CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Psalm 34:8

Stalker C startles awake. She whispers, “What is it?!”

My words barely enter the air, “I. Don’t. Know.”

We are frozen, sitting up. We do not peek behind us yet.

I continue slowly, “We are going to have to turn around. I think it is in my backpack. Or outside. Or maybe both. I am hoping it is outside.”

We listen. She hears it too.

“Ok. I’m going to pull down my buff and look.”

“Ok, me too.”

We slowly tug fabric and turn. My eyes adjust. I don’t see anything moving on top of the pack. Thank God.

I gulp, then crawl closer to look. Nothing obvious is inside that I can see without putting my hand in the bag. I am too scared to place my arm inside or to widen the opening.

Then I hear something with four legs move away from the outside wall. It sounds big, bigger than a rat. I wince to stand and then look through a tall window. 

I can’t see past the darkness. I hope the animal is small. However, the sound is what I imagine a curious bear might sound like.

What do I know? Maybe I am wrong. I dismiss my fears by thinking: It was probably a skunk or possum. Mostly I am glad it was not indoors with us.

My heartbeat slows down, “I am so sorry I woke you.”

“It’s ok.”

“I was afraid.”

Stalker C nods.

Next door in the lights-out room our friends continue snoozing.

We try to get comfortable and go back to sleep with buffs back over our faces.

But Stalker C whispers, “Something is behind us.” And we become a fit of giggles. 

When we stop giggling, the quiet somehow makes us start laughing again and again. SunFloJo and Sunshine Rat must be deep sleepers. They do not stir.

Ok. I’m going to try to sleep. My back may split in two from the hardwood floor, but morning will arrive. I need legs that are ready to climb the next mountain.

3:15AM-ish

“Surrender!” Stalker C whispers.

I don’t move. Through the buff I say, “What?”

Stalker C sits higher than me. She says calmly, “There is a centipede barreling toward your head. I don’t know if you care or not, but if you do, we should do something about it.”

A centipede? Barreling?

I think it over, then pull the buff below my eyes. Sure enough the centipede scoots along a crack coming from the baseboard and heading my way. We will soon be face to face. 

“Fine.” I stand up and do a short pace back and forth considering what to do. I don’t think I can kill it. It is too big for me to stomach squishing it.

I need a plastic bag. Stalker C watches my body language. The nearest available plastic bag is on the hygiene product table in the front room. If I go in there, our neighbors’ motion activated light will turn on.

Stalker C reads my mind, “Don’t worry. They won’t wake up.”

I slip past our lightly snoring friends and grab a plastic bag. No one moves when their light comes on.

Back in our room, I realize I need a pen, stick or something slender. I eye Sunshine Rat’s pen on a small table. I walk back in to grab it. Still no one wakes up.

Whew! This is good. Those two will be rested and able to go for help tomorrow when Stalker C and I are not physically able to finish.

I twirl the centipede onto the pen and deposit it into the plastic bag.  I poke a tiny hole in hopes of giving oxygen to the centipede and place the bagged friend on the windowsill.  “I’ll let you free in the morning, Little One. Hope you make it.”

Back to “bed”.

4:15AM-ish

Stalker C whispers, “Surrender, there’s a spider.”

Oh, dear God. Where?

I roll over toward her and remove enough of my buff to expose my left eye.

“Right there.” She points high on the wall on her side of the room and above our feet.

I say, “That’s like five feet up.”

“It’s been there for a while.”

I have nothing left. “It will go away.” 

Or drop right on us. I look toward the window to see if there is any sign of daybreak. Seeing nothing yet, I roll over and slip back into whatever sleep level I can.

5:45AM-ish

I look at the sky through the window. That is not black. I see a little blue.

We can’t let Ted down. I’ll get my stuff together, change my pants and then wake the others.

Assembled, I try to say gently, “Good morning girls. We gotta go. Make sure you have everything.”

Stalker C mumbles, “We can’t disappoint Ted.”

Now that the party stirs, I slip outside to add the wet socks to my dirty laundry bag.

Sunshine says hopeful, “I wonder if Ted is making coffee for us.”

SunFloJo says, “Oh I hope so.”

I pee outside to start the day well–the outdoor bathroom expert that I am. I search each room making sure we haven’t forgotten a single thing or left any crumbs. 

The centipede is set free on a porch rail—possibly still alive. It was hard to tell.  

The last thing I grab and put on my feet are the socks from the security cameras.

Then we shut the door behind us.

We pass the fountain in the center of Rapidan Camp. Last night Ted told us how the fountain still works, but no one is sure exactly how it drains. I think the fountain looks lonely with no buildings around it anymore. I picture the bear walking by it in the mornings. 

The bear isn’t here today, is it?  Hopefully it will sleep in after such a stormy night. I keep an eye out just in case.

Passing The Creel house, Sunshine smells for coffee. Nothing. Ted doesn’t have to be up this early. Hopefully we get to see him tonight.

We walk across the bridge and over the river so Stalker C and Sunshine can use the outhouse. They take one step in and walk right back out. 

SunFloJo asks the girls, “Smell too bad?”

The girls nod. No way they can accomplish anything in there.

SunFloJo and I stand on the bridge and look over the river that is easier to see from here today in the morning light. Wow, we crossed that yesterday?

We walk on, looking for our next trail.

It is early. Maybe 6:15am or so.

Sunshine looks at her boob-o-meter, “With any luck we’ll be back to Big Meadow by 3pm and have time to shower before Ted arrives.”

That’s a good thought ‘because we need showers. Desperately.

We walk behind Rapidan Camp now. To our left is clearly marked Fork Mountain Trail. But in front of us we have a dilemma. There is a small width trail left of a trail marker post. And about eight feet and to the right of the trail marker is a wider width trail that kind of looks like a road up the hill.

Which one do we take? Which one is Laurel Prong Trail?

