Needles and a Pen » Knitting, Sewing, and Nursing School

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  • Welcome to my blog!

    Hi! I'm Traci. I'm a nursing student and CNA who loves quilting, knitting, cross stitch, and the great outdoors. In my pre-scrubs life, I owned Real Photography, and you can still see my old wedding and portrait photography site here .

    I've created a map that shows links to our camping/hiking/general family fun review posts that you can find here. It's pretty much the coolest thing on this site. Thanks, Google!

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Colorado Springs Great Wolf Lodge Tips and Review

The local Ghost Hotel across from our local Ghost Mall was finally bought and developed this year…by Great Wolf Lodge!  I had heard occasional things about the Great Wolf Lodge in Washington, and so I was excited to check one out.  We reserved a room this fall before they opened at 30% off for two weeks after they opened their doors.  Here are my thoughts and tips based on our experience celebrating our kids’ 7th and 11th birthdays there with a one night stay.

The room:

We paid an extra $30 for a ‘themed room’ which was a massive hit with the kids (Junior Wolf Pup Den Suite).  They love hotel rooms, especially suites, so having a little alcove all to themselves with bunk beds and a tv was HUGE.  I had read reviews online that recommended skipping this upgrade since many families don’t spend much time in their room, but for our family the extra expense added a big wow factor.

The rooms have mini fridges, so bring adult beverages, I mean snacks.  They have a microwave, so don’t forget the microwave popcorn for an evening treat!  The coffee makers use k-cups, so you can bring your own favorite k-cup from home (or go down to Dunkin Donuts).

One thing that the room didn’t have that was a small disappointment was a DVD player.  Nic and I had looked forward to catching up on some movies, but without a DVD player we had to watch live television like it was 2003 or something.

While I’m nit-picking, the bed was ridiculously uncomfortable.  The mattress was way too soft.  Be prepared to wake up feeling 97 years old.

And back to the positives: The bathroom had shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel as well as a hair oil treatment, which was a nice touch after a day in chlorine!  And did I mention that my kids completely loved the themed room?  (Ignore my awkward editing.  I should really stick to photos.)


Check-in officially begins at 1pm.  We arrived at 12:45 and our room was ready for us and there was no wait to check-in.  Definitely arrive a touch early for check-in if you can!  Not only do you get a little longer in the park, but you are first in line for the rooms that are already clean, and you beat the line for check-in (and more importantly the line for the elevators)!

At check-in I asked if it would be possible to have a late check-out.  Since they were fully booked on Friday I wasn’t able to get a 2 hour late check-out, but I did get a complimentary 1 hour late check-out (putting our check-out at noon) which was especially great because it kept us out of the elevator congestion occurring with the 11am check-outs!

The waterpark:

The waterpark is really what everyone is there for.  You can’t get a day pass–it is only for guests.  We stayed Thursday night into Friday and while Friday was certainly more crowded than Thursday, neither day felt overly crowded.  We lucked out both times and got chairs easily–the first day arriving at the waterpark about 5pm and on Friday getting there about 11am.  You aren’t able to bring food/beverages into the waterpark area, but you can eat your own food in an area right outside the waterpark.

The hotel has lockers that you can use on Thursday before checking into your room and on Friday after checking out.  THEY ARE THE MOST EXPENSIVE LOCKERS IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD.  A tiny locker that won’t fit a purse will set you back $10, a locker that will fit a standard beach bag is $15 and a locker that will fit your beach bag and shoes is $20.  We had set ourselves up on Friday to use a locker, but if I’d known how pricey they would be I would have planned to leave a bag of clothing at our chairs and gotten a $10 locker for my camera.  (If you have a DSLR the lockers are nice so that you can take a couple of ‘real pictures’ and then stash away your camera, otherwise you can probably skip the lockers.  Nic and I have inexpensive android/windows phones which we felt perfectly comfortable leaving at the pool chairs.)

If you’re used to Villa Splash, the first thing you’ll notice about Great Wolf Lodge is that the waterpark is much colder than the steamy paradise you’re used to.  While the temperature was fine if you were staying active and rushing around between the different slides, if you were damp and standing around waiting for kids, it was not so pleasant.  There has been much talk on local forums about the lack of a hot tub (which would help the temperature issue a lot) as well as the lack of a lazy river.  I love a lazy river, so the lack of one was a bummer.

