David Lynch's "Twin Peaks" was filmed in locations throughout Western Washington. A one-man tour company will take you to see them, but it's BYOD (bring your own doughnuts).
David Israel is a man who can appreciate a damn fine cup of coffee.
In fact, I first met him in a coffee shop: a clean-cut, fresh-faced guy in a long black coat with a high and tight haircut, wearing a costume FBI badge with his name on it. It was his work attire. I ate a doughnut while I interviewed him, which seemed only appropriate: Israel is your ultimate guide to all things owl and log, to a world peopled by Audrey Horne and Big Ed and Laura Palmer, where the woods are full of creepy abandoned train cars and the owls are not what they seem.
While we all have our pilgrimages to make — some to Mecca, some to Rome, some to Vegas — Western Washington is the foggy spiritual home of television’s arguably most obsessive, joyful yet morose, ironically macabre group of fanatics: “Twin Peaks” fans.
Israel is the archetypal example of such a fan, and his company, Twin Peaks Tour, provides the quintessential journey into the darkness for fellow enthusiasts.
The breakthrough ’90s television thriller/drama from director David Lynch, “Twin Peaks” ran for two very strange seasons, was canceled and came back as a movie titled “Fire Walk with Me.” Just recently, a long-awaited third season arrived to (theoretically) tie up loose ends. Its titular small town was based on — and partially shot in — Washington’s Fall City, North Bend and Snoqualmie.
Eyebrow-raising as the show was during its initial run, “Twin Peaks” now has a dedicated and ever-growing following that goes beyond cult-classic status. It’s even become a shorthand for romanticizing the sexy gloom of the Pacific Northwest.
It was surprising, then, to discover that the only serious game in town for dedicated “Twin Peaks” tours is Twin Peaks Tour company, owned and operated solely by Israel, since only February 2017.
You’d think the area would be awash in such tours, and while there are hints of others on the internet, Israel’s company is the obvious owl to bet on. Israel was born and raised in Seattle, and got into “Twin Peaks” before it became a hipster darling. Nowadays, you could certainly put together your own “Twin Peaks” tour with locations easily found online, but Israel found them first the old-fashioned way.
“I was 16 years old when Twin Peaks originally aired,” he said. “I loved it like everyone else. All the locations were their own characters, and I wanted to know where everything was. But back then there was no internet, so you couldn’t just go online and look it all up. So every other weekend, me and some friends would just go up to Snoqualmie and North Bend and drive around all day looking for filming locations. After doing that for roughly four-and-a-half years, I ended up finding everything.”
Until the Twin Peaks Tour company turned into a full-time job, Israel was the bar manager at the Neptune Theater. His first tour happened by accident — an impromptu jaunt around the locations he’d found with some out-of-town friends.
“On the way back my friend’s wife says, that was amazing, you should do this as a business,” said Israel. “So I went online and looked, and to my surprise I was only able to find one company that had any kind of tour. It took me about a week to get a hold of someone, and when I did they quoted me $350/person and they only hit six spots and I thought, jeez, that’s a rip-off. That’s a round-trip airfare to somewhere. So I said what the hell, I’ll build a website and see what happens. And the response has been absolutely amazing.”
If you go on a Twin Peaks Tour, your trip will begin when you’re picked up by Israel in character as agent Dale Cooper — dressed the part, and with the character’s signature unfailing cheerfulness. Israel has a mellifluous voice and crystal-clear enunciation and, like Cooper, talks with adoring and hand-clasping sincerity about the landscape, the Douglas firs and the Double R diner (Twede’s Cafe in real life, where you can nonetheless order your very own killer piece of pie and damn fine cup of coffee during the tour).
Israel’s tours are immersive and visceral — he plays the music in the car, regales you with trivia and little-known facts, brings props for photographs and even encourages people to dress up as characters from the show (he gets a lot of Coopers, Log Ladies and Nadines).
Most of the locations are centered on Snoqualmie and North Bend, and the most iconic is the show’s Great Northern Hotel (actually Snoqualmie’s Salish Lodge & Spa.) The massive wood-and-stone edifice screams Pacific Northwest, sitting atop dramatic Snoqualmie Falls, a frequent destination for travelers, honeymooners, wedding-photo seekers and those who revel in the squalid horror that lurks beneath small-town America.
Israel’s tour passes the high school where Donna and Laura spent their last fleeting moments of innocence. It visits the Reinig Bridge where Ronette Pulaski was found wandering in a traumatized haze, and even hits the notorious intersection of Sparkwood and 21. You can protectively cradle your log in the wood abbatoir that was the Packard Sawmill (once a real working sawmill, adding to the horror for the log) nearby the sheriff’s station (now a motor-sport school).
“Out of all the locations out there, that one still gets me the most when you walk in there,” said Israel. “I think it’s the wood paneling and stuff. Everybody has a blast there. They let people sit down and take pictures at Lucy’s desk.” It is BYOD, however — bring your own doughnuts.
Twin Peaks Tour now offers three tour options: Option one ($95/person) lasts about four hours and takes you to all the season one and two locations; option two (also $95/person) requires a bit more driving and lasts three-and-a-half to five hours and spans the locations from the film “Fire Walk With Me” and the new season three (including Olallie State Park and the Red Diamond City Motel). Option three ($180/person) combines everything into a mega tour, which typically takes six hours but has taken as long as eight; Israel doesn’t like to rush people through their experience.
Not everything is on the tour, though: Some of the locations — like casino and brothel One Eyed Jack’s, the town gazebo and many of the interiors — were filmed on back lots in Los Angeles. A few others — like the Kiana Lodge (the interior of the Great Northern) and the beach where Laura Palmer’s body was found, both in Poulsbo — are too far afield to be practical for a one-day jaunt.
But Israel encourages people to make the trek anyway. “Laura’s log is still there,” he said. “It’s absolutely beautiful. I’ve seen people wrap themselves up in plastic and take pictures. ‘Twin Peaks’ fans are just the best.”
The tours are mostly private groups (sometimes two small groups will go together) and are fairly intimate, maxing out at about 15 people. Israel operates the tour year-round — rainy winter days have an especially “Twin Peaks” vibe, particularly for those seeking the thrill of the terror beneath the mundane while wearing plaid flannel.
Which, as it turns out, is a lot.
“I get people from all over the world that come on the tour, and then they tell me they came into town just for the tour,” says Israel. “I feel like I make people’s dreams come true. I get people that cry when they get to certain locations. Tears of joy.”