Washington might be the most beautiful place on earth.
I've been fortunate enough to visit the state twice in the last year (and am going again in the fall), and each time I have left with a deep homesickness.
I’m surprised that it's still a bit of a secret; we’ve heard of L.A.’s gorgeous beaches, Florida’s endless sunshine and the eccentric rush of New York or Boston, but for a Brit missing rain, lush greens and rugged landscapes, Washington is a sanctuary.
I’m familiar with the Twilight franchise (Team Jasper, if anyone cares), but there's so much more to the modest town of Forks than self-referential emo-tourism. Central to Olympic National Park & Forest, it’s a perfect base to explore the region.
Firstly, the locals. Never have I met so many genuine, friendly strangers, eager to show off their beautiful state to the endless stream of teenage (and old enough to know better) vampire-hunters.
Take Sully’s Drive-in, a fabulous joint on the edge of town where you can enjoy a Bella Burger (with Swiss, pineapple and a set of plastic fangs) with a refreshing glass of oozing, blood-red punch. Or the women in the Visitor Information Center, who will happily discuss the merits of Jacob vs. Edward until the sun goes down.
The Makah tribe at the coastal reservation of Neah Bay have a fascinating cultural center displaying the lives of the real Native Americans (not the hairy, howlin’ kind) and their determined stance of "Tradition, Not Addiction" is inspiring.
Another reason to love Forks is its proximity to amazingly varied scenery. The roaring Sol Duc Falls and natural springs resort is barely an hour from town, as is the majestic Hoh Rainforest. Hurricane Ridge, a momentous view of mountains and snow, is just outside the artsy city of Port Angeles, also an hour from Forks.
Bone-bleached driftwood rumbles along the dramatic coastline of Ruby, Rialto and La Push beaches. A little further north and you reach Cape Flattery, the most northwesterly point of the contiguous U.S.A.
The most remarkable part of the peninsula, in my opinion, is undoubtedly Lake Crescent, a glacial lake of unfathomably still blues and greens. I hope to have my ashes scattered there at the end of days.
The wildlife is just as startling as the landscape. We drove through herds of elk in the rainforest, far scarier than anything paranormal – “they’ll stomp ya soon as look at ya,” a park ranger assured us – and watched countless pairs of bald eagles circle and flutter in the whispering pines.
The weather is constantly shifting, from threatening snowdrifts to sudden deluges and unexpected bursts of sunshine in a heartbeat. Washington is a state of change and a true respite from the stagnant city heat of California.
If the people of Forks are just waiting for the vampire weekend to pass, they are far too polite to admit it. Personally, I can’t wait to go back. It feels like home.