Section 3: Yuma to Nogales
Every quarter mile or so there was a giant sign to the right warning you not to go off the road.
Supposedly, the area is full of unexploded munitions and is an “active laser range,” what the heck does that mean?
We did see some jet activity throughout the day but for the most part everything was quiet. Claire has a sneaking suspicion that the signs are totally made up and just used to keep nosy people (and migrants) out. Rather than test this idea we stuck to the safety of the road and made it through the day with our limbs still attached
Despite the creepy military signs, for the first time on this trip everything felt...ordinary. We were at least 10 miles from the border and the road we were on was a popular OHV playground. We could see the vehicles approaching from miles away because they sprayed clouds of dust high in the air. Plenty passed us throughout the day, most of them with a driver and passenger covered head to toe with sunglasses and a bandana obscuring their face. Everyone waved, but only one stopped to check if we were ok before moving on. Other than the OHVs this area has little human presence. There were fewer footprints and no other signs of passage, which is different from our experience so far.
With less to investigate we focused on the plant life that dominates the landscape.
Botany time? The vegetation looked straight out of a Dr. Seuss book.
The Saguaro Cactus is a giant. It puffs out a hairy chest and sucks in its waist while waving robotic arms. The Mesquite is a brooding little tree that huddles in the saguaro’s shadow. It bristles constantly, hundreds of thorns line it’s twisted limbs. Ocotillo has twenty slender and upright appendages. Each one proudly displays a beautiful red flower that waves in a synchronized movement with the others. Cholla is wackiest of all. Its many heads are yellow-green and mean. They’re so piled on top of each other that they appear fuzzy and look like they could waddle away. Those are only a few of the characters out here and we amused ourselves by imagining their story line.
Right as we were setting up camp, a Border Patrol car pulled up about 50 feet away. He stationed his truck next to an emergency beacon, which sits on a tower with a flashing light and a sign with instructions written in both English and Spanish. It was dusky enough that we weren’t sure if he could sees us so we walked over to let him know we were there. He was a chatty guy and we talked for awhile about traveling and adventure and places we’ve been. He was new to the Yuma area but worked in both San Diego and Imperial Valley for over 20 years and we had fun discussing the area we just came through with someone who had seen it from a similar viewpoint. We finally tore ourselves away, loving the conversation but craving our dinner. He drove off a couple minutes later.
About 3 minutes after he left, another Border Patrol car drove in, idled by our footprints, then followed them to our campsite. Again?
The agent got out of the car and walked over to us, immediately identifying himself by name and agency (the first to do so). He asked us a couple questions about where we’ll be staying tonight (uh, right here in this tent that’s set up a foot away from you) and which direction we’ll be going tomorrow. He also confirmed that the footprints were ours. When we told him that we’d just spoken to one of his colleagues, he acted surprised and claimed he must be from the other BP station since he hadn’t heard anything about us on the radio. We were surprised too, usually all it takes is one conversation with an agent before the entire area knows we’re out here. We asked if he had time for a question and he told us that “as a civil servant you pay my salary and that’s what I’m here to do” so we asked a couple questions about the upcoming water sources. He was helpful but brusque and after determining that we were no threat he got into his car and drove away.