Paloma Trail Detour Via International Border Road: A Look at No Man’s Land

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July 12, 2013

Cochise County, Arizona: Paloma Trail is washed out for the time being. A detour via International Border Road to Naco is the only way out for 30 or so of us who live “below the wash”.

It’s the only way out, that is, if you’re driving a four wheeled vehicle. There’s still a footbridge across the remaining concrete, and my wife’s son drove his dirt bike all the way up the wash from his place to Paloma Trail this morning.

Zach needed to know he could get to his Mom in a hurry if there was an emergency.

He also moved Pam’s stereo cabinet and unhooked all of the 23 million gazillion wires back there so that the rubber flooring could be lifted to let it dry out in that area. Then we worked together on blocking up one of the big steel storage cabinets for the same purpose.

Much of the floor has already dried completely.

Thank goodness the floor is not completely level. A level floor would have gotten uniformly soaked. This floor gathered a bunch of puddles in low spots, making it easier to deal with by far.

Around 2:00 p.m., I headed out in the truck to test drive the detour to Naco. We needed to know the route and also to know what challenges the road itself might present. The way crosses through half a mile of ranch land, then hooks a left on International Border Road.

From the Border Fort to the Naco turnoff is a distance of 10.7 miles according to the GMC’s odometer. There are lots of washes on the route; nobody in their right mind will be traveling that way when it’s raining hard or flash flooding in the rain’s aftermath.

The speed limit is 25 mph. That’s maximum; there are places (and times) where less is better.

It was good to see a number of Border Patrol vehicles out there, right on the border. I didn’t take any pictures or videos of them. Who knows? Cartel Border Crossers, Inc., might read my stuff, and I’d like the BP’s numbers and placements and patrols and such…to be a surprise to the opposition if at all possible.

My name is not Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.

It occurred to me immediately that this emergency detour provided a golden opportunity for filming “down on the border”, however, so that’s what I did.

I’d been told the way, but the authorities were also johnny on the spot with detour signs. Think about that. The road washed out at the opening bell of July 11. By July 12, the County already had detour signs printed and posted.

Hey, down here in this neck of the desert, we don’t mess around.

Okay, some of us do, but that’s another story.

At the south end of Paloma Trail, a detour sign directs stranded residents toward Naco via International Border Road.

At the south end of Paloma Trail, a detour sign directs stranded residents toward Naco via International Border Road.

There are roads, of course, and then there are roads. This section is pretty good, but we're not at International Border Road yet.

There are roads, of course, and then there are roads. This section is pretty good, but we’re not at International Border Road yet.

Ah! THAT is International Border Road, just past that gate. Note: The border fence is 14 feet high here...but not everywhere. In some places, closer to Naco, it's as low as 10 feet high.

Ah! THAT is International Border Road, just past that gate. Note: The border fence is 14 feet high here…but not everywhere. In some places, closer to Naco, it’s as low as 10 feet high.

Using the GMC to provide scale

Once through the last gate and onto International Border Road, it was time to get out the camcorder. Not that the border fence, where it exists, will keep illegal immigrants from crossing over into Arizona. Leaving the truck parked next to the fence, I got out and started filming.

In this area, the square steel posts are backed by a metal mesh. It was obvious to this old cowboy that any climber with decent upper body strength and a pair of hay hooks would have it made.

Later, I talked to a senior BP officer who confirmed that, yes, hay hooks have in fact been used as one way of getting up and over. He also stated that it’s not the influx of people that worries the Border Patrol the most; it’s stopping the vehicles that ranks as Priority One.

“The ranchers tell us that nine or ten years ago,” he said, “before the fence was here, there were vehicles running back and forth through their land constantly.”

That made sense. Millions of illegals living in the U.S. are definitely problematic, yes–but not as dramatically so as seeing an unchecked vehicular invasion on a daily basis.

It puts a whole different slant on that old Taco Bell commercial, “RUN FOR THE BORDER!”, doesn’t it?

The most striking aspect of the Border Road run to Naco was what some would call lonely. To me, it’s peaceful. Yes, that peace can be shattered at any second. It can even erupt in gunfire. But I felt comfortable out there, completely at home, in my element.

Aside from Border Patrol vehicles patrolling the border, I met one neighbor coming in when I was going out…and one neighbor going out when I was coming in. That’s on a nine mile stretch of road that takes pretty close to half an hour to cover, plus another 2.1 miles between our place and the Border Road.

To the BP officers who don’t usually have our sort of stranded civilian traffic to deal with, it must seem a veritable traffic jam.

International Border Road Vid One

The mesh is far better than nothing--but definitely vulnerable to the pointy ends of hay hooks.  On the other side, a cattle guard marks the road on the Mexican side of the border

The mesh is far better than nothing–but definitely vulnerable to the pointy ends of hay hooks. On the other side, a cattle guard marks the road on the Mexican side of the border

The 14 foot high border fence towers above our full sized GMC pickup.

The 14 foot high border fence towers above our full sized GMC pickup.

Farther along the International Road, where the border fence begins to vary in both height and materials used for construction, a raven perches to scan the countryside, giving his wings a rest.

