Latitudes: Explore one of the Centennial State’s most unique playgrounds

  • Written by Debbie Stone
Courtesy of Debbie Stone


Hiking trails are typically an inherent part of most National Parks in our country. They offer opportunities for visitors to discover the highlights, as well as the lesser-known features of each destination. It's rare when a park doesn't offer some type of trail system, but such anomalies do exist.

Take Great Sand Dunes National Park, for example. This must-see wonder is one of Colorado’s most unique parks. Located in the San Luis Valley, the dunes were created hundreds of thousands of years ago after a large inland lake, which covered the valley, dried up. Over the years, a series of smaller bodies of water appeared and disappeared, leaving behind wetlands and an expanse of loose sand. Southwesterly winds picked up the sand and blew it toward a depressed bend in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, forming massive sand dunes. 

The park protects the tallest dunes on the continent; the tallest of which is 755 feet above the valley floor at an elevation of 7,600 feet above sea level. Upon seeing these mountains of sand for the first time, visitors almost always comment on the bizarre quality of the scene. The 30-square-mile dune field appears as a Saharan-like landscape, an otherworldly spectacle. 

This geological oddity, however, is not the only unusual aspect in the valley. The area is regarded as a paranormal hot spot. Believers around the world amass at privately owned watchtowers in hopes of spotting UFOs. The region is also a mecca of spirituality that attracts numerous religious organizations. And then there are solar energy companies who use the valley to harness alpine-desert rays. 

As for trails, you won’t find any at the park. There’s minimal signage and once you’re amid the dunes, footprints disappear quickly. You’ll blaze your own path and create your own adventure, whether you want to ascend High Dune, a 699-foot-tall behemoth, or up the ante and aim for famed Star Dune. The latter is the tallest dune, and only visible once you get to the top of High Dune. There’s a wonderful feeling of liberation as you forge your own way. As a bonus, there’s plenty of room for social distancing.

Make sure to wear sunscreen, bring enough water and have appropriate footwear. The latter is especially important as the temperature can reach a toasty 150 degrees on a sunny day and your bare tootsies will burn baby burn! Take the opportunity either before or after your hike, or both, to cool off in Medano Creek, just past the visitor center and at the entrance to the dune field.

If you’ve ever climbed sand dunes, you know it can be tiring. With every step forward, the earth gives away and you slide two steps back. Surprisingly, the dunes at this park have a fairly firm surface, making them a bit easier to ascend. 

Debbie Stone is a former reporter and feature writer for The Woodinville Weekly. She is currently touring the Southwest states.

Why you should vaccinate your child, even during a pandemic

  • Written by David J. Schneider, MD, FAAP

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported a plunge in vaccination rates for children, with numbers suggesting childhood vaccination rated essentially halting from March to April 2020 during the height of coronavirus concerns. 

While many families continue to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 until there is a proven, safe and effective vaccine, parents shouldn’t delay seeking health care for their children, particularly routine immunizations.

Current unvaccinated children for vaccine-preventable diseases do not have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, but they do have a higher risk of contracting other preventable diseases, like meningitis, whooping cough and measles that can potentially lead to worse outcomes. Measles is still spreading globally, with two outbreaks in Washington state last year. Measles is more infectious than the novel coronavirus and young children, pregnant women and immunocompromised children are at an increased risk for complications and have a higher fatality rate.

As a pediatrician who supports children’s overall health, my advice to parents is to not delay health care for your child if you are worried about COVID-19. Aside from vaccine-preventable diseases, delays in care for your child can slow the detection of congenital, or developmental issues, diagnosis of new problems, or treatments for chronic illnesses.

