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A day trip to Bryant | GUEST OPINION
“Come thou … One day amid the woods with me…” 19th century poet William Cullen Bryant’s “A Summer Ramble” haunted me as I left I-5 at exit 212, Stanwood-Bryant Road, and drove east a few minutes. Bryant, Washington, elevation 171 feet, has an official census population of zero (its mailing address is Arlington,) some magnificent history, building No. 1 on Snohomish County’s register of historic places, and trees, trees, trees. When I reached Highway 9 I had arrived; the Bryant Store was on my left and the current end of the Centennial Trail across the road.
No, Bryant wasn’t named for this poet who venerated the outdoors yet lived his life in the east. Responsible journals say it was named for the Bryant Lumber & Shingle Co., about 1892. But as I wandered up and down the roads, crossed Roth Creek and wondered for whom the silver stream was named, I knew that Bryant the poet wrote of nature’s marvels exactly like these. Up the hill on 55th Avenue, there is three-tenths of a mile without civilization. It was easy to imagine the narrow road away, imagine that I was in the forest primeval. Fifty-third dead ends at Molstad’s Place, for generations the homestead of the folks who owned these acres. Pre-war homes nestle on that hillside, seemingly reconciled to the new ramblers that are their neighbors. Around Loyal Heights I watched a doe and two fawns graze on the grounds of an old, white school on 269th NE.
If you want to know anything about Bryant, or hanker for a huge cup of coffee for a buck (refills just 50 cents) stop at the Bryant Store. Established in 1929 by Charles Smith and the first building on Snohomish County’s Register of Historic Places, it was home and business to Charles and later to his son, Norm Smith, who worked the store for 45 years. Terrie Welch, Smith family friend and the store’s owner, said, “We have a wall of stuff for the kids, at 25 cents or less. And night crawlers, if you want to try your luck for trout or bass in Bryant Lake, ‘just over there.’” An inviting patio area beside the coffee pot offers a homemade wire-spool umbrella table, and features a 3x5 hand-drawn map of 1900 Bryant, featuring landmarks like the Berge Cow Barn and La Bross Saloon.
The Centennial Trail is 28 miles of asphalt bike/pedestrian path with a horse trail beside it, beginning in Snohomish in 1989 and finally arriving here last year. There is no concrete schedule for its continuation northward from Bryant, although it is estimated that half a million people used the trail last year. It follows Highway 9 and ends near the Bryant Community Church, a building from the 1950s that is also the Bryant Grange.
I wanted to investigate the Pioneer Museum, but it wasn’t open on Friday. The Genealogical Society is in new digs, a little old house on the hill, and Marietta Roth, a resident since 1963, is a pillar. I visited in her kitchen. “Roth?” I flipped back through my notes. “Roth Creek? Named for some of your family?”
Her 84-year-old eyes sparkled like a girl’s. “I loved Bob Roth so much,” she confessed. “I had that sign made and planted.” No one has ever complained, said Marietta.
On the back of Max Henderson’s property, while searching for abandoned railroad tracks said to be there, I wondered how the Western Hemlock became Washington’s state tree. Only cedars and maples a hundred feet high abounded, sporting skirts of tall ferns. Decaying stumps four feet in diameter had birthed huckleberry bushes. Once again, the forest primeval filled my senses.
I followed a slow logging truck out of town, a welcome sight. I didn’t complain as I might have forty years ago when they were abundant, and their logs twice as big. I thought of William Cullen Bryant again, of his poem “Autumn Woods.”
“The woods of Autumn all around our vale, have put their glory on.” Such will be Bryant, Washington in October. I must plan another day trip.
J. R. Nakken is a local author. Her books are in stock at Tulalip Hotel and Casino Gift Shops, Rainbow’s End in Everett, or at Amazon and Barnes & Noble on the Web.