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!

    I great big puffy heart *love* comments, so please let me know you visited! I try to always reply!

Denny Creek Waterslides | Snoqualmie, WA

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.

Trail teaching:

  • 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.

Mirror Lake Hike | Snoqualmie Pass

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. 

Trail teaching:

  • 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.)




Further Reading:

Backpacking Trip | Goblins Forest | Rocky Mountain National Park

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.

rmnp goblins forest wilderness site review

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.

rmnp goblins forest campsite

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  🙂

rocky mountain national park goblins forest

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.

birthday backpacking dessert

That time Will and I drove to Estes Park and back

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.

“This weekend.”

Well, fudge.

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:

estes parkestes park

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.

Halloween cross stitch

I know I said I was going to work on that horrible 32 count linen project, but I am weak and so instead I started a whole NEW project.  This is my first time working with Aida and it is just as quick and easy as I had imagined it would be, even if it’s not quite as nice looking as linen.  Oh well.  It is perfect for all of the power point lessons I have been going through!


I am following the pattern with the exception of pink lips for the little wolf, taking out the eyes and snout on his hat, and using a sparkle floss mixed with the Weeks Dye Works purple for the ‘trick or treat’ wording.  The purple just wasn’t variegated enough to look special enough for me to have that much of it so prominently, so adding in the sparkle has been perfect.  It doesn’t come across well in pics, but it’s looking great in real life!

frosted pumpkin stitchery halloween

Death by 32 count linen | Christmas sampler

christmas counted cross stitch

This 32 count linen is going to be the death of me.  I am a Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery addict.  I love their patterns and am soooo excited about the National Parks sampler.  But before I start on that, I need to finish up this Christmas sampler.  I have worked on linen before, but in the past it was 28 or 24 count linen that had pretty even threads.  This gorgeous sparkle 32 count linen from Picture This Plus is proving to be a much harder medium to work with.  I have the hardest time identifying my two threads, especially if I need to count any blank spaces.  This tiny section of work represents many many hours!

I’ve tried to solve the problem in a couple of ways–I got some reading glasses, but they didn’t seem to help, so I tried this magnifying glass with a light.  It’s problematic because I like to sit on the sofa while I stitch and there’s no good place to put it that doesn’t collapse down.  It was also awkward to work under.  I think lighting is the biggest help–working on it outside in daylight is the best, and in our dark living room at night the worst.

Wish me luck!