the Waggoner Cruising Guide that Jarrell Cove Marina had a small store so we set off in the dinghy to explore. We found the store, a small annex to a house above the marina, and walked in. I scanned the shelves, noting lots of empty real estate. One bin held a single onion; another three potatoes. A few lonely cans lined the shelves. But a cooler held eggs, milk and a few other staples. Desperate boaters or campers could make a meal as long as the main course was canned chili and they didn't want salads. Children of all ages could enjoy ice cream bars and snow cones. Judging from the traffic at the main counter, those were the main attractions.
Photo Jarrell Cove Marina.
Steve picked out a bottle of cold orange juice and scanned the shelves for more treats. His eyes lit on a display of packaged cookies. "Nutter Butters!" he exclaimed. "I haven't had one of those in years." I found a book on the history of Harstene Island and added it to Steve's trove.
We took our purchase up to the counter to pay the gray haired woman at the cash register. "This is like one of those general stores where you can find everything you might imagine but the one thing you need. Except here you can find lots of things you want," he told her.
We sat at a table on one of several small patios looking out over the cove and enjoying the shade. Jarrell Cove was not what I would call beautiful, but it was pretty. And it was an ideal place to relax after two busy days in Olympia.