At Virginia Mason, we are doing new things to help put parents’ worries at ease. We are separating well and sick children into different clinics at physically distant locations so that parents and kids who come in for routine care will have decreased likelihood of being exposed to kids who are unwell. We are doing extra sanitizing of each exam room between patients, using personal protective equipment (PPE) for all visits with full PPE for sick visits, masking all patients at the entrance, and making it possible to maintain a six-foot physical distance from other people within the clinic. Patients who are scheduled in the “sick clinic” are asked to wait in their car and they are called when we are ready for them to come in. They are led directly to a clean exam room to avoid possible exposures in waiting rooms and hallways. For visits that do not require in-person care, we offer video visits and have seen a significant increase in this service. 

Everyone carries some level of risk for contracting COVID-19. Fortunately for children, most cases of COVID-19 appear to be mild, but there are some children who develop more severe symptoms and complications. 

This outbreak has reminded us how important vaccines are, as they help prevent the quick spread of infectious diseases and the horrible consequences that come with an outbreak. When a COVID-19 vaccine is available, it will be important for everyone to stay up to date with the vaccination to achieve herd immunity and avoid a devastating outbreak like we are having now. 

 Dr. Schneider is board-certified in general pediatrics. He practices at Virginia Mason Bellevue Medical Center, specializing in pediatric and adolescent medicine.

Woodinville grad accepted to Air Force Academy

  • Written by Bob Kirkpatrick

Kai Cavan WHSBOTHELL — Kai Cavan, class of 2020 at Woodinville High, has been selected to enter the Air Force Academy. He was among 1,100 students accepted out of the 10,000 high school graduates who applied.

With such a narrow field of acceptance, the appointment, according to a June 24 press release, is considered a prestigious honor, as those seeking to be cadets must first obtain a congressional, vice-presidential, military-affiliated, or U.S. territory and international nomination.

“The Air Force Academy’s opportunities and structure are undeniable and have contributed to my desire to seek a nomination,” Cavan said in the release. “One of my main goals in life is to achieve a rigorous education, and with the opportunity to serve; the Air Force Academy is the best path to meeting this goal. After graduating from the Air Force Academy, I will immediately assume a leadership role as an officer.”

Cavan noted his academic career in the Northshore School District prepared him to compete on a national level against other applicants and successfully achieve the nomination to the Air Force Academy. 

“There have been some special teachers throughout my career at Northshore along with the guidance of my high school counselor, Mrs. Miller who helped ensure I stayed on track to meet all the requirements to get my nomination,” Cavan said. 

Cavan comes from families with a storied history of military service, encompassing four branches of the military. His grandfather is a 1969 graduate of the Air Force Academy and served as a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force until he retired. 

Cavan visited the Air Force Academy with his grandfather as a young boy to attend a baseball camp. 

The memory is still vivid in his mind.

“He told me stories and explained things about the campus,” Cavan said. “We drove up the hill to the overlook of the baseball field and when we reached the top, I looked in amazement at the campus and knew then I needed to get back there. It wasn’t just the view of the Academy but the moment when I realized that my values, goals and desires have led to the Air Force Academy and I needed to focus on the things that will help me to realize this goal.”

Cavan believes the leadership characteristics he gained on the field there and while playing baseball for the past 12 years contributed to his selection to the Academy. 

“I learned to build success through teamwork, overcoming challenges, team leadership and building trusting relationships,” Cavan said. “My teams haven’t always been winners, but I did learn the art of finding strength and skills from individuals to contribute to team success.” 

He hopes to continue to develop those characteristics and become a successful Air Force career officer.

“Like my family, I want to do my part in protecting this great country and I feel the best way to accomplish my goals is through the right preparation,” Cavan said. “The Air Force Academy will challenge me in the classroom and in life, pushing me both physically and mentally to become a strong and knowledgeable leader.”

Daughters of the American Revolution recognizes Woodinville woman

  • Written by Bob Kirkpatrick

For the first time in its 130 years of existence, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) conducted its annual Continental Congress convention online.

Theresa Barker and Stephanie Conroy of the Susan Woodin Chapter represented Woodinville at the meeting. 

After its regular business, Baker was recognized for her first-place finish in an essay contest sponsored by the Women’s Issues Committee.

Her paper entitled “Look What You Made Me Do!” dealt with the topic of domestic violence.