I thought that the range of slides and activities for different age groups was fantastic.  There were several slides for smaller kids, and lots for them to do in the splash area.  For toddlers and babies there was also a fenced-off area with very small slides and shallow water.  For older kids and adults there is a nice range of slides ranging from my idea to fun to my idea of completely terrifying.  I could tell that my fifth grader wasn’t sure if he was going to be Too Cool for it all or not, but running into two of his buddies from school in the lobby when we checked in and getting to spend Thursday evening playing with them in the waterpark sold him on it being Perfectly Cool Enough for a 5th grader.

Quick overview of the different slides:

  • Alberta Falls was my favorite slide and the one with the longest line.  It is your best bet for starting young or timid kids off on the bigger slides.  You can use a double or single innertube, which is perfect so that you can happy voice “wheee!” for your tiny companion and make sure they’re doing okay.  It starts off with a dramatic drop and then is mild before another little dip and then calm twists and turns.  This is one of the tube slides that you can see from outside the hotel.
  • Mountain Edge Raceway is a toboggan style ride where riders slide down on their tummies and race against other sliders.  While you can see the last part of the slide from the main waterpark area, the first part of the ride takes you outside the building in isolated tubes (you won’t see any of your fellow racers).  We had taken our first grader on this as her first slide and as the slide began I thought “OH NO SHE MUST BE TERRIFIED!” but thankfully as we emerged onto the exposed portion of the slide I was able to look back and see a giant smile.  It’s a little more intense than it looks from below, though, so have young sliders go on the splash area slides first to warm up (and preferably Alberta Falls next).  Since four people load at a time, the line for this was never long.
  • Howlin Tornado is the slide that broke our first grader’s desire to go on any of the slides.  This is a family ride in a giant innertube, but it is intense.  (Disclaimer:  I’m kind of a chicken.  Splash Mountain is scary to me.)  I had the misfortune of riding it backward my first time, and spent the entire time thinking “THIS WAS A BIG MISTAKE” as Ellie and I tied for freaking out and being miserable on the ride.  She was sobbing by the end of it and kept saying that she was so scared during the ride that she couldn’t breathe. If you have a chicken in your group, it’s not worth it to convince them to go.  And if you DO convince them to go, ensure that they are facing forward!  The tube tends to twist around toward the end, but the initial part of the ride has all the steep drops, which are particularly unpleasant when you can’t see where you are going and feel like the people at the opposite end of your tube are going to fall down on top of you.  (Will rode backward when I tried it for the second time and he kept shouting at me “MOM HOLD ON!” because he also experienced the delights of feeling like the people opposite you were definitely going to fall down on top of you.)
  • Wolf Tail is the infamous slide in which you enter a tube and then they drop the floor out from under you and you freefall 20 feet before looping around and finishing the adventure.  As if that wasn’t enough, they amp up the anticipatory fear by playing a heartbeat inside the tube when you enter, and then counting down from three…only to add an extra beat onto the end of the countdown so you don’t even know when you will really drop!  Nic and Will both rode it twice.  Nic described it as horrible torture after riding it once, and then ended up being talked into going on it a second time when he escorted Will up for Will’s second ride.  Bragging rights seem to be the sole purpose of going on this ride.


Great Wolf Lodge provides one towel per guest which you check in and out like a highly regulated narcotic.  Remember that you can trade in your wet towels for fresh dry ones whenever you want, though!

They also provide both lifejackets and the ‘puddle jumpers‘ most moms use for non-swimmers.  Using the ones on-hand instead of dealing with your own is nice.

There is a bar in the waterpark area (the Sangria pitchers seemed to be the best deal) as well as a place for food.  On Friday we got lunch there since I didn’t want to take the time to get dressed and leave the waterpark.  It was our only experience eating inside the park and it wasn’t a great one.  They were sold out of several items (including the giant ice cream bucket I’d wanted to surprise the kids with) and after selling us sodas we went to fill the cups only to discover that basically everything except diet sprite was sold out.  Not cool.  The food was fine, and pricing what you would expect inside a waterpark–lunch for the four of us was about $40.


Since my kiddos are big into video games, I knew Magiquest would be something we’d want to try.  To play the game for four days is $15, and the wands are an additional $20.If the kids hadn’t mastered the game while we were there, we could have come back to have them finish it on Saturday or Sunday.

