FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is your route?
The actual length of the line of the border is 1, 989 miles, and it crosses California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. We will not always walk this exact line, sometimes extending our route further north or to an area of specific interest. That's partly due to logistics - we will choose the route most conducive to the terrain and easy passage. We want to connect with people and the history of the area and the physical environment. To that end, we've designated a route that utilizes existing roads and prioritizes areas of historical import and recreational land. For example, in Arizona, we're further from the Western corner by hiking the Camino Del Diablo, a historic route used for hundreds of years by missionaries, miners, conquistadors and Native Americans. We'll probably end up adding a lot more miles to our route by zigzagging along the border, but hiking this way is safer and ultimately more expressive to our mission.
Is it safe?
When people ask us this, there are two main dangers they are usually thinking about, The first is the risk that the environment poses: much of the border crosses through arid, harsh, and remote desert terrain. People die out here https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/04/us/texas-border-migrants-dead-bodies.html and help, if you can call for it, is often far away. The second major concern that's been expressed is the increased likelihood of encountering illegal activity along the border. There's a lot of money to be made in smuggling, and the groups that engage in this type of activity are professional, extremely well-funded, and yes, very scary.
In regards to the first concern, we're very confident in our logistical planning. We've done a ton of prep on this front, and know the exact route we'll be taking, down to the roads, campsites, and water sources. Outdoor survival is a particular skillset in with we both have a lot of interest and experience. We will be carrying topo maps and GPS devices, and a big red button to press in the case of an emergency. We have a sound spatial awareness of the nearby cities and escape routes that we can bail on as needed. And we're lucky to enjoy the privilege of American citizenship, so we ask for, and likely find, help when we require it. We do not underestimate the desert, but we do feel prepared to handle it.
The second concern - that of running into individuals or groups with a history of vilolence - is harder to prepare for. The best advice we've gotten is to make sure we aren't getting in the way of someone's income. For example, don't comp smack dab in the middle of a trail used to exit the Rio Grande. And don't make a target of yourself. As women, we've been practicing this skillset our entire lives. There's danger everywhere, and while it might be concentrated in border areas, if you act smart, remain watchful and avoid certain cituations you have a good chance of staying safe. We take our safety and the safety of those around us seriously, and are ready to change or even abandon our plans as needed. In general, though, lots of people live regular lives along the border, and we do truly believe there is a way of doing this project safely. The individuals and organizations that we've spoken to who work and experience life on the obrder have overwhelmingly reinforced this idea.
Will you carry guns?
The most commonly asked question for hikers, especially female. We get it. Our route passes through an area with a much higher level of illegal activity than what we're accustomed to on our hikes. We're vulnerable. Neither of us have even considered carrying on our previous hikes, but for this one we did think about it. But no, we will not be carrying guns. We have a couple other strategies in place to protect ourselves from any threats and to call for help immediately. At the end of the say, we want a reciprocal trust between us and the people we meet. And if you know us, you know how terrible we'd both be at handling a gun with any kind of proficiency!
Why are you walking? Will you bike or boat at any point?
No disrespect towards other forms of travel, but the two of us are just really big fans of walking. It’s such a great way to explore an area. It takes commitment and energy and is one of the best ways to stimulate the mind. There’s a well-documented scientific link between walking and creativity, as well as other neurological benefits that Tenny especially could geek out on if asked. It’s also one of the most low-impact ways to move through a physical environment. And in our experience, people tend to be very receptive and generous to walkers (although it certainly helps to be white and female). We want this trip to engage all of our senses, and we think walking is the best way to do that.
What’s your message?
We want this trip to be a constant process of learning and reflecting. Given that mission, we hope that “our message” will change and develop as we go along. We do bring our own experiences with us though, chief among them a belief in the value of people and community and an interest in positively impacting the world. Our sense is that there’s a lot more going on at the border than what the mainstream media reports on, particularly when it comes to the hopeful and dynamic work being done by both organizations and individuals. This is what we’d like to focus on.
Where will you sleep?
Just like any other backpacking trip, we are carrying all of the gear necessary for camping. Whenever possible, we want to sleep along our route in whatever nature is available. Despite the picture many of us have in our head of dusty and empty desert, a significant portion of our route passes through national forests and areas designated to recreation and that encourage camping. When camping is not available, or when we have a safety concern, we’ll find a hotel, campground, or trail angel’s home. Because so much of the land we are passing through is privately owned and/or residential, we’ll be spending a lot more nights in town than we normally would on a long-distance hike.