We guess that the trail marker being next to the smaller width trail must be the correct answer. So we begin. 

Morning sun sparkles through the trees. This trail closely follows a tiny creek that I assume is Laurel Prong Creek. I think about how this looks like where Smurfs might live. There are mushrooms and many moss covered rocks. The landscape is wet and cool from the downpour last night.

We continue half a mile and then the mossy creek trail ends. There is no right, left or forward choice.  We picked the wrong trail.

Sunshine says, “Great start, Steam Team. Good thing it is so early.”

Stalker C, “Yeah, we didn’t disappoint Ted. Early start and already an excursion.”

SunFloJo, “We have plenty of time to get to the Tap Room before 6pm.”

Sunshine, “Because that’s trash and laundry time. We gotta be there by then.”

We spread out along the thicket. Sunshine says, “Hold up.”  We pause to give Stalker C a moment to pee ahead of us.

Back to the trail marker post we switch gears and head up the hill on what must be the real Laurel Prong Trail.

Uphill. Ouch. My foot to shin angle feels like about 45 degrees.

Soon we enter what feels like an enclosed wet wood forest with more browns than greens. There are many twists and turns.

The tall trees intertwine their branches above our heads to form a roof of leaves. A sea of ferns gathers on the lumpy and bumpy mountainside. The ferns are not as thick as we saw in places yesterday, but their bright green waves contrast the many fallen logs and large rocks.

Occasionally the three front runners pause so I can catch up. We are a human slinky; widening and closing our gaps as we walk.

Surely, we are getting close to the top. This is supposed to be a 5.7 to 6.7-mile day, but I must remember: the trail lies.

Mentally I am prepared for and 8 to 10-mile day, but if it’s all up hill like this I am going to be in trouble. My heart rate is up as if I’m midway through a Jazzercise class or something.

When we have walked 2.5 miles according to Sunshine’s boob-o-meter, we see something. 

We stop to look left. Probably 40 feet off the trail is a clearing where someone made a big circle of cut back trees and bushes.

“That must be the fire ring we were supposed to stay in last night,” SunFloJo says.

Stalker C eyes the vast forest in every direction of the burned space. She says, “Oh thank God for Ted.  We would never have found that at night.” 

“And the mud would have made it rough,” Sunshine Rat adds.

We shake our heads and shiver at the thought. We would have missed it. No doubt.

SunFloJo says, “Well if anyone asks, we stayed overnight at the Fisherman’s camp just outside of the national park just down from Rapidan.”

“That’s right,” we say. 

© Copyright 2016 Surrender On The Trail – Glenna S. Edwards

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CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER 12

Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the mountains sing together for joy. 

Psalm 98: 8

We step back from the edge to set our backpacks on a large rock next to an underwhelming sign in the shape of an arrow that reads “Lewis Springs Falls”. I remember from researching the trip that it is 81 feet tall and the fourth largest falls in Shenandoah National Park.

I reach behind me to separate my shirt, sweat, and skin. Feels good. My shoulders are free.

A wood burned sign says we are at an elevation of 2800 feet. SunFloJo removes her shoes and socks.

Sunshine Rat’s eyes meet mine. Then Stalker C and I exchange a look. What is SunFloJo doing?

I choose to trust her. There is a cliff and deep canyon to our right. To the left is a narrow rocky path toward the waterfalls. SunFloJo navigates the damp route. I grab Ben’s old camera. I pull the wrist strap over my hand.

We follow SunFloJo. The rush of water grows louder. We sidestep with the mountain wall against our backsides.

Silence falls over our team when we turn a corner. Our bodies gently lower to sit on rocks of varying heights. I am comfortable sitting about four feet from the water flow. Mist sprays us with nature’s air conditioning.

To our left water rushes above our heads over rocks through trees and over bright green moss. One large rock causes the water to flow left or right. Then the water rejoins and skips over the cliff’s edge to our right.

On her bottom, SunFloJo crabwalks even closer to the water feet first. Her hands keep her steady. Soon I do not see her feet or most of her legs. She knows this is water with momentum, right?  She knows this is a rushing waterfall with a deep drop off, correct?

Yeah, she knows, I tell myself while simultaneously considering what to tell her family if something goes wrong. She is not far from my grasp if I need to act quickly.

SunFloJo relaxes her feet into the cool water that races past us with no view of where it goes beyond the cliff. She somehow stops short of the possibility of being swept away.

We four rest and gaze at the fast water.   

My mind turns to my troubles and grasps nothingness at the same time. I am double numb and it is not a bad spot to be in for a while. I soak in the beauty of each tree in my sight, noticing that they all lean toward the water. 

Here you go, God, please take my anger. I do not want to carry it any longer.

I visualize throwing a big pile of stuff over the falls. Emotions, disappointment, and fear. Here you go.

Help me, Lord. I thought I answered your call. Show me what to do.   

I hope that bugs do not crawl in my pants as I sit here. I tuck pant legs into my socks. 

Lord, I thought creating the non-profit was what you wanted. Was I wrong? Should I walk away? What do You want? Finances are killing me and our family. Please lead us where we should go.

The water roars louder now than I remember when we first sat down.

“How’s it going, Surrender?” SunFloJo scoots backward up the rocks away from her toe dipping spot. “Water is nice and cold.”

A nod is all I offer in this serenity moment. I wonder from her serious jawline if she has been thinking of her nephew Kevin. Or maybe about what her retirement will look like soon or both.

Someone says, “Let’s take pictures.” 

I push myself up to a standing position. Ouch.

We move to a safer location. Stalker C & Sunshine pose together. Then we take individual pictures with the drop off in the background. Stalker C twirls one of my trekking poles. It is a funny picture. I laugh.

We reunite with backpacks and find a fork in the trail. Our trail plan leads us to an incline. Oh no. Not yet. I do not want to go uphill. But back up a different section of the next mountain is required. Day Hikers pass us going and coming from the falls. 

