Writing and Photography by Douglas Scott
Finding silence and solitude can be a tricky thing in today’s world. No matter where we go, there
seem to always be noises inundating our ears, an ever pounding beat of humanity around every
corner. For many, an escape from the sounds of society is what we crave and what we search
for each day off. Luckily, the trails and waterways of Grays Harbor are still mostly immune to the
noise pollution that creeps into every aspect of our lives, making the region the perfect place to
reconnect to the spirit and soul of planet earth and listen to nothing but the sounds of
wilderness. In the wilds of Grays Harbor, daily stress fades away, replaced with a sense of
belonging and tight bond with nature.
My entire life has been a search for silence and solitude and when I moved to Grays Harbor, I
finally found that. Before, I lived up and down the I-5 corridor, always within earshot of the roar
of the highway and the bustle of city streets. All of that changed when my family relocated to the
North Beach of Grays Harbor. My first summer in the area, I had no friends in the small town I
lived in, so I would walk the beach for hours on end, enjoying that I could hear nothing but
crashing waves and the sounds of the ocean. Soon, I had forgotten what freeway noise
sounded like, as it had been replaced with the constant crashing of waves along the coast, as
well as the steady wind through the tall trees. As I reached grew older, I branched out and
began to explore the trails, forests, rivers and peaks of the region, discovering that an escape
into the solitude and silence of nature in Grays Harbor was just a short adventure away.
There are so many places to find silence and solitude in Grays Harbor that one could wander for
a lifetime and not experience them all, as the region is flush with outdoor destinations that are
remote, wild and wonderful. Those looking to get out and reconnect with nature have seemingly
endless possibilities, in all styles of terrain, from breathtaking mountain summits and wild rivers
full of salmon, to gorgeous stretches of beaches and stunningly huge old growth forests. While I
have literally written the book on amazing places around the region, I wanted to share a few
favorite places to find solitude and silence around Grays Harbor, hoping that it brings you the
joy, calmness and inner peace that I was lucky enough to find.
One favorite area for true solitude and silence in nature is found up in the Wynoochee region of
the Olympic Peninsula. An hours drive from the highway, Wynoochee is forgotten by the
masses who travel to the Olympics, making it a place of serenity and beauty year round. Some
areas are popular with locals as a place to swim, camp and recreate outdoors, but taking any of
the trails for more than a mile will typically leave you all by yourself in this wilderness
wonderland. One of my personal favorite hikes is to walk the 14-16 mile trail around Wynoochee
Lake, where you’ll have a chance to sit along the lake shore and hear nothing but the small
waves, the wind and the occasional bird.
Another classic, yet often forgotten about destination for silence, solitude and awesomeness is
to take a paddle up the Copalis River to the Ghost Forest. This short paddle from Copalis Beach
quickly gets you away from the road and rewards you with a one of a kind view shows off a
section of land where a forest dropped over six feet and was completely inundated with salt
water. The quick drop of land was caused by a 9.0 earthquake that hit the region in 1700,
turning the dense forest into a marsh where ghost-like grey poles stick up from the river banks.
Here, you’ll hear nothing by the sounds of the river, birds and maybe the splashing of curious
More often than not, if I want silence and solitude in Grays Harbor, I’ll head to the Quinault.
Right off of Highway 101, the Quinault region of the Peninsula is about as magical and
wonderful as you can get. The Quinault is where my soul is most happy and where I can explore
mountains, lakes and forests to my heart’s content, or just sit along the banks of a waterway and enjoy the sounds of wilderness. The region does get popular in the summer months, but
silence and solitude are never more than a short walk away. While I could wax poetic about the
hundreds of miles of trails in the region and how the natural beauty of the region literally saved
me, I will instead throw out a couple of great destinations where you can find yourself alone in
nature with your thoughts.
For most, the 13 miles of trails around the Lake Quinault Lodge area work just fine, as few
people go more than a mile along the fantastic rainforest paths. I also highly recommend
heading out to Graves Creek and walking a few miles past Pony Bridge, to the banks of the
Quinault River. Here, with moss dripping from every branch, the babbling of the river is the
perfect compliment to the gorgeous wilderness stretching in every direction. A trip to Irely Lake
or along the North Fork are great trips, as few head up this direction and the views and
experiences found along these often-overlooked trail are amazing and soul nourishing. For
those looking for a mountain top meditation destination, Colonel Bob Peak offers unrivaled
views of the entire region, as well as a chance to stand atop the wilderness below in silence.
The natural wonders of Grays Harbor are unlike anywhere else in the world, and for that we are
lucky. Whether we sit in the rainforest and listen to the wind and the water, wander along the
coast and hear only the pounding of the surf, or paddle up a river to see what is left from a giant
earthquake that once rocked the region, the region offers a lifetime of wilderness exploration
and potential solitude. Here, along the trails and waterways, we find ourselves able to shut
down the worries of every day life and enjoy the splendor of the region that we call home, if only
for a day, week or year.
Douglas Scott is a nationally recognized author of numerous guidebooks, many of which focus on Grays Harbor and the Olympic Peninsula. He is the co-owner of The Outdoor Society, whose works can be found on his website, as well as Grays Harbor Talk, Roots Rated, Osprey Backpacks, Craghoppers, and many more outdoor themed websites. Douglas is also a huge proponent of fully funding public land and encouraging access to nature for all.