Wands range in price by $6 from the most basic to the most fancy-looking, and my kids agreed to pay the difference so they could have the coolest looking wand.  I’d told them ahead of time that there are wand toppers, but these aren’t a good value since people say it adds to the weight of the wand in an uncomfortable way.  Since we’d talked about it ahead of time, they weren’t even tempted by the toppers.   I spent some time in the months leading up to the trip trying to find used wands on ebay for a good price, but they seem to hold their value too well to make buying used on ebay a good option (they are all $15-$25 used with shipping, which really doesn’t save you anything).  You only need one wand–that way the kids can run through the game together.

To run through the whole game took about 3-4 hours.  The initial part of the game is easy for a non-gamer like me to understand because the main game consoles tell you to go collect items and tell you their location.  At the end of each level the game lost me.  You would interact with a console, but there is nothing to tell you what to do.  For example on the final level you have to figure out:

a) How to wake up the dragon.  If you go back to the portrait of the dragon you will see three or four symbols in the painting.  Back at the console if you touch those (and only those) symbols in order, you wake up the dragon.

b) How to fight and defend yourself against the dragon.  You have picked up several attacks and defenses, and have to figure out what will actually do anything.

If I was a kid this would make me insane.  HOW DO I EVEN PLAY THIS STUPID GAME?! I would shout and then I would cry.  BUT in retrospect I can appreciate this element of the game because it makes it very social.  You will inevitably run into a boy who looks like he knows what he is doing, and he will be all too happy to share with your children how to beat that level.  Think of it as an ice breaker.

Magiquest is most active in the evening.  We played it on first arriving at the hotel while we waited for Nic to get off work, and we only ran into one other player during that early afternoon stretch.  Will played it again in the evening Thursday with his buddies, and many more people were playing at the time.  Will and Ellie were back at it again first thing Friday morning, and there were only a handful of kids playing.  If you’d like help from the experts, hit the halls after 8pm.

Which brings me to which halls you want a room on.  Magiquest is only on levels 3, 4, and 5, so if your kids will be playing Magiquest, request a room on those levels!  If you aren’t into the Magiquest thing, request to be far, far away!  Many of the clues are directly outside guest rooms, and since they are loud (and since kids are louder), you could easily find yourself with a lot of noise outside your door at 9pm.  If you have a younger crew with you, this may not be desireable.  We lucked out–I hadn’t requested a particular floor, but we were on the third floor in a room that wasn’t directly adjacent to either the stairs (which are heavily used by Magiquesters) or a game element, and so I didn’t hear any quest related noise.

Magiquest makes for a LOT of walking, particularly up and down the stairs.  Bring your running shoes and make the kids run between clues and you’ll have your cardio for the day.

The big question with Magiquest is how much autonomy you’ll give your kids in running around by themselves.  Our fifth grader was allowed to go out Thursday night with his two friends from school that happened to also be staying at the hotel (we required that he check back into our room every 15 minutes).  Friday morning we felt comfortable enough to let our fifth grader and first grader go out together, requiring that they check in every 10 minutes (they made a habit of checking in every time they were on our floor, which meant they ran into the room about every 5 minutes).  This was bliss.  Nic read a book and I took a nap.  We very much enjoyed our relaxing morning while the kids raced from game clue to game clue.

I think Magiquest is most fun and most intuitive for the 3rd grade and up crowd.  It would have been too difficult for our first grader on her own, but was very much on target for the fifth grader.  Middle schoolers and up would likely find it Not Cool Enough.

The other entertainment:

The forest friends story hour at 8pm was adorable and I was glad that I made it a high priority to take our first grader down for it.  The animatronic bear in the lobby comes to life and several friends pop up to sing and tell a story.  (I couldn’t tell you anything about the plot, since I had brought my own book, but Ellie enjoyed it.)  After the presentation a staff member came out to read a book with the Great Wolf Lodge mascot, but after getting all the kids up for a dance, he neglected to have them sit back down, so Ellie quickly asked to go back to our room since she couldn’t see over the other kids.  So for us the actual story time was a bust, but the forest friends presentation was a hit.

