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!
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.
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.
- 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!)
When I read about the Denny Creek waterslides I was all “How did my mother not take me to this?!” A natural waterpark an hour away from our house? How had I never tried this? When I got there I realized that oh, a bunch of slippery granite and unpredictable you-can-drown-in-it water? THAT is how my mother never took me to that! 😀
It was the first week of July, and the flow was also too low for the ‘slides’ to have any real power. When the flow is high enough for the slides to be truly like waterslides, it’s probably too cold for it to be enjoyable. So. If you are a worrywart or expect a real waterslidey adventure, this one is not for you. That said, this was really fun (especially for the babies in our group), the scenery is beautiful and if the cons aren’t dealbreakers for you, it is well worth checking it out.
Denny Creek Campground near the trailhead looks like a great spot for camping!
Pros: Beautiful scenery! In early July this year there were plenty of shallow relatively flat places for very young toddlers to play. Walking up the creek reveals two beautiful waterfalls. We even got to see baby birds that were living in the rock behind the waterfall. Will lost his mind over seeing them–it was really special. The walk up the creek is slippery and a little tricky and would be tough with babes-in-arms, but picking our way up to the waterfall was a fun adventure with our elementary school aged kids.
Cons: Very crowded (think waterpark crowded)–in many places the hike wasn’t so much a hike as it was just following a line of people. We had a hard time finding a parking spot–the cars had spilled well out of the parking lot and significantly down the road. The flow wasn’t heavy enough for the ‘waterslide’ effect the big kids were expecting, and the water is very cold.
Distance/difficulty: 2 miles (plus the million miles from where you had to park your car), 400 ft elevation gain – an easy family hike with a well marked, well traveled trail. If you continue to Snoeshoe Falls this could be a 6 mile hike.
Directions: From I-90 take Exit 47 for Denny Creek/Tinkham Road and turn left. After 0.2 miles at the T intersection, turn right. After 0.2 miles turn left onto Denny Creek Rd. Follow this as far as you can get to the Denny Creek Trailhead.
Tips: We brought sandals for playing in the creek and socks/hiking boots for the walk in and out. The walk out is long enough that it would be miserable/blister-inducing in wet sandals.
- The water has smoothed and scooped out the granite in incredible ways along Denny Creek.
- Near the parking lot is a section of the original Snoqualmie Pass wagon road. It’s nothing much, just a short section through the woods between one stretch of the parking lot and another, but it’s fun to imagine a time before I-90!
Further reading: This protrails review has great info.
While we were visiting my sister-in-law and brother-in-law at their house at Snoqualmie Pass, we were able to go on a couple of hikes. I asked Erik for something that was 3-4 miles with a beautiful lake. He nailed it with this Mirror Lake hike!
Pros: Everything about the hike is beautiful, even the dirt road portion is lovely. The lake looked really inviting and would be fun to swim in if the weather was warm enough.
Cons: The road to the parking area is rough and the mosquitoes are insane. Bug spray is NOT optional. We were there at the beginning of July and they were awful, and I just saw a photo from a mid-August hike on Instagram complaining about the mosquitos. It seems to be summer-round. (After listening to the Radiolab podcast in which they explain that [a] we have the ability to get rid of mosquitos and [b] they really don’t have any positive impact on ecosystems I am even less tolerant of them!)
Distance/Difficulty: 3.2 miles, 820ft elevation gain. This is a nice moderate hike for a family with young children.
Directions: Since I did not drive (or even roughly pay attention to where we were going), I will let the Washington Trails Association tell you how to get there:
From Seattle, head east on I-90 to exit 62 for Stampede Pass/Kachess Lake. At the end of the ramp, turn right at the stop sign onto Forest Road 54. After approximately 0.5 miles you will go over a bridge crossing the Yakima River. Continue straight on this road for another 0.6 miles and then turn right, leaving the paved road, onto the gravel Forest Road 5480. Proceed with caution along Forest Road 5480 as it runs parallel to the Iron Horse Trail, a popular path for hikers, bikers and cross country skiers.
Continue on this road. 4.2 miles into this section, go straight on the middle road and pass Lost Lake. 6.1 miles from the turn onto FR 5480, reach the sign for Mirror Lake.
- The Pacific Crest Trail intersects the Mirror Lake Trail which means you can tell the kids all about the PCT! The Pacific Crest Trail is 2, 663 miles long and goes from southern California at the Mexican border all the way to the Canadian border in Washington (or the other way around). According to the google, most thru-hikers (as the crazies that tackle it as a continuous hike are called) take 5 months to complete the trail but elite athletes may finish it in two months. The PCT was one of the original National Scenic Trails (along with the Appalachian Trail) established by Congress in 1968 with the National Trails System Act and it falls under National Forest Service administration. While it was established in 1968, the PCT wasn’t actually completed until 1993 (and some of the PCT is still alongside roads versus a dedicated trail).
- With all the mosquitoes there are also plenty of opportunities to teach the children about mosquito borne illnesses like West Nile, Malaria and Zika. (Just kidding. Kinda.)
Rocky Mountain National Park has many designated wilderness sites that you can reserve beginning March 1st of each year. Each trip costs $20 regardless of the number of nights you stay or how many sites you use in that continuous time period. I began making plans in April, when the most popular sites were long filled for summer weekends, but I called the wilderness office and told the ranger what we were looking for and spots in the park we’d loved, and he helped me come up with several possible itineraries for me to think about and then book the ones we liked the sound of most. If you do not have a specific spot in mind, I would definitely recommend going that route! Call on a weekday when they aren’t busy and hopefully you’ll end up speaking with someone as wonderful and patient as I did!
