Farm Fresh in Grays Harbor

In a world where most commodities travel the span of the globe before making it the locations where they’re intended to be sold, more and more people are becoming aware about where the things they buy are coming from and making the deliberate choice to shop – and eat – locally. With a lush and vibrant locale rich in nutrients and full of life, Grays Harbor residents are spoiled when it comes to eating locally raised and grown foods.

With more than 400 farms located in Grays Harbor county, there is always something fresh growing in the soil (or water). There are currently 29 farms in Grays Harbor that sell directly to the public, providing Grays Harbor residents and visitors with plenty of options for enjoying the freshest foods, plants and more, straight from the source. For local, farm fresh oysters, Brady’s Oysters in Aberdeen, Wash., is a favorite. Serving shucked (in shell) and smoked oysters, live and cooked crab, fresh fish, shrimp, prawns and more, Brady’s is a go-to for oyster and seafood lovers of all types. Opened by Brady Engvall, the founder of suspended culture (an oyster harvesting method that keeps the oysters out of the mud), Brady’s Oysters now spans four generations of experience. You can stop by Brady’s (open seven days a week), or call in your order and Brady’s will deliver straight to your door.

Hop over to nearby Hoquiam, Wash., and you can stop by another farm fresh favorite for Grays Harbor oysters at Lytle Seafoods Oyster Shack. Founded in 1983 by a commercial fisherman and his wife, Lytle Seafoods has grown from its humble beginnings into a 5,000-square-foot retail and oyster shucking facility with customers reaching as far as the East Coast, Hawaii and beyond. Lytle Seafoods Oyster Shack is open daily.

If you’re not a seafood fan, there are several farms across Grays Harbor raising beef, poultry and other land-based meats. Wynoochee Valley Meats, located in Montesano, Wash., is a favorite for grass fed beef and natural grain fed pork, and for processing livestock and wild game. Wynoochee Valley Meats even offers on-site slaughtering so you can enjoy the freshest meats straight from your own farm. For poultry, G & H Pastured Poultry provides Grays Harbor with all natural, humanely raised poultry. Raising, slaughtering and processing the poultry all on-site at their McCleary, Wash., farm, G & H Pastured Poultry is committed to raising the healthiest, best tasting chicken around. Chickens can be purchased fresh or frozen directly from the farm. If you’re looking for something a little bit different, head to Oak Meadows Buffalo Ranch where owners Ed and Jill Lagergren strive to provide their community with lean and healthy meat options. Steaks, roast, jerky and buffalo burgers are all in abundance at Oak Meadows Buffalo Ranch and make a great, heart-healthy alternative to beef.

To complement and balance your meaty spread, you’ll need some vegetables. Farm fresh options for produce in Grays Harbor are limitless. With so many farms offering fresh, seasonal and locally grown fruits and vegetables, there’s always something delicious, and healthy, to nibble on. Located in Montesano, Wash., locals love Shaffner Farms for their traditional selection of produce, but also for their handmade jams, dressings and more. And, because they double as a pumpkin patch and corn maze, Shaffner’s make a great family destination during the autumn months. For people living in and around Copalis, Wash., Voss Acres is a year-round favorite for what veggies and fruits are in season. Using organic gardening practices to grow all of their produce, Voss Acres prides itself in producing outstanding produce. Raised garden beds are growing vegetables for the new u-pick aspect of Juel’s Unique Nursery.

Although, if you’d rather take the prep work out of your dinner, Westport Winery will gladly prepare a “farm-to-fork” meal for you at their beautiful Aberdeen, Wash., location. Their menu boasts everything from mouthwatering appetizers like Dungeness crab cakes and stuffed mushrooms, to succulent entrées like their Chicken Cordon Gold, Savory cheese ravioli, prime rib and much more. Everything on their menu is fresh, healthy and homemade, and they even have a selection of desserts made at their on-site bakery.

Want to grow farm fresh foods and flowers in your own backyard? Grays Harbor farmers have you covered there, too. Specializing in unusual shrubs, perennials and annuals, Juel’s Unique Nursery, located in Elma, Wash., helps you customize your garden with the unique and unusual. Open February through October, you can visit Juel’s website to see what’s in stock, or click here to learn more. There are also several nurseries specializing in lavender, dahlias, lilies and more located throughout the region. Grays Harbor is brimming with farm fresh options for your garden, table and tummy. For a full list of all of Grays Harbor’s farms that sell to the public, check out Visit Grays Harbor’s website – and click on the Farm Fresh Map link.

