By: Brian Khan 7/30/18
N 47.51575°, W 123.52133°—Amid the panoply of greenery that makes up the Hoh Rainforest, a gap in the old growth forest arises. Well, more accurately it’s a gap in a tree—a hollow inside a towering sitka spruce that stands like an open door. Beyond it, a short game trail through ankle deep mud and pools of water accumulated from the week’s rains ends in a clearing lined with ferns.
Gordon Hempton guides a group to the clearing where, on a log dotted with the tiniest plants and mosses sits a red stone, roughly one square inch. Hempton walks up to it, opens his satchel, grabs another similar red stone and places it on the log while grabbing the original one. It’s like the opening scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Hempton looks the part, except in a Northwest twist this Indiana Jones has swapped a leather jacket for a thick wool sweater and a whip for an umbrella. He turns and presses his meaty palm into mine, closing my hand around the burnt red stone slick with rainwater without saying a word.
Our group of nine clad in Gore-tex and soggy socks instinctively gathers in a circle around the rock, the new altar of the rainforest, a monument to One Square Inch of Silence. We had come to hear a sermon. Hands crossed, heads bowed, bodies stilled, we listen.
Seconds pass, then minutes as time starts to warp. One by one, the group of locals and the regional head of a nonprofit working with Hempton to protect the site peels back into the wall of greenery toward the trail. Eventually, I’m standing alone at One Square Inch.
After years of painstaking acoustic measurements, Hempton identified this spot on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula as the quietest place in the U.S.—the spot most free of our man-made noise pollution. He has nurtured this square inch, guided people to it, and protected it from encroaching cacophony of our modern world. But now it faces its biggest threat yet.[FULL ARTICLE]