Day 4: Deserts and Desserts

I unzip my tent and shiver in the cool air.According to my phone it’s only 34 degrees.  For a moment I consider crawling back into my sleeping bag to wait for the sun to rewarm the earth. And then I glimpse the colors on the eastern horizon.   

 I’m ten miles away from I-10 and even  though the posted speed limit is 70 on this “back” road, I have it to myself so I take my time. I think the desert creatures have come out to see me on my way. Hawks perch in the branches of trees along the road.  

 They wait patiently for me to snap my shot before flying off. A beautiful buck grazes on the dry grass a little farther up.  

 And then a roadrunner dashes into the brush. Vultures line up like sentinels on the fence posts. On the ground before them is what looks to be a wild pig. Flowers add splashes of color along the roadside and mountains stretch toward the sky creating the perfect backdrop.  

 I discover a white chapel- a historical landmark.  

 An hour later I finally merge onto I-10. 

The needle of my gas gage is hovering at 1/2 a tank when I spot a lonely gas station at the top of the hill.  

 If there’s one thing I learned yesterday, it’s that gas stations are few and far between on this stretch of highway. 

Not long after I fill up, I spot a scenic overlook. Rocky and I run to the top of the hill. It feels good to stretch my legs and get my heart racing!  

   
My next stop is The Cattleman’s Ranch Steakhouse at Indian Cliffs. 

 The surrounding landscape has been used to film a few movies.  Not only is the food amazing, but Rocky is allowed to join me! This is the first sit-down-inside meal since I started this trip, so I treat myself to cheesecake! The only thing that would make it better is hubby by my side. He would love this place! 

 More and more vehicles crowd around me as I near El Paso, Texas. But thankfully not enough to slow my pace.  

Stretched across the road ahead of me is a yellow sign with red letters. I have entered New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment.  

    
 I made it! I’ve reached Rockhoud State Park and it is beautiful. Rocky and I take advantage of the sunlight and hike one of the trails. I love these desert plants: Prickly pear cactus, yellow, purple, orange, white desert flowers, mesquite, beargrass, yucca. Some of the cactus  look like they’ve been eaten and I keep my eyes peeled for wild boar or pigs (and I’m in the lookout for rattlers)!But all I see are quails, glimpses of squirrels and cottontails, and various desert  birds.  

    
   
The sunset does not disappoint. It’s been another full day! 

  

Day 3: The problem with boredom 

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I would make the absolute worst long distance truck driver on the planet!  You see, I don’t seem to last more than 2 hours before I need to get out of the car, if only for a minute. And it was this propensity to boredom that led to the story that follows. 

  After San Antonio, Texas I-10 is an never ending stretch of high desert landscape scattered with prickly pear cactus,  colorful flowers, shrubs and low growing trees. Mesas rise up toward the endless blue sky, providing an array of tabletops for the gods. It really is beautiful country.  On occasion, herds of cows graze on the dry grasses. A wind farm stretches across a row of mesas. Oil pumps bob slowly up and down. And I love it! Its exciting and breathtakingly beautiful.   

 But after oh, 300 or so miles I begin to crave a change of scenery, even if only for a moment. So when I spot a sign for an historical fort, I flip my blinker on and off I go. 

My car winds along the deserted road as I search for another sign. Miles clicked by. Rocky gives up on the adventure and curls up in his seat, sound asleep. 

 Still, there is no sign of the fort.  I spot a section on the side of the road large enough for me to pull into. With the car in park, I take out my phone to google the fort. Rocky doesn’t even lift his head. 

My door flies open. Strong hands grasp my shoulder and rip me from my seat. 

I kick and twist. I can’t break free. 

Behind me I here a sound. A howling canine screech. I glimpse a flash of brown and black fur fly past me. 

The iron grip releases and I leap away.  

 My attacker screams. His arms flail trying to free himself from the Yorkshire terrier attached to his neck.  Rocky’s jaw is clamped shut, his body swings outward as the man spins. His hands close around Rocky. He rips the dog from his neck and flings him out into the road. The  little body sails through the air and lands with a sickening thump. 

Blood pumps from the gaping hole  man’s neck and my hands reach to apply pressure.  But the instinct to survive overtakes my training as a nurse and I step back. 

I watch him fall. I watch his blood seep into the dry thirsty earth. My eyes never leave him as I go and scoop up Rocky. He barks and a piece of flesh falls from his mouth. I let out the long breath that I hadn’t realized I was holding as I cradle my pup and climb into my car.

The light fades from the man’s eyes. I press a 9 and a 1 on my phone and then stop.

 The police will take hours. 

I have a campsite waiting for me. 