The hotel offers a manicure/pedicure salon that is ice cream themed and would have been a source of major angst for our first grader if we hadn’t talked about it ahead of time.  (Talking with your kids ahead of time about the money they may and may not want to spend during your trip is the best piece of advice I can give!)  Luckily I heard about it in advance, so I was able to go over the prices with my daughter and explain that I would be happy to take her to a regular nail salon after our trip if she really wanted to get a pedicure and it would cost her a lot less.  We also discussed how beat up your toenail polish gets when you go swimming!  In the end, we decided to bring nail polish to paint our toes together while in the hotel room.  (We were too busy doing other things, though, and ended up saving painting our nails for when we got home, which was a great way to save something fun for home!)

There is also a candy store, so you can preempt that by bringing some special treats in your suitcase.

I read that the ropes course was a good value at $13, and the kids had wanted to spend their money on it, but we ended up being fully entertained with the waterpark and Magiquest.  Something to remind your kids is that they can always come back and do the ropes  course or arcade (or put-put golf or Magiquest), but the waterpark is a one time only deal. 

The food:

The best part of the Colorado Springs location is that there is a lot of great food nearby.  We had my favorite ever pizza delivered on Thursday night (Boriello Brothers) which actually cost more than the hotel’s pizza, but it is the world’s best pizza and they don’t deliver to our house, so it was awesome.  We had lunch at Freddy’s Thursday and had contemplated dinner at Colorado Mountain Brewery and the BBQ place for Friday’s dinner but decided we were all wiped and grabbed Chinese on our way home instead.  Our only experiences with the food in the hotel were donuts from Dunkin Donuts on Friday morning and our typical-for-a-waterpark lunch on Friday afternoon.

We could have saved money by bringing meals, but THIS IS MY VACATION, PEOPLE.  I WILL BRING ALCOHOL AND STRING CHEESE AND THAT IS ALL.

The staff:

The staff was wonderfully friendly and I was constantly impressed by how vigilant the lifeguards seemed to be.  We were celebrating the kids’ birthdays, so on check-in the staff sang them a little song and they got special birthday versions of the wolf-ear headbands that you get when you check in.

The bill:

Nic and I are divided when it comes to the value-for-money of the experience.  Our room was 30% off and was $167 before the $50 ‘taxes and resort fee’ fee.  That brought our total for the room and two days of waterpark play to $220, with another $40 for Magiquest and about $100 for food.  I felt that it was a good value for the experience, but Nic said that he wasn’t sure he would recommend it to many people, especially given the normal cost of a weekend or school-on-break room.   So a one thumb up, one thumb neutral from our family.  (And like 18 thumbs violently up from the children.)  Then again, Nic’s the one who had to ride the Wolf Tail twice, so maybe I would also be shying away from recommendations if I’d paid that kind of money to basically fall out of a building.

Ignoring Nic and Going Anyway?  Don’t forget to pack:

Pajamas, robes, and slippers for the kids–the older ones will get a kick out of running around playing Magiquest in their pajamas and the littles will want to go to Story Hour in the pjs.

Snacks and drinks for the mini fridge and k-cups for your coffee maker.  I brought plastic wine glasses and sparkling apple cider for the kids.  Don’t forget microwave popcorn too!

Nail polish and fun candy to rival the money pits in the lobby.

Costumes if you have them for Magiquest (we sadly couldn’t find Ellie’s robe in the hustle to get ready, but they would have loved to both have their jedi robes for playing Magiquest).

Melissa - A million thanks!! All very good information. 🙂

One last time.


The last semester begins Monday.  25 clinical days, 14 lecture days, 5 exams.  Wake me when it’s over, k?


Susan McG - This is going to be easy. Just look at all you’ve accomplished when you didn’t even know anything. You got this. Have a great semester and don’t worry.

Made it.

Well, that was a rough one.  In its defense, everyone from the very beginning had said that the third semester would be the one to make you want to throw yourself into a bathtub with a toaster.  I was actually extremely lucky in that all of my Terrible stemmed solely from nursing school. Take away nursing school and things were pretty good for me.  Those around me had chronic illnesses get worse, houses catch fire, uncovered infidelity, lost pets, got divorced, and were hit by drunk drivers.  It was like the whole universe conspired to TAKE EVERYONE DOWN.

If you’re still keeping score, I did manage to eek another A out of this semester.  I have been told time and time again that NO ONE ACTUALLY CARES if you squeeze a 4.0 out of nursing school, but to get so close and get a B at this point would be a major bummer.  I am so close to the end now.  Just have to power through!  Four months and 7 days until the last final!

at least it wasn’t an ear, i guess.

