The Pilgrimage...

Trip Start May 22, 2010
Trip End Jun 28, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Thursday, May 27, 2010

The wind whipped my hair about my face, stabbing at my skin with its icy sharpness. I was finally feeling awake after our early morning to pick up the hire car.

The ferry cut smoothly through the black, still waters of the Puget Sound – the body of water between Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula. Our rental car was safely stored below in the car hold for the half hour trip over the Sound. We were braving the cold and standing on the "Sun Deck" of the ferry.

I had to laugh – Sun Decks, in Washington?

Stephenie Meyer was right. Washington is the cloudiest, rainiest place that I have ever been. And I would have been disappointed had it been any other way. It wasn't raining this morning, but the clouds were low and heavy, just like I had imagined they would be. Perfect vampire weather.

The concierge at the Hilton, where the rental car office was (no, we didn’t stay there, more’s the pity) assured us as he highlighted a map of our route that once we crossed the Sound, and got into the Olympic National Park, that we would notice that it was even wetter than Seattle. This was hard to imagine.

But he was right. As soon as we got back into the car and drove away from the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal, we noticed that the land was even greener and squelchier looking than it had been on the Seattle side. You literally can’t turn your head in this part of the country without seeing a sea of greens – lots of different shades of green.

I started to realise that I was seeing the landscape that had inspired Twilight, and the feelings started. The little twinge in my belly, the heart rate accelerating. The silly grin spreading widely across my face, despite my attempts to hold it in.

The excitement only gained exponential force as we took a turn and a familiar place caught my eye on the sign.

“Port Angeles” it read, with an arrow in the direction we were heading. Once there, we would only be about an hour out of the Holy Land. Forks. La Push.

The town of Port Angeles actually IS a port, and it has that blue collar feel to it, like Newcastle in a way. Ferries travel between here and Canada, and in the hazy distance as we gazed out over the water, we could make out the coastline of Canada.

We stopped for a mid morning snack at another foreign fast food chain – Jack in the Box. After a chicken club on sourdough, with diet Dr Pepper, I concluded that it would go close to being as good as Macca’s. They even gave us the option of regular or curly fries.

We continued on out of Port Angeles, not failing to notice the 'Forks’ sign pointing us in the direction of our destination.

The landscape became even more picturesque. A lake appeared on the right hand side of the road, houses nestled close to the freezing, navy coloured water on the far bank. The trees grew right up to the edge.

We stopped for a quick photo op, but we were anxious to be on our way.

When, at last, the sign we’d been waiting for loomed at us as we turned a bend, Mel and I both broke into hysterical giggles, not even trying to hide our ridiculous grins anymore. The boys just rolled their eyes and resigned themselves to a few hours of having wives who resembled teenaged hysterics.

We waited patiently behind another couple who were taking photos in front of the sign, and Bede offered to take a picture of them together in front of it. As we posed for several shots, another two cars pulled over to the side of the road, and passengers got out to wait patiently like we had.

As we continued on past the town limits and into the main street, Mel and I squealed and pointed at other landmarks we recognised: Forks outfitters (known in Twilight as the Newton’s store) where Bella had a part time job; The Lodge – the only posh restaurant in town, where Charlie took Bella in Eclipse after she graduated.

We parked and leapt out of the car, eager to explore. We were immediately distracted by a shop. Dazzled by Twilight moved in not long after the first film was released, anticipating the influx of Twihards to the town. It was a smart move. As we browsed the shop, filled with Twilight merchandise and Forks souvenirs, several more people came into the store. It was most likely the busiest place in the tiny town.

“Where you guys from?” the guy behind the counter asked. When he heard Australian, he nodded.

“Oh, yeah, we get quite a few ‘Ossies’ in here. You heard of that girl – blonde, she’s a singer and actress... Delta something...”

“Delta Goodrem?” we clarified, and he nodded.

“Yeah, she was in her, oh, about a month ago.”

So even Delta Goodrem has been sucked into the Twilight phenomenon...

...We approached The Lodge, and peered inside. The place was dimly lit, and the decorations were tacky, complete with red and black patterned shagpile carpet. A couple of old men sat drinking beer at one of the small, laminate tables, but otherwise, the place was deserted. We didn’t bother to go in. We’d passed another Dazzled by Twilight store on the way along the main street – this one was to book Twilight tours and where the tour buses left from. We planned on doing the whole thing ourselves, so we passed right on by.

