Disclaimer: No Jeep belonging to the blogger was ever on the other side of the border. Though we did see…well, you’ll have to find out.
One of my favorite transformations here in AZ is driving up from Corona de Tucson into the high desert grassland of Sonoita. It’s wine country; looks a lot like central CA (to me!) and is a total switch from our scrub and ever-present cacti. We have to take people there just to show them the difference a couple thousand feet of elevation makes around here.
We drive east from our house, heading to Sonoita, and as we climb, the desert gives way to golden grass, small trees, bushes and (in the winter) scraps of snow. This time, Todd enjoyed the change, but Iryna was the one who got really excited. Evidently it looks a lot like Crimea, where she spent summers growing up. She hadn’t been sure she really liked the Tucson area (though she found it interesting), but we were all three amused and surprised at how happy she got as we got further into the grassland.
We didn’t see a coati on the Jeep trail (we had seen one this spring with other friends), but Iryna caught a glimpse of some javelinas. We had started in Patagonia, a little town with several trails going off into the Santa Ritas (mountains behind our house). As we got further into the semi-wild land, with free-range cattle, scattered ranches, ghost mining camps and towns, Iryna continued to exclaim over how similar even the bushes and trees were to her Crimean summer place. We kept seeing border patrol — Kent commented on how many there were, compared to other trips.
When we finally got to tiny Lochiel, we drove down to the border fence, just south of town, and drove along the border. We weren’t sure we were supposed to drive along the border; there weren’t any signs around it, other than directional signs. We did keep passing and repassing an SUV from Colorado with lights on top, but it seemed to be a work vehicle rather than something official. So we drove on. ‘Muricans and all that. At least, no one from the border patrol was around just here!
For all the talk about building a wall, the border’s really not much more than an extra-hefty cow fence, taller in some spots than others, but mostly just stranded wire and some railroad ties. We did notice the wire was cut in a couple places. Cows, maybe. Certainly there were cows on the other side of the fence — though they didn’t moo in Spanish!
The monsoon rains had definitely done some damage; a (very steep) hill we’d steamed up this spring was washed quite thoroughly and we didn’t want to risk the Jeep.
Kent probably could have navigated it, but the time it would take (we were already starving) would get us to Tubac too late to eat at all. So we turned around to head back to civilization and shopping.
Only…as we came to the last part before we turned to rejoin the Jeep trail, we saw movement ahead. People running. With backpacks on. Toward the fence and one of the place the wire had been cut. They disappeared onto the other side of the fence and we just looked at each other — wow! Kent gunned the Jeep and we went the other way, fast.
I spent the next few miles thinking aloud about whether someone in the group might have had an assault weapon they could have picked us off with, whether the blue SUV we’d kept passing was waiting for a pickup and we’d unknowingly interfered, and various reasons why they would have been running TOWARD the border. Also, wondering if the increased border patrol vehicles had been the result of a tipoff and if we’d stumbled on the edge of a raid!
When we got to a crossroads with choices to go towards Nogales (the border town here) or back to Patagonia, I said we should go back the way we’d come — of course, given what we’d just seen! About ten (bumpy) miles further, Kent said, “We’re almost back to Patagonia! We took the wrong turn!” We ended up about fifteen miles out of our way, and having missed a great view around the shoulders of the southern end of the Santa Ritas. He was NOT happy with me…
We did make it to Tubac, had a snack, and managed to see everything we’d wanted to, pretty much, before they rolled up the sidewalks at 5. We were covered with dust and sunburned from having the roof off, and looking forward to homecooked tomatoes and onions…and more macaroon tart, which we devoured with alacrity.
And so the international travelers saw a bit more than they bargained for…