Section 5: Douglas to Columbus
Hard morning to get up. The temperature was in the 30s, skies were overcast, and the wind was blowing. We could hear the sound of cars in the distance and we knew that Kris was somewhere out there should we pathetically need rescue. But the thought of having to come back another day pushed us into movement, as did the desire to get these miles over and done.
We had camped next to a barbed wire fence and as we left camp we saw a thick empty dog food bag draped over the top. We hadn’t noticed this the night before which definitely shook up our sense of safety. Obviously it had been placed there to help someone hop the fence. Hopefully it had been there awhile and not placed there last night!
It was cold. Cold, cold, cold. We both are wearing our down jackets while hiking, the first time we’ve done this on the trip. The Big Hatchet Mountains were to our south swallowed by the grey landscape, and caught in low, heavy clouds. No one was out here, not even a Border Patrol vehicle hidden behind some hill. It felt empty. The wind wore our cheeks raw until we were forced to stare at the ground. Occasionally there was a sign of life in our path, a cigarette butt cemented into the sand, a water pipe resurfacing from the ditch.
An ambling black blob in the distance captured our imaginations - was it a wild bear braving the frigid weather? Nope, it was a cow.
After a couple hours of walking, we were both shaking with cold and desperate to get out of the wind. We had been wandering cross country for miles and the low scrub did nothing to slow the fierce gusts of wind sweeping across the plains. We saw a man made structure in the distance and beelined towards it hoping to find a barrier to crouch behind. We were in luck! An enormous circular cow trough sat on a heavy concrete slab at least five feet above the ground, providing temporary shelter. As we scarfed snacks and put on all our remaining clothing we seriously contemplated pitching our tent and getting in our sleeping bags. It sounded like heaven but the thought of a hotel tonight sounded even better and we reluctantly walked back into the wind.
More cross country travel in a northeasterly direction toward New Mexico’s corner. The state line makes a 90 degree angle here, changing from north-south to west-east. It was easy terrain with minimal shrubs and no rocks, instead the ground was covered in thick marshy grasses. A military jet interrupted the quiet, flying low and doubling back before arching up and away into Playas Valley behind us. The sound echoed in our ears even after we could no longer see it.
A white stone marker came into view over a couple hills. We suspected it was the corner of New Mexico that we were aiming for. About 100 meters away a helicopter appeared and hovered over the border. It was not a coincidence that we were both at this location at the exact same time. The pilot zoomed away shortly after and we were left to scope out the marker alone. It was a massive stone obelisk that marked the United States - Mexico border, imprinted words stated this and added: Repaired by the Boundary Commission Created by Treaties of 1882 - 1889. There was no wall at this point only a barbed wire fence. The only thing that distinguished this fence from a random one in a cow pasture was that the wire was shiny and taut instead of rusted and loose.
We climbed a pass and looked down at the wide open land below that extended into the horizon. There was Border Patrol parked in the bushes below, idling. Not sure if we missed BP? We switchbacked down a rutted ATV trail bracing ourselves against the wind. By this point we were wearing everything we owned, two puffy jackets, rain gear, gloves, hoods up. Ready for another break we spent at least 20 minutes looking for a cranny out of the wind. We settled for a rock pile. Our backpacks added another foot of shelter on top of the rocks. We spent the entire time shaking, even with cups of Ramen steaming in our hands. Brrr.
Around three the sun came out and we were rewarded for not bailing on the day. Kris had arranged to meet us on Hwy 9, two miles north of our current position. We left the border wall and cross countried through sparse brush towards 9. We hoped that Kris would magically be waiting for us in the exact random spot we emerged from the bush but of course he was not. With no idea where exactly we were he had to drive all the way back to town to get cell service and look up our GPS location. We passed the time playing the hypothermia game, which consists of hopping in a specific pattern in an attempt to stay warm. It felt unimaginably fantastic to crawl into the car when Kris arrived and blast the heat. And the hot shower that night at the hotel felt even better. Nothing like a shitty day outside to make you appreciate the comforts of civilization!