Memories and lessons learned

Are we there yet??

Sunday morning, Kelsey, Diana, Lloyd (my blue 2000 Honda Civic) and I took a road trip down to the border in Lukeville, AZ.  I’m working on a story for Border Beat about the environmental impact of the border fence; Kelsey came along to kindly take pictures for me; and Diana, well she just loves a good road trip 😉

We took off around 9am, and headed south.  We passed by some interesting sites on our way:  Kitt Peak Observatory, the Tohono O’odam Reservation, Ryan Airfield, and quite a few Border Patrol checkpoints.

Two and a half hours worth of intense heat and sun later, we reached the entrance to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  What a cool national park!  The desert here is a bit different than in Tucson.  More than just saguaros, the Sonoran desert offers more variety of flora, making the landscape just a bit greener.

Organ Pipe Cactus - Photo Courtesy of Kelsey Jensen.

One plant in particular that distinguishes the Sonoran desert and that the national park was charged with the responsibility of protecting is the organ pipe cactus.  Characterized by its man

y arms, the organ pipe cactus is unique to this region.  According to the park’s official website, it is home to 26 species of cactus.

The park is also home to various animals such as: mountain lions, elf owls, javelinas, bats, coyotes, kangaroo rats, roadrunners, and yes, that animal I hate most in the world… sna…. snak….  I don’t even want to type it out!  Other than that animal in particular, I was excited to possibly encounter as many of the others as possible.  Before we explored the park, however, we first made our way down to the US-Mexico border…

As we drove up to the border, we pulled into the parking lot of a general store owned by Gringo Pass, Inc.  As I sat with Lloyd (his battery had been acting up the past couple of days, so it was just a safer bet to turn him on and off as few times as possible to ensure we weren’t stranded in the desert at the border) Kelsey and Diana approached the Border Patrol agents to ask where exactly was the location of the fence where flood had damaged it on August 7.

Apparently, these agents were less than helpful.  Initially they told the girls that they hadn’t heard anything about any damage, then they tried to tell them that location was too dangerous for us to go, and at one point they told the girls they were not allowed to take any pictures of any of the agents.  Well, I didn’t think of this until another friend pointed it out to me, but that’s false: you absolutely CAN take pictures of law enforcement agents while they are out in public doing their job.

So Kelsey and I left Diana and Lloyd behind at the general store while we walked up to the fence – mind you, we stayed on the AMERICAN side of the fence the whole time – and started taking pictures.  The wire meshing was designed to be small so that people couldn’t jump the fence easily but an unforeseen consequence (or maybe it was foreseen, but Homeland Security just didn’t care) is that garbage and debris can get caught up in the mesh after a rainstorm thereby causing the type of flooding that occurred on August 7.

The BP agent posted at the fence near where we were taking pictures drove up to us to see what we were doing.  When we showed him our press badges and explained we were UA students writing a story, he drove back to his post, but then got out of his truck to stand next to us the whole time we were there!  So, I tried talking to him, asking him questions, while Kelsey got some good pictures out of it.  He was less than forthcoming with any answers, but at least it was distracting him from what she was doing.

Remember the part when I said we hadn’t crossed the border into Mexico?  Well, we still had to go back through Customs and have our passports swiped.  Oh well…

At the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument entrance. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Jensen.

So now the 3 of us head back into Organ Pipe and intend to take one of the driving trails to scope out the scenery.  And if Lloyd wasn’t an 11 year old Honda Civic that needed new tires, maybe we could’ve done that.  We did get about a mile in though and that’s where we took the picture above with the huge organ pipe cactus.  Pretty cool, no?

And that was our adventure.  Just 3 girls from the UA J-school just trying to write up a little story about the environmental impact of a border fence.  Uncomfortably sweaty, tired, and happy it is a 3 day weekend!  More pictures from this trip to come…

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