The rocky ascent follows the stream behind the waterfall. Following the water provides cool air. 

Trees form a canopy.  It is like we move through a forest tube with a thick green roof. The terrain is steep. Rocks wiggle under my feet and threaten my ankles. I give thanks for the grace of extra ankle support.

SunFloJo hangs back to check on the caboose: me. I suspect she wonders how I am doing since there are as many rocks going up on the Blue Blaze trail as there were coming down.

We read a sign that says:

FALLS CAN KILL

STAY ON THE TRAIL

Comforting. Maybe they should post that coming from the other direction too.

 “1 point!”  Sunshine Rat brings back the Caterpillar Game after our time at the waterfall.

“Oh, a chipmunk, 5 points!”

We build up Tap Room points again.

I feel mostly good. At least better than yesterday. The shade protects us from the heat and sun. My feet struggle with twists and turns on the rocks as we climb.

Stalker C asks with slightly strained breathing, “How long was this section supposed to be?” 

Sunshine answers, “.7 miles.”

Stalker C, “And how long has it actually been so far?”

Sunshine pauses to look inside her shirt to check the boob-o-meter then announces, “1.2 miles.”

Stalker C mumbles, “The trail lies.”

Among the green and brown landscape, a random pink stuffed monkey is Velcro strapped to a tree. We each stare at the out of place bright color as we pass by and march on.

We emerge from the thick covered path. The terrain changes to less tree cover. More sunlight filters through the leaves.

We see a door in the side of a hill that seems out of place. It reminds me of a Hobbit door in the Shire from Lord of the Rings–but taller. I hear rushing water behind the door as we pass. I later learn this is Lewis Spring House and an access road is nearby. A lot of water for the national park comes from this location.

After passing the door, we arrive at a post marker. It tells us we have reached the Appalachian Trail: The White Blaze. This is where we turn right back onto the AT. What I can see of the next jaunt appears to cut across the mountain instead of ascending or descending. Yay!

But first it is time for lunch. We sit in the crossroad of the two trails and dig out food bags. Still Bag E for me. I may never finish it. I stare at my food knowing I should fuel myself even if I don’t want any of it. 

Stalker C says, “My feet are killing me.” She shares that she has corns on her toes. She takes off her shoes and socks. 

I do not want to look. She thinks she might need surgery. 

I give in and look. Yep, that looks painful.

Sunshine Rat and SunFloJo sit on the ground on one side of the trail. Stalker C and I sit on the opposite side on fallen timbers. 

As munching begins, I ask, “Is it time to read our next On the Journey question from Deb?”

“Yes!” The group says.

I read,

“Day 2:  Poppy Fields. Dorothy, et al., veered from their path through the poppy fields causing them to fall asleep. What are the poppy fields in your life that cause you to slumber and delay reaching your goal(s)?”

We consider the topic.

SunFloJo says, “Taking on too much sometimes without pausing for some me time. Recently I decided to only commit to a max of three evening activity nights out per week. That’s helping me be more centered and giving me more time for meditation or down time as needed.”

I go next, “Self-discipline. The last few years I keep working on discipline, but it’s still an issue for me to stay focused and diligent each day on the most important priorities.”

Stalker C and Sunshine both giggle and say, “Procrastination.” I suspect there is an inside joke about their college days within that one word.

We did not see many people in recent hours, but now while sitting where the AT crosses Lewis Falls Trail, people appear. Most are passing through along the AT in either direction.

From the south, which is to the right of my sitting spot, a tall athletic couple probably in their late 50’s stroll into view. They wear perfectly coordinating grey and navy moisture wicking (expensive) clothing. His silver hair is neatly cut. Her medium length gray-blonde hair is pulled into a ponytail at the base of her neck. I notice their shiny trekking poles and the fancy skort she is wearing.

“Hi,” The silver haired man says as he is about to pass on by. Then the lady stops causing him to pause his stride. I think she is glad to chat with new people. Sunshine and SunFloJo engage with them.

I finally dip tortilla pieces into a mini peanut butter container. Nothing tastes good.   

Stalker C sits on the ground to my left. She mouths to me I have to pee. 

Across from us Sunshine Rat and SunFloJo yak it up with our visitors. The couple has “enjoyed the marvelous AT this morning”. 

He points to where we are going next, “It’s not too bad, mostly level that direction.” 

Stalker C’s eyes grow frustrated as her personal emergency lingers. The couple turns toward our side. Stalker C says nothing to them and does not make eye contact. I use an old office life move. I stand up and say, “Have a nice day. Nice to meet you.” Standing up usually prompts people to move along at work.

They indeed say their farewells and continue their hike.

Stalker C waits a few minutes for them to continue toward the north.  Then, deciding they are far enough gone, she walks a little toward the same direction to find a safe spot to find relief.

But what do ya know? From the south another two humans appear. I shake my head. Stalker C does not get her pants down. She walks back to us. Her body language says, “Sigh….”

I mouth to Sunshine that Stalker needs to pee, but I am not sure if Sunshine catches my message.

Oh, look, it is another happy day hiker couple with small backpacks. Man, my sugar level must be low. I feel grouchy.

After taking a better look, I am not sure if the new people are a couple or mother and son. He is tall, has dark hair, a healthy pudge going on, but is not fat in my book (because you know my book is oversized from the beginning. I try not to judge, but here I am judging). I cannot tell his age. He could be 40’s. He could be 50’s with a little Just for Men hair dye going on. No clue.

The woman he is with I guess to be in her 50’s or early 60’s. She is about three quarters of his height, much shorter in comparison. Stalker C’s leg is bouncing.

SunFloJo begins to converse with them. He responds to one of her questions, “We love the outdoors. We had a lovely time hiking in Jackson Hole, Wyoming last year.”

