Guillemot Cove Nature Reserve is one of those hidden treasures that rewards the erstwhile traveler willing to wind around the Kitsap Peninsula to its parking lot.
The Cove, a former estate for an area family, sits on the northwestern side of the Kitsap Peninsula and features everything a hiker could want – stunning alder trees, huge cedars, giant maples, abandoned buildings, a unique hideaway for an 1800s-era criminal, beach access and huge views of the Hood Canal and the Olympic Mountains.
We recently visited the Cove because Veronica wanted to go hiking for her birthday. Our first three choices – all waterfalls in the Cascades – had washed out trails, so she stumbled upon this hike thanks to WTA.org. Be sure and print a map here, rather than relying on the ones provided at a kiosk on site. The maps online are much more detailed and easier to read.
As we left the house that morning, I don’t think any of us imagined that just 90 minutes away was a hidden place with such serene beauty.
After parking in the gravel lot next to a two-lane road, you wind down the Sawmill Trail through a forest littered with rhododendrons and mature trees. It then pops out into a plat of alder trees surrounded by sword ferns. We cruised through this part on the way down, but on the way up – partly because we were a bit tired and partly because it was stunning to see – we stopped and enjoyed the view of all the alder trees lined up in nearly a perfectly linear pattern.
The trail then becomes the Margaret Trail – avoid going right past the well-marked private property signs at this juncture – and cuts down a canyon covered in cedar trees as you descend to sea level.
When you emerge into the valley below you immediately come upon a house. According to the Kitsap County website, the Reynolds family slowly bought up parcels of land in the area in the early 1940s. They built the house, a barn and a beach house, using the cedar trees throughout the property for the interior of the structures. They also raised dairy cows, selling the cream produced in Bremerton each day. When Gordon Reynolds, who was a lawyer in the area, retired in the early 1990s he and his sister decided to sell the land to the County to be used as a park to avoid residential development and protect the Cove for future generations to enjoy.
We went into the abandoned house, though I’d recommend being careful as the floor, walls and ceiling are caving in. We then crossed the meadow on a bridge across Boyce Creek and went left to the Stump House.
This strange little structure was allegedly built in the 1800s to house a criminal named Dirty Thompson who was on the run from the law. It looks like a Hobbit House and is one of two massive cedar stumps in the area. Note the notches cut into the base of the stumps where loggers in the 1890s used the springboard method to chop down the trees. They would cut a notch near the base, insert a board to stand on and then saw the tree down.
From the Stump House we backtracked – not until Veronica sat on some nettles, though – and headed out to the beach. This trail passes an old orchard of some kind, with a variety of flowers growing and a pair of fruit trees. It runs on an old road parallel to the marsh which features a beaver colony – though we didn’t see any sign of it.
You catch views of the water throughout the walk, but when you arrive at the beach out of the tall grass it is breathtaking. The nearly calm water laid out before you, with a variety of colors on the mountains across the way and the snowcapped Brothers peaks tower in the distance – or so we heard, it was cloudy when we went – gives on the sense of being in another time.
We spent time eating a quick snack on the deck of the family’s old beachhouse, exploring the oyster-shell laden beach and just enjoying the quietness of the area before heading back up the hill to our vehicle.
There are two other trails that we didn’t have time to explore, so a return trip might be in order.
– Craig Craker