But, above all else, they provide access to nature. The most stunning part of the Olympic Peninsula are the evergreens, especially on a wet day. The forest is transformed into a music box as rain falls against the forest floor, teasing up the smell of earth and decay from the duff, and the pale white fog that seeps into the canopy contrasts the near black of the evergreens. The wildlife is abundant and diverse, ranging from black bears that strip huckleberries from bushes to rough skinned newts that use hiking trails as highways.
The pride of Grays Harbor are the forests; they offer a respite from the broken sidewalks of Aberdeen and remind the locals of why this place was settled back in the 1800s. However, in recent years, the logging companies that still own large swaths of the mountains and trees began gating off roads and requiring people to buy access permits that can cost up to $400 per year. The permit system forced the bulk of hunters onto the few remaining public roads, and these sections quickly became bled dry by overhunting and poaching.
The logging roads are still important to Harbor life, but they’re quickly evolving from avenues of escape into symbols of class.
In 2013, Harry was living out of a green Jeep Cherokee. The Harbor had taken his job and he wasn’t able to support himself solely from under-the-table work. He began living on public logging roads, spending his days in town looking for jobs and his nights traversing the woods.
One night, he pulled a lawn chair from the back of his car and walked 100 paces down the road before sitting down. He placed his head in his hands and began to cry—big wailing sobs that were driven from his body and let out into the solitude of the forest.
When Harry tells the story, he says somewhere off the road, tucked away in the brush, something started to cry with him. Its howls matched his own and together they bawled into the darkness. This creature felt his pain, not why or how, but it somehow understood what he felt and it chose to stay there and feel it with him. Harry believes that creature was a Bigfoot and that it knew empathy and compassion, sorrow and love—emotions thought only to be capable in humans—and there was this creature, thought to not even exist, displaying more heart than anyone else in an entire county could muster.