In 1889, the same year that the state of Washington was created, Joe Pearsall set out prospecting the mountain peaks just up the road from here. As he climbed up and saw the sparkling galena on the ridge he thought he had discovered the find of the century. With the backing of John D. Rockefeller himself, and other eastern financiers (Hewitt, Hoyt, and Colby…all of whom have streets in the city of Everett named for them, and the city itself comes from the name of one of their sons) the town of Monte Cristo was built, named after the book, of course. But, there really was no way of getting the ore from Monte Cristo down for processing other than building a railroad to the smelter in Everett. That’s where the Rockefeller money really took hold. They sent out the very best and the brightest railroad construction engineers to survey out and build the railroad in exchange for mineral rights. Well, in typical Seattle fashion and folly, these experts took one look at the South Fork Stillaguamish River and decided they could put their tracks right along side it up the canyon to the town. They disregarded all of the local knowledge that what they called “a little trout stream” could become a raging fury, including category 5 rapids. You can guess where this goes. For every year the railroad operated, they had to practically rebuild the tracks and the tunnels that would get destroyed every winter.
For this we celebrate! Now that is typical Seattle! A festival for everything! Granite Falls is no exception. While the railroad didn’t get the prosperity it truly desired from the mining operations, it did shape the local history quite deeply. In the generations that followed, it was forestry that produced profits and Granite Falls has become quite a distinguished northwest foothills town. So, every year, the Shiners put on their funny little red hats, the high school classes each have a float, and even the famed Seafair pirates make an appearance. It’s a parade through the town, all 3 blocks, lasting about 20 odd minutes or so, and followed by the street fair. But, most of the locals actually head right to the bars for an afternoon of beer bashing and laughter. Last year, we actually met many of our new neighbors via Railroad Days. This year we’ve been invited to one of the grander soirées, pre-parade, for early drinking and carousing. I can’t help but love my new small foothill town; though I live up in the mountains 7 miles, and a world, away.
If you are a festival loving, Seattle local, be sure you check out Granite Falls Railroad Days. It’s always the first weekend in October. Then there is always the other festivals: the turkey shoot, the Show-n-Shine Car Rally, the Christmas Tree lighting, et al. While you are out here, make a day of it and visit us at the ranch. You can stop at the Granite Falls fish ladder on your way back to town. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, head on out to the ice caves. Then there is the corn maze down in Lake Stevens…but I digress.