Farther along the International Road, where the border fence begins to vary in both height and materials used for construction, a raven perches to scan the countryside, giving his wings a rest.

Not to be left out, a road runner makes its appearance. Its mate was nearby but had already reached cover, too quick for the camera.

Not to be left out, a road runner makes its appearance. Its mate was nearby but had already reached cover, too quick for the camera.

Heading home

Filming on the way home presented much different lighting conditions. It was late into the day, facing west, into the setting sun–which was pretty well hidden behind clouds, but still.

Think about the uniformed agents who put their lives on the line to guard this and other sectors. It’s getting dark, and most illegal border crossings take place under cover of darkness.

This road is not the most difficult assignment, of course. There are far spookier conditions to be found in the brush choked draws and steep canyons of the mountains, for example, or they might have the severe misfortune of being assigned to help with security for a Presidential visit–no, wait.

That’s not ever going to happen, is it?

At least we’re getting rid of the Shame of Arizona, Homeland Security Secretary Janet “the border is secure” Napolitano. According to the Washington Times,

“Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who has led the embattled agency for the entirety of President Obama’s administration, said Friday she is resigning to run the University of California system.”

Let’s hope (against hope, admittedly) for a new Secretary with a clue, even though that’s most likely wishful thinking for as long as the Obama administration is in power.

International Border Road Vid Two

Beating the rain and the night

I’d not fear to make the International Border Road run at night. Not precisely. But neither would I do such a thing without reason. Pam would be on tenterhooks the entire time I was gone. Unless I miss my guess, the Border Patrol officers would be on edge every time they saw a civilian truck’s headlights or taillights, right up until the moment they were able to recognize me as one of the Paloma Trail strandees–and even then, they’d quite logically wonder what was so important that it couldn’t wait until daylight.

There was light enough to drive home by, though. Even the rain looked like it would hold off for a while yet.

One cow, just beyond the barbed wire fence bordering the north side of the road, looked it me as if wondering whether, just maybe, I might have a touch of feed to leave with her or was, perhaps, just a bit touched in the head.

Or she might have thought I was a calf. I’d bellowed like one, moments earlier, to get her attention.

Heading west on International Border Road, figuring to beat both the night and the rain on my way home.

Heading west on International Border Road, figuring to beat both the night and the rain on my way home.

One of the washes coming out of Mexico that contributed mightily to the Paloma Trail flash flood.

One of the washes coming out of Mexico that contributed mightily to the Paloma Trail flash flood.

In some of the washes, larger gaps in the border fence are necessary to allow water to pass through during flash floods.

In some of the washes, larger gaps in the border fence are necessary to allow water to pass through during flash floods.

On, on the lonely (or, to me, peaceful) road.

On, on the lonely (or, to me, peaceful) road.

Where adequate spacing is not built into the border fence as it crosses a wash, debris accumulates on the upstream (Mexican) side.

Where adequate spacing is not built into the border fence as it crosses a wash, debris accumulates on the upstream (Mexican) side.

One cow gives me the once over.

One cow gives me the once over.

All the way to the Huachuca Mountains

You can see International Border Road running westward, all the way to the Huachuca Mountains.

Of course, the rapscallion who attempts to slip down that marvelous boulevard in the dead of night, motoring on toward yon towering peaks without ample scouting or warning…that fellow will be in for a rude surprise when he reaches the abrupt boulder-strewn banks of the San Pedro River. But other than that (so far as I know), the journey should be uninterrupted.

Naturally, the Border Patrol will stop you if they don’t recognize you as a local ESR, Emergency Stranded Resident, but other than that….

Westward, International Border Road stretches all the way to the Huachuca Mountains--with at least one "minor interruption", the San Pedro River, along the way.

Westward, International Border Road stretches all the way to the Huachuca Mountains–with at least one “minor interruption”, the San Pedro River, along the way.

Clocking the route

On the Naco run, I took notes as well as pictures. Here’s the distance log going in, which might be useful for any of our neighbors who’ve not already made the journey. All distances are as shown on our truck’s odometer, measured from the front door of the Border Fort.

South end of Paloma Trail, first right turn………………………..0.6 miles

First green gate……………………………………………………………1.6 miles

Second green gate……………………………………………………….2.1 miles

(This puts the traveler on International Border Road)

Turn into Naco……………………………………………………………10.7 miles

Bisbee Safeway parking lot………………………………………….16.6 miles

In closing

My wife continues to be stressed over the road detour situation because that’s what Pam does; she’s a worrier.

Less than two weeks from now, she has a telemed appointment with her psychiatrist in Sierra Vista. We try to get afternoon appointments, but this one is at 11:30 a.m. We would normally leave the house at somewhere between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m.

Adding the Paloma Trail detour via International Border Road into the equation means leaving between 9:15 and 9:30 a.m. This is a huge deal for a disabled lady who needs a couple of hours in the mornings just to pull her various body parts together, let alone go anywhere.

There is, of course, another option. We leave the house at 10:30. I drive her to the wash and walk her across the footbridge.

Presuming the footbridge is still there at that time, of course. It may not be. But let’s say it is.

Then Zach, her son, drives her to her appointment. I get to go back home and take a nap.

Now, that sounds like a plan.

International Border Road Vid Four

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