Sunshine looks over at Stalker C and me. We are on the ground level compared to our standing guests.  Stalker C and I mouth again that Stalker has immediate needs. 

Sunshine nods casually. She gets it, but then asks the couple another question. 

Is that a slight smirk on Sunshine Rat’s face? Perhaps she is messing with her roommate for fun.

I notice something. What is sticking out of that man’s backpack?  A teddy bear face and two furry arms poke out of the top.

The woman catches my observation. She says with a smile, “Oh we got that bear on one of our trips.  We take it on all our hikes ever since.” 

Hmm, so they routinely hike together. I am still not sure of their relationship.

Stalker C crosses her legs and then re-crosses, but the conversation deepens with our guests.

“So, you four ladies aren’t concerned for your safety out here?” The guy asks, a bit random, a bit overzealous.

Oh great, serial killers. Just what we need.

Sunshine Rat says, “Should we be?”

The woman says to us, “Don’t worry honey. No man”, emphasis on the no man, “would ever approach 4 women.” She tosses her hand with her wrist. The Steam Team smiles at this new thought.

SunFloJo may or may not know the situation going on over here. She is a pro at active ignoring. I have seen her use that skill at school with students to help redirect behavior. Then she says, “Now what are your names?”

Are you kidding me? I see a grin on SunFloJo’s face. She knows. She may be messing with me as much as with Stalker’s bladder.

He is glib. He loves this question, “One of us is Dorian and one of us is Kendall.  Can you guess who is who?”

I interject, “Well, when you put it that way, you must be Kendall.”

I ruin his game. This visit is over. Nice to meet yous are exchanged and they move north.

“Quick, go!” I say to my young friend and point south.

Stalker C crosses an access road and heads down the trail to take care of business. Meanwhile Sunshine Rat and SunFloJo are in stitches giggling. 

Click here for this chapter on the Surrender on the Trail Podcast, an audio version of this chapter.

© Copyright 2016 Surrender On The Trail – Glenna S. Edwards

Thanks for reading or listening. Check back next Sunday for CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed,

for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

JUNE 2, 2016

8:15AM

“Birds are loud in the wild,” new friend Sunshine Rat said yesterday; a fact that remains true this morning.

The smell of fresh air whispers through the tent vents. My limbs feel nearly paralyzed, but my bladder screams for attention. I begin the physical journey to get on my knees, unzip the tent, gingerly attempt to stand, stumble, stumble again, then steady my stance.

Ouch. Everything hurts. I trust my body to rebound and take steps toward the bathroom. The grass is soft and damp against my toes along the edge of my flip flops.

After splashing my face with water, I return to open the big brown bear box. The metal is cold to touch. I find the s’more remains and sit down to eat a graham cracker before dismantling my travel home.

SunFloJo crawls out of her tent. We practice telepathy for a few minutes. She wonders about my status, my plan. I nod hello. A simple good morning acknowledgement is all I have figured out so far. I am thinking over the situation.

I appreciate the silence, though it feels like we have a conversation. I am not a morning talker in the city or in the woods. 

SunFloJo walks to get coffee for her and Sunshine from the Big Meadow camp store.

Upon return, she sets coffee cups with lids over the embers still warm from last night.  Sunshine will be happy to find coffee when she wakes up.

SunFloJo murmurs in my direction, “How ya doing?”

Moment of truth.

Slowly I dare to say, “I think I can do it.”

“Really?!” Her face is sincere, “I am thrilled. That is great news.”

“Benadryl is a pal. Semi solid sleep made a difference. Thank you.”

SunFloJo does not skip a beat. She shares her morning research, “I learned at the camp store that they don’t have places to store things, but we can rent campsite #2 and leave stuff in the bear box. I bet that will be helpful to all of us. Now that we know what we really need, we can leave the rest behind.”

“Wonderful,” I say.

“But there is a catch. We have to put up a tent so the site appears occupied.”

She continues, “Do you think you and I could put up your tent at site #2 and then sleep together in my tent tonight?” 

SunFloJo’s tent is the same size as mine, built for a party of one. I think about what a tight fit that will be for two people and how smelly we will be after another full day of hiking.

Then I think of not hiking with the weight of a tent, “Yes, I think we can do it.”

We can do anything for one night, right?

“I’m going to start unloading items into campsite #2’s bear box now,” I say.

“And we’ll switch shoes,” SunFloJo states. 

I will not argue. My toe pain was out of control yesterday. I do not think I can do that again. Wide toed hiking boots? I’m in.

We get busy unpacking, re-packing and setting up campsite #2. We leave behind every ounce of weight that we can. 

I debate leaving my emergency urinal but decide to keep it in my bag. It is light compared to the other items I toss. I take one change of underwear, one pair of shorts, and one pair of socks just in case I rip or mess my current Boy Scout clothes beyond the ability to wear them. I leave all but one bag of food. I can barely eat when exhausted anyway. 

The girls awaken. We compare items and select any duplicates that can stay behind.

Stalker C says to me, “You’re going?”

“Yes.”

“Good!” And then, “Thank God for Benadryl.” Sleep helped her too.

I agree.    

Sunshine Rat emerges wearing an emergency foil blanket wrapped around her. The foil is remarkably lightweight and only cost $1.59 at REI. I have one too, but it is on my leave behind list. Sunshine Rat smiles when she finds her coffee.

I am thankful to drop 10-15 pounds of stuff and hope I do not miss or regret leaving anything here.

A deer munches on grass next to campsite #9 in time to say good morning to Stalker C. Later a different deer eats near the bathroom. I suspect Rosemary and her representatives are expressing their solidarity with us and our adjusted plans. Sunshine Rat tries to get close to the deer for pictures.

I scan nature’s beauty across the horizon. The green is so alive in Shenandoah. Surely, I can come alive too.

Campsite #2’s ghost tent is set up. The bear box is half full.

MID MORNING

It is time to get back on the trail.

