At noon on Saturday, after more than a decade, the full length of the Suiattle River Road reopened. (Read an earlier story about the reopening.)
Members of the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe, to whom the area is immensely culturally important, performed a blessing song before the ribbon cutting.
During the ceremony, the rain fell heavily nonstop, providing classic Northwest background noise. Also in typical Northwest fashion, the rain stopped minutes after the ceremony.
I was able to take a short tour down the road, hearing about how it was rebuilt and seeing some places where the road had been completely rerouted.
As long as I’ve lived in this area, the Suiattle River Road has been inaccessible to various degrees, so I haven’t really explored the area. That will all change now.
Listening to Gary Paull, wilderness coordinator for the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, I couldn’t wait to get back in there. Paull is energetic and excited and clearly loves the area. He talked about so many trails I couldn’t keep them straight. Before the hiking season gets going next year, though, I’ll be asking him to spend some time staring at a map with me. I look forward to exploring and writing about the many trails that will be so much easier to access.
Of course, as many people pointed out repeatedly, this is just the beginning of the work. Eleven years is a long time. And while crews have done what they could to keep trails open, there’s a lot of work to do. Trails and campgrounds will need a lot of love. Washington Trails Association and other groups are already thinking about work parties.
It’s been a lot of work so far, and there’s even more to do. But more people will now be able to explore the valley that Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin calls “magical.” Standing on a bridge on Sunday, and watching the light play off the water and mist and peaks, I couldn’t think of a better word.
And, given the number of cars heading out the road just after it opened, many people feel that way.