Sunday, December 06, 2009

Jean Mendoza's visit to La Push and Forks

My friend, Jean Mendoza, was up in La Push and Forks recently. She sent me some notes and photographs of her visit. I am featuring them today...

The Cullen kids would have had to call in sick to school on both days we spent in and around Forks, Washington. Beautiful bright sunshine…. First Beach, Ruby Beach, and Kalaloch (say “clay-lock”) sparkled, and Edward’s shimmeriness would be as nothing compared to that of the waves crashing on the beach at midmorning.Jacob’s wolfen crew would have had to contend with a salmon derby in LaPush: fisherman from all over crowding the tiny reservation town that sits at the mouth of the Quillayute River.

Vampire and werewolf alike would seek in vain for forested shelter along the road between Forks and LaPush. The forest has been clearcut and mile after mile is nothing but graying, decaying stumps and snags of cedar and pine sticking up among ragged-looking green scrub that grows about 3 feet high. Hills in the distance do have some tree cover, some of it 2nd or 3rd growth forest. Once in awhile, passing a clearcut one can spot a bit of Dadaist endeavor: a boulder that must weigh 300 pounds, balanced atop a 4-foot-high flat cedar stump. Sometimes there’s a smaller rock (150-200 pounds, maybe) perched on the larger boulder. This is clearly the work of humans, but why?

Impressions of Forks:
  • Ubiquitous movie posters in windows of businesses including a Chinese restaurant. Bella! Edward! Jacob, not so much.
  • Life-size cutouts of the actors who play Bella and Edward, positioned in the 2nd-floor windows of a popular off-the-main-drag Twilight-themed shop
  • At least five different businesses with “Twilight” in the name, including a karaoke bar
  • Various forms of “Welcome Twilight fans” on signs and in windows of businesses that don’t actually sell Twilight stuff
  • Motels that mention Twilight on their signs
  • Twilight paper napkins, shot glasses, coffee mugs sold in virtually every shop
  • Advertisements for a Forks-based tour business which for a price will take you to places in town that might have been (but were not actually) the bases for various sites in the books
  • A Timber Museum featuring some artifacts of the timber industry, lifeblood of Forks for more than a century. The museum seems neglected, especially the monument to those who lost their lives in work-related accidents, with its faded decade-by-decade roster of the dead inside an outdoor plexiglass case. I would have thought that the monument at least would be cared for still.
  • The bearded, early-forties middle school librarian, owner of a 1916 Craftsman style home in Forks that is now known as “Bella’s house” (because an entrepreneur decided that it outshone all others in looking like the home described in the books), who tells me that
    • Twilight has been a real boost for the town’s motels and restaurants – usually they experience up-down cycles based on lumber, hunting, fishing, and general OP tourism but Twilight tourism is steady year-round
    • When he read the first book, he was not overly impressed but thought, “Well, it’s okay, but I’ll have to buy it for the school because it’s set in Forks”
    • The books seem to be just as popular locally as nationally
    • The Twilight tourist explosion started even before the movie was made and has increased with perhaps a different flavor after the movie.

Impressions of LaPush (from 2008 and 2009)
  • A small reservation town (population in the low-to-mid hundreds) right on the water, with a lot of blue buildings and a few small houses
  • Very small harbor
  • Resort (multiple oceanfront cabins, a motel, a restaurant) providing the tribe with some income
  • Resort employee who assures me monosyllabically that I will not see whales in late September if we stay there in late September
  • Bald eagle soaring over water between LaPush and James Island; gulls and a few Canada geese
  • Quileute waitress, a very nice and earnest young woman, in the restaurant who tells us that LaPush is a corruption of the French “la bouche” which refers to “the mouth” of the Quillayate River; invites us to come to the tribe’s annual celebration
  • Pretty good salmon dinner in the tribally-owned restaurant
  • Site of an annual salmon derby which has apparently filled the motel for the 2009 weekend we hoped to stay there
  • A LaPush based tour business that will take you on a boat ride to see “Bella’s cliff” and other sites for a mere $250
  • “Jacob’s Java” coffee stand run by two tribal members – new for 2009
  • A newspaper “The Talking Raven” being revived after a hiatus by a young journalist
  • Not nearly as interesting to Twilight fans as Forks is
  • Straightforward tribal Web site includes downloadable tsunami evacuation instructions

