OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — The remains of Jacob Gray might have been found, providing answers for family members for the first time since he disappeared more than a year ago in Olympic National Park.
Late Friday afternoon a field crew of Olympic National Park employees and volunteers found abandoned equipment and clothing in a remote area of the Daniel J. Evans Wilderness of Olympic National Park, according to Olympic National Park.
The next morning law enforcement rangers searched the area and found more clothing and skeletal remains.
The clothing matched what family said Gray would be wearing, said Penny Wagner, spokesperson for Olympic National Park.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the Gray family and friends in this difficult time,” said Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum in a news release.
The Gray family posted on the Find Jacob Gray Facebook page Monday that Jacob’s remains were found near Hoh Lake. Wagner said she is unable to confirm where the remains were found.
“Because it’s an active investigation, it’s important that they protect that area while they are doing the investigation,” she said.
Wagner said the area the remains were found in was not described as a campsite and that what was initially found does not make investigators believe foul play was involved.
“There’s no initial indication of foul play, but that’s why this investigation is important and to have a protected scene so rangers can go through and collect everything to make sure everything is covered,” Wagner said.
Wagner said she would provide more information when the remains are positively identified.
Hoh Lake is about 10 miles from the Sol Duc trailhead. The trail climbs through old growth forests and alpine slopes before arriving at the lake, 5,300 feet above sea level.
“I never believed Jacob left the mountain,” said Laura Gray, Jacob’s mother.
“That’s what we had together, was the high country. We always went to the peaks.”
She said she is a wreck and is heartbroken, but news that her son’s remains might have been found provides closure for her and her family.
She said marmot biologists found the remains and that the park is using dental records to confirm the identity.
“He was my baby and the heart of all my joy,” Laura said. “He was very private and very quiet and he lit up a room when he smiled. I think charm was his gift.”
Randy Gray, Jacob’s father, said he wanted to believe his son — who has been described as an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed camping alone — was out working or fishing somewhere, still living his life.
Randy arrived in the Sol Duc Valley on Monday morning with plans of going with a recovery team up to Hoh Lake — regardless of whether they wanted him to join.
As Randy drove past the spot where his son’s bike had been found in April 2017, he said he was unsure of when or if a team had left.
Jacob, originally from Santa Cruz, Calif., left Port Townsend alone on his bicycle April 5, 2017, towing a trailer full of camping gear.
The bike, trailer and most of his gear were found about 6.5 miles up Sol Duc Hot Springs Road the following day and reported to Olympic National Park.
Since Jacob’s bike was found on Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, Randy has relentlessly searched for his son. He said he lost track of how many times he searched the Sol Duc Valley and that he searched in other parts of the country and in Canada too.
When Jacob was first reported missing, Randy jumped in the Sol Duc River — against the wishes of park officials — to search for his son.
“I lose track of time, when he went missing,” he said. “It’s all kind of a blur to me.”
Rangers performed a hasty search — a quick reconnaissance of the area — April 6 and 7, and found no trace of Jacob.
Searches continued in Olympic National Park throughout that week before the park moved into a “limited continuous search” — which means it is not actively searching — on April 14.
The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office picked up the search and had about 30 people and dogs comb the area the next day to no avail. The county’s search was scaled back by April 16.
In July 2017, more than 100 search and rescue volunteers from across Western Washington searched along the Sol Duc River but were unable to find any clues.
Laura said what has helped her get through the past year is the support from family, friends and concerned residents on the Olympic Peninsula.
“Your community has been amazing,” she said. “You really have an amazing group of people that care and they are from all walks of life.
“So many people got so invested in Jacob and our story.”
Jesse Major: 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.