Section 3: Yuma to Nogales
It is hard to skip and pick up in a new location. We are used to the gradual progression that walking affords, where the changes happen so slowly that they blend together. Sasabe, the town just east of the Tohono O’odham reservation and our reentry point, looked completely different from the Camino del Diablo desert. The mountains were made of different rock and the hills were covered in a beautiful savannah-like grass that stirred in the wind. Everything was green and wet and the air was cooler than anything we’d experienced. Fred and Kim helped us acclimate by dropping us off on a side road in the Buenos Aires Refuge and hiking in with us.
We played hopscotch with a Border Patrol vehicle and he stopped to check on us when we were unpacking the car. He was clearly ready for a chat. Kim, our best gabber, was on it and kept him occupied while we loaded our bags and shoved extra food into our side pouches. As we prepped, Trey warned Kim that they’d been tracking four guys all day from across the border, believing that they’d attempt to cross that night. There was a strong implication that the men were smugglers. Apparently, the way to tell is what kind of backpack they are carrying. If it’s big and square it’s usually is full of drugs. Trey warned us to stay away from people fitting that description, as well as the lead figure in a group of migrants, the “coyote.” Most people out here, he explained, were just regular people looking to mind their own business, but the smugglers and coyotes were more likely to be hardened and possibly violent.
Although he warned us to avoid them, he didn’t try to scare us or deter us from hiking. So it's okay to proceed?
His overall message was to be alert and aware, but as long as we left people alone we should be fine. Nice guy, and we appreciate him and his colleague Victor for talking to us. Although we are a little worried about what impression it left on Kim and Fred about our safety.
Fred and Kim walked a couple miles in with us with the late afternoon sun at our backs and throwing a soft glow over the grassy hills. It had rained a couple days ago and the terrain still showed the effects. The air was cool but humid enough to make you sweat. There were several puddles along the road that we thought were left over from the storm, but on closer inspection were actually viscous brown pools of oil. Yuck. Apparently it’s sprayed on the roads to keep the dust down. Despite this, the road was perfect, and we saw why when we passed a construction crew packing up after working on the road all day. Most tiny country roads wouldn’t get this kind of attention and money, but this is the border and Border Patrol uses these roads daily. Someone is making a fortune on all this infrastructure.
We chatted with the construction crew for a bit and learned that we’re about to enter a popular hunting area for deer and quail. It’s ironic that a wildlife refuge serves as a hunting area. Wish we had some orange vests! Still, nice to know that we’ll be among other recreational visitors for a bit.
And then it was time for Fred and Kim to return to the car.
Do they have to leave?
It was sad to go back to being on our own again after being surrounded by so much family and support. We trudged another couple miles before it was dark enough to justify setting up camp. We felt decently good about our spot but Trey’s warning was fresh in our mind and it was hard not to be paranoid. It was too cold to sit outside so so we curled up in our sleeping bags to finish our writing for the day. At one point Tenny looked up at the tent roof and Claire misinterpreted the gesture as an indication that she had heard something.
She whispered “did you hear something?” which Tenny misinterpreted as a sign that Claire had heard something.
We both abruptly turned off our lights and lay unmoving, craning to hear every sound and convinced that the other had heard something suspicious. It took ten minutes gripped by fear to realize that it was all in our heads and nothing was out there. Sheesh. Get a grip guys!