Jean passed along a few photographs, too. The motels advertise "Twilight Rooms" and signs say "Home of Twilight" and the like...  Check out the one below from the pharmacy...  First aid for Bella? She needs more than first aid, in my opinion....

I like this one:

This one is interesting....  8.5 vampires---is the .5 the baby Bella carries?!

I can imagine fans loving this one... see Bella in the window?

Thanks, Jean, for all of those photographs of what one of the signs called "The Twilight Zone." I'm ending this particular post with one of Jean's photographs...  One that I like. I'd love to visit La Push someday.

If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the right side of this page. Scroll up or down till you see the section labeled TWILIGHT SAGA. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.


Jean Mendoza said...

I should clarify my observations a little -- lovely forest still stands on the Olympic Peninsula. Just not so much next to the road between Forks & LaPush. You can get to some beautiful camping areas south of LaPush, and the mouth of the river has seals, river otters, eagles, and other interesting wildlife.

The area has so many more reasons to visit it than are apparent in Twilight. Olympic National Park is amazing. It's hard to avoid all the vampire/werewolf stuff in Forks, but we stayed in a comfortable place slightly out of town that did not promote it so much. Our experience was that LaPush wasn't as saturated with it as Forks. Port Angeles, which Deb mentions, has some of the Twilight stuff but not nearly as intense. Its overall economy seems to be not so vulnerable as a much smaller town like Forks.

Also -- visiting the supermarket in Forks (where Bella is supposed to have worked), we saw a large number of Spanish-speaking folks shopping there. I don't recall any mention of a Spanish-speaking population in the books (though I only got through 1 1/2 of them, and avoided the movies, so that could be wrong). Is that impression correct?

Shayana said...

Just a correction: Bella never worked at a supermarket. She worked at a sporting good store. Meyer mentions Bella shopping at the supermarket just once in Twilight.

Jean Mendoza said...

Hmm. My source (print promo material gathered in Forks; maybe not so reliable) said that Bella worked at Forks Outfitters which in real life is a "one-stop-shopping" place (, featuring a Thriftway, a big sporting goods department, an Ace, etc. They're all kind of connected, as their Web site suggests. And our receipt said "Forks Outfitters" even though we only shopped in the Thriftway part.

Guess I should have gone to the primary source to make sure I had the right location for "Bella's" gainful employment, though it feels odd to think of the Twilight books as a primary source :-)

Oh, while looking up Forks OUtfitters justnow, an interesting t-shirt design showed up -- a local artist and timber industry proponent is making t-shirts that depict a very muscular (somewhat stereotypical) "lumberjack" locked in combat with a vampire (and winning).

Rosanne Parry said...

If you are in that neighborhood, head north to the Makah reservation at Neah Bay. They have a world class museum and cultural research center. It's a great source of information on the Makah specifically and the cultural groups of the Pacific Northwest to which they, and the Quilieute, belong.

South of La Push, the Quinault reservation at Taholah has a more extensive fishery and forestry program. The finest salmon in the region is the blueback taken from the Quinault river. You can get it directly from the Quinault Tribal Enterprises Fish House and also order it on line.

All three of these tribes (Quilieute, Quinault, and Makah) have been more economically stable than many Indian nations. The Quilieute may not be exploiting the Twilight connection because they don't need to. What ever their reasons, it's a beautiful area and well worth a visit.

Karen Gorss said...

@Jean Mendoza: The only person who ever speaks Spanish in the books is a vampire from Alaska named Carmen, who says about three words in what I think is Spanish.