Published in the Post Register September, 2009.
FORKS, Washington – It turns out there’s a popular series of books, now becoming movies, about vampires and werewolves (“but not THOSE kinds of vampires and werewolves”) set in and around the tiny lumber town of Forks.
Who knew? And we thought the Olympic Peninsula was just a beautiful and fascinating place for hiking and photography and just driving around. No, it’s now famous for a vampire love story, the “Twilight” series by Utah author Stephanie Meyer who hadn’t even been to the area until after she wrote her first book.
When family learned we were headed to the rain forests of northwest Washington, we got a list of Twilight landmarks we had to photograph – the “Welcome to Forks” sign, James Island near La Push, a bookstore in Port Angeles. We complied, though we found the waterfalls and forests, beaches and lakes more interesting.
The western slope of the Olympic mountains gets up to 15 feet of rain a year, though on our visit it was suffering through a “drought” of less than half that. It didn’t show – the forests were lush and green, with stuff growing out of everything, including wooden fence posts and dead trees (called “nurse logs” here, because they support new plant life).
I asked the waitress at the small restaurant in La Push on the Quileute Reservation if she grown tired of all the talk about “Twilight.”
“No,” she said. Then, “Yes.” The truth came out. “It’s been good for business, but every time I show my ID when I’m traveling people want to talk about the book.”
Later, in Port Angeles, another waitress was equally candid.
“It’s the best thing that’s happened to Forks in a long time, I’ll tell you that,” she said. That may be true, but it’s obvious that Port Angeles isn’t shy about connecting itself to Twilight.
Forks is taking full advantage, with nearly every storefront boasting a sign about the books and the movie. All of this, however, is not sufficient reason to visit the Olympic Peninsula if, like me, you’ve not read a single word of the series. There appears to be breathless anticipation for the new movie coming out later this year.
No, for the rest of us, the reasons to visit are the spectacular temperate rain forests and raw, wild beaches of Olympic National Park. Bring rain gear and sturdy boots and find a trail. We stayed in the Rain Forest Resort on the edge of Lake Quinault. Referring to the place as a “resort” is a stretch, but the room was clean and comfortable with a view of the lake, and we were minutes from a dozen trails heading off in every direction, many leading to waterfalls or cascading streams.
On day two, we came upon a majestic Roosevelt bull elk and his harem of 15 cows and spent the better part of an hour watching and photographing the animals, the largest elk species in North America. We walked a beautiful rain forest loop trail where moss hangs from the trees and the earth is damp and robust.
We drove the 140 miles or so to Port Angeles, stopping at Ruby Beach, where garnet sand colors portions of the beach a pinkish hue, then had lunch in La Push. We took a break at the beautiful Lake Crescent Lodge for refreshment and relaxation with a view of the lake and mountains beyond. Dinner that night was served overlooking the Port Angeles harbor as the sun disappeared to the west.
We toured the commercial lavender fields near Sequim (pronounced “skwim”) the next morning and stopped along the Dungeness National Seashore for a walk along the cliffs and to look across at the Dungeness Spit at the lighthouse complex before heading to Bainbridge Island and the ferry to Seattle, where no one even mentions the vampires lurking just on the other side of the Olympic mountains.