Day Trip to the Beach – It’s Not the Destination, but the Journey

Thurston County is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. The majesty of Mount Rainier rules over the landscape, a reminder of the many season-round recreational opportunities available in the mountains.

Yet, a grander, natural wonder lies over the western horizon—the Pacific Ocean.  About a ninety minute drive from Olympia, the coast of Grays Harbor County offers many fun and relaxing destination venues for all ages and interests. Directly west of Olympia, the sands of the Pacific beaches are dotted with eight state parks.  Grays Harbor is also home to a National Wildlife Reserve.

Because of the tempering nature of the Pacific Ocean, the beaches are open year-round. In the late fall, when the I-5 corridor undergoes temperature inversions accompanied by low, overcast skies, the coast is clear and sunny. During the inland’s summer hot spells, the sea moderates the coast’s temperatures. Winters can be milder than inland. Storms at this time of year often produce impressive surf shows. Wind-whipped waves and churning surf attract storm-watching visitors and storm chasers, anxious to witness the spectacular symphony of crashing water and gusting winds.

Whatever the time of year, the Pacific Ocean beaches are open for exploring, walking, and listening to the surf. The wide-open sands are perfect for romping or flying kites. Depending on the season, you can go clam digging or crabbing.

Getting There

Summit Lake Antiques is the first stop on the road trip.

Washington State Highway 8 (WA 8) is the most direct route from Olympia to Grays Harbor County’s ocean beaches.  Its four lanes gently travel through rolling hills and forests. Branching off US 101 northwest of Olympia, WA 8’s sole purpose is to link West Olympia with US Highway 12 at Elma. US Highway 12 terminates at Aberdeen, gateway to Grays Harbor and the ocean beaches.

Several interesting sights and adventures are available along the 21 miles of this road.  Next time you venture to the ocean beaches, stop and explore what the communities along WA 8 have to offer. Although many of the services and shops are open year-round, check the dates and hours for specific seasonal destinations.

Summit Lake

Heading west from Olympia, about eight miles from the junction of US 101 and WA 8, you see a “Tourist Attraction” road sign announcing Summit Lake Antiques.  Take the next right, which is Summit Lake Road NW. Summit Lake Antiques is about three-quarters of a mile down this road at 10724 Summit Lake Road NW.  Owners Bob and Barbara Jasper have been in the antique and refinishing business for over 30 years at this location. Since the Jaspers live here, the three buildings housing over 10,000 sq. ft. of antiques are open generally from 9:00 a.m. on weekdays and 10:00 a.m. on the weekend.  It’s well worth the stop to view their collection as well as consult with Barbara about restoring a family heirloom.

The road to the Ocean Beaches has many possibilities.

After visiting the antique store, you can double back to WA 8 or continue along Summit Lake Road NW, which eventually loops back to WA 8. If you like lakes, drive another mile, and then turn right (east) and continue another half-mile on Summit Lake Short Road to Summit Lake. This is a Washington State Water Access site open to the public from the last weekend in April to October 31.

Just before Summit Lake Road NW joins WA 8, Kennedy Creek Pottery, 12320 Summit Lake Rd NW, offers the work of ceramic artists Dave Siemens and Maggie Roberts. View their hand-made ceramics that range from table ware and sculptures to garden art. Check their website for their open house events, as well as classes that focus on specific ceramic projects.


West of the Summit Lake area is the town of McCleary, a few blocks north of the junction of WA 8 and WA 108.

If your passengers need a recreational break, visit the seven-acre Beerbower Park, located mid-way through the town on WA 108.  This city park provides a children’s playground, picnic tables and restrooms. Featured is an antique locomotive purchased in 1905 by the town’s namesake, Henry McCleary, and donated in 1962 to the town by Simpson Timber Company.

Two miles east of Elma is a pleasant rest stop.

McCleary is the home of the annual Bear Festival. Since 1959, the community has hosted this annual event held the second weekend in July.  Famous for its bear stew and softball tournament, the Bear Festival features many activates for all ages.  There are food and craft vendors, parades, live music, and a car show. Events are scheduled so that you can attend one or stay for the entire weekend.

