For the Busy Business-Parent

Whimsical Bedtime Stories for Children of All Ages


Maya Book III - The Hike

This tale is a marvelous Learning Adventure.
Many of the wonderful illustrations
are clickable to display actual photographs.
Underlined words are clickable as well. Enjoy!


Luke Winstead knelt to pat the head of a small reddish brown and white puppy who was bouncing about in his sister's lap as she relaxed on the cool green grass. The excited puppy kept leaping up to lick Crystal's chin.


"Who does she belong to?" asked Luke, grinning as he watched the puppy's playful antics.

"I don't know," his sister had replied in amazement, as she gently stroked the pup's silky fur. "She's not wearing a collar, and she just appeared out of nowhere."


"Her name is Maya." Crystal told him.

“Maya?” Luke inquired.

Crystal frowned slightly as she wondered to herself where that had come from.

"Her name popped just into my head," she explained. "Sort of like she just popped in.”


And that's how it had all begun.


As it turns out, Maya wasn't exactly your average puppy. She was magical. And she could talk.

Maya was off to patrol the entire house, making sure that everyone was in their proper place. Luke had gone to bed early, while Crystal stayed up late. Maya looked in on both of them before wandering into Mrs. Winsted’s room, finding her propped up in bed, reading a book.

Mrs. Winsted smiled and set the book aside, then leaned over and scooped Maya up, settling the pup on her lap. She gently cradled Maya's head in her hands and told her, “You sure are a beautiful little girl, Maya. You came at just the right time for us. I can see how you've helped the children, and I am so very grateful. You will always have a home with us here.”

Maya liked Mrs. Winstead, and administered an affectionate barrage of chin licks before hopping down to continue her rounds.


The door to the coat closet had been left partially open. From inside, peering through the crack in the door, three pair of neon colored eyes glowed in the dark, as they warily watched Maya make her way down the hall.

The cats had spent much of the past couple of days hiding out in the closet, deciding whether or not they wanted to meet the new family member face to face. They eventually realized they had nothing to fear from Maya.

As Maya continued wandering from room to room, the Winsted’s three cats, Solomon, Raven and Annie, cautiously tiptoed out of the closet, finally yielding to curiosity.

One by one they began to follow her, until Maya turned, and with tail wagging, formally acknowledged their presence.  

Once the requisite series of introductory sniffs and playful bounces had taken place, Maya took her leave of the trio, and headed back down the hall, ready to spend the night snuggled up next to Crystal.  

Crystal opened her eyes as sunlight began flooding her bedroom. She thought she had never seen it so bright and warm in there. She glanced over at Maya, whose small body was bathed in the softly glowing light. Crystal could feel the rhythmic thump of Maya's tail, cheerfully beating against the bed as she began to awaken.

Watching Maya greet the day was like watching the birth of a symphony, musical instruments added one by one, finally building to crescendo.

First the tail wag, then the slight body movements, then a roll on the back, edging from side to side, followed by a quick flip over on her tummy, sleepy eyes still shut. A contented sigh, then the mouth opened wide and roared a yawn, a really big yawn.

The front paws stretched w_a_a_ay out front, before one more really big yawn. Then bright eyes opened wide, a window to the soul, displaying a smile from the inside, along with a grateful ‘thank you, world.’

"Now that’s the way to wake up!" Crystal thought, with a grin.

“The way you start your day is the way it will go today,” Maya told her. "Now hurry and get dressed, we have places to go and things to do." And with that, Maya dove off the bed and scampered down the hall to awaken Luke.

Racing across the bedroom floor, Maya launched herself into the air, and landed squarely on the foot of the bed. Bounding forward, she leaped on Luke's quilt covered chest, then burrowed under the covers, nuzzling his neck and licking his face, until he finally awoke with a laugh.

“– okay, okay, I love you too.”

“Come outside as soon as possible," she told him. "We have a long day ahead. I want each of you to wear your backpacks, and bring camping canteens filled with fresh water."

After a quick breakfast, they assembled outside and Maya took the lead. She veered off to the left where the woods got heavy and the deer lived. A hawk flew overhead – “that’s a red-shouldered hawk – they make that ‘keeyah’ sound – and they're quite beautiful” Maya explained.

The Winstead family lived near a forested wetland area. There are two kinds of wetlands, swampy wetlands and forested wetlands. Swampy wetlands are areas where water either covers the soil, or is present near the surface of the soil for most of the year.

Trees which thrive in a swampy wetlands environment are the ones which are tolerant of lots and lots of water. The ones that normally grow better in drier areas, young saplings which likely sprouted from seeds dropped by birds or other animals, might grow for a short time, but they tend to wither and wilt and develop root-rot from over-watering, long before they reach maturity.

