Posts Tagged ‘Hoh Rain Forest’

‘Twilight’ fans bite into Forks

January 28, 2010

New Moon, the second film in the Twilight series (copyright Summit Entertainment)

What a difference a few months make. I keep reading with fascination how Forks, Washington, has become a tourist destination, filled with young,  mostly female fans of the “Twilight” novels. The wildly popular vampire-themed young-adult novels, filled with teen angst and romance, were written by Stephenie Meyer. Of course the Hollywood films have followed.

The Hoh Rain Forest is the real star here

Wessel and I stayed in this rather dreary and depressed (at least then) logging town of about 3,200 people in April 2008, just before the “Twilight” boom. Forks is the closest town to the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park, a moody, rainy, green, wet place of stunning beauty. We were there to interview and photograph Gordon Hempton, of “Once Square Inch of Silence” fame.

With Forks being so close to this well-visited park and also near Olympic Park’s ocean site, Rialto Beach, I was very surprised the town hadn’t embraced tourism. Instead, it was living, or perhaps dying, on its lumbering past.

The In Place sits on Forks' main drag

That’s not to say we didn’t appreciate the place. It was small-town Pacific Northwest at its best. Pickup trucks, down-home restaurants, and unpretentious people. Now the streets are filled with visitors from around the world, to see where fictional characters did imaginary things. We stayed at the  simple but fine Forks Motel and crossed the street morning and night for basic grub at The In Place.

But then “Twilight” settled in on Forks. Stephenie, who almost named her book “Forks,” has this to say on her website about locating the series there:

“For my setting, I knew I needed someplace ridiculously rainy. I turned to Google, as I do for all my research needs, and looked for the place with the most rainfall in the U.S. This turned out to be the Olympic Peninsula  in Washington State. I pulled up maps of the area and studied them, looking for something small, out of the way, surrounded by forest…. And there, right where I wanted it to be, was a tiny town called ‘Forks.’ It couldn’t have been more perfect if I had named it myself.”

La Push Beach is wild and magnificent

During her research, she also discovered La Push Reservation, home to the Quileute Nation, an American-Indian tribe settled there. We visited that also-depressed area when we went to La Push beach to interview Gordon while he body surfed. (You pay the reservation to park at the beach.) I’m pleased to hear the tribe is thoughtfully dealing with the Twilight publicity instead of changing itself for its 15 minutes of fame, though who knows how that story will unfold.

We hope visitors are behaving here

Forks, on the other hand, has totally embraced all things having to do with Bella, Jacob and Edward. Well, good for them, as well. Get it while the gettin’s good. In a town that had no, I mean no, trace of “Twilight” in April 2008, only four months later had “Twilight” tours, themed dinner specials, themed hotel rooms, T-shirts, and more. Now there’s even a store, Dazzled by Twilight, that arranges tours, sells mugs, magnets, and so much more. And a film documenting the town, called “Twilight in Forks,” is due out March 10.

I’m very thankful we visited before the transformation, but I’m not begrudging Forks its fame. Still, I hope it will later turn to eco-friendly travel pursuits when the fairy dust wears off, for what’s really magical here are the forest and sea, not an imaginary vampire tale.

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‘One Square Inch’ speaks loud and clear

April 8, 2009
Gordon measures the sound level after an airplane flies over

Gordon Hempton measures airplane noise during a hike through the Hoh Rain Forest

It’s next to impossible to get away from the sounds of our human activities, most of them now mechanized. We hear way more than we used to. Airplanes, leaf blowers, air conditioners, car traffic, humming refrigerators, cell phones, televisions. Many if not most  people aren’t even aware of the audio assault they face every day.

One Square Inch book cover

One Square Inch book cover

Can you think of a time you were in a quiet, really quiet, spot? Was it memorable? One of the quietest places I’ve been was just outside of a small village in the mountains on Crete, in 1986. Even then, there was some airplane traffic, but not much. I vividly recall that spot and others in North America and beyond where natural sounds reign. I seek them out and savor them because they are so rare.

“Audio ecologist” Gordon Hempton, with journalist John Grossmann, has just published “One Square Inch: One Man’s Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World,” a powerful treatise on our country’s vanishing supply of silence. The book was prompted by Gordon’s “One Square Inch of Silence” project in the Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park in northwest Washington state.

Gordon Hempton in his Volkwagen Bus

Gordon in his 1964 Volkswagen Bus

I wrote a profile about Gordon last year for the July/August 2008 issue of Ode Magazine. The entire issue was about silence. Wessel and I spent two days and a night with Gordon, camping at the Hoh in his 1964 Volkswagen Bus and later going to Rialto Beach, also part of the national park.

The Jar of Quiet Thoughts

The Jar of Quiet Thoughts

Gordon’s literal square inch of silence is a few feet off the Hoh River Trail. It’s marked with a small reddish rock and a “Jar of Quiet Thoughts” – visitors’ musings on what Gordon has declared to be “the quietest place in the United States.”

An inch of silence can travel far, Gordon says. “If noise can impact many square miles, then a natural place, if maintained in a noise-free condition, will also impact many square miles. When you defend one square inch, in today’s world you help manage, to some degree, thousands of miles.”

Part of the book is a presentation of the one-square-inch theory, especially in relation to the ever-weakening National Park Service regulations. Like, for instance, those blasted helicopter tours of the Grand Canyon.

In the other section, Gordon relays lovely tales from people he met during a cross-country drive in the summer of 2007 “to take the sonic pulse of America.” In the slow-moving van, Gordon drove from his home in Joyce, Wash., to Washington, DC, talking to experts and regular folks about silence along the way and meeting government officials and legislators along the way.