As we posed for photos in front of the Lodge, we noticed that in small print the sign mentioned that the restaurant was owned by Dazzled by Twilight as well! It seemed that these people owned half the town!

Forks High School – Home of the Spartans – was our next stop. The sign used in the movie was an exact replica of the sign at the actual school. The school is very much like Stephenie Meyer’s description, and nothing at all like it is portrayed in the movies. From our viewpoint at the front of the school (we weren’t allowed to go inside, because we might disturb the students, and Shane might have been mistaken for a paedophile) a handful of small, shabby looking buildings, and one brick administration building were visible past the parking lot. I stared out over it and imagined Tyler’s van careening towards a big, rusted out old Chevy truck, a girl with dark brown hair frozen in its path...

Although we weren’t allowed to disturb the students, apparently they were more than welcome to disturb us. We’d arrived right on the end of their lunch time, and we were nearly run over by a few of them returning from wherever they’d gone for lunch.

One girl spotted us posing at the school sign, and yelled out very intelligently “Twilight sucks!” Another screeched “I get mistaken for Bella ALL the time!”

Bede rolled his eyes as he pointed the camera at Mel and I standing in front of the school.

“Really? I don’t know why, ‘cause you’re UGLY!”

I tried not to laugh because Bede was breaking the ‘don’t disturb the students’ rule. But I couldn’t help myself. The girl went red and hurried away with her friends.

We left the school to hunt down the Forks visitor’s centre, where there was a replica of Bella’s truck. The centre was outside the town’s tiny limits. After posing ridiculously in front of the truck, we went inside to find out if we were missing anything in the town.

The lady at the centre was very helpful, passing us a map and highlighting all the ‘Twilight’ landmarks on it, like ‘Bella’s house’, and the ‘Cullen’s place’. Both of which were just local residences that had been paid by the Forks Chamber of Commerce (I was more than a little surprised that the tiny hamlet actually HAD a Chamber of Commerce) to pose as the residences of the main characters.

She did give us some interesting information about the rise in tourism in the area though. Prior to Twilight, the town saw mainly hikers who were planning trips into the nearby Olympic National Park. In 2009, the town saw an influx of 70,000 Twilight tourists. Over 200 still come through every day, she told us. Some people in town were welcoming the new found fame of their village. Others I am sure were not so happy about the invasion of Twihards to their town.

We left a tip with the helpful lady, and got back in the car. Mel and I both agreed that we would draw the line at visiting the Cullen house; “The family’s always out, but Esme leaves a little note on the blackboard at the door if you want to read it”, the woman had told us. The house was right in the town, totally untrue to the book, and the note from Esme almost made us barf. But we decided we’d just take a quick drive through ‘Bella’s house’.

The house was on a narrow street with no gutters. Across the road from it were a field, and the forest. A sign in the pretty little garden out the front read ‘The Swan House’, but I wondered how Charlie would have time to maintain a garden between his police chief duties, fishing and Mariner’s games.

We took a quick photo, left a couple of bucks in the locked box out the front and escaped. The town was beginning to depress us – a little backwater where the sun never shone, with nothing for young people to do whatsoever. No wonder Bella was so miserable when she first arrived in Forks. No wonder Renee left Charlie, and couldn’t understand why Bella wanted to stay there. I’m telling you now, falling head over heels in love with a vampire is about the only way any teenager would WANT to stay in that place.

We made a very brief stop at Forks Hospital to take a picture beside the sign ‘Reserved for Dr Cullen’. Yes, the town was certainly cashing in on the Twilight phenomenon, and we left hurriedly, wondering what might be waiting for us at La Push.

What we found there took us by complete surprise. We drove down the winding road, trees closing in on either side. The trees grew so close together that Mel and I could sympathise with Bella when she was terrified the first time Edward took her for a run. No mere mortal would be able to navigate gracefully through those trees at a walking pace, let alone at any speed.

We wondered idly where the treaty line between Cullen and werewolf territory might be. But of course, the locals had cashed in on that too – it rested beside a small convenience shop, so we stopped and took a photo. The trees closed in once more, and we passed signs and small gravel parking lots. ‘Third Beach’, ‘Second Beach’, each with a trail leading into the thick forest. We knew we were getting closer.

