Robert Steelquist spent 14 months traveling around the Pacific Northwest to conduct research and take photos for his new book, “The Northwest Coastal Explorer.” (Timber Press)

Robert Steelquist spent 14 months traveling around the Pacific Northwest to conduct research and take photos for his new book, “The Northwest Coastal Explorer.” (Timber Press)

Blyn naturalist publishes guide to Northwest

The author, Robert Steelquist, 65, has lived in Blyn for 35 years and has extensive knowledge of the local wilderness.

BLYN — With the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Olympic National Park just outside his front door, it was only natural for author Robert Steelquist to develop a deep love and curiosity for the wild — a passion he hopes to spread to others through his new book, “The Northwest Coastal Explorer.”

“From the California redwoods to Vancouver Island, the Pacific Northwest Coast offers many off-the-beaten-path beaches, trails, headlands and other features that visitors should experience,” Steelquist said this weekend.

“Locals have their favorite places. I hope to contribute to a deeper understanding of these places so that locals will find new discoveries in their familiar haunts.”

For aspiring explorers

The book, a field guide of sorts for aspiring explorers of the Pacific Northwest, was released a few weeks ago through Timber Press of Portland, Ore.

“The Northwest Coastal Explorer” is available locally from Port Book and News, 104 E. First St., and Moss, 120 W. First St., both in Port Angeles. It also is available online through Barnes & Noble and Amazon. The paperback edition of the book costs about $20.

Steelquist, 65, has lived in Blyn for 35 years and has extensive knowledge of the local wilderness. In the book, he points out the natural wonders casual visitors often miss, according to Timber Press.

Organized by habitat, the book profiles easy-to-find plants and animals in each environment — from the Redwood forests of Northern California up through the Oregon, Washington and British Columbia coastlines — and reveals insider location tips such as where to find bald eagle habitats and wild stands of carnivorous plants, such as sundew.

“The book is an introduction to common species of the Northwest Coast,” Steelquist said.

Trip suggestions

The book also includes weekend trip suggestions along the coast of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, and offers suggestions about what equipment to bring along.

“Many field guides include ‘everything’ and don’t necessarily help the beginning naturalist understand the animals and plants that are common,” Steelquist said.

”I wrote the book for beginners — newcomers to the region, locals who are curious about their surroundings [and] families on nature explorations together.”

Steelquist said it took him about 14 months to complete the book, including traveling to the sites, taking photos and writing the guide.

“I have spent a lifetime visiting these places,” he said.

“For this book, I revisited all of the locations and discovered new things that amazed and delighted me.”

Steelquist said he is the principal photographer for the guide but that the book is augmented by images taken by 17 other photographers, both professionals and nonprofessional.

Steelquist gathered much of his knowledge during his professional career. He worked for 20 years as a public information officer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in Port Angeles.

Steelquist also “served as a PIO [public information officer] with NOAA at the Exxon Valdez oil spill and on the public information team at the Washington Department of Wildlife, now Fish and Wildlife,” he said.

“From 1981 to 1983, I was a freelancer and substitute reporter at [the Peninsula Daily News], writing outdoor and environmental features. My first book project came directly from my PDN work.”

Planned before retirement

Upon retiring in 2014, Steelquist began the process of writing “The Northwest Coastal Explorer.”

He said he had planned on retirement before writing the book.

“Happily, I transitioned from work to authoring almost immediately,” Steelquist said.

Steelquist’s first work, an introduction to a book of photography by Tom and Pat Leeson titled “The Olympic Peninsula,” was published in 1984 while he was a student at The Evergreen State College.

In 1985, his book “Olympic National Park & the Olympic Peninsula: A Traveler’s Companion” was published. This was followed in 1986 with “Washington Mountain Ranges,” in 1987 with “Washington’s Coast,” in 1987 with “Washington: Portrait of the Land,” in 1989 with “Ferryboat Field Guide to Puget Sound,” in 1992 with “Field Guide to the Pacific Salmon” and “Olympic Mountains,” in 1993 with “Educating for Action: More Success Stories from Puget Sound,” in 1998 with “Field Guide to North American Bison: A Natural History and Viewing Guide to the Great Plains Buffalo” and in 2002 with “Field Guide to the Pacific Salmon.”

Other work

In addition to writing, Steelquist works as a volunteer wilderness ranger for the U.S. Forest Service, conducting backpacking patrols of Washington’s Pasayten Wilderness within Okanogan National Forest and Mount Baker National Forest, and dabbles in cooking, cycling and beer brewing.

Steelquist holds an associate degree from Peninsula College and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environmental studies from The Evergreen State College.


Features Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at

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