Now is the time to head north

Supporting Darrington isn’t charity. It’s enlightened self-interest.

Few places are as naturally stunning as the Stillaguamish Valley. When nature’s scaffolding collapsed at 10:37 a.m. on March 22, it evoked as much grief as collective strength. For people around the Pacific Northwest, it was shock and then a run for the checkbook — attending fundraisers or contributing to the United Way of Snohomish County’s disaster recovery fund for mudslide relief.

Now, with summer closing in, the focus is renewal. This isn’t a region partial to branding. “Oso happy to have you visit” or anything saccharine will backfire. These are people as real and true as the serrated North Cascades, and a community that nearly meets writer Wallace Stegner’s charge for the American West, of a civilization to match its scenery.

Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin warns that the community doesn’t need an 18-month winter. And there are events and recreation that breathe life into the commercial heart of town. There is the annual heritage celebration, Darrington Day on May 31. As The Herald’s Dan Catchpole writes, there also is the Darrington Bluegrass Festival, the Darrington Timberbowl Rodeo and the Summer Meltdown music festival. Arlington’s big to-do is the Fourth of July parade (Americana, with politicos and floats galore) as well as the Fly-In airshow, also in July.

The state Department of Commerce is underwriting a $150,000 ad blitz, which may be Oso partial to using “Oso” cleverly. Whatever works, and as long as it captures and elevates the spirit of place. It may be too late, with a Mount Vernon advertiser already on board, but some funding could go to discounting tickets to the Bluegrass Festival (granted, tickets are already reasonable.)

As The Herald’s Noah Haglund reported late Thursday, transportation officials tell Gov. Jay Inslee that Highway 530 could open by mid- to late-June. That’s a relief to business and town leaders who feared a massive hit to local commerce with an original finish date closer to October.

Visitors and residents now take the unpaved, one-way utility road. They idle in “the ferry line,” waiting for a lead car to escort them on the half hour.

Drive it, navigate the switchback, and absorb the scale. Hazel Hill rampaged toe first; and photos can’t capture the breadth. This is a visceral, humbling reminder of nature’s fury.

Chuck the slogans or any sense of obligation. Visit Darrington and Arlington. Bring the family. It’s a selfish and wise thing to do.

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