Until the day I took a little Sunday drive a couple of weeks ago through the Snoqualmie Valley, I had no idea there was a new “Twin Peaks” series about to debut. I stopped at a place in North Bend for lunch and asked what all the “Twin Peaks” signs were about. North Bend served as one of the backdrops for the series. The “twin peaks” is actually Mount Si and the mountain ridge behind it, directly at the foot of which North Bend is situated. And the “Double R” cafe/diner in the series is a cafe in the middle of town. Still there, of course. But, after 25 years, the height of the show’s popularity had long since waned, so to see so many signs was odd. My waitress filled me in.
Hearing about “Twin Peaks” again made me think about Salish Lodge and Snoqualmie Falls, both prominently featured in the opening credits of the original series; the lodge standing in for the Great Northern Hotel in the series. It’d been a long time since I’d stopped at the falls, so decided I’d take that route home instead of the freeway.
The Salish Lodge (according to the Lodge’s website) was originally built in 1916 as eight-room inn; a rest stop for folks traversing the Snoqualmie mountain pass. That much I can believe. Unlike today’s 45-minute drive from the city, the trip in 1916 would have been a long journey around Lake Washington on old wagon and cattle trails…in a wagon pulled by horses, for the most part. At least, as I imagine it was. Even after the advent of the automobile, the trip would have been several hours. In 1988, just two years before the premiere of “Twin Peaks,” the old inn was completely re-built as a boutique hotel, spa and up-scale restaurant, and reopened as The Salish Lodge.
I’ve stopped to see the falls only a few times in my life. The last time I’d stopped was some years ago. Maybe as much as ten. It was summer. There’s a trail that goes down the steep foothill from the state park, and I hiked all the way down to the river bed. That time of year, in late August, you can get pretty close to the falls, as the river is running fairly low. The falls aren’t as spectacular as a result, but it’s still a pretty sight. Somewhere I have pictures from that visit.
The visit before that was a couple of years before. Spring, maybe. Friends of the family won a bid at a silent auction for a tour of the hydroelectric power station. The station, built just before the falls, right across the river from the lodge, is a walk back in time to the Industrial Revolution. Most of the 100 some-odd year-old turbines and machines—all of which are subterranean, along with most of the facility, which is massive—still function, generating electricity for the local power utility. It was a fascinating experience. I asked a park volunteer if tours are still offered, but he said they discontinued them several years ago.
The only other time I’ve been to the falls and the lodge was another decade, or maybe fifteen years before those two visits. It was one for the memory books. I was in high school, or maybe college and it was either Mother’s Day or my mom’s birthday. The restaurant has always been popular with the Sunday Brunch set, especially for special occasions, and going out for brunch was always a favorite activity of my mothers’s.
As we took our seats, the wait staff closed the cafe curtains, blocking the view of the top of the falls. Now, getting a table at the window is tough to score. My father would have had to make a reservation weeks, if not months in advance. So, you can imagine his indignation.
“We apologize,” our waitress whispered to him, “but someone….fell…from the cliff last night and we just got notice the recovery crew will be bringing up…the body. Right here; outside the windows.”
Nobody “fell,” of course. Our waitress was making an effort to be discrete. Big beautiful water falls the world over are a common choice for suicides, and Snoqualmie Falls are notorious in our area for such, so none of us were surprised at the news. And the reason to close the curtains was wise, not because it would be an unsettling sight to see a body being lifted up from below, but because the lodge was built as close to the cliff ledge as possible, leaving precious little distance between the building and the cliff drop; only 3 or 4 feet. So not only would the sight of a rescue crew hauling up a dead body be an awful sight over Mimosas, Crepes Suzette and table-side prepared Italian sausage and gouda cheese frittata, but the sight of such only a foot or so from the window would be particularly disturbing. My parents, possessed of healthy sense of humor, simply laughed off our dumb luck.
However, about fifteen minutes later, our waitress returned all smiles. The recovery team used another route, she told us, as she and the other wait staff pulled back the curtains with a flourish.
“Voilà! Enjoy!” she gushed, and walked away.
Five minutes after that the wait staff came back into the dining hall, en masse, rushing to close the curtains again. My father learned later that the recovery crew said they’d look for another place to bring up the body in order to shield guests, but did not find one. Unfortunately, the restaurant manager misunderstood the message.