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[CDT-L] Papago Start to CDT Hike
- Subject: [CDT-L] Papago Start to CDT Hike
- Date: Wed, 17 Mar 1999 07:34:52 PST
On my way to meet the CDT in New Mexico, I reached the remote Arizona
border post of Sasabe after walking across the Papago Indian reservation
from Lukeville in 6.5 days, a moderate pace, in windy weather
forecasting rain. As I woke up the following morning on a grassy slope
near the border gate, my down bag was wet with dew and I saw rain coming
in from the west. Nothing beats the threat of rain to get one up and
moving, not even the roar of wild animals. Rain is an implacable
natural force which cannot be talked down like a bear or a skunk. So I
packed up fast and hurried over to the gate. On the Mexican side, a
guard welcomed me with coffee and cake while the storm broke. He told
me about a van coming up from Caborca which could take me back down, so
I decided to rest up in a hotel room to get over a nagging cold.
The o ther passengers on the van were six illegals from Sinaloa who were
turned back at the border. They were going to try again at Organ Pipe.
They listened with interest as I explained how to cross a desert without
much water, by avoiding heavy food and alcohol, by resting in shade at
midday, and by walking all night to keep warm. To my mind, aliens who
hike or bicycle all the way to Phoenix deserve residence permits based
on physical fitness and determination, whereas those who sneak across in
cars should be turned back, but then I am biased towards fellow hikers.
In Caborca I was pleasently surprised to find Internet access in the
TELMEX building, just like in Tepic last winter.
My walk across the Papago reservation was an experience of great open
space and solitude. For as l ong as two days at a time I saw no one nor
heard any vehicle except an occasional sonic boom. The Indians have
abandoned their land. The old trails have disintegrated beyond
recognition. When Tucson pumped the water table down the wells dried
up. Now the Papagos subsist on government subsidies and their Tucson
casino. leaving the backcountry to coyotes and birds.
The hardest thing about the Papago hike was not the physical stress,
although a nagging cold lingered on and the narrow leather strap of my
huaraches cut into my heels, nor was it the fences of thorny mesquite
trees lining the dry washes, so destructive of soft clothing that it is
necessary to remove pants and jacket to slip through. The worst part
was to feel lost in a vast plain without water. I was following my
compass carefully, triangulating recognizable mountain peaks, even
correcting for magnetic declination. In retrospect, I should have
trusted my compass more by setting a direct course to hit the Papago
Farms water tank, instead of aiming for a road line. Doubts arose
because of no finding any of the roads printed on my BLM topo map.
Little did I realize then that the Papagos have abandoned their land.
Actually I was sailing right through Papago Farms without a clue. In a
crisis of confidence, in the late afternoon I veered due south towards a
line of tall green trees in the far distance. At sunset I stumbled upon
a barbed wire fence line flanked by a dirt road, straight as an arrow
bearing 20 degrees south of east, unmistakeably the international
boundary. Then the following afternoon a border patrol agent gave me a
miraculous gift of two precious gallons of water, saving me from having
to make an exit south of the line into the unmapped White Land.
In summary, this first leg of my CDT 99 hike was a good introduction to
navigating cross country by compass. I learned to trust my instrument.
I learned that my huaraches should probably be replaced by running
shoes, and that it might be time to replace my down bag with a synthetic
one more resistant to wet weather. The walk established a foundation of
open space broad enough to support a tower 3,500 miles high, which,
however, will be climbed one step at a time, all 9,240,000 of them.
Heeding the snow warnings of Jim Owen and Bob Ellinwood, I'll probably
flipflop to Rawlins from Cuba instead of Chama, to return later. As for
the Wind River range, maybe stall a few weeks in Wyoming.
The Four Noble Truths:
1) Life=Woe 2) Fault=Ego 3) End=Bliss 4) Path=Whoa. "Whoa dispels Woe"
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