Southern Walk: LA to Phoenix
My name is Will Callaghan. I am 23 years old and live in Ontario Canada. For years I had been hoping to go on some adventure and I decided that this summer I finally would. My original plan had been to travel solo across Canada and see British Columbia. However, while attending the National March For Life in Ottawa I met a friend who told me of the amazing experiences she had on Crossroads 2 years earlier. I quickly became very excited about the idea and applied to the Crossroads Canadian walk. The Canadian walk wasn’t happening this year and only a few days after applying I was on my first plane, flying to Los Angeles. After arriving I was picked up by several of the people with whom I would be spending every minute of the next 2 weeks until I would come back home, hopefully in time for my cousin’s wedding and the birth of my brother’s first child.
Meeting everyone was a bit overwhelming. I have a hard time remembering names but I tried my best. Coming into a group that has already spent time together was also daunting. As we drove to the first parish I would be staying at I was able to view a beautiful sunset over the mountains. At the parish of St. Francis de Sales I met the rest of the group and went to bed.
The next day everyone scattered to different parishes to talk after masses about the Crossroads mission. I was left at St. Francis de Sales with Kate who gave the talks after mass and answered my questions about what we’d be doing over the coming days. We also went and got some food at a restaurant near the parish and felt very conspicuous wearing shirts with “PRO LIFE” written in very large font across the front.
May 25th was the first full day of walking. It was not nearly as bad as I expected it to be. Taking shifts made the walking much easier and the temperature was much cooler than I thought it would be. Having no black flies or mosquitoes was also wonderful. I was asked to be a driver, which I had not been expecting and was nervous to do off the start but quickly became more comfortable especially with the help of co-pilot Kate. We saw mountains in the distance, which was very exciting. I could not wait to get out of the city and be walking closer to them. The city walk was still really nice, especially all the encouraging honks, waves, and people we met along the way. As Kate and I walked we prayed the rosary. This Christmas that just passed was the first one without my Grandmother and one of my aunts made everyone in the family a package with some things to remind us of her. Included was a rosary with purple beads, my Grandmother’s favourite colour. This was the rosary I used while I walked and I thought of her every time.
It was around the third night that while driving around I was whistling in a way that sounds like a bird while Fernando was sitting in the passenger seat. I saw him turn to me with wide eyes and he asked in amazement “Did you tweet?” I started laughing so hard and for the first time I found myself thinking, “I am so glad I am here!” and for the next two weeks that thought never left my mind.
About mid-week we finally made it to the desert and my shift began walking around 2:00. It was extremely hot but the landscape was incredible to look at. I had never been in such a barren land before and the wide plains ringed by hazy, distant mountains was a sight I won’t soon forget. As Elizabeth and I walked we saw plenty of cacti, lizards and Jacob trees. That night was the first one without cloud cover and I was excited to be able to get some pictures of the stars as well as talk the Matt about the great pictures he had taken on the walk so far.
Around this time we painted our names, “Crossroads”, “Pro-Life” and other things on the side of the RV and continued our trek into the increasingly hot desert. One of the days it got up to 42°C, which is much hotter than I am used to. Luckily, with a big hat and a lot of sunscreen I made it the 2 weeks without a sunburn. The heat coming off the road was so intense I could feel it coming through the bottom of my hiking boots and even after being in the van for half an hour my boots were still hot. We listened to Anneliese sing or continued praying the rosary in between gulps of water from the van. The water started out ice cold but was hot within a half-mile of being out on the road. Throughout the desert there were less and less houses until we were finally walking through an empty land where the only sound was the wind and cars passing. It was a surreal experience to be in a place with no birds or insects to add their song.
On our last night in the desert before we stayed at a host family’s house we all walked from the RV Park into the desert to look at the stars and talk about our favourite parts of the day. This talk we did every night and it was great to hear what people said, whether it was as simple as having a shower after a day of walking or as grand as the view or the company of friends.
For the weekend we stayed with an incredible host family who made some terrific meals and even came with us to pray outside of a Planned Parenthood. It was also my turn to talk after a few of the masses. I was terrified but each time it became a little easier.
In the following week we continued into the desert. There was a train track beside the road, which Fernando and Amanda spelt “Crossroads” next two with black stones. On one of the days, while praying with Kate, we were given quite a scare by some rattling noise in a bush alongside the road. It turned out to just be a lizard but it made me jump pretty bad.
On my second last day I received some amazing news. My niece had been born. It was really exciting. I could not wait to tell everyone about it and come back home to meet her. She’s amazing.
On the final day it started to rain so a few of us stood out in the rain with our feet in the pool and enjoyed the first rain we had seen in 2 weeks. Later, we went to mass at the basilica in Phoenix. Something really cool they did there was to ring the church bells at the consecration. I have never seen that anywhere else and it was awesome.
After mass Ben, Matt, Grace, fellow Canadian Anne, Cole, and I went out to run for the day because we were behind schedule a bit. It was a hard day of running a half-mile at a time. On the way back as we were driving down a mountain we saw the most amazing view of massive plains and mountains and finally a huge double rainbow. It was a fantastic end to my final day.
I was up early the next day and Amanda drove me to the airport and I began my journey home.
Crossroads was an absolutely amazing experience. It was so much fun meeting a group of such fantastic people. I really can’t fully express how much I enjoyed being on Crossroads and how wonderful the people were. Two weeks was far too short a time to spend with them so I will be working to try and join the walk later and finish it with that terrific group.
-Will Callaghan Southern Walk 2015