I assume that night on the logging road was when he decided to sever his ties with Bigfoot research groups and stop taking people into the valley. His focus shifted from proving their existence to preserving them. If a Bigfoot was to ever be captured or killed in the Olympic Peninsula, cameras and guns would swarm the forests, each person looking for their own slice of fame and sense of mattering.
I once asked Harry why he never left and he told me he couldn’t; he belongs in the Harbor amidst all the “misfits and fuckups” who are just like him. Harbor People are trained to think this way; their sense of purpose was stripped from them and in the vain struggle to regain it, they discovered a deeply ingrained self-doubt that manifested itself into labels like fuckup.
It’s taken me a few years, but I don’t believe any resident of Grays Harbor is a fuckup; how can we assign that label to people who are just trying to build a life for themselves after the one they already had was stripped from them like bark from a tree? I don’t believe there’s one singular word that can define who Harbor People are as they forge forward in a forgotten land. How frightful it is to live in a world where people don’t know you exist, and maybe it’s to mitigate this fear that old loggers still proudly wag fingers and croak out tall tales despite encroaching Parkinson’s and Pall Mall-blackened throats.
In any direction you look, you will see a desperate clutch to both the past and future as locals search for a connection, any connection, to something more tangible than the grey of the present. It’s in the forests that these people live and will always live—the forests that once fed and clothed their community, that are slowly being gated and locked away, and that harbor a reticent force that is overlooked by design. My uncle found something there, some form of partnership with a creature so bizarre and uncomfortable to think about that its entire existence is often taken as a joke.
I still don’t know if Bigfoot is real, but I do know that every time I return and I pull my car onto the packed gravel logging roads that my hands have memorized by the turn of a steering wheel, I can feel something there and I know it can feel me as well. And I wonder if that’s what it truly means to be a Harbor Person, to be simultaneously alone and linked to a world in which our existence does not rest in our hands, but in the boughs of evergreens.
Mackinzie Brink is 21 years old and will be graduating from Eastern Washington University in June of 2021 with a BA in English.