Jun 30 2010
At the end of the 56-mile drive from Port Angeles to Forks, Washington, we came upon a large, wooden roadside sign:
“The City of Forks Welcomes You”
My sister pulled the rental car over and both she and my 12-year old daughter RAN out to take photos of themselves next to the sign. It was the culmination of months of anticipation for both of them. Forks, Washington! The setting for “Twilight”. My daughter proudly posed as my sister snapped a photo. Then they switched. Just then, a pickup truck drove by and a couple of teenaged girls stuck their head out the window and screamed, “Twilight whores!”
Yes, the city of Forks certainly did welcome us in so many ways.
My daughter is a big fan of the Twilight series. She’s read all the books and owns the DVDs of the first two movies. She has black and white laser printouts of Jacob scotch-taped above her dresser and even managed to stuff her Jacob/Edward throw pillow in her small suitcase for the trip. Make no mistake — she’s not obsessed or anything. She has a healthy perspective about things. “Bella” is a drama queen and sometimes the dialogue in the movie is “waaaay cheesy.” The hunky wolf guys are cute, and Edward is super dreamy, but she rolls her eyes at the part where Bella throws herself at the mercy of the Volturi, begging them to “take her” instead of her beloved Edward.
“Give me a break,” she says. “Like any guy is worth dying over.”
May I remind you she’s 12?! I can only guess that her hormones haven’t yet kicked in, so she still has some common sense about her. This is probably why we women start rolling our eyes at men when we hit pre-menopause, too. It’s just not worth it, we think, and roll our eyes much the same way, our emotions less influenced by hormones than they were ten or twenty years ago.
Knowing how much she liked the series, my sister offered to take my daughter to Forks, Washington to see the town where parts of the movie were filmed and where the story is set. I came along because, I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a Twilight whore myself. But mostly I’ve always wanted to see the Olympic Peninsula. I’ve been to Seattle and the Skaggit Valley a couple of times, but not to the O.P. I’ve wondered about it. The few times I’ve seen the snow-capped Olympic mountains from across the Puget Sound, they were shrouded in clouds and fog and mystery. I fantasized about what it must be like to hike the lush fir forest, dripping in moss and vegetation. I longed to explore the landscape and see the ocean from the most northwestern tip of the Continental United States.
Our trip took place in late June, and the weather was probably typical of early summer in the Olympics: temperatures in the low to mid-60s, heavy cloud cover most of the day, clearing in the afternoon, some drizzle and rain. A proprietor of a lavender farm we visited told us that in Port Angeles, where we were renting a vacation home, we were in the “rain shadow” of the Olympics and therefore didn’t get as much precipitation as the western side of the peninsula. She added that in Forks it rains every day. Every day. Fifteen FEET of precipitation a year. Yuck. I get depressed just thinking about it. No wonder Edward Cullen was such a sullen, pasty dude and Bella was cranky all the time.
Lupines, daisies and other wildflowers grew like weeds alongside roads and in meadows and clearings. Everywhere else were trees, trees, trees. Deciduous trees, fir trees, spruce trees. Some trees, like the ones in the Park, were grand beings at least 100 feet tall with trunks as big around as one of those 1970s above-ground swimming pools. Some, planted 20 years ago by logging companies, were smaller, only about 30 feet tall and still a young, fresh green. Those weren’t as grand and won’t be for at least another 100 years or more. Too bad. The area around Forks has really been scrapped and raped in service to our mail order catalogs, tract homes and phone books. My husband says that we’re experiencing “peak wood” at Home Depot and quality isn’t what it used to be ten years ago. It takes a long time for trees to grow to the girth and length of old growth, and we simply are too impatient to wait. As much as I hate sitting in front of the computer all the time, there are certain benefits to going completely “paperless” in the way we do business and entertain ourselves.
Forks has really cashed in on the Twilight mania. The Chamber of Commerce there has put up a Bella and Edward poster on the front door in case you’re worried about embarrassing yourself with stupid questions about the movie. Inside are life-sized cardboard cutouts of the characters one can stand next to and pretend. There are Hollywood-style maps the chamber employees dole out, indicating where certain landmarks are located: The Cullen House, the high school, the hospital. Granted, these are NOT the actual buildings that are featured in the movie, just pretend landmarks that one could take photos of and say, “Hey, I stood on the steps of the Forks high school!” Really?
We opted not to take the map and see the fake landmarks.
Instead, we walked the main drag (two blocks by two blocks) and shopped for Twilight souvenirs at one of a few stores set up especially for the occasion. Before the movie came out, Forks was just a sleepy (and rainy) logging town with a population of just over 3,000. It’s slightly less sleepy now because droves of teenaged girls and their families walk and drive up and down the streets, frequent the local eateries (like we did), and maybe even stay a day or two at one of the nearby hotels or B&Bs. Maybe some of the girls secretly hope to catch a glimpse of Jacob and Edward, the way I used to ache to see Santa Claus on Christmas or naively hope to run into Mark Hamill on the streets of Hollywood when I was twelve and vacationing in Los Angeles with my parents. The lady at the Chamber of Commerce told us that not everyone is happy with the sudden popularity of the town, but I’m sure in a few years after all the movies have come and gone from the big screen, Forks will get its town back and everything will get back to normal…whatever that is.
After the excitement of celebrity—cardboard and imagined—we drove twenty minutes outside town to a trailhead along the Bogachiel River and hiked for a couple of hours in the magnificent pacific northwest rainforest. It’s like stepping into a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, with witches (ok, vampires), red-capped mushrooms, strange insects like banana slugs the size of sausages and the color of coal, berries that look edible but could be poisonous. Eating from a place like this seems insane. Everything in this forest looked fatally seductive. The only thing missing was Victoria running at lightspeed through the woods, chased by a pack of grizzly bear-sized wolves, to the soundtrack of Radiohead.
One of my favorite stories from the trip was something I learned when visiting the Elwah River Park. I learned that due to a resolution passed in the 1990s requiring the restoration of certain watersheds, the Elwah dam will be demolished at the end of the year, allowing for the reparation of a watershed that hasn’t had salmon in 100 years due to the dam being built without proper fish channels. The US Dept of Fish and Wildlife will then bring in salmon fry and “seed” the river with salmon, so that once again, hopefully, the ecology of the river will contain the native fish that so many generations of indigenous people and native animals relied on for food. When I read about this and saw the river, I cried. I mean, this, to me, is progress. This is people waking up. This is people acknowledging that ecology cannot always be in service to the economy. That sometimes we need to fix that which we have broken, restore that which we have pillaged for our own benefit. Animals, plants and most of all, indigenous people, have a right to the pursuit of happiness as much as everyone else.
I would like to have had something to say about Port Angeles, but we spent most of our time outside—hiking, looking at waterfalls, smelling lavender, picking strawberries, roasting marshmellows over a campfire, fishing— and we didn’t have much time to see the town. I’m sure it’s quaint and friendly, at least that’s the impression I got from driving through.
Our whirlwind trip had a little for everyone: pop movie culture for my daughter, nature and hiking for me, and some of both for my sister. I want to go back someday and stay longer, explore more, immerse myself in the environment there. No matter how long I stay next time, I’ll just have to keep movin, because if I sit too still for too long in the Olympic Peninsula, I’m bound to grow moss.