This row of trees in Hoh Rain Forest once strarted as seedlings on a nursing log

This row of trees in Hoh Rain Forest once started as seedlings on a nursing log

If you get the chance, check out Gordon at one of his upcoming readings, from April 14-26, in Seattle, Portland, Sebastopol, Calif., and, finally, to the noisiest place in the country, New York City.

If you’d rather hear natural sounds in the privacy of your own home, Gordon’s book comes packaged with an audio CD of recordings from his cross-country trip, along with gorgeous photos of his favorite landscapes along the way.

Where silence is seen and heard

July 22, 2008

Below is a profile I wrote about Gordon Hempton, the creator of One Square Inch of Silence in the Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park in northwest Washington state.  It appears in the July/August of Ode Magazine, with photos by Wessel. The entire issue  is dedicated to silence and is well worth a read.

By Diane Daniel

Surrounded by towering Sitka spruce trees dripping with rain and bearded lichen, Gordon Hempton comes to a sudden halt, mud oozing out from the bottom of his tall rubber boots. He raises his right hand, points a gloved finger toward the gray sky and squints in the universal sign for “Listen!”

Gordon points up to listen

Gordon Hempton (left) points up to listen while Diane takes notes (Click to ENLARGE)

Hearing the chirp of a bird in the distance, I expect our unofficial park guide to identify another animal resident here in Olympic National Park, as he had earlier with the call of a Roosevelt elk.

“An intruder,” he whispers in a serious tone.

Gordon holds his sound meter

Gordon holds his sound meter

As Hempton whips out a hand-held sound meter from his bike messenger bag, I realize it’s not a birdsong but the drone of an airplane in the far distance that has brought him to attention.

“1:19,” he notes in an official voice, reporting the time while opening up the instrument that charts noise level on the decibel A scale, the easiest way to measure the weight of sound.

“Overpass duration: two minutes. 51 dBA, with a base of 42. That base is from birdsong and the river in the distance.”

The intrusion, he reports, is twice as loud as the natural sound, based on the logarithmic formula of decibels.

“I’m not going to do anything about it because it’s not in One Square Inch,” he adds.

Hempton is referring to our destination and his mission, a tiny spot in northwest Washington state that he has deemed One Square Inch of Silence. It is marked with a reddish rock and a “Jar of Quiet Thoughts” — visitors’ musings on what Hempton has declared to be “the quietest place in the United States.”

Although the claim is arguable, it is certainly plausible.

Hempton, a 55-year-old Washington-based natural sound documentarian and audio ecologist, is one of the world’s top sound recordists. He’s measured sound in hundreds of spots across the country and the world, and has witnessed, painfully, a sharp decline of spaces devoid of mechanized sounds.

Gordon's Emmy Award

Gordon's Emmy Award

“I don’t want the absence of sound, I want the absence of noise,” he says.
Hempton’s professional credits include radio and television documentaries, a collection of 53 natural-sound recordings, and an Emmy award for the 1992 PBS documentary “Vanishing Dawn Chorus.” Next spring Simon and Schuster’s Free Press will publish “One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Quest to Save Silence in a Noisy World,” a book Hempton is co-writing with journalist John Grossmann.

“The logic is simple,” explains Hempton, who lives in the tiny town of Joyce, two hours northwest of the park. “If noise can impact many square miles, then a natural place, if maintained in a noise-free condition, will also impact many square miles. When you defend one square inch, in today’s world you help manage, to some degree, thousands of miles.

Entrance of Olympic National Park

Entrance of Olympic National Park

“Olympic National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve and a wilderness area. If we can’t save quiet here, don’t tell me we’re going to save it anywhere else.”

While Hempton keeps One Square Inch focused on Olympic National Park, he hopes others will pick up the mantle across the country and beyond.

Had today’s offender been heard at One Square Inch, some three miles east of the visitor’s center and about 50 yards off the Hoh River Trail, Hempton would have checked flight paths and airline schedules for the day and written a note asking the intruder to circumvent the park. (Only Alaska Airlines flies over regularly.)

(more…)

Seeing green at Olympic National Park

April 22, 2008

I was lucky enough to have a story assignment for Ode Magazine that took me to Olympic National Park in northwest Washington state. About Ode: I first discovered it as a reader and am now thrilled to be writing for them. It’s probably the first glossy magazine I’ve written for that totally reflects my personal ethics and political leanings, which makes it now my favorite publication to write for.

I won’t give away the story, which will be out in the July/August issue, but I’m writing a profile on someone who has a strong connection to the park. This is the sort of story Wessel would not usually accompany me on, but he was dying to come to the park as well, and who could blame him. Of course he took his usual amount of photos (like 150 a day or so) and hopefully can sell a few.

Entrance Olympic National ParkMost of our time was spent in the stunning Hoh Rain Forest , the stunning park’s most popular spot. Because it was early April and the snow had only recently stopped falling, there were very few visitors, making it all the more special. Did it rain? Of course. But we never were subjected to downpours. The most spectacular aspect of the rainforest is the green – every shade imaginable and in all shapes and sizes, from giant log covered with moss to a carpet of frilly ferns. A rainforest is such a visible place to see life and death or the form of plant birth and decay.

Trees on top of remains of nurse logWe hiked the Hoh River Trail, which was quite muddy at many points. We passed towering trees here in one of the Pacific Northwest’s largest old-growth forest, including Sitka spruce that topped 200 feet and were 9 feet across. Wessel was most fascinated by the “nurse logs” that give tree seedlings a place to flourish before one day rotting away. We were often walking along the Hoh itself, a large river that is rather quiet this time of year. It carries logs from the forest all the way to the Pacific, where some become driftwood on the beaches we later visited. Quite the voyage!

Hall of MossesIf your time is limited, at least walk the Hall of Mosses loop from the visitor center. In less than a mile you’ll get a good sampling of most everything the Hoh Rain Forest has to offer.