Today I walked into the hair salon for a trim and walked out having chopped off 11 inches.

Two weeks ago completely out of the blue I told my sister-in-law that for the first time in my life I was really happy with my hair.  That I was truly happy with my hair.  That I liked my hair.  I have never said that about one of my own body parts before.

And then today I went AND CUT IT ALL OFF.

It occurred to me this afternoon that cutting your hair off is what you do after a breakup.  Randomly chopping off all your hair is not usually a good sign.  I’m pretty sure it is to mental health what Cheyne-Stokes breathing is to hospice patients.

So, for those of you keeping track at home, NURSING SCHOOL IS WINNING.  I think if you ran the numbers I spend more of my time crying in hospital bathrooms than I do on any other activity.  Sometimes I cry wearing the white scrubs of a nursing student.  I also now sometimes cry wearing the burgundy scrubs of a CNA.   This is not a positive development.

Today I held down a young patient while they received stitches.  At one point in the inconsolable sobbing and shouts of “noooooo!” the patient gathered up all their self control to say a full sentence at normal volume:

“I’m so sad.” 

Every heart in the room shattered.

The tragic naivety of it.

Of saying “I’m so sad.”

As if that mattered. As if that wasn’t obvious to everyone. As if the whole wide world hadn’t known that would happen all along.

You guys, I’m so sad.

As if that matters.  As if that isn’t obvious to everyone.  As if the whole wide world hadn’t known this would happen all along.

I feel powerless and bloodied and like everyone keeps murmuring “almost done” but we are STILL. NOT. DONE.

All that’s left to hope for is that someone will give me a hug and take me out for ice cream when they’re through with me.

If there’s anything left of me.




I survived psych without getting shivved!



Another bimester down, only three more to go!  I’m only 1.5 semesters away from graduation!!

This bimester I was in psych, and in terms of testing and grades, it was one of the easier classes.  Once you figure out the “rules” of therapeutic communication and psych in general (who is the greatest threat to safety, what takes priority, etc), you’ll get most of the questions right, regardless of the actual topic.   Because our class and clinical hours were lighter than ever before, and because I was doing well on the tests, this was the most enjoyable bimester so far in terms of school/life balance.  I did some baking, I got into a great workout habit, and I read a bunch of non-nursing school related things!  It was nice to have this in the first bi, since I got to enjoy the mild late summer/early fall weather.  It was lovely.  I will miss that ‘having a life outside school’ thing.

I had heard that psych was a good chance to do some self-analyzing, and that made me privately roll my eyes.  But then I found it to be true.  (Stupid psych.)  You have the extra time to think about the principles that you’re learning and about happiness and it’s a touchy-feely time, even if you aren’t particularly touchy-feely normally.

I had really wanted to be like “I don’t know why we have to spend an entire bi on psych when OB/Peds shares a bi–this is stupid and I’m not EVER going into psych” but you know that you can’t say that because you will see psych EVERYWHERE you go.  (I went to the ACOG/ACNM/AWHONN Colorado Annual Maternal Morbidity/Mortality Conference yesterday and one of the talks was all about psych patients in OB.  I was so excited to understand all the meds they were talking about.  Second gen anti psychotics cause LGA babies?  I KNOW WHY! !)  BUT, even when you don’t have a psych patient, if you can learn and practice the therapeutic communication techniques, that will be handy with EVERY patient.

I knew from working as a CNA that I wanted to focus on developing my ability to have conversations with people in hard times during my psych rotation.  There have been several situations at work where things got awkward, and my instinct was to handle them in the way we tend to handle things in ‘polite society’–minimize them, sweep them under the rug, carry things back to socially acceptable footing.  I knew my instinct was wrong, but I also didn’t have any alternative tools.  I used my clinical time to practice the heck out of therapeutic communication and become comfortable in those oh-god-what-do-you-even-say-to-that times.  If you want the cliff notes version because you haven’t gotten to psych yet, silence with a head nod to indicate that you are listening will do the trick 98% of the time.  The vast majority of adults will fill in the silence you leave.  And as you practice it, it won’t be awkward silence anymore–you’ll get comfortable in the silent waiting spaces of uncomfortable topics.

