FORKS — Marcia Bingham has spent most of her life in Forks, rubbing elbows with loggers.
As director of customer service for the Forks Visitor Information Center, 1411 S. Forks Ave., she helps manage the weekly logging and mill tours.
People taking the tours learn about modern logging by getting close enough to smell sawed logs and the diesel exhaust of the machinery.
Bingham says the tours are “a great service for the public to educate them about logging because if they have only seen ‘Ax Men,’ they don’t have any idea about what actual logging is all about.”
Lissy Andros, director of the visitor center, adds:
“These men are professionals. You are seeing them at work and they treat everyone with professional courtesy.”
The dramatic scenes that are part of “reality TV” are pleasantly absent from these tours.
And the tours are free — although donations are appreciated and help the chamber pay for gas and wear and tear on the tour van.
Local businesses also help — “we just got a thousand-dollar donation from Dahlgren Logging to put fuel in the van,” says Andros.
The three-hour tours leave from the visitor center at 9 a.m. every Wednesday now through Sept. 10.
Tours are limited to 10 people so reservations are recommended — make them by phoning 360-374-2531 or 800-443-6757.
Appropriate footwear is required (boots or sneakers are acceptable; sandals, flip flops or open-toed shoes are not).
Cameras are allowed. Bring a jacket. Children over 8 are welcome.
The two primary destinations are the Allen Logging Co. mill and a nearby logging site.
While driving, the guides explain the different sights of the forest, from clearcuts to thinning.
“It’s really the guides who make the tour,” Andros said. “They all have logging experience but from different viewpoints.”
Currently, the volunteer guides are Jack Zaccardo, Richard Halverson, Randy Messenbrink and Joe Seymour.
Forks Timber Museum
Next door to the visitor center is the Forks Timber Museum, where people can explore the history of life on the West End.
It is there that many people discover that agriculture and trapping were original occupations of area homesteaders.
Logging was born of necessity and became its own industry later.
Linda Offutt is the museum manager. She succeeded long-time manager Sherrill Fouts, who retired last fall.
The museum’s goal, says Offutt, is “to take history from early Forks and West End, preserve it, then put it out for others to enjoy — both locals and visitors alike.”
A thresher, cranberry harvester, firefighting equipment and tidbits of a simpler time are arranged in engaging scenes throughout the museum.
Of course, there are logging scenes:
■ Peer through the doorway into a logging camp bunkhouse.
■ Consider the effort to cook flapjacks and make coffee for scores of hungry men while gazing at a 9-foot cast iron wood-burning cookstove.
■ Imagine the vibrations of a heavy, two-man chain saw.
The museum resides in a building constructed by the Forks High School carpentry classes of 1989 and 1990.
Offutt says maintenance and cleaning is done solely by volunteers, mostly drawn from the museum’s board members. Hers is the only paid position.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Volunteer docents are Tom Rosmond, Hop Dhooghe, Anna-Mae Harris, Eleanor Thornton, Joe Offutt, Elaine Hurn, Dixie Gaydeski and Vicki Andros.
Fouts is a volunteer, too, finding it nigh impossible to stay away from a historical collection she knows and loves so well.
Zorina Barker lives in the Sol Duc Valley with her husband, a logger, and two children she home-schools.
She writes the bi-monthly West End Neighbor column for Peninsula Daily News. Submit items and ideas for the column to her at [email protected] or phone her at 360-327-3702.