By Joshua Miles
The first portion of my search for my missing father, Duane Miles, began on Oct. 23rd of 2021 in the Graves Creek Campground near Lake Quinault. I had been informed his car was abandoned there, parked in Campsite #2.
I was a day behind other brief preliminary searches performed by the park ranger, my father’s friends and fellow church-goers from First Baptist Church of Forks, and undoubtedly and redundantly going through the same routines they already had; I had to check off the boxes for myself in case there was something that had not been lost in translation or communicated to me, or in case my dad had returned on his own in the interim.
The rain was coming down in buckets on my windshield. My father’s abandoned white Honda Passport materialized through this opaque screen of water as if through a sheet of melting ice and I pulled off to the side, so as not to impede it, imagining that at any moment my father would come trudging out of the brush surprised to see me.
I exited my car, zipped up my fisherman’s type neoprene Stormr jacket, and roamed my eye over the campground. One solitary single person tent stood in the center of the campground near a Subaru wagon, the rest of the campground was devoid of patrons. The Quinault River, mere yards away, rolled constant, and with the blowing breeze created a blend of constant white-noise.
Stepping around large puddles fizzling with fat drops of rain I walked to his car. Under the driver’s side wiper I saw a yellowish 3”x5” square of paper, and though I doubted it was left by my father, since it wasn’t his modus operandi to leave notes, I lifted the wiper blade and peeled the pulpy, rain-mottled paper tenderly from the glass. The soggy note was from the park ranger from 3 days prior, warning of an impending storm occurring beginning on Oct. 20th. I turned the Ranger’s wet note over in case of additional information but it was blank.
I wasn’t surprised that my father had left no note on his vehicle and it was a sure bet he did not fill out backcountry permits, or the like. I knew this without having to verify. If he was in the practice of leaving notice you’d get a notification nearly every day. Not that that was the reason.
The practice of leaving itineraries of one’s schedule and destination sort of defeated the purpose of trying to “get away”. If everyone knew where you were, there was no feeling of being away. That’s the romanticized version of the theory. Hypocritically (because I never left notes nor informed anyone of my outdoor adventure itineraries) I felt myself in some sort of worried parent-like role- reversal, wishing that he had left a note or told someone where he’d gone and how long he planned to be away. Compounding the problem, a fact that I was fairly certain of, was that my father had his secret reason to keep his exact location undisclosed to anyone but himself. The reality, which I would muse upon during my search for him –wisdom gained through experience- was that one endangers himself that way, and by default those around himself who braved searching for him in the wilderness.
I may shed some light on his “secret reason” in a future article if there be continued interest in these articles by the local Forks Forum readership and your kindly and patient newspaper editor Christ Baron. Thank you for reading.