I turn the key and the engine comes alive.  As I drive back down the lonely winding road,  a shadow crosses my path. And then another. I look up. The vultures are circling. 

Just kidding. 

That was true right up until the man. 

But I’m on my third murder mystery by Nevada Barr set in National parks and maybe my inagination got away from me!  

Here’s a few photos from my real day which included, barbecue for breakfast, cactus love from Texas on a nature walk at a rest area, a giant roadrunner and a perfect end to my day watching the sun set from my campground. I sure do love Texas! 

     
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Day 2: Into the night…

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“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.” J. R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings 

The soft patter of rain on my tent is soothing, so much so that I tap the snooze button on my phone and nestle a little deeper beneath the covers. But after a moment my eyes open and I toss the covers off.  California isn’t coming to me, after all. 

Rocky springs up, brown eyes bright with anticipation as he looks up at me wondering what we are doing next–excited about whatever it is. 

 Getting up was a good thing.  No sooner had I repacked my car when the soft drizzle transitioned into steady rain. By the time we reached the road it had escalated to a downpour.   
 Mississippi ushered me on my way with lights and sirens of the thunder and lightening variety.

I wish I could safely  pullover to snap a picture of this bridge that is transporting me into Lousiana! It isn’t so much the bridge, but the lush green trees rushing by beneath me. You see, Louisiana is one big mysteriously magical beautiful swamp.  

   
And I have to spend a little time exploring it! 

Moments later a visitors center sign beckons to me and I pull off the interstate. A charming white house  surrounded by green grass and flowers laid claim to the title of ‘Visitor’s Center’. Standing just as proudly, but in startling contrast across the road is the Swamp Shack gift shop.  

   
I spend some time chatting with the owner of the Swamp Shack, a friendly woman with a bounty of southern charm. She proudly shares with me that very soon I will be traveling  across an 18 mile bridge that will carry me across the largest swamp in the US. And she tried very hard to get me to buy an alligator head or claw (Nope!)

The 18 mile bridge really is 18 miles and it crosses the Atchafalaya swamp. Right in he center of it is another visitor’s center.   

    
   

Louisiana with its swamps, wading birds and Spanish moss slips apast the windows of my car until I reach Jenkins and I once again leave the interstate for adventure. 

At the Gator Chateau a line of kids, maybe ages 6-10 filed through the door before me. For a less than a moment I consider abandoning my quest. After all, I seemed to be the only grown-up interested….So what‽   

   
As I sat on the bench and stroked the surprisingly soft skin of the baby alligator, I ask if all this human contact effects the gators when they are released (The Gator  Chateau is an alligator rescue and release program) 

No, she reassures me, gators don’t form bonds. I think about that as I drive away. Does that mean the gators are like sociopaths? Then why does a mother protect its nest and babies? Is it really just instinct?  

 By the time I reach Texas, my second audio book was done, and I still haven’t determined if gators are sociopaths…

Houstin is huge! At least to this Maine girl it is! And I manage to hit it around 4 in the afternoon. Fourteen lanes, tangles of overpasses above me, buildings towering in the distance. I’m glad my tank is full and my bladder is empty! 

 And now I’m here at Stephen F. Austin State Park, 45 short minutes beyond Houston, bundled into my sleeping bag as I listen to the night time songs of insects, the occasional hoot and howl from the woods behind my tent and enjoy the warm smell of wood smoke.   

 

 

Day 1: In the manner of Bagginses

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 “It’s a dangerous business going out your door. You step onto the road and if you don’t keep your feet there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

As I pile the last of my belongings into my little car, I feel like a Baggins. 

Okay, so I won’t be facing a dragon, saving middle earth, or even walking, but I do feel as though I’m being swept up in the thrill of an adventure! 

I glimpse the waning crescent moon through the clouds as I leave the apartment that I’ve called home for the past three months and my heart races! This adventure–a journey to the west coast– is my most exciting so far!!

Only a few other motorists have ventured onto the road in these early morning hours, so I claim the interstate as my domain and press play on my Nevada Barr audiobook.

The combination of clear roads and a good story causes the hours and miles to slip away. Suddenly I find myself on I-10, the road that will be my companion for the bulk of this trip.  

  A glance in my rearview mirror reveals a sky bursting with color and memory after memory of new friends, fabulous coworkers and oh, so many adventures brings a smile to my face. Yes, the East coast ( Maine, North Carolina, South  Carolina and Florida) has been good to me. 