During the summer, the McCleary Museum at Carnell House is open on the weekends between noon and 4:00 p.m. Located at 314 South 2nd Street, the museum is a wealth of information about the area’s history.

If you are headed to the coast on the third Saturday in September, check out McCleary’s city-wide garage sale. From WA 8 westbound, you can loop through the town by turning right on Mox-Chehalis Road. Head west on W Simpson Avenue, which is WA 108, then follow the road signs pointing to Elma.


The Elma Variety Store may be one of the last of its kind.

Located at the western end of WA 8, Elma is about halfway to the coast.  Before you continue west along US 12, stop by the Elma Variety Store, 325 W Main. This store is one of the few remaining, independently operated, five and dime stores.

The five and dime stores were popular in the early to mid-20th century. This type of store provided a wide variety of goods sold at affordable prices—five to ten cents in the early days. Even though the five and dime prices have long since vanished, the Elma Variety Store retains its mid-20th century flavor, with a selection of products ranging from household supplies, hardware items and dry goods.

Additionally, this store has one of the largest selections of craft supplies in Southwest Washington. The Quilt Peddler section of Elma Variety, a familiar stop for Southwest Washington Shop Hop participants, boasts over 6500 bolts of fabric. Some of these fabrics find their way into finished creations displayed at the annual Around the Block Quilt Show, a non-judged show at the local county fairgrounds.  In addition to hand-made quilts and fiber art, this show features vendors and prize drawings.

Elma is home to the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds, located on the east side of Elma at 32 Elma-McCleary Road.  Besides holding the annual Grays Harbor County Fair in August, this facility hosts many other events. One weekend per month, from October through May, there is an indoor swap meet.  Check out the Fair’s calendar of events—perhaps your trip to the coast may coincide with their annual car show or the November Country Christmas Bazaar, a tradition since the 1970’s. For animal lovers, there are several horse, livestock, and dog shows throughout the year.

Antique tractons are a site to see in Elma.

The Antique Tractor Pull & Engine Show, the fairground’s main event in July, may have provided inspiration for the Rusty Tractor Restaurant located at the corner of Main and Young (602 E Young St). The eclectic inside décor of this family-style restaurant complements the outside display of rusty tractors and farm implements.   If traveling in a motor home or with a trailer, there is plenty of parking for big rigs.

For a quick coffee or snack, the Coffee Coop adjacent to the Rusty Tractor serves coffee as you like it plus goodies.  You can drive up on either side of the Coop. If you want to take a break from your car, there is a table inside where you can enjoy your beverage with the faux chickens.

This is only a sampling of the places to stop and visit along WA 8. On your next trip to the ocean beaches, whether it is for a day or longer, take the time to discover what these communities have to offer.

History on Wheels at the Running Anvil Carriage Museum in Montesano

Well over a century ago, a newspaper foreman named J. E. Calder travelled from Tacoma to the budding town of Montesano. With only 75 cents in his pocket, Calder refused to spend a third of his money on a 25-cent shave at the local barber shop. As a result, he vowed never to shave again and was, for the rest of his life, trademarked by his long beard. By the 1930s, Calder had achieved the founding of the Vidette newspaper office and become the mayor of Montesano.

Doug and Janet Rice share a lifetime of passion for horses, carriages, and history.

Calder’s life was marked by the developing newspaper and by the welcoming of President Franklin Roosevelt in front of the Montesano Post Office. After Calder’s eventful life, it is no surprise that the Vidette newspaper continues on today. But less expected is to know that Calder’s “trap” – a small, open carriage – is preserved for viewing at the Running Anvil Carriage Museum.

The Calder trap is a glimpse into the life of a very influential man who helped shape the town of Montesano. It helps you visualize what life must have been like for him during a period of quickly changing history. But the Calder trap is only one of many peeks into yesteryear within the Running Anvil Museum.

The Running Anvil has an astonishing variety of carriages, traps, historical matchbooks and paraphernalia. Most of the carriages come from Grays Harbor County such as the “Donovan Carriage” from the owner of Donovan Logging in Aberdeen, farm wagons from more remote parts of the Harbor, and enclosed carriages from doctors and vetrinarians. Each piece has a story and sometimes accompanying accessories. Resting on a wagon seat lies a gift from the renowned Indian Chief, “Sitting Bull” – a Buffalo robe seven feet square. A weathered note and photo document the robe and add yet another dimension to the history of former Grays Harbor residents.

