Zipline tour is an exhilarating forest adventure

  • Written by Deborah Stone
The Canopy Tours NW zipline tour includes six ziplines, the longest which is 660 feet, a log bridge, two short trail walks and a 47-foot final rappel. Courtesy photo
A picturesque, red hillside barn is the first thing you’ll see as you approach historic Kristoferson Farm on Camano Island.

It’s a dramatic sight from the road and provides you with an initial indication that you’ve arrived at somewhere special.

The 100-year-old, 234-acre property, which is family owned and operated, is a certified organic farm that produces organic hay and lavender.

It’s also the site of Canopy Tours NW, a zipline tour that the Kristoferson family opened last year.

“We entertained various business plans to help keep the farm sustainable,” explains Mona Campbell, director of marketing for Canopy Tours NW and one of the farm’s owners. “Many involved making big changes or required huge capital investment. Then we hit upon the idea of a zipline tour, which a few of us had been on before and really enjoyed. We did research to see if something like this would fit with our values of the place and allow us to share its unique assets with others. We concluded ‘yes’ and began setting the wheels in motion.”

Campbell adds that it was the family’s intent to create an experience that would be more than just a standard zipline tour.

She says, “We wanted people to really get a sense of the environment because we’re privileged to have a diverse set of habitats here. It’s a very unique place — a wonderful example of a true Pacific Northwest forest.”

The tour includes six ziplines, the longest which is 660 feet, a log bridge, two short trail walks and a 47-foot final rappel.

Two certified guides accompany your group throughout the experience, ensuring your safety at all times.

“Safety is our number one priority,” comments Campbell. “And our guides are well-trained to handle any emergency. People can take comfort in knowing we run a top notch safety operation.”

As you fly a la Tarzan or Jane between trees from one platform to another, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the verdant greenery and flowing creek that you’ll cross several times during your exhilarating tour.

You may even spot wildlife scampering below or perched in the trees.

Your guides will point out interesting aspects of the environment, while regaling you with stories about the rich history of the land.

Soon, according to Campbell, there will be interpretive displays at each of the platforms with information about plants and sustainable forest stewardship.

“Providing an educational component is important to us,” she says. “We feel that people are generally open to learning more about their surroundings when they’re engaged in an outdoor activity.”

To date, nearly 7,000 visitors have experienced a Canopy Tours NW zipline adventure.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and Campbell admits being surprised at the level of enthusiasm folks have for this activity.

“They’re so pumped up and psyched about it and we find that even those who don’t start out this way end up feeling great about their experience,” she notes.

The word is getting out, not only in the Seattle area, but throughout the region. Corporate groups are booking tours for their retreats and team-building events, while families are excited to find an activity that all ages can do together.

“It’s accessible to everyone,” comments Campbell. “We have a weight minimum, but not an age limit. The oldest participant we’ve had so far was a 94-year-old man. He just loved it!”

The Kristoferson family hopes to increase awareness of the tour, while continuing to improve it.

They would like to add a walking tour sometime in the future, but Campbell says, “We need to do one thing well at a time. Right now, the goal is to increase our numbers because we can accommodate a lot more people.” She adds, “We want everyone to know we’re here and we’re open year-round. Even when it rains, there’s some protection when you’re in the forest. And when it snows, it’s especially beautiful.

For more information about Canopy Tours NW: (360) 387-5807 or

Booming manufacturing market generates interest in LWIT’s machining tech program

  • Written by Deborah Stone
LWIT Machine Tech
(L-R) LWIT Instructor Dennis Candelaria and students Loretta Aragon, Zac Sandum, Michael Fox, and Jennifer Lamphear learn about the HAAS lathe with live tooling. Courtesy Photo
Lake Washington Institute of Technology’s Machining Technology program is red hot these days.

A booming manufacturing market and demand for skilled machinists is generating increased interest in the field.

Currently, the college has 72 students enrolled in its program and a list of applicants waiting to enter.