Chapter after chapter, mile after mile fly by and I know I’m nearing the Florida border when I feel an intense gaze emanating from my shotgun-riding-pup. I see the urgency in those brown eyes and I shift into the right lane, then off the interstate to a nearby rest area. There, as if frozen mid-turn  atop a pole is a Blue Angel navy plane and now a memory from long ago rushes back to me.   

 I’m wearing white capris with tiny colored stripes. The air is filled with the smell of sausage and fried dough. Jumbled conversations from the crowds of people surrounds me, but my eyes are on the sky.  Five planes turn as one. Their wing tips seem only inches apart and I wonder at the skill and fearlessness of the pilots. 

I duck involuntarily as the planes dive toward the ground, pulling up in a graceful arch and soaring up into the blue sky… 

Rocky’s  psychotic barking at a dog 100 times his size rips me back into the present and I wrestle his twisting, writhing little body back into the car. 

Alabama comes and goes in what feels like minutes and the car barrels across the Missippi state line. 

Now I wonder if I’ve ever been to Mississippi…I’m not sure, so I decide to check out the welcome center.

   

 Once again I’m awed at what I find. The remnants of three trees have been carved into various birds. I am amazed at how some people can look beyond what is and see what could be…and then turn that could be into what is… So thankful for the people who have this gift of creativity!

And now here I am, tucked away in my tent and thinking back on my day. It’s been a good day…my only wish is that my hubby could have shared it with me.  

  

First Step to Fitness at Any Age: Persevering without Preservatives

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First step to Fitness for Any Age: Persevering without Preservatives

When you hit forty, a plethora of bodily function expirations come due.  Suddenly you need glasses. Then your body’s thermoregulation goes out the window – sometimes you want to toss your shirt, and well, all of your clothing along with it. Your joints begin to creak and pop. The dryer adds to your body’s dysfunctionality by shrinking all of your clothes.Expired-SS-Post-thumb-615x300-74166

Wait. That’s not the dryer. It’s your metabolism coming to a screeching halt.

I know, you twentiers are sitting there saying, “Exactly what part of this can help me?” When I was twenty, I worked closely with a dietician named John. I wish I knew where John was now. I’d tell him how right he was! You see, John used to fuss at me about all the preservatives I stuffed into my body. I’d laugh and say, “This body is being perfectly preserved by all these preservatives.”

Yep.

I was wrong!

I am a Registered Nurse with over a quarter of a century’s experience in health care, but I am not a dietician or nutritionist. What I am is a woman who has tried and tested almost every weight loss method in existence. I spent many moons running up that down escalator an  have experienced brief periods of success. But each time it was only through extreme measures. Here are a few:

  • 1000 calorie a day diets – Enter Hangry (hungry and angry) woman
  • Low carb / high protein diets – could have killed my kidneys!!!!
  • Various diet supplements including Garcinia
  • Metabolism boosters
  • Prepackaged frozen diet meals
  • Diets that dictated exactly what food to eat when and where and how….
  • Various exercise videos
  • One or more hours in the gym daily, plus running long distances
  • Hiking long, tall mountains (which is something I actually enjoy, but isn’t the most efficient weight loss program)
  • The list goes on.

Bottom line. None of these things lasted! Sure I lost weight, but I was miserable. I was Hangry, or envying other people’s food. The pills made me jittery and shaky (which is never good when you’re starting an IV). I struggled to keep up with those rigorous exercise routines.

And then about a year ago, I started to learn about clean eating. Insert I told you so from John, here.IMG_5258

Food is fuel. Your body breaks it down and sends it off to do a specific job. When you give your body something it doesn’t know what to do with–like excessive amounts of sugar, simple carbs (like pasta and bread), and preservatives–then your body just packs that away for future use. The fat manufacturers in your stomach, thighs, butt and back of the arms all kick into high gear. And before you know it, your belly is sitting on your lap.

When you follow a clean balanced diet, your body gets what it needs. No more confused, stuffing of unknown and excessive substance to those problem areas.

The first step to clean eating is to eliminate all those preservatives from your grocery list.

  • Shift your shopping pattern to the outside aisles of the store – this is where the fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats are.
  • Then head down the frozen vegetable and fruit aisles. You do need to read labels here, because some frozen fruits have added sugar and some vegetables have been partially prepared.
  • Do go down the spice aisle. Clean eating does not mean bland eating. I use lots of Mrs. Dash, but you can use any spice you’d like. Also get unprocessed sea salt like Celtic sea salt.
  • Do go down the Oil aisle – but not for vegetable oil. Instead choose Olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil.
  • Do not go down the soda aisle…. I know. It’s hard
  • Do not go to fast food restaurants
  • Until you’ve really mastered a clean diet, it’s best to avoid eating out in the beginning
  • Drink water. Lots of it. You should pee clear pee!