In a forested wetland, however, unlike a true swamp, although repeated flooding is common, the land does not experience continuously standing water. That allows more varieties of trees to grow well in the forest.


One type of tree that grows very well in a forested wetland area is the white oak. There was a huge and very beautiful white oak that grew deep in the wetlands forest, and it stood as tall as a ten story building.

Mrs. Winstead had told the children that this tree was probably over 350 years old, and that meant this tree was older than the United States of America, and was already over 100 years old when the constitution was signed.

It was also not an ordinary oak tree.

Maya and the children traveled deeper and deeper into the forest, and as they approached that big old oak tree Crystal could see colors starting to swirl in front of the tree, and a light that began getting brighter began to glow in the center – “Maya, what’s going on?" she asked. "The colors are making me a little dizzy.”

Maya was silent, concentrating on the oak tree, which was starting to look like the trunk was opening. The colors mixed and blurred and then suddenly a portal appeared, filled with a bright, pulsating light.


Maya looked at the children and asked, “Are you ready?”

Ready for what? they wondered.

“Follow me,” Maya instructed them, as she walked directly into the light in the middle of that big old oak tree. Crystal and Luke were close behind, holding each other’s hand as they walked into and right through the tree.

They emerged into a whole other world. Nothing looked like the forest in their back yard. It didn't even look familiar. They found themselves in a lush, beautiful, mountainous area.

“Where are we?” Crystal asked, with confusion.

“We're in Peru.” Maya smiled.  

“Peru? What are we doing here?” Luke wondered.

“Peru is a special place, a land of great mystery. We are going to climb to the top of that mountain and see what we will see,” Maya replied, nodding towards a towering pinnacle in the distance.

  As they walked toward the mountain, Crystal and Luke saw colorfully dressed native Peruvian people accompanied by llamas. The llamas are work companions. The Peruvian culture has relied on those sure footed animals for many centuries to help carry things up and down the mountains.

They saw an elder shaman who was sitting on the side of the path holding a condor feather and saying prayers. The shaman raised his head when he heard their footsteps approaching. He smiled and raised his hand in silent greeting as the three of them passed by. Crystal's attention was drawn to the unusual ring he wore, and she experienced a faint sense of familiarity when he looked directly into her eyes. She nodded respectfully to him.


“Russian anthropologists exploring Siberia first heard the word "shaman" spoken by the Evenk tribe almost four hundred years ago, but the term is much older than that," Maya told them. "It refers to a sage, a wise man or woman who mediates between the visible world of humans and the invisible worlds of energy and spirit."

Maya told them that Huayna Picchu (Way-na PEE-choo) was the name of this mountain they were going to climb, and she explained that the ancient Inca Indians had forged a trail to build a variety of temples and terraces on the mountain top. She told them it was thought that Huayna Picchu was also used for astronomy, the study of the stars.  

Standing at the base and looking up, both Crystal and Luke made a face and privately questioned the wisdom of such a climb, but Maya insisted, telling them “There is magic to be found at the very top.”

 So off they went. There was a trail, but it was still rough going.

Maya ran ahead, encouraging the children as they climbed.


Along the steep trail they could look off in the distance and see mountain terraces which were dedicated to agriculture. As they climbed, they could see how the Incans had cut the different steps out of rocks.

In some areas the climb was a little easier, the landscape flatter and the terrain not as rocky, but other times, you needed to use both hands and pay careful attention to be able to move forward safely. They were making slow but steady progress.

Maya was leading the way, followed closely by Crystal, with Luke bringing up the rear, making sure nobody slipped and fell. Crystal was impressed that Luke was so chivalrous. Her brother was growing up.

At one point in their journey, having paused to rest for a few minutes, Crystal observed a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. As Maya got to her feet, ready to continue the climb, Crystal pleaded, “Wait a minute please, Maya, I need to help this poor butterfly get out of his cocoon, he looks like he's really having some trouble.”

“No, you mustn’t do that, Crystal,” cautioned Maya. She said that it is the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening, that is nature’s way of forcing excess fluid out of the swollen body of the butterfly and into its wings. "That's the only way those wings are rendered capable of flight, once the butterfly has achieved freedom from the cocoon," she told them.

"Sometimes life requires a struggle.” Maya explained.


Crystal and Luke listened intently as Maya told them this. They had never considered that helping might actually cause a problem, or that there might be a perfectly good reason for the butterfly to experience that struggle.

Had Crystal helped the butterfly out of its cocoon, preventing its struggle, it would never have been able to spread its wings and fly.

Onward the three of them climbed.

The last part of their climb was the most challenging. They were slowed in their progress as the path up the mountain became uneven and blocked with obstacles. They helped each other around and through the parts that were too difficult to manage alone. Maya was able to boost their confidence, since she had made this journey many times in the past, and knew the best way forward. She kept close and talked Luke and Crystal through areas which looked as if they would be too difficult to get through.

