When I moved to Washington State nearly a decade ago and came upon the town of Mukilteo, I remember stopping someone and asking how to pronounce that strange looking name. I was from Southern California and could handle Spanish names like La Jolla, San Ysidro and La Quinta, but the Indian names of the Pacific Northwest had me stumped.
Unfortunately, the person I asked on the street in Mukilteo wasn’t any more familiar with the town than I was. But if I had been traveling with an audio tour CD from Northwest Heritage Resources, I would have had the answer. I not only would have learned how to pronounce Mukilteo (Muhk-il-tee-oh), but also would have heard a researcher for the Snohomish Indian Tribe tell me how the city got its name and that it means “a good place to camp.”
That’s the sort of information you get from a series of audio tour guides produced for scenic routes throughout Washington. The newest guide is for the southern half of the Cascade Loop, from Mukilteo and Everett along the Puget Sound and then eastward on State Highway 2 over the Cascades to Leavenworth, Wenatchee and Entiat.
There are many guidebooks that will steer you to major attractions and advise you on where to dine and where to sleep, but the series produced by Northwest Heritage Resources is different—it focuses on people, culture and history. It gives you a strong sense of place—stuff you could only find out in your travels if you had lots of time to stop, poke around and talk with the people who live there.
It took about a year to compile information, record sound tracks for two CDs and produce the 50-page booklet with maps and photographs that are included in Cascade Loop Heritage Tour–South. Project director Jill Linzee, with the help of Jens Lund and Kay Norton, did the research and writing, conducted the interviews, took photographs, and assembled materials. Linzee said one goal was “to get at the grassroots local culture—who are the people who live here and what do they do?”
Promoting and preserving cultural traditions in the Pacific Northwest is a mission of Northwest Heritage Resources, so much of the focus of the audio tour guide is on cultural influences that have shaped the area. On the CD tracks, you hear from historians, longtime residents, business owners, farmers, poets and artists. Bluegrass groups play music that was brought to the Cascades when North Carolina Tar Heels arrived to work in the timber industry. A mariachi band from Wenatchee plays music that farm workers brought from Mexico. The music of the Vietnamese community in Everett is represented by the sounds of the Vietnamese plucked zither. A railroad man, a naturalist and a logger recite their poetry; a Leavenworth man tells about being buried in an avalanche, and an Everett search and rescue team member recounts the rescue of a stranded hiker.
By listening to the CDs and reading the booklet, you gain an understanding of how the area evolved and why people live there today. You learn how the arrival of white settlers decimated the Native American population through disease and relocation to reservations, and how new arrivals from Japan, China, Vietnam, Norway, Mexico and elsewhere have invigorated the area with their traditions, crafts, art and music.
We learn that occupations have changed over the years. Logging is all but gone, dairy farming is diminished but still important in Monroe, and the one-time apple capital of the world, Wenatchee, still grows apples but pears and cherries have become major crops.
The audio tracks and the booklet provide a depth of information that won’t be found in an ordinary travel guide. The result is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to enrich a road trip with a little education and a better understanding of the people and places you can find along the way.
The Cascade Loop guide is the eighth in a series that began about a decade ago as the brainchild of Willie Smyth, folk arts program manager with the Washington State Arts Commission. Northwest Heritage Resources produced the first seven heritage tour guides in conjunction with the arts commission. The seven cover areas throughout the state, including the Olympic Peninsula and Interstate 90 from Seattle to Spokane.
The Cascade guide was produced in partnership with the Cascade Loop Association with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington State Tourism and others. A guide to the northern part of the Cascade Loop, from Chelan to Anacortes, will be released next year.
Cascade Loop Heritage Tour–South CDs and booklet are available at $17.95 and can be obtained at bookstores or ordered online. An MP3 audio version can be downloaded for $15. For ordering information, visit washingtonfolkarts.com or CascadeLoop.com.
Write to Mike Ward, editor at RV Life magazine, 18717 76th Avenue West, Suite B, Lynnwood, WA 98037 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Find First Glance online at rvlife.com.