For our first trip backpacking in RMNP we spent two nights in Goblins Forest to celebrate my 33rd birthday.
Goblins’ Forest is a short 1.2 miles from the trailhead (which is actually outside the main gate of RMNP and so there is no additional fee to enter the park). With 750 feet elevation gain, it is a decent climb to the collection of six sites, but nothing little legs can’t handle with a full pack.
For this 2 night trip complete with two bear canisters, when fully loaded up with water, Nic was carrying a 40lb pack, mine was 35lb, Will carried 22lbs, and Ellie 7lbs.
The group of campsites is off the crowded trail enough to remain quiet and includes a pit toilet. Three of the tents sites are well separated from the others, but three are in a shared clearing. (At least as it looked to me during my exploring–the forest there is overgrown and a little confusing.) The area was VERY buggy in mid-July, but luckily I’d seen a mention on Instagram that week about the bugs and brought bug spray. There aren’t any views to be had, but the little trickle of a stream running through the campground and periodically disappearing under the ground is cute.
The campsites are primarily used by hikers planning an early morning ascent of Longs Peak. When we woke up Saturday morning we were surprised to find all our other campers long gone. Sunday morning Nic was awake when he heard alarms going off all around the campground. Curious, he took a peek at the time and it was 3am. Which explains why it had been so quiet the night before! For both of our nights there, the other campers climbed into their tents and seemed to go to sleep about 7pm!
For us, this campsite was a starting point to Chasm Lake, a difficult 8 mile round trip hike that I wouldn’t have been brave enough to attempt with the kids had we not been able to chop two miles off the hike by staying at Goblins’s Forest. Review of that terrifying phobia-inducing hike is here 🙂
The trip was a birthday party for me (THIRTY THREE!), which meant figuring out my ‘ultralight celebration.’ (My brother-in-law is a dedicated ultra-light backpacker but we are more ‘ultra-AWESOME’ campers. Any time I make any sort of concession to weight I pretend to be an ultra-light backpacker and expect a medal. And by weight concession I mean any time I don’t bring along a cast iron pan and four pairs of shoes.)
Anyway, I figured Erik would be very proud of my genius ‘ultralight’ frosted birthday cake on the left (this was also being used as a strategic tranquilizer for me, since this was my first night in the great outdoors after Disaster Night at the Campground [post to come once I’ve had enough therapy]). On our way to the trailhead, I also picked up this Creme Brulee freeze dried dessert from Backpackers Pantry at REI without reading the instructions. When I went to make it I thought, ‘oh this is going to be a DISASTER’ because it said something like “whisk for six minutes with a fork” and I didn’t even have a fork let alone the desire to whisk something for six minutes! But then we tasted it, and it was heaven. I felt really badly about all the nasty things I’d told it about the scathing reviews I was going to leave for it. It was a delightful birthday treat that came together even with some half-hearted whisking with a spoon.
Labor Day weekend did not go as planned. It was supposed to be a glorious backpacking trip to end our summer, and I’d made the Rocky Mountain National Park reservations months in advance and was so proud of myself. I packed us all up. And then we had a family meltdown that ended up with just me and Will driving up to go on a little mother-son backpacking adventure by ourselves. Which would have been fine, except when we got to the ranger station for our passes the ranger casually mentioned that there had been some bear activity at our campsite, so we would need to be especially diligent.
“What kind of bear activity?” I asked.
“Some campers were irresponsible and so the bears got into their food. Then some campers had their bear container on a ledge and the bear pushed it off a cliff.”
Oh. Not the “A really old almost dead tiny bear whose teeth and claws had fallen out was seen at a great distance” that I had been hoping for. Will started making small whimpering noises next to me.
“And how long ago was that?” I’m thinking like two years ago. Or maybe back in April. That would be okay. Tons of campers would have come through since April.
I put on my brave mommy smile, thanked her, and walked out.
Will was wearing his “I’m being so brave and I’m not going to cry” face. For reference, this is what that looks like circa 2008:
We had a nice little talk about whether he was actually okay with the bear thing, or whether he was worried mommy would cry all over the place if we didn’t go on this trip. He was not okay with the bear thing. So we turned around and walked our little bottoms back over to the ranger’s station where I had seen a big gaggle of 20 year old girls earlier trying to scrounge a last minute site at 4pm on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. I figured they would be very excited about our only 2 miles in site with the next site another 3 miles away for a great little loop weekend trip. They were. Until they walked to the ranger to get it and she talked about the bear thing and they were all “WE ARE NOT DOING THAT.” And so then the ranger gave it to a German couple who was very excited to have a campsite, and thanks to a language barrier did not quite seem to understand the bear thing. (Note: I did not read about any Germans being eaten at RMNP over Labor Day weekend and so my conscience is clear.)
We decided to make the most of it, and have a backpacking dinner near the lovely river that I always admire as we drive into and out of Estes. We also stopped for pie. And listened to The Big Burn on audible and learned about the creation of the Forest Service and how Teddy Roosevelt is a super star who really doesn’t get enough credit in the modern day. So here we are, momma and sweet baby, making the most of a craptastic day:
So, if you should ever find yourself driving home from Estes Park with nowhere else to be, the little turn off parking areas for fishermen past Lions are a delightful place for a picnic.