FORKS - The front door to the Chamber of Commerce burst open and a young girl in a red shirt stepped out and hollered to her mom.
“Get the camera. Get the camera. It’s Edward.”
Unfortunately for her it wasn’t the real Edward, the vampire heartthrob played by Robert Pattinson in the teenage “Twilight” romance movies. It was just an Edward look-a-like visiting Forks to explore the area novelist Stephenie Meyer uses as the backdrop for her stories. Incidents like this happen all the time these days, says Deanna DeMatteis of the chamber.
“Before ‘Twilight’ our biggest draw was the outdoors,” said DeMatteis, who has lived in Forks for 32 years. “... But we had this beautiful area and nobody came here.”
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In 2004, the year before “Twilight” was published, the chamber recorded 5,195 visitors. Last year, that number climbed to 69,975.
DeMatteis, whose position was created to accommodate increased traffic, says that number is expected to increase even more this year following Wednesday’s release of the third “Twilight” movie, “Eclipse.”
However, she says, most of these visitors are more interested in posing for pictures in front of the hospital, high school and other landmarks from the books (the movies weren’t filmed here) rather than exploring the outdoors.
“But we find ways to sneak the outdoors in there,” said DeMatteis pointing to the Forks Twilight Map (available at forkswa.com) that includes a self-guided tour, 133 trivia questions and five suggestions for outdoor day trips that have nothing to do with vampires or werewolves.
After all, when the vampire love inevitably fades there will still be trails to hike, waves to surf, fish to catch and plenty of other reasons to visit Forks.
COMB THE BEACHES
Perhaps the most popular outdoor activity in the area is exploring the beaches around La Push.
Rialto Beach on the north side of the Quillayute River and First Beach to the south are easily reached by car. Short hikes can get you to Second and Third beaches.
“Second Beach is my favorite because you hike through this thick forest for less than a mile and then you come to this beautiful beach,” DeMatteis said.
Hole in the Wall – a natural hole formed in a rock wall – is a 2-mile beach hike from Rialto Beach.
Check the tide tables before attempting any of the beach hikes.
SURF FIRST BEACH
La Push’s First Beach is a good place to catch a wave for surfers of all skill levels, said Darren Greeno, who owns West End Surf and Skate with his wife, Leah Hornaday.
“The beach faces the southwest at a good angle, so it gets a lot of swells,” Greeno said. “It’s the reason we are so popular.”
Greeno’s shop rents wetsuits – a must for the frigid ocean water – for $15 per day and boards for $20 per day.
The shop does not offer lessons but refers visitors to local surfers who usually charge about $30 for the first hour. For more information visit westendsurf.com.
FLOAT THE RIVERS
Forks gets its name from the nearby forks in the Bogachiel, Calawah, Sol Duc and Quillayute rivers, so there are plenty of opportunities to float your boat.
“You can see rainforest you wouldn’t be able to see without doing a major hike,” said Christian Matsche of Rain Forest Paddlers. “We see bald eagles and seals and sometimes bears that cross the river in front of us. It’s a great family thing to do.”
Matsche says half-day river floats are $59 in the morning and $69 in the afternoon.
For those looking for something a little more challenging, Matsche offers whitewater kayak trips on the Hoh River for $44. He has hard-shell kayaks for skilled paddlers or inflatable kayaks for those with less experience.
For more information visit rainforestpaddlers.com.
Saying the fishing is good in Forks is an understatement, said Bob Gooding of Olympic Sporting Goods. The area rivers are famous for their steelhead, but anglers can also encounter chinook and coho salmon.
“There are 1,000,002 places to go fishing,” Gooding said. “Wow, we have great river fishing and the ocean is right here.”
You just need to know which of the many fishing holes to visit and which day to go.
“The weather is the determining factor because it rains so much,” Gooding said. “... You have to be careful in the summer because the rivers are lower and clearer.”
Gooding says it’s not uncommon for visitors from out of town to stop by his shop to get the scoop on where to fish.
“I can usually point them in the right direction,” Gooding said.
For more information call Olympic Sporting Goods at 360-374-6330.
HIKE THE HOH
Olympic National Park ranger Lucia Napolitano likes to tell people the Hoh Rain Forest is like no other forest in the Northwest.
“There is life growing on every surface,” Napolitano said.
There are several hikes in the area perfect for exploring the forest, Napolitano said.
The Hoh River Trail is 18 miles each way and serves as the approach for climbers scaling Mount Olympus. There are several good spots along the river to turn around for those looking for a more reasonable day hike.
There is a $15-per-vehicle fee to enter the park. Campsites are available for $12 per night on a first come, first served basis.
For more information call the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center at 360-374-6925.
RIDE THE ROADS
U.S. 101 through Forks is one of Washington’s classic cycling routes. Slowing down to pedal speed gives you even more time to soak in the beauty of the forest and the ocean depending on how far your legs will take you.
According to the Washington Bicycle Map published by the Washington Department of Transportation, U.S. 101 between Forks and Beaver receives less than 10,000 motorists per day while south of Forks gets less than 5,000.
State Route 110 to La Push also receives less than 5,000 motorists per day, but cyclists should be aware that the road’s shoulder is less than two feet in most areas.
RIDE MOUNT MULLER
One of the region’s most scenic – and challenging – mountain bike trails is located about 20 miles west of Forks.
From Forest Service Road 3071 the trail climbs about 2,700 feet in a little more than five miles before a longer descent on the 12.8-mile loop.
On nice days the views include Mount Olympus, Lake Crescent and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The trail also is open to hikers and horses, but some sections have a grade as steep as 20 percent. The Olympic National Forest website warns “horses and bikers should be in good condition.”
A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at the trailhead. For more information visit www.fs.fed.us/r6/olympic.
MAKE THE LOOP
The trip to Forks should be part of the adventure. While it’s faster to get to Forks via Port Angeles from Tacoma and via Aberdeen from Olympia, a visit is a good excuse for making the entire U.S. 101 loop around the Olympic Peninsula.
During the drive take time to stop at places such as Ruby Beach and Crescent Lake.
Crescent Lake is a deep lake halfway between Forks and Port Angeles that some people believe is haunted. Legend has it that 70 years ago two fishermen found the body of a woman. When they pulled her into the boat they realized the corpse had turned to soap.
And you thought a love triangle between a vampire, a werewolf and a high school girl was weird.
Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 firstname.lastname@example.org