Looking for a bit of solace in a chaotic world? Here are some places we discovered in our travels in search of quiet places.
It was on a recent road trip to explore Prince George’s County, MD in springtime when I experienced something seldom encountered…quiet. My wife and I had been driving south on Highway 4 when I spied a sign for Patuxent River Park. We exited the highway towards the park and had no idea what to expect. After parking the car, we set out on foot to see what secrets Patuxent State Park’s Jug Bay Natural Area held.
While walking through a shorn field of last summer’s corn, it hit me; there was not a hint of manmade noise. We could hear some migrating Canadian geese honking in the distance as they fed on the gleanings of the cornfield, but nothing else. To experience quiet places of that kind was practically total bliss, such was the feeling of the place. Here are a few of my favorite places to escape when seeking solace—and we look forward to hearing some of your discoveries as you travel in search of quiet places.
Once Upon a Time
There was a time when I took for granted the few places devoid of human sounds left on Earth. It’s hard to find places that are spared from the modern noises that surround most of us. A TV episode on a nature show some 25 years ago spoke of the difficulty in finding quiet places. That show made me think deeply about the subject. Such solitude away from human-made machines was already rare then and has become even harder to come by today.
In my 40+ years living in Colorado, it was tough to get away from us noisy humans and our machines. High mountain lakes were some of the best places to get away from civilization. My dad worked part-time in Colorado’s San Luis Valley (SLV) during the 1960s and 70s. My brother and I occasionally got to tag along with dad on his SLV trips for hunting and fishing. One of our favorite places to fish was La Jara Reservoir, a lake southwest of Monte Vista. It was so quiet on windless days that you could hear fishermen talking up to a half-mile away.
At night when we camped out, my brother and I would lay on our backs atop a picnic table. We’d gaze at more stars than you can imagine with only the soft sounds of a few campers around their fire. To find that kind of quiet experience today takes a lot of research as planes have pretty much crisscrossed the planet with air traffic and engine noise.
Way Up North in Alaska
I have managed to find a quiet place or two in Alaska on some of my trips. At South Passage Outfitters, a sportfishing camp near Elfin Cove, we heard only the sounds of nature most days out on the water in our rented 18-foot boat. If another boat approached our area, we could hear it long before seeing it, often as far as some two miles away.
During the first two days of fishing for halibut, a raft of otters provided a natural soundtrack few will ever get to hear without human-caused noise nearby. We’d anchor the boat, kill the motor, and listen to the baby otters squealing to their parents to be fed. The only other sounds were from seabirds searching for a meal and the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore.
Coast Guard Duty in Alaska
I was stationed at Port Clarence, Alaska in the US Coast Guard in 1977. The Coast Guard dubbed this type of assignment Isolated Duty. Port Clarence wasn’t completely in the middle of nowhere as we could see the lights of both Brevig Mission and Teller some 10 miles across the bay.
In 1977, when the spring thaw came, three of my friends and I set out to escape the sights and sounds of our base. The quarter-mile-tall LORAN tower was hard to get away from on the flat peninsula. By hiking five miles south, we escaped the sound of the station’s generators and the constant hum they produced. The hike damn near killed us due to our ignorance of hypothermia.
Halfway to our proposed campsite, we were sweating profusely from hauling a case of beer in one pack, a heavy canvas tent in another, a Coleman stove, and food in the other packs. As we reached a suitable campsite to set up our tent all of us began shivering and stuttering, sure signs of hypothermia.
We crawled into our half-set-up tent and sleeping bags in a useless attempt to get warm. We probably would have died if it weren’t for a curious crew member who hiked from the base just to see how we were doing. Our guardian angel built a roaring fire from the copious driftwood on the beach that warmed us out of danger. In the end, we enjoyed our quiet escape and got a story to tell from that adventure.
Quiet Places in the Land of the Kiwis
My wife and I spent a couple of days hiking Te Urewera National Park in New Zealand’s North Island. At both Lake Waikaremoana and Waikareiti, we had moments of not only no human-caused noise, but when the wind calmed down, even birdsong occasionally gave way to complete silence. Some people dislike such total quiet, but some of us know how healing that silence can be.
Cape Palliser is on the southern tip of the North Island and a good place to find peace and quiet. The old lighthouse sits high above the sea and provides a worthy view and workout for those who climb the 253 steps to the top. When my wife and I visited the area, we were the only ones there for about half an hour. The few sounds we heard were from nearby seals and the crashing ocean waves.
For the Love of Maine
The mid-coast of Maine is my current go-to place for a quiet place. Southeast of Damariscotta are several relatively quiet places for a hike or just sitting on the beach watching the lobster buoys bobbing and seabirds flying by. Occasionally a lobster boat disrupts the solitude, but knowing they might be catching our dinner leaves them excused for making a bit of noise.
If you visit Maine in the off-season, especially in October, find a park that is closed to vehicular traffic for the season and hike into the area for some peace and quiet. Last year we took our dog, Sophie, along to Maine and hiked into Damariscotta Lake Park to let Sophie swim. All we could hear was the wind in the trees and the waves hitting the shore. Many Maine parks allow foot traffic in parks closed for the season. These parks provide a great escape from crowds and noise.
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A Last Thought about Travel to Quiet Places
As part of my research for this story, I searched “quiet parks” online and found several ways to find peace and quiet in the great outdoors. I love the quote on the website, quietparks.org: “The day will come when man will have to fight noise as inexorable as cholera and the plague.” So dig deep in your search and find a place to escape our noisy world, if only for a few quiet days. Chances are it will do you good. Please leave a comment and share some of your favorite quiet places. We welcome you to explore more of our favorite outdoor places on Wander.