This is another no turning back type moment. I try to visualize sleeping next to random trees tonight. By nightfall we should be somewhere between Fort Mountain and Cat Knob along Laurel Prong which is the trail after we visit historic Rapidan Camp. I hope we can find the fire ring.

As a child and then as an adult with kids, I took tours of caves like Mammoth Cave in southwest Kentucky. During the excursion Park Rangers turned off the lights and told us to look at our hand. It was so dark that you could not see your hand at all. That is the type of dark I anticipate tonight minus a Park Ranger being available to flip back on the earth’s light switch.

I am not sure our headlamps will cut through the heavy darkness that will surround us. And if the mini lights do work, I am not sure I want to see animal eyes that might watch us.

SunFloJo’s boots are laced around my ankles. I wear the red backpack and adjust the straps, remembering both YouTube videos and instructions from Dick.

“We are not afraid to pull our straps,” we say in honor of Dick’s lessons.

“Don’t be afraid,” Stalker C says with her mouth in the shape of an “o” that reminds me of a Shirley Temple facial expression. Everyone’s backpacks are in position now.

Sunshine nods, “Yep, just pull those straps. Don’t be afraid.”

Are we really doing this?

Surveying the body language of the group, I think everyone is a little nervous about tonight.

Because bears.

Stalker C reaches back to ring her bear bell. Her eyes widen when I look her way. SunFloJo consults her map one more time. She zips all but Flat Kevin’s head in a pocket so he can see the journey from her backpack.

We pass 30 other campsites and cross the blacktop heading toward Big Meadow Amphitheater. We look for our first route of the day:  Lewis Falls Trail.

We find the sign and enter the woods.

Ten steps onto the path, day hikers pass us immediately. Something catches my eye.

Was that a gun?

Two guns?

Sure enough, one couple is packing heat in their matching holsters and carrying small water bottles. They are out of sight quickly. I am glad.

The trail has lots of jumbled rocks underfoot. My feet manage much better today. And SunFloJo seems to sail along in my magic boots. I say silent prayers of gratitude.

Sunshine Rat says, “Let’s play a game.”

We agree.

“It’s The Centipede Game because we see so many of them along the trail.”

Sunshine continues, “Every centipede is 1 point.”

“A dead centipede is .5 points.”

“A deer is 50 points.”

“Bears are 100 points,” Sunshine says despite Stalker C’s “no” head shake in protest.

We decide a snake is -50 points.

“Chipmunks are 5 points.”

The consensus is that every time we reach 52 points then that equals 1 beer in the Tap Room at the end of the trip. I am not a beer drinker, but goals are probably a good idea.  

I hang at the back of the line. SunFloJo and Sunshine Rat lead. Stalker C is just ahead of me. 

Every few minutes the front of the line yells back, “1 point.”

“1 point.”

“.5” and so forth.

Over rocks, along a mountain ridge…

down,

down.

Don’t twist that ankle! Whew. Caught my balance. Thanks for the help, Trekking Poles.

More rocks, and more straight down yet I still feel we are at a high elevation in the forest. I keep an eye out for the waterfall this leg is named after.

Hands fly up and a jubilation cry occurs when we hear “52!” from the front of the line.

Like an accordion we fan out and then shrink closer to one another as the front of the line either rests or slows down to allow me to catch up. I overhear new topics of conversation.

“What do you think the pattern is, SunFlo?” Sunshine Rat asks.

“Could it be distance in-between?”

Sunshine, “I don’t think so. The spacing between marks varies.”

I eventually realize they are talking about the blaze trail marks on the trees. I have been wondering about those too. 

The “blaze” is a vertical rectangle painted on occasional trees that come in various colors to assure that you are on the correct trail. The White Blaze is the Appalachian Trail. We have seen yellow or blue rectangles on some of our connecting trails.

“Steep rocks,” Stalker C warns me of what is coming up.

Have they not been steep already? I grip my poles tightly.

“I think we’re almost there,” SunFloJo calls out to encourage me. We have been “almost there” about four times so far. 

Down, down, down. Up and over bigger rocks that I belly crawl over. Repeat.

And then we arrive at Lewis Springs Falls. I expected us to be at the bottom of a waterfall right where the water pours into a creek or river, but we face the middle of the rushing falls. If a waterfall wore a belt, we could touch it.

Above us, we see where the water tumbles over a large rock to begin the falls.

Below us, I cannot see exactly how far the water descends.

I am careful not to step too close to the edge that is comprised of wet rocks.

But SunFloJo inches closer.

If you would like to listen to the audio version, click here for my podcast chapters.

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© Copyright 2016 Surrender On The Trail – Glenna S. Edwards

Thanks for reading or listening. Check back next Sunday for CHAPTER TWELVE!

Valentine Antidote

It is that day when I promise once again that next year I won’t be in town on Valentine’s Day. I will be with girlfriends or on a beach, on a mountain top, anywhere else doing something–anything–not so ordinary.

Valentine’s Day is a double whammy. It’s also my birthday. Growing up, I loved celebrating with red hearts, white paper lace, pink streamers, balloons and all things Valentine.

As an adult, I realized many people have jumbled emotions linked to February 14. Happy feelings, angry feelings, dread, anger and so forth.

Then I married someone who expresses love inversely to what I anticipated. Let’s just say his first romantic gift was a bright yellow personal alarm to wear on my waist so I could pull the cord for it to wail and screech if someone nefarious came too close to me on my college campus.

We’ve worked it out. It’s taken a lot of tears and years. I’ve learned that the antidote to my occasional sad feels is to have less expectations, ask for something specific if desired, support or help others.

These days, ALS-21 plus a Pandemic make it so Hubby can’t get out to shop, or walk much, or feel good for a full day. I am happy simply when his words are kind. I like thoughtful and kind. Lately, I’ve been quietly thanking the writers of Call The Midwife. Hubby really likes that show. I call it his daily empathy exercise. Women have been through so much and that binge worthy series does not shy away from hard topics.

