Section 12: Del Rio to Carizzo Springs
We left the hotel as planned this morning and started the walk back to where we left off two days ago. It only took a mile or so to clear town limits and turn onto the small highway running north/south back down towards the Rio. We picked up our trusty dirt side road and plodded through the freshly graded dust, leaving crisp footprints behind for Border Patrol to puzzle over. The barbed wire fencing that distinguished private property from the state easement kept us moving along the road like cattle but occasionally we found holes in the fencing big enough to wiggle through, and briefly escape the onslaught of cars, trucks and semis. Self-conscious from the scrutiny, we would wait at the fenceline with feigned indifference only to scramble into action at the first break in traffic.
Are we hidden from view yet!?
Usually only one of us would make it over before a new line of cars crested the horizon and we would wait patiently for the next pause, pretending to tie a shoe or adjust a strap on a backpack. Hey, we gotta amuse ourselves somehow out here!
We’re in Dimmit County, Texas, and it’s BIG oil country. Every mile or so we passed a sprawling compound of oil derricks, stationary tanks, and existing wells. The road we’re walking along - FM 2644 - is part of Texas’s Farm to Market highway system, which connects rural areas to bigger “market” towns. In this section of the world, the money maker seems to be in mineral resources. Oil rigs were swarming, each with rights to a defined amount of acreage off to our left or right. The tankers were temporarily waylaid at the gates so that the resident guards/caretakers camped at the entrances could check their permitting. We were looking at part of the Eagle Ford Shale Play - an enormous shale and limestone rock formation in South Texas with significant oil reserves. During peak production (2011-2014?) the oil reserves were estimated at around 3 billion barrels! Production has taken a big hit in recent years due to declining oil prices but it still looked busy to us. Hikers and oil companies don’t typically see eye to eye and we’ll be glad to be out of this area.
Can you blame us for being skeptical when we passed a weird manifold of pipes on the side of the road stating: “Warning! Keep away. H2S Gas”?
We later found out that H2S or Hydrogen Sulfide, is a very poisonous and toxic gas and is often a byproduct of oil extraction. Nope, bye! We’re moving on.
The last mile of the day we walked with our thumbs out, trying to get a hitch back to Carrizo Springs for the night. We had high hopes thanks to the unusually friendly folks in this part of Texas, but car after car sped by, switching lanes to put even more distance between their shiny vehicles and our hopeful expressions. It was starting to get dark and we were in the middle of nowhere. A Border Patrol car idling only a short distance away from us eventually approached and the agent did his best to figure out what the two of us could possibly be doing out here. Apparently we were pathetic enough to warrant breaking the rules and offering us a ride back into town. Yes please!
Our first time in a Border Patrol car. The inside was a uniform black and surprisingly dirty, with scuff marks on the doors and dust everywhere. Like a cop car, a netted, plastic barrier separated the backseat from the driver and the doors could only be opened from the outside. The barrier between us and the agent made conversation difficult and we rode mostly in intimidated silence. The large black assault rifle sticking up by his shoulder didn’t help. The agent drove us to the end of the road - he wasn’t allowed to go further into town because he was on duty - and let us out of the car. Thank you sir. We’re a little scared of you but we are very grateful for the assistance!