Ah, to find some peace and quiet. The peace is up to you. The quiet is something that can be measured, which the National Park Service did. They created a map of the noise level across the Lower 48. One of the key things they learned: draw two maps instead of one.
Looking at the map of noise around Seattle may be a better mark of the urban boundaries than maps of streets or county borders. The big yellow blob of urban noise starts in Arlington and reaches down around past Tacoma. Within those bounds are white hot areas of downtown Seattle, Eastside, and Tacoma - definitely urban centers.
The big blue quiet areas happen outside those boundaries. Move west to the Kitsap or Olympic peninsulas; but go too far and you're in the mountains and Olympic National Park. Move east past Lake Stevens, Woodinville, or Kent; and you're in the mountains again. Even Monroe and Issaquah are in the noise tendrils that reach along the highways as they cross the mountains. And then, there are the islands. Quiet and remote, but a bit too remote for some. These are the tradeoffs we all make.
To put the noise in a natural perspective, even if we weren't here, there'd naturally be noise. Wind in the trees, water in streams, and waves along the shore mean the truly quiet places are where the air is still and there isn't much rain, which is why parts of Eastern Washington may be some of the most peaceful places around. In any case, without airplanes, trains, and automobiles the natural world is so much quieter that they had to change the scale of the map.
To put the noise in a national perspective, while Seattle may seem noisy, look at the national map. The real noise border starts just west of the Mississippi and doesn't end until you hit the Atlantic Ocean. Compared to most cities, Seattle is one of the quietest places - even with all the activities that drew us here.
· National Sound Map [NPS]