For Forks, ‘Twilight’ a Temporary Boom

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FORKS AND LA PUSH, WASHINGTON — Lovers of the “Twilight” series of books and subsequent movies will recognize that dateline. Author Stephanie Meyers set her highly popular teen vampire/werewolf series in the town of Forks and along the Pacific Coast beach near La Push. We’re here on a side trip at Abbie’s request. Our 13-year-old daughter is a huge fan of the series. I can survive just fine without watching a vampire movie or reading a similarly themed novel, but that’s just me. We all have our passions.

We wind our way through the Olympic National Park, past the stunningly clear Crescent Lake, through the forest of massive Douglas firs for about two hours, from our cottage on Discovery Bay near Port Townsend. A handcrafted wooden sign welcomes us to Forks, the raised carving showing inside a circle a logging truck, tree, mountains, and a fish swimming in the nearby Pacific. No vampires on the sign though there is a symbol of one on the outhouse downtown.

Forks is a town of about 3,500 folks who mainly work in logging. It’s home to a large number of Native Americans and mobile homes, has an unemployment rate of about 12 percent and, to be frank, is one of the least picturesque places we visited in Washington. A sad little town, is what I kept thinking as we drove around snapping photos at Forks High School, where Bella met Edward, or the Cullen family home (which in real life is a charming bed-and-breakfast), and the modest but neatly kept home where Bella lives. Edward turns out to be a vampire with a James Dean hairdo, though one with benign intentions — for a bloodsucker. (My wife and I did see “Twilight,” the first movie, with Abbie.)

The “Twilight” boom seems to be piddling out in Forks, though plenty of Twilight merchandise is on sale, and signs abound. “Dazzled by Twilight” had several customers when we visited on a weekday morning, but not much merchandise was moving in the shopworn store. The guided tours have been discontinued. It looks as if the Twilight movies have done about all they will do for this rain-soaked town, which gets more than 70-plus inches annually. Please God, send some of that to Texas. Just saying.

Down the road to the southwest about 15 miles from Forks is La Push, home to the Quileute tribe and First Beach, where Bella meets up with Jacob Black, a childhood friend. From him she learns the history of the Cullen family. Long story short, Edward is a member of the “cold ones,” aka a vampire. In a following book, Jacob finds out he is actually a werewolf. Man, I hate when that happens. Talk about bad-hair days.

First Beach is located down the road from Second Beach, both hanging off the Pacific edge of Washington. The sand is gray and gritty, the beach ringed with trees and branches too large to be classified as mere driftwood. The forest comes right up to the edge of the beach, where the dead trees have piled up. Large rock islands jut out of the ocean a few hundred yards offshore. On this day, the sky is cloudless, the weather a San Diego-like 70 degrees. But it is easy to imagine this beach as an autumn storm sweeps in, wind howling, werewolves and vampires doing battle — the modern movie version, with impossibly great looks but in need of orthodontic care. It is just as easy to imagine Edward and Bella living in Forks under leaden skies and a forest canopy, not much to do except take an occasional bite out of a luscious neck.

One sticking point: the films — three so far — were not filmed in Forks, or First Beach for that matter. According to the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com), Oregon and British Columbia provided the bulk of the locations. That is not unusual. Think of all the Texas cowboy movies filmed in Arizona, for example. The difference, which I find fascinating, is that the good folks of Forks actually designated sites throughout the town as places where the characters lived, so that tourists could visit — and not one scene of the movie was filmed there.

It’s not a secret. Anyone with Internet access can quickly find that out. An enterprising chamber-of-commerce fellow enlisted fellow townspeople to scout locations where the movies could have been shot. Signs were posted. So we have joined thousands before us, wandering around Forks snapping photos of homes, the high school, hospital, police station, etc., places that weren’t actually used in the movie — but serve as stand-ins for those making the pilgrimage.

To her credit, Stephanie Meyers came to Forks a few years after her first novel and returned for a day in her honor last year. Daughter Abbie says the book accurately describes the town and area. You can’t blame the good folks of Forks for trying to cash in on their town’s unexpected fame in a vampire series. Right now, I might even welcome a vampire, as long as he brought some rain along.

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