The students encompass a vast array of backgrounds and come from all around the region. They range from recent high school grads to career change seekers and also include a number of displaced Kimberly Clark workers. The program offers several tracts to meet student needs.One is a two-quarter Principles of Machining certificate designed to help displaced workers quickly qualify for entry level positions so they can work as they continue their education.

Then there’s a four-quarter Certificate of Proficiency tract which offers more hands-on experience and skill than the two-quarter option.  And those who desire an Associate of Applied Science degree in Machine Technology can select the two-year tract.

Lake Washington’s program has been in existence for more than 40 years, making the institute a leader in machine technology training.

“It’s really a great program,” says Steven Weaver, a machine technology instructor at the college. “It gives students a solid foundation of knowledge. They learn the vocabulary and the terminology and get lots of experience with different machines. Classes are a mix of lecture and demonstrations plus work time and run Monday through Friday for five hours each day.”

Weaver adds that students have an excellent chance of being hired upon graduation, as currently there are not enough machinists to fill the jobs available.

“It’s a really good employment outlook for these students,” he comments. “We get calls on a regular basis from companies asking for our best students.”

Weaver notes that graduates from the program are able to grow much faster in the field than those without this type of training.

This year, the college has the highest percentage of women students enrolled in the history of the program.

Among them is Jennifer Lamphear, a mother of two who lives in Bothell.

The local woman is working toward her Associate of Applied Science degree and has about two quarters left before she reaches her goal.

Before she entered the program, Lamphear was an assistant manager for Domino’s Pizza.

“My boyfriend suggested I consider machining,” she says. “I had never thought about doing something like this, but I’ve always liked working with wood and using my hands.

“Once I started classes, I knew it was for me. It suits me and it’s a good fit for my abilities and interests.”

She adds, “I enjoy shaping metal into different forms and it gives me a sense of accomplishment to take a square block and create something useful.”

Lamphear notes that her teacher, Mike Clifton, is very helpful and provides excellent guidance and feedback to students. As for challenges, she admits that initially she was worried about the math component inherent in the profession as she had experienced trouble with this subject back in high school. But, she discovered that because the math has real and actual applications, it is much easier for her to understand.

“Trigonometry, for example, makes sense to me now that I am using it to do this type of work,” she says.

Lamphear was the first female in the program in five years when she initially entered the college. She acknowledges that it was a bit weird being the only woman and it took a while for some of the men to fully accept her.

“They picked on me a little in the beginning,” she comments. “But, once they saw that I could do the work, they stopped. Now, I feel comfortable and now there are more women in class so that’s great.”

The local woman is confident she will be prepared to enter the field when she graduates and she is looking forward to landing a job in a machine shop.

And with the new equipment that the college recently received, Lamphear and her fellow students in the program will have an even sharper edge when it comes to hands-on experience at graduation.

“We just got nine new machines totaling around $400,000,” explains Weaver. “It’s very exciting!”

Among the pieces of equipment are three Protrack lathe machines, three Protrack milling machines, two high-tech HAAS milling machines and a top-of-the-line HAAS lathe with live tooling capability.

“To get this type of technology – these types of machines – and have them be brand new is incredible,” adds Weaver. “It’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened to the program and it’s going to make a difference in helping to further increase our students’ skills in this industry.”

FEMA warns Northwest — Here comes the rain

  • Written by FEMA

The rainy season has arrived in the Pacific Northwest and that means residents should prepare for the possibility of flooding.

In addition, residents living near areas impacted by summer wildfires may face an increased risk of flooding and mudslides because charred ground is unable to absorb excess water generated by rain and snow.

There are simple steps that residents can take to be more prepared for potential flooding.

Stock an emergency supply kit with items such as non-perishable food, water, and a flashlight with batteries.

Ensure you have an emergency plan that considers insurance coverage, especially flood insurance.

“When it comes to reducing the vulnerability to flooding, the whole community has a role to play, and that includes individual citizens,” said Mark Carey, FEMA Region X Mitigation Division Director. “One of the best ways residents can protect their homes and businesses is with flood insurance. If you have a policy, take a moment to review it and ensure that your coverage is appropriate.

Look around your home and identify things that are irreplaceable. If you cannot live without it, what are you doing to ensure it is safe?”

