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Opinion

‘Twilight’ confrontation in Forks, Washington

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April 13, 2012

The last two times I’ve been pulled over were in 2009 and 2010, in Forks, Washington. Neither of the officers were named Charlie. I did not receive a ticket, nor have I gotten one in all of my 25 years.

This happened on the same road within the same mile.

The first time I heard of Forks was from an old girlfriend who called herself Ingrid. The way she described Forks I thought she read about it in National Geographic or a travel brochure. Albino vampires and naïve teenagers are not what I had in mind, but my passing through there would prove just as macabre. Ingrid, of course, was referring to the novel “Twilight.”

Snow fell softly on my windshield in the morning of my birthday in 2009. I had only seen snow one other time in summer. I called shenanigans. Flathead National Forest, neighbor to Glacier National Park, surrounded me as I slept the night in my car.

I climbed my first mountain in Glacier the day prior. I would have taken longer to hike, but twin 78-year-old grandmothers started at the same time as me. I couldn’t live down the shame if they passed me to the top so I compensated. As I drove out the forest road had potholes so big it would really make you say “what the____!” The next 14 hours was spent driving 700 miles (14 hours) through Montana and Idaho to Sappho, the town just before Forks.

“I am an eggman,” as the Beastie Boys would say. Like the Irish are to potato famines, I am to eating eggs. My birthday morning consisted of sunny-side up eggs, hash browns, Coca-Cola, toast, clean laundry and a shower costing only $9.

Forks, according to “Twilight,” has the highest rainfall of any town in the U.S. Therefore, it’s cloudy most of the time and so it was on this day. I was too excited at the time to forebode these implications.

Montana is horizon-to-horizon driving. One horizon can consist of a couple of mailboxes accompanied by houses roofed with steel grates. Sagebrush, stunted trees, and cacti scratch the big-sky country as I drive past at 80 mph (speed limit being 75 mph). The mountains are always in the periphery, but as I approached Idaho, the mountains crowded closer together until the freeway fit in the notch between them.

I drove through the bottleneck of Idaho in a couple of hours and passed into the Washington desert. The rain forest I was expecting was rather brown. Turns out the idyllic rain forest trees of Washington are west of the Cascade Mountains.

Darkness was descending once I ferried over the Puget Sound in Seattle. According to my campgrounds directory, Bear Creek Campground in Sappho was free and open. Near complete twilight, I squinted into the darkness looking for a campground sign, anything really.

On a straightaway with huge trees arching over the highway, a round rusty campground sign appeared. I didn’t care if I had to pay at that point. A trailer pulled up into view. Several broken down Volkswagen Beetles had grass growing through and around them like cages.

Many more vehicles were lying around too. An old woman in a dress creaked open the door, she seemed to appear suddenly. I told her my plight. She said she was housesitting. Her face was sunken in, especially the eyes. It was highly exaggerated like a caricature. Let’s just say she would turn an artist into a photographer. Her deep wrinkles made me worry. She said I could park in the field with the beetles and tall grass and figure out payment in the morning.

Driving past the defunct cars, I pitched my tent on a sand pile to the light of my high beams. Thoughts of a black mass crept into my dreams waiting for séances only to open my tent to find I was in the middle of a pentagram.

I woke up with the dew in the grass and the skin still on my back. When I opened the tent, I found much more junk then I could guess. To the south of me was a working phone booth with a rotary dial, in the middle of the woods. Next to it was a gas pump, not working.

The old woman wasn’t forthcoming so I toured the grounds in the meanwhile. The trailer was decorated with all sorts of arty and antique knick-knacks. Most of it was made out of garbage and rust. A large shed three times its size stood behind it. Peeking through the musty teal colored windows, I saw a two-propeller airplane.

Not once did I see any camping spots. A small amphitheater with a wooden platform was surrounded by wooden stumps and a claw-foot bathtub. Even farther back were several RV’s with mattresses spilling out broken down and receding into the swallowing forest. I left a small note, held down by a rock, on the porch thanking the old woman for the hospitality and burned out of there. Several miles later, a cop pulled me over for speeding as I entered Forks.

Christopher Pagels is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.