Clean eating is only a first step to wellness and I know it’s huge! But start here. In my next post I’ll talk about avoiding blood sugar/ insulin spikes.

Here’s a before and after photo for you!  Hope this inspires you!

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Teri Lee is a Registered Nurse working in the ER, Beachbody coach, & Author of Troubled Spirits a young adult paranormal novel. You can follow her on facebook for more fitness tips at http://facebook.com/TeriLeefit

 

 

 

 

The Stethoscope -III

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I felt my holder’s shoulders tense as they rolled you into the room. The paramedic pumping against your chest barely pauses as your body is lifted onto the stretcher. Dark curls frame your face. It is a young face. Too young.

The angry mark around your neck tells a story too painful to comprehend. My holder’s hands move to your IV, flushing saline through the line to be certain it works, before pulling open the drawer of the red cart beside you.

“1 mg of epi,” the doctor says.

There is a barely audible gasp at the door to the room. My holder pushes the epinephrine into your veins, then turns to the sound. It is a woman. Her eyes are red and swollen and her cheeks are stained with tears.

She is your mother.

My holder crosses the room and brings her to your side. Your mother stands by your shoulder, close to my holder and she says your name. She tells you to fight. She asks you why.

My holder speaks quietly to your mother, while preparing the next dose of medication. I feel muscles tense beneath me as the doctor tilts your head back and slides a tube into your mouth. I am lifted from my perch and placed over your stomach. “No air over epigastrum,” my holder says and then slides me to your left, then right chest. “Bilateral breath sounds present.”

“Positive color change,” the respiratory therapist says.

My holder turns to your mother. “That means the tube is where it needs to be.”

Hands return to your chest, once again pressing against it, pumping the blood from your heart to your lungs and brain. Your chest rises as the respiratory therapist forces air into your lungs. Your mother whispers to you, telling you that you are strong. I am returned to my holder’s shoulder and I can feel that the tension has spread. I can feel the cry that wants to burst forth. But my holder’s hands keep moving. They prepare the next dose of epinephrine and push it into your veins.

“Are you having any difficulty ventilating?” the doctor asks.

“No difficulty,” the respiratory therapist replies.

The stretcher creaks softly as your chest is compressed.

The air moves in and out of your lungs with a soft whoosh, whoosh.

Your mother whispers your name. Her tears fall to the mattress beside your head.

Time seems to stand still as the team around you continues their battle with death.

Until…

“Hold compressions,” the doctor says.

All eyes turn to the flat line that makes its way across the monitor. A sob escapes your mother’s lips.

The doctor reaches out to my holder, eyes on me. I am handed across you and once again I find myself resting on your chest. I will myself to send a sound to the doctor’s ears. Any sound.

But there is only silence.

Tears fill the doctor’s eyes as they find your mother’s face. “I’m sorry, your child is gone.”

The respiratory therapist disconnects the bag that forced air into your lungs, then steps back.

The paramedic that stayed to continue your chest compression, looks down at the floor, then leaves the room in silence.

The doctor sets me on the counter and leaves the room.

The only people at your side are my holder and your mother. My holder rests a hand on your mother’s arm and asks if she wants anyone else here.

Your mother nods, the words are barely perceptible through her sob, but my holder understands and leaves the room. Now it is only you and your mother. She runs her fingers through your hair. She leans down and kisses your forehead. She wipes her tear off your cheek. She doesn’t speak. She has no words.

My holder returns with a man. He is your father. Your mother turns to him and he holds her as they cry. Together they turn to you.

My holder slips to the back of the room where I lay and picks me up.

“You okay?” the charge nurse asks.

My holder nods.

“It’s blowing up out here. Can you take a patient with abdominal pain in 6 and another with a headache in 4.”
My holder nods, but pauses for a deep breath before stepping into the first room. “Hi, I’m going to be your nurse,” my holder says. “I’m sorry if you’ve had to wait.”

I am proud to be a nurse’s stethoscope.IMG_9580

Note: As the holidays approach us, please remember that there are people around you who are alone and hurting. Some from a loss, but others because they don’t feel like they fit into this world.  Guard your words, because they carry a power that you cannot imagine. You don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes of the people you interact with…the sales girl who fumbles your order, the man that almost ran you over in the parking lot, or the nurse that finally enters your room after you’ve waited for hours in the ER…..

Teri Lee is an ER nurse working throughout the US and the author of Troubled Spirits, a YA paranormal novel.