Janet and Doug Rice, owners of the Running Anvil, have been horse people since their youths. Competing in dressage, cross country, and racing, they have also bred horses and travelled across the states. Horses are their passion and now in retirement, they’ve channelled that passion into the refurbishing of historical carriages. Some pieces they’ve discovered have needed only a little time and effort, others, they’ve received in pieces.

The Running Anvil Museum features different carriages and local history.

The Brittain Farm Wagon, for example, came out of Humptulips as a pile of old wood, metal, and a couple of wheels. Using a photo from 1970 when the wagon was in better shape, Rice was able to recreate the piece using the original metal and new lumber. Two of the wheels were also salvageable. Some of their carriages are on loan from friends, and some of them are garnished with beautiful paintings from local artists, giving new interest to an already beautiful piece.

The Rice’s began collecting carriages by fluke. Some they’ve hunted down, some have been given to them, and some have been purchased. Now after decades of collecting, the Rice’s are running out of space. One carriage house was expanded, a chicken coop was converted, and two outer buildings with plexi-glass house the carriages they couldn’t fit in the main building.

If you were to truly admire each piece and hear about the lives behind them, the tour would easily take two hours or more of your time. And the Rice’s are happy to take that space out of their day to educate people about the history and beauty of Grays Harbor County. To top off the experience, the Rice’s don’t charge a dime. By inkling or by appointment, the Rice’s cheerfully guide visitors through their outbuildings and delightfully narrate as you go along.

The Running Anvil Museum has hundreds of matchbooks on display.

Exciting as the history is, there is something especially charming about the fact that many of the carriages under the Rice’s care have received a second life. Some have been used in local weddings, carting the bride and groom away behind the smooth trot of the Rice’s trained carriage horse. Others have been photographed for magazines or used in parades.

The Rice’s possess a pride and willingness to share the local history they’ve collected. Refusing to keep the antique treasures to themselves, the couple has done a beautiful job of preserving history for many generations to come. As with the story of Calder, the Rice’s provide a tangible way of relating to the lives of those gone before.

The Running Anvil Museum can be found at 445 Black Creek Road in Montesano and is open seven days a week. You can call for more information at (360) 249-3645.

A Visit to the Wynoochee River Valley

At 63.5 miles long the Wynoochee River is always flowing, thanks to the 140 inches of rain that fall in this region annually. While many flock to the more popular rivers of the area, or head to the Olympic Mountains or Cascades to explore nature, the Wynoochee River Valley and surrounding foothills are some of the more beautiful spots in the state. With tales of lost treasure, stunning waterfalls, recent Bigfoot sightings, great fishing, miles of amazing hikes and a unique history, Wynoochee needs to be your weekend destination.

While best known for timber, the Wynoochee region was first left alone by the local settlers. Huge old-growth forests and abundant wildlife upstream made the region an outdoor lover’s paradise. Until the 1940s, the towering timber of the area Wynoochee was basically untouched, with locals enjoying hiking, hunting and exploring the wilderness.

That all changed during World War II, when logging took off in the region and many hillsides were clear-cut. This practice continued well into the 1980s, leaving Wynoochee to be the home to what many consider the worst logging practices in state history. Because the region was harvested so heavily, it has caused widespread erosion along its banks, as well as creating numerous landslides. The river was dammed in 1972, and over the past 44 years, the Wynoochee River Valley has been struggling to return to its original splendor.

Despite the Wynoochee region being logged heavily, natural beauty is slowly returning to the area, making it once again a great destination to hike or camp in the remaining old growth timber.  Home to some of the more beautiful waterfalls on the Olympic Peninsula, as well as a great 16-mile long trail around Wynoochee Lake, a trip to Wynoochee doesn’t have to be a day trip. The Coho Campground sits along the lake with forty-six campsites that can fit tents or RVs, as well as eight hike-in sites and three canvas sided yurts that can accommodate up to six people. With views of the lake from most places to stay, this is an awesome spot to spend the weekend. More information about the Coho Campground can be found online at  or via phone at (877) 444-6777.

