My adventure had only barely begun.
I did no research on Carlsbad Caverns aside from knowing it was a national park, and I’m genuinely so glad I didn’t because the surprise factor added an immense amount to the experience.
A cavern that descends over a mile into the Earth, has miles worth of trails within, and 300+ foot ceilings, with giant – I mean GIANT – stalagmites and stalactites?
Wow, I was in complete awe and shock the entire time – it blew the Grand Canyon out of the water for me. My favorite national park by FAR!
From Carlsbad, I began my steady pace out further west and found myself exploring the great sand dunes of White Sands National Park.
The biggest eyebrow-raiser about White Sands N.P. is that it’s located right next to (like shares a border on all sides) the White Sands Missile Range.
I left White Sands N.P. to find a camp site and had the fun experience of finding this location on FreeCampsites.net – one of the more exciting camping locations that *trust me* I left immediately.
After a slight detour biking on the Continental Divide Trail and taking a whole day to bask in the New Mexico wilderness, I found myself in Patagonia, Arizona!
As a refresher, Patagonia, AZ is where I had planned to go work on a farm before I ended up at Camphill in PA instead.
It took me an entire year to get here and it felt really good to complete this goal!
I soon met up with C, the lovely owner of Grasshopper/Rainbow Hills (the farm I was to work on a year earlier before they canceled my stay from fear of covid). We quickly became friends and I found myself brushing their horses out with her daughter P when C came out and invited me to stay and WWOOF for them.
When I initially reached out to C to let her know I was in town, I told her I was just passing through and didn’t expect to WWOOF or anything, but would simply love to see the farm. And then I ended up doing just the opposite and staying.
My 2nd night in Patagonia I attended my first ever drum circle! It was hosted by a funky, hilarious group of older ladies that I instantaneously adored & admired. They were trained in West African drum, which was very fitting to me having come from Senegal, West Africa a year earlier.
>>> peep Henry – this was where I camped whilst helping out on the farm!
Over this time, I had been on a mission to find a rooftop box for Henry. I learned that rooftop boxes (and outdoor equipment at large) were one of the things covid impacted – everyone wanted to be outside and explore when the pandemic hit, therefore, a rooftop box shortage happened! The only rooftop boxes you could find in stores were gigantic ones – not what I was looking for or needed (wouldn’t fit Henry anyways…).
So, after a lot of searching around, a trip to REI in Tuscon (where I bought and returned a gigantic rooftop box that ended up not being compatible with Henry), a random stop at a person’s house selling a rooftop box on Craigslist (not compatible either), I found someone else on Craigslist selling a rooftop box that was *maybe* compatible, and also the size I wanted.
The catch? They were located in Phoenix, Arizona, ~3 hours away from Patagonia!
I explained to the guy my situation, and he did everything he could to measure the box dimensions from afar and see if it would work with Henry’s bars – we decided it might. So, I took the risk and drove ~3 hours to Phoenix to meet him, with my Mom’s precautions about meeting random internet strangers echoing in my brain.
I arrived in an upper-class neighborhood, knocked on the door, and was greeted by a sweet husband (E) and wife (M) duo. E went to fetch the keys to get the rooftop box and M expressed to me that she knew how far I had just drove and understood it could be scary to meet a stranger online. She wanted nothing more than for me to feel safe and comfortable! It was very sweet.
Within 3 minutes, she asked me something that prompted me to tell her I had been in Peace Corps when covid hit and was evacuated back stateside. She nearly jumped up and down with excitement, telling me her daughter was in Peace Corps and was likewise evacuated because of covid! I told her I was in Senegal, West Africa – her excitement sky-rocketed as she nearly screamed that her daughter had been in Senegal too!
Okay, let’s talk statistics for a moment… there’s 142 countries that have Peace Corps programs, and at the time of the pandemic, ~7,000 volunteers in service. Senegal had ~300 volunteers in country when the evacuation occurred. What were the chances I knew her daughter at all?
M excitedly shouted her daughter’s name, asking if I knew her. I couldn’t believe it… I was in the region of Sedhiou, and was the closest Sedhiou volunteer to the region of Kolda, and guess who the closest volunteer to me in Kolda was? Her daughter.
Her daughter had been my PSN (peer support network – the person who I could reach out to for basically free therapy haha) and we had spent time together in Kolda mem (the city) on several occasions! What are the odds of this?
M and I were nearly in tears, thinking about the chances of this meeting, with E standing to the side smiling and shaking his head. It was incredible. Funny enough, the rooftop box wasn’t compatible with Henry’s bars, but E had an extra set of bars that he installed with the rooftop box free of charge, and cut me a significant deal overall on the price.
The Universe ASTOUNDS me. I am so grateful.
With Light and Love,
As always, thank you for reading along with me and taking interest in my life! If it feels good in your heart to help me continue volunteering and traveling, here’s the way you can do so:
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