As the trees thinned and we approached the small La Push community, and First Beach, we started to realise why people might want to live around here after all.

The beach was cluttered with bleached white driftwood, piled up on the tide line. The sand was a grey colour, and strewn with pebbles. The waves lapped gently against the shore, and out a little further, islands pierced the slate water, trees pointing straight towards the sky.

At that moment, the clouds parted, and the sun burst down on us – the first sun we’d seen since leaving San Francisco. It was stunningly beautiful, and even the boys, who had been derisive about the whole trip to Forks, were oohing and aahing along with us.

“Bella should have chosen Jacob, and moved to La Push,” Mel murmured to me. But she’s Team Jacob anyway, so I wouldn’t have expected anything less from her. I had to agree though – La Push was a rose to the thorn that was Forks. No wonder Mike Newton had been so excited about making a trip to the beach.

We wandered along First Beach for a while, but soon got restless. We agreed that a hike through the forest to one of the other beaches might be a good idea...

...“One and a half miles from the carpark to Third Beach,” Bede read on the sign. We shrugged. No worries; the trail was pebbled and it was pretty flat and straight.

The forest here was exactly as I had imagined. Moss grew on everything, even on the roots of fallen trees we found by the side of the trail. The only sound was the sighing of the wind through the treetops, and the occasional cracking sound as two branched rubbed together in the breeze.

“Stop, stop!” hissed Shane. We all froze, wondering what was wrong.

“Did you see that?” he whispered, pointing into the forest. We all peered in the direction of his finger, shaking our heads. Nothing looked unusual; just more moss covered trees.

“Oh, don’t worry,” Shane muttered, louder than before. “I thought I saw a bear, but it was just a log.”

We all hooted with laughter, as Shane indignantly explained that from a certain angle the end of the log looked like a bear’s head. Shane was obsessed with the notion of a bear in the forest, so much so that he was having hallucinations.

The trail started sloping downwards, getting steeper and slippery in parts, the further we got from the carpark. Other hikers had laid some broken branches over the worst parts, which otherwise would have devoured our shoes in the sludge.

The trees thinned, and the ocean appeared once more. We clambered down a steep slope, where a fresh water stream flowed into the sea. Shane squatted to take a drink, and I jokingly entitled him Russell Coight, but we hadn’t brought any water with us, and we were all thirsty, so we followed suit.

The beach was secluded and if anything more picturesque than First Beach, although on the same lines – driftwood, pebbles, crazy shapes looming out of the ocean. With one difference. There was a cliff here, and Mel and I decided that this was the site of the cliff diving debacle in New Moon. If I tried really hard, I could imagine a spark of fire out on the horizon...Victoria...

...The clouds covered over the sky once more, although not as dark as they had been earlier, as we left the Olympic Peninsula behind, and headed back along the road to Seattle. We arrived in Port Angeles just on dinner time, heading straight for Bella Italia – the restaurant where Bella and Edward had their first date.

Although it was an early dinner – about quarter to six – the restaurant was already busy. We recognised the couple we’d snapped in front of the Forks sign, sharing a bottle of red, and as the waitress seated us in our booth (requested by me when she tried to give us a table in the middle...) I could hear Twilight related conversations at several other tables.

The decor put me in mind of an Italian restaurant back in MY little home town of Maitland – red carpet, red walls and dark timber tables. The smell of cooking Italian food assaulted my nostrils, and brought to the forefront of my mind that I hadn’t eaten since Jack in the Box, at about ten thirty.

There were no breadsticks on the menu, so we ordered bruschetta, and I ordered the obligatory mushroom ravioli (as if I was going to order anything else). The bruschetta was the best I have ever eaten, complete with fresh parmesan grated on top by the waitress while we watched.

The ravioli was delicious also, and I focussed on spearing it with my fork, and washing it down with my Coke. I was exhausted after a very long day of living my favourite book.

I fell asleep in the car on the way back to the ferry. The others won’t confirm or deny it, but I’m sure I was talking in my sleep. Just like Bella...
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Jackie on

Omg!!! It sounds like you had a awesome day :)

Dad on

Ever the drama queen, snugs.

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