Wynoochee also has a history of the unexplained. In the past fifteen years, there have been twenty-two reported Bigfoot sightings in Grays Harbor, with countless more going unreported. The region has even been investigated by the team at Finding Bigfoot, a television show on Animal Planet. Wynoochee is a common location for members of the Bigfoot Research Organization to conduct research, but amazingly enough, the prospect of sighting a Sasquatch isn’t the most bizarre aspect of the region.

Wynoochee Falls

The strangest aspect to the Wynoochee region has to be John Tornow, better known as the Wild Man of the Wynoochee. This murderer and thief was known to terrorize Grays Harbor in the early 1900s, eventually robbing a local grocery store, that also served as a bank, of $15,000 as well as killing a Sheriff and a Warden. Eventually, he was found hiding in the woods, where he was shot and killed. His last words were the location of the $15,000, which has never been found.  The money, which has never been recovered, is said to be near a boulder that appeared to look like a fish fin along an old channel of the Wynoochee River.

While camping near lost treasure and Sasquatch may be appealing, the highlights of the Wynoochee Area for most are the numerous waterfalls around the lake.  From the seemingly ever-expanding base of Maidenhair Falls to the gorgeous two-tier Wynoochee Falls and the easy accessible Spoon Creek Falls, the region has some fantastic natural wonders. The great thing about these waterfalls is that they are mostly easy to hike to and perfect to wade in on a hot summer’s day.

With the weather getting warmer, and the daylight lasting longer each day, now is the perfect time to take a day or a weekend at Wynoochee. With great history, fantastic hikes and a chance to discover either Bigfoot or a long lost treasure, pack up the car and head to the southern end of the Olympic Peninsula.

How to get to Wynoochee: Take the Devonshire Road Exit West of Montesano, turning left on Devonshire Road. Take another left on Old 410 Highway, followed by a quick right on Wynoochee Valley Road. This road will eventually turn into National Forest Service Road 22, which will lead you to the Wynoochee area.

Originally posted on

It’s Dirt Track Nights At the Grays Harbor Raceway

ELMA – Early in life, I desperately wanted to hear the racing engines blast and see the tire-to-tire action of the modified sprint cars at the local dirt ring. I begged my father to take me on warm Saturday nights, driving out the country to for a grand show. Finally he agreed. We arrived in to see the cars lock tires, sending one in a dizzying crash into the wooden barricade.

Grays Harbor Raceway is cast in the same mould as the dirt track of my youth. The third-mile bullring at the county fairgrounds is flanked with bleachers and hotdog stands next to the animal pavilions and display halls.

Small, oval dirt track racing is serious business. The excitement of the action is palpable. Danger lurks at every turn.  And, fans root for local heroes.

With a racing schedule that starts on May 10 and lasts until the end of September, the action is at the raceway is spread among  Modifieds, 360 Sprints, USAC Midgets, Street Stocks, and Hornets. There is enough dirt-carving fun to satisfy the most die-hard racing loyalists.

The Grays Harbor Raceway is a sort of time-warp throwback. The mighty midgets still roar and a summer without one open-air visit is incomplete. There really is something about a dirt track on a comfortable Saturday evening with a hot dog, plus all the danger and noise under the lights. It’s a distinctly American pleasure. And, one that brings the family together under a blanket waiting for that final checkered flag.

Ticket and schedule information is available at: Grays Harbor Raceway, 32 Elma McCleary Rd, Elma, WA 9854, or call (360) 482-4374.

Renovation projects are underway at the Grays Harbor oval

The ink is barely dry on the contract with the Funtime Promotions Team but the track renovations are already at full speed. Several projects received the green flag as the 2014 racing season quickly approaches. Danny Kirkpatrick and his K & B Excavating crew are busy reshaping the pit parking area, allowing the auxiliary space to drain and dry much quicker after a rainstorm. General Manager Steve Beitler said, “The reshaping and a different parking pattern will make the pits nicer for the racing teams and fans. We also want to improve the raceway lighting and the sound system this summer, too.”

Other renovation projects underway include a total makeover of the main concession stands and upgrades to all the other areas. “There are a lot of projects that need to be completed on a orderly schedule before the first race. “We will gradually have them upgraded one by one.” said Beitler, “We are committed to give the racers and the race fans a great place to enjoy their Saturday nights, once again”