 

Into the Clouds of Franconia Ridge

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One of the things I love about photography is the way a single image has the power to spark a memory. That’s what happened to me today when I saw a picture of Franconia Notch. Its snow covered ridge rising above the vibrant fall foliage was different from the lush summer green that I remembered. Yet it held the same power, and the memory of my climb was as sharp as if it had occurred only yesterday.

At the sound of the alarm I hopped out of bed, being careful not to disturb my sleeping husband. As I slipped into my typical hiking clothes, Rocky, my three year old yorkie’s head popped up. I tapped my leg and he sprang to my side.

In the kitchen, I started breakfast and before long the aroma of bacon, eggs and toast drew my nineteen year-old son out of bed. Once our bellies were full and our gear packed, we climbed into the car and let the GPS lead us along scenic roadways to the Franconia Ridge trailhead.

The trailhead parking area is immediately off interstate 93, but the second my feet met the hard-packed dirt of the trail, the sounds of traffic faded away to a distant memory. I had entered the sanctuary of the forest.

IMG_8431Ferns, saplings and the occasional wildflower hid the ground alongside the trail. Stout maple, lean aspen and rough pine stretched their branches toward the sky, created a canopy of deep green leaves that provided welcome shade along the path. IMG_8472My son marched ahead of me, his long, lean legs carrying him one step for every two of mine. My little yorkie, tugged at his cani-cross leash, his feet scrabbling through the dirt as he tried to catch up with my son, which he does when we reach the intersection of Greenleaf and Falling Waters Trail.

The murmur of a not-so-far-away creek, draws me to the Falling Waters Trail and the tightly packed dirt beneath my feet is replaced with a path of large boulders, as if a giant had tossed them down the mountain to add to the challenge of our ascent. My son is like a six-foot-two Billy goat as he leaps from rock to rock, pausing frequently to wait for me as I chose my steps carefully grasping the trunks of nearby trees to steady my way.

Falling Waters Trail is clearly named for the water that tumbles down the mountain. Its music surrounds me as it bounces and splashes over rocks, twists around corners and cascades down miniature falls. I’m tempted to close my eyes and lose myself in its watery melody, but the threat of tumbling head over heels down the trail persuades me to keep my eyes open.

Before long the cadence of the creek changes from bubbling laughter to a dIMG_8445istant roar. I scramble up the bouldered path toward the sound and am not disappointed. Rushing water spills over the top of a semi-circle of step-like ledges, then swirls into a shallow pebbled-bottom pool before it continues its downward journey. It may not be the largest waterfall, but it is beautiful.

IMG_8459I could still hear the sound of the rushing water behind me when I discovered something I’d never seen before. It was a three-legged tree creature, caught mid stride. Only a tree could hold this pose so perfectly.

For the next three miles with my little yorkie still trotting along ahead of me with his endless energy, I
enjoyed more waterfalls, each one beautiful in its own way.IMG_8466IMG_8452IMG_8463

And I kept a close eye on the trees, hoping to catch one unawares. But trIMG_8489ee real estate is tight up here in Franconia Notch, where the trees, rocks and moss have learned to co-exist peacefully. I suppose, living in such a tight space doesn’t allow for much movement.

My fast-moving son waited for me by the sign for Shining Rock. It was a no-brainer that we would go check it out.

IMG_8483Shining Rock doesn’t shine when you’re right next to it, but I image that from other peaks, it is without a doubt a beauty! It’s a completely flat rock face that I’m guessing goes straight up to Franconia Ridge. There is a constant flow of water down its surface and when I stand at the right angle, I catch sight of brief reflections from the sun. Someday I’ll have to investigate which peak to climb so that I can enjoy it in its full splendor.

After a short break, which I spent dissuading my adrenaline-junky climbing partner from attempting to scale Shining Rock, we resumed our upward trek. The path veered away from the water and the rocky trail grew steeper. I pushed on, trying to keep up with the giant billy goat leading the way.IMG_8491

And then he called down to me that he’d reached the ridge. His proclamation of breath-taking views energized my feet and Rocky and I scurried up the last portion of Falling Waters Trail.

When I climbed up over that last rock I stood in awe trying to take in the panoramic views of the White Mountains that surrounded me. It overwhelmed me. The space, the beauty, the realization of how big the earth is and how really, truly small I am in comparison. Franconia Ridge is everything I imagined it to be and more.IMG_8492IMG_8494

I read once that when you reach the summit of a mountain, you’re only half-way through your journey.

Well, in the case of the Franconia Ridge loop, you’re just over a third of the way.
We rested, ate lunch and enjoyed the view—well, I rested, my son provided entertainment!IMG_8523IMG_8512

The beginning of the ridge trail is hard packed dirt surrounded by low growing brush, moss and alpine flowers resilient enough to withstand the cool, windy climate.

