Darrington, the Last Pure Community of Snohomish County
About an hour drive from Everett, and along a winding scenic highway, lays the community of Darrington, Washington. It is home to just over 1,000 and a handful or two of local businesses. It may not seem the obvious choice to begin my explorations of all that Snohomish County has to offer, but read on and I think you will begin to understand.
As My family and I made our way along that winding scenic highway we, and I’m sure all other visitors to the area, had our thoughts wander from what adventures laid ahead in Darrington to thoughts of the tragedy experienced by the area just two years ago as we entered the neighboring Oso.
The feeling as you approach the aftermath of the landslide for the first time is a mix of curiosity and anticipation, of wondering where it will pop up along the road and what it will look like, like it’s just another roadside attraction. But it’s far from that as we soon realized.
From the second we caught or first glimpse of the landslide, to well after we passed by, it was as if time stood still, the car was silent, not an easy feat with five children in it, and there was an overwhelming feeling of sadness for all those that lost their lives and everything that was swept away so easily by something as simple as dirt and mud.
As the miles continue to pass, time starts again, and you once again being to enjoy the beauty and quiet of your surroundings, perhaps with a greater appreciation than you had ten or so minutes before. And right you should, because regardless of the tragedy they have overcome, and the great strength they have shown in doing so, the cities of Darrington and Oso are perhaps the most authentic and pure community that you will find in all of Snohomish County.
It is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone, where every business has an owner hard at work behind counter, and where a few out of town visitors equal a busy day for an otherwise quiet community. You get the feeling you’re the attraction and point of interest, not the other way around. There’s not a McDonald’s, Safeway, or any other chain restaurant store for miles, so don’t even look. What you get is all Darrington and nothing more.
After a long drive our first stop of the day was lunch at a local favorite, and home of the Golly Whopper (for those that don’t know – two patties, with ham, bacon, cheese, special sauce, and all the fixings on a long bun), the Burger Barn. My son, and his seemingly bottomless stomach took on the challenge of this signature dish and almost lost. The food was amazing, the smells even more amazing, its definitely a must if you are visiting.
Eager to check out the other local businesses Darrington has to offer, we soon got on our way. Our next stop was Mountain Loop Books and Coffee where I was on the receiving end of the smoothest and best tasting latte I have ever had the honor of drinking, and believe me I drink A LOT of coffee. We also got much needed directions to our hike of choice for the day.
Moving on, we couldn’t resist stopping by Clear Creek Candles where everything is made in the shop and the mixed aroma of various fragrances draw you in. In the hopes that are home might smell as good, I picked up a pear and peony candle, and two of my children, who by the way are heavily resistant to showers, bought soap, purchases I gladly allowed.
Our final stop before adventuring out into the wild was to the Hometown Bakery Café for some of the homemade cinnamon buns I had heard such good things about online. Unlucky us, there was only two left, but don’t worry my youngest and I devoured most of them on the way home before the rest caught on that they were missing out.
Stuffed from burgers, caffeinated, and with a bit of a sugar kick we set forth to our trail of choice, an off the beaten path historic trail known as Mines of Snow Gulch Trail. The scenery was amazing, the quiet refreshing, the mostly uphill two-mile hike more than a bit challenging, but in the end worth it. After what felt like forever, the mountain grew closer, the sound of the waterfalls coming down off of it grew louder, and we finally set eyes on our prize, a dark and mysterious mine set back into the hillside.
After taking pictures in front of the mine as proof we had in fact made it, and playing around a bit in the nearby waterfall, we made the two-mile journey back down, happy that it was much easier than the one up. A bit tired and sore, we got back in our car and began the one-hour trip back home to much desired showers and beds.
That trip once again took us past the landslide, only this time we pulled off in front of it and got out of the car. What we found there was not so much sadness, but hope, strength, love, and beauty in the signs and items left behind. As we walked through the small trees planted in memory of those who lost their lives, we were greeted with unique decorations, mementos, and pictures at each one, giving us a glimpse of those the community of Darrington and Oso knew so well.
As we got back in our car and on our way, I couldn’t help but reflect back myself on why Darrington was my first choice to visit for our Shop Local project, and then I realized it was obvious. Darrington is perhaps the last purely local city in Snohomish County. It, and its people, are unapologetically small and simple, and that’s the way they like it.
They have not been overtaken by the quests for economic development and growth sweeping through the other communities of Snohomish County. They are a reminder of the past, of tradition, of what community should be, and they are an example to us all, one that should be followed not forgotten. This SnoCo Gal hopes that you will take the time to follow that winding scenic highway and see for yourself.
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