I feel like no matter what kind of nurse you want to be, psych is an incredibly valuable class if you put energy into really learning therapeutic communication.  So look forward to that.  Because they are the scariest clinicals you will ever have, and it’s important to have something to look forward to.

This is the class that made every nurse at work shudder when I mentioned it.  I couldn’t quite figure that out until I stepped into clinicals for the first time.  What I imagined was something harmless or charming.  Like a visit into the movie version of The Silver Linings Playbook.  What it was actually like was prison nursing.  On our very first tour of the units as our instructor fumbled with her keys to let us out of the highest acuity unit, a patient eyed a couple of us in a way that instantly made me want to run for a shower and muttered “if I had a weapon you’d see what I could do to you.”

Oh sweet baby Jesus, what have I done?!  Is it too late to go back to wedding photography?

Another student had the pleasure of talking to a patient before looking at his chart (at their facility they weren’t allowed to look at the charts before talking to the patients).  Come to find out this patient stabs himself while masturbating and fantasizing about stabbing women while raping them.

(Insert tiny high pitched whine of terror here.)

One of the patients in my unit was making threats about killing the previous doctors.  The staff was not impressed by the threats.  Until they looked into the records a little more and discovered that the individual had already be in prison for homicide.

Is it time to go home yet?!

I spent the first day trying not to cry.  (And failed.  I started to cry when one of my fellow students pointed out that I must be in hell, since I don’t even like taking care of men NORMALLY.)  Those first couple of days I felt like I could make a Road Runner style hole in the wall in the shape of me and go running to my car and never look back.

As I contemplated having to walk unto those units BY MYSELF and talk to the patients, I tried to think about Jesus.  And what Jesus would do.  And how I should treat the ‘least of these.’  But then I would think about Oprah, and how she would like me to run when I have that ‘ut oh’ feeling.  And Oprah was making a lot more sense than Jesus.

When your unlikely-to-worry husband sends you off to clinicals with a kiss and a sincere “stay safe” you know you are in deep into the darkest days of nursing school.

But then there are the less acute units.  And since I was less focused on my own personal safety, I was able to have moments of clarity, or amusement, or the start of interesting thoughts.

I realized while leading a group session that underneath depression wasn’t a well of sadness, but a well of anger.  The depressed patients were quick to talk about “people these days” and all had a lot of resentment toward how they had been treated.  If that’s true, then a protective factor against depression in our own lives has to be letting things go, and seeing the best in others, and not feeling that anyone else owes us anything or has any real bearing on our own life.

The schizophrenic patients are incredible to listen to.  Their words make no sense, but my brain would try so hard to make sense of the sentences because their inflection made it sound like SURELY that sentence made sense–it’s me that’s the problem.  My favorite was “no one wants to drive the hearse…until they’ve eaten the chocolate cake.”  I feel like that could actually be something deep.  (I may have also just played Wise or Otherwise too many times).  Or there was the time when I was brand newly out on the floor (as in my first five minutes alone) and a patient came up to me so excited about his holographic book and not having had any psych lectures yet, it took me WAYYYY too long to figure out that he was just having visual hallucinations and it was a perfectly regular book.

The child unit was really interesting because the therapeutic communication techniques that work on adults all go flying out the window with kids.  Look them in the eye and use good listening posture, and they’ll shut right down.  Approach a topic directly and they’ll basically tell you to go eff yourself.  You have to be sneaky and come at everything sideways and backwards while distracting them with a puzzle or drawing.  You have to pretend that you’re not actually paying all that much attention to them and are only casually interested in what they have to say.  And that all feels 1000% more normal!   The thing that startled me with all of the adult patients was how quick they were to share the most intimate part of their lives.  At a gut level, that felt wrong.  They were at such a vulnerable point in their lives, and I hadn’t done anything to deserve being trusted with their thoughts and feelings and stories other than show up with a student ID badge.  The kids make you earn it, they are suspicious of you as a stranger and an adult, and they want to warm up to you first.  THAT I understood!

All in all, it was a terrifying bimester, but a valuable one. Advanced Medical Surgical I is next.  Back to lots of clinical and lecture hours I go!