Towards the top there were parts of the climb so steep Crystal and Luke were grateful for the occasional length of steel cable that helped keep them from falling. The rocks on the trail were uneven, and often very slippery.

There were also places where the path was only a few feet wide, skirting cliffs literally thousands of feet high.  

Finally they reached the top. It had been an incredible climb. Huayna Picchu is over 1.67 miles high, accessed only by climbing long, steep, and winding trails and scrambling over ancient stones.

Maya went to the edge of the cliff overlooking the ruins of the city of Macchu Picchu, the ancient complex known as the "Lost city of the Incas", on which construction had begun around six hundred years ago.

It was an amazing view.

The ruins of the city of Macchu Picchu are situated in a valley located between the two mountains, Machu Picchu (“Old Peak”) and the higher mountain, Huayna Picchu (“New Peak”), which they had just climbed. The word peak describes the highest point of a mountain.

Since the ruins of the city of Machu Picchu are closer to Huayna Picchu, their view was spectacular.

Macchu Picchu was a place of spiritual and educational importance. The children remembered hearing about this place and even seeing pictures.


 They found a beautiful spot overlooking the ruins where each of them silently experienced wonder and absolute joy at being there.

Maya told the children how important it was to acknowledge their intentions for coming there, and to recognize their hearts as the source of what they were feeling.

“We have come to experience this beauty and to receive knowledge,” Maya began. “There is something to learn from this day; the realization that in order to get to the top of this very special place and to see the Andes Mountains and the ruins of Macchu Picchu from this perspective, there was no easy way to do it."

"Although the portal allowed us to reach a specific location in this country, there was no elevator which allowed us to simply push a button and appear here, at this particular site. There was no helicopter to whisk us to this place. There was truly only one way to get here, to the very top of this mountain, and our journey was a long and arduous one."

"Certainly while climbing, we had thoughts of wanting it to be easier, to be faster, to be more convenient. But once we reached the top, all of those feelings fell away from us, as we understood that the reward for the journey was enhanced by the experience of the things that we didn't appreciate while trying to get there.”

Maya taught, “In the Peruvian culture, Apu, such as Huayna Picchu and Macchu Picchu, represent the spirits of sacred mountains. Apus are the most powerful of all nature spirits, and the Native People believe that those spirits protect the local people in the highlands. They also believe that it is the Apu who listen to their prayers and watch over them. They believe the Apu is a light being, a spirit residing in these sacred mountains, living in both the middle and the upper worlds, and that the Apu have the ability to intercede for humanity.”

Standing on top of the tallest mountain that overlooked this majestic landscape, it was impossible not to be moved by the beauty.  

Andean condors were flying at eye level here and flew so close that Crystal could almost feel the wind from beneath their amazing ten foot wing span.    

Maya continued, “There have been several ancient cultures on this planet which were chosen to be Record Keepers, and one of the major places where these records are kept is in Macchu Picchu.

Long ago, when the Spanish invaded this area, they explored most of Peru but they never found the city of Macchu Picchu or discovered the secrets hidden here. Those records are important for many reasons. They continue to be guarded by present day Incan shamans, and the Apu and other spirits still protect them, to this very day.”

Crystal thought back to the shaman they had seen along the way, and recalled how she had felt when he greeted them. She had experienced some sort of connection with him at the time, she sensed that there had been an exchange of some sort. Even though she did not understand it at the time, she had felt it.

Maya took a deep breath and began telling Luke and Crystal things they needed to know.

“I too have the responsibility to guard the earth's records and each of you have a part to play as well. Very few people know what I am about to tell you,” Maya said solemnly.

“I brought you here because this culture is related to the ancient cultures of Lemuria and Atlantis. The Lemurians were a spiritual people, whose interests were centered in the creative, and the intuitive. The inhabitants of Atlantis, which existed during the same period, were revered for their scientific and engineering advances."

"Many of the myths of Lemuria and Atlantis speak of them as continents which disappeared into the sea, and were lost without a trace, but they were not, which is why you have never found them."

"There is a very real connection between these ancient cultures and the Pleiades star system," Maya continued.

"The Pleiades are a prominent sight in winter in the Northern Hemisphere and in summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and have been known since antiquity to cultures all around the world. Astronomers say the Pleiades stars were born from the same cloud of gas and dust some 100 million years ago. The star cluster is also known as The Seven Sisters. It is among the nearest star clusters to Earth and most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky. The Pleiades are the 7 blue stars clustered in the night sky, and it is the Pleiadians, who are known to earth's native cultures as the Star People."

