Family of Olympic hiker remembers his ‘zest for life’

Woodson, 60, of Kingston, was the hiker found deceased July 1 along the coast of Olympic National Park near the Norwegian Memorial.

KINGSTON — David Woodson was a man whose love for life was perhaps larger than life itself.

And to hear his children talk about their father is to learn of a man who dreamed big and was always in search of his next adventure.

From turning his passion for entomology into a career — and a Ph.D — to accomplishing a life-long ambition to relocate to and explore the Pacific Northwest, Woodson was always ready for wherever life, and his dreams, took him.

“He was a man of knowledge, someone to look up to and aspire to be similar to,” said Robin Woodson Reed, the second of three children born to David — given first name William — and his wife Elizabeth, to whom he was married for almost 38 years.

Woodson, 60, of Kingston, was the hiker found deceased July 1 along the coast of Olympic National Park near the Norwegian Memorial.

The preliminary cause of death was saltwater drowning, the Peninsula Daily News reported. The preliminary manner of death was accidental.

But the legacy he left behind was a full life that took him from Texas to Oklahoma, South Dakota and eventually Washington, not to mention the countless vacations and research trips in between. Woodson lived by the famous words of author John Muir: “the mountains are calling and I must go.”

Woodson earned a bachelor’s degree in entomology from Texas A&M and a Ph.D. from Oklahoma State. Both degrees stemmed from a childhood fascination with insects, which began with the assistance of his childhood neighbor.

He then embarked on a 31-year career working for the federal government — first in the U.S. Agricultural Department and later for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Fisheries Research Laboratory — taking time along the way to raise chickens, care for stray animals and teach his children outdoor skills such as hunting.

“He instilled in me a great respect for nature, animals, and environmental protection,” said Kate Woodson, his oldest daughter and first-born child. “He believed there was only one Earth and we needed to take care of it.”

For the past 16 years, Woodson and his family have called Washington home, his free time spent exploring the many hiking opportunities the area has to offer. He held a permit for a solo hike through the coastal area of the Olympic Mountains, and had decided upon a hiking trip through Patagonia in South America as a present to himself for his recent retirement.

Woodson will be remembered by friends and family for his many positive attributes, not the least of which was his terrific sense of humor, as relayed through a story told by his son, Ian.

“We trekked to the low divide ranger station and looped back on the Skyline Trail,” Ian recalled. “While going to Kimta Peak, we noticed the trail was progressively becoming worse. At one point, there was about three to four feet where there wasn’t a trail, but a 300-yard drop. I was the first one across. While in the middle of my crossing, holding on to the mountain side for dear life, my father says, ‘Hey Ian, hold still, let me take a photo.’ ”

— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at