Beauty, backroads and bricks in Washington State
Photo Credit: Brandon Sawaya
by Agnes Chung
Step back in time to circa 1907. The US auto industry rolled out 43,000 cars surpassing production in all Europe, igniting the popularity of automobile travel. Cities and suburbs sprouted along roadways once carved by wagon wheels and herded animals. Five years later, J.W. Parmley of Ipswitch pioneered the Yellowstone Trail, the first transcontinental US auto highway from Plymouth, Massachusetts, through Montana, to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and ending on the Pacific Coast in Seattle.
Red Brick Road to Yellowstone
Around the same period, King County, Washington State landowner, James Mattson gathered his neighbours to petition County officials for an all-season paved road. In wet weather, the neighbourhood dirt road (which formed part of the Yellowstone Trail in 1910) transformed to mud traps, making travel impassable. Renton-manufactured red bricks were used for paving. Hence, the name: Red Brick Road, which opened in 1913. Located in Redmond, the former James Mattson Road is today 196th Ave NE.
Historical rural charm abounds along the 1.3 mile stretch of road. Coined the “Miracle Mile” by the Audubon Society, the wetlands provide habitat for Chinook and Kokanee Salmons, Steelhead, and many protected bird species including Bald Eagles and the Great Blue Heron. It’s the longest stretch of exposed red brick highway in King County.
Outdoor Fun in Snohomish County
North of King County, Snohomish County draws travellers with its spectacular natural beauty and outdoor recreation spots. The cool fall weather is an ideal time for scenic drives, and activities including biking, walking, hiking or rock climbing in the Mountain Loop Highway and Stevens Pass Greenway region. Glacier-clad peaks, stunning vistas, and lush forests beckon visitors to the scenic Mountain Loop Highway. The 55-mile route from Granite Falls, transverses the Cascades wilderness meandering along the Sauk and Stillaguamish River corridors in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and ends in Darrington.
The highway is paved, except for a section between Granite Falls to Barlow Pass. En route, stop for a hike to view the Big Four Mountain, and the trailhead leading to the fascinating Big Four Ice Caves. Driving the entire loop is limited to late spring through fall due to avalanche and poor weather conditions. Check the latest condition prior to embarking on the drive at www.nwac.us.
Stevens Pass Greenway
The Greenway forms part of the scenic Cascade Loop. It follows Highway 2 along the Skykomish River passing through historic towns, agricultural valleys and thick forests into the craggy Cascades Range ending in Peshastin in Chelan county. Places along Highway 2 like Snohomish city and the towns of Monroe, Sultan, Startup, Gold Bar and Index don’t get quainter than this: turn-of-the-century architecture, heritage museums, antique shops, remnants of mining claims with tales from a bygone era.
Antiquing in Snohomish
Branded the “Antique Capital of the Northwest”, Snohomish city bustles with over 350 dealers offering an array of antiques and collectives, from wonderful mid-century gems to unusual vintage finds. The city is a fabulous hunting ground for antique enthusiasts. Monroe, the county’s challenge sport capital attracts thousands of spectators to the Evergreen Speedway for the annual NASCAR event. A mile west of Sultan, the tiny 52-year-old Wayside Chapel (which fits a pulpit and eight persons) welcomes visitors seeking a place to rest and worship.
At Skykomish, enjoy free unlimited 1/8 Scale Train Rides on the Great Northern and Cascade Railway and visit the railroad history museum. Joni Kirk with Snohomish County Tourism Bureau said the famed Sky Deli is outstanding. Run by very friendly staff, it’s a great stop for ice-cream and delicious sandwiches.
With plenty of rivers, lakes and the Puget Sound, Snohomish makes an ideal watersports destination. The county is a paradise for outdoor lovers of all ages.