Speaking of writers, my feel better about Valentine’s Day activity this year was to support authors I care about. I directed Hubby to my wish list and he placed the order. I was excited to open the packages.

Janine Rosche is an author who picked me up off the floor when I received a bad news phone call at a writer’s conference. She prayed with me. Then I found out she was looking for a certain agent to meet. I am thrilled to say they met indeed and are three books into a successful journey. I now have a trifecta of inspirational romance to read:

William Klein’s book was lost in our move so I needed a replacement copy. This is a timely fictional story about a painful border experience.

And Jessica Terry is a writer that cracks me up with her Instagram stories. Like me, she was a basketball player in her youth. We’ve never met. I appreciate her work ethic and passion. So, I soon will read:

Who would you like to support? Someone creative? An organization that does something you value? Church? Someone elderly or ill? Doing a little something for others could brighten your Valentine’s Day. Earlier in the week, I called a couple people who I hadn’t spoken with in a few years. It was a good time on old fashioned phone calls.

Frequently, I think of the verse Love One Another (John 15: 12). Loving others does not result in only one direction of good vibes even when that should be our intention. When you love others, the good feels return to fill your heart and strengthen the weave of the universe.

Still in town,

P.S. Hubby also visited the Shari’s Berries website. Winner. Yum.

But Not The Baby’s Wagon

Once upon a time, back when I thought I was tough, when I believed wholeheartedly that life will be what you make it, when I never cried at movies or much of anything besides a broken heart, my future husband and I took a road trip.

He played his favorite songs through the car cassette player. “Listen to Sammy Kershaw,” he said. “If we are going to get married, then we have to promise never to let this happen.”

The song was Yard Sale. The lyrics played:

Cardboard sign says yard sale
Real estate sign says sold
Family picnic table
Holds all that it can hold
On the grass and on the sidewalk
Well there must be half the town
Ain’t it funny how a broken home
Can bring the prices down

Oh they’re sortin through
What’s left of you and me
Paying yard sale prices
For each golden memory
Oh I never thought
I’d ever live to see
The way they’re sorting through
What’s left you and me

You left two summer dresses
In the backyard on the line
A lady just brought them to me
Says she thinks they’ll fit just fine
Well there goes the baby’s wagon…

By the time the baby’s wagon is sold, my lips are quivering.

Tears. What the heck?

And ever since that 19 year old day, I joined in on his idea of divorce not being an option.

When Hubby was diagnosed in 2017 with ALS-21, soon could no longer work, and he had to crawl if stairs were involved, I saw the dim light arrive over the home we once were determined to grow old in together.

I knew we’d have to leave.

And I knew our very real children’s wagon was in the garage. Do our sons need it anymore? Uh, no. Did we love it and use it a lot? Yes. That wagon toured the neighborhood many days, helped with Halloween, Cub Scout popcorn sales, and gardening.

I have cried about leaving our home for weeks while keeping my body sorting, packing, dragging, etc. Moving out of a home you’ve lived in over 20 years is more of a feat than a project. Plus, when leaving is a “have to”, the work can be extra painful. My heart resisted while my body ran the metaphoric marathon.

Then I learned that a 5 year old is part of the new family who bought our house. Turned out, she would like to have the wagon.

Take that, ALS-21! You can not have our babies’ wagon!

And that made me feel good. The wagon will live on in our neighborhood for a little while longer.

We are 4 hours into condo life without overlap with the house. There is a peace in seeing Hubby get around much better here. My mind & tired body will settle into the peace soon I hope.

Speaking of marathons, next Sunday Lisa Zupan is running 26 miles for two causes. One of the reasons is to help purchase a scooter and car lift for Hubby. If you would like to donate, click here.

God bless you through the many chapters of life.

Love,

Glenna

Goodbye, House.

Have fun, Wagon!

Room To Receive

Friends are the true wealth.

One day I will write about the ways dear ones have bridged gaps for us in the last few months. I am grateful beyond measure. The road is still long ahead, but little by little we will emerge to a new, more manageable life–I pray.

Anyone who knows my heart knows that I prefer giving and sharing. In fact, I have to self-talk that it is ok to receive. It is ok to accept help. It is ok to allow people into our mess.

When I shared the latest stalled house sale update with my mastermind group, the ladies jumped in with their talents to do what they can. I am sure the words “stuck” and “tired” glow on my forehead.

One of the masterminds, Jill, is an interior designer. She offered to come New Years day to transform the blank front room of our house. “Staging” a home is important. She brought an SUV full of items and went to work.

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What once was empty and lacked imagination now has a welcoming vibe with pops of color.

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I suspect when people walk in they will smile. Jill is a genius. Here is a link to some of her great home decorating advice. I will add more links to her blogs and website later.

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This is a short post because I must get back to getting the house ready for a new realtor. I will sort and pack as much as I can today.

This hymn’s song lyrics play through my head often:

“He said ‘Freely, freely you have received; freely, freely give.
Go in my name, and because you believe others will know that I live.”

I visualize a life where my capacity grows and I can be more supportive to others again.

Love,

Glenna

Discipline, Fear & a side of #MeToo

I resent that she was right.

She made a tsk, tsk sound and shook her head, “If you leave this job, you will never make that kind of money again.”

That was December 2007. I have yet to prove my mother wrong.

My career field path has been mental health, then leave for money in the corporate world, miss my first loves of mental health and writing, and then go back to mental health. Hubby was supposed to grow his career so I could work in my passion areas, but that didn’t evolve as we hoped, and his body failed. Our plan fell apart. Now we regroup.

I enjoy my current job working with families and children. It is hard work but manageable. When I saw a job posting last week back in corporate, I asked Hubby if he thought I should dive back in for the cash. He texted, “We can ponder and talk about it, but I’d hate for you to sell your soul again.”

