Forks, “The Lumber Capitol of the World,” is the kind of place where you might spot a cyclist pedalling down the street with a chainsaw balanced on his handlebars; where the waitress's pastel-blue eyeshadow matches the booths at the diner, and where gruff hunters, loggers and workers from nearby penitentiaries debate the quality of salmon stocks. For years, visitors beyond the outdoorsy type were scarce – until Stephenie Meyer rolled into town.
Inspired by the western Olympic Peninsula's title as the rainiest place in the continental United States, Meyer chose the towns of Forks, La Push and Port Angeles as settings for her bestselling Twilight books about Bella Swan, a clumsy 17-year-old girl caught in a dangerous love triangle with Edward Cullen, a vampire, and Jacob Black, a werewolf.
Meyer visited Forks for a book signing in 2006, and dedicated fans from all four corners of North America, Europe and as far away as Australia and Japan have headed for this remote, one-stoplight town. As of August, the Forks Chamber of Commerce reported nearly six times more visitors in 2009 than during all of 2008.
And the storm may have only just begun. With Edward and Bella Barbie dolls hitting the shelves, a documentary DVD, Twilight in Forks, released earlier this month and the next Twilight movie arriving next month, the rainy region may be in the spotlight for a while yet – as long as the bad weather keeps up.
Not bad for a town of just over 3,000 people, where the main attractions – aside from the stunning coastal Douglas fir, hemlock, spruce and red cedar forests – are the Forks Police Department, the high school, the hospital and a few homes resembling the descriptions of where the main characters live in the book.
As far back as last spring, the Miller Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast, a white three-storey Victorian home dubbed the Cullen House because of its similarities to the one in Meyer's book, has been fully booked for The Twilight Saga: New Moon movie premiere weekend of Nov. 20. “These are families with kids who are excited about books; it's a pretty nice kind of tourism to have,” says Susan Brager, who owns the B&B with her husband, Bill. “What town wouldn't want that?”
Of course, Twilighters, or Twihards as some call them, are not your average tourists.
Take, for example, the five women who partnered with local organizations to create a non-profit, tax-deductible charity, Twilighters for Forks, to save the “famous” historic Forks High School, where Bella and Edward first meet. Although the $3,500 (U.S.) raised so far probably won't spare the school from demolition, their efforts are far more impressive than those of other diehard fans.
The Forks Police Department has apparently noticed a dangerous trend among certain Twihard drivers: They have been racing into town in hopes of getting a ticket with the local insignia, perhaps crossing their fingers the town's real-life version of Charlie Swan, Bella Swan's dad and chief of police, will catch them himself.
That's just a sip of the Twilight Kool-Aid, says my guide, Rianilee Belles, one drizzly Wednesday morning. “Some even take their ticket to court to have an excuse to come back to Forks,” she says.
But Belles can empathize with the obsession. Coaxed by Meyer's description of Forks's lush scenery, she moved with her husband, Travis, and their two kids from Las Vegas in May of last year. Today, the Belles both work at Dazzled by Twilight – a fan emporium created by another displaced Twilighter from Vancouver, Wash. – where they research and create the Twilight tours Travis narrates for guests up to four times a day. “We read Stephenie's blog and all the websites daily to make sure we're on top of everything,” Rianilee says.
The Belles take credit for tracking down the home they believe inspired Meyer's description of Jacob Black's house in La Push, the nearby Quileute reservation home to mythical werewolves. The home is accessible only to people on Dazzled by Twilight tours and as of last weekend, fans will get to visit Jacob's room, which Rianilee and Travis painstakingly decorated to match its description in Meyer's books and the recently released New Moon: Official Illustrated Movie Companion book.
“People think we're crazy,” she says, acknowledging her encyclopedic knowledge of Twilight trivia. “But, hey, when you go to Disneyland, you expect a certain something. Well, this is [our] Disneyland.”