Many people mistakenly believe that their homeowners insurance covers flood damage.

Only flood insurance financially protects buildings and contents in the event of a flood, which is the nation’s most common and costly natural disaster.

However, it typically takes 30 days for a new flood insurance policy to take effect, so residents and renters should not wait for a storm to strike before purchasing coverage.  It only takes a few inches of water in a home or business to cause thousands of dollars of damage. The time to get protected is now.

With federally backed flood insurance, citizens have an important financial safety net to help cover costs to repair or rebuild if a flood should strike.

Individuals can learn more about flood risk and their options for insurance coverage by visiting or by calling 1-800-427-2419.

Washington state strengthens carbon monoxide protection withe new legislation Effective January 1, nearly all residential buildings must install CO alarms

  • Written by First Alert
Washington is taking another step forward in stopping a silent killer with new legislation effective Jan. 1, 2013.

The 2011 Revised Code of Washington (RCW 19.27.530) will require that carbon monoxide (CO) alarm devices be installed in nearly all existing buildings classified as residential occupancies.

At that time, all residential buildings state-wide, including single-family housing and apartments, as well as hotels and motels, must be equipped with the proper number of CO alarms. The January deadline is of particular importance, as more CO deaths occur during the winter months than any other time of year, due in part to increased use of fuel-burning sources to heat homes, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

“Carbon monoxide is a poisonous – and potentially fatal – gas that can only be detected by specially designed sensing devices,” said Deborah Hanson, director of external affairs for First Alert. “The new legislation will help put an end to the tragic incidents that occur each year as a result of undetected carbon monoxide.”

Known as the “silent killer,” CO poisoning is the number one cause of accidental poisoning in the United States  —  responsible for an average of 450 deaths and more than 20,000 emergency room visits each year. CO poisoning is notoriously difficult to diagnose — often until it’s too late.

The symptoms mimic those of many other illnesses and include nausea, headaches, dizziness, weakness, chest pain and vomiting. In more severe poisoning cases, people may experience disorientation or unconsciousness, or suffer long-term neurological disabilities, cardiorespiratory failure or death.

Under the new law, CO alarms must be located outside of each separate sleeping area, in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom.

However, safety experts, like the NFPA, recommend that CO alarms also be installed on each level of the home, including the basement.

Local building code officials will verify compliance with the law when approving permit requests for new construction and most alterations, repairs or additions to dwellings.

The NFPA also recommends replacing alarms once they reach the end of the manufacturer’s suggested useful life or expiration date — an average of five to seven years.

For building owners who already have alarms but may not know their age or condition, this new legislation serves as a reminder to update their properties accordingly.

“The 2011 Revised Code of Washington is a vital step in bringing strengthened CO protection to consumers state-wide,” Hanson added. “But installing CO alarms is only half of the story  — conducting ongoing alarm maintenance, including replacing expired alarms and checking batteries, is necessary to maintain a home’s level of protection.”

CO sources may include, but are not limited to, heaters, fireplaces, furnaces, appliances or cooking sources using coal, wood, petroleum products or other fuels emitting CO as a by-product of combustion. Attached garages with doors, ductwork or ventilation shafts connected to a living space also are sources of CO.

For more details on Washington’s CO alarm requirements, as well as how to detect and what to do in case of CO poisoning, visit the Washington State Department of Health website, at

Schack Art Center strives to connect the community to art

  • Written by Deborah Stone
The Schack Art Center is the jewel of Everett. Courtesy photo.
The Schack Art Center is the jewel of Everett.

The 19,000-square-foot facility, which contains a retail art store, galleries, multi-purpose classrooms, studio space and a hot shop, is the new home for the Arts Council of Snohomish County.

In its first year, the center had 33,000 people walk through its doors and nearly 1,700 artists and art students exhibit their work in its galleries and store.

Schack is quickly becoming the go-to place for art in the County.

“Our mission here is to connect the community to artists and to how art is created,” says Judy Tuohy, Schack’s executive director. “People can come and watch artists in action, view art on display, take a variety of classes and enjoy the different activities and festivals we offer year-round. They can also rent studio space or hold special events here such as weddings, birthday and retirement parties, corporate meetings, retreats, fundraising auctions and book club luncheons.”

