Saturday, April 20, 2019

PACIFIC NORTHWEST #4: A Trip to Twin Peaks

I have never been shy about expressing my love for David Lynch’s TV series TWIN PEAKS.  I did it here.  Here.  And here.

Somehow, this series manages to balance the uncanny darkness of a feverish nightmare with the transcendent lightness of a mystical experience.  The series isn’t everyone’s cup of coffee, but I recently re-watched Season Three and I remain spellbound by Lynch’s unique method of storytelling.  There is an undeniable mystique about his fictional universe—and much of it is rooted in the Pacific Northwest, where the filmmaker grew up among shadows and tall trees.

I visited the Pacific Northwest for the first time this past week, and was overwhelmed by the lushness of spring.  Maybe it’s because I have been living in a desert for 12 years, but I just couldn’t get over all the moss.  It seemed to me that if I stood in any one place for very long, I would end up looking like Jordy Verrill.  (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist one more Stephen King reference.  Somehow, his stories seem to belong here too.)  

We started our TWIN PEAKS tour near the town of Edgewick, in the shadow of two small mountain peaks, at the Twin Falls Trail.  I don’t think these specific places inspired the series, but it’s hard to know for sure.  So many places along the Snoqualmie River (especially businesses) share names from the series that it’s hard to know which came first; hard to tell where reality ends and fiction begins.  This area was used as the backdrop for a gateway between worlds in Season Three.

The "twin peaks" above Edgewick.  Note the name of the gas station on the right.
Twin Falls trailhead in Olallie State Park
"Nursery tree" or Day of the Triffids?
Does this image make you nervous?
Or this one?
Welcome to David Lynch's world of shadows and tall trees
Twin Falls overlook on the Snoqualmie River
We followed the Snoqualmie River east to the town of North Bend and one of the most iconic locations in TWIN PEAKS: the Double R Diner.   The real diner, called Twede’s CafĂ©, is actually pretty unassuming.  At least, it was on the lazy Tuesday afternoon when we stopped by for some damn fine coffee and cherry pie.   The interior is thoroughly decorated with behind-the-scenes photos and news clippings related to the series.  And, yes, the cherry pie is amazing.

We drove north and continued east on Reinig Road, beside the river and beneath the looming monolith called Mount Si.  This is where the “Welcome to Twin Peaks” sign stood in the opening credits of the original series.  More recently, a replica of the sign was placed in the same spot—but quickly stolen by vandals.  So you’ll have to use your imagination. 

Just a few hundred steps to the east is a fork in the road where we found three more sites associated with the show.  In the original series, this intersection was known as Sparkwood and 21.  To the north on 396th Drive is the old Twin Peaks Sheriff Department, now the DirtFish rally school.  The building and the lobby still look pretty much the same, but I was stunned to see what was out the front door.  It had never occurred to me that, throughout three seasons of TWIN PEAKS, we never see a turnaround shot.  Apparently, at one time, the Packard Sawmill sat right next to the Sheriff Department.  Today, there’s not much left of the old mill. 
The former Twin Peaks Sheriff Department
The turnaround view
The remains of the Packard Sawmill
Back on Reinig Road, just past the turnoff for 396th, we encountered a small railroad bridge that has been converted into a footpath.  It leads down into the town of Snoqualmie, which is the closest thing you’ll find to an actual town of Twin Peaks.  This is where the kids went to high school in the first two seasons, at Mt. Si High School (currently under construction and unrecognizable from the show).   

Fans will recognize Reinig Bridge as the spot where the traumatized Ronette Pulaski is seen wandering back toward town.  Despite the fictional air of torture and tragedy, it’s a beautiful location and a great place to observe the swirling, hypnotic eddies of the Snoqualmie River as seen in the opening of the original series.

Sparkwood and 21

Just a bit further east on Reinig Road is another significant intersection.  To the left is a one-way bridge leading down into Snoqualmie.  To the right, the road meanders along the banks of the river toward Snoqualmie Falls—and the location of the iconic “Great Northern Hotel,” a.k.a. Salish Lodge and Spa.  The view from the upper observation deck beside the hotel looks even more impressive in real life than it does in the series, especially at this time of year when there’s so much water rushing over the falls. 

The view from the lower observation area was also featured in TWIN PEAKS.  I had to make the hike down there because I read that there’s a hidden cave at the base of the falls, and also that “strange things” have appeared in photos taken down there.  I took more than my fair share of photos, but didn’t see anything strange.  Still, it’s a beautiful spot—and the juxtaposition of this majestic natural beauty with the imposing machinery of a nearby hydroelectric plant is certainly worthy of David Lynch.
Snoqualmie Falls is a pretty tough act to follow, but we rounded out our trip with a meal at The Roadhouse in nearby Falls City.  This was a good reminder that things are not what they seem in TWIN PEAKS.  The filmmakers only used the exterior of The Roadhouse in the show.  Interiors of the biker bar, also known as the Bang-Bang Bar, were shot in the Raisbeck Performance Hall at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.  (Apparently, this was one of several interior scenes there were shot close to the city.  The inside of The Great Northern Hotel is actually the Kiana Lodge in Poulsbo, and Laura Palmer’s body was found on the beach near that hotel.  The Palmer house is in nearby Everett, Washington.)

