For the first time in decades, the opening of SR 20's North Cascades Highway seasonal gate will be without Tootsie Clark.
|Tootsie at the SR 20 North Cascades Highway gate opening in 1994. Photo courtesy the Clark family|
Known to many as the cinnamon roll lady, she passed away last fall, leaving a cinnamon roll legacy that stretches farther than the Marblemont resident likely ever imagined.
"She just loved the highway," her granddaughter Jurene Brooks said. "And she loved the crews."
|Our crews enjoying Tootsie's cinnamon rolls in 2010. Photo courtesy the Clark family|
More than a decade ago, the former proprietor of Clark's Skagit River Cabins and Eatery started bringing cinnamon rolls to the gate to share with crews.
"It was a way to show her appreciation," Jurene said. "She knew that once those gates were open, people would come from both sides of the mountains and business would flourish."
|Tootsie pushing the SR 20 gate open in 2007. Photo courtesy the Clark family|
Jurene plans to help carry on the legacy and honor her late grandmother at the 2018 opening. She has spent the week preparing more than 100 cinnamon rolls to hand out to those at the western gate in Diablo on opening morning. She tells me that her mom, dad and uncle will also be there just to honor her grandmother and the tradition she built.
Tootsie's family won't be the only ones celebrating the woman who brought so many people together. Regulars at the gate opening over the years became known as "Tootsie's Gang" and many of them will be there too.
|Tootsie and her gang at the gate opening in 2015. Photo courtesy the Clark family|
Jess Brown lives in Anacortes and since 2003 he's been driving – or if it's warm enough, riding his motorcycle across the Cascades on opening day.
"My boss knows that whenever that opening day is, I'll be taking the day off," Jess said.
That is still the case this year. Jess is loading up his dogs and taking the RV up to the gate where he plans to roll out a biscuits and gravy feast to help carry on the tradition left by his friend, Tootsie.
|Longtime opening day friend, Jess Brown, with Tootsie Clark in 2014. Photo courtesy Jess Brown|
"She brought people together with her food," Jess said. "We all love the day the highway opens for the season and this is my way of celebrating her, at the event that brought us all together every year."
|Tootsie Clark with one of her famous cinnamon rolls. Photo courtesy the Clark family|
Tootsie's family has moved out of the area but her cinnamon roll legacy lives on. Not only through her granddaughter, other family and close North Cascades Highway friends but also through the business she once marketed with them.
It's now called Glacier Peak Resort and Winery and Tootsie's cinnamon roll recipe lives on there. The owners will also bring those cinnamon rolls to the 2018 opening.
"A lot of the staff there is the same," said Jurene. "They know how to make gramma's recipe and they'll do a great job."
The first SR 20 North Cascades Highway opening without Tootsie won't be the same, but all the food, all the friends and all the love for this highway is something she helped build and her sweet tradition lives on.