He knows me. My skills could adapt. It is my heart that would struggle. I am curious, though, what that paycheck would be like in the #MeToo era.

I used to tell my mom some of the male shenanigans and how few women were at my old job. She would say things like, “Just take the money. You can ignore them.”

This came from a mom who once jumped out of her car in traffic to yell at a man for being a man (and for cutting her off). I begged her to get back in the car. I saw rage in her eyes that was way more about the way men treated her over the years than a driving violation. She felt trapped by men who had no more education, sometimes less, than she did.

My biggest challenges in the business job were not about overlooking some of the men’s words and behavior. What I struggled with most was knowing how capable I was of playing by their rules. That’s taken time for me to reflect and realize. The truth was I could assimilate. I scared myself. I ignored too much.

At my core, I am no Daisy from The Great Gatsby. I am not made to be Reba McEntire’s “Fancy”.

Back then, I read the books Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman and Hardball For Women (now in its third edition) thankful that the authors could give me insight.

The long days were exhausting to navigate, but in my mind I played the Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler” to cope:

You gotta know when to hold ’em.

Know when to fold ’em.

Know when to walk away.

Know when to run…

Practical issues were tough. I had a hard time figuring out how to pay for things necessary to pull off a high level job. Childcare, for example, was expensive. Keeping a clean home with two little ones was impossible; the life size Rubik’s Cube fierce. I learned after leaving that the guy hired to take my place was paid near double what I was paid for the same job.

That part of my journey shows up in my manuscript Martha’s Daughter. The book is fiction with a dose of experience. You read about main character Amy’s childhood secrets at home and school, how she overcomes the cultural lies around her as she matures in adulthood, and how she assesses true love. Will she learn to speak her truth beyond the days of Barbies and mud pies to her days in Corporate America?

I think there is still a lot to unpack about the #MeToo movement. My book takes the reader from the 1970’s/80’s to present day. Imagine a female Forrest Gump, or better, Jenny’s story if anyone bothered to ask her. My favorite part of the book are the Developmental Assets and caring adults that save my character. That is the crossroads where my love of mental health and writing meet.

Think about what women have been through in five decades. Think about the undertones, the unspoken, the rules. Think about how much isn’t obvious. Consider the frustration.

I cheered this year when the Today Show normalized motherhood and women at work. Multiple hosts needed time off for their children and everyone appeared to pitch in and be happy for one another. Savannah, Hoda, Jenna, Dylan, Sheinelle, thank you and the team around you for your fresh example.

I’ve spent too much of my life feeling fearful for various reasons. Right now is the worst.

The Thanksgiving break has been helpful for me to notice my thoughts. I paid attention to my constant worry that something in the house or car might break, that we’ve got to get out of this home before it is impossible for Hubby to crawl up the stairs, or blah, blah, blah, fill-in-the-blank fear after fear.

This weekend I had my first pet sitter side job. Being in someone else’s home energy rebooted me to believe that I can move on to a new energy, a new day, a new place. I do not want to dwell in the fear. It’s time to reset.

Beginning today I am all about discipline over fear. My goal is to get our house back to sell-ready. I want o-u-t! I want to be in a situation that is affordable. I want us to thrive above ALS. This situation will not consume us. I will fight for a win.

I am going to clean, straighten, pack, look for a new realtor, seek financial advice, and persevere.

I have learned so much about discipline with sweat over every penny this year. It’s time to take that discipline further into a new situation. We will pray, turn over the worry daily, and triumph.

Bring on the V8 Energy drink. It’s time to climb further up the mountain.

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…for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7

One Less Thing

I realized my self-talk whispers “ok, one more thing” over and over each time a new daily challenge arrives. This came to my attention when suddenly I experienced a fifteen minute window where I soaked in the joy of One-Less-Thing instead.

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My car dashboard mirrors my life with its scattered warnings. The tire maintenance light is forever “on”. I’ve had 5 nail punctured tires over 5 months.

The service engine light greets me each morning. The oil change guy hooked up a gadget reader to tell me the light is nothing to worry about, but I wonder. The brake light won’t go out even when the emergency brake is released. I stopped looking up what the other lights mean in the manual.

The dashboard reminds me of the running narrative in my mind. It goes something like this: I’m still sick. Stress is not helping me get well. Drop the kid off at school. Go to work. Repeat. My voice refuses to come back. The cat puked. -One more thing. I need to make dinner. Sweep the house. Keep trying to sell the house. Clean the bathroom. Move the laundry. I really should write a letter or send a care package to our deployed son. What just fell off the house?! -One more thing. If you sit down, you’ll fall asleep. Get up. Give Hubby the light weight fork because it is easier for him to manage. Position his shoes in a way that will help him be less likely to fall. Move his phone to his next location so he is not thrown off balance by carrying something when he travels inside the house. Help the remaining kid with college applications. I need to go to Lowe’s. Heavy duty caulk. A new vacuum bag. Take out the trash and recycling. Prepare for presentations at work. Who do I need to call back? Have I followed through on all work tasks? Scoop litter box. Check personal email to see if anyone has responded to my manuscript query letters. Send more queries. Do we have gas in both cars? Pay bills in a way that hopefully does not cause an overdraft. It’s going to be close again this month. Is Hubby breathing? Is the cat breathing? I really need to make a vet appointment. -One more thing. There are other people I want to check in with. I text them. There are other people I would like to be there for. My capacity is too narrow. I can’t believe he hasn’t been able to work for a year. We need some mobility equipment. That will have to wait. The kid needs an eye appointment. -One more thing. I can’t make that work financially. How many hours of sleep can I get if I go to sleep right this minute? Why can’t I fall asleep? And so forth.

I try not to complain out loud. “Just keep swimming” as Dory says. But seriously, if there is a Santa out there who wants to buy our house so we can leave and start over, that would be GREAT.

