OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — The father of a 22-year-old man who disappeared near the Sol Duc River 22 days ago is continuing to look for his son, holding on to hope that he is still alive.
Randy Gray has searched for his son, Jacob, since April 11, despite Olympic National Park pulling back April 14 and the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office scaling back April 16.
Randy and family member Dani Campbell hiked the North Fork Sol Duc River trail Wednesday with hopes of finding any signs that Jacob had been there.
“What’s keeping me going is those memories [of Jacob] and trying to find my son — trying to do what I can to think of everything I can do,” Randy said. “As a parent, it’s just a drive you have.”
The trail they searched Wednesday is primitive, easy to miss and is only about a mile from where Gray’s bike and camping gear had been found along the side of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road on April 6.
While the National Park Service and Clallam County Sheriff’s Office are no longer actively searching for Jacob, Randy is searching every area he can think of.
“You go crazy thinking about it,” he said. “I can’t imagine people going through this that have no resources and don’t have the capabilities to do what we’re doing.”
He was joined Wednesday by Campbell, a family member who said she would do anything to help the Gray family. She had helped with the search earlier in the month but recently returned from California to help again.
“I just keep thinking we’re going to see him,” Campbell said.
While her top goal is to help find Jacob, she said she also wants to ensure Randy stays safe.
They both described Jacob as a person who excels at anything he tries.
“He’d try something and right when he tried it, he was good at it,” Randy said.
That includes anything outdoors. Randy remembers Jacob dragging him out into stormy weather to surf tall waves in California.
Before traveling to Port Townsend last month to spend time with his grandmother, Jacob was invited to a Santa Cruz Surfing Club party filled with well-known surfers, Randy said.
While living in Santa Cruz, Jacob modeled for a bit and had taken acting lessons.
Randy said Disney asked Jacob to try out for a role in the movie “Avatar,” but Jacob turned the spot down.
“They wanted him to come in and try out for it,” he said, but Jacob realized he didn’t want to be an actor.
Like his father, Jacob also excels at carpentry, Randy said.
“He used to work with me in carpentry, and son-of-a-gun, he had it,” he said. “He had the touch, but he didn’t want to follow in my footsteps as a contractor. He wanted to do his own thing.”
Jacob recently realized what he wants to do is help others and told his father he wanted to be a firefighter or emergency medical technician, Randy said.
“That’s right down the alley of what people are doing for him right now,” Randy said, referring to the search and rescue teams and volunteers who have looked for Jacob.
Jacob Gray left Port Townsend alone on his bicycle April 5 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 as reported to Olympic National Park.
Rangers performed a hasty search — a quick reconnaissance of the area — April 6 and 7, and found no trace of Jacob.
Randy’s ex-wife called him April 9 to let him know his son was missing and rangers had said the river conditions were too bad to do a full search.
Randy, a surfer who said he isn’t afraid of the water, left Santa Cruz, Calif., the following night and was in the Sol Duc River by April 11 looking for his son.
Searches continued in Olympic National Park throughout the 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.
Randy and Campbell said they both couldn’t be more thankful for the people who volunteered to help search and those who helped the family.
Elwha Ranch Bed &Bath has allowed Randy and family members to stay overnight for free while they look for Jacob.
Randy said it seems everyone he runs into in the area is keeping a lookout for his son and many have offered to help search.
Jacob had planned a bike trip across the country to visit his brother in Vermont, passing through spots such as Badlands and Glacier national parks.
His gear that wasn’t found include a camouflage backpack, Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket, forest-green wool hooded duffle coat with long toggle buttons, blue Montbell Thunder Pass jacket, charcoal Montbell Thunder Pass pants, rust Carhartt dungaree pants, a tan beanie, gray Nike shoes and a water filtration tool.
His wallet and ID were left in the bike trailer.
Jacob Gray is 5-foot-11, weighs 145 pounds and has brown hair and brown eyes.
His family is urging anyone with information to contact the Santa Cruz Police Department at 831-420-5820.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].