We’ve come across a series of guides to driving tours of Washington State that are among the most unusual and interesting guides we’ve seen – and listened to.
Entitled the Heritage Tours, the series is published by Northwest Heritage Resources, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to conserve cultural heritage and to present, promote, preserve and document the diverse cultural traditions of the Pacific Northwest”.
The Heritage Tours series of guides – eight so far, though the first, the guide for the tour from Othello to Omak, is not currently in print – sets out to give residents and visitors a way to appreciate Washington State’s cultural diversity, and at the same time to help them explore Washington State’s physical marvels.
Each Heritage Tour guide does this by not only providing information- and map-packed printed guides to help drivers navigate and learn about each locality along the way (in some cases the tours are hundreds of miles long), but also offering audio recordings of people and activities involved in each locality’s cultural landscape.
Every guide in the series comes with two or three CDs (guide numbers two through six are also available with audio cassettes, if you prefer), containing grass-roots recordings of stories, narratives, folk poetry and music. Each track features a local person or musical group and every recording is obtained by local folklorists who go out in the field to collect audio experiences to build up a detailed cultural picture.
Most if not all of the recordings are of people and activities featured in the written-narrative part of the guide and each printed guide also contains a full listing and explanation of each track on each of the associated CDs.
For instance, in the latest guide, Cascade Loop Heritage Tour – South, number eight in the series, the two CDs include recordings of selections as diverse as a Boeing tour guide explaining part of the process of how a 747 is built; a Leavenworth couple detailing how they learned the traditional Norwegian crafts of acanthus woodcarving and rosemaling; a river rafting guide talking about his involvement with the sport; and the manager of Ohme Gardens telling the story of Herman Ohme and his vision of creating a hilltop paradise.
The selection of recordings on the two CDs also contains items as varied as a narrative of the Wellington train disaster; a Wenatchee couple talking about their restaurant, which serves the authentic cuisine of Michoacan in Mexico; logging families talking about their experiences and family histories; and a Mukilteo woman discussing the Latvian dance group she directs.
Each of the two CDs that accompany the Cascade Loop Heritage Tour – South guide has 24 tracks: The fact the 50-page driving-tour guide has 48 accompanying audio tracks gives a good idea of the considerable range of cultural experiences that the guide and its CDs highlight.
In putting together the guides, Northwest Heritage Resources has worked with the Folk Arts Program of the Washington State Arts Commission, for guides one through seven; and the Cascade Loop Association, for the new guide number eight. It will also be working with the Cascade Loop Association to produce its next planned guide, Cascade Loop Heritage Tour – North. (The entire Cascade Loop tour is some 440 miles long, and Northwest Heritage Rources encourages drivers following any of the Heritage Tours to make leisurely explorations of the towns, byways and off-road sights along each route.)