Today I uprooted this tree growing into our fence and felt delighted by the image. Yes, we are ready to be uprooted.

In an attempt to make extra cash, I placed an ad to be a Pet Sitter. I can squeeze in dog walking and more cat litter scooping. I can love on animals and give neighbors peace of mind. The first response? Someone needs help with a cat until they get out of jail in February. So many thoughts. Bless their heart. Sigh….

One day I will not feel so stuck. I visualize selling a manuscript and being in an affordable and accessible home. One day I’ll be in the land of all three. I have learned hard lessons. I can do better.

This week our youngest got a job. Go kid! And he broke my heart by saying, “You won’t have to worry about Christmas, Mom, ’cause I’ll be able to buy my own presents.” The sentiment is good. The reality hurts.

A new job means he needs new pants. We make a plan to go to the store Wednesday. I secretly stress about how to afford the pants, but I think we can make it work. I don’t want him to know how close we are cutting it.

On Tuesday evening I drag my work bag into the house as the guys say, “We have a surprise.”

There on the kitchen table are new pants one day early. Hubby even used a coupon. In my book, that’s hot. Hubby had a decent afternoon and they worked together. I hear that the wheelchair got stuck in the JCPenny door, and they figured that out too.

In the moment, I physically felt something fall off the to-do list. One. Less. Thing. This felt magical. I soaked in the joy for fifteen intentional minutes. I smiled in my own home. This surprise felt so good!

This was a glimpse that things can be better. Will be better. I will trust the process.

To all those who struggle, I send you a giant cyber hug. You can do this. We can do this. Deep, slow breaths.

And now I must go.

The cat puked.

Love,

Glenna

What We Think vs. What Is, Plus Tea

Dear People,

I admired her. I wanted her to like me. I hoped we’d be friends.

And–I was fairly sure she didn’t think anything at all about me.

That lady was busy doing important things that I liked being part of even if on the fringe. She might not have known my first and/or last name.

I attempted a conversation or two. I doubted my spoken words connected to her brain.

Isn’t that how it goes sometimes? We like someone. We share similar ideas with them. They do work we think is cool. We are confident they have zero interest in getting to know us.

Years later she calls me. Wha…wha…what?

She wants to meet at a restaurant.

So I go.

And it turns out she likes my brain too.

She has been reading my blog and asks me to help her think through a couple things.  Then she asks me to pray for her weekly in the months ahead as she works on a project.

I say…ok.

Like, O and K together softly, genuinely.

Before agreeing I took a few seconds to think about whether I could fit her request into my life. Which, I gotta say, is one of my most grown up moments. To consider if I could make time for something new, to think about if I could honor her and my word, ah, yes, that is an adult moment for me.

Connection isn’t always obvious, dear readers. Sometimes less is more. We don’t have to force anything. Be present. Be kind. Carry on. Don’t compromise. Be you. Things come around if they are meant to be.

This example gives me hope that a relationship with a literary agent will come into my life too. It’s happened for others. It will happen for me too. I’ve written two novels in three years (dog gone it) while in the midst of serious life changes.

The pressure is on and off at the same time. My coal is being pressed. I’m learning all I can about who might be my #DreamAgent. It will happen. I know you’re out there.

Until then I am sipping Hot Cinnamon Spice tea on a Sunday morning. I’ve learned that quality tea and taking time to breathe is valuable. I’m putting my mug out there and wishing peace for you and your dreams too.

Love,

Glenna

 

Put It In The Bear Box

I could not physically go on. After walking sunrise to sunset miles down a mountain and then miles back up, I was d-o-n-e done.

In fact, I was not sure I could make it from the large rock where I sat to where we were supposed to pitch tents for the night. My feet felt as if each toe was on fire.

SunFloJo [trail name] returned from scouting the campsite while the group of us stayed with the backpacks and overnight equipment.

I confessed, “I don’t think I can do this another day. It is your dream to hike all week and you should not miss the chance. I’m slowing you down, and I’ve thought it through. I absolutely will be fine if you leave me behind. I’ve got a book. And I am sure I’ll be safe. You must go on without me.” I even carried a fairly lethal knife that my oldest son insisted I have in my pocket during the trip. Whether bears or other probs, I would be fine. My biggest challenge would be disappointment in myself as I watched the other women leave me behind.

I gauged her facial expression to be a mix of “so true that you are slowing us down and yet no, I can’t leave you alone“.

I hobbled to camp and collapsed for a while as daylight slipped into night sky.

My mind spun around options regarding what to do next. I felt beyond grateful to no longer have a sweaty back and backpack attached. The group ate and laughed.

We placed food or items that might cause animal smell curiosity into a bear box.

The bear box was a new concept for me. I marveled at its purpose and convenience. To prepare for the trip we had brought a bear bag and rope to place items away from us and up a tree. This night, though, we had the fancy metal box.  It felt like we had a community chest of drawers out in the woods. I appreciated the safety and kindness of the bear box.

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One Benadryl later, I fell asleep too tired to wonder what that scurry sound was swishing by my single person tent.

Birds became my alarm clock that week. I lay thinking hard about what it would take to continue the trail.

What if half of what I had been carrying simply stayed behind in the bear box? Could we swing back by this place at the end of the week when we have access to a car again?

Long story short, that is what we did. Everyone, especially me, lightened our load. The bear box held the burden. I dared to lace up hiking boots again and head back to the trail knowing the next stop did not have the convenience of a bear box.  The next stop we planned to be much deeper in the woods.  I didn’t want to miss the next level challenge.

The bear box has become a mental metaphor for me when times are tough.  What can I leave behind for now?  What do I need to deal with today, tonight, and leave the rest for later?

In many ways, the bear box represented my faith during that trip.

Best wishes to you this week. If you can’t carry the burden, feel free to stick it in the metaphorical bear box for now.

Love,

Glenna

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Matthew 11:28-30 28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”