Miles since last blog: 17.4
Miles Total: 2793.5
I know that one of the things that fascinated me so deeply with the caverns, aside from their natural beauty, was that this was an area left for exploration. There are thousands of caves and caverns out in the world yet to discover and even those we know of are often left with question marks at the sides of the map.
It's exciting, to know there are still places you can go on this planet and be the first eyes ever to see them, the first feet ever to tread that ground. Even if it is subterranean.
By no means a I an accomplished caver now, I've just followed the path around the main cavern of CCNP like thousands of other people, but someone is out there finding new things still. Just a few decades ago they found a new cave, over a thousand feet deep with over 100 miles of passages and tons still unknown. I think this kind of excitement is part of what fueled the moon landings, there is something about the word 'explorer' that grabs your heart in your chest and says, "beat." Likewise, I think there is a part of many of us that is sad that this is no longer a viable profession, even if we are not the ones exploring, it feels good to know someone out there is.
When you explore a cave, there is danger and darkness and not much else. One of the methods used to make sure you don't get lost in the caves is simple, like a child's idea, you trail a string. The string shows you the way home and connects you to the outside world. Without that string, you may find your way out, you may even remember, but the string makes it easier and though you may have never needed it, the loss would bother you.
When I think back on my path across the country, I see it as a string. Along the string are the people I've met, people who I keep in contact in someway still and all the people who follow my blog or think about the crazy walker they met somewhere in their everyday life months ago. It's something I wouldn't have in a car, it's something that connects us all to each other, that string is our connection to the rest of the world when we get focused in on our immediate surroundings and forget, or have lost, that big world we are a part of.
It's easy to see for me, I travel the string. I met a man in Maryland who joined me on my walk, he knew a girl in South Carolina, she saw another man crossing the nation on the news. The man from Maryland and the girl from SC both knew the man walking from California home to Boston. Because they knew both him and I, we were able to meet in North Carolina. When we met he gave me a contact for a place to stay in Anderson, SC. I stayed there and was convinced by the man who hosted me to change my course to include Carlsbad Caverns Nat'l Park where a friend of his would be a ranger. And none of it would have happened if I hadn't stayed with the man in Maryland, which I almost didn't. The twists and turns and degrees of separation over states and strangers slipped away and the string connected us all.
It seems random and wonderful and strange, but it also feels somehow like the only way it ever could have been.