As of this writing, the Gray's Harbor Shorebird Festival is going into its 16th year of welcoming crowds to the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge during the peak of the shore bird migration.
This is a big event, and includes special tours, including guided trips into surrounding regions that many people may not be familiar with. There is a marketplace that includes various wildlife themed artwork, and lectures and demonstrations of all sorts - some relevant to shore birds and others relevant to birds or nature in general. Such presentations as "How to Create a Backyard Bird Sanctuary" may be of interest to anyone with a single family home.
Most of the time, during the festival, there is a shuttle bus running between the high school (parking and event center - $1 suggested donation per rider) and the refuge, as well as volunteers on the trail to help identify the birds seen.
Some of the shore birds are horribly difficult to identify, and such lectures as "Shorebird Identification Basics" may be of assistance before you go out to the refuge.
The festival is generally headquartered at Hoquiam High School, which is located reasonably close to the Wildlife Refuge and is really the best location for such an event, as there really isn't much near the refuge other than a private airport and a small restaurant. On the Friday of the event, the headquarters for the event must be in a different location due to school hours.
There is a fee for all of the field trips and many of the educational lectures. Example prices this year (2011):
+ Shorebirds for Beginners Lecture $10
+ Shorebirds for Beginners Field Trip $15 includes shuttle from Hoquiam High School and special guided assistance on the trail to help identify the birds.
+ Westport Field Trip $35 - trip includes a trip to Westport and various good birding locations near this community. Entire trip is approximately 6.5 hours.
+ Lake Quinault and Rainforest Field Trip $25
+ In Search of Coastal Raptors $20
+ Lecture: Mudflat Meals: What Shorebirds have for Dinner: Free
+ Lecture: Carving and Painting Waterfowl and Shorebirds: $10
The entire event book runs some 20 pages (see photo), and is too much to describe here. As the event has changed over the years it is best to consult the web site below to find out about the events surrounding this event for the particular year you happen to be reading this tourist tip.
A word about the example seen on this year's event book: the artist is a seventh grade student at a middle school in Aberdeen. Kids not only get involved in this festival, they wind up as featured artists sometimes!
The Polson Museum preserves a number of articles from Hoquiam's past, including Native American art work and artifacts, logging museum articles, and domestic culture from the early years.
This tip focuses on the large articles that you will see outside the museum, and should not be missed:
+ The exterior of the huge historic black house has many details that should be examined up close.
+ A trail winds up the hill behind the house to a viewpoint, and also the last preserved old growth tree anywhere inside or nearby the city of Hoquiam. It is an impressive giant over 6 feet (two meters) in diameter.
+ Historic steam donkey engines from the early days of logging in the area around Hoquiam.
+ A small rose garden is a city landmark as well.
Inside the historic waterfront home, the museum has consumed some 16 rooms with exhibit space, documenting everything from early Native American residents of the region to life in a logging camp to the domestic side of life in Hoquiam.
Adult Admission is $4, Families are $10.
Hours are Saturday and Sunday 12 to 4 during the winter months (December 27 to March 31), Wednesday through Saturday 12 to 4 from April 1 to December 23. The museum is closed for the Christmas Holidays.
Set on a steep hill in the northwest side of town, this little park memorializes an artist that for many years lived across the street, and used this little forest as a source of inspiration. Today the spot has been preserved as a native forest as much as possible. There are several short trails through the forest, one of which forms a loop. Many well built bridges cross the many wet spots and small canyons. There are a number of educational signs throughout the park that describe some of the native plant species and the type of environment they require.
The web site below is for the city of Hoquiam, whose parks department owns and maintains the park.
You will likely see small backyard type birds scattered through the forest if you look closely.
However, the forest isn't especially large, and therefore the trails through it are not particularly long. Exploring the park takes about half an hour to 45 minutes.
I did not eat at Lana's Café, but I did look at the menu on my way to the Gray's Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. The place seems to serve up quite a number of different breakfast dishes, and is extremely popular despite its very out of the way location. Apparently what it lacks in location is more than made up for by the quality and price of the food.
Or, at least, that is the only explanation I can think of as to why so many people would come so far out here to eat.
For those coming and going from the area by private plane this is your only resource close to the airport. For those stopping by the Gray's Harbor National Wildlife Refuge this is the only facility of any sort anywhere near the refuge entrance.
For those who like to watch planes take off and land, what activity there is at this little airport is visible through the huge observation windows that face the airport runways.