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I had tied my sweatshirt arIMG_8496ound my waist at the beginning of the hike. Now I pulled it up over my head and stepped onto the trail. I looked to the next peak (at the time I thought it was my last peak…NOT) and headed on to traverse Little Haystack Mountain and Mount Lincoln. As I descended the summit of Mount LincolnIMG_8531 I looked ahead to Mount Lafayette and I felt a thrill. The peak was hidden in the clouds. I prayed that the skies wouldn’t clear and I walked faster. I’ve never hiked into the clouds before!

As the elevation increased, so did the size of the rocks beneath my feet and once again I found myself rock-hopping and occasionally scrambling up boulders, which of course delayed my journey to the clouds.IMG_8513

But I made it. I stood on the top surrounded by clouds. It was beautiful and amazing and…..

I turn and face the  wind. A cloud rushes toward me like a monstrous white beast. My heart pounds. The cloud looks so solid as it flies toward me that I am tIMG_8537empted to duck. But I stand firm and the monster dissipates into a wave of thick fog that surrounds me. I feel victorious. I have hiked into the clouds and faced them without flinching! It’s a memory I will hold onto forever!

I could have stayed up on that peak indefinitely. Except that I was getting hungry and the 3.8 miles of the Greenleaf Trail seperated me and dinner.

IMG_8550 (2)The Greenleaf Trail starts out very steep—like hold onto trees and slide on your butt steep. This steepness slowed me down quite a bit. Of course, it didn’t slow the billy goat down. Where I slid, he jumped. The trail finally eased up soIMG_8554me and opened out onto a ledge. The warmth of the sun felt good and I took my time, enjoying the views and letting the sun chase away the last of the mountaintop chill.
And then the trail veered back into the trees and resumed its steepness.

About a mile down, we reached the Greenleaf Hut. It’s a lot more than a hut. You can hang out with other hikers in a large open room (I didn’t get to do this, because there are no dogs allowed inside). There are indoor restrooms with cold, but running water, a few co-ed rooms with bunkbeds and I’ve since read that you can get a hot meal there at specified times. I could have purchased water or a few souvenir like items, if I hadn’t left my wallet in the car. The Greenleaf Hut has officially been added to my list of things I want to do. I think it would be fun to stay for a few days so that I could hike and really explore Franconia Notch.IMG_8510

Knowing I had a 2 ½ hour drive ahead of me after we returned to the trailhead, I didn’t linger here. I’ll admit it. My legs were getting tired. Not so tired that I didn’t enjoy the 2.7 mile remaining miles, but tired enough that when I once again heard the sound of traffic, joy filled my heart and sent a final surge of energy to my legs.

The parking lot was a beautiful sight! I tossed my pack into the back seat, my little yorkie hopped in beside it and immediately curled up into a ball, and I flopped into the driver’s seat, every muscle in my body cheering in relief. We did it!

P.S. I almost caught another tree creature in action!IMG_8556

Treasure of The Beehive – Acadia National Park

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I’ve been practicing a new skill. I’m learning to reach out to the world around me and embrace it. Which is why, after working the overnight shift in the ER, I wasn’t napping as I waited for my friend to join me at Acadia National Park.

The sound of the crashing surf drew me down the stairs to Sand Beach. My face tingled in the moist salty air and I breathed deeply feeling the ocean energy flow through me, chasing away the last vestiges of sleep.

Sand Beach - Acadia National ParkThe sea glowed a mystical green as she sent her waves rolling toward me. I stood for several minutes and watched them swell, rising to a crest that, for a moment, opened a window to the world beneath the surface before transforming into a bubbly white foam as the water crashed against the golden sand and rushed back to the sea. It would be easy to spend my day here, but instead I forced myself to turn away. Today is not about the sand and sea. It is about challenging my muscles as my hands grip the rockyBeehive Mountain - Acadia National Park surface and my legs carry me forward and up. I turn my back to the sea and join my friend, together we begin the first phase of today’s journey—The Beehive.

Beehive Mountain TrailheadI step along the strategically placed rocks that form the beginning of the trail.
The sun filters through the aspen and maple that stretch toward the sky on either side of me. I can’t help but reach out and runmy fingers along their trunks as I pass.Beehive Mountain TrailAfter a few minutes of easy climbing, we reach a marker. Despite the yellow sign warning of narrow ledges and steep climbs, I veer away from the easy route that skirts The Bowl to ascend the backside of The Beehive and set my feet on the path to ascend the face of the mountain.IMG_9317

Here the trail turned into a combination of scrabbling over boulders and making our way along the narrow ledges.Beehive Mountain Trail As I hugged the rock wall to work my way around a sharp bend in the ledge, my friend spoke behind me.

