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Week 20: Lori Shelton Haskins

A blast from the past is the best way to describe the 20th week of A Year of Hikes: 52 Weeks, 52 Women, Same Trail!  It was amazing and weird and wild and wonderful to catch up with Lori Shelton Haskins, a friend and fellow graduate of Severna Park High School’s best class ever…The Class of 1975.  Go Falcons! 

Given that we were tight in high school (as in I spent a lot of nights at her house), it’s surprising that we only saw each other briefly once or twice in 46 years. I loved going to Lori’s house. Her mom, the infamous Lil Shelton was the most popular gym teacher at the school, the best coach ever, the strongest advocated for girls athletics and a super cool mom. With her warm Southern charm, Mrs. Shelton always made me feel welcomed and hugged me every time I entered her home. Not that Lori’s house was super quiet, after all she had three younger brothers, but compared to my house with six sisters and two brothers, it seemed less chaotic, almost calm. A little bit of paradise right in the middle of Severna Park!

As we approached the trailhead, the years seemed to fall away.  Lori and I fell into a familiar, comfortable rhythm of both walking and talking.  Her steps matching mine and my laughter matching hers.  We cackled over some old high school escapades. She told me a little bit about her college years at Georgia Southern University and a lot about her 38-year teaching career! 

Until three years ago, Lori was a fourth-grade teacher extraordinaire; creative, supportive, and most of all fun. I know Lori taught a lot of kids a lot of things. But as we hiked down the steep incline near the lichen covered wall, I asked Lori what the most important thing was she had learned from her students. Without missing a beat, Lori replied, “If children feel loved and valued, if they know they are respected, they will succeed.” Wow!  That comment sent me back into the imaginary arms of my own fourth-grade, Mrs. Marnell at Belvedere Elementary School. It’s a long story but suffice it to say before moving from a rigid Catholic school environment in Philadelphia to Mrs. Marnell’s fourth-grade class outside of Annapolis, I wanted to drop out of school because I thought I was stupid.  Mrs. Marnell believed in me and then I believed in myself.  I can remember feeling like she saved my life. I wonder how many lives Lori’s has saved.

Lori’s a hiker and she walks at a brisk pace.  Though we stopped to take pictures, we still completed the hike in just under two hours!  We talked a lot about hiking boots as I am looking to purchase a new pair.  We shared tales of our favorite National Parks including Zion National Park, Arches, Grand Canyon and Yellow Stone.  Lori shared lots of recommendations for hiking in Olympic National Park in Washington State as she recently traveled there with her daughter and niece and my husband and I are heading out that way later this spring.   

We saw some, by now, familiar wildflowers: May Apple, Wild Geraniums, Violets. But there were some newcomers too: Lady Slippers, Honeysuckle, ________ and ________. As we trekked downhill toward Warner Hollow, Lori shared a difficult part of her life’s journey with me. She escaped an abusive marriage with her 18-month-old son while pregnant with her daughter. She moved to a new state, got a teaching position in a different school system, bought a small house that she filled with love and raised her children as a single, full-time working mom. She doesn’t regret a thing. Her children are her greatest blessings.  She made a point of saying that she grew up in a safe and loving environment and had been naïve and blind to the possibility of an abusive partner.  Lori’s not afraid to speak of her experience and share her hard-earned wisdom.  As Lori said, “You can bet my daughter grew up with a greater awareness!” 

We made it down to the stream at Warner Hollow, which though refreshing was definitely moving a little slower that last week.  We took some photos and then headed back up the hill.  Along the way, we stopped to take off our outer layer. As if shedding  health issues, difficult year , pandemic.  Strong woman quote by Bev. by the water was moving a little slower this week and sounded more like a babbling brook than a rushing stream. reminded me of windchimes that are constantly blowing in the wind. 




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