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.

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