Beehive Mountain Trail

“I don’t think I can do this.”

And this is where I learned something new about my friend. I learned that she (along with about 5% of the general population) suffered from Acrophobia—the fear of heights.  While I was taking in the view and enjoying the climb, her terror had silenced her. That silence hadn’t been a signal to me, because when we’ve hiked in the past, we’d often walked side-by-side along the trail, breathing in the fresh air and listening to the sounds of the forest.Beehive Mountain Trail

Beehive Mountain Trail

I heard the tremble in her voice and I turned. Her face was flushed red and her hand shook as she clutched the rock wall. I looked down, we really weren’t very far
along and we could turn back. I looked up at the ledges, rungs and rock scrambles ahead of us and did what any good friend would do. I encouraged her on. I talked non-stop about how beautiful it will be when we get to the top. I coached her around tight ledges and coaxed her up ladder rungs, until finally we reached the top.

Below me, the mystical green sea had transformed into a sparkling ocean of blue diamonds. The beach that I’d stood on that morning was only a strip of golden sand. I paused and watched the waves crash against the shore.Beehive Mountain Summit

After soaking up the sun on the rocky summit of the Beehive, it was time to continue our trek. Stubby pines and bushes covered with dark blue berries bordered the trail. I held one of the berries in my hand. It looked like a blueberry, but I’d never seen one so dark.

There’s a comradery among hikers, even day hikers—an opportunity for brief encounters among strangers connected by their appreciation of the natural world. And it was through this connection that I learned that the dark berry in my hand was a huckleberry. Curious, I popped it into my mouth.Huckleberries

I don’t like huckleberries.

The Bowl is a serene body of water nestled at the base of the surrounding peaks. Pale purple aster grows along the banks and tiny fish dart about beneath the surface. It’s a peaceful place and I could have spent the rest of the afternoon there.The Bowl at Acadia National ParkIMG_9385But my goal was to reach the summit of Champlain Mountain, so I turned away from the water onto what I, at that time, believed was the trail.

A red squirrel chattered and scolded me as it raced up and down the trees along the trail. I realize now, that he was warning me that I was off track.IMG_9386 But I pressed on. Before long the ‘trail’ tapered off and disappeared. I backtracked, looking for a blue blaze, then gave up all together and tromped onward to what I at that time believed was Champlain Mountain, puzzled as to why I couldn’t find the trail.

It was a fun hike, scrambling up the occasional boulder, weaving around huckleberry bushes and enjoying the artwork of nature on uprooted tree stumps faded gray but the wind and sun. IMG_9391When I reached the top, I did what I should have done as soon as I lost the blue blazes. I took out my map.

As I looked across at The Beehive, then down to The Bowl and realized I’d gone right when I should have gone left. I led the way back down the mystery mountain, past the screeching squirrel to the water’s edge, then onto the clearly marked trail to Champlain Mountain.

I walked along the double-plank trail alongside the water, enjoying the shade from the maple, pine and aspen that towered over me.IMG_9395Before long, my friend and I left the flat ground and began our ascent up and over rocky boulders. To the delight of my good friend, there were no ledges here. Scattered stubby pines, huckleberry bushes along with the occasional low growing blueberry bush dotted the landscape.

IMG_9389A tiny maple, that somehow managed to root in the rocky terrain put on an early fall display of red-orange leaves. In the sky above, three vultures circled. IMG_9402We crossed a long flat stone clearing where cairns led us on toward the peak.

The sun was highChamplain Mountain Summit - acadia national park in the sky when we reached the summit.

I looked out at the five Porcupine Islands and realized once again, I wanted more time in this beautiful place. I could spend a year here and still not experience the full splendor of Acadia National Park.

The comradery of hiker’s failed me when I tried to convince my friend to take the Precipice Trail down and follow the road back to the parking area. Without fail, every one of them advised against using this as a downhill route! So we followed the guidance of those who’d experienced the trail and made our way back along the now familiar trail to the trailhead.

Although my friend had to return home, she followed me to the Blackwoods Campground. I said my goodbye, then set up my tent. I always feel a little giddy when I manage to get my campfire going, so I settled onto the ground to watch the fire, mesmerized by the flames as my burger sizzled on the tinfoil covering the grate.Blackwoods Campground - Acadia National Park

With my belly full, I dug my laptop out of my car and leaned back against the trunk of a tree and worked on Whispering Spirits, the sequel to Troubled Spirits. After all, what better place to work on a ghost story set in the Maine woods!

As always, I slept soundly in my little tent.