Susanne - Working with SMI and SED this whole post made me smile. Schizophrenics have got to be one of my favorite populations. I’m sure my college friends could have guessed this and I’m sure nick could tell you a story or two of my crazy interest in speaking to seattle’s crazy homeless people (I swear God gives us a vocation and starts training us before we even think we know what we want to do as grown ups!!)

I beleive and make a lot of effort to teach anger as a secondary emotion. Anger is the “easy” emotion that is almost always used to hide fear or hurt. When you can really see (non-psychotic) anger as hurt or fear, you can help de-escalate almost any situation.

It’s the bi-polar mamas that you want to keep a close eye on in you world.

Anyway, glad to hear you made it through! Those listening skills will make all the difference in every facet of you life!! ❤️❤️

Chasm Lake Hiking Trail Review

Chasm Lake is a Rocky Mountain National Park destination that gets lots of acclaim, but at 8.4 miles, it is deservedly called a difficult hike.


I was hesitant to attempt it in its entirety with the kids, so we planned a backpacking trip with a two night stay at Goblins Forest which knocked 2.4 miles and 750ft off the trip total.  It was still a tough one that had me wiped out, but what surprised me was how well the kids handled it.  Ellie can be a bit of a whiner sometimes on hikes, but faced with this challenge she just buckled down and got to it!  (Nic also did a fair amount of assisting in lifting her up this trail–with many of the steps well above her knees he supported a lot of her weight by holding her hand as they climbed.)


While the trail is long with a lot of elevation gain and a good rock scramble at the end, what really got me was the exposed traverse section.  If you happened to be hiking to Chasm Lake on July 16th and saw a family have an absolute meltdown on the trail, that was me.  You’re welcome.  I am not a fan of heights.  I do a lot with heights, but I still don’t like them, and I like my children being around steep drop-offs even less.  In the weeks leading up to the trip, I’d done research and several resources called a particular stretch of the trail “dangerous,” especially when it was snow covered.  From instagram pictures I couldn’t tell if it that section was still snowy or not, but when we got to the trailhead the night before, a sign announced that it was snow-free all the way to the lake.   Great.  As we approached that section, I started asking hikers coming down how it was, because we could see snow.  The first group of three told me there wasn’t snow, but that if you’re afraid of heights, it is not pleasant.  Well, crap.

I told Nic that I was starting to feel nervous about it, and he said that it was fine, and to look at allllll of the people coming back from the lake (there was a steady stream of people–it is a very popular hike and the sheer number of people on the trail surprised me).  That made me feel a little better.  An older couple was walking toward us, the man holding a TOTE BAG over his shoulder, and Nic asked them how the trail was (clearly wanting them to make his point that it was totally doable).  The man said something not at all reassuring in his Texan drawl about how the scramble was really hard and maybe not doable.  Double crap.

I gave Nic the “see?  we should just turn around here” eyebrows and he said “They’re TEXANS.  And he was carrying a SHOPPING BAG.”


So on we went.  The foliage thinned out and the traverse became exposed and my anxiety went sky high.  This was worsened when Nic (with Ellie) went to the exposed edge of the trail to allow returning hikers to pass through every time we crossed a group (which was often [there is no photographic evidence of this because at that point of time I was LOSING MY MIND with dread]).  I finally couldn’t take it anymore and asked him to STOP GETTING SO CLOSE TO THE EDGE WITH MY BABY and burst into tears and said that we needed to turn around.  We then proceeded to entertain the mountainside with a family drama meltdown in which we got our karmic due from all the times we have smugly watched Fighting Disney Families (one of our favorite Disneyland activities).  I would like to state as a little tip that if one of the members of your hiking party starts to freak out that her babies are going to fall to their deaths, yelling at her that she needs to “admit that her fear is irrational” when numerous trail guides call that section dangerous and she recently discovered how very terrifying it is to be in the wilderness when there is a crisis such as discovering you unconscious with what is perhaps a bear standing a few feet away IS NOT THE BEST WAY TO DEESCALATE THE SITUATION.

Snuffling and now furious, I turned back.  Will walked with me and was being a Therapeutic Communication prodigy.   I felt badly because I did really want to see this stupid lake, so we came up with a new plan.  Will and I would hike in front, and Will would be slow and careful and speak to me like the little Mommy Whisperer he is, and Ellie and Nic would follow behind and do whatever reckless crap they wanted to do and I wouldn’t have to see or think about it.  So we did that all the way to the end of the Terrifying Section.


