Northwest Passage, if you didn’t know, was the working title for what would eventually become the very best anything ever: Twin Peaks.
I was an impressionable and not fully-formed fourteen year-old when the series washed onto the shores of television, wrapping a dead girl in plastic and possessing my mind and spirit ever since like a supernatural demon. My bucket list isn’t terribly long, but touring the series’ shooting locations near Seattle has definitely sat toward the top of it for at least a decade now. Thanks to a Washington state wedding Hurly and I were invited to, my bucket list is now one entry shorter.
Come see what I saw.
The night before the wedding we stayed at the Salish Lodge and Spa in Snoqualmie, used as the exterior of the hotel where Special Agent Dale Cooper stays while investigating Laura Palmer’s murder.
The interior scenes in the pilot were shot elsewhere, which made it all the more difficult for the lodge owner’s daughter Audrey to walk in on my breakfast and ask if my palms ever itched. But right below me and my (not) damn fine cup of coffee (cause I can’t really stand coffee) was perhaps Peaks’ most iconic location…
…The falls outside the Great Northern! Just steps from the spa, the Snoqualmie Falls looked exactly how they do in the series’ opening credits, though perhaps less sepia-tinged. The stunning spray splashed up to my face as the show’s theme song flowed over my ever-humming lips. In this moment Twin Peaks wasn’t just a show, it was real a place after all, and I was in it, at last.
On the far side of Snoqualmie’s historical district sat the high school where Laura’s classmates learn of her death. I couldn’t get inside since it was summer and shut up tight.
But I could, and of course did, faithfully re-enact the scene of the un-named Twin Peaks Senior High School teacher running from this door, shrieking with her hands on her face right before the Principal tells the student body to go home and grieve with their families.
Not five minutes further down the road was the location of the Welcome To Twin Peaks road sign. Right behind Hurly, right where our ruby red rental car parked, that’s where the sign once stood. The summer foliage and mid-morning mist shroud the twinned mountain peaks in the distance compared to the image used in the first shot of the opening credits and on the show’s soundtrack album cover. I might’ve missed the spot altogether, honestly, if it wasn’t for the assistance of the otherwise useless Siri.
Most of what was used as The Packard Saw Mill closed and collapsed years before, aside from this one building.
The office for the actual mill was used as the Sheriff’s Office. In the pilot, if you look past Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman you can see the mill right outside the interrogation room windows. The Sheriff’s Department structure, thankfully, hasn’t been torn down yet, although now it houses some sort of outdoor adventure company.
Next stop was Twede’s Cafe AKA The Double R Diner. The cafe’s interior is now decorated tragically with Tweedy Bird stuffed animals so I refused to sit and order a slice of cherry pie purely on principal.
Instead I alternated cell phone selfies with D-SLR shots snapped courtesy of Hurly and recited my favorite Double R line of Donna Hayward dialogue. “Why don’t you sit here and hold hands and try and figure it out.”
Bar-brawly juke joint The Roadhouse was actually filmed using two locations. The interior was a Seattle performing arts center only my iPhone’s eye was able to enjoy.
The exterior was located outside Snoqualmie and no matter how hard I listened I couldn’t hear Julee Cruise crooning from inside.
Way out in Washington, far from anyone who might hear Cousin Maddy scream, was the Palmer Family home. Completely blocked from the street by towering bushes and thick brush it was eerie, sneaking through all that green to get a good glimpse, and thinking about all that had gone on inside that house. On the television show they never shot it from an angle that demonstrates just how hidden the house really is from view, but seeing the truth of it, there was a sinister, symbolic sense to it.
As our tour wound down, a dreariness came over me. I’d made it as far into a make believe place as is possible and there was an emptiness to that. I couldn’t ever get any deeper into Twin Peaks, or any closer to Cooper, or ever actually ask Audrey if she needed extra help with her amateur investigation into One Eyed Jack’s.
The complete un-realness of something that has always been and felt so real to me was brought to light. And yet, even if the ugly emptiness of the modern world insists on tearing down every last saw mill structure or slapping Tweedy Birds all over its restaurant walls to remind me TV shows are just shows and they live for a while and then they die - Twin Peaks has always felt real to me and amazingly, it still essentially does.