The next day, a steady rain foiled my plan to capture the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain, but still I enjoyed my day. I didn’t attempt to start a fire in the rain. Jeannie's Great Maine BreakfastIMG_9563
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The Stethoscope – Part 2

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Your chest is so tiny that when I am placed upon it, I feel like a cumbersome giant. Your skin is hot and dry and you lay still, too still.

I send the sound of your heart, fluttering beneath your ribs like the wings of a frantic bird to the ears of my holder. When I am lifted away, I notice that it takes several seconds for the color to return to the place where I rested.

Today, there are others in the room with my holder. This is usually the case when tiny people come to the ER. Their voices are quiet, but still,  I can sense their concern.

Wires are placed on your chest as my holder cuts a blue tourniquet in half and then tightens it around your arm. Your mother’s hand is on your head and tears fill her eyes as my holder slides the needle through your tender skin.

You do not cry and my holder’s eyes meet those of the doctor’s and I see the silent message that passes between them. They would rather you had cried.

The needle is withdrawn and my holder whispers an apology to you then moves the blue band to your other arm. I feel a stillness in my holder’s chest as the needle hovers over a vein so tiny, that I cannot imagine it will find its mark. But my holder’s breathe releases slowly as the catheter slides forward and is quickly secured to your hand.

“Thank you,” your mother whispers.

As fluid flows into your veins, I once again find myself pressed against you. But this time I rest against your round belly. I feel its firmness beneath me as I am moved across the four quadrants of your abdomen. There are no sounds to send to my holder. Once again, I am pulled away.

A mechanical whir of wheels signals the arrival of the portable X-ray machine and you are lifted from the stretcher then placed on the firm black plate.

The bolus of fluid finishes as the doctor returns to the room. You are more alert and I am once again pressed to your chest. Your heart still flutters beneath me, but it is no longer frantic. And as I am pulled away, I notice the brisk return of color to your skin. My holder smiles. The doctor tells your mother you are doing better, but you need the specialty services of a pediatric surgeon. She has already spoken with the surgeon and arrangements have been made to transfer you to a larger hospital. As she speaks, the paramedics arrive.

Once again, you are lifted from the stretcher. You cry as you are strapped into your seat. Your mother comforts you.

My holder steps back, knowing you will be well cared for by the paramedics who have now assumed your care.

Hours later, my holder returns the phone to the receiver and smiles. You are recovering from your surgery. As I rest on my holder’s shoulder, I am proud.

I aIMG_9580m a nurse’s stethoscope.

Teri Lee is the author of Troubled Spirits, a young adult paranormal novel, but she is also an ER nurse. This post is second in a series written to increase awareness and respect for nurses everywhere.

The stethoscope

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I press against your chest. Your skin is cold and moist and I feel your muscles struggle beneath me as you fight for every breath. I send the sound of the wet crackles amidst the barely discernable movement of air to the ears that are listening.

I am pulled away from you and slung across my holder’s neck. The hands of my holder move quickly placing you in the bed, pressing the call light attached to the rail, fitting an oxygen mask to your face. A blood pressure cuff is fitted to one arm and blue tourniquet is pulled tight around the other. In less than a minute an IV catheter has been placed in your vein and your breathing is maybe a little easier.

A voice echoes over the intercom asking what you need. My holder’s voice is calm, yet firm. “I need a provider in room 5 for respiratory distress. And page respiratory. We’re going to need bipap.” The hands place stickers on your chest and attach them to wires. Your heart rhythm appears on the screen, fast and frantic.

The Emergency Department doctor arrives in seconds and begins to give orders for oxygen and IVs then stops, seeing these things are already done. A respiratory therapist pushes the bipap machine into the room as the provider states, “page—” then notices the therapist and looks to my holder and says, “Thank you.”

“Blood pressures 182/56,” my holder states briskly. “Do you want nitro?”

My holder’s hands are already pushing the spike into the glass bottle of medication, hanging it from the pole and sliding the tubing into the pump as the provider gives the order for the medication.

A new mask is fitted to your face, this one is much tighter.

Ten minutes later I once again press against your chest. You skin is warm and dry and your breathing has eased. I send the sounds of the air moving in and out of your lungs to my holder’s ears. The wet crackles are still there, but only at the very bases of your lungs. And the panic is gone from your eyes as you thank my holder with them. As I am flung back up onto my holder’s neck, I am proud.

I am a nurse’s stethoscope.

Teri Lee is the author of Troubled Spirits, a YA paranormal novel, but she is also an ER nurse. This post is written in response to a blatant lack of education demonstrated on The View regarding the role of nurses. Please feel free to share.IMG_9580