I’ve just finished the Twilight series for the second time in two weeks (there will be a fourth and final book coming out in August that I am very eagerly awaiting) and as I tend to not just read but instead obsess over things, I decided to create a Twilight playlist, listen to nothing else for two weeks, check out every message board, fan site and photo gallery associated with the novels and their forthcoming movie, and plan a pilgrimage to the sites mentioned in Twilight. Namely Forks, La Push and
I was supposed to spend this week on the set of Twilight which is being filmed around Portland, OR, but the person I was supposed to be shadowing quit her job last week (quit Twilight! I know! Craziness!) and kind of left me stranded. So I'm definitely disappointed about that, I'm still hoping to contact someone on the set to see if I can reschedule (let me know if anyone has any links!) but I'm trying to make the best of it. Before that disappointment surfaced though, I wanted to check out the real towns of the Twilight series so I could compare the book to the real locations, and compare those to the film representations. So I packed up for a couple of days and took off for the Olympic peninsula of Washington.
Heading off of the I-5, I meandered through seaside towns, withered logging villages and vast expanses of the Olympic National Forest until I arrived in the little town of
La Push is the reservation where Jacob Black lives; friend of Bella Swan and werewolf of the Quileute tribe. I turned onto La Push road and encountered a whole lot of nothing for about 14 miles. It was a pretty, wooded road with pines arching over the pavement, but there were no signs of human life until the actual town of
Although different than I imagined it- as actual places always are from your imagination, after a few minutes it was easy to visualize Jacob walking out of one of the small houses down to his garage, or to picture Bella on
After taking a dozen or so pictures of various aspects of La Push, I returned to Forks, stopping first in the tourism office as I figured that they would know about the Twilight books and be able to give me some idea about how they have reacted to their town being the epicenter of a battle between mythical races and a new pilgrimage location for avid fans. I pulled into the parking lot and a huge sign covering the majority of the main window proclaimed, “We (heart) Bella and Edward.”
I took this as a good sign.
There was a couple already talking to the gentleman who was attending the center, so I wandered around the one room looking at fliers and the small collection of knick knacks that Forks had to offer. It was mostly information about logging, the National Forest and fish hatcheries, but there were two racks of handmade jewelry called ‘love bites’ that consisted of everything from necklaces to key chains that all contained hearts and two red rhinestones somewhere on the heart signifying a vampire bite. There was also a sign on the wall proclaiming “Forks is ready for Twilight!” and another one stating “Vampires thrive in Forks.” I couldn’t help but chuckle. The gentleman was free at this point and I told him about my interest in the novels and the effect that they have had on the town. His eyes glimmered at my first mention of the books and he raised his arms above his head as I finished my sentence, clearly impatient to tell me all about Forks and Twilight. He handed me a packet of Twilight Sites in Forks (which consisted of the outdoor store, the drug store, the high school, and the police department), and a binder called The Twilight Lexicon that one of his coworkers had put together. It was filled with all of the local articles published about Twilight since the books’ release and information on the upcoming film. There were pictures of the main actors, interviews with the author and the local librarian, and letters that had been sent to Bella Swan, Edward Cullen, or Bella Cullen care of the
So much so, that on September 13, 2007 (Bella's birthday) the town celebrated Stephenie Meyer day, celebrating the author who brought attention to their two stop-light town. Fans of Edward and Bella flocked to Forks and received a ‘hunting permit’ describing the Twilight sites, and a list of local businesses that were participating. The town’s police chief acted as Charlie Swan for the day and handed out PB & J sandwiches, the pharmacy handed out cloves of garlic, the Thriftway handed out plastic vampire teeth and sold black hats with ‘Vampires thrive in Forks’ embossed on them, and the convenience store printed black shirts with the words “My last Twilight. I was bitten in Forks, WA” in silver ink. Of course I bought a t-shirt, and I even contemplated heading to Sully’s Burger House for a Bella Burger or to the Subway and getting a Bella Special. Some members of the community seemed a bit miffed about the extra attention and the influx of out-of-towners taking pictures of the high school or the beach in La Push, but most were enthusiastic and pleased that their town had a special place in the hearts of Twilight’s fans.
It was certainly not a town that I would have gone out of my way to see, and it didn’t have any attractions to lure people into it but that was more endearing than anything else to me. It was nice to see the town just as it was; just as Bella and Edward experienced it. I’ve seen some screen shots from the film and now know that they are going for a cleaner, brighter, almost New-England looking town, although it was filmed in Oregon; the school in the film is a big, classic brick building as opposed to the dated and very small high school in Forks, and the houses for the film are quaint, comforting homes and not missing a chimney, they don’t have a Big Wheel in the front yard and the majority of the buildings are probably permanent in the film and not mobile homes.
I’m glad to have seen the original Forks, however, because I think it gives a more complete feel of the alienation that Bella must have felt upon arriving. This whole town was just a smidge bigger than my high school was. I couldn’t imagine coming from a diverse and cultured city like
So after visiting the high school, the park, the police station, the medical center, the outfitters, grocery store and driving down all of the side streets (about three deep on either side of the main road), I figured I’d drive the 53 miles to Port Angeles and find a motel there for the night instead of Forks. Not that Forks didn’t have a plentiful supply to choose from- the Forks Inn, Dew Drop Motel and about a dozen others, but I wanted to attempt to have dinner in the Italian restaurant that Edward took Bella to in
The drive from Forks to
The Port part of the name is definitely the prominent feature of the town. It was filled with motels, quick-bite restaurants and a developed
There are two main streets: first and third (both one way, so you go up one and down the other). And the town is probably a mile or two in length with the actual downtown area being about three square blocks. This part of town was very pleasant. Classic architecture, unique shops, a wine store, nice cafes, and a few restaurants that were definitely a step up from Tom’s Roadhouse grill or the general McDonald’s. I snapped my pictures of the waterfront and meandered the downtown's few streets. There was a well stocked bookshop with both new and used books, artsy greeting cards and bacon vs. tofu action figures so I had a good time in there. I did find Bella Italia, the restaurant Bella and Edward went to after he saved her from the ruffian attackers of
The towns were fairly close to what I was picturing if not a little more run down than I had expected; and I’m sure the movie will ‘clean them up’ a little bit, but I rather enjoyed seeing the true places. I think their rough exterior made it easier to see the more pleasant aspects of the towns, like the close community, the attention to public spaces, the improved efforts to promote the towns (all three had extensive construction occurring and enthusiastic and well-stocked tourism offices), and the rough aspects only added to my understanding of Bella’s feelings in Forks. I was able to glimpse the starkness, the limitations and the isolation but also see how that could enable her to flourish as herself, and certainly why it made a safe haven for the Cullens.
It’ll be interesting to see how the film shows other aspects of the town, and I’m really curious as to how Stephenie Meyer chose Forks as she’s from
Keep checking in... I hope I can complete some more pilgrimages and experiences in my other works too -New Zealand for the Hobbit? Why not!? Certainly Oxford for His Dark Materials and London and Scotland for Harry Potter... we'll see what happens with on-set exposure too... fingers crossed!