WASHINGTON – The last time I visited Forks, Wash., there was a sanddwich board on the street announcing a blood drive at the high school.
Only those who’ve read the Twilight books will know why that made me laugh out loud.
For those who haven’t (and I don’t blame you), Forks is the little town that hosts a bunch of vampires in the series. We first meet them at the high school, but I don’t know what happens after that because I didn’t make it past the first book or to the movies.
The first time I visited Forks, Wash., it was a quiet little logging town that got lots of rain and didn’t seem to have changed in years and years.
On my second visit, the only thing that changed was the addition of “Bella-shops-here” and “Edward-didn’t-sleep-here” signs.
I recommend a trip to Forks, not because of its literary significance, but because of its location: on the western interior of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
From Forks, you can drive two hours in any direction and find rain forests with waterfalls, quiet lakes surrounded by thick forests, mountain ridges topped by snow, wild coastline dotted with sea stacks, and other natural wonders only minimally altered by man.
Much of the peninsula, in fact, is part of Olympic National Park and called the Olympic Wilderness. And for good reason.
Development has been blessedly limited in the vast space. Charming towns from the Norwegian-themed Poulsbo to the Victorian-era Port Townsend are on the east north sides of the peninsula, and worth a visit.
From Port Angeles, you can ferry to Canada’s Victoria on Vancouver Island, or drive to Hurricane Ridge for a view of vast ridges of snow-capped mountains.
In Sequim (pronounced skwim), you can see lavender fields or walk a miles-long sand spit from the glorious Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge.
But the farther west and deeper inland you venture, the wilder and lonelier the peninsula becomes.
There is quiet Lake Crescent, there are beaches with fallen logs fresh from the forests that abut the coastline. Eagles soar overhead. Ferns grow thick in the rain forests, falls cascade between towering old-growth trees.
When you’re on the peninsula, you can choose between hiking to waterfalls or sleeping in haunted mansions, from learning the Quileute word for fish when dining in a restaurant on the reservation, to watching the tide dramatically envelope the log-lined beaches. Or you can do it all.
It’s vast. It’s wild. It’s well worth exploring.