You will be able to see the Pleiades (play-uh-deez) tonight, appearing off to one side of the moon. The stars are clustered, so from earth and to the naked eye, they often look like a single light. ”


Crystal’s thoughts immediately turned to the swirling stars she had earlier seen in Maya’s eyes.

Maya’s face took on a sorrowful look as she continued “Knowing the end of an era was coming, the mystics knew it was essential for them to begin preserving a lot of the wisdom and knowledge of these cultures. They began to gather the information and looked for a place to store them”.

“Maya; is that why your name came into my head when I first saw you?" Crystal asked seriously.

“We will leave that story for another time” Maya continued. “It was known that it would be important for mankind to eventually understand its star heritage. So they began gathering all of this information and looking for a place to store it safely. This mountain range was but one of several secure places on earth for these records to be protected. There are natural caverns and power places where sacred knowledge could be stored. The sages of many cultures on this planet were then taught mystical wisdoms so they could pass this information on to others throughout time.”

A slight chill came over them as a shadow briefly blocked the sun and then, as if obeying Maya's call, a giant condor landed right next to them. Crystal noticed that one of the condor’s claws bore the exact same ring that she had seen on the finger of shaman they had passed earlier in the day. The condor's dark eyes looked familiar to her as well.


"It's time for us to go," Maya said quietly. "Our friend here has come to take us back."

Crystal gently picked up Maya and cradled her in her arms as she and Luke carefully settled themselves on the condor's back.

They held tight as the condor effortlessly sailed down to the base of the mountain, and as they dismounted, he nodded to them, then turned and silently took his leave, ascending once again into the brilliant blue sky.

Moments later they found themselves on the other side of the portal, sitting comfortably on the grass in front of a huge but perfectly normal looking oak tree in their very own woods.

Maya arose, shook herself and told them it was time they were on their way home. Crystal and Luke stood, tried to clear the puzzlement from their heads and looked at each other. "What just happened here?" wondered Crystal.

"That was some strange hike," reflected Luke, with a shake of his head.

Maya gave a sharp bark and headed towards the sound of Mrs. Winstead's voice, so the two of them quickly followed her home.

“Mom, Mom, did you know that butterflies have to struggle to have their wings form correctly?"

“Well no dear, I didn’t, and where on earth have you been? I've been calling you."

“We were just exploring in the woods Mom, it was fun. I'm sorry if we worried you, we must not have heard you calling.”

Crystal and Luke glanced over at Maya, who was acting like a normal dog, just sitting quietly and watching.

Suddenly, inside their heads they heard the phrase “Awaken to the voice of your inner silence.”

What does that mean? they both wondered.


Maya, Book III - The Hike, by Richard Okun
Copyright 2012 - All Rights Reserved

The country of PERU is located on the Pacific coast of South America. It borders Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east and Chile to the south. Huayna Picchu and Macchu Picchu are part of the Andes Mountain range. The Andes is the longest continental mountain range in the world, spanning approximately 4300 miles. The Andes range is also the world's highest mountain range outside of Asia. The tallest mountain in the Andes is over 4.3 miles high.

The ruins of Machu Picchu, which were discovered by explorers in 1911 are separated into three areas - agricultural, urban, and religious - the structures are arranged so that the function of the buildings matches the form of their surroundings. The agricultural terracing and aqueducts take advantage of the natural slopes; the lower areas contain buildings occupied by farmers and teachers, and the most important religious areas are located at the crest of the hill, overlooking the lush Urubamba Valley thousands of feet below. Because the area was so remote, it had been overlooked by the Spanish when they invaded Peru centuries earlier. Today, the area, including both mountains and the ruins, have been designated World Heritage Sites which are carefully guarded in order to preserve their unique Architectural heritage.


About the Author/Illustrator: Rich Okun lives in Bethany, Connecticut with his wife, Kathleen, 3 cats, and Maya, as well as many other animals on the property. He has spent most of his career in various corporate positions, and currently runs an online retail store. Rich finally thinks he has an answer to the question he has asked himself all of his life - "What do you want to be when you grow up?" He has found his calling, and is now pursuing writing children's stories with the loving help of Maya. You may write to Rich at

Maya is a member of the Shih Tzu breed. (Say it aloud:"Sheeed-Zoo"). A Shih Tzu is one of the "ancient breeds" of dog. The Shih Tzu is considered very beautiful with its long silky hair, most often found in a range of colors, which may include various shades of gold, white and brown. Shih Tzu dogs typically weigh anywhere from 8.5 to 16 lbs. The breed originated in China, and according to DNA analysis, the breed is the closest known descendant of the prehistoric Chinese wolf, the "Senji." Shih Tzu were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969. The name Shih Tzu translates as Lion Dog, so named because the dog was bred to resemble "the lion as depicted in traditional oriental art," such as the Chinese guardian lions.


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