 “I am honored and amazed by this recognition,” Barker said in a June 24 press release. "The main message of my essay is that domestic violence is never the victim's fault. Never." 

The prerecorded video programming for the opening night ceremony featured Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch, who was honored with the DAR History Award Medal and provided the keynote remarks.

The National Defense Night Ceremony, which aired on June 27, celebrated the nation’s military and veterans, with Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Robert Ashley providing the keynote remarks and receiving the DAR Patriot Award. 

The DAR Continental Congress is an annual gathering that has traditionally been held in Washington, D.C. since the organization’s founding in 1890. National, state and chapter leaders as well as other members from across the country and around the world gather to report on the year’s work, honor outstanding award recipients, plan future initiatives and reconnect with friends. 

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution was also founded in 1890 to promote historic preservation, education and patriotism. Its members are descended from the patriots who won American independence during the Revolutionary War. With more than 185,000 members in approximately 3,000 chapters worldwide, DAR is one of the world's largest and most active service organizations. To learn more about the work of today's DAR, visit 

Where’s Sara? Tiger Mountain — A Grrrrreat Place to Explore

  • Written by Sara Graham
Photo courtesy of Sara Graham


Trying to find a hike these days where not too many people are going takes some extra time and creativity. I didn’t want to drive far but wanted to hike a ‘mountain,’ so I decided to explore a little more Tiger Mountain in Issaquah. It is the closest mountain, only a 30-minute drive from Woodinville. 

There are over 70 miles of trails with three summits waiting to explore.

I have hiked Poo Poo Point many times, and done West Tiger Summit 3 and the Chirico Trail too. Everyone should know about these popular tourist trails on Tiger Mountain. But this time, I wanted to find something new.

So, I took out my Tiger Mountain Green Trails Map (I highly recommend you buy one if you don’t have one at and felt like a pirate looking for treasure as I laid it on the kitchen table to carefully examine the trails. 

I located Tiger Summit 1, 2 and 3 and then noticed in minuscule letters "Hikers Hut" next to Tiger Summit 1. AHA, “X” marks the spot — something new waiting to be explored. I hadn’t hiked summit 1 and 2, so I planned my adventure and set out to achieve all three summits and find the elusive Hikers Hut.

I chose the next sunny day and lucked out finding a parking place in the Tiger Mountain lot located off I-90 at Exit 19 for the Highpoint Trailhead.  It can get crowded on the weekend so plan accordingly—you will need a Discover Pass.

I started down the well-trod West Summit 3 trail that everybody follows. I carefully checked my map and immediately detoured left onto the TMT trail, one I have never been on. In a half-mile, I chose to go right up the steep cable line trail to Tiger Summit 3. I only saw two people along the way. Once on top, I checked out the view then traversed over the top to Summit 2. There is only one trail leading there so you cannot get lost. 

I took a quick break and enjoyed the company of the robber jays who attempted to steal Chex mix out of the palm of my hand. I was now in new territory and was glad to have my map to help me navigate my way. 

I followed an old logging road up to Summit 1 and came to a “Y” and I veered left up a very steep but short gravel section. I was pleasantly surprised as I rounded the bend when Mount Rainier appeared out of nowhere. It was in full view! I got excited as I neared the top, and as the road leveled out, I looked up and there tucked in the trees was the Hikers Hut. It looked like a space capsule. Mission accomplished! 

Inside the hut was an array of emergency hiking gear. A safe haven in any Northwest storm. A single stone bench near the hut faces Mount Rainier; a perfect place to soak in the spectacular views.

I returned to the base parking lot via the TMT and K3 trails having hiked a total of 6.5 miles and almost 3,000 feet of elevation. There are so many ways to hike and explore on Tiger Mountain. I encourage you to check out the map and create your adventure. I guarantee it will be Grrrrreat! For more adventure ideas visit 


Sara Graham is a long-time Woodinville Weekly columnist and an outdoor enthusiast.