Written by Douglas Scott
My outdoor wanderlust was born in Grays Harbor, and for this, I am forever grateful. Hiking and exploring deep in the rainforest and out along the wild coastline, I fell in love with wilderness and found myself growing unbreakably connected to the spirit of the our amazing home. During my adolescent years in the Harbor, I became obsessed with the great outdoors, hiking, writing and documenting each and every adventure. Now, as an adult, I am fortunate enough to be able to share the region with others, hoping that through my words and images, they become smitten with the region and help ensure the wilderness is around for future generations to explore.
Grays Harbor is the basecamp for wilderness adventure and I was lucky to have a childhood where I could explore.
When I arrived in Grays Harbor from the Portland area, I was a teenager who didn’t have a direction. I was lost in the big city, unable to gain footing in finding my true self. Moving to the Harbor with my family provided me with a new beginning and an opportunity to find meaning in life at an early age. When I moved here, it was the few remaining days before the angst of the grunge movement came to define the region. It was the early 1990s, when the only time Grays Harbor was mentioned was when people recalled the days of yesteryear- the days when the Harbor was famous for fishing and logging. By the time I arrived, the closed up shake mills and slug-paced economy was the new reality, with homes and businesses sporting bright yellow and orange signs, reading “This Home Supported by Timber Dollars,” spray painted in black. Grunge music was born in region due to this regional economic depression and would soon explode across the globe, but when I moved to Grays Harbor as a kid, the area had a much different reputation than it does today.
Despite the hurting economy, the moments that define my who I am as an adult came in Grays Harbor, as the time spent here forever shaped my character. Like most Harbor residents, I am nothing without trees and being absent from them for too long makes me anxious. I long for clamming days on the coast and rivers full of enormous salmon, especially on misty cold mornings. I don’t understand the allure of warm beaches, as my ideal day on the coast is 45 degrees and light rain. My best sleep occurs when I hear the roar of the ocean and in its absence, I find myself dreaming of breaking waves on the sandy shores. Growing up in Grays Harbor also changed my perception of weather; I don’t consider it a storm unless wind gusts are above 65 and we are getting at least four inches of rain a day. I experienced all of this in my first year in Grays Harbor, and for the rest of the decade, I continued to revel in the rainy and sunny days.
For my formative years, towering timbers, salmon-filled wild rivers and coastal stretches that are home to life-changing sunsets were my backyard. Each weekend, I’d find myself getting more and more immersed with the natural beauty of Grays Harbor. When friends and family would visit, we would head to the Quinault Rainforest for day hikes, or take a trip up to Wynoochee’s wilderness, and almost always ending with a sunset on the coast. As a kid, the Harbor was the best playground in the world. I learned to salmon fish on the Hump, went clamming in the wind
and rain at Copalis, and hiked for hours on end in pure wilderness. It was on these hikes and adventures in Grays Harbor that I found my true calling in life as a writer and photographer.
The quintessential moment that forever shaped my wanderlust sprit came on a backpacking trip just outside of the county, along the Quinault River. I had never been backpacking before, as I was a city kid, so when my grandpa invited me to hike with him from Graves Creek to Dosewallips, I was hesitant. Carrying a pack that was too heavy for me, I slogged along, wondering what sights I would see. As we traipsed through the Quinault Rainforest, my pack felt
lighter each mile, as the beauty of the region blinded me from thoughts of an uncomfortable pack. Full of joy and stunned by beauty at every turn, I nearly collapsed from the incredible sights I witnessed at Enchanted Valley. Looming high above the chalet, the mountains of the Olympic interior intrigued me to the core of my soul. It was at that moment I knew this place would forever be home.
For the next two decades, I have hiked nearly every trail in Grays Harbor, Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest. Each time I head out, the spirit of the region digs its hooks in me a bit more, making sure that no matter how far I drift away, I will always come back home. The forests, rivers and beaches of Grays Harbor and beyond forever changed me for the better and I am blessed to have had that opportunity as a kid. Without the wilderness, I would be an adult that is missing the key component to my happiness. Instead, my soul is overflowing with the
bliss of nature, spilling out my love for the region in every conversation I have.
Today, I share the Harbor as a job, writing guidebooks, recording podcasts and telling tales to the disbelieving ears of the world. As I regale them with tales of adventures in the lush rainforest and wild coast, or share the rich history and the perfect sunsets, memories flood my mind and pull me back time and time again. No matter where I am living, I consider Grays Harbor home, as it was the spot where I discovered who I am and found the healing and inspiring power of pure wilderness. I encourage everyone I meet to discover Grays Harbor, and to smell the
heavily oxygenated air. Everywhere I go, I share the area, hoping that others will find themselves in awe at the natural wonders of Grays Harbor and fall in love with the area like I did.
Douglas Scott is a nationally recognized author of numerous guidebooks, many of which focus on Grays Harbor and the Olympic Peninsula. He is the co-owner of The Outdoor Society, whose works can be found on his website, as well as Grays Harbor Talk, Roots Rated, Osprey Backpacks, Craghoppers, and many more outdoor themed websites. Douglas is also a huge proponent of fully funding public land and encouraging access to nature for all.
Always a pleasure to read your thoughts, Mr. Scott. As you well know, many are the same feelings for this soul who didn’t discover the extraordinary Washington coast until my late 40’s. The richness of life and abundance of clean air filled with freshness of rain is a lure that cannot be denied. Nice article, again. Take care and keep adventuring.