We got through the exposed section, and Nic and Will praised my bravery.  Ellie said she didn’t get what the big deal was, that it was fine, that she was fine with that section.  (Ellie should probably never go into nursing.)  The little alpine meadow at the end of the traverse was a nice reward for facing my fear, but I had a whopping headache from crying and was too emotionally exhausted to enjoy it much.  (Isn’t getting out into the wilderness with your family so fun and wholesome?)


After the pretty little meadow, you turn toward a wall of rocks to pick your way up and over.  In reading about the hike, I had not been quite sure what to make of this “rock scramble.”  The kids had a blast with it, and because it’s not so exposed it wasn’t nearly as scary as the traverse.  It is hard work, though–you’ll be breathing hard!  It’s also hard to follow a particular route.  We ended up going down a different way than we came up (not intentionally), but it all works out no matter which way you come in.

rock scramble chasm lake hike

There’s a little bit of a false summit involved in the climb, but eventually we dropped down into the basin of Chasm lake.  The crowds had all turned back when we got there, so it was just us, a couple from Virginia (that come to think of it never did send me the pic they took of us with their wide angle camera) and the BALLSIEST MARMOTS THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN.


I had read about the marmots, but reading about marmots stealing stuff, and actually seeing a fat marmot steal a banana from someone’s hand are two very different things.  The marmots up there are insane.  And really entertaining for the kids.  But guard your snacks.  I don’t mean hold them in your hands–I mean, GUARD YOUR SNACKS.

I only had my 50mm lens with me, which is the wrong lens for this destination, but even with the right lens I wasn’t sure that the lake itself is all that amazing.  I think the Rocky Mountain National Park lakes we visited last year, Emerald, Jewel, and Mills for example, were much more beautiful (if you’re looking around for my blog posts on those, I still haven’t gotten around to it yet, but they’re coming).  I think Chasm Lake is popular because it is so hard to get to and because the hike itself is beautiful and takes you through so many different settings, but not because of the lake.  (Nic thinks the cliff of Longs Peak rising so steeply above it makes it impressive and worth the hype, so I guess you’ll just have to hike it yourself to decide how you feel about that one.)


Pros:  It’s long and hard and you’ll feel accomplished at the end of it!  The boulder scramble was our first, and a good introduction to this element of hiking. The hike was beautiful and exposes you to a lot of different views.  Peacock Pool and Columbine Falls, visible from before the traverse across Mt Lady Washington, are beautiful and would be a nice destination in their own right.  The marmots at the top were fun for the kids.

Cons: Mid-July was the first week this summer where the trail was snow-free.  The exposed section has a spot that holds onto snow/ice that I wouldn’t attempt with kids until the trail is melted out.  The exposed section will be a challenge for anyone who struggles with heights.  It is a popular trail, so there are a lot of people on it.  We got a late start and so weren’t hiking with the bulk of the crowd, but that has its own downside–with the late start we were constantly concerned about getting caught in a storm, and since you are hiking on the eastern side of the mountain you aren’t able to see weather rolling in until it is on top of you.  I would be very concerned about being up there during lightning.

Distance/Difficulty:  8.4 miles, 2380 ft elevation gain.  Our kids were the only children we saw on the trail once it split off to head to Chasm Lake, but it was very doable for them starting and finishing at Goblins Forest.  I think they could have handled it as a day trip, but it would have been more of a challenge.

Trail Teaching:

  • The ranger station at the trailhead offers information about John Wesley Powell, who first climbed Longs Peak, as well as a model of the area and other interesting tidbits.
  • If someone in your party is starting to have some anxiety about the whole business, distract them with helpful facts like how 60 people have died on Longs Peak including 8 from heart attacks and 6 from lightning.
  • If that doesn’t help, you could try talking about marmots I guess.  They are actually large squirrels (what?!  way to ruin the allure of marmots, Google!) who live in burrows and hibernate for most of the winter.  They communicate by loud whistles, and when not stealing hikers’ snacks, they live on whatever grass, lichen, moss, flowers, roots, and berries they can find.

Photos:  (Some of these are cell phone photos since I didn’t have a wide angle lens with me. Take a wide angle lens on this hike–it would be worth the extra weight!)

chasm lake rmnp


chasm lake trail longs peak

chasm lake hike

Further reading: