Jacob Gray disappeared on April 6, 2017 | His body was found on August 10, 2018.
Jacob Gray, 22, originally from Santa Cruz in California, left Port Townsend alone on his bicycle on April 5, 2017, towing a trailer full of camping gear. According to Bicycling, among his gear, a secondhand yellow-and-red Burley child trailer with pots, pans, wool blankets, a roll of duct tape, a toolbox, stove, deck of cards, a Holman Bible, a tent, fuel bottles, a case of Mountain House dehydrated meals, two first-aid kits, carabiners, climbing crampons, a bow and quiver of arrows, a rain poncho, sleeping bag, and enough tarps, rope and bungee cords for a one-ring circus. The bike, trailer, and supplies weighed more than the 145-pound 22-year-old did soaking wet. He planned to travel to the Daniel J. Evans Wilderness of Olympic National Park in Washington before heading East.
On April 6, 2017, a woman passed “Jacob as he churned up the Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, about 2 miles from the 101 (Source). Later that afternoon, she noticed the rig on the side of the road 6.3 miles up-river from the 101; she was curious enough to snap a quick photo of the abandoned contraption, a flash or red and yellow against the green of the forest.” (Source) The bike Jacob was riding was noticed by Rangers and had remained untouched for most of April 6, 2017 still within sight of pavement, just 40 feet East of the Sol Duc (Quileute Indian for “sparkling waters”) River off Milepost 6.3 of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road, in brush. Rangers became curious as to why the bike (and other equipment/supplies near it) had been abandoned; an order was given by Ranger John Bowie for his fellow Officer, Brian Wray, to follow-up on the situation the following morning. At this time, no missing person report had been filed and a preliminary (unofficial) search of the surrounding area was conducted yielding no answered as to the whereabouts of Jacob Gray.
The following day, April 7, a follow-up was conducted on the area; Ranger Wray noted no alteration from the original position/location/state of Jacob Gray’s belongings. A check of the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort (located in Port Angeles, Washington) answered no questions, as no one reported seeing the cyclist in the area. Seeing as there was no sign of Jacob Gray in/near the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, and the fact that his belongings off Milepost 6.3 of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road were in full working order, ideas began to circulate that the cyclist must have fallen into the 40-degree river; a report released the following quote, “we’ll check the river in the summer when the water goes down.”
Information recovered from the initial location led to the identification of Jacob Gray. Among Gray’s belongings was a list of phone numbers, one of those numbers belonged to his sister, Mallory. When Ranger Wray called Mallory, she asked the Ranger to inform their parents immediately. From the list of items Jacob was suspected to have left with, Rangers were able to identify that the belongings matched the general description and noted only two items missing from that list: a water filter and Camelback backpack (which holds a plastic water container).
On April 12, another search was conducted by volunteers in the area where Gray’s bike was found. Evidence was recovered that led to the idea that someone had swapped hiking boots for running shoes, and discovery of a mark on a mossy rock led searchers to theorize that someone had fallen into the river. Signs of an attempt to leave the water was discovered about 90 feet (about 30 yards) downstream; a state Fisheries Biologist was assigned to search two log jams following these findings. The following day, around 5:00p, dog teams were deployed; two cadaver dogs hit on a log jam. According to The Guardian, “[cadaver] dogs are trained to smell decomposition, which means they can locate body parts, tissue, blood and bone. They can also detect residue scents, meaning they can tell if a body has been in a place, even if it’s not there anymore.” After all log jams were searched – some 12 miles either side from where Gray’s bike was located – no body was recovered.
Another search on the west side of the river, on Olympic National Forest land, and inside the Olympic National Park was conducted on April 15, 2017 was conducted by the Clallam County Search-and-Rescue with the help of volunteers. A pair of Burnside shorts, in Jacob’s size, were recovered a few miles downstream. This evidence was sent off for DNA testing in Seattle, Washington.
Fliers were posted throughout Park Kiosks, gas stations in Port Angeles and Forks. On April 16, 2017, the search was scaled back. Neither the Coast Guard nor aircraft from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station had been called to assist in search efforts; the Park reportedly declined the family’s team of volunteer searchers. “The family was surprised to find that no ranger-assisted search had been launched. National Parks operate like sovereign countries; search and rescue personnel from outside the park must be requested by park officials in order to search,” according to Bicycling.
Three months later, in July 2017, 100 search-and-rescue volunteers from western Washington performed another search along the Sol Duc River; again, no body or indication of the presence of Jacob Gray was found. Randy Gray, Jacob’s father, dedicated his financial resources toward the search for his son, sometimes living off River water, searching caves along waterways and even extended his search to other areas of the Country and into Canada. A team of Bigfoot researchers called the “Olympic Project,” welcomed Randy in and assisted with an official search of the surrounding area where Jacob would possibly be found. The Olympic Project would soon create the “Olympic Mountain Response Team,” an offshoot devoted to “responding to missing persons in the mountains.” (Source) .
Clues into the disappearance of Jacob Gray remained scarce until August 10, 2018 when a field crew of Olympic National Park employees and volunteers recovered abandoned equipment and clothing near Hoh Lake. That same day, a team of Biologists studying Marmots found Jacob’s remains, clothing, gear, and wallet near the top of a ridge above Hoh Lake, some 5,300 feet above sea level – 15 miles from where his bike was initially found. Jacob’s body was found in an area that, in April, would have been snowy and prone to avalanches; his remains were found on a treeless ridge, not classified as a “campsite,” and could have been seen from the air. The remains were confirmed to be Jacob Gray’s on August 18, 2018 by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, but no autopsy could be performed. Katherine Taylor, an Anthropologist for the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, indicated that the cause of death could not be determined; Clallam County Assistant Coroner Tellina Sandaine said, “it was most likely from a natural cause,” the official cause of death was ruled as “inconclusive.”
According to NamUs (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System), more than 600,000 persons go missing in the United States every year. Anywhere between 89 percent to 92 percent of those missing people are recovered every year, either alive or deceased. Neither the Department of the Interior, which oversees the National Park Service, or the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service keeps track. (Source)