When I heard that we would make a desert water drop on this trip, I was excited. I prepared for the walk carrying gallons of water jugs, as well as my own water and supplies.
What I failed to prepare myself for was the terrain of the Sonoma Desert. The area surrounding Tucson is largely flat. One hour south, near tiny Arivica, the desert consists of steep hills and dry water beds, all covered with stone and sandy earth.
The area is beautiful and inhospitable at the same time. Huge temperature fluctuations, torrential rainstorms, and land that supports only thorny trees, scrub grass, and cacti make for a unique climate.
The first hill winded me badly. I was assured that the way would get easier (it didn’t). Going was slow going down the hill and I took my first tumble of the day, catching myself before rolling 100 feet to the river bed below.
At the bottom, we drank water and ate fruit, rejuvenating ourselves for the next mile or so along the rocks. Steep cliffs overlooked our way. We passed under barbed wire and constantly had to avoid low-hanging branches. Rocks m slid beneath our feet on every step that could easily turn an ankle.
We arrived at a water drop. A shady area with a dozen or so water bottles and a few cans of beans. People had written messages on the many empty water bottles, such as “Via con dios!” Some food cans were empty. The pull top tab had corroded on others and we could tell that migrants had tried to open them.
We pressed on another half a mile or so, reaching another water drop site. More empty bottles and cans. The group decided to leave our water jugs here, and we cleaned up the used containers.
On the way back, I tripped stepping over a log and took my second fall of the day. I hit the exact same place on my shin, scraping the shin nastily. When we reached the first drop off point, most of the group cleaned up used containers while two colleagues bandaged my leg.
At this point, my pride was beyond repair, because I later took one last spill when my knee gave out just as a reached the crest of a hill. I finally managed to get back to our van without further harm (or embarrassment).
I had walked a few miles, with a guide, on a cool, sunny day, with plenty of water and food. Migrants by the hundreds walk these same paths daily in the hopes of living in this country. They walk miles just to get to these drop off points and then miles more to get beyond the 100 mile range of authority of the Border Patrol. Many are caught and brought to the federal court we witnessed the day before. And some die on their journey to freedom.
Gangs at the Mexican border routinely rob them. Women, children, and LGBTQ individuals are particularly vulnerable. Even able bodied men fall victim to the cold, to flash floods, and getting lost until their supplies are gone.
So, please do have the tiniest bit of sympathy for my clumsiness and lack of physical conditioning. But share the bulk of your concern and love for the thousands who simply want to work for a fair wage and to raise families without fear of government terror and murder.