One last twist: According to the menu at The Roadhouse, the exterior of The Bookhouse (meeting place of the TWIN PEAKS secret society) was shot right out back, in a currently-abandoned—and, naturally, moss-covered—shack.  The interiors, however, were shot at The Old Place in Cornell, California.

During our time in Snoqualmie, we happened upon a place that might have been an inspiration for The Bookhouse—a historic meeting hall known as “The Woodman Lodge,” which sits right behind the Northern Pacific Depot in downtown Snoqualmie.  I shudder to think that David Lynch’s Woodsman is hiding in there. 

PS - For a more expansive virtual tour of Twin Peaks, check out this website.   Or, let this Snoqualmie local be your guide.  The Salish Lodge and Spa gift shop also provides a free map of the main locations.  And if you reeeeeally want to make an event out of it, there's an annual Twin Peaks Festival in North Bend and Snoqualmie.  This year, it takes place over the weekend of July 12 - 14.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST #3: A Trip to the Goon Docks

Having children means having an excuse to revisit one’s childhood, and I’m thrilled that my daughter is finally old enough to watch the movies I grew up loving as a kid.  Just a few months ago, she saw THE GOONIES for the first time—and immediately proclaimed it “her favorite movie.”  Within a few days, she had moved on to a new “favorite” (THE KARATE KID, maybe?) but I was still elated… especially knowing that we were about to make a family trip to the real-world “Goon Docks” in Astoria, Oregon.

Just as the town of Brownsville has embraced STAND BY ME, the town of Astoria has embraced THE GOONIES… to an extent.  Astoria hosts the Oregon Film Museum, which turns out to be more of a standing tribute to the Steven Spielberg-produced film than a general celebration of movie-making in Oregon.  And just as there is an annual STAND BY ME day in Brownsville (July 23rd this year), there is an annual "GOONIES day" in Astoria (on June 7th).

The museum is housed in the old Clatsop County jail, where Mama Fratelli helps her eldest son Jake escape at the beginning of the film.  The getaway vehicle is a black ORV… which, today, is parked out in front of the museum.  (If it’s not the same vehicle used in the film, I’m impressed with the attention to detail… There are bullet holes in the back door, just like Chunk said.)

"... bullet holes..."
But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Our tour of Goonies land actually started at Ecola State Park.  That’s where the Fratellis' hideout was located, on a bluff overlooking Crescent Beach and Cannon Beach.  On the latter, Mama Fratelli drove the ORV through a cluster of similar vehicles to make her escape.  The distinctive Cannon beachscape is defined by a group of massive “bird rocks."  The largest one is known as Haystack Rock. 

Elk grazing next to the parking lot at Ecola State Park
The Ecola State Park day-use area, where the Fratelli hideout was located
The view from the Fratelli's hideout, looking south toward Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach, looking south
Cannon Beach, looking north toward Haystack Rock
THE GOONIES would have you believe that Ecola Point and Cannon Beach are a short bike ride from Astoria.  In fact, Haystack Rock is only barely visible (on a clear day) from the top of Astoria Column, which looks down on the historic town…. reputedly, the oldest settlement west of the Rockies.  

On a clear day, you can see Haystack Rock in the distance.  If you look very closely at the center of this photo...
In a place with such a long history, it’s not surprising that there is some disconnect between the culture of the “locals” and the movie-centered culture of the tourists.  Just across the street from the Oregon Film Museum is the Flavel House Museum, home of the Clatsop County Historical Society.  In THE GOONIES, Mikey's father works here and the pirate map that leads the misfit kids to buried treasure is a "reject" from his carefully-curated historical treasures.  Only the irreverent kids recognize the true value of the map.

I sympathize with the outsiders (because I am one), and admit that during our brief 24-hour stay in Astoria, I did not tour the Flavel House Museum.  

I did, on the other hand,  do a drive-by of Ally Sheedy’s house from the 1986 movie SHORT CIRCUIT.   It’s not a great movie, but the house has a breathtaking view of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.  


On the far east side of town is another memorable filming location: the elementary school from the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle KINDERGARTEN COP (this movie actually holds up better today than SHORT CIRCUIT), right down the street from Mikey (Sean Astin)’s house in THE GOONIES.  I took a stroll through the neighborhood, but didn’t bother to visit Mikey's house—because, apparently, the current owners are none too fond of Goonies.  Thankfully, a few neighbors are much happier to fly the Goonies flag.

This is where Arnold Schwarzenegger learned that boys have a penis, girls have a vagina.
Mikey's house from THE GOONIES, viewed from a boringly respectful distance

Flying the flag
Down on the docks below this neighborhood is a charming fisherman’s wharf, which is currently home to a loud bunch of barking sea lions (native goonies?).  This is where the ships still come in, slipping under the Astoria-Megler Bridge.  And on the other side of the bridge… miles and miles of virgin forest, at the southern edge of Washington state.  

Next stop: Twin Peaks

PS - For an even more elaborate virtual tour of the Goon Docks, check out this website.