Day +70, Tuesday

Photo of the Day: Birdwatchers at Great Falls Park, on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. Several days ago, a painted bunting was spotted in the park, between the 18th & 19th Locks on the C & O Canal. We didn’t see the colorful bird ourselves, but enjoyed the park tremendously.

I greeted the morning with creamy tea and my “to-do” list. A few weeks ago, I pegged the first week in January as “the one” where I would follow-up with my Asheville-based medical providers, and let them know of my hopeful return early February. As of today, I’ve got a tele-health appointment with my GP set up, and am waiting to hear from my hematologist. Other excitement included helping Mom establish an Asheville medical provider (depending on how long she stays with us and based on her status as my caregiver in combination with her 70+ years young age, we’re hoping that she can be vaccinated against COVID when the vaccine is available), renewing my own health insurance, and working with a customer service rep to help Mom do some online banking.

It was incredibly satisfying to check each item off my list, and made me feel productive in a way that hiking, or even growing new stem cells can’t. It was one step closer to leaving the NIH and spreading my wings for home.

Speaking of wings – I’ve been meaning to take Mom and visit Great Falls Park, part of the C&O Canal National Historic Park. It’s a small section of the 184.5-mile canal, about 15 miles north of Washington DC where the Potomac River tumbles 76 feet over the span of a mile, flowing through Mather Gorge en route to DC. There are waterfalls, locks, the footpath, and lately, one very popular (and bright) bird – the painted bunting, which normally resides well south of Maryland, in places like Florida, etc. Its very rare for this cardinal-relative to be this far north, but one was sighted in the park, prompting a frenzy of visitors.

We ourselves didn’t experience the massive crowds or throngs of people – just a few hearty bird watchers hoping to catch a glimpse of their elusive quarry. The park was beautiful, the power of water awe-inspiring and reminded me of waterfalls along Lake Superior’s North Shore, the kind of place that warned parents to hold their children’s hands. Olmstead Island was especially beautiful, with it’s unique vegetation zone and bright green lichens spreading over rocks. A rainy mist, whipping wind and falling temperatures had me hurrying back to the car though, Mom following in my wake. We will hopefully return tomorrow with more cooperative conditions. And I’ll be less of a wimp.

Great Falls Tavern and Visitor’s Center (circa 1820s)
Locks #17-20 were part of Great Falls. Looking south from the C&O Canal Path
Looking north over the Locks (I think this was #19, but I’m not sure)
Washington Aqueduct viewpoint
Small section of falls (yes, small)
The roar of the water above Mather Gorge was incredible…It must be high this time of year. And across the river, is Virginia

Once back in the car, I cranked the heat, ate a few PB pretzels and we made our way 30 minutes back to Bethesda. The evening was nice – I ate pasta and Swedish fish (thanks Mer!) NOT in that order, and had a nice Messenger date with Andy. It feels different to be able to say, “I’m coming home next month.” It feels wonderful and I’m just really excited (though I don’t want to jinx anything, of course). I’m still cautious and doing that step-by-step thing.

After I push this post, I’ll re-slather myself in various creams to help with my skin. The rash was slightly less noticeable today, which I’m guessing is a combination of more aggressive creams and bumping up my Tacrolimus dose. Creamy tea sounds like a good reward, and I’m looking forward to curling up with my book for a bit before finally crashing, er sleeping. Tomorrow is another non-NIH day, and we really may return to Great Falls. To be continued!

Thanks Day +70!

  1. Great pictures and videos. I am sorry I couldn’t be with you and Mom. So glad to you looking ahead to going home to Asheville
    Hopefully your rash(s) will continue to subside.


  2. Another unbelievable place, this time a park run by the National Park Service. Maryland has the most amazing places to see! We didn’t see the Florida bird who had wandered up to Maryland, but we saw some magnificent water falls as we snaked our way through the park.
    The things I see with my kid. Marit, I love you!!❤️


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