Playing Head Games-part 5

This is the final in a series of guest posts by Lori, the Head Dame of the Delaware Valley Trail Dames.  Thank you for sharing, Lori!!

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I had a decision to make about the next day, which would be my last full day and night on the trail. I could stay at Harper’s Creek, deal with daytime boredom, and wait for the rest of the northbound hikers to join me. Or, I could move on to Maupen Field shelter, which was less than 2 miles from where the van was parked. My blister was still bad. It was deep and ugly and very large. I estimated that I could press a quarter into the raw wound, and it would sit level with the topmost layer of skin. I didn’t relish the idea of walking 8 or so miles back to the van with that open wound. But, I also didn’t want to spend another night alone. The boredom and loneliness were my toughest opponents, and it was getting harder and harder to get them out of my head. I wanted to spend the last night on the trail with people. In the end, I was afraid that the blister would slow me down so much that I would hold the entire group back as they waited for me to finish the trip to the van. I decided to hike alone to the next shelter, which would leave me a barely 2-mile hike on the last day, a distance I knew I could cover without delaying my companions.

When the sun rose, a new day was before me with a plan to move on. Moving is a great way to combat boredom. I had decided to climb back over the Three Ridges by following the blue-blazed Mau-Har Trail to Maupen Field. It was a good choice, and it was by far the best hiking day of the week for me. There was plenty of water, pretty falls, and blankets of pink trillium on the hillside. I even met up with a large black snake on the trail. I hiked from breakfast until noon. I was thrilled to discover that the trail ended directly behind the shelter at Maupen Field. I had made it to the day’s destination, and I was alone again. It was so warm that I was happy to take a nap in the sunshine. The young trees near the shelter swayed in the breeze, their branches clacking out a pleasant sound. It was still early in the day, and I hoped for company on my last night on the trail. Perhaps someone would come along.

As the hours ticked away towards evening, no one joined me at the shelter, and again, second-guessing and self-doubt entered the game. Wallowing in self-pity, I was angry for not staying at Harper’s Creek. I thought about hiking out to the van and sleeping there. There was no reason to do that other than to move and not be bored. But once at the van, I’d be bored again and camped at a trailhead. So I stayed.

Luckily, Maupen Field shelter was stocked with reading material. At least I wouldn’t have to read “Acres of Diamonds” again. I was surprised to see lots of Catholic literature. As a practicing Roman Catholic, I couldn’t help but find some comfort in that. But I was lonely. Very, very lonely. On this last night on the trail, the loneliness was unbearable. It was all I could think about, and yet there was nothing I could do about it. I decided to take some of the literature into my tent and read until it was too dark to see. I read about St. Therese of Lisieux. I read about her struggles with her emotions and how she learned to just hand them over to God. So I decided to do the same. There in my little tent in the woods by Maupen Field I said to God, “I’m lonely and feeling sorry for myself. I really wish that I weren’t here right now, and that I had never come on this trip. I don’t want to feel that way. There’s nothing productive in that, so I’ll give them to You and ask you to show me another way to deal with them.”

To my surprise, I felt instantly fine. Not a bit lonely, not a bit bored. I actually smiled and laughed. I hadn’t really expected anything to come from the prayer. And then, hardly a few moments passed before I heard a voice calling, “Lois! Lois!” Again, I laughed. If that’s God calling me, I’d hope he knew that my name wasn’t Lois. Then I heard it again, and I realized it WAS someone calling to me. It was Randy and Paul from our northbound team. I had met them for the first time a week ago when we all gathered to start the hike, and then we had barely made introductions. They had read my entry in the Harper’s Creek shelter register and decided to come up the trail and join me. I had written about my loneliness and about how I wanted to spend the night with all of them, but that I decided to move on so that I wouldn’t burden the group on the last day. Randy and Paul were also attracted by the idea of shortening the hike on the last day. So there they were, calling out what they thought was my name. I was very happy to see them, and was almost sorry to tell them that my name was Lori. We ended up spending a great evening around the fire along with two thru-hikers named Canada and Sharptooth.

And so my trip ended in a good place with new friends. I lived with myself for 5 days. When my non-hiking friends found out about my trip and my 5-days alone, they all asked me if I had been afraid. They were sure that I’d be terrified of criminals on the trail and man-eating bears. No, fear was not a player in this game. It’s boredom and loneliness, self-doubt and second guessing that are the toughest competitors on the trail. Sometimes they’re easy to overcome. Sometimes they grab the ball and dash for the goal to score big. But whichever way the score goes, it’s always worth playing the game.

The end.

To view the entire series click here.

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