A Sweet N’ Low Eulogy

By Joshua Miles

Editor’s Note: In October of 2021 Forks resident, Duane Miles went missing in Olympic National Park and is yet to be located … His son Joshua asked if he might explore this experience with Forks Forum readers. This is part two of that experience …..

Some readers knew my father, Duane Miles. Perhaps you’re even reading this FF edition at the INN place, a local watering hole where he frequented. Got your morning coffee yet?

He was an ordinary guy, though that probably is debatable.

One of his favorite past-times was hiking, his last being to the Quinault Rainforest. It’s a beautiful hike. Gorgeous in the summer. A favorite hiking destination for many is Enchanted Valley past the Chalet in the ONP, and Graves Creek trail in the ONF with Lake Sundown one of its top attractions.

Beyond being beautiful it’s also dangerous, especially during the fall and winter seasons. The NPS claims only 29 open cold cases nationwide since 1958 to now. The problem with that is that Search and Rescue data from 2017 shows that nationwide there were 3,453 reported missing missions and 182 deaths that year alone. As you will see in this article that even in my limited experience there is at least one unresolved missing persons case or confirmed death in the ONP per year. Whether the park terms cases remain open or closed is of no consequence to the real numbers.

Who’s to say how many people actually go missing in the ONP and ONF each year without a proper digital database to keep records? Oft-times it’s only the trail of media accounts that create a record to track or raise awareness on the issue at any public level.

My dad’s name was added to the list of missing at Quinault Rainforest after October 20th, 2021. Jacob Gray went missing in another ONP site several years back, and his remains weren’t found until nearly 2 years by accident by surveyors. Jerren Fisher went missing in Quinault a month or two prior to my father. Luckily he was located by Search and Rescue and his life saved. A near anniversary of my father’s disappearance, exactly one year and 10 days after my dad’s disappearance Laura Macke went missing in Quinault Rainforest from the Enchanted Valley Trail.

So it’s ongoing, year after year.

My father used to write articles for the Forks Forum. In some of those He used to like to speculate on cases of how people became lost in the Olympics, then he went missing himself. That’s what you call ironic.

But while he went missing- he didn’t get lost. Something else prevented him from walking out alive. Nothing nefarious, just he didn’t make it out that one last time.

Here are a few of his norms and extols: A regular church-goer, most recently First Baptist; a regular at the In Place and the Forks library; researched and wrote a family history titled Thus Far, and of logging on the Peninsula titled Even If It Kills Them; a member of the American Legion; a volunteer Royal Rangers chaperone; expert of orienteering, firearms, knot-tying, wilderness survival; fairly good chess player; veritable Biblical-Encyclopedia.

Maybe you knew that already. Let me try to think of something new you didn’t know about him.

For instance, he loved horses although he never talked about them. He liked movies like Black Stallion, Seabiscuit, and The Secretariat.

Here let me refill your coffee mug -room for sugar, creamer?

Also, he was the sweetest guy in town, a real ladies-man. In fact, he was so sweet he was pure table sugar. It’s true: One time on a family visit at a restaurant he decided to share an impromptu Science Fair project at the diner booth. He brought out a wire-coat hanger, twine, scotch tape, and grabbed artificial sweeteners out of the little doo-hickey containers next to the salt and pepper and single-serve jams. Creating a strange mobile out of those objects he then held the mobile up, “Kids, see that Sugar packet in the center? That’s me. See all of these Sweet & Low’s and Splenda, all that artificial sweetener that doesn’t even taste like sugar swinging around waaay out here? That’s you kids.” Then he spun the coat hanger, “You see how the sugar stays put and steady in the center but all you kids are just swinging around loosely?” His message he was the most important person in our universe, our sun, our rock, the stability, the order and we were just chaos. To prove him wrong we started to protest, “Oh come on, no fair. How come you get to be the sugar packet? I want to be the sugar packet. Splenda and Sweet N Low are gross.”

It’s a bit odd that mobile he made: for one thing, he would have had to premeditate that mobile since he’d have to bring the items from home and also we weren’t actually kids at the time of the mobile incident -we were adults. At least he didn’t pull out sock puppets to talk to us like Dr. Leo Marvin did on the movie What About Bob? It was a bit eccentric lesson to be certain -heliocentric orbits adapted for an egocentric view of the world.

However, he was right about one thing: Dads are pretty important.