Mountain Loop opens with flourish

BARLOW PASS — A small crowd gathered at the pass Saturday to celebrate the opening of the Mountain Loop Scenic Highway.

A contingent from Darrington arrived in the senior center van, dusty from their drive along miles of gravel road. The Granite Falls group traveled in style up the highway in an old Stanley Steamer road wagon.

Traffic stopped, bicycle riders paused, and mayors, Forest Service officials and historians gave brief speeches. Members of the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe, with help from relatives from Tulalip, offered a blessing.

It was the first summer opening of the entire highway in five years.

In 2003, torrential rains and flooding washed out roadways and bridges, causing $10 million damage to the 50-mile link between Darrington and Granite Falls. After years of repair work, the Forest Service opened the highway in October for several weeks before snowfall closed the road at Barlow Pass.

Now the highway is open again.

Janice Mabee, a member of the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe, spoke Saturday about the historical importance of the road and bestowed blankets on all the dignitaries gathered in thanks for their efforts to open the highway. Local tribes have long used the route, she said, followed by miners, loggers and hikers.

The celebration continued in the afternoon in Arlington, Granite Falls and Darrington with street fairs, music and food.

In Darrington, the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe served more than 400 pounds of chinook salmon. The free meal was enjoyed by tourists and town residents alike, all taking part in the community celebration.

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