Travel — Dark Destinations: Vamping It Up in Forks, Wash.

October 14, 2009
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Bella's 1953 Chevy pick-up.

Bella's 1953 Chevy pick-up.

Finally, the West Coast has an answer to Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” and, most recently, “The Lost Symbol.” Like fans of those two mega-selling page-turners, readers of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire romance series “Twilight” can tramp around the tiny town of Forks, Wash. (pop. 3,120), and retrace the lives of the books’ beloved characters. Here they measure time in “B.T.” (“Before ‘Twilight’”) and “A.T.” (“After ‘Twillight’”).

What is most refreshing about the Forks experience is that instead of trying to decipher esoteric symbols, codes and clues inside of museums, churches and government buildings in Paris or Washington D.C., you can simply relish and rejoice in the places where Bella, Edward and their friends hung out – on the edges of the Olympic Forest of northwest Washington. Having your picture taken next to Charlie Swan’s police cruiser or in front of Forks High School (the Home of the Spartans) is the perfect antidote to all the sophisticated symbology favored by lovers of Dan Brown’s novels

How else can you explain two slightly awkward adolescent girls, on the two days I was in this two-stoplight town, taking pictures of the Forks’ Thriftway where Bella did her grocery shopping or another pic in front of Forks Outfitters where Bella worked alongside Mike Newton. The La Verne equivalent would be having your picture taken in front of Orchard Supply on Foothill and posting it on Facebook.

But like all the other Twilighters and Twi-Hards in town, I decided to join in all the Twilight mania. It was time for me to come out of my coffin, as it were, and join in the all the Twilight fun. So what if the town is being overrun by hyperventilating teenage girl groupies and 40-something moms looking for the beautiful and mysterious Edward. Up until Meyer published Twilight, Forks was best known as another dying logging town with two nearby correctional facilities. 

Inside an hour, you can visit Forks High School, where Bella first meets the Cullens; Forks Hospital, where Dr. Carlisle Cullen worked in the emergency room; Bella’s home, a handsome little Craftsman cottage; Bella’s red truck parked in front of the visitor information center; and Edward’s home, a wonderful B&B (Miller Tree Bed and Breakfast that gets rave TripAdvisor reviews – the couple I spoke to on the grounds also adored the inn).

First Beach in La Push

First Beach in La Push

From Forks, it’s a short drive to the coast and La Push (some think the name is a corruption of the French “la bouche” – for mouth of river), where Bella first learns the story of the Cold Ones (vampires). There are several rain forest trails leading to beaches full of driftwood, tide pools and sea stacks (steep vertical columns of rock in the sea from when part of the headland is eroded by crashing waves).

About an hour away on the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca is Port Angeles, also considered the gateway to Olympic National Park, which is how I ended up in Forks in the first place. While I had heard of the “Twilight” phenomenon and the books that followed (“New Moon,” “Eclipse” and “Breaking Dawn”), I was there strictly to explore the primeval and primordial firs, cedars, hemlocks and spruces of Olympic National Park and its wonderful historic lodges at Lake Crescent, Sol Duc, Kalaloch and Lake Quinault (President Franklin Roosevelt had stayed at Lake Quinault before signing legislation that created Olympic National Park in 1938).

But for me the very definition of a vacation is seeing and learning about new things, so if the world had suddenly gone Lady Gaga about another vampire saga in the midst of the lakes, waterfalls, ferns and nurse logs I was intent on exploring, I would be a willing participant. So in addition to getting my hiking and wilderness information from park headquarters in Port Angeles, I also picked up a copy of Twilight (good for reading on the ferry to Victoria, B.C.) at Port Book and News and dined at Bella Italia, enjoying the same mushroom ravioli and Coke that Bella had on her first date with Edward after he had rescued her from local thugs in a Port Angeles alleyway.

Write, and they will come -- even to Forks!

Write, and they will come -- even to the remote town of Forks!

Summing up, visiting Forks, La Push and Port Angeles is a great way to have both a literary  — these four books make up four of the 17 best sellers on the current New York Times list — and wilderness experience in one vacation. After a week of being in the grasp of this sun-phobic area, I truly believe that trees, rocks, everyday supermarket signs and stories of “first love” can teach us as much about life as Dan Brown’s hero, Robert Langdon.


Google to the rescue: In 2003 when author Stephenie Meyer was searching for a murky, misty setting to cast her tale, the Mormon mother of three who lives in Cave Creek, Ariz., was directed to the Olympic Peninsula. Her search for “something small, out of the way, surrounded by forest,” where vampires could feel right at home during the day, was fulfilled.

Forks is about three and a half hours by car from Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle.

Places to Stay:

Dew Drop Inn Motel (100 Fern Hill Road, Forks, Wash.; 360-374-4055;

Pacific Inn Motel (352 South Forks Avenue, Forks, Wash.; 800-235-7344;

Forks Motel (P.O. Box 510, Forks, Wash. 98331; 800-544-3416)

Miller Inn Bed and Breakfast (654 E. Division Street, Forks, Wash.; 360-374-6806, 800-943-6563;

Kalaloch Lodge (Olympic National Park, 157151 Highway 101, Kalaloch, Wash.; 866-525-2562;

Lake Crescent Lodge (Olympic National Park 18 miles west of Port Angeles; 360-928-3211)

Lake Quinault Lodge (Olympic National Park; 800-562-6672 or 360-288-2900).


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