Forks, Washington – more than Twilight

Genie Davis October 19, 2010 No Comments


Long before there was Twilight to make sleepy little Forks, Washington famous, this small town served as a jumping off spot to some beautiful wilderness areas in upper Washington State. We didn’t find any vampires in sight, but our kids loved the Hall of Mosses in the temperate rain forest just south of Forks, the isolated ocean lodges, and learned first hand about the desolation of over harvesting timber.

The area around Forks is roughly 2,000 square miles bordered by oceans, meadows and rain forests, and divided by many beautiful rivers.

Forks Washington Rainforest

One of our many stops to enjoy the forest near Forks, WA

We stayed both in the town of Forks and at Kalaloch Lodge. Kalaloch is a special part of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Islands barely visible above high tide hold large protected bird colonies, birds you won’t commonly find elsewhere like tufted puffins. Although many people visit Kalaloch and its serene lodge, it doesn’t seem like a tourist spot. It’s isolated, the lodge settled on a cliff above a vast, sandy beach. The water is too cold for a swim in summer – at least for us, California natives. But the beautiful views of sweeping sea scape and rocky peninsula makes it a wonderful coastal walk. There are also easy hiking trails along the bluffs. The lodge is not luxurious, but comfortable, and its beach front setting is simply lovely. The restaurant at the lodge is merely adequate, which is all it needs to be considering the splendid view from its windows and warm, wood paneled walls. Soups are a specialty and meals have a general Pacific Northwest bent, with plenty of fish on the menu. A plus: the lodge will make smaller portions for smaller diners as well as offering a standard kid’s menu.

More rustic accommodations are available at the natural mineral waters of Sol Duc. Many of the cabins have kitchens. The mineral waters are soothing and family friendly, and the area is lushly forested.

In the town of Forks there are a variety of motels; we chose a condo rental with kitchen. The town itself is now big on tours featuring Twilight locations, probably of no great interest to small children. It’s a good place from which to reach Ruby Beach or La Push, an ocean front tribal community with ocean bluff walks, Quileute Native American Headquarters and a small museum.

Where state road 112 ends is Neah Bay, another Native American community on the Makah Indian Reservation. There’s a larger museum here with literally thousands of archeological artifacts from an Indian Village, many of them over three thousand years old and uncovered in this region. In late August the tribe holds a Makah Days celebration with fire works, dancing, canoe races, and a traditional salmon bake.

In Forks itself is the Timber Museum. Here tools and other historical items tell the story of the logging industry from the mid-eighteen hundreds. A replication of a bunk house, showing how loggers lived was particularly worth seeing. If you ever wanted to learn anything about loggers of the past and their tools of the trade, the Forks Timber Museum is the place to stop. The museum displays exhibits depicting local history dating back to the 1870s. An interesting side note: the building was constructed by the Forks High School carpentry class. It’s not every town that has students with enough wood working experience to construct a thirty two hundred foot structure.

From Forks, it’s less than half an hour to reach Rialto Beach, rocky and scenic, with great views of the off shore sanctuary islands. The sunsets here are wonderful, and the kids loved picking and tossing rocks into the water. The quality of light here is special, reflected off the water. Some of the lighter colored rocks seemed to hold the sunset colors, which was a wonderful ‘trick.’  There’s great driftwood for gathering here, too. The kids wanted to experience it all again the second night, but we’d moved down to Kalaloch. Although the distances are not many in miles here, night driving in this area is very dark and the roads can be slippery, even in summer, and we preferred to stay in one location at night.

Entering the Olympic park proper, there are several nearby destinations. To the North east, you’ll find Hurricane Ridge, a forested, mountainous spot with excellent wild life viewing – we saw elk and deer, and a bald eagle. The elk is unique to this area, named after President Teddy Roosevelt. Bring binoculars, and watch the skies for many beautiful birds.

Washington Hoh Rain Forest

Exploring the nature trails in the Hoh Rain Forest

To the South west is the Hoh Rain Forest. With over twelve feet, yes, feet, of rain every year, this is a lush, so-called temperate rain forest. The thick forested growth includes tall hemlock trees, Douglas-firs and spruce. Closer to the ground there are tall growth ferns and moss, which brings me to the Hall of Mosses, a trail in the Hoh Rain forest where everything shimmers with a kind of incandescent damp greenness. It’s an easy trail just three quarters of a mile in length, and the kids will love the jungly feel and dense, overhead green leafy canopy. Although there are over three thousand plant species here, according to the ranger at the visitor center, it’s the towering spruces and hemlocks that leave the strongest impression.  We really enjoyed the gentle loop trails, fallen logs ripe with lichen and moss, and the soft hanging green leaves and mosses virtually everywhere. They were curious about the damp odors of co-mingled growing plants and natural forest decay. Pristine streams criss-cross the area, and signage makes the trails easy to follow.

It’s a sad contrast to this great forest in the protected National Park, to see timber-lands completely cut down to serve the lumber industry. Ecologically speaking, as one drives south on Highway 101 from the Hoh Rain Forest area, the severely over cut road side forest is a cautionary lesson for the kids to preserve nature rather than over use it.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling.

Tags: Sharing Experiences, Tips and Hints, Travel Excursions

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