The shining crown of the $6,000,000 center is the unique, state-of-the-art hot shop or glass blowing facility.

Best of all, it’s open to the public.

Artist Jesse Kelly makes glass pumpkins in the hot shop. Courtesy photo.
A rolling garage-style door connects the hot shop with the main exhibit space, allowing glass blowers to put on public demonstrations.

Inside is one of the most technologically advanced furnaces in the world, which holds up to 1,000 pounds of molten glass.

The “day tank” as it is called stays on 24 hours per day, seven days a week and melts glass at 2,350 degrees.

The glass in the furnace comes in the form of glass pillows, which are a pre-melted glass manufactured by Spectrum Glass in Woodinville.

There are also three empty re-heating furnaces called “glory holes,” which are heated with natural gas and forced air and used to mold the glass into its desired shape.

And then there are three Annealing ovens that help to bring the glass temperature slowly down to room temperature overnight.

Adjacent to the hot shop is a flame and kiln studio where glass artists work with glass at a lower temperature.

On any given day, there are usually groups of glass blowers at work in the hot shop.

Some are established and well known; others are emerging artists or students participating in one of the center’s glass blowing classes.

Arts education is a big part of what Schack is all about and in addition to numerous glass-related courses, the center offers instruction in everything from drawing and painting (most popular) to printmaking, silversmithing and calligraphy.

Since the center opened, it has tripled the number of its art classes and workshops.

“We have been offering classes to the community for the past 35 years,” notes Tuohy. “We were known as the Arts Council of Snohomish County, but we never had a permanent home. When we moved into our new place, we felt we needed a name change —  one that wasn’t associated with the government because we are a private, nonprofit organization and always have been from the beginning.”

Tuohy continues to explain that the center is named for John and Idamae Schack, in honor of the couple’s longtime support of Everett’s cultural institutions.

“We felt that this would be a more meaningful name,” adds Tuohy.

It’s important to point out that admission to the center is free and visitors are welcome to look at the exhibits on display, watch the glassblowers in the hot shop or peruse all the interesting artwork in the retail shop.

Exhibits in the main gallery change every six to eight weeks.

Recently, the center featured work by the Northwest Basket Weavers Guild.

For the holidays, there will be a special exhibit of work from women painters of Washington.

The room’s 23-foot ceilings and movable walls make it ideal for installations of all sizes.

In addition to the main exhibit area, there’s also the Emerging Young Artist Gallery, devoted specifically for students K-15.

During the school year, exhibits from Everett and Edmonds community colleges, various local high schools, the Denney Juvenile Justice Center and other such institutions are featured.

The two studios on site are each over 750 square feet and can be used as separate spaces by closing the moveable center wall or as one large space.

There’s even a small prep kitchen off one of the rooms to accommodate special event needs.

As for the retail art store, over 200 Northwest artists are represented with artwork that includes jewelry, paintings, ceramics, glass, cards and more.

“People come here just to shop for those one-of-a-kind gifts,” says Tuohy.

Visitors, artists and students continually give Schack high marks.

Tuohy comments that the response has been overwhelming positive, adding, “The community has taken ownership of the center. People enjoy coming in here because it’s free and we’re very friendly and welcoming. Our goal is to make art accessible. Too many times, it can be intimidating and that’s not what we want.”

Currently, the center’s nucleus of activity is on the first floor of the five-story building, however it also has space on the second floor.

Tuohy explains that future development, or Phase 2, will involve the creation of studios for metalsmithing, ceramics, lapidary and printmaking, as well as additional exhibit space.

She says, “There’s 6,000 square feet upstairs that needs to be finished. Once we finalize the floor plan and get a cost estimate from the architect, the Board will need to determine when to begin another capital campaign.”

She adds, “For now, we’re concentrating on increasing awareness and creating new partnerships with other organizations so we can offer more opportunities to the community.”

For more information about the Schack Art Center: (425) 259-5050 or